THE PRIOR WHO BECAME A MOSLEM.



Quoth Abu Bakr Mohammed ibn Al-Anbári [FN#204]: "I once left Anbár on a journey to 'Amúríyah, [FN#205] where there came out to me the prior of the monastery and superior of the monkery, Abd al-Masíh hight, and brought me into the building. There I found forty religious, who entertained me that night with fair guest rite, and I left them after seeing among them such diligence in adoration and devotion as I never beheld the like of in any others. Next day I farewelled them and fared forth and, after doing my business at 'Amuriyah, I returned to my home at Anbar. And next year I made pilgrimage to Meccah and as I was circumambulating the Holy House I saw Abd al-Masih the monk also compassing the Ka'abah, and with him five of his fellows, the shavelings. Now when I was sure that it was indeed he, I accosted him, saying, 'Art thou not Abd al-Masih, the Religious?' and he replied, 'Nay, I am Abdallah, the Desirous.' [FN#206] Therewith I fell to kissing his grey hairs and shedding tears; then, taking him by the hand, I led him aside into a corner of the Temple and said to him, 'Tell me the cause of thy conversion to al-Islam;' and he made reply, 'Verily, 'twas a wonder of wonders, and befell thus. A company of Moslem devotees came to the village wherein is our convent, and sent a youth to buy them food. He saw, in the market, a Christian damsel selling bread, who was of the fairest of women; and he was struck at first sight with such love of her, that his senses failed him and he fell on his face in a fainting fit. When he revived, he returned to his companions and told them what had befallen him, saying, 'Go ye about your business; I may not go with you.' They chided him and exhorted him, but he paid no heed to them; so they left him whilst he entered the village and seated himself at the door of the woman's booth. [FN#207] She asked him what he wanted, and he told her that he was in love with her whereupon she turned from him; but he abode in his place three days without tasting food, keeping his eyes fixed on her face. Now whenas she saw that he departed not from her, she went to her people and acquainted them with his case, and they set on him the village boys, who stoned him and bruised his ribs and broke his head; but, for all this, he would not budge. Then the villagers took counsel together to slay him; but a man of them came to me and told me of his case, and I went out to him and found him lying prostrate on the ground. So I wiped the blood from his face and carried him to the convent, and dressed his wounds; and there he abode with me fourteen days. But as soon as he could walk, he left the monastery"-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Thirteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdallah the Religious continued: "So I carried him to the convent and dressed his wounds, and he abode with me fourteen days. But as soon as he could walk, he left the monastery and returned to the door of the woman 's booth, where he sat gazing on her as before. When she saw him she came out to him and said, 'By Allah thou movest me to pity! wilt thou enter my faith that I may marry thee?' He cried, 'Allah forbid that I should put off the faith of Unity and enter that of Plurality!' [FN#208] Quoth she, 'Come in with me to my house and take thy will of me and wend thy ways in peace.' Quoth he, 'Not so, I will not waste the worship of twelve years for the lust of an eye-twinkle.' Said she, 'Then depart from me forthwith;' and he said, 'My heart will not suffer me to do that;' whereupon she turned her countenance from him. Presently the boys found him out and began to pelt him with stones; and he fell on his face, saying, 'Verily, Allah is my protector, who sent down the Book of the Koran; and He protecteth the Righteous! [FN#209] At this I sallied forth and driving away the boys, lifted his head from the ground and heard him say, 'Allah mine, unite me with her in Paradise!' Then I carried him to the monastery, but he died, before I could reach it, and I bore him without the village and I dug for him a grave and buried him. And next night when half of it was spent, the damsel cried with a great cry (and she in her bed); so the villagers flocked to her and questioned her of her case. Quoth she, 'As I slept, behold the Moslem man came in to me and taking me by the hand, carried me to the gate of Paradise; but the Guardian denied me entrance, saying, 'Tis forbidden to unbelievers.' So I embraced Al Islam at his hands and, entering with him, beheld therein pavilions and trees, such as I cannot describe to you. Moreover, he brought me to a pavilion of jewels and said to me, 'Of a truth this is my pavilion and thine, nor will I enter it save with thee; but, after five nights thou shalt be with me therein, if it be the will of Allah Almighty.' Then he put forth his hand to a tree which grew at the door of the pavilion and plucked there from two apples and gave them to me, saying, 'Eat this and keep the other, that the monks may see it.' So I ate one of them and never tasted I aught sweeter.' "--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Fourteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman continued: "'So he plucked two apples and gave them to me, saying, 'Eat this and keep the other that the monks may see it.' So I ate one of them and never tasted I aught sweeter. Then he took my hand and fared forth and carried me back to my house; and, when I awoke, I found the taste of the apple in my mouth and the other in my hand.' So saying she brought out the apple, and in the darkness of the night it shone as it were a sparkling star. So they carried her (and the apple with her) to the monastery, where she repeated her vision and showed it to us; never saw we its like among all the fruits of the world. Then I took a knife and cut the apple into pieces according as we were folk in company; and never knew we aught more delicious than its savour nor more delightsome than its scent; but we said, 'Haply this was a devil that appeared unto her to seduce her from her faith.' Thereupon her people took her and went away; but she abstained from eating and drinking and on the fifth night she rose from her bed, and going forth the village to the grave of her Moslem lover threw herself upon it and died, her family not knowing what was come of her. But, on the morrow, there came to the village two Moslem elders, clad in hair cloth, and with them two women in like garb, and said, 'O people of the village, with you is a woman Saint, a Waliyah of the friends of Allah, who died a Moslemah; and we will take charge of her in lieu of you.' So the villagers sought her and found her dead on the Moslem's grave; and they said, 'This was one of us and she died in our faith; so we will take charge of her.' Rejoined the two old men, 'Nay, she died a Moslemah and we claim her.' And the dispute waxed to a quarrel between them, till one of the Shaykhs said, 'Be this the test of her faith: the forty monks of the monastery shall come and try to lift her from the grave. If they succeed, then she died a Nazarene; if not, one of us shall come and lift her up and if she be lifted by him, she died a Moslemah.' The villagers agreed to this and fetched the forty monks, who heartened one another, and came to her to lift her, but could not. Then we tied a great rope round her middle and haled at it; but the rope broke in sunder, and she stirred not; and the villagers came and did the like, but could not move her from her place. [FN#210] At last, when all means failed, we said to one of the two Shaykhs, 'Come thou and lift her.' So he went up to the grave and, covering her with his mantle, said, 'In the name of Allah the Compassionating, the Compassionate, and of the Faith of the Apostle of Allah, on whom be prayers and peace!' Then he lifted her and, taking her in his bosom, betook himself with her to a cave hard by, where they laid her, and the two women came and washed her and shrouded her. Then the two elders bore her to her Moslem lover's grave and prayed over her and buried her by his side and went their ways. Now we were eye witnesses of all this; and, when we were alone with one another, we said, 'In sooth, the truth is most worthy to be followed;' [FN#211] and indeed the verity hath been made manifest to us, nor is there a proof more patent of the truth of al-Islam than that we have seen this day with our eyes.' So I and all the monks became Moslems and on like wise did the villagers; and we sent to the people of Mesopotamia for a doctor of the law, to instruct us in the ordinances of al-Islam and the canons of the Faith. They sent us a learned man and a pious, who taught us the rites of prayer and the tenets of the faith; and we are now in ease abounding; so to Allah be the praise and the thanks!" And they also tell a tale of




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