The Story Of Four Wives
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
Once upon a time at the heart of the Muslim empire there was a rich merchant who had four wives.
He loved the fourth wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to the finest of delicacies. He gave her nothing but the best, despite that her love for delicate fabrics made her dress only in scandalous skimpy outfits, but as no man except himself entered the female quarters, his affection for her made him tolerate her behaviour.
He also loved the third wife very much and was always showing her off to his best business associates. However, he feared that one day she would leave him for another. Even entertaining men she never crossed the limit of decency and she followed the general dress-code while still being a fashion leader to other women.
He also loved his second wife. She was his confidant, always kind, considerate and patient with him. Whenever the merchant faced a problem he could confide in her and she would help him get through the difficult times. She dressed conservatively but with style to display his wealth.
The merchant’s first wife was a very loyal partner and had made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and reputation. However, he did not love the first wife. Although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her! In fact hardly anyone did because she dressed in the thickest of veils and every item in her wardrobe was black, even if he was the only one seeing more than the outer sheet.
One day, the merchant fell ill and he knew his time was short. He thought of his luxurious life and wondered, “I now have four wives with me, but when I die, I’ll be all alone.”
Thus, he asked the fourth wife, “I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No way!” she replied and she walked away without another word. Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart.
The sad merchant then asked the third wife, “I have loved you all my life. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No!” she replied sharply “Life is too good! When you die, I’m going to remarry!” His heart sank and turned cold.
He then spoke to his second wife, “I have always turned to you for help and you’ve always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?” “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!” she replied sadly “At the very most, I can only walk with you to your grave.” Her answer struck him like a bolt of lightning. He was devastated at her reply.
Then a muffled voice called out: “I’ll go with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.” The merchant looked up, and there stood his first wife. She had uncovered her face to show she was very skinny as she suffered from malnutrition and neglect. Greatly grieved the merchant said, “I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!”
Despite her own state the first wife nursed her husband and arranged for him to have the most reviving food and drink. She stayed at his bedside day and night comforting him, inspiring hope and praying for him. After six long months her prayers were rewarded and her nursing had worked. The merchant miraculously recovered.
Soon he again took seat in the main hall, but right behind him, a lattice hiding her from view, sat his first wife, although the space looked empty with his faithful wife as always, completely covered in black.
A noble woman in black came to him and removed her veil to show she was the second wife. “My black coverings are quite intricate as I’ve worked on them for six months to display appropriately while I expected to be wailing on your grave. If you still regard me as your wife I’ll try to support you even if bad times return. And I’ll obey the first wife just as if it was you speaking.” The merchant said, “You have stayed in my house and are still my second wife.”
Another high-class woman in a black silk wrap appeared before him. Upon removal of her full face covering she showed to be the third wife. “I have made myself available at all the marriage counsellors of the province. If I am still your wife I’ll use the connections acquired to make your business even more successful than before. Also I’ll obey the first wife just as if it was you speaking.” The merchant said, “I now have a business partner among the veiled half of the people and I still have a third wife.”
Yet another woman came to him, this time wearing a floor long exquisite black burqa, which she flipped back to reveal another black veil that she pulled down to show she was his fourth wife. “I have travelled far only to be offered to become a concubine or much worse. Fortune made me come back a little while ago to learn I still had my chamber. I have encountered many new veiling styles and now can make sure your women dress modestly while still displaying your high position if I am still your wife. And I’ll obey the first wife just as if it was you speaking.” The merchant said, “I’ll let you be in charge of the wardrobe for all members of my household. You are still my fourth wife.”
The merchant wished to sleep only with his first wife, but she reminded him that Allah has commanded equal sharing. The merchant lived happily with his four wives ever after. From then on, everywhere his miraculous recovery became known, only women swathed in black were to be seen.
Copyright © 2009, Bo_Emp ; bo_emp ‘at’ yahoo ‘dot’ com
Thanks to Nye North for proof reading.