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Popular Islam in Al-ayyib li Author(s): Ahmad A. Nasr Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 11 (1980), pp.

88-104 Published by: BRILL Stable URL: . Accessed: 18/03/2012 14:24
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Journalof Arabic Literature,XI

POPULAR ISLAM IN AL-TAYYIB SALIH Popular Islam is a distinct feature in Sudanese life. The teachings of the Sufis as well as the religious traditions drawn from diverse books of religion and the well known stories of holy man and of ghosts and spirits, all coupled with the surviving traditions of the indigenous religions, exercise a strong influence upon Sudanese society. It is only natural that al-Tayyib Salih's writings, which are a portrayal of Sudanese life, should embody this essential aspect. It is the intent of this paper to explore the nature of popular Islam in Salih's short story, "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid," 1 his novella The Wedding of Zein,2 and his novels The Season of Migration to the North,3 and Bandar Shah: Daw al-Bait.4 Most of Salih's works have their setting in Wad Hamid, a village on the bank of the Nile in the northern province of Northern Sudan. The few occasional shifts of scene, with the exception of the description of a journey through a desert in The Season of Migration to the North, occur as flashbacks. The village where almost all the events in Salih.'s stories unfold is named after a saint or wali, Wad Hamid, a slave of an infidel. He, fearing his master, had kept his faith to himself and did not practise his worship openly lest his master should kill him. Wad Hamid escaped by putting his prayer mat on the Nile and squatting on it. The mat landed at a place where the village came into being. Apart from Wad Hamid, the village had also witnessed other holy men, like al-Hanin of The Weddingof Zein, men whose domed shrines stood in the middle of the village cemetery "like ships
1 Tayeb Salih, "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid", in The Wedding of Zein, trans. by Denys Johnson-Davies (London: Heinemann, 1968) pp. 1-20. The English translation of "The Doum Tree of Wad lHamid"was published in the November 1962 issue of Encounter. Its Arabic original together with the originals of The Wedding of Zein and "A Handful of Dates" were published in Beirut in 1966. The spelling of proper names and Arabic words in the English translation departs from the standard system of transliteration which I have adopted. AlZayn, for example, appears as Zein in the English translation. It must be pointed out, however, that many of Salih's titles contain proper names spelled in accordance with the dialectal pronunciation. 2 The Wedding of Zein, pp. 23-28. 3 TheSeason of Migration to theNorth, trans. by Denys Johnson-Davies, (London: Heinemann, 1969). 4 Al-Tayyib Salih, Bandar Shah: Dam al-Bayt, (Beirut: Dar al-cAwda, 1971).





on ocean waves." 5The doum tree of the wali Wad Hamid, the symbol of mysticism, is described in a way which suggests the strong grip of popular Islam on the village society. The doum tree, with its full sturdy trunk, "holds its head aloft to the skies, its roots strike down into the earth." 6 It is like some "mythical eagle spreading its wings over the village and everyone in it." 7 The villagers' religious beliefs are so deeply implanted in their subconscious that they seek refuge and protection from illness and other worldly troubles under the doum tree. Whenever they are in trouble, they dream of the holy Wad Hamid, who releases them from their troubles. The kind of life led by the saints has its impact on the people. The pious men lead a simple life, and so do the villagers. "We are people who live on what God sees fit to give us." 8 Though they have a simple hard life, the people of the village of Wad Hamid are content and happy. Salih. seems to equate mysticism with happiness. The image of al-Zayn, the friend of al-Hanin who represents mysticism in The Wedding of Zein, is connected in the people's mind with happiness and joy. Whenever al-Zayn appears, there is laughter: for he is a lover of life. Children usually come into this life crying, but not al-Zayn, for "no sooner did he come into this world than he burst out laughing and so it was throughout the rest of his life." 9 He would be found at every wedding party, for the thrilling sound of joy attracted him, and once he was there he would fill the place with life and vigour. In "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid," the village with its river, darkness, sand flies, horse flies, donkeys and above all the doum tree (which is believed to be planted by the holy man Wad Hamid) -is in direct opposition to the city, with its hospitals, electricity, radios, cinemas, newspapers, schools and modern means of transport. The conflict arises when the modern threatens the traditional. The government suggests that the doum tree, the symbol of mysticism, of continuity and of shelter, should be cut down in order to make way for a stopping place for the steamer. The villagers oppose the idea and resist it by violence. The attempt to cut down the tree fails,
' TheSeasonof Migrationto the North, p. 47. "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid", p. 3. 7 Ibid., p. 6. 8 Ibid., p. 2. 9 The Wedding of Zein, p. 33.



