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About the tale: "Shehrazade and Thousand and One Nights"


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Author Topic: About the tale: "Shehrazade and Thousand and One Nights"  (Read 49 times)
Ruhi_Rose
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« on: September 27, 2017, 02:47:24 pm »

As-salam Alaykum dear everyone.

As the only volunteer at our Muslim community center taking questions from Muslim kids once a week (Friday evenings), recently I received the following query from a little 12-year-old Muslim girl.

Quoting the query:  "I am eager to know what that story is, the "thousand and one nights" and that lady Shehrazade.  Is this story real?  Is it a Muslim story?  Are these characters Muslims?  Is it Halal for us to read these stories?"

A proper answer to this question is not only essential for kids but just as necessary for grown ups.

To begin with, these stories are pure fictions or folklore.  They began in the Middle-East from an unknown period of time and some of them came from unknown foreign sources.  They have no bearing on reality at all and are only meant for the entertainment of storytellers' audiences.  No, I would not call them "Muslim stories."  They are just stories.  Some have been translated into English and other languages by British and European authors.  "One Thousand and One Nights" known in Arabic as أَلْف لَيْلَة وَلَيْلَة‎‎  (Alf layla wa-layla) is a collection of Middle-eastern folklore that reportedly became known in the Muslim society during the Abbasid era, coming from the Persian Pahlavi work of Hazar Afsan or Thousand stories. 

To determine whether these stories are Halal or Haram depends on the contents of every individual tale.  All of them are certainly NOT Halal.   Those stories that may show nudity or include the act of zina (fornication) or reflect ideas opposed to Monotheism (Tawheed) as an accepted part of their theme are definitely HARAM.  No doubts on that. Then again, there are some stories which are simple, clean and modest with no offensive values portrayed.  These can be taken as Halal to hear or watch.  However, even considering the Halal stories, their "fairy tale" aspect must not be dismissed so that both children and grown-ups bear in mind the difference between fiction and reality in life.

To know the story of "Shehrazade" in the fiction "One Thousand and One Nights,"  below is the tale in a nutshell.

It's about some fictitious ancient king of Persia named Shahryar.  He discovered his wife was unfaithful to him.  He had her executed.  He felt he could never trust any woman again.  He vowed to marry a new bride every day and order her execution the next morning so she could never be unfaithful.  In other words, the guy was stark raving mad .. LOL.   He had quite a few one-day, one-night marriages, and got several women executed.   One day his vazir's  daughter whose name was Shehrazade asked her father if she could marry the king.  The poor father was very worried for his daughter's safety and dissuaded her.  But she insisted and they were married.  Shehrazade was a gifted story teller with a talent to recount  interesting stories with spiritual and moral lessons. On their wedding night, the king was captivated with a story she told that went on until late hours.  Yet she hadn't finished but she said she must stop as it was almost Fajr (dawn).  The king was eager to hear the rest of the story and ordered to delay her execution so she could finish the following evening.   But the clever lady's skillful storytelling continued night after night, weaving different enchanting tales and every night she would stop her unfinished story at dawn.  Every dawn the king was on tenterhooks keen to discover the conclusion.   This went on for one thousand and one nights with 1,000 stories.  Eventually Shehrazade told the king she had no more stories to tell.  By that time the king got over his distrust of women, fell in love with Shehrazade, made her the queen and they lived happily ever after.

As any one can discern, the story is nothing spectacular nor brilliant.  Just simple entertainment for relaxing minds.   Though this story contains a very unnatural or fairy-tale-like theme, yet I suppose it can be taken as Halal for entertainment purposes because it doesn't contain any  vulgarity.   Therefore, always check thoroughly and discern before allowing these folklores in your household.

Also keep in mind that different versions of the same folklore can contain different interpolations written or translated by different authors.  Therefore, for instance, if a specific edition of "Thousand and One Nights" is written in a Halal manner which can be read or shown to an audience in a Muslim household, it doesn't mean all editions will necessarily be the same.  Always  carefully check  every such storybook or CD before reading them to the children or runnng them on the CD player. 



This is an illustration of Queen Shehrazade of the fiction story Thousand and One Nights.  Artist:  Edmund Dulac.
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Heba E. Husseyn
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« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2017, 06:47:59 pm »

Walaikum Salam my sister.  A very useful clarification, very interestingly put.  I hope the little girl understood it and still more important, I hope her parents understood it, InshAllah.


I would also like to add the necessity to exercise similar discernment while reading the English translations of the rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Concerning the image below for instance, though a nice piece of artwork from the view point of professionalism & art and I'm don't know which stanza or quatrain it refers to, please know that most illustrations of Omar Khayyam's rubaiyat are linked with Edward FitzGerald's translations  which are not accurate works of the original rubaiyats written by Omar Khayyam. Fitzgerald has added plenty of his own poetic material. Omar Khayyam was noted to be immersed in true sufiism, that is, he really didn't seem to care of earthly or materialistic aspects.  But FitzGerald's translation often indicates materialistic, sensual and non-spiritual thoughts which are figments of his imagination, not Omar Khayyam's.   Apparently Fitzgerald's ideas were similar to Rumi's and thus, the former's translations have greatly distorted the originals of Omar Khayyam.


Artist:  Rene Bull
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« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2017, 06:54:42 pm »


Wa'salam and good work sister Ruhi.  I also hope, InshAllah, the little girl who enquired understood your point. 

Sister Heba, I agree with you 100%.  Fitzgerald's translations are very sub-standard, in that, they're very inaccurate.  Yes, the illustration above carries a great deal of artistic beauty, but such images really doesn't depict the general thoughts of the author in the original rubaiyats.  Since only a small percentage in the world understand farsi, majority see the english translation as the face of Omar Khayyam's works.  Very sad. 
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Zeynab
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« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2017, 11:34:06 pm »

Very informative and educative thread.  May Allah bless that very introspective  12-year-old little girl.  May Allah bless you sister Ruhi for working on this very wise project.   Nice painting sketch of the fiction queen.

Yes Sister Heba, right.  That's a beautifully artistic image but I'm sure it doesn't correspond to the original rubaiyats. I've also learned through various sources that the English works of the original Rubaiyat have been hugely bungled by Edward Fitzgerald, apparently taking advantage of the fact, as brother TS mentioned, of the lack of knowledge of farsi of most readers around the world.  Actually when you think of it, you would say rubaiyat is not important considering the fact that many English and other language translators of the Noble Quran are practicing the same tactic ..... writing wrong translations because they know that majority around the world (traditionalists as well as non traditionalists) do not understand Arabic well enough to challenge them.  And generally it's only the non traditionalists who reject the misinformation of wrong translations.
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« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2017, 11:35:23 pm »

Very correct sister Zeynab.  People are playing exactly the same game while translating the Quran which is too huge a violation and compared to that no one could care for the rubaiyat.
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2017, 11:37:54 pm »

......  Actually when you think of it, you would say rubaiyat is not important considering the fact that many English and other language translators of the Noble Quran are practicing the same tactic ..... writing wrong translations because they know that majority around the world (traditionalists as well as non traditionalists) do not understand Arabic well enough to challenge them.  And generally it's only the non traditionalists who reject the misinformation of wrong translations.

Exactly sister, couldn't agree more.
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« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2017, 11:48:29 pm »

JazekAllah khair and many thanks for the enlightening comments and additional info.  Yeah, I explained everything the little girl and her mom ... same way as I've stated here.  I hope they heed.  It's up to them.  We can only go so far to help. 
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« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2017, 11:49:51 pm »

...........  I hope they heed.  It's up to them.  We can only go so far to help. 

Right sis.
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