Post-classical history

§ Cured by ‘Ali in a Dream

The most glorious Shihab al-Din Abu al-Fath al-Muzaffar ibn As’ad ibn Mas’ud ibn Bakhtakin ibn Sabuktakin,15 the freedman of Mu’izz al-Dawla ibn Buwayh, related to me in Mosul, on 18 Ramadan of the year 565 (5 June 1170), the following account:

The Commander of the Faithful al-Muqtafi (may God have mercy upon him) made a visit to the mosque of Sandudiya, in the vicinity of al-Anbar16 on the western Euphrates, accompanied by his vizier. I was also in attendance. The caliph entered the mosque, which was known as the Mosque of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali17 (may God be pleased with him), wearing a Dimyati robe and girded with a sword with an iron hilt.18 No one, except those who knew him personally, could have known he was the Commander of the Faithful. Indeed, the caretaker of the mosque began invoking God’s blessings upon the caliph’s vizier. At this, the vizier said, ‘For shame! You should be invoking blessings on the Commander of the Faithful!’ At that, al-Muqtafi (may God have mercy upon him) said, ‘Ask him something useful. Ask him what happened to the disease that afflicted his face. For I saw him back in the days of our lord al-Mustazhir19 (may God have mercy upon him), and he had some ailment in his face. He had a tumour that covered most of his face, so that when he wanted to eat he would tie it back with a kerchief so that he could get food into his mouth.’20

To this the caretaker replied, ‘It was just as you say. I frequently used to come to this mosque from al-Anbar. I then met someone who said to me, ‘‘If you would just visit so-and-so (meaning the governor of al-Anbar) as frequently as you visit this mosque, then he would surely have called a physician for you to remove that malady from your face.’’ Something in what he had said impressed itself upon my soul, something that hardened my heart. I went to sleep that night [174] and saw the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (may God be pleased with him) in a dream. He was in the mosque. ‘‘What sort of sojourn is this?’’ he said, meaning a sojourn here on earth. So I complained to him about what was wrong with me and he turned away from me. But I tried to gain his good-will and complained again, telling him about what that man had said to me. He replied, ‘‘You are one of those who desire only the fleeting life.’’21 Then I woke up, and the tumour had been tossed to one side and my ailment was gone.’

Hearing this, al-Muqtafi (may God have mercy upon him) remarked, ‘He speaks the truth.’ Then the caliph said to me,22 ‘Talk with him and look into what he needs. Then draw up a document to that effect and give it to me to sign.’

So I spoke with the caretaker, who said, ‘I am the head of a family and responsible for my daughters. I desire three dinars every month.’ I drew up a statement to this effect, on the top of which my servant wrote:


The caliph put his seal on it, acknowledging the request, and said to me, ‘Go and register this in the appropriate bureau.’ So I went without reading the document except for the imprimatur, ‘Let this be executed.’

Official procedure was to write a copy of the document for the beneficiary of the statement, and to take from him the original with the signature of the caliph on it. But when the scribe opened the original document to copy it, he found underneath the words ‘CARETAKER OF THE MOSQUE OF ‘ALI…’ only the words ‘… Signed by al-Muqtafi, Commander of the Faithful’ – God’s blessings be upon him. So if the caretaker had demanded more, it would have been authorized for him.23

§ The Prophet Appears in a Poor Man’s Dreams

In the vicinity of Hisn Kayfa on Thursday, 22 Rabi’ al-Awwal of the year 566 (3 December 1170), the qadi and imam Majd al-Din Abu Sulayman Dawud ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Khalid al-Khalidi (may God have mercy upon him) related to me on the authority of someone he trusts the following:

An old man once requested an audience with the Khawaja Buzurk24 (may God have mercy upon him). When he was admitted, [175] Khawaja Buzurk saw that he was a fine and imposing old man, and asked him, ‘Where are you from, old man?’ ‘From a foreign land,’25 the old man replied. Khawaja Buzurk asked, ‘Is there something you need?’ He replied, ‘I am the messenger of the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, to Malikshah.’26 To this, Khawaja Buzurk responded, ‘Old man! What sort of talk is this?’ ‘If you take me to him,’ the old man replied, ‘then I shall deliver the message to him. If not, then I shall remain here until I meet with him and deliver what I have with me.’

So Khawaja Buzurk went in to the sultan and informed him of what the old man had said. ‘Bring him to me,’ the sultan said. Once the old man was brought in, he presented a toothpick and a comb to the sultan, saying, ‘I am a man with daughters of my own. But I am a poor man, unable to provide for their trousseaus or to marry them off. Every night I would pray to God (may He be exalted) that He would grant me with enough to provide their trousseaus. On Friday night of a certain month, I prayed to God, glory be to Him, to assist me with their needs, and went to sleep. I then saw the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, in the way sleeping people see things. He said to me, ‘‘Is it you who prays to God (may He be exalted) to grant what you need to provide your daughters’ trousseaus?’’ ‘‘Yes, Messenger of God,’’ I replied. The Messenger of God then said, ‘‘Go to so-and-so (and he named Malikshah, meaning the sultan), and say to him: ‘The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, tells you to provide the trousseaus for my daughters.’’’ So I said, ‘‘Messenger of God, what if he asks me for a sign as proof, what should I tell him?’’ He replied, ‘‘Tell him that the sign is that every night before going to sleep he recites the sura of tabaraka.”’27

When the sultan heard this, he said, ‘This sign is true. None but God, may He be blessed and exalted, could have perceived this. For my tutor ordered me to recite it every night before going to sleep, and I still do it.’ The sultan then ordered that the old man receive everything he requested for providing the trousseaus of his daughters, and granted him the finest gifts before sending him on his way.

