She lived at Marchena of the Olives where I visited her often. Among people of our kind I have never met one like her with respect to the control she had over her soul. In her spiritual activities and communications she was among the greatest. She had a strong and pure heart, a noble spiritual power and a fine discrimination. She usually concealed her spiritual state, although she would often reveal something of it to me in secret because she knew of my own attainment, which gladdened me. She was endowed with many graces. I had considerable experience of her intuition and found her to be a master in this sphere. Her spiritual state was characterized chiefly by her fear of God and His good pleasure in her, the combination of the two at the same time in one person being extremely rare among us.
FROM THE AL-DURRAT AL-FāKHIRAH
I first met her when she was in her eighties.
One day al-Mawrūrī and I were with her. Suddenly she looked towards another part of the room and called out at the top of her voice, ʿAlī, return and get the kerchief.' When we asked to whom she was speaking, she explained that ʿAli was on his way to visit her and that on his way he had sat down to eat by a stretch of water. When he got up to resume his journey he had forgotten the kerchief. This is why she had called out to him; he had gone back and had retrieved the kerchief. ʿAlī was at that time well over a league away. After an hour he arrived and we asked him what had happened to him, on the way. He told us that he had stopped at some water on the way to eat and that he had then got up and left the kerchief behind. He went on to tell us that he had then heard our lady Shams calling him to return and get it, which he had done. She also had the power to voice the thoughts of others. Her revelations were true and I saw her perform many wonders.
NUNAH FATIMAH BINT IBN AL-MUTHANNA*
She lived at Seville. When I met her she was in her nineties and only ate the scraps left by people at their doors. Although she was so old and ate so little, I was almost ashamed to look at her face when I, sat with her, it was so rosy and soft. Her own special chapter of the Qur'an was 'The Opening'. She once said to me, 'I was given "The Opening" and I can wield its power in any matter I wish.' *
I, together with two of my companions, built a hut of reeds for her to live in. She used to say, 'Of those who come to see me, I admire none more than Ibn Al-ʿArabī.' On being asked the reason for this she replied, 'The rest of you come to me with part of yourselves, leaving the other part of you occupied with your other concerns, while Ibn al-ʿArabī is a consolation to me, for he comes to me with all of himself. When he rises up it is with all of himself and when he sits it is with his whole self, leaving nothing of himself elsewhere. That is how it should be on the Way.'
Although God offered to her His Kingdom, she refused, saying, 'You are all, all else is inauspicious for Me.'*
Her devotion to God was profound. Looking at her in a purely superficial way one might have thought she was a simpleton, to which she would have replied that he who knows not his Lord is the real simpleton. She was indeed a mercy to the world.
Once, on the night of the Festival, Abū 'āmir, the muezzin, struck her with his whip in the mosque. She gave him a look and left the place feeling very angry with him. In the morning she heard him calling to prayer and said, 'O my Lord, do not rebuke me that I was affected by one who calls Your Name in the darkness of the night while other men sleep, for it is my Beloved who is mentioned on his lips. O God, do not censure him because of my feeling against him.'
The next morning the jurists of the locality went, after the Festival prayer, to convey their respects to the Sultan. This muezzin, full of worldly aspiration, went in with them. When the Sultan enquired who the fellow might be, he was told that it was only the muezzin. Then the Sultan asked who had allowed him to come in with the jurists and ordered him to be thrown out, which he was. However, after someone had pleaded with the Sultan for him he was let off, although the Sultan had intended to punish him. Fàtimah heard about this incident and said, 'I know about it, and if I had not prayed for leniency for him, he would have been executed.' Her spiritual influence was very great indeed. After this she died.
FROM THE AL-DURRAT AL-FāKHIRAH
Some of the believing Jinn
would sit with her, seeking her companionship, but she would refuse them and ask them to remain hidden and would remind them of what the Apostle of God had said the night he caught the demon, 'I remembered the words of my brother Solomon and used them on it.'*
At first she had earned her living on a spindle. Then it occurred to her to earn her keep by hand-spinning, but God caused her spinning finger to become crippled from the moment she started on the work. I had noticed the finger and had asked her about it. She then told me the story and told me that she had from that day relied upon the scraps of food thrown from people's houses. She came to the Way while still a young girl living in her father's house. I met her when she was already ninety-six years of age.
She had married a righteous man whom God had afflicted with leprosy. She served him happily for twenty-four years until he was taken to God's mercy. When she became hungry and no scraps or offerings of food came her way she would be content and thank God for His favour in that he was subjecting her to that to which He had subjected his prophets and saints. She would say, 'O Lord, how can I deserve this great position in that You treat me as You treated Your loved ones?'
One day I built a hut for her of palm branches in which to perform her devotions. That same night the oil in her lamp ran out, something which had never happened to her before. I never learned the secret of that from her. She got up to open the door to ask me to bring her some more oil and, in the darkness, plunged her hand into some water in the bucket(?) underneath her. At this she cursed and the water was immediately changed into oil. She then took the jug and filled it with the oil, lit the lamp and came back to see from where the oil had come. When she saw no further trace of oil she realized that it had been a provision from God.
One day when I was with her a woman came to see her to complain of her husband who had gone away to Sidonia, two days' journey from Seville. She told us that her husband wanted to seek another wife in that place, which she found hard to accept. I asked Fatimah whether she had heard the woman's plea and begged her to call upon God to restore her husband to her. She said, 'I will make no supplication, but I will cause the chapter "The Opening" (al-fātihah
) to follow behind him and bring him back.' I then said, 'In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate', and she recited the rest of the chapter. Then she said, 'O chapter of "The Opening", go to Jerez de Sidonia to the husband of this woman and drive him back at once from wherever you find him and do not let him delay.' She said this sometime between noon and the late afternoon.
On the third day the mail arrived at his home. Then the woman came to inform us of his arrival and to thank us. I then told her to bring her husband to us. When he came we asked him what had brought him back from Jerez, when he had intended to marry and settle down there. He replied that he had left his house in the middle of the afternoon heading towards the municipal building for the marriage and that on the way he had felt a constriction in his heart and everything seemed suddenly very dark to him. At this he became very anxious. Then he left that place and arrived in Triana before sunset, where he had found a boat for Seville. Thus he had sailed the day before and had arrived in Seville that morning, having left all his baggage and effects behind in Jerez *
. He admitted that he still did not know why he had done it. I have seen various miracles performed by her.
Her name was Yasminah.
Cf. Futūhāt, II, P. 348
The actual words and sounds of the Qur'an are considered to have power of their own deriving from their divine origin. This accounts for the frequent use of texts from the Qur'an as charms and talismans.
An allusion to the teaching of the Sufis
that even the worlds of the soul and spirit are ultimately illusory.
In general, association of any kind with beings of a subtle nature is avoided by those with a genuine spiritual aspiration because of the dangers attaching to this realm.
This incident is also related in Futūhāt, II, p. 348