Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 18.02.2006:
The following is a folklore version of a narrative told in the Koran, relayed by Moslems from Al-Khader (the village to the south-west of Bethlehem were Al-Khader, or St George, is said to have been born).
The story is about Musa (or Moses), the Great Lawgiver, who sometimes had difficulties understanding the dealings of the divine Providence, and then asked Allah for advice. Allah sent him a servant who would instruct him. In one such case the servant, a darwish, asked Musa to join him on a journey. He let Musa promise that he would not comment or ask questions about anything he might see or do. After this they set out on their travels.
At sunset they reached a village where they went to the house of the sheikh. The rich and kindly man welcomed them very generously. He killed a sheep and offered them a large, well-furnished room. Next morning the darwish wanted to leave early. Musa objected because their host was still sleeping and they could not thank him. The darwish reminded him of his promise and to Musa’s amazement, he took a silver wash-hand basin and hid it under his robe.
That evening they reached another village, where they were received by a sheikh who proved to be the very opposite of their host of the previous night. For supper they got scraps of old bread and a few bad olives and they had to sleep on a heap of straw.
Next morning Musa wanted to leave early. But the darwish waited for their host to bid him farewell. He made a deep bow and to Musa’s amazement he presented him the stolen basin. Again Musa could not comment because of the promise.
That night they stayed at a very poor widow near a river. The next morning, her nephew walked them to the river to show the way to a ruinous bridge. When they got to the middle of the bridge the darwish seized the boy by the neck and drowned him. “Monster! Murderer!” cried Musa, out of rage. The darwish turned upon Musa, who now recognized him as Al-Khader. “You forgot the terms of the contract,” he said to him, “and therefore we have to part. All I have done was predestined. Our first host was too confiding. The loss of his silver basin will be a lesson to him. Our second host was a stingy person. He will now begin to be hospitable in the hope of gain, but he will get used to it and gradually change his nature. As for the boy you are mourning about, he is gone to Paradise, whereas had he lived but two years longer, he would have killed the old widow, and in the next year he would have killed you.”
From: “Sahteen: Discover the Palestinian Culture by Eating”, published by the Freres School, Bethlehem, part of the Culture and Palestine series issued by the Arab Educational Institute-Open Windows, Bethlehem, 1999. To order the book, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org