Friday, May 31, 2019

The Tale of Mahad


It was recounted that there was an abundantly wealthy man from Salalah whose ample trade was very successful in the city and outside and in the sea. He was also one of the first in rank among merchants. He possessed many ships that carried passengers and cargoes among Oman and East Africa and India, far East Asia and Persia and Arab countries. He had three sons who attained manhood, and he desired to see them married. He sought their opinions of this matter, and two of his sons agreed to get married, but the third and youngest one, whose name was Mahad, said to his father, “I want to marry a girl whose father and you are of equal wealth and fortune.”
“Why? And from where? There are no rich men in this country, and the best girls for you are those of your country,” said the father.
“I’ll travel and look for one,” said the son.
“But you’re still young, and travelling is arduous and very wearing,” the father said.
“I’m not as young as you still think of me, and I’m able to travel,” said the son
“It seems that you are resolute. However, get married to any girl from anywhere in Oman, but you will not marry a non-Omani one,” said the father.
“God please. I promise you, Dad” the son said after thinking his father’s words over.
Mahad made up his mind to head northward in search of a wife whose father’s wealth matched that of his father. He set out on his journey northward crossing the deserts until he arrived in Adam. There he came across an old woman dwelling in the desert outskirts.
“O wise old woman, what’s the name of this country?” he asked the old woman.
“Who are you, and where are you from? Why have you come here?” she asked him.
“I’m Mahad. I’m from Salalah, Dhufar. I’ve come here to look for a wife whose father’s wealth matches my own father’s. Her father must be first in rank among rich people in Oman. Are there wealthy men in Adam? Are there Sheikhs? Who is Adam’s Sheikh? What’s about his wealth and fortune? Does he have mature daughters? Is he an illustrious tradesman, and what sort of trade is his?” answered he.
“Who knows who’s the richest man in Oman? As for Adam’s Sheikh, he is a well-heeled man, and his daughters are far more beautiful than the moon herself. And truth to tell, if the moon catches sight of them, she’ll be ashamed of herself. There’s no point of comparison between them. But tell me, why do you want to marry one of the Sheikh’s daughters, since there are more beautiful and better girls than they?” asked she.
I promised my father to marry only a girl whose father's fortunes and my fathers are alike,” replied he.
“I’ll ask them for you,” said she.
The old woman went to the Sheikh’s palace and entered his harem. She chose the eldest daughter for him, for the Omanis used to marry their daughters according to their ages: from the eldest down to the youngest. The old woman told the Sheikh’s eldest daughter of the young stranger’s quest. The latter requested that he should bring her a statement of his father's whole property in Salalah, and if it were tantamount to her father’s, she would consent to marry him.
Mahad walked around in Adam, and from time to time he stole a look at the Sheikh's daughters. They were indeed very captivatingly beautiful, and their charming fine-looking and apparel were peerless, too. Mahad was spending the day long wandering about, and in the evening, he went to the old woman’s place of abode. The old woman had two daughters; one was blind and the other was paralysed in the legs. For Mahad the blind one was the most beautiful of all girls in Adam, but she was very poor. Although treatment was possible in Nizwa, her nomadic mother did not have enough money to buy a ticket to Nizwa and to pay for medicine.
Mahad continued to go around in the town and the suburbs, until the old woman informed him of the Sheikh’s daughter’s reply and desire. He made a decision to go back to Salalah to let his father know, but he was sandwiched between his mind and his heart. While his mind was occupied by the Sheikh’s daughter’s love, his heart was entirely consumed by the fire of the blind girl’s love. His mind and heart were in severe conflict. The blind girl was more beautiful, kinder, simpler, more truehearted and daring than the Sheikh’s daughter. Mahad took leave of the old woman and rode his mare back to Salalah. But before he left, he gave her a sum of money as a gesture of gratitude for accommodating him. Mahad did not conceal his feelings that the good old lady would derive a benefit from this sum of money in treating her two daughters.
When Mahad arrived in Salalah, he asked his father for a statement of his whole property to help him marry Adam’s Sheikh’s daughter. Though his father did not advocate his son’s idea, he admired his love of adventure and his firm adherence to his opinions, and, therefore, he responded favourably to his request.
Mahad had spent his short stay with his parents reflecting deeply on the beauty of the old woman’s daughter, for he was not only looking for money, but for beauty, as well.
When Mahad got to Adam, he found that the old lady had treated her daughters, and both were healed. The blind daughter regained her sight which lent more beauty to her. Mahad was highly impressed and enthralled, and lost his head with her love.
