Ziarat: Chapter 6

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Chapter 6

“The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.” Sura 97.3.

Some dervishes roam from mazar to mazar. In contrast with dervishes attached to one of the many branches of the ancient orders who meet in their respective convents, these wandering dervishes gather near mazars, mostly outside the cities. Their meeting places are always places of power. Considering the strong tomb cult which they observe one could name them tomb Sufis. They call themselves baba, fakir and malang. The appellation dervish and qalandar is less used and the title Sufi not al all. Not infrequently did I meet dervishes who referred to themselves as mast qalandars. They are despised by the townsmen, but also feared and consulted in secret. Villagers have a deep respect for them and tell many wonderful stories about them. The Way of the wandering dervishes is still much alive in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Writers on the history of Sufism trace their origin to Muhammad ibn Yunus as-Sawaji who in the thirteenth century introduced the shaving of beard, head hair and eyebrows, and Yusuf al-Andalusi who imposed the rule of perpetual travel on his disciples. A disciple of the former, Khidr Rumi, is said to have introduced the Qalandari order in India. Besides these two founders, the Way of the wandering dervishes was also influenced by Turkoman babas who wandered in a non-conventional manner from tomb to tomb and to whom were ascribed various miraculous powers. But before the origination of these orders it was already an established tradition among dervishes to wander from place to place in search of knowledge.
Khanegah dwelling Sufis disliked qalandars for their individualistic behavior. The orthodox resented their heretical tendencies and rulers saw in them a threat to social order. Qalandars accused sheikhs of creating a cult around their person. Sheikhs stated that qalandars “seek to destroy accepted custom.” They retorted that they discarded social conventions because they were obstacles and that the blame they incurred by their rude manners protected them from being bothered by crowds of devotees. Often the indifference shown by wandering dervishes to the personage of a king resulted in their execution or exile. Qalandars were notorious for their aggression. Historical records, mention many conflicts.
Most of the babas are easily distinguished from the multitude by a striking turban, a long uncut beard and many rings on their fingers. Some carry an axe or a staff on which are fixed different paraphernalia, or a scepter with the hand of Ali on top. Other fakirs just look like ordinary beggars. To judge who is a beggar for alms and who is a beggar for Allah is not always easy. The following anecdote tells of a pilgrim who visited a shrine and who found only dirty looking beggars as attendants there. Thinking that the true dervishes had deserted the mazar, he did not stay long. The same night he had a dream about the shrine which puzzled him, and the next morning he went back. Approaching one of the beggars and looking into his eyes he saw the whole world and the universe, the past and the future reflected and contained in the eyeballs of the beggar. The vision was so overwhelming that he had to look away from it.
Most of the malangs have a pir (Pir (Persian): literally elder. In dervish parlance: Spiritual Master), living on earth or in an unseen dimension, whom they unconditionally obey. A wandering fakir may settle at a fixed place for years or till the end of his time on earth when commanded to do so.
A baba very rarely becomes the head of a large group or organization. A sincere baba only accepts a disciple after having got clear indications of a supernatural character. The fakir requested me not to disclose the location of his mausoleum. If individuals were to meet him they should be directed by other means than ‘address on paper’.
All the fakirs I talked to claimed to have had an experience of an other world. Some of them whom I came to know for a longer period were in permanent communication with hidden entities. They were all convinced that these entities had, at one time in their life interfered directly and decisively. Having experienced to the utmost the limitations of their ordinary human mind and will, some had surrendered completely to these hidden forces, in such a way as to ask them for permission whenever taking a decision. The entities respond in various ways. Either they appear in dreams, send a messenger, give a sign or interfere directly. A malang in Pakistan told me of a presence on his right shoulder who gave him signs whenever required. Sometimes the entities remain silent and this means that they do not agree and that no permission can be granted. It happened that a friend of the fakir expressed the wish to photograph the interior of his mausoleum. The fakir replied that personally he had no objection but that he had to ask the consent of the entombed saint. Days and weeks passed and no answer was given. Still the fakir’s friend insisted on photographing the tomb. Finally after months of silence the fakir yielded to his friend’s desire and told him that he could try to photograph but warned him not to expect too much. When the film was developed it turned out to be overexposed. A new film was put into the camera with the same result. No further attempts were made against the will of the saint.
