Week 4: Stories of Sufi Saints

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Mohammad ibn Ali al-Termedhi, cont.

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

The long story that you will read here is not about Termedhi. Rather, it is a story that Termedhi was supposed to have told. And it is a very strange story about Adam and Eve - very different probably from any story you have heard about Adam and Eve before. This story has also been recorded in Jewish folklore sources; you can read a Jewish version of this story in a page over at the Mythology-Folklore website.

“When the master is angry with you, do you know?” someone asked Termedhi’s family.

“We know,” they replied. “Whenever he is vexed with us, that day he is even kinder to us than usual. He takes neither bread nor water, and weeps and supplicates, saying, ‘O God, in what did I vex Thee, that Thou hast provoked them against me? O God, I repent; restore them to rectitude.’ So we know, and repent, to deliver the master out of his affliction.”

For a while Termedhi did not see Khezr.

Then one day a maidservant had washed the baby’s clothes, filling a basin with the baby’s excreta. Meanwhile the shaikh, dressed in clean robes and with a spotless turban, was proceeding to the mosque. The girl, flying into a rage over some trifle, emptied the basin over the shaikh’s head. Termedhi said nothing, and swallowed his anger.

Immediately he rediscovered Khezr.

The following narrative is ascribed to Termedhi.

When Adam and Eve came together and their repentance was accepted, one day Adam went out on business. Then Iblis brought his child called Khannas to Eve.

“Something important has come up,” he told her. “Please look after my child till I return.”

Eve consented to do so, and Iblis went on his way.

“Who is this?” demanded Adam on his return.

“The child of Iblis,” Eve answered. “He left him in my charge.”

“Why did you consent?” Adam reproved her. In a fury he slew the child and cut him into pieces, and hung each piece from the branch of a tree. Then he went off.

Presently Iblis returned.

“Where is my son?” he asked.

Eve reported to him what had happened. “He cut him in pieces and hung each piece on the branch of a tree.”

Iblis called to his son. He reassembled and became alive and ran to his father.

“Take him,” Iblis begged Eve again. “I have another task to do.”

At first Eve would not agree, but Iblis pleaded and entreated her so earnestly that at last she consented. So Iblis took his departure, and Adam returned to find the child there again.

“What is this?” he demanded.

Eve explained what had happened. Adam beat her severely.

“I do not know what the mystery of this is,” he cried, “that you disobey me and obey that enemy of God, and are duped by his words.”

He slew the child and burned his body, then scattered his ashes, half in the water and half to the winds.

So he departed.

Iblis came back again and asked for his son. Eve told him what had come to pass. Iblis shouted to his son, and the pieces reassembled and came to life, and sat before Iblis.

Once more Iblis spoke to Eve, and she refused him. “Adam will kill me.”

Iblis adjured her with many oaths, until she consented. Iblis then departed, and Adam returned to discover the child with her once more.

“God knows what will happen now,” he cried out in anger. “You heed his words and not mine.”

Furious, he slew Khannas and cooked him. He ate one half himself, and the other half he gave to Eve. (They also say that on the final occasion Iblis had brought Khannas back in the form of a sheep.) Iblis returned and demanded his son. Eve recounted what had transpired.

“He cooked him. One half I ate, and one half Adam.”

“This was what I was after,” Iblis shouted. “I aimed to insinuate myself into Adam. Now that his breast has become my abode, my purpose is realized.”

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what attitude did Termedhi display that caused Khezr to come back to him?
  • what did Iblis do each time that Adam killed his son?
  • what did Iblis consider to be his final victory?


Source: Attar, Muslim Saints and Mystics (Episodes from the Tadhkirat al-Auliya, or Memorial of the Saints). Translated by A. J. Arberry. 1966. Website: Omphaloskepsis.

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM