Friday, May 8, 2020

The Tale of the Envious Vizier

The Envious Wazir

Long, long time ago, there reigned a king in Oman. He was very kind, just and prudent. The king had a wicked wazir who abhorred all people. This wazir often tried to have power over the king’s thoughts. The king always venerated the wazir’s thoughts. One day, the wazir asked the king, “Your Majesty, what’s your opinion of your people?
“I’m the happiest king of all because my people are dutiful and obedient. They like me, too,” the king answered.
“I hope that you’re not misinformed because you reside in Nizwa,” said the wazir.
“What have you heard,” asked the king.
“I’ve neither seen nor heard anything, but I believe that the people don’t like you,” the wazir replied. 
“What I know is that all people are well-trained, law-abiding and observant. You know well that I am not cruel, democratic and concerned about them all. They are all equal before the law and me. I revere everyone of them whatsoever his social standing and honour his criticism and opinion of me. Moreover, every citizen is free to express his thoughts and opinions. They are happy with me. I have never heard that anyone expressed complaints, discontent or displeasure about me or anything else. What about you?” the king said.
“Your Majesty, everything’s well. If there had been anything out of the ordinary, we would have heard of it,” said the wazir.
“What do you think of them?” asked the king.
“Your Majesty, I have an idea. What about trying their loyalty and submission to you by doing something weird that causes a problem for them,” said the wicked wazir.
“A problem?” wondered the king.
“What I mean is that you issue an odd royal decree that has never ever been made out. For instance, you order that all people must wear a dress that they have never heard of it or its quality,” proposed the wazir.
“No, I do not accept this. Think of another thing,” said the king.
“What about the order that all people must not enkindle a fire every Friday nightlong, and anyone who breaks it. . .,” suggested the wazir.
“Who has the audacity to contravene it? No one dares to disobey me,” interrupted the king.
“Your Majesty, you are kind-hearted, but don’t think that all people are good-hearted and compliant,” said the wazir.
“This is untrue,” answered the king.
“Untrue! OK. Would you like to try?” said the wazir. 
“Yes, I will issue this decree just to prove that you are wrong and that all my people like me very much, and they never abuse any order” said the king.

Then the king had issued a royal decree that it was forbidden to light a fire or use a candle or any other source of light whatsoever every Friday nightlong. All people obeyed this order and no breach had ever been registered. Two months later, the king asked his wazir, “Hmm! What do you think of my people?”
“Your Majesty, you are in your palace in the capital surrounded by your bodyguards, court and policemen, and all your soldiers and civil servants are also here. So how could you know?” If you want to know the truth, let’s go disguised to the other Wilayats to see with your own eyes,” said the wazir.
“OK. We will see who is right,” said the king.
“What about starting with Albattinah1 marriageable age, then we visit a Wilayat every Thursday. Afterwards we visit Althahirah2, Alsharqiah3 and the other Wilayats without apprising the Walis4 and Sheikhs in order to see with our own eyes,” proposed the wazir.

The king and his wazir had visited disguised all the Wilayats from east to west and from north to south without noting any breach. All citizens had complied with the decree and the king spoke very highly of his people’s loyalty and greatly praised them. He also criticise the wazir because of the latter’s weak confidence and trust in people. One Friday evening, they saw a distant fire among the hills in the desert while they were on their last trip back to the capital. The wazir smiled and said, “Your Majesty. Look! Do you see what I see? This is the foe. Do you see where the traitor hides in this desert so as to go against your order?
“Let’s go there and see what he has. Perhaps he has an excuse,” replied the king.
“Your Majesty. This man should be put to death.  He doesn’t deserve your clemency,” said the wazir.
Let’s go there first and see. Hastiness is always fruitless,” said the king.