If babas have strange relations in other worlds they also have very eccentric friends in this world. The fakir was regularly visited in his mausoleum by a gang of smugglers. The leader was a curious man who spent much money in donations to mazars and dervishes. Once I was present when the gang came in. After they had paid their respect to the mazar their leader tried to persuade the fakir to accept money for the restoration of a wall showing many cracks that endangered the whole edifice. Whereupon the fakir as usual replied that he first had to ask the saint for his consent. In the meantime the youngest of them had prepared a hashish pipe. Because the fakir rarely smokes and then mostly alone, they all went outside. The fakir had made tea for them. While pouring the tea in cups he said in English: “Special tea.” They all laughed. Then he distributed the excellent sweets which they had brought with them. An animated and joyful conversation about famous saints and shrines followed. When they had left the fakir remarked: “He is good man; maybe one day he will become a dervish. There is light in his heart.”
While talking about ‘powers’ the fakir omitted to define these forces more clearly. When questioned about it he gave the impression that such a question was irrelevant. Mostly by powers the fakir meant psychic energy emanating from hidden entities, persons, places and objects which help to develop spiritual qualities. In other circumstances he personified power.
The following passage illustrates a ‘bestowing of powers’. An old dervish living in a tomb was dying. The fakir invited me to accompany him for a last visit to his friend. When we arrived already a dozen men were squatting near the dying man who was speaking in a low raw tone, describing visions. His agony lasted for a whole day and night and shortly after sunrise he died. He had expressed the wish to be buried next to his pir some thirty kilometers away. Money was collected and an ambulance was hired to transport the corpse. The ambulance was full of dervishes doing zikr or being absorbed in their inner world. After the burial the fakir and I walked past some simple tombs. We were back in the village in the late afternoon. Round about ten in the evening I went to bed. I lay on my back with closed eyes, when suddenly a radiant head of a dervish appeared whose white effulgence was so strong that it caught my breath. The face flashed out to reappear a second time and came so close to me while emanating such a brilliant power, that my heart was about to break. It felt as if it was held under water. The next morning when I narrated the vision to the fakir, he said that he also had seen the face around the same time. According to him it was a powerful dervish who had died five years ago and past whose tomb we both had walked the previous day. He had known the dervish very well. The fakir then recounted me a wonderful happening. One day the dervish had called him and given him his clothes to wash. While he was washing he had experienced such a tremendous upsurge of powers that it had cost him a superhuman effort to finish the task.
If I had not talked about the vision, the fakir would not have mentioned it either.
My relation with the fakir was entirely governed by the will of hidden forces. Never did the fakir do anything without consulting the saint. He said that his real father and mother were the saint in the tomb. He showed not the least intention of ignoring ‘the signs from the invisible’. On the contrary, he had eradicated any personal desire and volition in himself in order to become a neutral receptacle and vehicle for the Powers. It seemed as if he had died long ago and as if some other entity was using his body as a means of communicating with ordinary mortals.
He emphasized that the heart must be clean, that unless the heart has attained that quality all effort comes to naught, and that difficulties may arise when one contacts the Powers with a troubled heart.
To interfere with the decisions of the Powers is taboo. Once the fakir had to intervene on my behalf when I was unable to leave the compound of the mausoleum because strange forces kept me there. However much I tried I could not go beyond the dried mud walls which surround the mausoleum.
On two occasions the previous days the fakir had indirectly hinted at what was about to happen. Twice he had joked about a man that had been caught by the Powers and kept spellbound by them. But I had not related this to my person. So it happened that a few days after his humorous remarks I came back to the mausoleum to find a visitor there whose aim it had been to thwart my relation with the fakir. At first I did not mind but when I observed that the man was still obsessed by hatred and jealousy, I reasoned that his place was not with us. I waited for a reaction from the fakir, but he didn’t do anything. His apparent indifference caused me to doubt the real meaning of the situation. But whenever I contacted the mind of the man I felt intense bad vibrations. Because the atmosphere between us became worse and as the man showed no intention of going away I decided to invoke the entombed saint. Murmuring a zikr I approached the tomb, lifted up the silk drape, put my forehead against the bare stone and said deep in my heart that if the man’s purpose was really negative, he should be removed from the mausoleum. No sooner had I expressed these thoughts when a tremendous power manifested itself. The atmosphere became unbearable. A seemingly endless and insupportable length of seconds passed and then I heard the man get up and quickly leave the mausoleum. I remained for some time under the drape doing zikr and then went to sit next to the fakir. His eyes were wide open and the hairs on his forearms were standing up. With a fixed gaze he said: “Powers have come.” He looked entranced and I saw that he was reciting a formula.