§ The Prophet Appears in another Dream

That story is similar to one I heard from Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Fatik the Qur’an-master.28 He said:

One day I was reciting the Qur’an under the tutelage of Ibn Mujahid29 the Qur’an-master, in Baghdad, when an old man came towards him wearing a beat-up turban, a head-cloth and robe that was also worn out. Ibn Mujahid knew the old man and said to him, ‘What’s the story with the little girl?’

The [176] old man replied, ‘Ibn Mujahid, yesterday a third daughter was born to me. My womenfolk asked me for a daniq to buy some butter and honey with which to rub her palate,30 but I didn’t have it. As a result, I went to sleep full of anxiety. But I saw in my dream the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace. He said, ‘‘Don’t be distressed or sad. When you wake up tomorrow, go in to ‘Ali ibn ‘Isa,31 the caliph’s vizier. Send him my greetings, and tell him, ‘By the sign that you have prayed for the Prophet at his tomb four thousand times, pay me one hundred gold dinars.’’’’

At this, Ibn Mujahid said, ‘Abu ‘Abdallah! This is a precious thing!’ and he interrupted the recital and took the old man by the hand and, rising, brought him in to ‘Ali ibn ‘Isa. Seeing Ibn Mujahid with an old man he did not know, ‘Ali ibn ‘Isa asked, ‘Where, Ibn Mujahid, did you get him?’ He replied, ‘Let the vizier call him to approach and listen to his words.’ So ‘Ali invited him to approach him and asked, ‘What is your trouble, old man?’

The old man began, ‘As Ibn Mujahid knows, I have two daughters. Yesterday, a third was born to me. My womenfolk asked me for a daniq with which to buy some honey and butter to rub the child’s palate, but I didn’t have it. So I went to sleep last night full of worries. But I saw the Prophet, God’s blessing and peace be upon him, in a dream, and he said, ‘‘Don’t be distressed or sad. When you wake up tomorrow, go in to ‘Ali ibn ‘Isa. Send him my greetings, and tell him, ‘By the sign that you have prayed for the Prophet at his tomb four thousand times, pay me one hundred gold dinars.’’’’

At this, Ibn Mujahid said to me, ‘Abu ‘Abdallah, Tears flowed and poured from the eyes of ‘Ali ibn ‘Isa. Then the latter said, ‘‘God and His Messenger have spoken the truth, and so have you spoken, my good man. This is a thing that no one besides God (may He be exalted) and His Messenger (may God bless him and grant him peace) could know. Attendant! Bring the money-bag.’’ The attendant went and brought the bag before him. ‘Ali thrust his hand in and pulled out one hundred dinars, saying, ‘‘Here are the hundred dinars, which the [177] Messenger of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) spoke of to you. And here are another hundred for the good tidings you bring. And here are another hundred just as a gift from us to you.’’ And so the old man departed, with three hundred dinars in his sleeve.’

§ Another Cure by ‘Ali in a Dream

The Commander al-Hajj Abu ‘Ali related to me in Ramadan of the year 568 (April-May 1173) at Hisn Kayfa the following:

I was in Mosul sitting in the shop of Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Mama when a fuqqa’-vendor32 with a stocky body and thick legs passed by. So Muhammad called to him, ‘By God, ‘Abd ‘Ali, tell him your story,’ indicating yours truly.

The man said, ‘As you can see,33 I am a fuqqa’-vendor. One Tuesday night, I went to sleep healthy, but when I woke up it was as if I had become unhitched at the middle. I was unable to move and my legs dried up and became so thin that they were all skin and bones. I had to drag my feet behind me because my legs wouldn’t follow along with me, and I couldn’t get any movement out of them at all. So I sat down in the path of Zayn al-Din ‘Ali Kujak34 (may God have mercy upon him). He ordered that I be carried to his residence, and so I was.

‘Zayn al-Din summoned some physicians and told them, ‘‘I would like you to heal this person.” ‘‘We shall certainly heal him, God willing,’’ they said. They then took a nail and heated it red hot and cauterized my leg with it, but I didn’t feel a thing. ‘‘We’re not able to heal this man,’’ they told Zayn al-Din. ‘‘There’s nothing we can do about it.’’ So Zayn al-Din gave me two dinars and a donkey. The donkey remained with me for about a month, but then died. So I went back and sat down in the path of Zayn al-Din again, and he gave me another donkey, which also died. He gave me yet a third donkey, and it died, too.

‘So I asked him for help yet again, but he just said to one of his companions, ‘‘Remove this man and throw him in the ditch.’’ And so I begged his companion, ‘‘By God, throw me in on my hip so that I don’t feel anything when it happens!’’ To this he replied, [178] ‘‘The only way I’ll throw you is on your head!’’ But after this a messenger of Zayn al-Din’s (may God have mercy upon him) came to me and brought me back to him, for what he had said about throwing me into the ditch was just a joke. Once I was presented before him, he granted me four dinars and a donkey.

‘My condition remained as it was until one night when I saw in a dream a man standing by me. ‘‘Arise!’’ he said. ‘‘Who are you?’’ I asked him. ‘‘I am ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib,’’ he replied. And so I awoke and stood up. I woke my wife and said, ‘‘You won’t believe it! I’ve just had a vision,’’ and described it. ‘‘Hey! You’re standing up!’’ she exclaimed.

‘So I walked on my feet, my trouble gone, and returned to the condition that you see me in now. I went before Zayn al-Din, the amir ‘Ali Kujak (may God have mercy upon him) and told him the story of my dream and he could see that the ailment that he had seen me with had now gone, so he granted me ten dinars.’

Glory be to the Healer, the Restorer of Health!

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