but another attempt is made by the national government this time in order to build a water-pump for an agriculturalscheme in its place. Again the villagers unite under the flag of popular Islam and all of them, together with other people whose hearts respond to the incident throughout the country, stand as one man against the government'splan and its intervention in the village's sacredbeliefs. Consequently,the government falls and its attemptto modernizethe village fails. "Our (the villagers') life returnedto what it had been: no water-pump, no agriculturalscheme, no stopping place for the steamer.But we kept our doum tree which cast its shadow over. . . the fields and the houses right up to the cemetery."10But popular Islam and modernization, $alih suggests, do not necessarily contradict each other. "What all these people have overlooked is that there is plenty of room for all things: the doum tree, the tomb, the water-pumpand the steamer'sstopping place." 11How? The answer of Zein, where one of $alih's to this question is given in The Wedding themes is that modernizationcould be achieved under the auspices of popular Islam. of Zein by al-Hanin. Popular Islam is representedin The Wedding Al-Hanin, like Wad HIImid,is a pious holy man wholly dedicatedto his religious devotions, and about whom the people of Wad HIImid at village relate strangestories. He is believed to make his appearance two places simultaneously-a miracle which has strengthened the villagers' belief in his sainthood. His blessings make the village materiallyand spirituallyprosperous. It is al-Zayn's intimate friendship with Al-Hanin that has led the people to believe that al-Zaynis one of Allah's saints. "Whenmeeting him (al-Zayn) upon the road he (al-Hanin)would embracehim, kiss him on the head and call him 'The Blessed one of God'. Zein too, on seeing Haneen ... would hasten to embrace him." 12 al-Hanin, people have concluded, would not befriend al-Zayn unless he had perceived in him the glimmering of spirituallight. The modern in The Wedding of Zein is representedby Sayf al-Din, who stands for all the negative aspects of the city's values. He is a drunkard,a seducer, an ex-prisonerand an extravagantwho is so much a shame that his father disowns him as son and the villagers
10 "The Doum Tree of Wad Harmid",p. 'L Ibid., p. 19. IL The Wedding of Zein, p. 45.






shun him and "close their doors in his face lest he corrupttheir sons or seduce their daughters."13 Al-Zayn and Sayf al-Din come into conflict when the latter, during his sister's marriage,gives al-Zayn an almost deadly blow on the head on account of al-Zayn's alleged misbehaviour.Later, al-Zayn, with the immenselyterrifyingstrength that flows in his lean body whenever he is angry, grips Sayf al-Din's throat and almost kills him. Sayf al-Din is miraculously saved by al-Hanin, who appearsfrom out of the blue. Al-Hanin reconciles the two men and blesses them, together with the other six men who witnessed the incident. In that year, which came to be known as alHanin's Year, the lives of the eight blessed men and the whole village are affected by miracles attributed to al-Hanin. Sayf al-Din's life is completely changedfrom vice to virtue. Al-Zayn is wedded to Ni 'ma, the most beautiful girl in the village. The whole village prospers materially.Secondaryeducation,medicaltreatmentin a largehospital, as well as an agriculturalscheme, are introduced by the government are without political power. despite the fact that the Wad HaImidians Through al-Hanin's intervention the villagers readily accept the means of modernizationthey had rejectedbefore. The confrontation between popular Islam and modernization comes to an end when the former comes under the auspices of the latter. Popular Islam' combines two extremes, namely the indigenous pagan religion as well as orthodox Islam. In it Islamic beliefs and animistic beliefs coexist. For example, "A tree or a stone associated with previous beliefs became associated with a saint and imbued with his baraka."14 Popular Islam therefore tolerates both orthodox Islam and paganism. This is fully illustratedin The Wedding of Zein. "The girls of 'The Oasis'sang and dancedin the hearingand underthe very eyes of the Imam. The Sheikhs were reading the Koran in one house, the girls dancedand sang in another; the professionalchanters rapped their tambourines in one house, the young men drank in another."15 In fact, the blessing of al-Hanin is given to men who have hardly knelt to Allah. It is given to Sayf al-Din, the hero of "The Oasis," to Mahjiib and his friends who enter the mosque to give the Imam his salaryand see whether or not the mosque needs
1a Ibid., p. 72. 14 A. Spenser Trimingham, Islam in the Sudan, (London: Frank and Cass,

