Saturday, April 01, 2023 | Ramadan 9, 1444 H
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Stories from the book of Misers


Stories from Al-Jahiz’s Book of Misers, from the chapter covering the people of Khorasan (Iran):

1) “If a guest arrives to a person from the city of Marv and stays for too long, the host would ask him if he had lunch. If the guest answers yes, the host would say: “if you hadn’t, I would’ve made you something nice!”. And if the answer was no, the host would lament the fact that they could’ve drank something together instead. So, the guest ends up having nothing.”

2) Thumama said: “Usually, roosters would collect cereals and put it in front of the chicken to eat. Except for the roosters in Marv who steal it from the chicken’s beaks. I knew then that avidity is an aspect in their country, found in the essence of their water and hence affected their animals too.”

3) Ahmed ibn Rasheed said: “I was in the house of an old man from Marv and his young boy was playing in front of us. I decided to tease him and asked for some bread. The boy replied: “You don’t want it. It’s bitter.”. I then asked for a drink of water and the boy answered: “You don’t want it. It’s salty”. So, I kept asking for other things and the boy kept giving me excuses for not wanting to have them. His father laughed and said: “How is it his fault when I taught him all that?”

4) A merchant from Marv used to travel to Iraq for commerce and pilgrimage. There he struck a friendship with a local Iraqi man who he’d spend days in his hospitality. The merchant ended each visit saying: “I wish I could see you in Marv to pay back your kindness! Here in your homeland, you’re in no need of me.”. A long time passed by and the Iraqi had to travel to Marv for a personal matter. He decided to look for his Marven friend to keep him company in that strange land. The Marven was sitting among his friends when the Iraqi approached and gave him a hug. The Marven seemed baffled as if he didn’t recognize the Iraqi. The Iraqi removed his mask, followed by the turban and finally his cap. Still the Marven pretended not to know him and said in Farsi: “Even if you get out of your skin, I’ll deny you!”

5) “A group of Marven friends would buy meat and divide it between them. Each would then skewer it using either a string or a palm leaflet, dip it in the pot where it’s cooked with vinegar and spices. Each would then take his portion of the cooked meat and keep the strings for next time as it’s saturated now with fat. This group cooking is done to save money and the way of cooking ensures that the meat would stay edible for days.”

6) A Marven heard Al-Hasan encouraging people to donate, promising them fast rewards. The Marven donated his whole money and became poor. He waited year after year but no fast rewards were coming his way. He went to Al-Hasan and said: “What have you done to me? You guaranteed the reward and I spent everything based on your promise. Today I’ve been waiting for such and such years and I haven’t seen no little nor more of what I’d given. Is this fair? Would a thief cause more damage than you did?”

7) “Abu Is’haq Al-Sayar had a Marven neighbour who never wore sandals in the jujube’s fruit season in fear of pits wearing out the soles.”

(To be continued...)

Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja.

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