The air was vibrating strongly. I began to ponder on what had happened. This was a mistake. Instead of surrendering to the powers I began apprehending the event with concepts. Gradually I became aware that I could no more bear the forces that I had conjured up myself. I stood up and said to the fakir that I intended to go out and visit another tomb in the neighborhood. All he replied was: “Take my cap.” As I left the mausoleum adjusting his headgear on my head, a terrible pain developed in my head. Coming near the mud walls that surround the shrine my limbs became numb and stopped obeying me. Except for the pangs of pain in my head I felt completely insensible, as if I had no more a physical body. I was unable to go beyond the compound; an invisible force held me under its spell. Completely overpowered I sank down against the wall facing the door of the mausoleum and the open-air tomb of the fakir’s mast pir next to it. Slowly a whitish transparent substance materialized above it and took the bright shining shape of the pir. He stared impassively at me. The effulgence was so strong that I was incapable of looking at it. Closing my eyes I still saw the unbearable light. I was paralyzed by the invisible power with my head bursting with pain and burned by the light of the apparition. In a defensive reflex I covered my eyes with the cap of the fakir. The pain and the burning light subsided. I heard an inner voice say: “When your heart is not clean, you can not bear the sight of it.” Again I tried to look at the brilliant body of the mast pir, but again I was obliged to cover my eyes with the cap. My resistance broke, inside me everything collapsed, tears came to my eyes and I began kissing the cap. I understood how my self-centeredness had prevented me from grasping the secret of the fakir and how it caused me now to suffer. I had to stop relating everything to the same nucleus in me. I had to interrupt feeding and fortifying a structure of concepts and affects that I used to call ‘I’. I beheld the vision of my mind as a closed fortress with small windows and iron doors that had to be transformed into a lofty white marble pavilion without walls, supported only by thin marvelously sculptured pillars, through which everything could enter freely and unobstructed. I heard again an inner voice, the voice of the fakir, saying: “You have to become nothing. This world is nothing.” I had to stop interpreting, I had to stop comparing. I had to stop saying that I had to stop anything. I worked hard in my mind to remove all obstacles that impeded the light from shining through me. Slowly the pain and the burning feeling faded. I had to efface myself. I had to maintain a state in which I didn’t make any distinction between me and what I perceived. Whenever I surfaced and tried to face the effulgence of the pir’s body the pain and uneasiness came back. At last I gave up any attempt to be or remain anything. I felt a last tension vanish, and with that all bodily awareness disappeared. I became some kind of empty and transparent being. I could look at the light without feeling any pain or joy. I was even perceiving more directly and totally. I thought that I had died, but without really thinking about it. It was as if another body and mind had taken over in me. I experienced another mode of being. Especially my consciousness had changed considerably. I was in a state of full awareness without thinking, feeling or willing anything. I remained in that position for about an hour until an attendant of the fakir came out of the mausoleum and told me to go inside. I got up with difficulty. Walking was almost impossible; it was as if I were dragging an immense load. The fakir was still doing zikr in the same posture as when I had left him. “You are a king,” I said to him. He answered with a neutral voice: “I have nothing. The Powers have everything.” He told me to come and sit next to him and do zikr. More than once I was convinced that I had died, that I was perceiving through some other mind that had not yet left my physical body.
After some time the fakir spoke: “To leave the tomb now is impossible, the Powers have caught you; it is impossible to do anything by your own will, you need their permission. The Powers are acting directly by themselves.” Two other babas were present. To one of them the fakir gave an order to bring me a glass of water. The fakir was able to contact the Powers at will at any time. On such occasions he would incline his head, pronounce a formula, and gradually a psychic tension would arise, perceptible by all who were present. A hardly bearable pressure that suppressed all normal mental activity. One had the sensation of sitting in a vacuum. Then a blank ensued, followed by a piercing of that pressurized vacuum.
