Dr. Farooq's Study Resource Page


CHAPTER VII:

Describing Women and Their Good and Bad Points

Imam Ghazali

Source:
Counsel for Kings [Nasihat al-Muluk]
London, Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 158-173


Introductory comments:
Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq

Imam Ghazali is one of the towering figures in Islamic history, whose influence on the Muslim world continues to remain strong and deep. The rich spiritual dimension of his contribution is indisputable. His legacy of sagacity, wisdom, and enlightenment is a veritable treasure for many.

Yet, truth seekers and conscientious people who believe in Islam don't revere any individual scholar, however great and towering he is, with an absolutist mindframe. Hence, reading the following chapter from one of his notable works one would find remarks and views about women that are utterly degrading, verging on misogyny. Several years ago when an Islam basher cited some of these aspects from Imam Ghazali's writings I could not believe it. After reading his views about women, it seems reasonable to say that, despite his all other contributions to the Islamic history, his views at least in this area are more his own than based on Islam, i.e., the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

Even though the entire presentation of thoughts by Imam Ghazali here projects an Islamic veneer, yet the hadiths that he reports are often without any source, or only selective hadiths that are more restrictive of women are mentioned without taking into consideration other ones that directly contradict these. His weakness in the science of Hadith is well-known. "Taj-ud-Din Subki has collected such traditions in Tabaqat-Shafeiyya that have been cited by the Imam in his Ihya-ul-Uloom but which cannot be traced to any source. (See Tabaqat, vol. IV, pp. 145-182)." [Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, A Short History of the Revivalist Movement in Islam, Lahore, Islamic Publications, 5th edition, 1981; footnote on p. 66] Also, for specific example, see Appendix note #6 in Dr. Suhaib Hasan, An Introduction to the Science of Hadith, London, Al-Qur'an Society, 1994.]

Predictably, Islam bashers have a field day with such works and thoughts. But conscientious Muslims should be less worried about the Islam bashers than the negative influence such Imams' views and opinions have on the Muslims minds and societies.

Muslims need to be proactive in self-critical reexamination of many such classical works. Such reexamination is not for wholesale repudiation and discrediting of the past contributions of many noble Islamic personalities. Rather, we must accept the fact that they were human beings and not without their personal biases or various influences and experiences that had shaped their positions. Conscientious Muslims would engage in critical reexamination like divers seeking pearls. In the deep ocean of knowledge and understanding, those who seek pearls must sift through more than just piles, separating pearls from empty shells and also watch out for shells that can be harmful.

As we cherish and utilize the pearls of wisdom from the works of scholars, such as Imam Ghazali, we also ignore the empty shells as well as anything potentially harmful. Noble souls, such as Imam Ghazali, never taught us to blindly follow and revere anyone, including himself, and he never would have endorsed and encouraged an uncritical acceptance of his views, especially when some views are simply unfounded from Islamic viewpoint or stand contradicted by the Qur'an, the Sunnah and the Seerah.


 [emphasis added]

The Apostle, God bless him, stated that the best and most blessed of women are those who are most prolific in child-bearing, fairest in countenance, and least costly in dowry. [1] He also stated, 'In so far as you are able, seek a free woman in marriage; they are the purest.'

The Prince of the Believers 'Umar (ibn al-Khattab) said, 'Take refuge in God from the evils caused by women, and beware ( even) of the most pious of them.' This means, let not (even) your own wife receive praise. [2]

The author of this book declares that any man who desires to be sound in his religion and sound as master of his house ought not to care about nobility of birth [3] and beauty of countenance; for a pious (wife) is the best and most beautiful.

(Anecdote) [4]

