The Clever Woman and the Sheikh Who Makes Mistakes
Narrated by Abdul Hakim Abdulahi Jibril
Once there was a sheikh who was drawing water up from the well for the village people. One of the village women he loved, but she was married.
When she sent her son to the well, he said, “No, you can’t take the water. You’re too small. Send your mother to fetch the water.”
So at last, she came. Then he started to flatter her cleverness and beauty. At last she fell in love with him, but she didn’t tell anyone how she felt, and grew silent and thoughtful. She just walked back to her house.
She decided to discuss it with her husband.
She said, “I think this man likes me, and he wants me to agree to meet him secretly. I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to tell you so that we can get out of this problem without a fight or a scandal, since I am a married lady. We must discourage him, but how?”
So they talked for a long time, and they decided she must go outside and tell him the husband has gone away and she can be with him all evening and all night. Then, as soon as the sheikh has come, her husband must come home and will knock at the door, which she will have locked. At once the wife will dress the sheikh in women’s clothes to pretend he is a woman.
So the woman went to the well to get water. As soon as he saw her the sheikh begged her to meet him alone.
She’d never answered him before, but this time she said, “A great person has many eyes, which means he can understand everything. So I have understood what you want. I was silent up to now because my husband was present, but now he’s gone away. Now’s our chance. Come to me, and we can talk and do whatever we like.”
The sheikh was very happy and excited.
“When can I come?” he said.
“Come as soon as you’ve said your evening prayers,” she said.
He agreed at once, but then he grew thoughtful.
“What can I say to my wife?” he thought. “I never go out in the evening. I must give her a good reason or she will suspect something.”
At last he decided to tell his wife he would be out till ten o’clock that evening.
“Why?” said his wife. “This is extraordinary. You never go out at night.”
But he said, “There’s a verse in the Koran which is very hard to translate, and since I’m a sheikh, people have called me to a meeting to explain it to them.”
“Oh, that’s good,” she said. “If it’s about religion, of course you must go.”
So off he went to the woman’s house. As soon as he entered, she put down the beautiful mat and gave him tea. Before he had finished his tea, she locked the door.
As she had agreed with her husband, as soon as she locked the door, he knocked and shouted, “Wife! Wife! I couldn’t get a bus, so I’ve come back.”
As soon as the sheikh heard that the husband had been unable to leave, he was shocked.
The wife whispered, “We’re in trouble. My husband has come back.”
“What shall we do?” he said.
“I know,” she said. “Put on my dress and I’ll hide you. So if he asks who’s talking, I’ll say it’s a housemaid I have."
So she gave him the dress and he put it on and she opened the door. And she wrapped her scarf round her face and pretended to be very shy.
The husband came in and said, “Wife, I have brought you some maize, a sack of it.”
“Oh, how lovely!” said the wife.
“You’re lucky,” the husband said, “that the housemaid is here because the maize has not been pounded, and there is so much of it. Bring the mortar and pestle and let her start pounding.”
So the sheikh started to pound. The man sat close beside him and the sheikh had to keep his back turned and go on pounding. He had to go on and on, and pound the maize.
“Why won’t this husband go away?” he said. “I’m so tired of pounding all this maize.”
He went on and on until all the maize was pounded and, as soon as he had finished, the wife said, “Well done, you’ve done well. You can go.”
So the sheikh rushed home, but he was still in a woman’s dress. His wife was shocked.
“Oh! You are wearing a woman’s dress. You know the Koran says that for a man to wear a woman’s dress is a great sin.”
“Oh, I couldn’t help it,” the sheikh said. “We were discussing the verse in the Koran which calls Satan the evil one, and he came himself. At once he began to beat everyone, and luckily there was a woman’s dress near me and I put it on, and even Satan would be ashamed to beat a woman, so he let me run away.”
“Oh,” the wife said, “then you did very well to escape, even if you had to wear a woman’s dress.”
The next day, at the well, the woman came to the sheikh again and said, “My husband is going away tonight. I’m sure he will have gone, so come to my house.”
“Oh no,” said the sheikh. “I don’t want to pound maize all evening. If I want to do that, I have plenty of maize at home.”
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