4. Trying to make money from buried and other treasures
is not a natural way of making a living.
It should be known that many weak-minded persons in cities hope to discover property under the surface of the earth and to make some profit from it. They believe that all the property of the nations of the past was stored underground and sealed with magic talismans. These seals, they believe, can be broken only by those who may chance upon the (necessary) knowledge and can offer the proper incense, prayers, and sacrifices to break them.
The inhabitants of the cities in Ifriqiyah believe that the European Christians who lived in Ifriqiyah before Islam, buried their property and entrusted its (hiding place) to written lists, until such time as they might find a way to dig it up again. The inhabitants of the cities in the East hold similar beliefs with regard to the nations of the Copts, the Romans (Byzantines), and the Persians. They circulate stories to this effect that sound like idle talk. Thus, a treasure hunter comes to dig where there was money buried, but does not know the talisman or the story connected with it. As a result, he finds the place empty or inhabited by worms. Or, he sees the money and jewels lying there, but guards stand over them with drawn swords. Or the earth shakes, so that he believes that he will be swallowed up, and similar nonsense.
In the Maghrib there are many Berber "students" 24 who are unable to make a living by natural ways and means. They approach well-to-do people with papers that have torn margins and contain either non-Arab writing or what they claim to be the translation of a document written by the owner of buried treasures, giving the clue to the hiding place. In this way, they try to get their sustenance by (persuading well-to-do people) to send them out to dig and hunt for treasure. They fool them by saying that their only motive in asking for help is their wish to find influential protection against seizure and punishment by (local) authorities. Occasionally, one of these treasure hunters displays strange information or some remarkable trick of magic with which he fools people into believing his other claims, although, in fact, he knows nothing of magic and (magical) procedures.
Most weak-minded people wish to do their digging with others and to be protected by the darkness of night while they do it. They are afraid of watchers and government spies. When they do not turn anything up, they put the blame upon their ignorance of the talisman with which the (buried) money was sealed. Thus they deceive themselves as to the failure of their hopes.
In addition to a weak mind, a (common) motive that leads people to hunt for treasure is their inability to make a living in one of the natural ways that lead to profit, such as commerce, agriculture, or the crafts. Therefore, they try to make a living in devious ways, such as (treasure hunting) and the like, not in one of the natural ways. For they are unable to make the effort necessary to earn something, and they trust that they can gain their sustenance without effort or trouble. They do not realize that by trying to make a living in an improper manner, they plunge themselves into much greater trouble, hardship, and expenditure of energy than otherwise. In addition, they expose themselves to (the risk of) punishment.
Occasionally, a principal motive leading people to hunt for treasure is the fact that they have become used to ever-increasing, limitless luxury and (luxury) customs. As a result, the various ways and means of earning money cannot keep pace with and do not pay for their (luxury) requirements. When such a person cannot earn enough in a natural way, his only way out is to wish that at one stroke, without any effort, he might find sufficient money to pay for the (luxury) habits in which he has become caught. Thus, he becomes eager to find (treasure) and concentrates all his effort upon that. Therefore, most of those who can be observed to be eager to (hunt for treasure) are people used to luxurious living. Among the people of the (various) dynasties and the inhabitants of cities such as Cairo (Egypt), where there is much luxury and (living) conditions are favorable, many are engrossed in the search for (treasure). They question travelers about extraordinary tales of (hidden treasure) with the same eagerness they show for the practice of alchemy.25 Thus, we hear that the inhabitants of Cairo (Egypt) consult the Maghribi "students" they meet, in hopes that, with their help, they may perhaps hit upon some buried or other treasure. They further investigate (the possibility of) making water disappear in the soil, because they believe that the majority of all buried treasures are to be found in the canals of the Nile and that the Nile largely covers the buried or hoarded treasures in those regions. Persons who possess the (afore-mentioned) forged records fool them with the excuse that the reason they cannot reach the treasures is because the Nile flows there. In this way they cover up their lies. First, they want to make a living. The person who hears their (stories) wants to make the water disappear in the ground by means of magical operations, so as to obtain what he wants. (People in Egypt) are fond of magic, (a trait) they have inherited from their early forebears in (Egypt). Their magical disciplines and monuments still remain in (Egypt) as the graves (of the ancient Egyptians) and other buildings attest. The story of Pharaoh's magicians testifies to their special (knowledge of magic).26
The inhabitants of the Maghrib circulate a poem among themselves which they ascribe to the sages of the East. As one can see, it shows how to make water disappear in the ground by magical means. This is (the poem):
O you who are looking for the secret of how to make water disappear in the ground,
Listen to the word of truth from an expert!
Put aside all the false statements and deceptive remarks
That people have written in books, And listen to my truthful word and advice,
If you are one of those who do not believe in cheating
If you seek to make a well disappear, and
How to handle this well has always puzzled the mind,
Make a picture resembling yourself standing, (but)
The head should be that of a young lion, (drawn) as a round shape.
His hands (should) hold the rope that is
Drawing a bucket up from the bottom of a well.
On his breast, there (should be) an h, as you may have seen,
(Written three times), the number of divorce. Be careful not to repeat it more often!
It (should) step upon is without touching (them),
Walking like someone who is courageous, clever, and skillful.