1965), p. 165. For more information on popular Islam in the Sudan see also M. A. Wad Dayf Allah, Kitib al Tabaqdt ft KbuzuxAl-Awliyd' wa al-Sbucardwa $a4dlibin, ed. Yusuf Fadl Ijasan (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1972). 16 Th Wedding of Zein, p. 113.



repairing; and to al-Zayn who has never set foot in the mosque. Sayf al-Din's life is saved by the sudden appearanceof al-H4anIn, and and his life changes completely from vice to virtue; Mahjfub's his mates' friends bring a good yield; and al-Zayn is married to Ni cma,the most beautifulgirl in the village. The same idea of tolerance, in whose absence conflict arises, is to the North: "We are all of Migration expressed again in The Season brothers; he who drinks and he who prays and he who kills. The source is the same, No one knows what goes on in the mind of the Divine." 16 Similarly,on the day of Daw al-Bayt'swedding, contradictions take place: "On that day, the one who prayed got drunk, and the decent respected man danced."17 The intolerance of paganism towards popular Islam is hinted at where a conflict arisesbetween in "The Doum Tree of Wad HIImid" and his pagan master.Fearingthat his mastermight find Wad HaImid him one day practising his worship, Wad Himid escapes and comes to a place where he lays the foundation of the village which came to be named after him. "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid" hints also at the conflict between popularand orthodox Islam. Like the governwho has come to set up the water-pumpwhere ment's commuissioner the doum tree stood, the Imam is bitten by horseflies and is compelledto leave the village. "These people are in no need of me or any of Zein, $ilih seemsto say other preacher,"18 he says. In The Wedding that orthodox Muslims should tolerate popular Islam and recognize it. They should rememberthat Islam was introducedinto the Sudan through mysticismand that Muslim beliefs and practiceswere deeply influencedby mystical teachings. He also wants to remind orthodox Muslims that the Qurin is full of miraclesrenderedby Allah's saints of Mary, in and prophets. It is no coincidence then that the .SRra which Jesus performs many miracles, is mentioned twice in The of Zein. Ni 'ma finds particularpleasure when she recites Wedding that particular.Sxra.From this same .Sgrathe Imam reads the verses, "And shake towards thee the trunk of the palm tree, it will drop upon thee fresh dates fit to gather,"19at the very moment al-Haanin gives his blessings to the eight men and after which the village witnesses miracleupon miracle.
16 TheSeasonof Migrationto the North, p. 112.


BandarShibk:paw al-Bayt, p. 124. "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid", p. 3. of Zein, p. 76. The Wedding





Al-Hanin's intervention not only solves the conflict between al-Zayn and Sayf al-Din, but also brings together al-Zayn and the Imam, the representativeof formalistic traditions. The Imam, we are told, is "never called by his name, for in their (the villagers') mind it was as though he were not a person but an institution." 20 In the village the Imam, an Azhar scholar, lives in an ivory tower. He is neither interested in the local affairs of the people nor concerned with their preoccupations. This lack of interest occasions an ignorance which leads to actual contempt and disdain for the people. In relation to the Imam the villagers are divided into camps, all of which despisehim, openly or in secret,for his idleness.His image in the people's minds is dark and gloomy, for it is always connected with death and Hell-fire. Eachwouldleavethe mosqueafterFriday prayers boggle-eyed, feeling all of a suddenthatthe flow of life had come to a stop. Eachlooking at his fieldwith its datepalms,its treesandcrops,wouldexperience no he wouldfeel,wasincidental, feelingof joywithinhimself.Everything, transitory, the life he was leadingwith its joy and sorrowsmerelya bridgeto anotherworld.21 In contrast with this gloomy portrait of the Imam, Silih draws a bright picture of al-Zayn with regard to his relationship with the people. In spite of his raillery and buffoonery, al-Zayn, particularly afterthe village's witness of miracles,grows in staturein the people's eyes. Al-Zayn's friendship extends to include the deformed and the abnormalpeople of the village like Deaf Ashmana,Miusa the Lameand the single-lipped, half-paralyzed Bakhit, who all love al-Zaynfor his kindness and good will. His friendship also transendshis village to the people of 'the Koz'-the nomads who live on the edge of the village-and the people of the neighbouringplaces. Al-Zayn, though ugly in physical appearance,is a guide in beauty. It is he who discovers beautiful girls, falls in love with them and declares that in public. In love affairs,$alih draws such a bright picture of al-Zayn that it seems to transcendthe human. Once al-Zayn sheds light on a beautiful girl, she gets a husband; and al-Zayri,unaffected,positively or negatively, is ready to go through another experience. The only person al-Zayn hates is the Imam. Al-Zayn "treatedhim with rudeness and if he met him approaching from afax he would leave the road clearfor him ... His mere presenceat a gathering was

