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Yves Marquet: From The Ikhwan-al-Safa Letter 38 – The Seven Sleepers Of Ephesus

Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an excerpt from Yves Marquet’s trail-blazing and influential, ‘The Ikhwan-al-Safa’, the Pythagoreans of Islam’. SEHA-EDIDIT, Paris 2006. Our English version is from Yves Marquet’s French translation of the Arabic of the ‘Ikhwan-al-Safa’, the Brethren of Purity, published page 362 to 367. Text source is Letter 38, ‘The awakening & the resurrection’.


The tale of the Seven Sleepers  of Ephesus ends the letter, symbolizing the mystery of prophecy; this myth shows us that our resurrection into God is earned by journeying throughout all the stations (maqam) of the Spiritual City, and that we may achieve this on Earth already, to the highest of these levels, where we become an angel potentially, ultimately to fully become one once we depart our body.

‘There is a story of a great king, with extraordinary powers, who had a vast kingdom, with many armies and many slaves.

1. ADAM. This king had a male child that looked like him more than any creatures and to his two parents, in nature and in the characteristics of the character. (This great king is looking first like God. But the fact that it is here mentioned ‘two parents’ gives me to think he becomes then the intellect. The Ikhwan could not give a ‘divine consort’ to God). When he had been fed and that he had grown and became a man, his father gave him a part of his kingdom and ordered to his troops and to his slaves to obey him. He advised him to rule them wisely. He gave him all privileges but the access to his own rank. The son enjoyed for a half day time (most probably around 500 years) all the kind of sweetness and pleasures life can give. But he was neglective and inattentive One of the slaves of his father, who had been a leader before him, started to be jealous of him, and said : ‘You can’t find any comforts and can’t find any pleasures, because the greater ones are being withheld from you and the object of the most delicious appetite is forbidden to you. But if you haste in claiming the crown, you will get it immediately.’ The young prince was seduced by these words because he was neglective and ignorant and he asked the jealous servant what was it he was not allowed to have before his time has come and that he is now claiming prematurely. Then he fell from his rank and never recovered it alongside his father, his nakedness appeared to him and he recognized his fault. Afraid from his father he fled, traveling the kingdom in an almost clandestine manner. He knew sorrow, he had to suffer misery and poverty, he endured exhaustion and trial. One day, recalling the happiness in which he lived alongside his father, he regretted what he had said and started to cry of sadness. Then, seized by slumber, he fell asleep. He was brought to his father, who said : ‘Let him sleep until Friday’.

2. NOAH. The second day, the king had another son, who looked very much alike his brother. He was fed, grew, became a man and developed. He was forbearing worthy, grateful and patient. His father gave him a part of his kingdom. He gave orders to his subjects to obey him and advised him to rule them wisely. Noa gathered them and gave them orders, made some prohibitions, but they did not listen to him and did not obey to his orders because he was resembling old Saturn. He waited some time, then he complained to his father. His father, furious against them, threw most of them in the waters (here it is about the Flood). When he saw what happened to them, the son, saddened, fell asleep.

3. ABRAHAM. Then, the third day, the father had another son, who was alike the two others brothers. He was fed, grew, became a man and developed. He was good, virtuous, wise and disliked the Idols. His father appointed him to the duties of the aforementioned brothers. He ordered his subjects to obey him and advised him the same recommendations he made to the other two brothers. The son gathered the subjects, gave them orders and prohibitions but they also did not listen to him, because he was very much in the likeliness of Jupiter and frightened him with fire (we have here a quotation from the Qur’an: XXI, 68-69). Then he went to his father, elevated him a temple (it is the Ka’ba), gave him sacrifices, initiated rites (those of the Pilgrimage) and made a call to the people: ‘Come, come see what you had never seen before and hear what you had never heard before !’ Then he fell asleep. He was brought to his father who said: ‘Let him sleep until Friday !’. His call was kept in the ears of the souls in a hereditary way without them hearing it. The pilgrims go to his temple; they see the outside and the appearance without seeing it really. The follow rites, but they don’t understand their significations, because they are death, mute and blind and they don’t get it. (Qur’an, 2-171). God protects you from becoming one of them, O Brother ! Look with the light of your reason the epistle ‘Of spiritual beings’. Perhaps will you recognize what we have said and to what we have alluded to.