It is related that at Marv lived a man called Nuh ibn Maryam, who was the qadi of Marv and also held the office of mayor. [5] He was blessed with great wealth and had a very beautiful daughter. Many of the leading officials sought her hand, and the father was at a loss to know on whom he should bestow her. 'If I bestow her on one', he used to say, 'another will be displeased' ; and he despaired (of solving the problem). He had an Indian slave named Mubarak, and once he told (this slave) to go to his orchard and keep watch over it. He went and stayed in the orchard two months. [6] One day the master came to the orchard and told the slave to bring a bunch of grapes. The slave brought one, but (the grapes) were sour. The master told him to go and bring another bunch. The slave brought one, but (the grapes) were equally sour. 'How is it', the master asked, 'that you cannot get sweet grapes from a garden of this size' ? 'I do not know,' replied the slave, 'for I have eaten no grapes from this garden.' 'Why not?' asked the master. He replied, 'You ordered me to keep watch over the grapes. You did not tell me to eat them.' 'God on High will keep watch over you likewise', said the judge, recognizing that the slave was scrupulous. Then he said to the slave, 'I have a plan for your (future).' He replied, 'I am a (slave), bought for dirhams [7] and an Indian. You are a judge. What plan have you for my future?' 'Listen carefully to what I shall say', the judge told him. 'Give your command', he replied. 'O Mubarak,' continued the judge, 'I have a daughter whom a great many important person wish to wed. I do not know on which of them to bestow her. What do you say?' 'O master,' he replied, 'the unbelievers demand nobility of birth, [8] and the Jews and the Christians [9] look for beauty of countenance. In the time of our Prophet, blessings upon him, (men) looked for religion, and today they demand worldly (wealth). Choose whichever of these four you desire!' 'I have already made my choice, O slave,' replied the judge; 'I have chosen religion, and I bestow my daughter upon you.' 'O master,' he said, 'I am a slave, bought for money. How can you give your daughter to me? She will never want me for a husband.' 'O slave,' replied the judge, 'arise and come home with me.' When they arrived at the house, the judge said to the girl's mother, 'O wife, this slave is exceedingly worthy and pious. It is my desire to give this daughter of mine to him (in marriage). What do you say?' 'Let me go and ask the girl,' she replied. The mother went and told the girl, who said, 'I shall do whatever you desire and command.' So the judge bestowed his daughter on Mubarak, and also gave him much gold and lodged them together. After a time Mubarak had a son, whom they named ‘Abd Allah; he whose name is celebrated and well known throughout the world and inscribed in the books, and whose asceticism and knowledge will be mentioned as long as the universe continues.

(Similarly), when you take a wife, choose religion; for if you seek name or wealth, it will lead to disaster. You will be helpless and become desperate, and your wife will be unwilling to obey you. When you seek a wife, do not seek gratification and sensual enjoyment; seek sincere intention [10] to bear children for you, to restrain you from rebellion (against God), to enhance your obedience (to Him), and to screen you from the fire of hell.

(Anecdote)

Ten guests are reported to have come to' Abd Allah ibn Mubarak's (house) one day when he had nothing to lay before guests. He did, however, have a horse. With its help he had been wont to fight the infidels and perform the pilgrimage in alternate years. He killed the horse and laid it before his guests. 'You had nothing', said his wife, 'except this horse; why have you killed it?', Abd Allah ibn Mubarak immediately went into the house, carried out all the articles and garments which were that wife's property from her dowry, handed them to her and pronounced her to be divorced. 'I do not need that woman,' he declared, 'because she hates guests.'

Not long afterwards, a man arrived and said, 'O Imam [11] of the Muslims, I have a daughter whose mother has died. Every day this girl tears her clothes and laments. She will come presently for a consultation [12] with you. Give her a word of advice which perhaps may soothe her heart.'  ‘Abd Allah ibn Mubarak said something to her accordingly. When the girl returned home, she said, 'O father, I have repented. Henceforward I shall not vex God on High. But I have one request to make of you.' 'What is it?' her father asked. 'You have been saying', she replied, 'that my hand is sought by possessors of worldly wealth. Take heed! To no man shall you give my hand, unless it be to' Abd Allah ibn Mubarak. For if we possess worldly wealth, he possesses both religion and worldly wealth.' [13] He therefore gave his daughter (in marriage) to' Abd Allah ibn Mubarak, to whom he also sent a large quantity of dinars and ten horses. One night' Abd Allah ibn Mubarak dreamt that Somebody was saying to him: 'If you have divorced an old wife for Our sake, We have given you a young wife to help you understand that no person's action is overlooked in Our (assessment) and that no person suffers loss on Our (account).'

Anecdote

‘Abu Sa'id [14] related that in the time of the Children of Israel there was a good man who had a pious, judicious and tactful wife. An inspiration came down to the Prophet of the Age saying, 'Inform that good man that We have predestined him to spend one half of his life in poverty and one half in wealth. Let him choose now whether the poverty shall be during his youth or during his old age.' The young man on hearing this went to his wife and said, 'O wife, this is the command which has come down from God on High. How do you suggest that I choose?' 'What is your  choice?' she asked. 'Come,' he replied, 'let us choose the poverty during our youth, so that when hardship comes we may have strength to endure it. (Moreover), when we grow old we shall need something to eat if we are to be free from cares and capable of properly obeying (God's commands).' Thereupon his wife said, 'O husband, if we are poor during our youth, we shall be unable to obey God's (commands) properly then; and thereafter, when we shall have thrown to the winds the prime of our life and grown weak, how shall we perform the duties involved in obeying (God)? Let us therefore choose the wealth now, so that we may during our youth have strength both to obey God's commands and to practise charity.' 'Your opinion is the right one', said the husband; 'let us act accordingly.' Then (another) inspiration came down to the Prophet of the Age, (and the message for that man and his wife was this): 'Now that you are striving to obey Us and that your intention [15] is good, I who am the Sustainer of all life will cause you to pass (straight) to wealth. Continue striving to obey My commands, and of whatever I give you give part for alms [16] so that both this world and the next may be yours.'