Ibid., p. 90.

91 Thid., p. 89.



enough to spoil Zein's peace of mind and start him cursing and shouting." 22 The Imam does not think highly of al-Zayn and his friend al-Hanin. In his opinion the villagers have "spoiled Zein by treating him as someone unusual and that to regard him as a holy person was a lot of rubbish."23 In the end we find the two extremes,the Imam and al-Zayn, come together. The Imam, who always feels uneasy within himself when al-Zayn gives him one of his glaring looks, performs the rites of al-Zayn's wedding because it is the wish of Allah that al-Zayn be marriedto Ni cma.To the astonishmentof the people, the Imam congratulates al-Zayn and participatesin celebrating the marriage by reciting the Qurdn. to the North, $lihh deals with the same In The Seasonof Migration theme-popular Islam. This time it is opposed not to phenomena of modernizationbut to Western civilization in general. Mysticism is representedby the narrator'sgrandfather.That the grandfather's name is mentioned a few times 24 in all Shfih'sworks suggests that Slih considers him as an institution.This suggestion is strengthened by the way the grandfatheris described.He is tall like a palm tree whose roots strike down into the ground. The grandfather,as the exponent of popular Islam is highly regarded by the villagers. He is so tall that everybody in the village has to look up to him when addressing him. His bending down to enter a house is likened to the bending of the river at Wad Himid village. His tall stature and soft white beard and string of prayer-beadsremind us of al-Hanin and Wad HImid. The grandfather,though old, is still strong and "can spring in the twilight of dawn." 26 He is therefore the symbol of the stable society founded in popular Islam. He could actually survive despite plagues, famines, wars and the corruption of rulers. we have MustafaSacid, who represents In contrastto the grandfather Western civilization and therefore stands at the opposite extreme, and the narratorwho, by his close friendship with his grandfather and his seculareducation in the Sudanandabroad,combinespopular religious beliefs and Western civilization.
2 Ibid., p. 93.
23 24

Ibid., p. 93. In The Seasonof Migrationto the Nortb the grandfather'sname is mentioned four times, pp. 82-84 and 102. 25 Ibid., p. 74.





Mustafa Sa'id is a man who, by the very nature of his make-up, and later by absorbing Western civilisation, isolates himself from the traditions of his society. He is an orphan who has no relatives or friends, and whose relationshipwith his mother is void of motherly love and tenderness. "It was as if she were some stranger on the road with whom circumstanceshad chanced to bring me." 26 No wonder then that when he leaves the Sudan to pursue his education he says farewell to her without tears or kisses. No wonder then that he does not cry when the news of her death reacheshim in Britain. The origin and background of his parents suggest his disassociation from the mystic Sudanesesociety. His father was from the 'Ababda tribe who live on the borders of the Sudan and Egypt. It is this tribe that had helped Slatin to escape from the Khalifa and had worked The tribe then is neither Sudanese as guides in Kitchener's army.27 nor Egyptian and presumablyhas no loyalty to the Sudan. Mustafa's mother is from one of the Southernnegroid pagan tribes who do not relate to Islam, popular or orthodox. It is not surprising, therefore, that since his childhood Mustafahad the feeling of being free, with no ties whatsoever to the traditions. Before coming to the village of Wad Hamid, he never regrets his lack of ties with traditional society, rather he enjoys it. "When the sea swallowed up the shore and the waves heaved under the ship and the blue horizon encircled us, I immediately felt an overwhelming intimacy with the sea... The whole of the journeyI savouredthat feeling of being nowhere.'"28 With a mind as sharpas a knife, with no emotion of love, and with no roots, Mustafaleaves for Britain,where he is more exposed to Western civilization and far removed from the mystical tradition. Ironically,the British girls who come to like Mustafaare attracted by the exotic mysticism of Africa or the East. Ann Hammond, for example, had been influenced by Eastern philosophies and was about to become a Muslim or a Buddhist. She treatsMustafaas a slave girl would treat Haruin al-Rashid. Sheila Greenwood, to give a second example, is attracted by his black colour, "the colour of
magic and mysteries .


