On a cold, February day, in an ancient courtyard behind the Qarwaeen University, I found Hadiqat al-Azhar. The corners of its pages golden with age and smelling distinctly of earth, its presence was foreboding and heavy with expectation.
Written in the 16th Century by an Andalusian Fessi doctor, it represents the zenith of the Fessi herbal medicine tradition. Ghassani, a descendent of Granadan Andalusians who fled to Fes after the fall of al-Andalus, gives us a sweeping review of 800 years of Islamic medicine. More than that, his work represents the Andalusian civilisation in all of its glory, citing references from the traditions of Jewish, Arab, Christian and Amazigh sources, with obscurely brilliant anecdotal stories and even a few extracts of poetry.
In the world of Hadiqat al-Azhar, herbs have their own spiritual lives. Underpinning the concept of healing is our own roots, a single source, and the clay that we humans are formed from. And our remedy comes from the same source, a filigree form on a mountain path, a plant that needs no shelter, much less fickle than us humans. With citations from Qur’an and Hadith that go back to the times of Solomon and beyond, healing herbs hold a central role in the history of man but more fundamentally, the history of earth itself.
The physical, spiritual and emotional combine to form a full picture of the human, and its illness, the result of an imbalance somewhere between the lines of these forces.
Are you wild or cultivated? In Hadiqat al-Azhar, the two are one. Through accounts of beautiful Andalusian gardens, their waters trickling past towering cedars, we see human civilisation meet the more powerful movements of mother earth, her seedlings thriving well past the demise of some of her greatest dynasties.
Hadiqat al-Azhar, our foundational text, represents who we are. A bit wild and disorganised, but with a love for the earth, its spirit and its creatures.
In everything I do, I aim to cultivated a little bit of its spirit.