The author of this book declares that he has related this story to help you understand that a good helpmate will do (you) good in this world's and the next world's affairs alike.

Tradition [17]

Ibn Abbas, God be pleased with him, has related that the Prophet went into the house of Umm Salamah, God be pleased with her, and saw that she had performed the morning prayer and was reciting God's epithets. [18] 'O Umm Salamah,' he asked her, 'why do not you join in the congregational prayer and go to the Friday service? Why do not you make the pilgrimage and go to fight for God against the infidels? [19] Why do not you finish memorizing the Qur'an?' 'O Apostle of God,' she replied, 'all these are men's activities.' Then the Prophet, peace be upon him, stated: 'For women too there are activities of equal worth.' 'Which are they, God's Apostle?' she respectfully inquired. He answered: 'Whenever a woman who fulfils God's requirements and is obedient to her husband takes hold of a spinning-wheel and turns it, this is as if she were reciting God's epithets, joining in congregational prayer, and fighting against infidels.'

As long as (a woman) spins at the wheel, sins vanish from her. [20] Spinning at the wheel is women's bridge and stronghold. [21] Three things' sounds reach to the throne of God on High: (i) the sound of bows being drawn by warriors fighting infidels; (ii) the sound of the pens of scholars; (iii) the sound of spinning by virtuous women.

Aphorism

Ahnaf ibn Qays has said: 'If you want women to like you, satisfy them sexually and treat them tenderly.' [22]

Umar (ibn al-Kha!!ab), peace be upon him, has said: 'Do not speak to women of love,' because their hearts will be corrupted. For women are like meat left in a desert; God's (help) is needed to preserve them.'

Aphorism

Mughirah ibn Shu’bah said, 'I have spent my life with women in three ways: during my youth, in having sexual intercourse (with them); during my middle age, in being witty and tender (with  them); and during my oId age, in keeping together adequate wealth (for them).'

As for keeping numerous concubines, [24] this is not commendable, except in so far as justice can be done to them.

Tradition [25]

Salman al-Farsi, God be pleased with him, has related that the Prophet, God bless him, was (once) asked, 'Which women are best?' He answered, 'Those who obey you, whatever be your commands.' Then he was asked, 'Which are the worst?' He answered, 'Those who avoid pleasing their husbands.'

Aphorism

A teacher was teaching girls how to write. [26] A sage passed by and said, 'This teacher is teaching wickedness to the wicked.'

Aphorism [27]

An intelligent woman was asked, 'What are the virtues of women?' (' And what', she rejoined, 'are the faults of men?') 'Niggardliness and cowardice', (they answered). ('These', she said,) 'are among the virtues of women.'

Aphorism

A sage wished (that) his short wife (might have been) tall. People asked him, 'Why did not you marry a wife of full stature?' ‘A woman is an evil thing,' he answered, 'and the less (there is) [28] of an evil thing the better.'

Aphorism

A sage has said, 'Men who marry women get four sorts of wife: (i) the wife who belongs wholly to her husband; (ii) the wife who belongs half to her husband; (iii) the wife who belongs one-third to her husband; (iv) the wife who is her husband's enemy. The wife who belongs wholly to her husband will be a woman who is a virgin. The wife who belongs half to her husband will be [a woman whose former husband has died but has no children]. [29] The wife who belongs one-third to her husband will be a woman whose former husband has died but who has children by the first husband. The wife who is her husband's enemy will be a (divorced) woman whose former husband is still living. Therefore the best wives are virgins.

As for the distinctive characteristics with which God on High has punished women, (the matter is as follows).

When Eve ( disobeyed Almighty God and) ate fruit which He had forbidden to her from the tree in Paradise, [30] the Lord, be He praised, punished women with eighteen things: (i) menstruation; (ii) childbirth; (iii) separation from mother and father and marriage to a stranger; (iv) pregnancy (through him); (v) not having control over her own person; (vi) (having) a lesser share in inheritance; [31] (vii) her liability to be divorced and inability to divorce; [32] (viii) its being lawful for men to have four wives, but for a woman to have (only) one husband; [33] (ix) the fact that she must stay secluded in the house; (x) the fact that she must keep her head covered inside the house; (xi) (the fact that) two women's testimony (has to be) set against the testimony of one man; [34] (xii) the fact that she must not go out of the house unless accompanied by a near relative; (xiii) the fact that men take part in Friday and Feast Day prayers and funerals while women do not; [35] (xiv) disqualification for rulership and judgeship; [36] (xv) the fact that merit has one thousand components, (only) one of which is (attributable) to women, while nine hundred and ninety nine are (attributable) to men; (xvi) the fact that if women are profligate they will be given (only) half as much torment as (the rest of) the (Muslim) community at the Resurrection Day; (xvii) the fact that if their husbands die they must observe a waiting period [37] of four months and ten days (before remarrying) ; (xviii) the fact that if their husbands divorce them they must observe a waiting period of three months or three menstruations (before remarrying).

