The 11th Century Muslim Guide to Historical Gatecrashing

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Historian walks into a party full of fellow historians and spends the first ten minutes explaining the importance of her work, what’s new about her project, why everyone else there isn’t quite right and should listen to her instead. When she’s done, the rest of the party nods politely, goes back to their drinks. The new historian gets herself a beer and is about to start a conversation when an even newer historian comes in. When the newer historian starts his own spiel—I’m so important, I’m so new—the slightly less new historian leans over to the historian beside her and says, “Who let that guy in?”

Bah-dum-bum. Get it? Ah, it’s not much of a joke, but in launching The Appendix we’re trying hard not to be like that new historian, raising our eyebrows at everyone already here, then shutting the door once we’re inside.

That said, the inspiration for this post is a witty historical find that shows how fun good gatecrashing can be. It’s a 11th century Muslim book from Baghdad, written by al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, translated by Emily Selove, and published by Syracuse University Press as Selections from the Art of Party Crashing in Medieval Iraq.

Selove told Discovery News that the book was “about generosity and encouraging individuals to express themselves eloquently and clearly.”

“It also suggests that turning a hungry person away from a place laden with food was cruel—as food was sometimes in short supply to the poor. It castigated those who turned gate crashers away from parties as misers. You do not turn people away if they are hungry.”

It also had some very good jokes, straight from the baba ganoush belt of 11th century bohemian Baghdad. Enjoy:

Once a man crashed another man’s party. “Who are you?” the host asked him. “I’m the one who saved you the trouble of sending an invitation!” he replied.

A party-crasher walked into a gathering, and they said to him, “Nobody invited you!” “But if you didn’t invite me and I didn’t come,” he replied, “think how lonely that would be!”

Once a party-crasher walked in the house of a man who had invited a gathering of people. “Hey, you!” the man said. “Did I say you could come?” “Did you say I couldn’t come?” the party crasher replied.