The following story, from that seemingly inexhaustible source of late medieval hagiography, the Ṣafvat al-ṣafā of Ibn Bazzāz, seemed appropriate to translate and post today given that April 21 and 22 of this year marks ‘Īd al-Fiṭr, the feast at the end of Ramadan, for the world’s Muslim communities. The story below has to do with the festivities- or, more properly, the preparation for them- that continue to be a feature of modern celebrations. As with many of the stories concerning Shaykh Ṣafī al-Dīn, the main subject of the hagiography (though far from the only subject!), it is quite straightforward. The word ‘akhī’ in ‘Akhī Shādī’ (whose name occasions some punning in the Persian) requires some explanation: the akhīs were members of ‘fraternities’ of urban workers, especially workers in various crafts, drawing upon the canons of futuwwa for their identity and practices, sometimes exerting political power in cities of Iran and, especially, Anatolia, in which context they are best known. Akhīs appear not infrequently in Ibn Bazzāz’s work, perhaps as a reflection of his own origins in the world of craftsmanship and the urban marketplace. As is so often the case, scenes of everyday life and activity are preserved, as it were, within the format of a miracle story, giving us a nice glimpse of the practices and relationships of ordinary people in the late medieval Persianate lands.
Akhī Shādī of Ardabil said: At the end of Ramadan the Shaykh, may his secret be sanctified, sought for me, so I went. Pīr Ibrāhīm Kurd-i Chust came and took me by the hand and led me to the kitchen. I worked for two days, cooking the bread for ‘Īd [al-Fiṭr]. While cooking that bread my hand was burned. During the night, just before morning, the Shaykh, may his secret be sanctified, came to the kitchen, and I came before him so as to kiss his blessed hand. The Shaykh looked and saw that my hand was burned, so he took my hand in his blessed hand and vigorously rubbed it, and in that very moment it became better, the traces of the burn completely disappearing! I was overjoyed, and in the exuberance of this joy returned home. While performing the morning prayer of the day of ‘Eid, it suddenly entered into my mind: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if the Shaykh sent me a plate of some saffron rice?’ An hour later I saw that a servant was coming, bringing a plate of saffron rice. He said to me, ‘The Shaykh declares that if Akhī Shādī has a friend who is sick he should give him this pilaf.’
I did have a friend who was grievously sick, such that we had all given up hope of his recovery, things reaching a point at which he was no longer eating or drinking, hope for his living becoming cut off. I brought that pilaf before him and said, ‘The Shaykh has sent this, eat it so that you can get better!’ He said, ‘I don’t have the strength [to feed myself], please place a portion of it in my mouth.’ So I put two or three bites of it in his mouth and he ate it, then said, ‘More please!’ So I gave him more, and he ate, saying, ‘Make a bigger portion!’ So I did, and in that moment he sat up and with me ate that plate of pilaf and was completely healed.
Ibn Bazzāz Ardabīlī, Ṣafvat al-ṣafā: dar tarjumah-ʼi aḥvāl va aqvāl va karāmāt-i Shaykh Ṣafī al-Dīn Isḥaq Ardabīlī, ed. Ghulām Riẓā Ṭabāṭabāʼī Majd (Tabriz: G.R. Ṭabāṭabāʼī Majd , 1373 ).
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