A Libyan Tale by James Scurr

At 62, Nadr Farah Farah, although overweight, was not obese and being a tall man he carried his weight well. He manoeuvered his way around his large office desk and eased himself into his opulent, leather-cushioned, office chair. He had just returned from midday prayers in the small mosque in his oilfield village and after consuming a very large lunch he was now ready for his daily nap. He sighed with contentment, belched loudly, raised his well-padded buttocks and with well practiced ease let rip with a loud explosive fart as he settled comfortably back into his chair. He closed his eyes and as his mind meandered through the tendrils of time to his distant past he drifted off to sleep.

Nadr was born and raised in the township of Al-Abyar, situated to the east of Benghazi. It was an area exclusive to well-to-do members of the Libyan society who considered it the only possible place to live. Nadr was the second oldest of four sons. His father, Amin Farah, was the sole owner of a supply company with offices and warehouses in Benghazi.

At the age of 21 Nadr had completed his education and also his two years compulsory military service and was now employed as a foreman in one of his father’s warehouses.

At this time Libya was not a strict Muslim state and was a popular Mediterranean tourist attraction with its beaches, nightlife and night clubs. However, Amin Farah, being a devout follower of the Muslim faith, deemed that Nadr and his brothers would become true believers in the faith and from a very early age they had been instructed and tutored in the readings of the holy book, The Q’uran.

Nadr was over six feet tall and a natural athlete. In his early school years he had excelled in all sports but especially football. He was gifted with the ability to strike a ball powerfully with both his left and right feet and was a ferocious tackler of opponents and a brilliant header of the ball. He had the ability to control, read the game and pass the ball with ease. This had brought him to the attention of an Italian; a retired ex-professional footballer who recognizing his raw talent had coached him to become what he was now; a star semi-professional football player in Benghazi’s top soccer team. What’s more, he was tipped to be the first Libyan player to play in the Italian league.

Being a well-known, handsome and popular personality in the city of Benghazi Nadr from the onset of his semi-pro career had been in constant demand for the after-match celebration parties.

At the first party he attended he was overawed by the amount of alcohol being consumed by both men and women and by how free and easy the women were with their favours to the players. By his fourth party Nadir had not only lost his virginity he had also acquired a taste for what was expressly forbidden in the Quran, alcohol and fornicating with women. From that time Nadr began to question his faith.

Amin Farah was appalled by his son’s lack of respect for his religion and believed he must be punished and brought to order. As a teenager, when Nadr had erred from the path of truth his father had beat the wickedness out of him him but now Nadr had grown into manhood and was too big, strong and powerful to accept a beating, so his father had resorted to other means of control. He had arranged two marriages for his son but Nadr, much to his father’s shame, had refused on both occasions to meet with the families of the intended brides. He had categorically informed his father that he would not accept an arranged marriage and that his bride would be of his own choosing.

In despair his father had contacted the community leader, the Imam.

………….

Shafi Yacoub sat in his office with his head in his hands cursing his luck and the failure of Allah to answer his prayers. What had he, a much respected, successful, businessman done to deserve such a catastrophe as he now faced? “Perhaps the bitch will fall down dead with shame” he had muttered to himself ending with the obligatory “Inshallah”

Shafi lived in a sumptuous, very expensive, six-bedroomed house in one of the elite districts of Benghazi. He had three wives and five devoted sons who obeyed their father’s every command. He also had  a daughter, Sharnez, who at twenty-four years of age was the eldest of his children. At this age, Sharnez should have been married and presenting him with grandchildren. But now she was now single again and from what he had just been told he was convinced that he had sired an evil jinni, a disciple of Iblis, Satan!

His daughter, as a first child, had been his favourite and although raised in a strict Muslim household she had been allowed total freedom against the advice of the clerics. At the age of eleven she had to the delight of her father and without any pressure from her parents, chosen to wear the hijab. Her father trustingly had proudly enrolled her into a very expensive private school in Benghazi which also tutored children of European and other nationals that lived and worked in the city.

Sharnez had excelled in her studies and when she completed her schooling she was awarded diplomas in business and secretarial skills. Armed with these her father was now even more convinced that she was a true believer in the faith and  had once again ignored the advice of the clerics and had allowed her to be employed as a PA to his most senior manager, a European who could be trusted to chaperone his daughter, having known her since her childhood. She had seduced the manager on her first day in the office.

Sharnez, no longer a teenager but a young woman, had begun to change. She no longer wore the Hajib, preferring western clothing instead. She had also, against her father’s express wishes, begun to use make-up. Even more serious she no longer acknowledged her position as a female in the Muslim faith and would, in her father’s eyes, shamelessly engage in friendly conversations with strangers, male or female, who she met in the office or in the street. She now refused to pray and constantly to his intense shame, disobeyed and argued with him in front of his staff and colleagues.

Her parents, realizing that she had  been influenced by her European schoolmates and friends tried to bring her under control. Under the threat of a beating by her father she had been forced to wear the hijab whenever she left the house. But to his dismay he discovered that she was changing back into western dress as soon as she reached the office, more than willingly assisted by her manager.

