So what about Hashish and the Arabs?
(you might wonder)
The Arab countries are hot. Hot and dusty. But mainly hot.
It is only in recent times that a privileged few have found some respite from the heat through the miracle of air conditioning. The rest of the people are not so fortunate.
Like their forefathers, they must endure temperatures that often soar to over 100°F. The excessive heat dictates that the people work only in the mornings and the evenings.
The sun also dictates the kinds of animals and plants that will survive.
The camel has adapted in a way that allows it to go without water for days. Not only can it store large quantities of water in its body, but the camel also does not sweat.
By a similar adaptation, plants are able to survive by being able to retain their water.
It is because of this capacity to minimize evaporation that plants such as Cannabis are able to live in the parching Arabian heat.
The means by which Cannabis accomplishes this amazing feat is by producing a thick, sticky resin that coats its leaves and flowers.
This protective canopy prevents life-sustaining moisture from disappearing into the dry air. But this thick sticky resin is not an ordinary goo. It is the stuff that dreams are made of, the stuff that holds time suspended in limbo, the stuff that makes men forgetful, makes them both sad and deleriously happy, makes them ravenously hungry or completely disinterested in food.
It is a God to some and a devil to others.
It is all of these things and more.
This resin, this shield against the sun, this sticky goo is
- Hashish -
THE DISCOVERY OF HASHISH
Little is known of the first Arab who discovered the marvelous properties of hashish.
There is no shortage of legends, however, to fill in the dark, long-forgotten memories of that eventful moment.
One of the most colorful stories tells how Haydar, the Persian founder of a religious order of Sufis, discovered hashish in A.D. 1155.
"According to the legend, Haydar was an ascetic monk who lived a life of rigid privation in a monastery which he built in the mountains of Persia.
For ten years he lived in this distant retreat, never leaving it for even a brief moment, seeing no one except his disciples.
One hot summer day, however, Haydar fell into a state of depression and, contrary to his custom of never venturing out of his monastery, he went off into the fields to be alone.
When he re-turned, his disciples, who had become alarmed at his unusual absence, noted a strange air of happiness and whimsy in his demeanor.
Not only that, the reclusive monk even allowed them to enter his personal chambers, something he had never done before.
Astounded by this dramatic change in their master's character, his disciples eagerly questioned the monk about what it was that had put him into this frame of mind.
Haydar responded to their curiosity with amusement and proceeded to tell them how he had been wandering in the fields and had noticed that of all the plants near the monastery, only one had not been standing motionless in the oppressive heat of the day.
Unlike its torpid and inanimate neighbors, this unusual plant seemed to dance joyfully in the sun's warmth.
Overwhelmed by curiosity, Haydar picked a few of its leaves and ate them to see what they would taste like.
The result was the euphoric state his disciples now observed in him.
Upon hearing of this wonderful plant and desirous of sharing their master's pleasure, Haydar's pupils entreated him to show them this strange plant so that they too could partake of its marvelous virtues.
Haydar agreed, but not before he made them promise under oath that they would not reveal the secret of the plant to anyone but the Sufis (the poor).
So it was, according to the legend, that the Sufis came to know the pleasures and contentment of Hashish.
After his discovery, Haydar lived another ten years, allegedly subsisting on cannabis leaves.
Shortly beforehis death, he asked that Cannabis seeds be sown around his tomb so that his spirit might walk in the shade of the plant that had given him such pleasure during his lifetime."
This article contains fragments, bits and crumbles from
Marihuana The First Twelve Thousand Years, by Ernest L. Abel (1980)