She yearns for tropical climate, cruel suns,

purple horizons. In her eyes I was the symbol of all her hankerings."29
Ibid., p. 19. Slatin, Rudolf Carl was the captive of al-Khalifa Abdullahi who succeeded Muhammad Ahmad al-MahdI. Kitchener was the general of the EgyptianBritish army which reconquered the Sudan in 1898. 28 The Season of Migrationto the North, pp. 26, 27. 20 Ibid., p. 30.



Mustafa exploits that attraction by transforming his room into a combination of Eastern and African worlds, full of the smell of burning sandalwood and incense, Arabic books with decorated covers written in Kufic script, Eastern perfumes, Persian carpets, and paintings and drawings of naked girls from the tribes of the Zande, the Nuer and the Shilluk, and of bananaplantationson the Equator. It is Jean Morris, the last girl he has an affairwith, that causes Mustafa'squest for roots. Unlike the other girls, she is not attracted by the atmosphere of Mustafa's room nor by his sharp mind. and therefore she is not seduced by him. In fact, she despises the 'sharp knife' of which he is proud. "She would ... tearup books and papers. This was the most dangerous weapon she had and in every battle she would end with her ripping up an important book or burning some piece of researchon which I had worked for weeks on end." 30 The narrator whose name-Mihaimid-is revealed in Bandar Shdh: Daw al-Bayt, has had an intimate friendship with his grandfather ever since his childhood. When a child, he imagines himself growing up like his grandfather,and he finds joy in going to the by river, and to the mosque, where he leams parts of the .Qurdn later heart. The grandfatherhas a say in Mihaimids'education and in his marriage.Consequently,Mihaimidpursueshis studiesin secular schools and crowns his educationwith a doctoratedegreein literature from a British university. Thus he, with a backgrounddifferentfrom Mustafa's,is likewise exposed to Westerncivilization. Abroad, however, he clings firmly to his traditions and sees his grandfatherin his dreams. At home he feels that he is like the palm tree standingin thatis, he is "a being with the courtyardof their house in Wad HaImid, a background,with roots, with a purpose,"32 His ties with his village never loosen or break in spite of his work in Khartoum.He comes every now and then to the village of Wad Hamid and every time he visits it he feels a sense of stability, musing, "I feel that I am important, that I am continuous and integral."33 Mihaimid describes his embrace of his grandfather,saying, "I breathe in his unique smell
p. 161. ThIbid.,
S1 "The strange thing was that I never used to go out with my father, rather it

was my grandfather who would take me with him wherever he went, except for the momings when I would go to the mosque to learn Koran". "A Handful of of Zein, p. 23. Dates", The Wedding " Tbe Season of Migrationto the Nortb, p. 2. 38 Ibid., p. 34.





which is a combination of the smell of the large mausoleum in the

cemetery and the smell of the infant child ... (and) experience a

sense of richness as though I am a note in the heartbeatsof the very universe." " But this feeling of stability, continuity and integrity is shaken in the narratorwhen he comes in contact with Mustafaand knows his life story. Mustafahas, againsthis own will, become a partof his world. For the first time he experiencesa feeling of fear. He begins to doubt his loyalty to his village, to the traditions, to popular Islam. His doubt is triggered off by Mustafa'swords that "a tree grows simply and your grandfatherhas lived and will die simply." 35 Consequently, at the end of the novel, he finds himself in the Nile metaphorically between the values of Europe and of his native land, half-way between the northem and southern banks. He has to decide: either to be alienatedand detachedfrom his society, or to hold fast to the traditions. He chooses the latter, the south: "I chose life," 36 for to be without roots is to be dead. That Mihaimid chooses the mystical influenceupon him. is not surprising in the light of his grandfather's Since childhood the stories of the past have intrigued him, and his grandfather likes to narrate such stories. The grandfather'svoice is "the last sound I heard before I went to sleep reciting the jQurdn and the first I heard on waking."37 The stage of doubt he passed through strengthens his conviction in the traditional. This conviction is now based not only on blind faith but on reason. Mustafa's life-story has proven to him the value of identifying with his society and thereforehe reachesthe conclusion that the contact with Western civilization should not make us poison our present or future. "The railways, ships, hospitals, factories and schools will be ours and we will speak their language without a sense of guilt or a sense of gratitude. Once again we shall be as we were-ordinary people." 88 Mustafa's return to the Sudan and finally to the village of Wad Hamid is an apology for the kind of life he had led before. In other words, it is a quest for religion, a glimpse of which possibly lies deep in his subconscious as a result of the Robinsons' taking him to visit some mosques in Egypt.39But Mustafa's quest proves to be a
" Ibid., p. 73.
85 "'

