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Home > Books > Arab Archery > Appendix 15. The meaning of fard and qīrāt
15. The meaning of fard and qīrāt

Believing that the only way to interpret the very involved description on page 135 with intelligence was to learn to do the stunt, we became sufficiently proficient at it to feel that we had cleared up its more salient mysteries.

Before explaining the process, let us look at those Arabic words: fard and qīrāt It appears that they must have had some special meaning that was understood by contemporary archers because they can hardly be translated literally in the present context. According to the best Arabic-English dictionary, fard means: "single, as opposed to double; odd, as opposed to even." Qīrāt is the predecessor of our word "carat," and is a measure of weight equal to four grains; but, according to Webster's dictionary—cited under carat—it may also mean a bean. One is inclined to jump to the conclusion that they stood for any small object such as a modern archer might use to indicate a point of aim, but closer scrutiny does not prove that the parallel is exact. Here it may be fitting to plain to the lay reader the meaning of that expression. An archer can seldom sight the tip of his arrow directly at the target because the arrow is always on a slant and is not level like the barrel of a gun; so he picks out something else to sight at—either above below the target—which he thinks will give the correct trajectory and that object is then known as his point of aim. When this pc is on the ground, he may use some natural feature, such as a tuft of grass, or, in target shooting, he may put some small but conspicuous gadget in the right place. The fard or qīrāt would certainly correspond to this if the archer sighted the tip of his arrow in line with it but, apparently, the Arab set one of them, or even his own foot, on the ground more with the purpose of using it assist his judgment—as one will look at the object at which throws a stone.

To perform the difficult feat, one must remember to shoot in Arabic way, with the arrow on the right side of the bow and a thumb lock of sixty-three. Draw the arrow half its length, as text prescribes. At this moment there occur those unusual moments which put this type of shooting into the category of stunts. The right hand is swung over and behind the head till the arm wrist lies back of the neck. This could not be done if the posit of the left hand were not altered during the movement because the string remained in its natural position, it would be caught the armpit. Therefore, the bow-hand must be turned outward with a complete reversal of the bow so that the upper limb points backward, the lower limb points forward, and the palm is away from the body holding the bow in a horizontal position. The string then rides clear outside of the arm and can be drawn up as high as wishes. From here on, the bow is not drawn but is pushed, as right hand is fixed behind the neck and cannot move; so a full extension to the length of the arrow is obtained by straighten the left arm. It is then quite easy and natural to look down at toe, or ground, or at whatever the fard or qīrāt might be, and loose the arrow with confidence and a good aim. The length of reach that is afforded by this method of shooting adds considerable evidence in support of the thesis that the Arabian arrow was m longer than ours. We found that at least a thirty-four inch shaft was desirable and a cloth-yard shaft could be handled with ease. As the author intimates, the strain is very great and a soft, weak, bow is advised.

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