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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

352                  Ihe Contribution to Islam
greatest of Muslim mystics (Sufis) was an Egyptian, Dhu '1-Nun
al-Misri (d. 860), whose tombstone at Giza has survived.
Though much that is written of him and recorded of his sayings
is doubtless apocryphal—and in particular the legend that he
could read and understand the monuments of the Pharaohs—
it is significant that to him is attributed the special credit of
having first taught the doctrine of ma*rifa, the Arabic equiva-
lent of yvwacs. He is also mentioned as the author of works
on alchemy, though his title in this respect may be no more
secure than that of the Umayyad prince Khalid b. Yazid
(d. 704): at all events, none of the alchemical treatises ascribed
to him appears to be extant.
The various Sufi brotherhoods (tariqa) established them-
selves and flourished, and indeed still flourish, in Egypt. Rela-
tions between them and the official (Azharite) exponents of
religion were in the earlier period cordial, or at least sympa-
thetic : but for centuries now the two parties have been bitterly
antagonistic, though it is with a smile rather of indulgence than
of scorn that the modern theologian speaks of tasawwuf.
Ibn al-Farid, the greatest mystical poet of Arabic literature,
was born at Cairo in 1181, and died there in 1234: his tomb is
beautifully preserved in the Muqattam hills, overlooking Cairo.
His poetry is known by heart to modern Sufis, and has been
studied by several European scholars, notably Von Hammer,
Di Matteo, Nallino, and Nicholson. The following version by
Nicholson of part of a well-known ode illustrates the mystical
fire and beauty of his verse:
With my Beloved, I alone Have been
When secrets tenderer than evening airs
Passed, and the Vision blest
Was granted 'to my prayers,
That crowned me, else obscure, with etfdless fame,
The wMle amazed between
His beauty and His majesty