Nafisa at-Tahira

One of the notable merchants of Cairo, Jamaluddin Abdullah al-Jassas, hosted her in his home for many months. From every distant corner of Egypt people used to come to visit her and to take blessings from (tabarukki biha) her. Sayyida Nafisa felt that her presence might become too great a burden on her hosts, so she moved to a place of her own, in the District of Khalaf, in the Mosque of Shajarat al-Durr, in Khalifa Street, now known as the al-Hasaniyya District. The house to which she moved was owned by an Egyptian woman named Ummu Hani, renowned for her piety. This move did not bring any surcease to the flood of Egyptians coming from every far distant area, often in huge groups, to visit her and receive her baraka, especially women who came simply to touch her and request her du`a.

Touching a Pious Person for Baraka

Al-Tabarani, and Imam Ahmad in his Musnad (5:67-68) with a sound chain as stated by al-Haythami narrated through Handhalah Ibn Hudhaym that the latter went with his grandfather, Hudhaym, to the Prophet (s). Hudhaym said to the Messenger of Allah (s): “I have sons and grandsons, some of whom are pubescent and others still children.” Motioning to the young child next to him, he said: “This is the youngest.” The Prophet (s) brought this young child whose name was Handhalah next to him, wiped on his head, and told him, “barakallahu fik,” which means: “May Allah bless you.” After that, people started to bring Handhalah a person with a swollen face or a sheep with a swollen udder. Handhalah would place his hand on that part of his head the Prophet (s) wiped, then touch the swollen part and say ‘Bismillah’, and the swelling would be cured.

Sayyida Nafisa’s Longing for Her Grandfather (s)

At that point Sayyida Nafisa began to feel a tremendous burden due to the huge gatherings of people visiting her and asking her du`a, who came camping around her home, often overnight. She decided to leave Egypt and return to Madina al-Munawwara, feeling she was losing time for worship in meeting the endless throngs. Discovering her decision to leave, thousands of people sought out Sayyida Nafisa, begging her to reverse her decision and remain in Egypt.

They swarmed the Governor of Egypt, As-Sirri bin al-Hakam, asking him to request Sayyida Nafisa to stay. He paid her a visit, politely urging her to stay for the sake of the people who so needed her baraka and her prayers. She informed him that she had decided to stay in Egypt. “However,” she said, “I am a weak lady and these people have gathered in thousands which prevents me from observing my daily recitations. Also my home is tiny and unable to accommodate these huge crowds. I began to feel extreme longing for my grandfather (s), so my heart is calling me to return to Madina to visit my grandfather’s (s) grave.”

The governor replied, “O granddaughter of Prophet (s)! I promise you I will try my best to solve this problem, for I know your house is small. But from the depths of my heart, without asking anything in return, for the sake of Allah I am giving you a mansion I own in the district of Dirr as-Sabah. I beg you to accept this house from me and to use it in whatever way you wish.”

Sayyida Nafisa paused for many minutes, engaged in deep meditation. Finally she lifted her head from her reverie and said, “I accept your offer of your house.” Then she said, “O governor of Egypt! What am I to do with these huge crowds of people?” He said, “Assign Saturday and Wednesday for people to visit, and dedicate the other days purely for worship.”

Sayyida Nafisa moved to the larger house, granted to her as a gift (hiba), without giving anything in return, for the governor had granted it to her solely out of regard for her personal piety and sincerity. She followed his suggestion, relocated her residence and received people on Saturdays and Wednesdays, devoting the remaining days to worship of her Lord.

 

Sayyida Nafisa and Imam Shafi`i

Sayyida Nafisa hosted most of the scholars of her time, experts in jurisprudence, hadith, and Qur`anic explanation. But by far the greatest scholarly gatherings were those she hosted for the pillars of tasawwuf and the pious of her time (Aqtab al-tasawwuf). Among these pillars of tasawwuf and fiqh was Imam al-Shafi`i who had moved to Egypt from Baghdad in 109 H., five years after Sayyida Nafisa’s arrival in Cairo.

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