Ibid., p. 50.
Ibid., p. 168.


Ibid., p. 48. Ibid., pp. 49-50.

8@ When his train is approaching London Mutafa faUs asleep and dreams that he 'was praying alone at the Citadel Mosque. It was illuminated with thousands



failure because it is not a genuine one. In spite of his settling down in Wad Himid, participatingin the village's life, attending prayers regularly,and in spite of his close friendship with the narrator's grandfatherwhom he considers as "a part of history,"40 Mustafa finds a sense of belonging in rootlessness. Just as he had turned his room in London into a small mystic world to seduce British girls, so he builds as part of his house in Wad HaImid a room representing the Western World. The room has "a real English fire place with all the bits and pieces... On either side of the fireplace are two Victorian chairs."41 It is full of English books of all kinds. Not a single Arabic book is there and even the copy of the Qwrdan he has is translated.The peace of mind Mustafafinds in that room suggests his alienation.However, he is aware of this fact; and for this reason, in his will, he entruststhe narratorwith his two sons "becauseI have 42 He does not want glimpsed in you a likeness to your grandfather." them to be detached from society. His life will be meaningful if his two sons "grow up imbued with the air of this village, its smell and colours and history and the faces of its inhabitantsand memories of its floods and harvestings and sowing." ' Mustafa eliminates himself, or rathernaturebestows on him the end he would have wanted for himself, because his quest was not genuine. On the surface he has lived with the villagersbut deep inside he could not rid himself of "The black Englishman Mustafa." In the village Mustafa is paralleled by Wad al-Rayyis. Mustafa is very handsomeand is much liked by girls, and so is Wad al-Rayyis. In his youth Wad al-Rayyiswas so handsomethat girls up and down the river liked him. Both men have no love for women. Mustafais eager to quench his sexual thirst, and Wad al-Rayyis would take "no heed of anything in a woman except that she was a woman." " Both of them are obsessed by sex, though for different reasons. Mustafa puts a metaphoric phrase into practice. If the colonizers have rapedAfricahe will invade them in theirvery homes and liberate Africa by his penis. The cities he conquers are personified in the British girl he seduces. "The city has changedinto a woman. I would
of chandeliers, and the red marble glowed as I prayed alone". Seasonof Migration to the North, p. 28. '? Ibid., p. 102. 41 Ibid., p. 137.

Ibid., p. 66. Ibid., p. 66.

44 Ibid., p. 79.





pitch my tent driving my tent peg into the mountain summit." 45 The mirrors on the walls which reflect his image and that of his victim satisfy in him the feeling that he is having sex not with one woman only but with a whole harem. Wad al-Rayyis, a man who has married and divorced frequently, puts into practice the proverb, "A stallion isn't finicky." Both Mustafa and Wad al-Rayyis are sexually tortured by Jean and Husna, respectively. Jean's turning her back on Mustafa for two months drives him mad and makceshim kill her. Similarly, HJusna,Mustafa's widow, refuses to let Wad al-Rayyis, the man she is forced to marry, consummate his marriage with her. Mad with desire, Wad al-Rayyis tries to have his right as a husband by force. Husna stabs him and then herself. Both men as well as Husna, the woman mediating between them, are eliminated from the village, from life. Mustafa fails to fit into the popular religious tradition. The striking paralellism between him and Wad al-Rayyis justifies the death of the latter. It is true that Wad al-Rayyis is a friend of the narrator's grandfather, but the way Salih describes Wad al-Rayyis removes him from the sphere of the mystic. Like the grandfather, al-Hanin and Wad Hamid, Wad al-Rayyis is characterized by a white beard. But his beard in "its utter whiteness contrasted strongly with thebrownness of his skin . .. so that (it) looked like something artificial stuck on to his face." 46 Moreover, though an aged man in his seventies, Wad al-Rayyis is still obsessed by sex at a time men at his age bear themselves with dignity and prepare to meet Allah. This obsession makes him reject the advice of the narrator's grandfather not to marry Iusna. Husna is the victim with whom Mustafa has crowned his life. As a result of her marriage to Mustafa, Husna becomes "like a city woman." 47 Her life is contaminated with Mustafa's, and after his death she behaves in a way which makes the villagers raise their eyebrows. She refuses to accept as husband men chosen for her by her father. Such a deed meant one thing, the rejection of a principle accepted by society, the principle that men are the guardians of women. Husana also dares to go to the narrator's grandfather and ask him to tell his grandson to marry her. The contamination leads her to do a thing never seen or heard of before in the village of Wad Hamid, a thing not easily spoken of. Even Bint Majzab, the woman
45Ibid.,p. 39. The Seasonof Migrationto the North, p. 78. 47 Ibid., p. 101.





