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Payne: Ibrahim el Khawwas and the Christian King's Daughter

[Go back to The Muslim Champion and The Christian Lady]

(Quoth Sidi Ibrahim ben el Khawwas, on whom be the mercy of God), My soul was instant with me, once upon a time, to go forth into the country of the infidels; and I strove with it and essayed to put away this thought from me, but it persisted and would not be denied. So I went forth and journeyed about the land of the unbelievers and traversed it in all its parts, for the grace of God enveloped me and His protection encompassed me, so that I met not a Christian, but he turned away his eyes and held aloof from me, till I came to a great city at whose gate I found a company of black slaves, clad in armour and bearing iron maces in their hands. When they saw me, they rose to their feet and said to me, 'Art thou a physician?' I said, 'Yes.' Quoth they, 'By order of the King,' and carried me before their monarch, who was a handsome man of majestic aspect. When I came into his presence, he looked at me and said, 'Art thou a physician?' 'Yes,' answered I; and he said to his officers, 'Carry him to her and acquaint him with the condition, ere he enter.' So they took me out and said to me, 'Know that the King hath a daughter, who is stricken with a sore distemper, which no physician hath availed to cure: and none goeth in to her and treateth her, without curing her, but the King putteth him to death. So bethink thee what thou wilt do?' Quoth I, 'The King sent me to her; so carry me to her.' Accordingly, they brought me to her door and knocked; and I heard her cry out from within, saying, 'Admit the physician, lord of the wondrous secret!' And she recited the following verses:       Open the door, for the physician's here; And see, I have a secret wonder-dear.

      How many near in spirit distant are! How many spirit-distant yet are near!
      I was an exile midst you, but the Truth Willed that my solace should eftsoon appear.
      Religious kinship bound us and we met, As lover and belov'd, in joy and cheer.
      He summoned me to meeting; but the spy And censor 'twixt our loves did interfere.
      Out on ye! Leave your chiding and your prate; For unto you I may not lend an ear.
      With that which passes by I've no concern; Upon the eternal things my hopes I rear.

And behold, an old man opened the door in haste and said to me, 'Enter.' So I entered and found myself in a saloon strewn with sweet-scented herbs and with a curtain drawn across one corner, from behind which came a sound of groaning, weak as from an emaciated body. I sat down before the curtain and was about to pronounce the salutation, when I bethought me of the words of him whom God bless and preserve, 'Accost not a Jew nor a Christian with the salutation, and when ye meet them in the way, constrain them to the straitest part thereof.' So I held my peace, but she cried out from behind the curtain, saying, 'Where is the salutation, that is due from one true believer in the Unity of God and His indivisibility to another, O Khawwas?' I was astonished at her speech and said, 'How knowest thou me?' 'When the heart and thoughts are pure,' answered she, 'the tongue speaks clearly from the secret places of the soul. I besought Him yesterday to send me one of His saints, at whose hands I might have deliverance, and behold, it was cried to me from the recesses of my house, "Grieve not; for we will send thee Ibrahim el Khawwas."' Then said I to her, 'What ails thee?' 'It is now four years,' answered she, 'since there appeared to me the manifest Truth, and He [or it] is the story-teller, the comrade, the ally; whereupon my folk looked upon me with evil eyes and taxed me with madness, and there came not in to me physician or visitor from them, but terrified and confounded me.' 'And who led thee to the knowledge of the true faith?' asked I. 'God's manifest signs and His visible portents,' replied she; 'and when the road is patent to thee, thou seest with thine own eyes both proof and prover.'

Whilst we were talking, in came the old man affected to her guard and said to her, 'What doth thy physician?' Quoth she, 'He knoweth the disease and hath hit upon the remedy.' When he heard this, he manifested joy and gladness and accosted me with a cheerful favour, then went and told the King, who bade him entreat me with all consideration. So I visited her daily for seven days, at the end of which time she said to me, 'O Abou Ishac, when shall be our flight to the land of Islam?' 'How canst thou go forth,' replied I, 'and who would dare to attempt thine escape?' 'He,' rejoined she, 'who sent thee to me.' 'Thou sayst well,' answered I. So on the morrow, we went out by the gate of the city and [men's] eyes were veiled from us, by His commandment, [who] when He desireth aught, saith to it, 'Be,' and it is; so that I journeyed with her in safety to Mecca, where she abode by the House of God seven years, till the days of her life came to an end. The earth of Mecca was her tomb, and never saw I any more steadfast in prayer and fasting than she, may God send down His mercies upon her and have compassion on him who saith:

      When they brought me the physician (and indeed upon my face Sickness and constant floods of tears had left full many a trace,)
      He drew the veil away and saw nought neath it but a soul Sans life or body or aught else to fill the empty place.
      "Indeed," said he to them, "a thing uneath is this to cure; Love hath a secret not to win by sheer conjecture's grace."
      Quoth they, "An one know not what is therein and if there be No way its nature to define and symptoms to embrace,
      How then shall medicine thereon have anywise effect?" Leave me; indeed, I will not judge, by guess-work, of the case.

[Go to The Justice of Providence]

Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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