As the king and his wazir had gone there, they saw a Bedouin sitting with his mother. The Bedouin received them warmly in his tent. Then he slew a big ram to provide a rich dinner for them5. Afterwards he joined them in the tent, and his mother began cooking the dinner. After welcoming them sincerely, the Bedouin had asked them, “What’s the news?
In response, after thanking him for the warm reception, the king answered, “In fact, there is nothing special. God bless you and confer happiness and long life on you.”
“Haven’t you heard of anything?” the Bedouin asked again.
“Good news!” replied the king.
The Bedouin repeated this question several times, and the king answered him gently. Then the Bedouin said, “So, nothing’s unusual.
“Everything’s well, thanks to God. But what about you?” asked the king.
“In fact, we know nothing. As you see, we live in a desert,” answered the Bedouin.
“Haven’t you heard of anything?” asked the king.
“Nothing! God make your life longer.
Everything’s quiet,” replied the Bedouin.
Then the wazir asked the Bedouin, “We see that you enkindle a fire! Why do you light it?
“If anyone hears what you say, he will think that you’re the Bedouin, and I’m the Towner. My dear guest, people light a lantern or a fire in order to be able to see in darkness,” answered the Bedouin.
“Haven’t you heard that the king had issued a decree that bans lighting a fire or a lamp every Friday nightlong,” asked the wazir.
“No, I haven’t. We go to the city once a year in order to sell several sheeps, two or three jarfuls of butter ghee, and buy two datebaskets, some sugar and some flour. Then we ask about the king, and the news of the government.. we give and take as a result, we know something about the affairs of the country. Otherwise, we know nothing,” replied the Bedouin.
“Since you have just known this, put the fire out now,” said the king.
“Now, brother! How can we serve the dinner if we extinguish it,” said the Bedouin.

When the Bedouin had gone to bring the meal, the king and his wazir started talking. Then the wazir said to the king, “Your Majesty. Look how he has let off the hook, even though he has discovered that you have already issued the decree. I will belie him tonight. It would be better to cut off his head,” said the wazir.
“But he is preparing a rich dinner for us, and such a generous man should be forgiven and respected,” said the king.
“He should have put the fire out,” said the wazir.
“Do want the truth? He is excused. You do not want to find fault with him, do you?” said the king.
“Your Majesty. I would like to put him to test on another issue. He probably became aware of you as the king, or of us as solons. However, I have another idea that I will tell him to go to the king asking for money, and you will see how fast he will run to you,” suggested the wazir.
“You are still running in an empty desert. But I still persist that my people are faithful,” said the king.

At this time, the Bedouin brought in the dinner, and the fire was still on. The Bedouin tried to leave them alone so that they would feel free while eating, but they insisted that he would join them.6 While they were having their dinner, the wazir asked the Bedouin, “When are you going to extinguish the fire?
“Immediately after you finish your dinner,” answered the Bedouin.
“Are you married?” asked the wazir.
“Not yet,” replied the Bedouin.
“Is your father alive,” asked the wazir.
“No, he departed. May God mercy descend upon him. My mother and I live alone in this desert. I don’t know when I’ll get married because of dowry. The problem is that I’m unable to propose to my cousin because I haven’t got enough sheeps to give my uncle as a dowry for her,” answered the Bedouin.
“Wouldn’t you like a house?” asked the wazir.
“Our house has been a tent since the time of my great, great grandparents,” replied the Bedouin.
“Look! Every Friday, the king leads people in pray. After the pray, he stays in the mosque for a while and peoples come asking for help. The king is so generous that he never turns anyone down. If you come to him, he will give you enough money to build a house. So, you can settle down with your mother, and put an end to this state of exposure to the sun, the wind and the rain without enough shelter,” said the wazir.
“Indeed, it’s a good piece of advice. I’ll ask my mother’s counsel, and everything will go well, God Please,” said the Bedouin.

Early in the morning, the king and his wazir left for the capital city. Months had gone by and the Bedouin did not come to the king. The king forgot the Bedouin because he had trusted his people, but the wazir did not. When the wazir had found out that the Bedouin did not show up, he capitalized on this opportunity to criticise the people vehemently and accuse them of infidelity, treachery, and ingratitude. He discussed the Bedouin’s case with the king, and said, “Your Majesty. Do you remember that Bedouin? It seems he is so headstrong and conceited that he did not come and ask you for assistance. He even did not want to come. That Bedouin is indeed full of himself. Therefore, send some soldier to bring him here and execute him,” said the wazir.
“Do you think that he does not want to come? Perhaps he is not in a hurry. Let’s go and visit him to see what has prevented him from coming,” said the king.