On the numerous occasions she told her father she had to work late her father only allowed it if the manager were present to chaperone her. He did not know that the Benghazi nightlife she was savouring was organised and paid for by his trusted lieutenant. However, all this had been revealed when a roving photographer had taken a photograph of the couple in a very raunchy clinch that was later, without their knowledge, included in a newspaper as part of the publicity for the nightclub.

Shafi had instantly dispatched his now discredited  manager, wife and family back to Europe and he had then promptly arranged for the speedy marriage of his daughter. He had chosen a husband he knew to be a devout Muslim and a strict disciplinarian who would control his daughter and, if need be, would beat her into submission. Wasim, the man he had chosen for his daughter, was a very firm childhood friend and, although not rich, had a small construction company that afforded his three wives and eight children a comfortable life style. Sharnez would become wife number four and as the junior wife would clean, cook, fetch and carry for the whole household until she became pregnant. Wasim was looking forward to the marital bed and the impregnation of a younger woman whom he had admired from afar since her early childhood.

Sharnez had no say in the arranged marriage. She was chattel to be given to any man that her father chose. Finally after several meetings between the two families and a lot of haggling over the size of the dowry the marriage was agreed.

After the marriage had taken place Shafi had attended the mosque and said extra prayers to Allah for finally ridding him of the problem that was his daughter.

On her wedding night Wasim had ordered Sharnez to undress and prepare to receive him. As he turned to face her, his appendage proud and erect, he felt the blade of a knife at his throat.

“Husband “ she said “With this knife I will give you a second mouth.

Wassim felt the blade a second time touching what was now his flaccid and shrivelled member.

“I will cut this off in slices and feed it into this mouth.”

Trembling with fear, Wasim fled from the bedroom. Not wanting to lose face with his other wives he spent the remainder of the night wide awake and trembling with fear in the kitchen.

On the second day Wasim instructed his other wives to search the bedroom and remove anything that could be harmful to him. They stripped the room found only the knife Sharnez had used to threaten him.  Smiling grimly with satisfaction Wassim broke the blade and cast it away.

”Bitch!” he thought “Tonight you will find out who your master is.”

That night in the bedroom he had turned to Sharnez and told her forcefully that he was the master and she would submit to his every demand. He hadn’t seen the stave of wood that she had hidden and was now sliding down the sleeve of her garment and into her hand. The first blow took him completely by surprise and broke his nose and forced him reel back in shock. A second blow laid waste to his errection and doubled him up in agony on the floor.  The beating continued until he  crawled from the room.“

On the third day Sharnez’ father, Shafi, wondered what the commotion was outside his office door.

“Is that Wasim’s voice I  hear ” he wondered.   Then, with an almighty crash, his office door flew open and confronting him was his enraged, purple-faced son-in-law.

“Wasim my friend, my son-in-law” he said.  When he looked closely he noticed the crutch, the heavily plastered nose, the blackened eyes and the left arm in a sling.

“Have you have been in an accident?” he innocently enquired.

“Accident!”, Wasim, his face contorted with rage, had shouted at him, “Accident! This is what that evil bitch you call a daughter has done to me”

With that he dragged Shanez into the office.

“I am returning her and her dowry to you” he howled “And hopefully, with Allah’s blessing, she will be made to fornicate with a moth-eaten, pox-ridden, camel and produce nothing but camel spiders.  And with that he stormed from the office.

Shafi sat in his chair with his head in his hands. He glanced up at his daughter and then reached for the telephone and dialed. When the Imam answered the phone Amin had said “Rafeek my brother I need your advice”

…………

 Nadr and Sharnez had been summoned to the office of the Imam along with their fathers. Without any kind of preamble the Imam told them of the arranged marriage, and before either of them had chance to reply he had laid out the terms of the contracts.

“I could” he had said “under Shari’ah law have you both taken to the main square on Friday and  publicly flogged for your lack of faith”.

Both Sharnez and Nasr were alarmed and looked at their fathers in a state of shock. the fathers shrugged their shoulders in resignation and ignored their distress.

“There is, however, an alternative to being flogged” the Imam said “but only if both of you accept the marriage contract”

Nasr stole a glance at Sharnez who, at the thought of a flogging, was rapidly nodding her head in agreement with the Imam.

”I will also agree” intoned Nasr.

The contents of the marriage contract were been spelled out to the bride and groom, Amin, Nasr’s father would buy and furnish a house for them to live in, Shafi, Sharnez’s father, would pay for their wedding and provide a large dowry. Both of the fathers would share the travel costs of their banishment to Tripoli where the wedding would take place.

On the long trek to the capital city they were not allowed to be alone, as was the custom.  Four chaperones, two males and two females, accompanied them there and stayed to witnessed their brief wedding ceremony.

On the night of the wedding, Nadr as happened with Wasim, was threatened with knives. Without a word he  walked from the room and spent the night alone in another bedroom. The next day he searched for and removed the knife. That next night in the marital bedroom he had approached Sharnaz. This time she  had secreted a stave of wood under a pillow and as she slyly reached for it she found only  a large white goose feather. As she  turned from the pillow to face Nasr she felt a knife at her throat and the another at her left breast.

Nasr smiled and Sharnez returned the smile. Nasr laughed and Sharnez laughed with him, and then howling with laughter they  both collapsed onto the bed. Their marriage wasbeen well and truly consummated that night.

 

 

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