4. MOSES. Then, the fourth day, the king had another son. This one was fed, grew and became a man. He was strong, brave and daring. His father gave him the same duties as his other brothers. He ordered his subjects to obey him, and advised to him the same recommendations he made to his brothers. The son called for the people, gave them orders and made prohibitions. But they did not listen to him, because he was alike Mars. They defied him and he defied them, they fought him and he fought them. Upheld by his father’s strength, he vanquished them and tore them into pieces and scattered them. He threw them to the ground and to the sea (hinting at the red sea, probably). Then he stayed alone like an alien, he call (probably invoking God, who don’t answer ); gives order (to the Hebrew who became worshipers of the golden calf, perhaps), but he is respected no more. Afflicted and sad, seized by slumber, he fell into sleep. He was brought to his father, who said: ‘Let him sleep until Friday’.

5. JESUS. The fifth day, the king had another son, who was looking more than the others to his first brother. This son was fed, grew, became a man and developed. He was a good spiritual director, balanced, pleasant and kind. His father gave him the same duties than his brothers and ordered to his subjects to obey him. He made to him the very same recommendations he made with his brothers. This son, called the people, gave them orders and prohibitions, but they did not follow him and did not obey him, as he was very much alike Venus. They they jumped on him and took him his shirt that his mother gave sow for him. He went to see his father who gathered some troops against them and supported his son with a spirit (for the Ikhwan-al-Safa, the Holy Spirit becomes a divine or intellectual influx) who permeated their souls. In exchange, and as a token from the talion, he ruled over their souls like he ruled over his human form (probably alluding to the crucifixion and to the fact ‘he ruled over the souls’ through the apostles, he mandated to implemented the legislation he did not have time to implement himself). He also wanted to go down again immediately (probably alluding to the resurrection), but his father said : ‘Be patient until Friday’.

6. MUHAMMAD. Then, on the sixth day, the king said to the stars: ‘choose for my son who will look like Mercury, a day for that he may descend in the world of generation and corruption, so that he awakes his sleeping brothers and call them to the Truth (Islam, of course), because I am content with them; tomorrow it will be celebration, on Friday. Then the judges will appear and he will arbitrate between them their disagreements.’

Then the masters of the stars and the rulers of the stars met in the ‘house’ of Mars and pondered.

The Sun, chief and ruler of the stars said : ‘I, between my faculties and between my virtues, I choose to adorn him majesty, of the gift of command, of rule, of might and elevation; of beauty and shine, of a laudable merit and praise, of prodigality and generosity.’

Their Sheik Saturn said: ‘ I, amongst all my faculties, I choose to adorn him with forbearance and dignity, patience and perseverance, deepness and height of thoughts, fidelity and loyalty, thoughts and reflections.’

Jupiter, the fair judge, said : ‘ I, from all my faculties I choose to adorn him with religiosity and piety, of good and virtue, of justice and fairness, of the sense of rightness and common sense, of truth and loyalty, of care and virile nobility.’

Mars, masters of the armies said: ‘I, from all my faculties and my virtues, I choose to adorn him with decision and rigor, of audacity and courage, of spiritual energy and heroism, of victory and domination, of extravagance and generosity, of vigilance.’

Venus, sister of the stars said: ‘ I, from all my faculties and from all my virtues, I choose to adorn him with beauty and attractiveness, accomplishment and perfection, of compassion and mercy, of love and affection, of joy and pleasure.’

Their younger brother, Mercury, the most hidden to the eyes but the most renown, whose works is very manifest, whose science is pretty abundant and his marvels pretty famous and brilliant, said: ‘ I, from all my faculties and my virtues and my merits, I choose to adorn him with eloquence and the gift of speech, of discernment and acuteness, of the gift of reading and a beautiful voice, of science and wisdom.’

