Monday, 30 September 2013

Master Haroon's Miraculous Benefits

Let me tell you of the last of the legends of the Cretan Woman house, the tale of the beneficent Saint Haroon al-Husseini, son of the Prophet's grandson, who was slain at Kerbela and whose blessed head still rests in the midst of Bait Al-kretliya.
During the reign of the Fatimites, with much state in procession, they brought the body of master Haroon to Cairo, and buried him in Bait Al-Kretliya, where a tomb had been made ready to harbor him  and where those good people of Al-kretly family who once lived in this house, rejoiced to have in their midst and keep in their care such a cherished and blessed relic, and under a domed tomb; he has lain ever since bringing peace to the place and miraculous benefits to those who dwell  in this house.

For example, when a young child of the house was playing in the court, stretched out his hands in his innocence to caress a mad dog that had entered by chance, the saint's unseen hands caught him up by the hair of his head out of harm's way, and once when a child fell by ill-chance from the roof from high above the tomb of Master Haroon, and under the condition would have been killed for sure, but in this case he was hung, suspended by the breath of the saint, in mid air and was let down so lightly that not a bone in his body was broken nor any hurt came to him.

One, moreover, the saint appeared to a young woman in the house who, at night, seeing a light in the qa'ah, peeped in through a chink in the door and beheld there a young man who, with others, conducted zikr and again, though there were no lamps in the room, the place was illumined by light shining from the young man, and he said to her-although she was not in the room with him but without-'Fear not, good woman, I make this rhythmic intercession for the recovery of thy husband who is grievously ill.'
Now the woman knew nothing of this, for her husband, was at the time far away on a journey. Yet it proved just as the Saint had said, the husband recovered and came back to tell her how he had been sick unto death until he saw the Saint in a vision as the woman had seen him, and at the same time as she, and from then on he recovered his strength until he was now stronger than ever before.

But Perhaps the strangest of all strange happenings has to do with a thief, an evil man who entered the house to rob it. One day when the children of the house were playing on the roof, saw this man as a shadow thrown upon a wall and, in terror thinking this is an afreet and fearing to look round and behold it, the children ran off screaming to tell their mother. By the time she had reassured the children and come back to see what was amiss, behold, an ill-looking man was there who groped his way through daylight, and she perceived at one that this was no ghost but a blind man who could not harm anyone.At that the children ran towards him and. striking him with their fists and small sticks and called out in derision 'Bad man, what do you here?'
To all this he made no resistance but only threw up his arms and cried with many tears, saying 'I am indeed a thief and came here to steal but I have been struck blind by some unseen power.' Thereupon the mother silenced the children while she caused food and drinks to be brought for the man, who was too weak to say more. After he had drunk and eaten he greatly revived and recounted his story.

He told how he entered the house unobserved between dusk and dark while the door was unguarded, three days before as he judged it, for he could tell night from day only by the sounds in the house; how, creeping into hareem with intent to lay hands on what jewels he could find, he had hidden there til midnight before venturing forth; how, scarce had he come into the room where the women lay sleeping than a bright light shone forth intensely and, wherever he looked, it was there, burning his eyes till it blinded him; how, in affright, he had then felt his way to the door bust since he could no longer see nor judge daylight from darkness, he had lost himself in the house and knew not whither he went; how he had hidden for those three days in a chests and in cupboards with nothing to eat or to drink, and by night he groped stealthily about, unable to find either food or his way out of the house, even though empty-handed, so that now he was well-night dead from hunger and thirst and weakness.

It was of course, the protective presence and power of Saint Haroon that had confused and afflicted him thus, though the Saint himself did not appear. On hearing all this the mother, a kind and compassionate woman, was moved in her pity to say, 'Oh  thief, if our Saint hath seen fit to smite thee thus blind for thy sins, nought then remains for me to do but to pardon thy thee. Therefore go now and take this coin in thy wallet to meet thy needs and come no more.' With this benediction she led him to the door of the house and dismissed him.

