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The Shaikhs and Their People

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Part of the St Antony’s Series book series (STANTS)

Abstract

The following is a story, possibly literary in origin but related in the Trucial Coast, about Dhu ’l-Qarnain, a figure identified with Alexander the Great and referred to in the Koran,1 but one who has become a part of myth rather than history:

Dhu ’l-Qarnain, who was willed by God to spend his life as a wanderer, came in his journeys to a town and spent the night there. He remarked to the people of the town: ‘I see that your mosques are built outside the town, away from the houses.’ They replied: ‘That is so in order that we may gain merit by walking out to them at the time of prayer.’ Dhu ’l-Qarnain then said: ‘I see that your graveyard is close to the town.’ The people replied: ‘That is so in order that we may always be mindful of death.’ Then Dhu ’l-Qarnain remarked: ‘I see that your houses here have no doors,’ and the people replied: ‘That is because we have no spite among us and because no one of us looks at another man’s wife.’ Dhu ’l-Qarnain said: ‘I see that there is no rich man among you in the town’, and the people replied: ‘That is because we like to have no poor man and so we divide our money among those who would otherwise be poor.’ Dhu ’l-Qarnain said: ‘I see that you have no shaikhs.’ The people replied: ‘We have no shaikhs because we settle our disputes among ourselves.’ ‘By God,’ said Dhu ’l-Qarnain, ‘had He not obliged me to live for ever a wanderer I would have passed my whole life among you.’

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Copyright information

© Ahmed Al-Shahi 2001

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