A Black Ant on a Black Stone

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is adapted from Signs on the Horizons by Shaykh Michael Sugich.

“One walked past them or around them with barely a glance.  They were a background feature, local colour – the dregs of society, forgotten, anonymous – these beggars who gathered outside the mosques of the Old City of Meknes between the prayers and at the edge of marketplaces.  They were all registered as officially indigent, miskin, and thus legally permitted to take alms.  Even so, the authorities would periodically round them up and clap them in jail to clear the streets.  Most suffered from a severe infirmity.  Among them was a blind man who sat patiently in his position every day and waited for his provision.

He had been blind from childhood, the victim of trachoma, a disease transmitted by flies, often to young children.  He would pass his days performing invocations, dzikrullah, and occasionally chat with his fellow beggars.  He never asked passersby for alms.  He simply sat outside the mosque patiently.  He was always pleasant, always smiling.  At the end of the day, he would wrap his coins in a white handkerchief, pull himself up by his cane and make his way back through the winding cobbled streets of the Old Town to the zawiyah where he lived.

Si Khalifa shared a room off the public area with other fuqara’.  He had few possessions.  He shaved his head, so he did not need a comb.  He was blind, so he did not need a mirror.  He had an arak stick to clean his teeth and a bar of soap to wash with, and he had a small purse to keep the coins he collected.  He would put each coin in his mouth to determine its denomination.  He had only one change of clothes, which he kept scrupulously clean.  He may have had an extra pair of socks and an extra handkerchief.  I do not know.  Whatever he did possess he meticulously stored in his bedroll, which he put away in a cupboard every day.  He left no trace.  I once saw him washing his grey djellaba and turban by hand.  He wore a long undershirt and had to remain in his underclothes until his djellaba dried in the sunlight.

His sense of good humour never flagged.  Blind eyes closed, he smiled constantly, laughed easily.  He was satisfied with his place in the world.  His face had a luminous moon-like quality.  He never ceased invoking God.  He is a hidden treasure, the incarnation of the Sufi aspiration to ‘be like a black ant on a black stone at midnight’.”

In a hadits qudsi, Allah (s.w.t.) Says, “If I Deprive My servant of his two eyes in this lower world, I shall Give him in compensation nothing less than Paradise.”


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