The Cloth Merchant from Najaf

In the olden days there was a man who used to buy cloth in Najaf and travel to the neighbouring tribal Arabs, the Beni Hassan, to sell the cloth. When he had sold everything he returned to Najaf, bought a new supply and set out again, and he made a living in this way. One day ~at man became ill and died. He left an only son and u number of women relatives, a mother, sisters, etc.

The dead man"s brother said to the son, Don"t feel too sad. I will help you. He dressed the son in men"s clothes, bought him a supply of cloth, wrote a letter to the Arab sheikh, and sent the boy off to sell the cloth. He set out on his journey.

Now, every Arab sheikh has a religious man from Najaf to in¬struct him in religion. The Najafi living with this sheikh saw that the boy was inexperienced and he wished to fleece him. He said. Look, I want a turban, and a shirt, and underpants for myself, and things for
the women and children at home.

The boy said, And what shall I gain if I give away so much?

Look out for yourself if you don"t come across, said the Najafi.

I won"t give you anything, said the boy.

In the morning, the Najafi spread the word to the Arabs that ~e boy was a follower of Omar and a Sunni. The Ja"afari were not on good terms with the Sunni. They didn"t like them. Besides they were ignorant desert Arabs so they began to shout and get worked up, shouting, Loot the so-and-so! Loot the so-and-so! They dashed at the boy and robbed him of all his cloth. The boy returned to Najaf empty handed and told his uncle what had happened.

Strange, said his uncle. Is that what he did to you, that wicked person? I"ll fix him.

The uncle put on his white turban and went out and bought a supply of cloth and went to the Arab sheikh. It is the Arab custom for a stranger to be the guest of the sheikh until the stranger has fin¬ished his business and moves on. So the uncle went to stay with the sheikh. It was also the custom, after the guests had eaten, for them to sit on pillows on the floor of the guest"s house so that they could relax and each in turn could tell his wishes to the Najafi who would try to help them.

When it was the uncle"s turn, the Najafi said, Look here. Have you brought cloth to sell?

Yes, I have.

He said. I want a turban, and a shirt and underpants for myself, and things for my wife and children.

Anything that you want, just ask and you will have special treat¬ment. I have everything you want.

Fine, fine, said the Najafi.

And I, said the uncle, will sell the cloth for ten times its value. every fils for ten fils.
This talk was all under the aba. Then the Najafi. proclaimed to all the people present, This is a true believer who has come from Najaf and his cloth has all been blessed on the window of the Prince of True Believers so it is sure to bring blessings.

The next morning the uncle began to sell cloth and everybody wanted some. An aqad, about ten inches, went for a rupee. Even the black slaves wanted a shirt. In the end he had recovered the cost of the cloth that had been stolen, with profit on it, and the cost of his own stock of goods with profit on it also. He had made 100% profit. He took his money and returned to Najaf.

Sometime later the uncle put on his white turban, and took a Koran under his arm. He went once more to the Arab sheikh. After dinner they were all sitting around in the guest tent. The uncle spoke to the Najafi and said, Since you left Najaf our patients have not been recovering as before.

Why? asked the Najafi.

We used to burn a hair of your beard as incense over anyone who had a headache or a fever and they always got better.

Well, I"ll give you a hair of my beard, said the Najafi graciously.

Now, the desert Arabs are quite different from town Arabs. They
said, Is a hair from the beard of our religious sheikh good for sick people?

The desert Arabs piled on top of the Najafi and pulled at the hairs of his beard until his chin was bare and bleeding. Then the uncle said, Your enemy planned this humiliation for you and this humilia¬tion has a sister. Do you remember what you did to my brother"s son, an orphan, who came to sell cloth? I haven"t finished with you. I"m going to drive you out and take your place.

The Arab sheikh said, Why do you keep the stranger near you so long?

The Najafi said, He is a religious sheikh and a true believer and he is teaching me about what is clean and what is unclean according to religion and different religious rules.

The uncle said, Oh Sheikh, let the Najafi take out his Koran and I will get out my Koran. Let us see who is the possessor of the true word of Allah. (The uncle had added some pages to his Koran in order to playa trick on the Najafi).

The Najafi got out his Koran and they began to compare their
Korans. What chapter is this? asked the uncle.

The Cow.
What chapter is this?
The Woman. What"s this?
The Cattle.
What"s this?
The Bee.
What"s this?
The Spider.
What"s this?
The Fig.
What"s this?
The Elephant.
What"s this?
The chapter of Beni Hassan.

Yes, said the uncle, the chapter of Beni Hassan. I see you don"t have the chapter of Beni Hassan in your Koran.

But there is no book of Beni Hassan in the Koran. Where is there a chapter of Beni Hassan in the Koran?

Those were the days when people were very ignorant indeed.

The sheikh said to the Najafi, I see you eat my food and have
every comfort and have a salary from me and wheat and rice and dehio (clarified butter). Why don"t we, the Beni Hassan, have a chapter in your Koran? The cows are valued by Allah, the spiders are valued by Allah. All those others have chapters. What do you mean by saying that the Beni Hassan have no chapter in the Koran? He spit on the Najafi, and said, Get out, son of a bitch. Turning to the uncle he said, You must come and stay with me.

And so the uncle completed his revenge which was enough to have killed seven people.