Excursus describing the types of women [38]

The race of women consists of ten species, and the character of each (of these) corresponds and is related to the distinctive quality of one of the animals. One (species) resembles the pig, another the ape, another the dog, another the snake, another the mule, another the scorpion, another the mouse, another the pigeon, another the fox, and another the sheep. The woman who resembles the pig in character knows full well how to eat, break (crockery), [39] and cram her stomach, and she does not mind where she comes and goes. She does not trouble herself with religion, prayer and fasting, and she never thinks about death, resurrection, reward and punishment, about (God's) promises, threats, commands and prohibitions, or about (His) pleasure and displeasure. She is heedless of her husband's rights [40] and careless about nurturing and disciplining her children and teaching them knowledge of the Qur'an. She always wears filthy clothes, and an unpleasant smell issues from her. The woman who has the character and peculiarities of the ape concerns herself with clothes of many colours-green, red, and yellow, with trinkets and jewels-pearls or rubies, and with gold and silver. She boasts of these to her relatives, but maybe her secret (self) is not the same as her (outward) appearance. The woman who has the character of the dog is one who, whenever her husband speaks, jumps at his face and shouts at him and snarls at him. If her husband's purse is full of silver and gold and the household is blessed with prosperity, she says to him, 'You are the whole world to me. May God on High never let me see evil befall you, and may my own death come before yours!' But if her husband becomes insolvent, she insults and chides him, saying 'You are a poor wretch', [41] and everything is the opposite of what it was before. The woman who has the character of the mule is like a restive mule which will not stay in one place. [42] She is stubborn and goes her own way, and is conceited. The woman who has the peculiarities of the scorpion is always visiting the houses of the neighbours, gossiping and collecting gossip; she does her utmost to cause enmity and hatred among them and to stir up strife. Like the scorpion she stings wherever she goes. She is not afraid to be one of those concerning whom the Prophet, blessings upon him, stated: 'No instigator of strife will enter Paradise', meaning (in Persian) 'No tale-teller will go to heaven'. The woman who has the character of the mouse is a thief who steals from her husband's purse (and hides what she has stolen) in the houses of the neighbours. She steals barley, wheat, rice and miscellaneous supplies and gives away yarn for spinning. The woman who has the peculiarities of the pigeon flits about all day long and is never still. She says to her husband, 'Where are you going and whence have you come?' [43] and she does not speak affectionately. The woman who has the peculiarities of the fox lets her husband out of the house and eats everything there is (in it), then does not stir and pretends to be sick, and when her husband comes in, starts a quarrel and says, 'You left me (alone in the house) sick.' The woman who has the peculiarities of the sheep is blessed like the sheep, in which everything is useful. The good woman is the same. She is useful to her husband and to (his) family and the neighbours, compassionate with her own kinsfolk, affectionate towards the (members of the) household and towards her children, and obedient to Almighty God. The pious, veiled [44] woman is a blessing from God on High, and few men (are able to find) a pious, veiled woman (for a wife); as the following story shows.

Anecdote

It is related that an immoral man wished to presume upon a virtuous woman in an unlawful manner. 'O woman,' he said, 'go and lock all the doors securely.' She went, and then returned and said, 'I have locked all the doors except one.' 'Which door is that ?' he asked. 'The door between us and the Lord,' [45] she answered; 'I knew no way of (locking) that (door).' The man was awed by these words, and he repented and returned to God.

Anecdote

A certain descendant of' Ali lived at Samarqand. One day when he was standing at the door of his house a woman passed by. The lane being empty, he seized the woman's arm and dragged her inside the house. Then he attempted to have intercourse with her. 'O Sayyid,' [46] she said, 'first answer me one question. Then do what you please.' 'Say (what it is)', replied the descendant of' Ali. '(If) you possess me unlawfully and then I become pregnant by you and then a child comes, what do you think this child will be? A descendant of' Ali or a (bastard) ?' [47] 'A descendant of' Ali', he said. 'Whether or not you yourself are one of' Ali's descendants,' she said, 'the deed which you intended is something which genuine descendants of' Ali would not do.' (These words) abashed the descendant of' Ali. He let go of the woman's arm, and he vowed to God on High that he would never treat women, whether near relatives or strangers, [48] in that way again.

