October 19th, 2016
In some early Islamic societies, cannabis was outright prohibited on religious grounds. In others, it was embraced by intellectuals.
The well-known Assassins sect, formed in the late 11th century, is rumored to have given hashish to its warriors and even to have derived its name from the substance—although these claims are heavily disputed.
Meanwhile, the mystical Sufi sect’s intense religious ceremonies, beginning at the end of the first millennium AD, were sometimes fueled by caffeine and hashish. This tradition continues in modern times.
According to Sufi lore, the sect’s founder—a mystic named Haydar—experienced a spiritual awakening after discovering marijuana. Hashish ingested in liquid form is colloquially referred to as “Haydar’s wine.”
In these cultural contexts, a number of historical Muslim authors have written impressive works of poetry and prose dedicated to cannabis. Below are couple of great examples, both from the Islamic literature of the 13th century.
The Sufi poet Ibn al-A’ma wrote the poem “The Cup of Haydar” about the mystical properties of hashish. Here is an excerpt:
Give up wine and drink from the wine of Haydar.
Amber-scented, green, the color of emerald,
It is presented to you by a Turkish gazelle, slender,
Swaying like a willow bough, delicate.
In his hand, you would think, as he turns it,
It is like the traces of down on a rosy cheek.
The slightest breeze makes it reel,
And it flutters towards the coolness of the continuing breeze.
The grayish pigeons coo upon its branches in the morning,
And the cadences of the warbling doves cause it emotion.
It has many meanings the like of which are unknown to wine.
And the Syrian poet Al-Is-Irdi wrote:
The secret of hashish lifts up the spirit
In an ascent of disembodied thinking.
It is pure spirit. Free are its confines
From worries. Only the elect may taste it.
Hashish involves no sin. You are not punished.
Their wine makes you forget all meanings.
Our herb recalls the mysteries of godly beauty.
You can obtain the green stuff without haggling.
You do not need much gold and silver for it.
Tucked in a handkerchief it can be carried.
No cup is needed if you wish to use it.