Merits of the Plague
Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani
Joel Blecher, Mairaj Syed (translation and notes)
Paperback, 336 pages
Badhl al-Ma'un fi Fadl al-Ta'un (Offering Aid on the Merits of the Plague)
The preeminent meditation on plagues and pandemics from the Islamic world, now in English for the first time.
Six hundred years ago, the author of this landmark work of history and religious thought—an esteemed judge, poet, and scholar in Cairo—survived the bubonic plague, which took the lives of three of his children, not to mention tens of millions of others throughout the medieval world. Holding up an eerie mirror to our own time, he reflects on the origins of plagues—from those of the Prophet Muhammad’s era to the Black Death of his own—and what it means that such catastrophes could have been willed by God, while also chronicling the fear, isolation, scapegoating, economic tumult, political failures, and crises of faith that he lived through. But in considering the meaning of suffering and mass death, he also offers a message of radical hope. Weaving together accounts of evil jinn, religious stories, medical manuals, death-count registers, poetry, and the author’s personal anecdotes, Merits of the Plague is a profound reminder that with tragedy comes one of the noblest expressions of our humanity: the practice of compassion, patience, and care for those around us.
1. Origins of the Plague
2. Understanding the Plague
3. Martyrdom and the Plague
4. Against Flight from the Plague
5. When the Plague Strikes
Epilogue: Record of Plagues