[ by Charles Cameron — there’s a similar report from Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, fwiw ]
I have commented before on the use of miracle stories by Abdullah Azzam as quoted in Inspire magazine, and an African equivalent found in Gaidi Mtaani, the Shabaab magazine, to engage the devotion and loyalty of pious troops: Resurgence magazine continues the tradition.
Here for your edification from the new AQIS magazine Resurgence, are two examples, drawn from the life and martyrdom of Hasan Gul, known to the Washington Post, and likely many ZP readers, as Hassan Ghul.
The first as to do with the miraculous preservation of his life:
When Shaykh Khalid Habib, the military head of Al Qaida in Khurasan, was martyred, brother Hasan Gul was with him. The Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) was inside the car, while he was standing outside. He had just extended his hand to open the door of the car when a missile fired from a drone hit the car. Allah (swt) miraculously saved his life. He was thrown several feet away by the explosion. His shin bone was fractured as a result. Several days later, when I met him he showed me a coin that had been in the upper pocket of his shirt, just above his heart at the time of the drone attack. A small shrapnel of the missile had hit the coin, because of which the coin had been bent inwards. Allah (swt) prevented the shrapnel from piercing his heart with this small coin. Verily, when Allah (swt) decrees life for His slave, no one can give him death!
It seems plausible that the same mercy was extended to one of Cromwell‘s soldiers in the English Civil War, if one may trust James Waylen’s 1880 The House of Cromwell and the Story of Dunkirk:
An account of the pocket-Bible printed by Cromwell’s order for distribution among his men was some time back published by Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, Massachusets, who possesses one of the only two copies known to exist, the other being in the Brit. Mus. Library. .. That such a book was really in use, we learn from Richard Baxter who relates the story of a soldier receiving a shot near the heart, the fatal force of the bullet being arrested by its lodging in the Bible which he carried in his breast. And a very thin Bible it was too, being comprised in a sheet folded in 16mo. An entire Bible, even in the most compact form then known, would have been far too bulky and far too expensive.
The second deals with the pleasant scent that Azzam had previously noted was a mark of the martyr — here’s the same motif as applied to Hasan Gul:
Last year in October, when he left his house on a motor bike, American drones assassinated him. His body was shredded to bits by a direct missile hit and his remains were scattered over a large area. When some Mujahid brothers reached the site of the attack, they faced the problem of searching for and gathering the bits and pieces of his body. However, Allah (swt) made this task easy for them. A large part of his body was easily found. An ethereal fragrance that was simply not of this world was coming from this dismembered part of his body. This extremely beautiful fragrance was smelt by all the brothers present at the scene. The brothers then decided to locate his body parts with the help of this scent. All the brothers had to do was to follow this fragrance to find a part of his body. All the parts of his body exuded this fragrance without any exception. Thus the fragrance of Hasan Gul’s blood led to the remains of his body. May Allah be pleased with him and grant him the company of the Prophets and the righteous. Ameen!
Again, I refer you to my post Of war and miracle: the poetics, spirituality and narratives of jihad for comments on similar reports in Catholic and Arthurian literatures.
But let’s return briely to that Bible story — there’s really quite an extended history of these reports.
Consider the American Civil War veteran of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry Division, whose daughter wrote:
At another time a bullet hit the New Testament he was carrying in his shirt pocket and glanced off. This sweetheart, who later became his wife, had given him the New Testament when he entered the service.
Or the Army Cyclist Corps despatch rider whose life was saved by a still-extant “combined Bible, prayer book and hymnal” near Arras, France, in 1915:
Or Pfc. Brendon Schweigart, who claims only that when a sniper’s bullet found the Bible in his shirt pocket in Iraq, it:
definitely prevented more serious injury, because if it wouldn’t have been there, it would have ricocheted off my bullet-proof plate and more than likely would have gone back into my chest, causing more damage.
Indeed, the “Bible stopped the bullet” tale has enough variants that Mythbusters once tested it with a 400-page Bible, albeit not one with a metal cover…
Because, yes, metal-covered Bibles were given to GIs in World War II with the cover inscribed “May this keep you safe from harm” — no doubt with the hope and prayer that if need be, the metal covering would indeed prove a protective “breastplate of righteousness”:
In fact, the 1943 “Heart Shield Bible” depicted is on sale now on eBay, at a current asking price of $21.49.
It’s no dcoubt a bit of a stretch, but I believe that when you “encourage” miracles by providing metallic holy pocket-books for protective use on the battleield, it’s an example of what Max Weber famously called the “routinization of charisma”.