‘The Barefoot Saint’ of Kujtim Ahmataj, 2008, by Nathalie Clayer
I had brought several containers with goods from China and I gave them to a young man called Tani, who worked at the Çams market, to sell them for me. I was in constant contact [with him] for the smooth running of the work. One day I asked him:
— Hey, Tani, how does it work?
— No one has come to the shop for ten days. I haven’t sold anything.
— How can that be, my son!
— Yes! he said.
— Listen, son! I served a saint. He told me that for any problem people may have, let them come and pray at the grave. You will go to the kryegjyshata [the headquarter of the Bektashi community], you will go and get the woman who serves at the mausoleums. Her name is Shpresa. You will tell her that you are sent by Skënder Gazheli. [You will tell her:] ‘I would like you to show me the tomb of Dede Ahmet.’ You will go there, you will bend down, and on your knees you will pronounce with conviction this prayer: ‘I beg you Dede Ahmet! Open my forehead to work. Give me work, for I am stuck.’ Three times say with your heart: ‘I pray to you, O God Almighty!’ Move away from the grave, remaining bound in prayer, and continue your work as usual. I will come back to you. We will see each other. Listen to me! Don’t worry because the work will go well. Have faith!
A fortnight after the prayer at the tomb of Dede Ahmet, I went to the shop and asked:
— Hey, dear Tani, how is business going?
His face lit up, he threw himself at me and said:
— I don’t know where to put the money, Skënder. Do you believe me? Since the day I went there where you told me, I have had so much work that I don’t know where to put the money I earn. So much business has been given to me.
It was Dede Ahmet who said:
‘Whoever needs my help, not only in matters of illness, but also in business, let him come and ask for help and respect he shall have, in honest and dedicated work. I, your servant, will also remain in the hereafter life. Pray in humility to God the Great.’
This man, this saint was ready to offer his help whenever it was needed.
Written in the post-communist era from notes collected over time, the book by Kujtim Ahmet (Shenjti këmbëzbathur [The Barefoot Saint], Tirana, Geer, 2008, here pp. 86-87) is a kind of modern hagiographic collection, in that it seeks to illustrate the sanctity of his uncle, Ahmet Myftar (1916–1980), from 1948 to 1958 the head of the Albanian Bektashi community (a Sufi brotherhood which acquired the status of an independent religious community in the aftermath of WWII). For this purpose, the author has put together testimonies that illustrate his personality, his powers and his miracles, such as the following one, which relates an episode that can be dated to the 1980s (after the death of Ahmet Myftar and before the fall of the regime), therefore to a time when religion was officially forbidden in Communist Albania. In this sense, the story tends to show that sanctity was part of the Communist landscape, despite the repressive policy.
© Nathalie Clayer for the English translation and the commentary.