A man ought to be eager (to uphold his respectability), for religious merit is (associated) with such eagerness and with extreme jealousy. (A man's eagerness) should reach the point where he will insist that the noise of pounding with the pestle by his womenfolk shall not be heard by strange men. If a man comes to the door of the house, it is improper for the women to answer him smoothly and gently, because the hearts of men are captivated by many things; if a woman does have to answer him, she ought to put her finger to her mouth so that he will take her (voice) for (the voice of) an old woman. It is improper for women to look upon any man who is not a near relative, even though that man be blind.  

(Tradition)

In the Traditions [49] (this saying) of God's Apostle has been (reported). Among his Companions was a man named Abd Allah ibn Maktiim, who was blind, and one day (this man) was sitting among the women in God's Apostle's House. The Prophet, God bless him, came in and said, 'O A'ishah, it is not permissible for women to sit with men who are not close relatives.' 'But he is blind', said A'ishah. 'Even if he cannot see you,' replied (the Prophet), 'you can see him.'

(Anecdote)

Hasan al-Basri is reported to have arrived at the house of [50] Rabitah (al-'Adawiyah) with some (of his friends). 'It has been a (long) way', they cried out; ('permit us to come in'). 'Wait one hour', she replied. Then she ordered a rug to be put up as a curtain, and they came in and greeted her; and she answered them from behind the curtain. 'Why have you put up the curtain?' they asked. 'I was ordered to do so', she replied; 'for the blessed God on High has said (Q. xxxiii. 53), "Ask them from behind a curtain." ' [51]

It is a man's duty never in any circumstance to look upon a strange woman; for besides the penalty in the next world there is a penalty in this world, as the following story shows.

(Anecdote)

It is related that there once lived at Bukhara a water-carrier, who for thirty years had been carrying water to the house of a certain goldsmith. Now the goldsmith had an exceedingly beautiful and virtuous wife. [52] One day when the water-carrier had brought the water, he saw her standing in the courtyard. Suddenly he walked up, took her hand, and squeezed it. Then he departed. When the goldsmith returned home, his wife said to him, 'Tell me truly. Did you do something (in the bazaar) today which has displeased God on High? What was it?' He replied, 'I did nothing, except that at lunch-time I made a bracelet for a certain woman, and she put it on her arm. The woman was intensely beautiful, and I took her hand and squeezed it.' [53] 'God is most great!' exclaimed his wife; 'that is what you did, and this is the reason why the water-carrier who has been coming to this house for thirty years and has never played false with us today at lunch-time squeezed my hand (too).' 'I have repented', her husband said. On the following day the water-carrier came. He grovelled on the ground before her and said, 'Absolve me. It was the devil who led me astray yesterday.' 'It was not your fault,' she replied, 'because my husband the master of the house (who was at the shop) had committed the same offence; (God repaid him in kind, [54] here in this lower world).'

A wife must be contented with her husband, whether he be capable of much or of little. She must follow the examples of the blessed Fatimah and of 'A'ishah, in order that she may become one of the Ladies of Paradise; [55] as the following story shows.

Anecdote

It is related that Fatmah, God .be pleased with her, (had been doing a lot of grinding on the hand-mill). She showed her hands to' Ali, God ennoble his face, and they were blistered. 'Tell your father,' said' Ali, 'and perhaps he will buy a maidservant for you.' Fatimah laid the matter before the Apostle, peace be upon him, and said, 'O Apostle of God, buy me a maidservant. I am becoming desperate with all the work (I have to do).' The Prophet, God bless him, answered, 'I will teach you something which is dearer than servants and higher than the seven heavens and earths.' 'What is it, God's Apostle?' she asked. He answered, 'When you are about to go to sleep, say three times: "Praise be to God", "Thanks be to God", "There is no God but God" and "God is Most Great". This will be better for you than any maidservant.'

In the Traditions [56] it is reported that the Prophet, blessings be upon him, owned a rug [57] and that when the members of his household pulled it over their heads, their legs were left bare. On the night when Fatimah went to' Ali as a bride, (' Ali) had a sheep skin on which they slept. Fatimah owned (none of the goods) of this world (except) a rug and a palm-fibre pillow. It will therefore assuredly be proclaimed on the Resurrection Day, 'Lower your eyes that the Lady of Paradise [58] may pass!'

A wife will become dear to her husband and gain his affection, firstly by honouring him; secondly by obeying him when they are alone together; and (further) by bearing in mind his advantage and disadvantage, adorning herself (for him), keeping herself concealed from (other) men and secluding herself in the house; by coming to him tidy and pleasantly perfumed, having meals ready (for him) at the (proper) times and cheerfully preparing whatever he desires, by not making impossible demands, not nagging, keeping her nakedness covered at bed-time, and keeping her husbands' secrets during his absence and in his presence.

