The deceased’s wishes… or just a story of perspective?

As the sunset was setting down over a valley, somewhere in the East, light lingering over mounts and roads, two friends, merchants of profession, were returning happily home from a very long journey full of trades and joy. Much money had been made, more money that they could count sometimes. But suddenly, a snake attacked one of them. Silently, as a surprise of fate, the snake bit the man at the ankle, taking his life quietly and surely. And before dying, the wounded man asked his friend closer, telling him with his last words ‘Promise me my friend, promise me, you will give my wife money, you will give my wife what you want of the money we earned together, and you will keep the rest.’ Of course, his friend promised, we all know that deceased’s wishes are to be respected.

Struck with grief and pain, the merchant bought his friend home to their home-town, and without delay came to tell his friend’s wife the sad news as well as his friend last wishes. Promptly he gave her a thousand dinars, of the money the two friends had made together, and kept the one hundred thousand dinars left for himself. A few days later, as the sun was setting on a new day, the deceased’s wife came asking for more money. Life was hard without a husband and surely he must have meant for his friend to give more to his wife. The merchant repeated the words said, debating that a thousand dinar was more than enough to keep the house until the oldest could work. Words kept flying between the two as grief, rage and anger shaped new wings to their arguments, but no truth could be found, and the woman decided to bring the dispute before Nasreddine.

Nasreddine was well known around the village and abroad, sometimes called the fool, sometimes called the wise, sometimes the wise fool, and as he went under a tree, maybe an olive tree, surely an old tree as its shade could stretch over and over the dry land, Nasreddine sat with his donkey, his companion of his many travellings and a quiet listener of his words, and summoned both the merchant and the woman. As they joined him under the tree, slightly anxious, Nasreddine listened. He listened first to the deceased’s wife, and he listened then to the merchant, the deceased friend as the man told once more the last words of this friend, defending his just action. ‘It is the will of her husband,’ the man repeated, ‘It was he who told me, “you will give my wife money, you will give my wife what you want of the money we earned together, and you will keep the rest.’ Nasreddine sat for a while as all spoken words found slowly their way to the given story, and Nasreddine gave them time as he knew solutions could only come from those words and the people who said them. ‘Yes that is right,’ he said at last, a silence dragging behind his words ‘your friend asked you to give what you, you wanted of the money you earn together during your long journey, and what did you want of that money?’

Reference: Jihad Darwiche, Pierre Oliver Leclercq, ‘Sagesses et Malices de Nasreddine, le fou qui etait sage’, editions Albin Michel, page 67, 68 adaptation and translation, Florence Dambricourt.

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