uninhibited in her conversation, has to have some wine and to wipe the sweat from her face before she could talk about Husna's stabbing herself and Wad al-Rayyis. Both Husna and Wad al-Rayyis are buried without a funeral ceremony. Daw al-Bayt in BandarShah: Daw al-Bayt reminds us very much of Mustafa, though he is very different from him. Daw al-bayt, whose story, like Mustafa's, occurs as a flashback, is a white wounded soldier. He is driven by the waves of the river to the doors of the village of Wad Hamid whose inhabitants discover that the soldier has forgotten his past. He does not know his name, his family, his religion or his country. In short, he has no roots. He is fed, cured, and later converted to Islam, given a name,48 circumcised and given in marriage to the girl who had nursed him. Like Mustafa, he is welcomed by the village of Wad Hamid and accepted as a member of the society. "You came to us like Allah's destiny from we do not know where... However, we have accepted you among us as we accept heat and cold, life and death," 49 Both Mustafa and Daw al-Bayt get married to girls from the village; they work on their plots of land, and participate in the development of the village. Mustafa plays an important role in the Agricultural Project Committee, and Daw alBayt introduces new crops to the village of Wad Hamid. In summer he travels with caravans and returns with new kinds of clothes, perfumes and a variety of pots, food and drinks never known in the village. Both men disappear in the Nile during the flood season. The description of the villagers' search for both men is almost identical. In Mustafa's case, "the whole village, carrying lamps, combed the river bank, while some put out in boats, but though they searched the whole night through it was without avail." 50 Likewise, they searched for Daw al-Bayt, and in the words of one of the villagers: "Some of us took boats and others ran along the bank. Lamps were carried on both banks. The people called out from one place to another .., but Daw al-Bayt had disappeared. He had
48 The villagers give this character the name Daw al-Bayt which literally means "The-Light-of-The House". This suggests that Salih chooses the names of his characterswith some care to symbolize important features of the characters who bear them. For example, the name of the holy man al-Hanin means "TheKind-One"; al-Zayn, "The-Good-One"; Nicma, "Grace"; Sayf al-Din, "Swordof-Religion"; Mustafa, "The-Chosen-One". 49 Bandar Shah: Paw al-Bayt, p. 112. My translation. 50 The Season of Migrationto the North, p. 45.




