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Husayn, of Bale  

Dirk Bustorf

Ethiopian Sufi holy man, most probably lived at the turn of the thirteenth century. He is one of the most popular holy men of Ethiopian Islam, his fame extending to Somalia and northern Kenya. Alternate forms of his name are Shaykh Sayyid Nur Husayn b. Mal(a)kay of Bale; Shaykh Husayn; in Oromo/Somali, Sheek Nuur Huseen; his honorific name was Sayyid al-Arafin. The shaykh was born in Anaajina, Bale, southern Ethiopia. His mother’s name was Mahida (or Shamsi). Allegedly Shaykh Husayn’s father, the shaykh Ibrahim Malkay, was an Islamic missionary from a Sharific family. Nur Husayn’s grandfather Sayyid ʿAbdallah had migrated to Bale from Marka, south of Mogadishu.

According to legend the mystical quality of Nur Husayn was revealed before his birth and during his childhood Nur Husayn is remembered to have worked many miracles He had four sons with an unknown wife Muhammad ʿAbdallah Sulayman and Nurullah Ahmad as well ...


Ibn al-Farid, ʿUmar bin ʿAli  

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian Sufi mystic and poet, was born in Cairo. Most of his early years were spent in the hills to the east of Cairo and in the deserts. Although he started along the same path of his father, an estate lawyer, he felt that dry, legal study of the scripture was insufficient. He abandoned formal schooling. In an act reminiscent of the Christian desert fathers, he spent time in the deserted and empty quarters of Arabia, where he faced trials and had a vision of the Prophet Muhammad. He was praised as a saint when he returned to Cairo and told of his visions. His tomb beneath the mountains near Cairo is a major site of veneration to this day. The diwan, or the collected writings of Ibn al-Farid, is famous primarily for its poetry.

Like many mystic poets and writers Ibn al Farid used images of forbidden pleasures and ...


Ibn al-Mashish al-Alami, Moulay Abdasalam  

Stephen Cory

was a twelfth-century Sufi holy man who has been called the patron saint of Moroccan Sufism. He is best known as the spiritual master of Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, the founder of the influential Shadhiliyya Sufi order.

A sharif (descendant of Prophet Muhammad) of Idrisid lineage, Ibn al-Mashish was one of the first holy men to combine the qualities of Sufi master and Hasanid sharif, an identity that would become increasingly important in Moroccan Sufism during the next two hundred years. Sufism was still a relatively new phenomenon in Morocco at the time of Ibn al-Mashish’s birth. It had been heavily influenced by the arrival of important Sufi masters from al-Andalus (Islamic Spain), such as Ibn al-ʿArif (d. 1141) and Abu Madyan (d. 1198). Sufism had been repressed under the strict Maliki Almoravid regime (r. 1062–1147), but Sufis were granted more freedom by the reformist Almohad dynasty (r. 1130–1269).

The ...


Russel, Chloe  

Eric Gardner

fortune-teller and author, does not appear in public records until 1820, at which time she is listed in the federal census, and nothing definitive is known about her parentage or childhood. A purportedly autobiographical text that introduces one extant copy of Russel's The Complete Fortune Teller and Dream Book claims that she was born in 1745 in the “Fuller nation” three hundred miles southwest of Sierre Leone, taken into slavery, and sold to Virginia planter George Russel after experiencing the horrors of the Middle Passage. In Virginia, the narrative asserts, after great torment, she gained the power of divination and then great fame as a seer, was freed, and raised money to free other slaves.

Though the veracity of this narrative is doubtful for several reasons—for example, the birthplace it gives is in the Atlantic Ocean—it is clear that the title-page attribution of The Complete Fortune Teller ...


Sabti, Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn Ja‛far al-Khazraji  

Russell Hopley

Sufi mystic and jurist, was born in the Moroccan city of Sabta (present-day Ceuta) to a family of Arab origin. The primary source for the life of Sabti is the Akhbar Abi al-‘Abbas al-Sabti, a hagiography composed in the early thirteenth century by Ibn al-Zayyat al-Tadili (d. 1230/31), who also authored an important prosopography of the saints and holy men of southern Morocco. Sabti received his initiation into Islamic mysticism at the hand of Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Fakhkhar (d. 1190), a former pupil of the esteemed North African jurist al-Qadi ‘Iyad al-Sabti (d. 1147). After completing his education in northern Morocco, Sabti, aged seventeen at the time, traveled to the southern city of Agadir where he taught grammar and mathematics from his modest residence at the funduq muqbil His reputation as a gifted teacher spread quickly and Tadili reports that students from across ...