Growing up as a woman in the Arab world, means that you’ll always hear people repeating the Quranic verse from Surah Yusif (the 12th chapter of Prophet Joseph): “For your guile is great!”.
There is great misunderstanding of the verse of course, as Al Azeez -Potiphar in Hebrew Bible, Pharaoh’s guard who bought Joseph as a slave and made him the master of his household - is only describing his wife’s cunning plan to seduce Joseph that when failed, she accused him of abusing her.
Of course, what saved Joseph was that his shirt was torn from the back as he was escaping her attempts and not from front. Throughout history, this verse became a synonym for any clever action women would do, especially when exploiting men.
My Islamic studies teacher told us once that guile was gifted to women by God, as they lacked men’s power and size. Whatever the case may be, our heritage is full of stories that displays women’s guile theory that I’ll be gladly sharing with you in the coming weeks.
1) Once while some tradesmen were resting in their usual spot in the market, a woman passed by them and pointed at one. He got up from his place and went to her, asking if she needed any help.
She said that she needed a favour from him and that she’ll pay him 20 Dirhams for it. Her husband has gone to war 10 years back and never returned. She wanted the tradesman to go with her to the judge and pretend to be her husband so that she could get a divorce and be free.
The tradesman agreed and they both went to the judge. The woman told the judge that this was her husband whose been missing for the past 10 years and that he wants to divorce her. The judge asked the tradesman to confirm the story and when he did the judge asked him to divorce her.
The tradesman said the magic words: “I divorce you!” and the woman smiled saying: “Oh great judge! This man was missing for 10 years and never cared or spent a penny on me! Now he wants to divorce me just like that? I want a monetary compensation for the past 10 years and an alimony too!”
The judge reproached the tradesman who was between the hammer and the anvil; if he denied everything he’ll be accused of perjury and hence whipped and prisoned. So, he claimed in self-defence “I was busy and couldn’t reach her!” The judge ruled that he pays 2,000 Dirhams for alimony. The tradesman paid the amount to the woman before leaving the court, out of which she paid him the promised 20 Dirhams.
2)There was a storyteller who was interested in researching stories of women’s guile. A woman of beauty and shrewdness heard of him and invited him to visit her.
They sat chatting for almost an hour when they heard the door knocking. The storyteller panicked when the woman announced that it was none but her jealous husband. She asked him to stay calm and gave him an empty chest, ordering him to place it on his head.
The husband stormed in furiously, asking the storyteller who he was and what he was doing in his house.
The wife shouted to leave the porter alone and that she was leaving the house as she had had enough of his suspicious jealousy. Immediately, the husband paid the storyteller to leave the chest and go. The storyteller couldn’t believe his luck and that he’d witnessed women’s guile demonstrated.
(To be continued...)
Rasha Al Raisi
The writer is a certified skills trainer and author of The World According to Bahja