The author of this book declares that it is the duty of gentlemen [59] to respect the rights of their wives and veiled ones [60] and to show mercy, kindness and forbearance to them. A man who wishes to become merciful and affectionate towards his wife must [remember] ten things (which will help him) to act fairly: (i) she cannot divorce you, while you can (divorce her whenever you wish); (ii) she can take nothing from you, [61] while you can take everything from her; (iii) as long as she is in your net [62] she can have no other husband, while you can have another wife; (iv) (without your permission she cannot go out of the house, while you can;) [63] (vi) she is afraid of you, while you are not afraid of her; (vii) she is content with a cheerful look and a kind word from you, while you are not content with any action of hers; [64] (viii) she is taken away from her mother, father and kinsfolk (for your sake), while you are not separated from any person unless you so wish; (ix) you may buy concubines and prefer them to her, while she has to endure this; [65] (x) she kills herself (with worry) [66] when you are sick, while you do not worry when she dies.

For (all) these reasons, intelligent men will be merciful towards their wives and will not treat them unjustly; because women are prisoners in the hands of men. The intelligent man will (also ) have forbearance for women; because they are deficient in intelligence. Referring to their scant intelligence, the Prophet, peace be upon him, stated: 'They are deficient in (their) intellects and (their) religion.' [67] Moreover, no man ought to act upon (women's) plans; [68] if he does, he will lose, as the following story shows.

Anecdote

King Parviz was extremely fond of fish. One day when he was sitting on the terrace with Shirin, a fisherman brought a large fish and laid it before them. Parviz ordered that he be given four thousand dirhams. Shirin said, 'You were not right to give this fisherman four thousand dirhams.' 'Why (not)?' he asked. Shirin answered, 'Because henceforward whenever you give four thousand dirhams to one of your servants and retainers, he will say "(The king) gave me the same as he gave to a fisherman"; and whenever you give less, he will say, "(The king) gave me less than he gave to a fisherman".' 'You are right,' said Parviz; 'but it is over now, and kings cannot decently go back on their word.' '(I have) a plan for dealing with the matter,' said Shirin; 'call back the fisherman, and ask him whether the fish is male or female. If he says that it is male, tell him that you wanted a female one; and if he says that it is female, tell him that you wanted a male one.' So Parviz called back the fisherman. He was a clever and very knowing man, and when Parviz asked him 'Is this fish male or female?' he kissed the ground and said: 'This fish is neither male nor female. It is hermaphrodite.' [69] Parviz laughed and ordered that he be given a further four thousand dirhams. The man then went to the treasurer, drew eight thousand dirhams, and put them into a knapsack which he slung over his shoulder. When he came out into the courtyard, one dirham dropped from the knapsack. He put down the knapsack and picked the dirham up; and Parviz and Shirin saw him do this. Shirin turned to Parviz and said, 'What a poor mean fellow this fisherman is! One dirham out of the eight thousand dropped and he objected to parting with it.' Parviz was annoyed and replied, 'What you say is true.' Then he ordered that the fisherman be called back, and said to him, 'What a poor fellow you must be! When one dirham out of the eight thousand dropped from your knapsack, you put down the knapsack from your shoulder and picked the dirham up.' The fisherman kissed the ground and said, 'May the king's life be long! I picked up that one dirham because of its importance. It has the king's face stamped on one side and the king's name inscribed on the other. I feared that some person might unknowingly trample upon it and dishonour the king's name and face, and that I should be (responsible for) the offence.' Parviz was pleased (with this answer) and ordered that he be given a further four thousand dirhams. So the fisherman returned (home) with twelve thousand dirhams. Then Parviz said, ‘A man who acts upon a woman's suggestion will lose two dirhams for every one.'

The author of this book declares that the prosperity [70] and peopling of the world depend on women. True prosperity, however, will not be achieved without (sound) planning. [71] It is men's duty, especially after coming of age, to take precautions in matters of choosing wives and giving daughters in marriage, and so avoid falling into disgrace and embarrassment. It is a fact that all the trials, misfortunes and woes which befall men come from women, [72] and that few men get in the end what they long and hope for from them; as the poet has said,  

When slaves rebel against the Merciful,
when men in fear and dread of Sultans stand,
it's due to women.

When robbers put their lives into the balance,
when men incur disgrace, invariably
it's due to women.

The disobedience and sad fate of Adam,
Joseph's incarceration in the dungeon,
were due to women.

Harut's long stay in Babylon, where he writhes
suspended by a hair, making loud groans,
was due to women.

Majnun's flight to the nomads, sick with love,
the tale of Sindibad which makes you smile,
were due to women.

Ruin in the two worlds, and last of all
unfaithfulness, you'll learn, are what men get
from women.
[73]


Notes:

  1. Kahin; Ar. (I), mahr. Shorter E.I., art. Mahr.
     

  2. Not in Ar. (I).
     

  3. Asl.
     

  4. This and the following anecdotes about 'Abd Allah ibn Mubarak and Abu Sa'id, except for the last sentence of the third anecdote, are missing in Ar. (I).
     