The fakir stood up, his eyes wide open, and while reciting phrases in Arabic put both his hands on my head and ordered me to drink the water. Slowly the numbness disappeared and I could again feel my physical body. An invisible force made me stand up. At the same moment one of the babas also jumped up and came towards me in dancelike mechanical paces. Still possessed by the invisible force I began to move in identical movements towards him. We both seemed to be willess creatures commanded by invisible hands. We performed a weird dance composed of strange gymnastically gestures and movements that ended in a double embrace, performed by both of us. By each embrace when our chests touched I felt a strong irradiation of energy. His face was completely transformed and I recognized with the certitude of inner sight that he was a badal or Changed One. The fakir interpreted our possessed dance as an approval from the Powers. He elucidated that They had intended to show me certain things. They had lifted a veil to make me understand some secrets.
When I told him that I had thought that I was about to die or become a mast, he laughed. He narrated me then how he himself had been sick and vomiting for a month until his heart had become pure. He made a difference between ordinary diseases having no spiritual implications and physical and psychical afflictions sent by the Powers. These non-ordinary diseases have as their purpose to annihilate the false ego structure. He again insisted that the heart had to be clean of ordinary mental tendencies if a dervish wanted to become a recipient of divine qualities.
Some dervishes say that if one really wants to change one must not be afraid of hurting oneself. By that they do not mean ordinary suffering which is quite useless, but a suffering that is equivalent to the pains of agony. In order to advance on the Way one has to be prepared to die many times. If one’s interest in Sufism is only caused by the desire to avoid pain, one will not gain anything.
Of Abu Bakr Shibli it is known that he forced his disciples to undergo hard spiritual practices. Once somebody speaking in favor of a disciple said to Shibli: “If you continue with these hard practices, Ahmad will surely die.” On which Shibli replied: “To waste time and befool yourself with easy practices is not better than to die during a hard practice.” Always the fakir interpreted extraordinary happenings, no matter how terrifying, as opportunities when “powers are given”, or as inevitable and necessary incidents “to clean the heart”. Yet this was not invariably his attitude.
A man arrived in the necropolis and went to live near a tomb in the vicinity of the mausoleum. The man visited the fakir regularly and complained often about jinns who caused all sorts of psychic disturbances. The fakir never replied. One day he came in and asked the fakir for a protection against the jinns. He advised him to leave the necropolis, but the man insisted on being given a charm or ritual to defend himself. The fakir refused blankly. When the man had left the fakir explained: “His heart is veiled. He must learn to understand that he is not fit to receive powers now. He is not mad because of jinns. If I tell him he will not believe me. That man thinks he knows already too much and because of that cannot learn anything more about himself. He is not really asking for help. It is all the same for him if he behaves normally or if he remains in this crazy state.”
One day a women of about forty years old, living in the nearby village, showed a radical change in her behavior. She began to dress herself as a malang and became less and less talkative. Her otherwise normal way of moving became rigid and mechanical. She seemed to suffer but did not complain. Her visits to the mausoleum increased. When someone suggested that she was becoming a mastani or women mast, the fakir disagreed. When I spoke to her she answered in an impersonal tone.
One evening she came in very late. The fakir made her a glass of tea. As it was already dark and unsafe for a woman to walk the distance to the village she asked the fakir if she could stay with us. To my surprise he refused. He called an attendant and arranged that she could sleep somewhere else.
When I asked him why he had refused to give her hospitality, he replied: “Her state is not good. Jinns have caught her, she is in their power. The area around here is full of tombs and jinns. She has perhaps done something wrong. Not all tombs are housing saints. She does not know.”
Two days later she came again. As the mausoleum was very dark inside it was necessary to have a lamp burning if one wished to write or read. She sat down, near the prayer niche in which a lamp was lit, so that the light shone on her back. She did not utter a word. After some time I looked up at her and saw her head and shoulders enveloped in an aura of tiny transparent bat-like beings. They had mouse ears, sharp teeth and wings. Their monstrous heads were as big as their bodies. It was as if they were observing me. In order to see them better I slowly approached and squatted in front of the woman. She did not move. The little monsters grew restless, their thick wings began to quiver. Suddenly I saw two of them jumping in my direction and felt something like a weak electric current. Horrified I made a protecting movement with my right hand. The fakir had all the time been looking at us while doing silent zikr. “I see many animals around her head.”, I remarked to him. He nodded affirmatively and said: “Many jinns are on her. They are bad ones. You contacted them and maybe one of them is now on you and will cause you trouble. But you have protection. She has not; they eat all her body and mind. I will ask the Powers tonight.”
