The Tale of the Lamp
“I found myself in Baghdad, yearning for the azad date …” They claimed – and God knows it was true – that it was a year of drought and famine (may God preserve us all!), which had struck like lightning in one of the ancient capital cities of the Maghrib such as Qayrawan, Fès, Sijilmasa, Gafsa or Mahdia.
Food had run out, and people went into the desert to look for cacti and grass to assuage their hunger. After their hopes had been dashed, they preferred death over life. May God preserve us from oppression, evil and hunger! The drought lasted for seven years until the camels knelt down, too weak even to carry the humps on their backs. God is kind to the Believers! The people always remembered the horrors of these dark years, which became a milestone in their history from which they counted events and feasts.
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in one of these ancient cities. He was extremely clever. Living in a time of plenty and opulence, he believed that contentment was an everlasting treasure. The story goes that during the day this man repaired sandals in a nice shop located next to the Abu ‘l-Inaya school, although some people claimed it was next to the shrine of al-Sayyid al-Sahib. Still others said that the man’s shop was close to the black-roofed gallery that had been built by the caliph Isma’il al-Mansur al-Shi‘i. At night, our protagonist would busy himself with his family – his women, sons and daughters. His and other people’s lives were filled with such contentment that not even a cloud on a summer’s day could spoil it. However, when he was struck by catastrophe, and had to face crises from all sides, his heart and mind deserted him, and when he