Musid & Muside (52)Women’s literacy [Archives:2003/636/Culture]
Written by Abdulrahman Mutahhar &
Translated by Janet Watson
Ma: Whoever said, 'Reading endows you with knowledge,' hit the nail on head!
M: Quite! And whoever said, 'I am indebted to him who teaches me,' and 'Knowledge is light and ignorance is darkness,' also hit the nail on the head. People who are educated aren't the same as people who aren't. As the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'The search for knowledge is a duty for every Muslim man and woman.' He also told us to, 'Seek knowledge, even if you have to travel to China!'
Ma: You don't need to say that, it's obvious! I only wish that I could read and write properly!
M: Yes! If you could read and write you'd really be able to hold your head up high! Then you could write to me in your own fair hand when I went away. 'I'll send you a letter sealed with a kiss!'
Ma: Oh aren't you clever! Let's just say that I'm completely helpless when I go to the souk and they sell me a carton of juice which has gone off. God knows how long it had sat with the wholesaler and then with the grocer! And they told me it had been produced this year! If only I could read, they wouldn't cheat me and laugh at poor Mus'ida.
M: Why didn't you learn how to read and write when you were a young girl?
Ma: Did your mother and aunts learn to read and write when they were young girls?
M: No. They used to say that reading and writing was only for chanters and singers.
Ma: Exactly! So why all the smart questions!?
M: Come on, don't get so cross.
Ma: And just why shouldn't I get cross! The juice seller knew I couldn't read or write and saw me coming a mile off. He deliberately sold me juice that had gone off. Isn't that a problem?
M: Of course! It's a big problem. You can't stop being cheated, and you can't get away from the fact that you can't read or write.
Ma: Exactly! And you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Life has gone on, Mus'id. Everything has its own time.
M: What on earth gave you that idea!? The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave!'
Ma: So now what! I wouldn't actually object to getting up in the morning, putting on my balto, making sandwiches and juice, picking up my bag, taking money for sweets and crisps and going to learn with my daughter who just started school this year.
M: Go on, then, Mus'ida. And I'll put on a party for you at the end of each year!
Ma: The party's not a problem, but I do wish I'd taken you at your word and gone to learn to read and write at the literacy centre. If only I could read the date of production and the 'best before end' date before I bought things, and before the shopkeeper cheated me! But it's my own fault I can't read or write, and I'm at the mercy of the shopkeepers whenever I go out to buy food or drink!
M: You're right! The problem you have with not being able to read or write is simple. The solution is for you to join a literacy centre, and the children and I will cope while you're away. The problem of cheating, on the other hand, is different, and won't go away so easily. That's to do with people being weak-willed and having no conscience. As the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, 'Don't have anything to do with people who cheat!'