  5. 'Office of mayor', ri'asat; 'leading officials', ra'isan. These terms were used of civilian officials, including 'burgomasters' of villages and quarters of cities. Spuler, Iran in fruh-islamischer Zeit, p. 340; Barthold, Turkestan down to the Mongol invasion, p. 234. The name 'Noah son of Mary' is curious.
     

  6. He would have stayed in the garden-house, which is still a pleasing feature of Persian life (like the summer cabin in America).
     

  7. diram-kharidah. The term for 'slave' in this story is ghulam; cf. p. 132 and p. 22, note 3. The highest priced ghulams were Turkish.
     

  8. Asl.
     

  9. Jahudan u Tarsayan. In Iran, Christians were sometimes called Tarsa, i.e. '(God-)fearing'; Jews were and are often called Kalimi, i.e. 'followers of Moses, who was God's spokesman (kalim).
     

  10. Niyat: see p. 4, note 6.
     

  11. i.e. leader in prayer.
     

  12. Majlis; or 'seance'.
     

  13. Din. ..wa dunya. This seems inconsistent with. Abd Allah ibn Mubarak's poverty when he had nothing to offer his guests except the flesh of his horse. (Eating horse-flesh was disapproved, but not prohibited, by Muslim theologians.)
     

  14. See Index. Anecdote missing in Ar. (I).
     

  15. Niyat; see p. 4, note 6.
     

  16. Sadaqah. See art. in Shorter E.I. This sentence, and the ensuing comment by the author, are also found in Ar. (I), from which the rest of this story and the three previous stories are missing.
     

  17. Khabar. See Introduction, p. Ivii. The pages from here up to the end of the paragraph which compares characters of women and animals are missing in Ar. (H) but are present in Ar. (I).
     

  18. Tasbih. By counting with the rosary; Shorter E.I., art. Subha.
     

  19. Ghaza; Shorter E.I., art. Djihad.
     

  20. A play on the words risad ('spins') and rizad ('pour away', 'vanish').
     

  21. Ribat ('stronghold'): originally a place where relays of horses were kept and later a fortified monastery for darvishes engaged in Holy War.
     

  22. Ibn Qutaybah, 'Uyun al-Akhbar, iv, p. 96, attributes a similar saying to al-Ahnaf.
     

  23. 'Ishg.
     

  24. Kanizak; Ar. (I), al-jawari. Shorter E.I., arts. ' Abd and Umm Walad.
     

  25. Khabar. See Introduction, p. lvii.
     

  26. Dabiri; Ar. (I), al-khatt. Education and literacy were thought to make wives more disobedient to husbands. Cf. in Ibn Qutaybah's 'Uyun al-Akhbar, iv, p. 78, a hadith of 'Umar: 'Do not let your women live in upper rooms (al-ghuraf) and do not teach them writing (al-kitab).'
     

  27. Ar. (I) has before this an aphorism missing in P. (H): It is related that two women were in consultation when a sage passed by them. He said, 'Look at a snake (? eating) poison from a snake.'
     

  28. Ar. (I), 'the "shorter" (kulla ma qasura) an evil thing is.' Evidently an Arabic, not a Persian, joke.
     

  29. Ar. (I): al-Raji', 'the woman who has returned' (i.e. to her own family).
     

  30. Cf. Q. ii. 33-34 and vii. 18-24.
     

  31. Shorter E.I., art. Mirath.
     

  32. Ibid., art. Talak.
     

  33. Ibid., art. Nikah.
     

  34. Ibid., art. Shahid.
     

  35. Participation by women in the Salat is permitted but not recommended.
     

  36. Ar. (I) adds 'ilm, 'knowledge', probably here meaning 'profession of 'alim', i.e. 'doctor of religion'.
     

  37. 'Iddat. Shorter E.I., art. 'Idda.
     

  38. This heading is absent in Ar. (I), and in Ar. (H) the whole passage is missing. See Introduction, p. xxvi.
     

  39. Thus in Ar. (I).
     

  40. Ar. (I), 'heedless of God's pleasure and wrath'.
     

  41. Ar. (I) adds: 'casts aspersions on his reputation and genealogy and expels him from the house. ..'.
     

  42. Ar. (I), 'which if it stops on a bridge will not budge however much it is whipped'.
     

  43. Ar. (I) : 'Where are you going ? Without doubt you do not want me and love someone else. You are not being straight with me and affectionate towards me.'
     

  44. Masturah. Ar. (I) : 'The religiosity of woman is her veil (sitruha) and (it-or she--is) one of God's blessings to His slaves:
     

  45. Ar. (I): 'I have locked the doors which lie between us and (other) creatures (khalq), but there remains the door which lies between you and the Creator (Khaliq).'
     