The mother of the stars, the Moon said: ‘ I, will breastfeed him and raise him and amongst my faculties and virtues, I choose to adorn him with light and shine, with expansion and growth, with movement in the 3 dimension, with mobility in travel, with success in hope, with knowledge of lives and traditions, with knowledge of the time of the ending.’

Then the celestial spheres turned, the faculties of the spiritual being were in pregnancy, the inhabitants of the heavens learned the good news, and during the ‘night of fates’ the Master of Resurrection went down into the world of generation and corruption to blow into the horn, again. This new born stayed in the uterus 40 solar days, 20 days breast fed (it is obvious that 40 days is to take as 40 years and are alluding to the 40 years it takes for a prophet before he can pursue his mission, and the 20 day represent probably the beginning of the mission of Muhammad). He was then raised and he grown, became a man and developed. He was more than anybody alike his third brother (alluding to Abraham, the Hanif, Noble), because he was alike Mercury, who is the brother of Jupiter thanks to a correspondence between them and their quadrature, also of the correspondence of their celestial spheres. Amongst his brothers, this son, was the most complete of body and the most perfect in form. He was literate, wise, a mighty king, fair imam, sent prophet. His father gave him the totality of his kingdom and that of his brothers. He overcame and submitted all those who opposed him, he elevated and supported those who stood by him. He ruled in his kingdom for 30 solar days (around 30 years), then seized with pride, hit by the bad eye, sick he stayed in bed for 1000 lunar days (around 960 solar years), the body in well-being but the soul sick. Then he went into another house, woke up a bit, walked, resume some activities, relaxed, drank love of this lower world with its temptations and its desires, got drunk with wine of appetites, and entered his father’s cave and went asleep with his brothers. They stayed there a long time. When the cycle of sleep was over and that the time was close their father called for them: ‘Is it not time to wake up of your sleep and of your negligence? Of reminding you the fact of your ‘start’? that you have forgotten, and to come from your journeys back to your origin? Because all starts have their ends, all life has its death, and all death has its waking. Haste to come back from your absence, because the creation of the seven heavens has been done in six days and tomorrow, Friday, your Lord will be sitting on the Throne, that eight angels will carry.’

Then the brothers, that we have said were seven, the eighth being their dog, woke up after having slept 300 years and 54 days, solar days according to the lunar calendar, and asked themselves how much time they stayed in the cave.

Then their father said to their brother: ‘Don’t speak about them and don’t consult anyone about them.’ They did not speak up and kept their secret, as the Qur’an says: 58-7, ‘There is not a secret consultation between three, but He makes the fourth among them, – Nor between five but He makes the sixth,- nor between fewer nor more, but He is in their midst, where so ever they be: In the end He will tell them the truth of their conduct, on the Day of Judgement. For Allah has full knowledge of all things.’

Understand, O brother, these hints and these warnings and measure this with analog secrets and don’t divulgate the Mysteries. Perhaps will you wake up from the sleep of neglect and ignorance before it is being blown to the trump and that the Friday prayer is being called: Haste to remember God, and ‘ leave your business, it would be better for you !’ (after Qur’an, 62, 9) and ‘And We shall drive the sinners to Hell, like thirsty cattle driven down to water’ (Qur’an, 19, 86), carry some provisions here under, as you are about to leave. The best provisions is piety (literally fear), ‘be pious towards me, O man gifted with reason’(Qur’an, 2, 197). May Allah look after you, our brothers and us and puts us all in the right path!’.’

Double-leaf frontispiece from the “Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity”. Baghdad, 1287. Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul-Türkiye.


More about the Brethren of Purity:🌿 More about the Seven Sleepers in other traditions: 🌿The letters in English Translation:ān-al-ṣafaʾ-and-their-rasāʾil/
Yves Marquet: From The Ikhwan-al-Safa Letter 38 – The Seven Sleepers Of Ephesus

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