Shikma [Archives:2003/07/Last Page]

February 17 2003

Written by Abdulrahman Mutahhar
Translated by Janet Watson
M – Where have you been, Mus’ida? Come on! Tell me you think! Should we take ourselves down to the Centre to learn to read and write better, or do we know enough already?
Ma – They do say that you can’t ever have too much knowledge, and that we should seek knowledge even if it means going to China!
M – And just what would take us to China? But we’ve got a Centre just round the corner! We could start getting up early from tomorrow to study there. You do one day, and I’ll do the next, so that you and I can learn Standard Arabic, the language of the Holy Qur’an.
Ma – But you already know the Qur’an, the sayings of the Prophet, literature, and the rules of grammar. What benefit would you get from going back and forth to the Centre?
M – Oh, we’d have to go to the Centre, at least so that they could translate the meaning of the word shikma for us, and tell us what it means in Arabic, or at least give us the dialect meaning of it.
Ma – Ah, so that’s what it’s all about, is it! I was beginning to wonder what you were going to say!
M – But it’s not just that! After we get them to translate the word shikma for us into Arabic, you and I are going to go to a legal advisor, and get him to see exactly what you did to me, and to the household, and what you did with the neighbours’ pots and pans, and plates, and spoons, and what you went and threw into the rubbish bin!
Ma – They say, ‘If you’re not used to doing something it’s torture!’ The only person I know who invites people round and opens up his house and moans about it afterwards is you! It isn’t as if you don’t know the Yemeni proverb, ‘Open up your house and be proud, or close it up and hide yourself away!’
M – Well you didn’t make us proud, and they didn’t talk about your pride in all the papers, and we’ve nothing left to hide ourselves away with! You’ve simply gone and made a spectacle of us and shown everyone how stupid we are!
Ma – Why on earth are you going on so much? Simply because I held a party for my niece. Don’t you think I should repay my debt?
M – What debt? Tell me what debt will you! And who would want to lend you anything anyway?
Ma – My sister held a party for my daughter, and I owed her that, so I held a party for her daughter. That’s what I mean by repaying a debt, and if you’re not prepared to repay other people’s generosity to hell with you!
M – Things should be appropriate, though. You can’t do something properly without having the means! Your sister is one of those who have tons of money, little sense of charity, lots of conceit, and love being ostentatious and showing off, even if it’s at the expense of Mus’id and Mus’ida!
Ma – What do you mean, ‘even if it’s at the expense of Mus’id and Mus’ida?’ You really are getting everything muddled up today!
M – The only people who are getting things muddled up are you and your sister! When you invite people over or visit members of the family and friends and neighbours it’s supposed to be done because you like them and genuinely want to see them. Your sister’s giving your daughter a party, on the other hand, wasn’t for that selfless reason at all. It was simply so that she could show off and be ostentatious. When she asked you to hold a party for her daughter, she insisted that you put on all the trimmings, and you certainly didn’t fail her! You relieved the neighbours of their pots and pans and plates; you slaughtered a calf; you barbecued a sheep; you roasted chicken; you fried fish; you stuffed the boot of the car with sweets and cakes; and rather than religious chanting, you decided on pretty songs and the lute. Then you invited all the posh people of your sister’s ilk, and didn’t bother inviting your own neighbours, friends and acquaintances! Half of the posh women didn’t turn up, and the half that did come for lunch didn’t have any appetite and couldn’t eat. All that food and drink that God blessed us with was tipped into the dustbin, and that was because of your sister having an overconceited view of herself, and because of you being ignorant and blindly doing other people’s work for them. As the Yemeni poet said,
‘A crow learnt to walk like a grouse,
but he used to walk like a quail;
he stumbled around doing both;
but in the end could do neither.’
Al-Akwa’, p. 820.
Cf. al-Akwa’, p. 191.