Abu Nawas and the Khadi
Narrated by Yusuf Omar Osman
In the times of the Amirs in Harar there was a wise man called Abu Nawas. One night he dreamed he was giving a divorce to his beautiful wife. When he woke up he was shocked that he saw this dream. Because he loved his wife very much, he decided not to tell her about the dream. Instead, he went to the Qadi [Islamic judge] for his advice.
He said, “I dreamed I was giving my beloved wife a divorce. I want to know if my wife will bring me good luck or bad luck and what shall I do about it? We have no quarrels between us.”
But the Qadi had in mind to have the wife for himself since she was very beautiful.
So the Qadi said, “My son, this dream is very true. So you have to give her a divorce and give her compensation.”
But Abu Nawas was not satisfied by the Qadi’s answer and doubted his motives and suspected him and left his house. Meanwhile the Qadi thought of some means to get rid of Abu Nawas and went to the Amir.
After the greetings he said, “I have come to deliver a message from my dreams to you. I dreamed about your dead parents and I told them about your health and your way of life.” Then the Amir was very happy and sad to hear about his dead parents.
The Qadi said, “I have a message from your father. He asks me to tell you to send him a thick cloak (gabi) through a very trustworthy person. I need it right away.”
The Amir started to search in his mind for the right person but he couldn’t find one, so the Qadi said, “My Lord, I know a trustworthy person, also a fast person. There is no other person than Abu Nawas. He is the only one that could deliver the cloak to your father.”
The Amir agreed with the proposition.
So then Abu Nawas was called and brought to the Amir. The humble Abu Nawas without knowing that a plot was being hatched against him, came to the palace.
When he was brought to the Amir, the Amir said, “Abu Nawas. Listen very carefully. The reason I brought you here is because the Qadi told me that in his dream he saw my father telling him to tell me that he is in dire need of a cloak and to send him one as soon as possible through a trustworthy person. So you are chosen to do this job because you are the only trustworthy person that I know of. So I want you to tell me when you want to be buried so that I can prepare the cloak.”
Abu Nawas knew at once that this was a plot directed against him by the Qadi. Immediately he thought of a way out of the plot and agreed with the plan. But he asked one favour from the Amir.
He said, “ I want to be buried beside my father’s grave.”
The reason for this was he wanted to say goodbye to his relatives and friends.
“If you promise this for me I will promise to obey your orders.”
The Amir agreed.
Then Abu Nawas went back to his room and started to put his plan into practice. He dug his grave himself and put a mark on it. Then he started to dig a tunnel so he could escape after he is buried. This he did in a few weeks.
At the end of the fourth week the Qadi, who was eager to see Abu Nawas buried alive, arrived at the palace before anyone else was there. The Amir with his advisors and counsellors entered the throne room. Immediately after that, Abu Nawas entered and sat down.
Silence fell and the Qadi was sitting quietly but he was eager to listen to what Abu Nawas would say without showing it.
Then Abu Nawas stood up and addressed the Amir. He said he had come to fulfil the Amir’s wishes and he was ready to do that without showing any kind of fear.
Then the Amir gave him the cloak and asked him if he has anything to say – his last words. Abu Nawas pointed to where the mark of his grave was and said goodbye to the observers. So they dressed him in a shroud and together with the cloak he was buried in the grave he dug himself.
After he was buried, Abu Nawas went out through the tunnel and went to another village and started to live there as another person, changing his face, personality and everything.
After a few weeks he went to the city where the Amir was residing. When he went to the Amir’s house, the Amir saw him and stood up, surprised, and invited him to come in and sit down. After the greetings he told him about his mission.
He said, “I have found both your parents and I told them that I was sent by their son, the Amir, to give them this cloak. And I gave it to your father. Your father was very happy and sends his blessing. Your mother looks very old, but your father still looks young. I have been with them for one week, and when I was going to leave them, your father asked me to deliver a message to you. The message is, 'Your mother is becoming very old. I want to get married with another woman. So my son, I want you to send me a qadi who will bless our marriage immediately.'”
The Amir was very happy about the condition of his father and sent for the Qadi to come quickly. Then the Qadi, when he heard that he was wanted by the Amir, went immediately to the palace.
The Amir said to him, “My father has sent me a message through Abu Nawas that he wants to get married again. So I want you to go there immediately and do the marriage according to Sharia law.”
When the Qadi heard this he was shocked and sat stunned. The Qadi had no means of getting out of this situation, and just blinked his eyes, confused. He did not know what to say.
After a while the Amir said, “Give me an answer. I want an answer.”
The Qadi came back to life and said, “I want to go home and say goodbye to my family this night and I will come back early in the morning.
So he rushed home and spent the night fidgeting and he could not think how to extricate himself. So he gave up. Then he thought, “If I refuse to fulfil the Amir’s wishes I will be dead anyway, by execution in public, so it’s better if I go willingly and give myself up to the Amir.”
So he went to the Amir’s house. When he arrived there, he looked at the Amir with desperation, and sunken eyes and a drawn face and told the Amir he was ready to obey his wishes. So then he was dressed in a shroud and buried alive just as he wanted to be done to Abu Nawas.
The theme is: the grave that he dug for his brother, he was put in himself. And Abu Nawas and his wife lived happily ever after.