So that it was that he who had come to steal went away empty-handed  but for the mother's alms, being thus both rewarded and punished for what he had set out to do but had failed to accomplish, thanks for the good benefits of Saint Haroon. Nor did the thief ever recover his sight, for his life had been evil and this affliction which had thus been laid upon him was just.For long thereafter he dwelt in these parts as a blind bigger who had once been a rich man; for, seeing him helpless, his women and accomplices forsook him and divided up between them all he had amassed by his cunning. Thus he was left penniless, an object of pity and warning to others; for t hose of the neighborhood would point him out to strangers and tell them the tale I have told you.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Enamored Well

If thou be maiden without stain
Or lad till now unversed in love,
That yet no knife has cut or fire burnt,
Nor dog has bit, then not in vain
To this old well-head turn and look within,
And down a little pebble throw;
At the night's noon, that milk-white hour
When the moon full-grown,
Doth ride through heaven like a houri fair
In her full loveliness,
And when the troubled circles cease
If in the mirror thou shalt see
The face of one look'st up to thee
As thou at it look'st down,
Then know for sure thy true love's face,
This magic well reveals to thee.

I shall tell you a tale of love with which the magic Well of the Bats has much to do. Know then that once upon a time, long ago, there lived in the Bait al-kertliya a rich, widowed lady with her daughter Lutfiya, a maiden as fair as a full moon and simple and sweet as a flower. At the same time there dwelt in a house over the way a handsome youth called Ameen, like Lutfiya that only child of his mother, who was also a widow.

Now, much to both parents regret, their young ones showed no desire to marry, being yet scarce acquainted with love and cautious by nature. Having heard of each others loveliness and yet how averse to be wed, the young ones interest was aroused, Lutfiya found herself deeply in love with her vision of Ameen just as he was with his fancy of her. All day Ameen would sit thus, gazing out through  the mashrabiya at  the house over the way, watching and waiting, but no door opened, nor even a window though indeed, unknown to him, Lutfiya, even as he, was all the while peeping through a chink in the hope that she might spy young Ameen. Thus sat they, sighing these two, each unknown to the other.

Now one day Lutifiya, after some hesitation, arose and, pulling a shawl that was by her over her head. Across the court-yard she ran to the well in the corner, the Well of the Bats, that magic well of which I have told you how, in the days of old Noah when the Ark was stranded here on hill Yushkur, the last waters of the Flood subsided into its depth, endowing them with miraculous and amorous powers. and the Sultan of  the Dijnn who resides amid his treasure at the depth within this well.

Now Lutifiya had head those legends and, for that reason, had always been frightened of the well so that she could scarce bring herself to look down into it, half hoping as she did, yet half fearing to see, as many had told her she might, her lover's reflection therein. On this occasion, though frightened as ever, she none the less could not resist hastily looking down into the well-shaft, for she hoped to see Ameen gazing up at her. But no such sight met her eyes, for as she looked down, lo and behold! those waters that reflected her own face awoke and were agitated because of the beauty cast upon them and, becoming enamored for her loveliness, they rose and swelled up till they filled the whole shaft of the well to the very top and then they flowed over. Now indeed was Lutifiya alarmed, as well she might be, for the waters began to embrace her feet! With a cry, she turned to escape and, she ran, her shawl fell from her head on to her shoulder. Cross the court she ran, out into the street.

Ameen was gazing, as he become his wont, out through the lattice of a window, when all of a sudden he saw the great eastern door of Bait al-Kretliya thrown open, and out ran a maiden, frightened and he saw how the waves kissed her feet as she ran.

 Ameen hurried down and reached the street in time to see Lutifya turn the corner of the wall of Ibn Tulun mosque that stands adjacent to the Bait al-Kretliya, moving as if her feet are not touching the ground and by the time she reached the spiral minaret, Lutifya was above the ground. Tiny fingers, sharp like claws, carried her to safety. Her body was lifted up high towards the top of the spiral minaret above the raging flood, unable to catch its prey, on rushed these waters, mad with desire, tumbling over and over till they came to the foot of the hill and were lost in the Khalig, the ancient canal that flowed through Cairo in those days and into the great River Nile.

When Ameen reached the base of the minaret he could only hear a muffled voice coming from beyond the spiral minaret, from the direction of the great River Nile. One word calling again and again, until it faded away and he can no longer hear anything: "Lutfiya, Lutfiya."