Honest Myth:Arabian/Islamic- The Tale of the Trader and the Jinni

For this one, I was not sure how to categorize it. This is a story in the One Thousand and One Nights so I put it as Arabian, but it also mentions Allah quite a lot so I included Islam. Anyways, here is the story.

One Thousand and One Nights. Not sure who the artist is. Please tell me if you know.

One Thousand and One Nights. Not sure who the artist is. Please tell me if you know.

One day, a wealthy merchant traveling through many towns stopped to eat breakfast in a garden. After eating a date, he threw the pit onto the ground and a great ifrit (infernal Jinni that are  known for being cunning and being able to fly) appeared with a sword in his hand. He told the merchant that he had to kill him for murdering his son with the date pit. The merchant tried to say that it was an accident, but the Jinni would not listen. So, the merchant begged that the Jinni not kill him till the New Year, and in that time he would fix everything to make sure that he leaves with no dept and with his family well looked after. The Jinni accepted, since the merchant made an oath to Allah that he would come back. On New Years day, after finishing what he needed, the merchant went to the garden and sat waiting. As he sobbed in fear, a Shaykh (honorific title for scholars of Islamic sciences) walked by. the old man had a gazelle with him and asked the merchant why he was weeping. The merchant shared his story and the old man stayed with him talking. After some time, a second Shakyh with two grey hounds appeared, and he too decided to stay with the merchant. Again, a third Shakyh appeared with a she-mule, and the same occurred with him. Finally, the Jinni appeared ready to kill the merchant. the first Shakyh asked the Jinni, “If I tell you the story of my gazelle and it amazes you, then give me 1/3 of this man’s blood.” And the Jinni agreed. The man told his story: He married his cousin, but she was unable to have children. So he got a concubine that bore him a beautiful boy. After many years, he left to work for a year and on his return his concubine and son were gone. His wife, who practiced dark magic, had turned them into a heifer and a calf, but lied that they had passed. When the Great Festival for Allah came around, he asked his herdsman to bring in a fat heifer for sacrifice. He brought in the concubine who cried and wept. The Shakyh refused to kill the crying cow, but the wife insisted, and it had no meat  just skin and bones. So he asked the herdsman to bring a calf, and the son was brought out. The calf ran to him and began weeping. Again, he refused to kill it, and again the wife insisted. this time (regretting the heifer), the man put his foot down and told teh herdsman to take the calf home. Once home, the herdsman’s daughter began to laugh and cry, “Why do you bring a strange man into our home?” she asked. And she explained who the calf was to her father (since she also practiced dark magic). The herdsman told his master, and the girl changed the calf back in exchange for the son’s hand in marriage and the ability to turn the evil step mother into a gazelle (for she feared she would target her next for seeing through her magic). After many years, the girl died and the son left to travel. now the old man traveled with his gazelle in search of his son. The Jinni was amazed and accepted that 1/3 of the merchant was the first Shakyh’s. The second Shakyh asked for the same opportunity and promised that his story was more amazing. His story went like this: He and his two brothers each owned a shop. Both elder brothers chose to sell their shops to travel and make more money. Each time they did, they would come back broke, and he would give them money to start over. For 6 years, they tried to persuade him to travel with them. Finally, he accepted, but found that both brothers had squandered all their money. So he gave them his, and they were off. While traveling, he was able to make 10 times more money, but they became broke quickly. He also found a ragged maiden who asked him to marry her (which he did). His brothers, jealous of his money and his new wife, decided to kill them. But the wife (who was a Jinni) flew away with her husband. She told him, she was a believer of Allah and felt compelled to marry and be with him, and now she had to kill his brothers. He begged her not to, so instead she flew him home. After fixing his store, he came home to find two grey hounds and knew instantly that they were his brothers. His wife explained that her sister had cast the spell for her, and that after 10 years she would be able to change them back for him. And so that now he was traveling to his sister-in-law’s home to change his brothers back to men. Again the Jinni was amazed and awarded the second old man a third  of the merchants blood. The third asked for the same chance and his story went thus: After traveling for a year, he came home to find his wife in bed with a slave. When she saw her husband, she cast a spell that changed him into a dog. He ran from the home and wandered until he came upon a butcher who fed him and took him in. The butcher’s daughter yelled, “Why do you bring a strange man before me?” Then she explained to her father the story of the dog (it seems these witch/magic ladies just know). She quickly changed him back into a man and taught him how to cast the same smell onto his wife. And as she slept, he changed her into a mule. And again the Jinni was amazed. Having given away all of the merchant, he could no longer kill him, and he was saved.

Hope you enjoyed!

-Blog Barista

*squeal of joy*

*squeal of joy*

Check it out here:

Translated by Burton, R. Francis. Tales from Arabian Nights. New York: Fall River press, 2012, pp. 21-31. Print.

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Honest Myth:Islamic- Azrael

Winged Figure Seated Upon a Rock by Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849)

Winged Figure Seated Upon a Rock by Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849)

Today’s ‘deity’ of death is an angel that can be found in Islamic texts, Christian texts, Sikh texts, and Jewish texts, but whose name is most common in Islam, the Archangel of Death, Azrael.

Azrael’s name means one who helps god. He was one of the first angels to become an arch angel. When souls were going missing, or not going to heaven after death, God gave Azrael the Word of Death so that he could research the problem. He learned that many souls got reincarnated, and some got lost and became ghosts stuck on earth. Finding this, he was elevated to Archangel and given the duties to direct souls to heaven after death (kind of like a psychopomp). As the angel of Death, he will be the last to die or disappear at the end of existence.

The Jewish have a positive view of Azrael. He is said to be a high ranking angel of God who receives prayers of faithful souls when they finally enter heaven.

In the Christian Bible, Azrael is not seen as canon,  but there was a mention of a scribe name Azra who was elevated to angelic status. Did you know: that the addition of ‘el’ at the end of an angel’s name is the show of angelic status.

The Sikh have a more negative view where they believe that Azrael is only sent to those who do not repent their sins. He kills the sinful, and takes their souls to hell.

Morrocan men have a custom of leaving a single lock of hair on their head so that Azreal can pull their souls from their body and lead them to heaven.

Azrael, the Angel of Death, by Evelyn De Morgan (1881)

Azrael, the Angel of Death, by Evelyn De Morgan (1881)

In the Qur’an, Azrael is known as the Archangel of Death who returns the souls of the dead back to God. He never knows when people are meant to die until God tells him. Azrael’s role is to care for dying so they do not fear death, removed the soul from the body, and then guides them to god. Here he is more then just death, but an angel that follows the will of God. He also comforts those whose loved one died.

In the Islamic texts, Azrael is shown to be a very kind angel. He is patient, soft-spoken, and hardworking, doing his duty obediently. His role includes helping the dying make peace with god, and counseling those grieving for loved ones. He is depicted as having four faces, and four thousand wings. His entire body is covered in eyes and tongues, the exact number of each being the amount of souls on earth. He tracks the souls by writing down the names of souls at birth in a book and erasing them once they die.

Find more here, very interesting to read: http://www.amadan.org/Innomine/Azrael.htm
-Blog Barista
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