He handed the report of his father’s possessions to the old lady, wishing that his father would be more moneyed than Adam’s Sheikh, and that the Sheikh’s daughter would turn his proposal down for this reason. The old lady right away took the report and went to the Sheikh’s daughter. She passed the report to her and left. Before long, the reply came, and it was that the Sheikh’s daughter refused his proposal of marriage on the grounds that his father’s money was much less than her father’s. Mahad was taken aback by her rejection, for he had not expected that his father, who was the wealthiest of all Salalah’s people, did not possess the money that was equivalent to her father’s. Although he did not desire to marry her, he was afraid of failure and of returning to his father without a wife whose father’s property was equal to his own.
The old lady perceived that Mahad was suffering from pain and confusion. Therefore, she discussed this matter with him. She said, “Mahad, what’s the problem with you? Matrimony is predestined, and man will be wedlocked in accordance with his lot, so you can do nothing about it, my son. Man’s fated. You won’t marry any but the girl who’s preordained by God for you. Hence, what’s predetermined for is yours and nothing else.”
“Thanks to God. I’ve not a great desire for the Sheikh’s daughter, but I don’t want to go back to my father without a wife whose father’s fortune doesn’t amount to my father’s,” said Mahad.
“You’re not better than your brothers. If you accept my counsel, go back to your father, and tell him that you’ve tried hard, but you were ill-fated, and success is granted by God,” said the old woman.
Mahad thought this over deeply, and perceived that he could not go back home without a catch, and, at the same time, leave his heart with Budur, the old lady’s daughter. After lengthy rumination, he finally decided to accept fate, marry Budur, and take her to Salalah. He got married to her and bought a mare for her. Then they said farewell to the old lady and rode their mares back to Salalah.
On their way to Salalah, they dismounted to have their dinner, and take a rest in a valley. While they were having their dinner, a band of highway robbers rounded them up and stripped them of all their possessions, even their horses. Mahad and his wife spent the night there, and in the morning, they wandered about aimlessly in the valley for two days. It preferable to meander in the valley than to roam in the desert for roving in the desert meant death. The region between Adam and Salalah was a dry desert at that time. However, while they were thirsty and famished and sitting under a big tree, a caravan of camels heading for Al-Jazir region came across them. When the caravan’s men saw them in this deplorable situation, they felt compassion and sorrow for them, and rescued them. Al-Jazir was not bad for them because Mahad’s wife’s maternal uncles were living in Al-Jazir, and they might find a means for them to get back to Salalah. Al-Jazir was a desert overlooking the sea, and its people were skilled fishermen. Their key line of work was fishing and drying out fish. As soon as the caravan reached Al-Jazir, Mahad and his wife set out to find his wife’s uncles, who were tough nomads and well versed in the desert as well as the sea. They were good shepherds, too.
Mahad and his wife stayed with them. Although Mahad hated to be a long-time guest, he deemed it proper that it would be better for him to work as a fisherman in order to be able to go back to Salalah rather than to be a sponger. He was bankrupt and unprepared to go back to Salalah without money. He had wished lie could have returned with a wife whose father was very rich.
Mahad worked as a fisherman, and his wife, Budur, strongly insisted on working as a fisherman, too, even though fishing was limited to men only. In Al-Jazir some women worked as fishermen, but that was very rare. Mahad and his wife carried on fishing together. One day, invoking the Almighty God, he cast his fishhook, then he started to pull. As he pulled little by little, he felt that the hook was getting heavier. He thought that a big sea stone had got stuck to the hook. Mahad and his wife joined hands and began pulling it until they reached the boat. When they hefted the weight up and put in the boat, they discovered that it was a flaccid mass covered with seaweeds. They resolved to examine it later on the seashore and went back to fishing. When they returned to the shore, they started to clean it and remove the seaweeds from it. They found out that it was a box full of gold and jewels. They took it to their tent and hid it there. Afterwards, they told one of his wife’s uncle of what they had found. He advised them to keep it secret, and that his great grandfather told him that a long time ago a ship sank in the place where they had been fishing.
They bid farewell to his wife’s uncle and left for Salalah with an amount of money that exceeded the wealth of both his father and Adam’s Sheikh. With his parents, Mahad and his wife, Budur, lived very happily in Salalah.


Tales from Oman, translated by D. Abdulsalam Ali Hamad, pg: 38-46. 

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