  46. The title, still used today, of descendants of 'Ali through his son Husayn. His descendants through Hasan are called Sharif.
     

  47. P. (H), .Alawi buwad ya sibt-i. According to Lane's Arabic Lexicon, sibt means a grandson or descendant, usually by a daughter and through the female line, in contrast with hafid, a grandson or descendant through a son and the male line. Ar. (I): kh-s-an (? khasisan) 'ammiyan, 'vulgar (? wretch)'.
     

  48. Mahram; na-mahram; cf. Q. xxxiii. 55.
     

  49. Khabar; see Introduction, p. lvii.
     

  50. Ar. (I), 'set out to visit Rabi'ah al-' Adawiyah ...with a group of his friends'. On chronological grounds, Hasan cannot have visited Rabi'ah. See Index.
     
  51. This verse and Q. xxxiii. 55 refer in the context only to the Prophet's wives, but were held in medieval Islam (and are still held by some Muslims) to be applicable to all Muslim women. The word for 'curtain' (hijab) came to mean 'seclusion of women'.
     
  52. Ar. (I) adds: 'well-known for her dignity (al-razanah) and characterized by veiling' (al-sitr).
     
  53. Ar. (H) here inserts a poem (mathnawi): 'On her arm is a bracelet of pure gold and I see it shining like fire over pure water. Will secret thoughts come to my mind of water with a girdle of fire?'
     

  54. Thus in Ar. (I); sentence missing in P. (H). Shorter E.I., article Kisas (retaliation in kind).
     

  55. Banu-yi bihisht; Ar. (I), khawatin al-khuld ('ladies of eternity').
     

  56. Khabar; see Introduction, p. Ivii.
     

  57. Gilim, Ar. (I): 'They had no household goods except a rug' (kasa). In the Shi'ite passion plays, Muhammad, Fatimah, 'Ali, Hasan and Husayn are called Al-i kasa or Al-i 'aba.
     

  58. Khatun-i bihisht: Ar. (I), Sayyidat al-nisa' Fatimah.
     

  59. Mardan; Ar. (I), al-rijal al-ahrar.
     

  60. Sar-pushidagan. Ar. (I), al-nisa' al-'awrat.
     

  61. Ar. (I) adds, 'without your permission'. In Islamic law, the wife's dowry (mahr, P. kabin) cannot be taken from her.
     

  62. Hibalah; likewise in Ar. (I).
     

  63. The fifth item is lacking in P. (H). Ar. (I), 'She cannot fight Holy War while you can'; but this seems out of context.
     

  64. Thus also in Ar. (I). An oddly sweeping generalization!
     

  65. Ar. (I) here inserts another item (making total eleven) : 'She is always serving you, while you do not serve her.'
     

  66. P.(H) : 'She kills herself during your sickness.' Ar. (I) : 'She thinks about herself and worries when you are ill.'
     

  67. Hunna niiqifiitu'l-'uquli wa'l-din. Ar. (I) omits this saying.
     

  68. Tadbir.
     

  69. Khuntha, Ar. (I): Hadhihi'l-samakatu khuntha, la dhakarun wa la untha. The Arabic rhyme being the main point, perhaps the story was originally Arab. not Persian.
     

  70. Abadani; Ar. (I), 'imarat. Cf. p. 37, note 3.
     

  71. Tadbir. Cf. p. 171, note 2. After this Ar. (I) adds: There is a saying, 'Consult them and do the opposite' (attributed by the Siyasatnamah, chap. xiii, to Muhammad).
     

  72. Likewise in Ar. (I).
     

  73. The Persian verses consist of six bayts in the mudari' metre, with numerous metrical errors. Prof. Huma'i draws attention to the unsoundness of these verses, and points out in his introduction that some of the poetry appearing in the book may be translated from Arabic. The Arabic version of these verses, which he quotes, is not very different; the following is an attempt to translate it:

    Because of the fascination of women, the young man may perhaps rebel against the Merciful or become afraid of the Sultan. -Were it not for them (women), the thief would not (sic) fear selling his life at the cheapest of prices. - Because of them, Adam together with Joseph was reprimanded in the incontrovertible revelation for rebellion (against God). -Likewise in Babylon, Harut head downmost and suspended by the hair on a jidh'an (? palm-trunk on which criminals were hanged). -Majnun (of the tribe of) ‘Amir (lived) careworn because of women; in the Sindibad (story) there are amazing tales of women. -All misfortunes come from them, and fidelity does not come from them; (so it was and will be) for all time.

 


Home
Index of My Writings
Have you visited my other sites?
Kazi Nazrul Islam Page?
Genocide 1971 Page?
Hadith Humor Page?
Economics-Finance Page?