Another version of the Awjili “fire” story

Readers may recall that Aujila Text II presented the local saint Sidi Ahmed Zarruq as being of such sanctity that whatever had prayed behind him, even a piece of meat, would be forever immune from the Fire (of Hell).  Recently I accidentally found a much-abbreviated parallel to this charming but absurd legend rather a long way away – consider the following extract from a Sufi work written in Agadez (in Niger), Qudwat al-Mu`taqid fī Siyar al-‘Ajwād, attributed to Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ṣādiq ibn al-Shaykh Uwāyis al-Lamtūnī.  The original text and a translation are given in Norris’ (1990) Ṣūfī Mystics of the Niger Desert: Sīdī Maḥmūd and the Hermits of Aïr; I have taken the liberty of making the translation more literal.

وكان واحد من أصحابه يصلي ويصلي ونسي حمامة في رأس برنوسه وجعلها في النار ولم تاخذها وذكروا له ذلك فقال لعلك صليت ورائي قال نعم (p. 60)

“One of his companions was praying and praying, and he forgot a pigeon in the hood of his cloak (burnus) and he put it in the fire, but it did not burn it.  They mentioned what had happened to him (the Shaykh).  He said: ‘Perchance you had prayed behind me?’ ‘Yes,’ he answered.” (p. 62)

The shared motif may be much more widespread, for all I know, but its presence in this case is unlikely to be a coincidental similarity, though the shaykh to whom it is attributed here is Sidi Mahmud Al-Baghdadi.  According to Barth (1851:143), many people of the Agadez region claim Awjili ancestry, and the two areas were traditionally linked by trade.

About Lameen Souag
Descriptive/historical linguist

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