The Sharazad Project: Week 28

The current story is the sort of Shakespearean melodrama where everyone misunderstands each other and refuse to listen to reason. Luckily Qut al-Qulub is a persistent young woman and though the caliph has locked her up as a punishment for all that sex she didn’t actually have, she’s not taking it quietly. When he passes by her room, he hears her loudly waxing lyrical on the virtue and chastity of her hero Ghanim, who took care of her in her hour of need, yet his reward for that kindness has been persecution from the caliph. “There must come a time when you and the Commander of the Faithful will stand before a Righteous Ruler,” Qut al-Qulub proclaims. “You will demand justice against him on a day when the judge will be the Lord God, Great and Glorious, and the witnesses will be the angels.” BURN.

The caliph is troubled by what he’s overhead and has her brought to his quarters. She appears as the picture of sorrow, defending Ghanim’s morals with fierce piety. Typically, now Ghanim has disappeared and his mother and sister have been made homeless, the caliph realises he may have overreacted the teeniest bit. He promises to do whatever Qut al-Qulub wishes. She asks for Ghanim, her ‘beloved’, which – wow, she has nerve, but not only does she get permission to go looking for her really-not-a-boyfriend, she gets a thousand gold dinars to finance the search. Well played, Qut al-Qulub!

She spends the money with care, too, making charitable donations in Ghanim’s name and offering the superintendents of various markets in the city sums of money to give away likewise. One of them is, unknown to her, Ghanim’s benefactor. He offers to bring her home and introduce her to the tragic mystery man currently brooding there, being tended by the superintendent’s kind-hearted wife. Qut al-Qulub gets her hopes up. When she sees Ghanim, however, he’s so emaciated and unwell that she can’t be sure it’s the same man. Hoping that it is, she orders wine and medicine (an…interesting combination) and sits with Ghanim for a time. Presumably he’s too out of it to recognise her.

The superintendent then introduces Qut al-Qulub to Ghanim’s mother and sister, since they are also attractive and unfortunate and Qut al-Qulub seems interested in that sort of thing. There’s blatant elitism going on here, the superintendent is clearly biased in the women’s favour because of the trappings they retain of previous wealth, but they’ve been through hell recently and deserve a bit of luck. Qut al-Qulub sheds sympathetic tears over their condition, the two women cry because they’re actually living it, and no one swaps any explanations. It’s not until Qut al-Qulub hears a sobbed reference to ‘our Ghanim’ that she makes the connection.

As night forty four begins, she takes Ghanim’s mother and sister firmly under her wing, paying the superintendent to house them in style. After having her first proper conversation with them, she suggests they all go and see Ghanim again. The superintendent’s wife is included in the group, being considered a good friend to each of them. Also, it’s her house. The interview is dramatic: Ghanim comes to enough to call Qut al-Qulub’s name, she confirms his identity and faints away at his bedside. His mother and sister follow suit. A good thing they did bring the superintendent’s wife, at least someone is still conscious. When the collective swooning fit has passed, Qut al-Qulub eagerly reunites her very-nearly-a-boyfriend with his family and tells him about the caliph’s change of heart. Not only has the caliph decided the young couple can be together after all, he wants to meet Ghanim himself.

Qut al-Qulub takes Ghanim’s mother and sister to the baths and provides everybody with suitably fancy attire. She also personally prepares her new friends a series of restorative meals. Once they have been taken care of, she returns to the palace for a talk with the caliph. He wants to send Ja’far to collect Ghanim but Qut al-Qulub insists on getting there first so she can give her for-pity’s-sake-definitely-a-boyfriend a quick pep talk before the big audience. She also gives him a lot of money to tip the caliph’s attendants as he goes in. By the time Ja’far arrives, Ghanim is all set. He greets the caliph with deeply respectful poetry and, properly buttered up, the caliph welcomes him.

Hm. It seems the nights are getting shorter. Night forty five opens with Ghanim telling the caliph his story, all about the graveyard and the slaves and rescuing Qut al-Qulub. The caliph asks his forgiveness. Ghanim politely dismisses any need for that. (There is EVERY NEED). Pleased, the caliph gives him a palace and allowance, to be shared with his family. When the caliph meets Ghanim’s sister Fitna, he admires her beauty and wants to marry her; the ensuing double wedding is shared with Ghanim and Qut al-Qulub. As always, the caliph orders the whole affair be written down for posterity.

There’s no reference to Lady Zubaida. I’m going to assume she gets away with everything.

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