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Garion the Eternal City During the Times and Tribulations of al-Shaikh Sidi-Ahmed Bin Ya'qoub

The frail man in sainted attendance went on and on about the banishment of al-Shaikh Sidi-Ahmed Bin Ya'qoub from the turquoise diwans and velvet halls of the Kings of Maghrib, about his expulsion from the intellectual coziness of the great royal library to the bitterness of living in the cold mountains of Jabal Nufusa along with the most hostile, Bsisa-eating tribes of Libya. In the 16th day of his expulsion, al-Shaikh Sidi Ahmed Bin Ya'qoub came to live amongst the Bani Hizam tribes. He surly missed the royal balcony view where he used to sit and watch the royal harem passing the hot summer afternoon in Fez.

The brittle Shaikh went on and on about how the god-fearing dynasty of King Ghaith the Third invited his holiness, the gifted imam to build himself a mosque where he can pay homage to the local saints along with teaching the young and the faithful how to read the holy scriptures.

The passionate god-loving Sidi Ahmed Bin Ya'qoub built himself the smallest mosque in the world. In a little oasis of ancient stones and with the help of his half-blind brother they hired a builder and recovered some ancient stone artifacts from nearby dwellings. They erected a miniature maqam with soft white marbles, they put together two small Phoenician columns to decorate the maqam along with a large stone beam in the ceiling, on the beam there seem to be a tiny engraving of the godess Tanit having her hair brushed by her favourite slave and protected from above by a star of David, a common signature signed by the Tighrinna Jew who built the place.

During the times of the King Ghaith the Third, Garion was not just an ancient name for a regional Roman military garrison but a town blazed by a thriving gold trade and enriched with monies paid to the king's treasury by the Arab and European slave traders for his protection of the Garion slave route from the attacks of the wild Blue Covert Men of the desert, the Immgarha. Bani Hizam moved east and settled in the valleys of figs and saffron while the Blue Covert Men were pushed south towards the edge of the world and spread throughout the southern Sarirs. That is a true detail. It is always echoed in Southern Libyan folk tales.

The tender servant of the tomb said that the sacred Shaikh who has built himself a mosque and gathered around him and his brother, the best of the faithful and the passionate also acquired the ability to see into the supersensible world and became able to perceive in detail what was going on there. He was famous of communicating with individuals living in the spiritual world between death and new birth and he used to have nightly conversations with the Guardians of the Threshold.

Clashes between King Ghiath's vizirs and Sidi Ahmed over the king's oppression of the Blue Covert Men reached the ears of the king and made him very mad. Sidi ash-Shaikh denounced the oppression inflicted on the Blue Covert Men by the soldiers of the regional garrison and issued a fatwa that the King's future is in hell if he did not stop his oppression against the poor desert people. When the King heard of the fatwa of the Shaikh, he issued a ruling to banish any buildings smaller than three steps by three steps.

In his observation of the spiritual world, Al-Shaikh Sidi-Ahmed Bin Ya'qoub always heard repeating this: "entry is only granted when you have gone along the stern and exacting path of knowledge, where interest is focused upon universal questions. Then, only then a seeker gains insight into the deeper meaning of all life.

M S Hertil
The University of Salford
Note: The attached water colour drawing is of the easterly side of the smallest mosque in the world, the mosque of Sidi Ahmed Bin Yaa'qoub in Ghiryan, Libya. Drawn by the author.

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