February 27, 2006

Isabelle Eberhardt- Drowned in the desert

The life and death of mankind has always fascinated me. Even more so that of people who led lives beyond convention and category. I recently came across such a person. From beginning to end, every aspect of her life was beyond all norm. Long dead today, her person echoes on.

Isabelle Eberhardt, born in 1877 in Geneva, spent her first 19 years there only to move to Tunis with her mother in 1897, where both converted to Islam. Isabelle already knew how to speak Arabic since her father, an Armenian ex-priest, Alexander Trophimowsky had taught her that growing up.

In order to overcome certain obstacles being a woman could entail, she dressed as a man and called herself Si Mahmoud Essadi. This however didn't mean she was far from male company, for in 1901 she married Slimène Ehnni, an Algerian soldier she met in El Oued in the Algerian desert.

Perhaps the most fascinating legacy she leaves behind her, after joining the first, oldest and at the time secret Sufi brotherhood Qadriya where she became an influential figure in the politics of the region, are her writings on her adventures and life in North Africa. She died abruptly at the young age of 27 in a flash flood, buried under a beam in a clay house in Aïn Sefra, anticipating the arrival of her husband Slimène. In a clay pot in her house, her final manuscript was found and later published by her close friend, journalist Victor Barrucand, under the name Dans l'ombre chaude de l'Islam (In the hot shade of Islam).

Once in my life, in a soul that I thought was free, I watched a pure, strong passion grow, and I said to my friend: "Be careful, when we're happy we cease to understand another's suffering." He set off for happiness, or so he believed, and I toward my destiny.

-Isabelle Eberhardt


BuJ said...

very interesting! and i use the word in it's literal sense (ya3ni not reason 2).. i would like to read more about her.. seems u stumbled upon her recently.. or did u?

too bad she died so young, but sometimes it's a blessing to die at one's prime because sometimes age dilutes one's achievements.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

ya salaam, number one ey? Good to hear. Actually I went to a book sale, a store that sells a lot of books in english and having stacked up on a billion, my mom comes to me with this book, that I had totally missed (thanx mom), and I began reading it the very same day and was just swept away, dramatic but true. :)

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kaya said...

Once in a while you hear a qawwali/song that sends goosebumps up your arms.
Shaira, I got that same feeling now, reading the quotation.

BTW aap hai kahaan? Kabhi hamari chotti si duniya mai bhi tashreef layiye.

farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Vey interesting finding. Silsila Al Qadriyaa? From Shikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (RA)? Nice!

Can I borrow it :-)

copywriter, journalist, potential blogging sensation

PS: Al Ghazali is one of my favourites, so is the Sheikh mentioned above.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Kaya you will love the rest of her book. Will post more quotes from it. Kya matlab? Mai kahaan ho is dunya mein ya internet ki dunya mein? :)

Farrukh, welcome. You may borrow it after my co-worker who already got his hands on it. lol For someone who reads about the sufi tareeqas, this book has elements of tasawwuf in it, especially since the author was so engulfed by it, that it soon coloured her eyes and heart.

Al Ghazalis "Dearly beloved son..." is also a good read.

jim said...

I'll get a copy of it asap.

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