Every proverb has a story
Written by Abdulrahman Mutahhar
Translated by Janet Watson
Mus’id: Love, my friends, needs heart, strength and means. What comes after that, Musida?
Mus’ida: After that it goes, love, my friends, needs heart, strength and means. Its not for him who lit up his shop in the light of day. Love, my friends, needs heart, strength and means. Its not for him who collects money then breakfasts in prison. Love, my friends, needs heart, strength and means. Its not for the trader who was born yesterday.
Mus’id: Very poetic! And Ive been thinking that every saying and proverb have got a story behind them, and theyre there to give us an insight into life and people.
Mus’ida: I just learn the sayings from listening to other people. I dont know whether theyve got any stories behind them, and I dont bother asking!
Mus’id: Well Im going to tell you the story behind that saying now.
Mus’ida: Okay, go on.
Mus’id: They say that there were three people. Two of them were traders and the third collected tax [zakah ] and handed it over to the state. The first trader went bankrupt because of all the goods he used to buy on credit. They lit a candle and put it over the door of his shop in broad daylight as a sign to his creditors. The second trader went into business without knowing anything about it, and was bankrupt three months later.
Mus’ida: Go on, what about the third person, the tax collector.
Mus’id: The third person collected tax, and rather than hand it over to the state treasury, he kept it to himself and embezzled it. In the end, he was sent to prison. At that time, there was a beautiful girl. Each of them wanted to marry her, but it never turned out, because the first trader was bankrupt, the second trader was bankrupt without any friends, and the tax collector was locked away in prison. Later a saying emerged from the story and it became the subject of a very popular song. Love, my friends, needs heart, strength and means. Its not for him who lit up his shop in the light of day. Love, my friends, needs heart, strength and means. Its not for him who collects money then breakfasts in prison. Love, my friends, needs heart, strength and means. Its not for the trader who was born yesterday.
Mus’ida: Tell me, though, Musid, is that really a true story, or did someone make it up?
Mus’id: If you think about it, youll realize its based on truth. My nephew hasnt got any patience. He wanted to get rich between sunrise and sunset, whatever it took. He opened up a shop and curried favor with importers and wholesalers. He acted very honest and upright so that they would trust him, and they began to give him goods worth hundreds of thousands of riyals. He would give them half the cost at the time, and the rest once he had sold the goods. But, unfortunately, he went off the straight and narrow. He began to be excessively wasteful and extravagant. In the end, he had to leave the business altogether, without a penny and up to his ears in debt, and they lit a candle over the door of his shop.
Mus’ida: Go on!
Mus’id: Other people, Musida, set up a business without knowing anything about it beforehand, and often without a clue about how the market works or how traders operate; people like these usually go bankrupt within a very short time. Some people, who are trusted by the state to collect taxes and to take it to the state treasury, betray that trust. They embezzle the money, and end up eating fenugreek and bread in prison.