Post-classical history

§ Usama’s Cure for the Common Cold

Something close to that happened to me at Shayzar. I was stricken with a terrible cold and I had chills without any fever, even though I wore furs and many layers of clothing. Whenever I moved while sitting, I would shiver and my body-hair would stand on end and my muscles seize up. I summoned sheikh Abu al-Wafa’ Tamim, the physician, and complained to him about how I was feeling.

‘Bring me an Indian melon,’ he said. So I had one brought.

He split it open and said to me, ‘Eat as much of it as you can.’

‘But doctor,’ I said, ‘I am dying of cold, and this pomegranate thing is cold. How can I eat this with all its coldness?’42

‘Eat like I told you,’ he said to me. So I ate. No sooner had I finished eating it than I started to sweat and the cold that I had been feeling passed.

The physician said to me, ‘What was afflicting you was caused by an over-abundance of bile, not by actual cold.’

§ Another Cure from a Dream

I have already mentioned above something about curious dreams, and in my book entitled [186] On Sleep and Dreams43 I have also presented some accounts of sleep and dreams and what others have said concerning them, the timing of visions and what scholars have pronounced on the subject. I have quoted statements that have appeared in Arabic poetry, expanding my commentary and giving a full explanation of everything. As a result, there is no need to mention anything more about the subject here. However, I did include the following account and enjoyed it so much I wanted to repeat it here:

My grandfather, Sadid al-Mulk ‘Ali (may God have mercy upon him), had a serving-girl called Lu’lu’a, who raised my father, Majd al-Din Murshid (may God have mercy upon him). And when he grew up, he moved out of the house of his father and she moved with him. Then I was brought into the world and that same servant, now an old woman, raised me until I grew up, got married and moved from the house of my father (may God have mercy upon him), and she moved out with me. Then I was blessed with children, whom she in turn raised. She was (may God have mercy upon her) one of the most pious women, constantly fasting and praying. But she was time and again laid low with the colic. One day, it struck her and became so bad that she lost consciousness and they despaired for her. But she remained in that state for two days and two nights. Then she came out of it, exclaiming, ‘There is no God but God! What a marvellous experience I have just had! I met with all our dearly departed ones and they spoke with me about wondrous things. Among the things they said to me was, ‘‘This colic will never come back to you again.’’’

And she lived for a long time afterwards and was never again stricken by colic. She lived until she was almost a hundred years old and never missed her prayers, may God have mercy upon her!

I once went in to see her in the rooms I had set aside for her in my residence. In front of her was a wash-basin and she was washing a headscarf for use in prayer.

‘What’s that, mother?’ I asked.

‘My son,’ she replied, ‘this headscarf has been handled by someone with cheese on their hands. For no matter how much I wash it, it still gives off an odour of cheese.’

‘Show me the block of soap that you’re washing it with,’ I said.

So she took the soap out from the headscarf and, sure enough, it was a piece of cheese which she had thought was soap. Every time she rubbed that headscarf with cheese, it gave off its odour.

‘Mother,’ I said, ‘that’s a piece of cheese, not a piece of soap!’

She looked at it and said, ‘You’re right, my son. I didn’t[187] think it was anything except soap.’

Blessed thus is God the most truthful of all speakers: ‘If We extend anyone’s life, We reverse his development.’44

Prolongation will just lead to frustration, since there are accidents and misfortunes too numerous to be reckoned. I beseech God, the Mighty and Majestic, for His protection and for my health in what remains to my last breath, and for His mercy and favour at the moment of my death. For He, glory be to Him, is the most generous granter of requests, the one in whom every hope rests.

Praise be to God alone, and may His blessings and peace fall upon our lord Muhammad and his family.

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