ABOULHUSN ED DURRAJ AND ABOU JAAFER THE LEPER.

(Quoth Aboulhusn ed Durraj), I had been many times to Mecca (which God increase in honour) and the folk used to follow me by reason of my knowledge of the road and the watering-places. It chanced one year that I was minded to make the pilgrimage to the Holy House of God and visit the tomb of His prophet (on whom be peace and blessing), and I said to myself, 'I know the road and will go alone.' So I set out and journeyed till I came to El Cadesiyeh (24) and entering the mosque there, saw a leper seated in the prayer-niche. When he saw me, he said to me, 'O Aboulhusn, I crave thy company to Mecca. Quoth I to myself, 'I wished to avoid companions, and how shall I company with lepers?' So I said to him, 'I will bear no one company.' And he was silent.

Next day I continued my journey alone, till I came to Acabeh, (25) where I entered the mosque and was amazed to find the leper seated in the prayer-niche. 'Glory be to God!' said I in myself. 'How hath this fellow foregone me hither?' But he raised his eyes to me and said, smiling, 'O Aboulhusn, He doth for the weak that which the strong wonder at!' I passed that night in perplexity, confounded at what I had seen, and in the morning set out again by myself; but when I came to Arafat and entered the mosque, behold, there was the leper seated in the niche! So I threw myself upon him and kissing his feet, said, 'O my lord, I crave thy company.' But he said, 'This may nowise be.' Whereupon I fell a-weeping and lamenting, and he said, 'Peace: weeping will avail thee nothing.' And he recited the following verses:

      For my estrangement dost thou weep,--whenas it came from thee,--And restoration dost implore, when none, alas! may be?
      Thou sawst my weakness and disease, as it appeared, and saidst, ''He goes nor comes, or night or day, for this his malady."
      Seest not that God (exalted be His glory) to His slave Vouchsafeth all he can conceive of favours fair and free!
      If I, to outward vision, be as it appears and eke In body, for despite of Fate, e'en that which thou dost see,
      And eke no victual though I have, unto the holy place Where crowds unto my Lord resort, indeed, to carry me,
      I have a Maker, hidden are His bounties unto me; Yea, there's no parting me from Him, and without peer is He.
      Depart from me in peace and leave me and my strangerhood; For with the lonely exile still the One shall company.

So I left him and continued my journey; and every stage I came to, I found him before me, till I came to Medina, where I lost sight of him and could hear no news of him. Here I met Abou Yezid el Bustani and Abou Bekr es Shibli and a number of other doctors, to whom I told my case and they said, 'God forbid that thou shouldst gain his company after this! This was Abou Jaafer the leper, in whose name, at all tides, the folk pray for rain and by whose blessing prayers are answered.' When I heard this, my longing for his company redoubled and I implored God to reunite me with him. Whilst I was standing on Arafat, one plucked me from behind, so I turned and behold it was Abou Jaafer. At this sight, I gave a loud cry and fell down in a swoon; but, when I came to myself, he was gone.

This increased my yearning for him and the ways were straitened upon me and I prayed God to give me sight of him; nor was it but a few days after, when one pulled me from behind, and I turned and behold, it was he again. Quoth he, 'I conjure thee, ask thy desire of me.' So I begged him to pray three prayers to God for me; first, that He would make me love poverty; secondly, that I might never lie down to sleep upon known provision; and thirdly, that He the Bountiful One would vouchsafe me to look upon His face. So he prayed for me, as I wished, and departed from me. And indeed God hath granted me the first two prayers; for He hath made me in love with poverty, so that, by Allah, there is nought in the world dearer to me than it, and since such a year, I have never lain down upon assured provision; yet hath He never let me lack of aught. As for the third prayer, I trust that He will vouchsafe me that also, even as He hath granted the two others, for He is bountiful and excellently beneficent. And may God have mercy on him who saith:

      Renouncement, lowliness, the fakir's garments be; In patched and tattered clothes still fares the devotee.
      Pallor adorneth him, as, on their latest nights, The moons with pallor still embellished thou mayst see.
      Long rising up by night to pray hath wasted him, And from his lids the tears stream down, as 'twere a sea.
      The thought of God to him his very housemate is; For bosom-friend, by night, th' Omnipotent hath he.
      God the Protector helps the fakir in his need, And birds and beasts no less to succour him agree.
      On his account, the wrath of God on men descends, And by his grace, the rains fall down on wood and lea.
      And if he pray one day to do away a plague, The oppressor's slain and men from tyrants are made free;
      For all the folk are sick, afflicted and diseased, And he's the pitying leach withouten stint or fee.
      His forehead shines; an thou but look upon his face, Thy heart is calmed, the lights of heaven appear to thee.
      O thou that shunnest these, their virtues knowing not, Woe's thee! Thou'rt shut from them by thine iniquity.
      Thou think'st them to o'ertake, for all thou'rt fettered fast; Thy sins from thy desire do hinder thee, perdie.
      Thou wouldst to them consent and rivers from thine eyes Would run for them, if thou their excellence couldst see.
      Uneath to him to smell, who's troubled with a rheum, Are flowers; the broker knows what worth the garments be.
      So supplicate thy Lord right humbly for His grace, And Providence, belike, shall help thy constancy;
      And thou shalt win thy will and from estrangement's stress And eke rejection's pains shall be at rest and free.
      The asylum of His grace is wide enough for all That seek: The One True God, the Conqueror is He!



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