-He means that the is are in front of (the figure), and it looks as if it were walking upon them
Around the whole, there is a line running,
Which should rather be square than round.
Slaughter a bird over it and smear its (blood) upon it,
And immediately after the slaughtering, go and use incense,
Sandarac, frankincense, storax,
And costus root. And cover it with a silken garment,
A red one or a yellow one, not a blue one.
It should have no green or dark (color) in it.
It should be sewn with threads of white Or red wool of purest red coloring.
The ascendant should be Leo, as has already been explained,
And there should be no bright moonlight,27
And the [fall ?] moon should be connected with the lucky position of Mercury.
A Saturday should be the hour of the operation.
My opinion is that this poem is one of the things with which swindlers fool (other people).
These (swindlers) create remarkable situations and employ astounding techniques. They go so far in their devious lies as to take up residence in famous mansions and houses known as (hiding places of treasures). They undertake excavations there and make underground cells 28 and put signs there which they (then) incorporate in their forged lists. Then, they go to some weak-minded person with these lists. They urge him to rent the mansion and live there. They suggest to him that the mansion contains a buried treasure of indescribable magnitude. They ask for money to buy drugs and incense, in order to break the talismans. They condition him by producing the signs they themselves had placed there and that were of their own manufacture. He gets excited by the things he sees. He is deceived and taken in by them without knowing it. During these (operations), the (swindlers) use among themselves a (special) linguistic terminology with the help of which they inveigle (their victims), and keep them in ignorance of what they say concerning the digging, incense, slaughtering of animals, and the other such things that they do.
The things that have been said about (treasure hunting) have no scientific basis, nor are they based upon (factual) information. It should be realized that although treasures are (sometimes) found, this happens rarely and by chance, not by systematic 'search. (The hiding of treasures) is no matter of general concern, such that people would commonly store their money underground and seal it with talismans, either in ancient or in recent times. Buried treasures (rikaz), such as are mentioned in the Prophetic traditions and such as the jurists assume to exist 29- that is, buried in pre-Islamic times - are found by chance, not by systematic search.
Furthermore, why should anyone who hoards his money and seals it with magical operations, thus making extraordinary efforts to keep it concealed, set up hints and clues as to how it may be found by anyone who cares to? Why make a written list of it, so that the people of any period and region could find his treasure? This would contradict the intention of keeping it concealed.
Furthermore, intelligent people act with some definite, useful purpose in mind. A person who hoards his money does so because he wants his children, his relatives, or someone else to get it. No intelligent person tries to hide his money altogether, from everybody. To do so would merely bring about its destruction or loss, or its going to some member of a future nation unknown to him.
The question has been asked: Where is the property of the nations (that came) before us, and where are the abundant riches known to have existed among those nations? (In reply,) 30 it should be known that treasures of gold, silver, precious stones, and utensils are no different from (other) minerals and acquired (capital), from iron, copper, lead, and any other real property 31 or (ordinary) minerals. It is civilization that causes them to appear, with the help of human labor, and that makes them increase or decrease. All such things in people's possession may be transferred and passed on by inheritance. They have often been transferred from one region to another, and from one dynasty to another, in accordance with the purposes they were to serve 31a and the particular civilization that required them. If money (at this time) is scarce in the Maghrib and Ifriqiyah, it is not scarce in the countries of the Slavs and the European Christians. If it is scarce in Egypt and Syria, it is not scarce in India and China. Such things are merely materials (alat) and acquired (capital). It is civilization that produces them in abundance or causes them to be in short supply. Moreover, minerals are affected by destruction like all other existent things. Pearls and jewels deteriorate more quickly than anything else. Gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, and tin are also affected by destruction and complete annihilation, which destroy their substances in a very short time.
The occurrence of finds and treasures in Egypt is explained by the fact that Egypt was in the possession of the Copts for two thousand 32 or more years. Their dead were buried with their possessions of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls. This was the custom of the people of the old dynasties. When the dynasty of the Copts ended and the Persians ruled Egypt, they searched the graves for such objects and discovered them. They took an indescribably large amount of such objects from the graves, from the pyramids, for example, which were the royal graves, and from the other (types of graves). The same was done by the Greeks after them. Those graves afforded opportunities for treasure (hunting and have continued to do so) down to this time. One frequently comes upon buried treasure in them. This may either consist of money buried by the Copts, or (it may be) the specially prepared vessels and sarcophagi of gold and silver with which they honored their dead when they buried them. For thousands of years, the graves of the Copts have been likely to afford opportunities for finding (treasure). Because of the existence of (treasures in graves) the Egyptians have been concerned with the search for treasures and their discovery. When, in the later (years) of a dynasty, duties come to be levied upon various things, they are even levied upon treasure hunters, and a tax has to be paid by those stupid and deluded persons who occupy themselves with (treasure hunting). Greedy people (in the government) who try assiduously to (discover treasures think that they) have thus found the means to discover treasures (for their own benefit) and a promising way to get them out. But all their efforts remain entirely unsuccessful. God is our refuge from perdition.33
Those who are deluded or afflicted by these things must take refuge in God from their inability to make a living and their laziness in this respect, just as the Messenger of God took refuge from it and turned away from the ways and delusions of Satan. They should not occupy themselves with absurdities and untrue stories.
"God gives sustenance to whomever He wishes to give it, without accounting." 34