After she had left, the fakir advised me to change clothes, wash them and have a bath. He dropped the subject and continued his silent zikr. That night I was unable to sleep, half awake dreams and images made rest impossible and twice I saw one of the little monsters hanging close to my face. I decided to sit up and pass the night doing zikr. The next morning the fakir said that he had dreamed about the woman. He had seen her walking on the path leading from the mausoleum to the village. She had gone off the path towards a bush, had urinated and taken some rest on an unmarked mound. “That place is a tomb,” he commented, “but it is full of jinns, like the ones you have seen. Nobody goes there, but she does not know.”
In the afternoon the woman came in with her arm in a bandage. She had fallen from a flight of stairs. She started sobbing, her body began to shake and she stretched herself out on the floor in convulsions. Her breathing was very loud. We were both looking at her, when I saw a grey mass coming out of her abdominal region that came floating as a small cloud in my direction. I was fascinated. On a sign of the fakir I made a quick backward movement. He was muttering a formula. The grey floating mass disappeared through the open door in the heavy afternoon light. The woman continued to visit the mausoleum for some time and then vanished from the village.
Whilst in Jenne, Mali, in 1975, 1 was shown a lane where since 1943 no person had endeavored to enter because of malevolent jinns. I was warned not to enter the street and disturb the jinns as this would endanger my health and that of others.
Spiritual combats among dervishes are a not uncommon phenomenon. Knowing that the gift of miraculous powers is vouchsafed to persons who have attained a higher stage of being it is expected and considered natural that they should perform extraordinary acts. One can not expect normal things to happen when real dervishes meet. Spiritual combats among dervishes should be interpreted as a form of non-ordinary communication.
There are many stories of impostors being unmasked during a psychic duel. I know of a psychic attack executed on the person of a dervish which aimed at freeing his mind from obscuring pretentions. The victim was a disciple of a well established sheikh. Having become engrossed with ideas of spiritual superiority, the dervish showed more than often disrespect towards others. One time he received the hospitality of a baba but displayed much disdain in his behavior towards him. In the evening while the arrogant dervish was doing his exercises the baba penetrated his mind in such an overpowering way that a state of fearful madness was caused. This humiliating situation lasted for about half an hour. Terrified the dervish fled in the middle of the night, accusing the baba of practicing black magic.
Every Thursday a hakim, possessing magical knowledge, used to come to the fakir’s place to give consultation and write charms. The hakim had selected the place because of the powers emanating from the tomb and the fakir. When he took the habit of bringing food with him and asking the fakir to prepare it for him with his own hands, the fakir began to resent this form of vampirism and refused to transmit power to the hakim through the substance of the food. By refusing to empower the doctor, bad vibrations arose from the hakim and relations between them became cool and distant.
One evening when coming back from a ziarat the fakir found himself surrounded by four hissing snakes drawn up in a square. Reciting a subduing formula, he stepped towards one of the snakes. It shrank backwards so that the fakir could get out of the magic square. Three snakes vanished but one pursued him. When he arrived at the mausoleum the snake managed to get inside, and continued to menace him. The fakir repeated the formula uninterruptedly for a seemingly endless time, till suddenly the snake began to make agonizing convulsions and turned on its back: under the snake’s hood the fakir recognized the face of the hakim with protruding eyes. The following day being a Thursday, the hakim showed up rather late and in a tired mood. As the fakir had just prepared coffee for visitors, a glass was also presented to him. Still in doubts about the true heart of the hakim, the fakir decided to request the Powers immediately for a sign to reveal to him the real intentions of the doctor. There still was the possibility that the hakim was a real dervish sent by the same Powers to test him. He put it that should the doctor be allowed to drink the coffee it would mean that he was a real man, and that if the reverse happened, his intentions were egotistical. The fakir made a promise to the Powers to submit himself to the outcome of what would happen. Being engaged in conversation with the other visitors, the hakim was holding the full glass in his left hand. Several times he brought the glass to his lips without however drinking a single drop, when quite unexpectedly for no reason at all he put it back on the floor and to everyone’s amazement, the coffee spilled over the floor without the glass having turned over.
Other stories of supernatural contests between dervishes have a chivalrous and playful character. For instance in the hagiography of Haji Bektash it is told that when the saint was travelling westward, a powerful Sufi went forth to meet him mounted on a lion and using a poisonous snake for a whip. Haji Bektash, unrolling his prayer carpet, seated himself on a big rock and commanded it to move. When the two met, they dismounted and had a friendly talk together.
