Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer , at sacred-texts.com
AYÛB, on whom be Peace, was a very rich man with a large family. In order to prove the sincerity of his professed piety, Allah deprived him, not only of all his worldly possessions and his children, but of his health as well. He was afflicted with a skin disease so loathsome that, on account of the smell from his ulcers, nobody but his wife would come within fifty yards of him. In spite of these misfortunes the Patriarch continued to serve Allah and to give Him thanks as in the day of prosperity. His patience, though great, did not equal that of his wife, who was a daughter of Ephraim the son of Joseph, or else of Manasseh. She not only nursed
her husband with great devotion, but supported him by her earnings, and, when she could get no work, used to carry him about on her back in an abâyeh, while she begged from door to door. This she did for seven years without a murmur. One day, when she had been forced to leave her husband for a short time, Iblìs appeared to her, and promised that if she would worship him he would cure her husband and restore his lost possessions. The woman, sorely tempted, went to ask leave of Ayûb, who was so angry with her for daring to parley with the devil that he swore, if Allah would restore him to health, to give her a hundred lashes. He then uttered this prayer: "O my Lord, verily evil hath afflicted me: but Thou art the most merciful of those who show mercy." Hereupon Allah sent Gabriel, who took Ayûb by the hand and raised him. At the same instant the fountain which supplies the Bìr Ayûb in the valley below Jerusalem sprang up at the Patriarch's feet. The latter, by the Angel's direction, immediately drank thereof, and the worms in his wounds at once fell from his body; and when he had bathed in the fountain, his former health and beauty were restored. Allah then restored his children to life, and made his wife so young and handsome that she bore him twenty-six sons. To enable the Patriarch to support so large a family, and also to compensate him for the loss of his wealth, the threshing-floors close to Bìr Ayûb, which belonged to him, were filled with gold and silver coinage rained down by two clouds sent for the purpose. Softened by these evidences of the
[paragraph continues] Almighty's mercy, Ayûb began to regret his rash oath; but could not see how to evade its performance. In this difficulty Gabriel came again to his relief. At the Angel's suggestion, the Patriarch took a palm branch which had a hundred fronds, and giving his wife one tap with it, considered that she had received the promised beating.
Besides his devoted wife, Ayûb had a relative who, from all accounts, was one of the most remarkable men that ever lived. He is generally called "El Hakìm Lokman," though I have also heard the name "El Hakìm Risto" applied to him. 1
This personage was the son of Baura, who was the son or grandson either of Ayûb's sister or of his aunt. He lived for several hundreds of years, till the time of David, with whom he was acquainted. He was extremely ugly, of a black complexion, with thick lips and splay feet; but, to make up for these deformities, Allah gave him wisdom and eloquence. Offered the choice between the gifts of prophecy and wisdom, he chose the latter. The prophet David wished him to be King of Israel, but he declined so onerous a position, 2 content to remain a simple Hakìm.
Having been taken and sold into slavery by the Bedû who raided the Hauran and carried off Ayûb's cattle, he obtained his liberty in a remarkable manner. His master, having one day given him a bitter melon
to eat, was greatly surprised at his obedience in consuming the whole of it, and asked him how he could eat so unpleasant a fruit. Lokman answered that it was no wonder that he should, for once in a while, accept an evil thing from one who had conferred so many benefits on him. This answer so pleased his owner that he set him free.
The well-known fables excepted, the following story is that most often related of this sage.
A certain rich man was very ill, and the doctors said he must die, because there was some animal inside him, clutching at his heart. It was thought it might be a serpent, for it is well known that if people sleep in the fields where yellow melons are growing they run the risk of young serpents slipping through their open mouths into their stomachs, and thriving there on the food that ought to nourish their victims. El Hakìm Lokman was called in as a last resource. He said there was one operation which might save the patient, but to perform it would be very dangerous. The sick man clutched at this last chance of life. He sent for the Kadi, the Mufti, and the whole Council of notables, and in their presence signed and sealed a document which exonerated Lokman from all blame in case he died under the operation. He then took leave of his friends and relatives.
Lokman invited all the other doctors in the city to assist at the operation: first making them swear that they would not interfere through jealousy.
One physician, however, he did not invite, and that was his sister's son, of whom he was very
jealous, but who, nevertheless, attained ultimately even greater skill than Lokman himself. 1 This nephew, though uninvited, determined to witness the operation, so he climbed on to the house-top, where he knew of a small window through which he could look into the sick-room, and see all that was going on.
In the meantime Lokman administered benj to the sufferer and, as soon as the anæsthetic had taken effect, proceeded to lay him open. So doing, he revealed a huge crab clinging to the heart.
At the sight even Lokman himself lost courage, and said: "There, sure enough, is the cause of sickness, but how to remove the beast I know not. If any one here knows a way, for Allah's sake let him name it." The physicians replied, "We cannot tell how to remove the creature, for, if we use force, it will only cling more tightly to the heart, and the man will die." Hardly had these words been spoken when, to Lokman's surprise and shame, the unseen watcher on the house-top shouted into the room, "Ilhak bi ’n-nâr ya homâr!" "Follow up with fire, thou ass!" On hearing this most opportune advice, Lokman sent one of his colleagues running to the Butchers' Street, to ask the keeper of the first Kobab-broiling-shop to lend him an iron skewer. Others were told to prepare a brazier; others to
fetch cotton wool. When all was ready, the great Hakìm wrapped a wet cloth round one end of the iron skewer for a handle, and thrust the other in the fire till it was red-hot, while one of the attendant physicians, by his orders, manufactured two small pads of cotton wool. When the skewer was red hot the operator touched one of the claws with it. The sudden pain caused the crab to lift that claw, when one of the pads was put beneath it. In this way all the claws were loosened, and the crab could be removed without danger to the patient.
Lokman was then going to clean the wounds with a silver spoon; but his nephew on the roof cried: "Beware of touching a human heart with metal." He therefore took a piece of wood that lay handy, and fashioned it into a spoon for his purpose. Having anointed the wounds in the heart, he sewed up the chest of the patient, who thereafter recovered and enjoyed long life.
19:1 The latter name, which is only, and that seldom, heard amongst Christians, suggests that of Aristotle, but he is more easily identified with the Greek Aesop; all the fables attributed to the latter being current in Palestine and ascribed to Lokman.
19:2 I received this information from a learned Moslem.
21:1 That enmity should exist between such relatives is natural, for his sister's son is commonly a man's worst rival: a circumstance which has given rise to the common saying: "If thou hast no sister's son, but art so foolish as to desire one, take a lump of clay and mould one for thyself, and to thine own liking, and then, when he is perfect, behead him lest he perchance come to life and do thee an injury."