Disguised as passers-by, the king and his wazir went to where the Bedouin lived. But they were unable to exactly determine his place. Instead, they saw a big city. There the king suggested to visit the Wali and his deputy, or the Sheikh of the city. They entered the city and asked where its Sheikh resided. They walked on until they reached his palace, which was very big, as well as well-decorated and encircled with trees. They knocked on the door. The retainers opened the door and showed them in. then a Sheikh entered welcoming them, “Peace be upon you, our honourable guests! You’re very welcome. You haven’t visited us for a long time.” Then the Sheikh turned aside and ordered one of the servants, “Slay two bulls and ten bellies.”
“Do you know who we are?” asked the king.
“Of course, I do. I don’t remember your names, but I’ll never forget you. You were very good to me,” said the Sheikh (the Bedouin). “All this eudaemonia is due to you, especially that man,” he pointed to the wazir.
“How do you know me? I have never seen you before,” asked the wazir.
“You visited a Bedouin six months ago, and advised him to go and see the king,” replied the Sheikh (the Bedouin).
“Yes, you are right. But we would like to see him,” said the king.
“Where is he?” asked the wazir.
“I was that Bedouin who followed your advice. I went to the capital city to see the king and ask him for help, as you recommended. I stood up behind him during the pray. After he had finished the prayer, he raised his hands towards heavens and said, “O Lord, confer upon us prosperity and happiness! O Lord, shower Your favours on us, and grant all our supplications. O Lord, have mercy on us. O Lord, grant us wealth and affluence and make accessible all sources of revenue. O Lord, … O Lord, … etc.” The Sheikh kept on saying, “I went out and thought to myself, I ask the king to give me, and the king himself asks God to give him. But since God gives the king, and the king gives me, why shouldn’t I directly ask God to give me a sheep? Then, I raised my hands towards heavens and said, ‘O Lord, grant me what you granted the king’.” The Sheikh stopped for a moment and, then, continued telling them what had happened to him, and said, “I returned to the desert where we lived. There I found my mother sitting and crying. I asked her what had happened during my absence. She told me that after I had gone to the capital city, a strong wind came whirling furiously down upon us, and caught up everything including the tent. He took away our clothes, cooking utensils, and the sheep.
I sat down patching up the tent. While I was digging to set the tent up, I chanced upon a piece of iron. I heard it say, ‘ding, ding, ring, ring. I started looking for this sound. While I was searching the place, l came across an iron ring. I wore it on my finger, and went back to complete setting up the tent. Finishing the tent, I sat inside to take some rest. I looked at the ring, and began to play with it. Suddenly, a genie came out of it. I was wholly scared. But he cooled me down and begged me not to be angry with him. Then he said to me, “I’m the servant of the one who wears this ring on his finger. I’m at your disposal now. You just order me.’ I discerned that he would serve the one who puts on this iron ring on his finger. I asked him what he could do for me, and he answered that he would do anything I would like him to do, and that he would fulfil all my wishes in this life. Then I asked him to construct a Falaj here, plant this land with trees and the best kind of palm trees, and build two palaces one for me and for my mother. He indeed accomplished all my wishes. Also, he is still at my disposal, and ready to whatever I wish.
As you can see, I have built this city, and farmers, workers, handmaids, and an entourage. Thanks to God who gave me as he gave the king, and if I had wanted more, He would have given me.

The servants brought the ceremonial feast in. The Sheikh invited the guests to help themselves, and apologised to them so as to leave them alone to feel free while they were eating, without being aware that they were the king and his wazir. But while they were eating, the wazir set a plan to kill the Bedouin (the Sheikh), and so they agreed to murder him. The plan was that the king had dreamt that he was saying in his dream, ‘Ho! Ho! Ho!. The Bedouin would interpret this sound as dog’s barking. Therefore, the king would kill him and take the ring, for leaving the ring with the Bedouin might scratch the king’s reputation

When the Bedouin (Sheikh) came in the king said to him, “O Sheikh, I have dreamt ..., and I would like you to interpret it.”
“Please tell me what was your dream, even though I don’t know how to interpret dreams... But since you want to do so, I will try,” said the Sheikh (the Bedouin).
“I have dreamt that I was saying, ‘Ho..Ho..Ho... So, interpret it to, God bless you!” said the king.  
“The first ‘Ho’: O Provider of birds with the means of subsistence in the air! The second ‘Ho’: O Provider of worms with the means of subsistence in hard stones!
The third ‘Ho’: God protect you, me and the people from this wicked wazir,” said the Sheikh (Bedouin).

Then the king executed the wazir, and married his daughter to the Bedouin (the Sheikh) in a royal wedding ceremony.

1 Name of a Wilayat in Oman.
2 Name of a Wilayat in Oman
3 Name of a Wilayat in Oman
4 Wali is a governor or a mayor
5 Bedouins are famous for their generosity and hospitality in the Arab world. Hence, as a sign of their generosity and good hospitality they slay rams, or camels to be prepared as rich meals for their guests.
6 It is traditional in Oman and the Arab world that the host leaves the feast after serving it for his guests so that the guests will feel free and eat as much as they can. The guests will also, in turn, ask the host to join them, otherwise, they will not eat.

Tales from Oman, translated by D. Abdulsalam Ali Hamad, pg: 63-76.   

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