On Smashing Walls of Sugar

Another singular little story from the Kitab al-Futuwwa of the thirteenth century Sufi al-Ardabili; this one is one of the odder stories I’ve come across, and that’s probably saying something. I think the moral is that, first, delicacies are bad for spiritual health, as the immediate context is warnings (through rather more clear stories) against indulging in ‘soft’ living. However, I suspect that the story could also be a parable about the transitory nature of this-world (al-dunya). Maybe.

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Abu ‘Abdallah al-Rudhabari said: Abu Ali bought a load of white sugar, and called a group of confectionists, and they made from that sugar a wall out of sweets, and upon it were balconies, and in the wall were mihrabs [carved] in columns and with variegation of colour- all of it from sugar! Then he called to the Sufis so that they might raze it, smash it, and pillage it.

al-Ardabili

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Sweetmeat sellers in the street alongside Qarawiyyin Mosque, Fes, Morocco. The brightly coloured sweets you see here are the sort I imagine (though don’t know, not being up to speed on thirteenth century candy-making….) composing the wall in the story- if so, they were pretty tought to tear down, as these things are quite a task to eat!

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