Gems from The Arabian Nights

Below is an extract from The Arabian Nights. It gives some excellent advice that will help all who have to deal with peers, superiors and inferiors; that is to say everybody.


‘What advice do you give yourself?’ asked Mu’awiya.

‘I plant my feet on the ground, move them slowly and keep my eyes fixed on them.’ Replied al-Ahnaf.

‘What about when you go to visit clansmen of yours who are lower in rank than the emirs?’

‘I look down modestly and am the first to say: “Peace be upon you.” I don’t talk about what is no business of mine and I say little.’

‘And when you visit your peers?’

‘I listen to what they have to say, and if they want to skirmish with me, I don’t reply in kind.’

‘And when you visit your emirs?’

‘I greet them without any gesticulation and I then wait for them to reply. If they ask me to approach, I do, but if not, I keep my distance.’

‘And how about your wife?’

‘Permit me not to answer this Commander of the Faithful.’

‘I insist that you tell me.’

Al-Ahnaf said: ‘I treat her good naturedly and with obvious intimacy. I spend money liberally on her, for woman was created from the crooked rib.’

‘And if you want to lie with her?’

I talk her into a good mood and then I kiss her until she experiences pleasure. Then if what you know happens, I throw her on her back. If the seed settles in her womb I say: “O God make this blessed and not wretched and fashion it into the best of forms.” Then I leave her in order to perform the ablution. I pour water over my hands and over my body and I praise God for the favours that he has shown me.’

‘These are excellent replies,’ said Mu’awiya, ‘so tell me what you need.’

‘What I need, said al-Ahnaf, ‘is that you should fear God in your treatment of your subjects and deal justly with them all alike.’

He then got up and left Mu’awiya’s audience chamber. After he had gone, Maisun said: ‘If he were the only man in Iraq, this would be enough for the country.


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