An Anecdote… from the Travels of Ibn Battutah

My favourite book, the Travels of Ibn Battutah which is written by Tim Mackintosh Smith gives a full interpretation of Ibn Battutah’s travels and brings it vividly to life. The book itself contains little anecdotes which are quite interesting. One of the ones I had read tells the story of the Qarandariyah!

Ibn Battutah tells the story of the Qalandars – a group of antinomian mendicants in the 13th century found by Sheikh Jamal Al-Din Al-Sawi. The Qarandariyah are a group of people who shave of their beards and eyebrows.

There was a reason for why Sheikh Jamal Al-Din Al-Sawi Shaved off his beard and eyebrows. Sheikh Jamal Al-Din was a handsome and attractive man and there was a woman who had passion for him. She had sent him letters, intercepted him in the streets and invited him to fulfil her desires. Of course Sheikh Jamal-Al Din refused and rejected which the woman did not like.

The woman had created a plan by sending an old woman with latter and asked the old woman to approach Sheikh Jamal Al-Din. The old lady informed Sheikh Jamal Al-Din that she received a letter from her son which she would like him to read. She also told him that her son has a wife who is the in the vestibule of the house and if he can read the letter between the outer and inner doors of the house so that she can hear. Sheikh Jamal Al-Din agreed to this request.

Having agreed, Sheikh Jamal Al-Din was standing between in the inner and outer door. As told by the woman, the old woman locked the outer door. Inside, her attendants forced  him into the inner apartments where the woman tried to seduce him. Seeing no way out, Sheikh Jamal Al-Din promised to do as she asked as long as she showed him the closet. Sheikh Jamal Al-Din had a sharp razor on himself and taking in water, he shaved off his eyebrows and beard. After this, Sheikh Jamal Al-Din came out and the woman was horrified of his appearance. By the woman’s order, he was taken out.

Sheikh Jamal Al-Din kept away from temptation and kept the same appearance forever. This tariqah (way) has been followed by people ever since…


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