The fakir did not specify whether certain facts had happened in a dream, a vision or in this world. He made me understand that after all it was unimportant whether things had happened in a dream or in the Alam-i-Arvah. What counted was the right attitude towards what was happening.
When drinking our tea one morning the fakir told me that he had seen me the previous night carrying a bucket of milk to his mausoleum, while the spirits of powerful babas were assembled around the tomb. Thereupon he invited me to spend a night with him.
After hours of special incantations and zikr the tomb itself transformed into a recumbent lion. This perception lasted for several minutes, followed by a sudden sharp shout of “Ya”. Next appeared small dense fumes above the tomb and around us. I was fixing the vast space of the mausoleum without however looking at a specific object. Though I was using my eyes, it seemed that I was not perceiving through them. The vaporous shapes formed a minaret-like column close to the tomb. With the spiritual help of the fakir the zikr reached my heart. There was a gradual psychic piercing. I stopped feeling myself as a compact body; a sensation of floating apart overwhelmed me. The certitude that I was going to die that night erupted in my consciousness. Slowly I reclined until I lay on my back. The objects of my perception became remote and at the same time sharply delineated.
Suddenly I had a vivid vision of myself fighting a monster. The next moment I was surrounded by a swarm of hissing monsters. Clawing and biting they attacked me. Simultaneously from a punkah (punkah: a fan used especially in India that consists of a canvas-covered frame suspended from the ceiling and that is operated by a cord)  emerged colorful doll-like creatures. They approached up to a certain distance to watch how the monsters assaulted me. I tried to repel them, but could not avert being ripped open. I was fighting for my life. I felt my forces fade, the struggle became desperate. Their piercing jaws and claws dismembered me. Control over my body became discoordinated. The devouring of my body lasted for about half an hour. All the time the colorful jinns remained in the background. At last, when also my bones were disintegrating, I gave up and was willing to die. I became surprisingly quiet. The monsters receded for a moment and then it happened: my astral body separated itself from my physical body. I saw my exhausted and mutilated body lying on the ground among other objects in the mausoleum. I perceived also the hazy shape of my astral body. The next instant my mind detached itself from my astral body and I became some sort of ‘pure consciousness’. I distinguished very clearly my astral form hovering above my physical body. My detached mind had no body. I was only seeing and knowing without a body. I was not looking with my eyes, I was looking by another organ of perception. I realized that I was in a further state than a mere out-of-the-body projection. The air around me became full of brilliant particles. My process of thinking happened without feeling my thoughts. I knew that I could go further. Fascinated by the radiant space around me, I was drawn towards something beyond the dimension wherein I had moved in a physical body, to a world of endless possibilities, a dimension of liquid radiant matter ready to take any shape or nothing at all. Although I was still aware of a sequence of happenings, past and present events began to exist simultaneously side by side. I had some difficulty in accepting “that the present moments and images from my memory were getting off the time-track. I was now in a sea of a whitish light, at the threshold of something indescribable.” There followed a timeless moment of radiant matter, then my mind shot back into my astral body and my astral body reentered my physical body. The monsters were waiting. In a final attack they tore my body to pieces; my mind exploded. The monsters vanished and the colorful jinns began putting the pieces of my cut up body together. They all looked very happy. Good jinns of life! When they had put my body together they disappeared. The fakir was still sitting in the same posture. The atmosphere in the mausoleum was extremely pure and airy.
That night had begun like all previous zikr nights. Before starting his incantations he had again told me that he had expelled all bad influences and warned me not to leave the mausoleum. He had not suggested or predicted in any way what was going to happen.
The object out of which had come the colorful jinns, was a punkah or fan hanging near the tomb. Originally fans were presented to a saint for use in the hot season. When the saint had died, this usage was continued and fans were hung over his tomb as a token of respect to his presence. Most of the fans which one sees nowadays hanging on walls and pillars of tombs are simple color-prints, representing Mecca and Medina, glued on decorated cardboard, but some made or designed by babas are divinely inspired. They are believed to attract and emanate powers to keep away disturbing influences and to mirror their benign influence over their possessor. When I showed a veneration for the punkah inhabited by the jinns, the fakir made one especially for me and magnetized it during a fortnight. He stressed that the fan reflected only powers and no jinns.

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