gone to where he came from: from water to water, and from darkness to darkness."51 But the similarities between the two men should not obscure the differencesbetween them. Mustafa,having no roots, comes to Wad Hamid in quest of his origin and of the religious al-Bayt,the white foreigner, beliefs; whereashe fails in his quest, D?aw identifies with the society. While Mustafa's life-story and his disappearance have strengthened the narrator'sbelief in popular Islam, Daw al-Bayt's appearance,stay in the village, and subsequentdisappearancehave a parallel effect not only upon one individual but on the whole village. Though a white man, he learns how to read and write Arabic and to recite parts of the Qurin by heart in a very short time. He miraculouslycultivates summer crops in winter and winter crops in summer. During his stay, the mosque is rebuilt, enlarged and adorned with rugs. His marriageis described in a way that remindsus of al-Zayn's.On his wedding dayDaw al-Baytrenews his Islamisation and recites a certain swra from the Qurdn entitled, "The Brightness (of the Morning),"52 some verses of which apply to his case. God has taken care of him, guided and enriched him. His death is reported in mystical terms by the two men who were repairingthe water-wheelwith him on the night of his disappearance and who were miraculouslysaved. One of them says that he "glanced at Daw al-Baytas if he, IDawal-Bayt,was suspendedbetween sky and earth surroundedby a green light."58 No wonder then that one of the villagers said, "Allah has sent him to us as a carrierof goodness and blessing." 4 Daw al-Bayt lived among them like a vision and went away like a dream, leaving behind him a son whose face is black like his mother'sand whose eyes are green like his father's.Daw al-Bayt's son, BandarShah, as some flashbacksindicate, seems to be more interested in authority. It has been noted that "religion and politics have traditionally
BandarShbh: Dawal-Bayt, p. 133. a "By the brighness (of the morning); and by the night, when it groweth dark: thy Lord hath not forsaken thee, neither doth he hate thee. Verily the life to come (shall be) better than this present life, and thy Lord shall give thee (a reward) wherewith thou shall be well pleased. Did he not find thee an orphan, and hath he not taken care (of thee)? And did he not find thee wandering in error, and hath he not guided (thee into the truth)? Wherefore oppress not the orphan: neither repulse the beggar: but declare the goodness of thy Lord". The Koran, trans. George Sale, p. 583. SS BandarShab: Daw al-Bayt, p. 135.
51 " Ibid., p. 113.



been closely linked in Muslim societies." 65 In the works considered here Salih has lightly touched upon the relationshipbetween popular Islam and politics. In "The Doum Tree of Wad Himid" popular religious beliefs cause the fall of the government. The people of Wad Hamid unite under the flag of mysticismand resist the government's interference in their sacred beliefs. The people throughout the country support them. Consequently,the government falls and the prime minister of the new government visits the village of Wad Hamidandthe doum tree. "The doum tree of Wad Hamid has become the symbol of the nation's awakening,"56 according to the leading newspaperin the country. The Wedding of Zein may also be interpretedas a call for national unity in a country which embraces different ethnic groups. The wedding with which the novel ends is not only a blessed union of al-Zayn and Ni'ma but a happy gathering of various groups who used not to recognize each other for ethnic, moral or religious reasons. Outside the village there are the people of the Koz-the Hawawir and Mirafab nomads, whom the villagers consider uncouth bedouins. These people, in turn, who live on the outskirts of the village pasturing their animals, consider themselves pure Arabs and thereforedo not intermarrywith the villagers, who compriseprincipally the Shlygiyya and Bidayriyyatribes. There are also the people of ex-slaveswho live on the periof "the oasis," who consist primarily meter of the life of the village. Inside the village we find two distinct groups in relation to the Imam. The first group is formed of old people who stand with the Imam. The second group is made up of young men who are hostile to the Imam for religious reasons, or ideological reasons in the case of those influenced by dialectical materialism.All these groups, together with the Imam, the government officials, the school staff, the tradersof the village, and the inhabitants of the other neighbouring villages, gather at al-Zayn's wedding "while Zein stood, tall and thin, in his place at the heartof the circle, like the mast of a ship." 57 In an interview $ilih says that The Wedding of Zein representshis dreams for a harmonious society."8Silih resorts to popular Islam
66 Muddathir cAbd al Rahim, "Arabism, Africanism and Self-Identificationin vol. 8, No. 2 (London: Cambridge African Studies, the Sudan", in Journalof Modern University Press, 1970). p. 240. "6 "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid", p. 18. 57 The Weding of Zein, p. 120. I Al-Mufawwar,Cairo, September 1972, p. 31.



to create such a spirituallyhappy and materiallyprosperous society. "During its existence the village had never experienced such an auspicious and fruitful year as "Haneen's (Hanin's) Year," as they had begun to call it." 59Upon a close look at such a society, one would find out that is is a society which has no place for orthodox Islam as represented by the Imam. For this reason Salih eliminates the Imam socially, paralyzes the Imam's activities, and surrounds him with men who are on the edge of the grave. It is also a society in which the wise and sensible-mindedmen are deprived of their natural role in society, that is, solving society's problems and giving moral guidance. $alih gives power to a group of young men who are under forty-five years of age and without whom no work, even that of organizing funerals, is accomplished or successful. The 'Umda, the head of the tribe, is presented as a helpless man in comparisonwith Mahjjiband his fellows, even in mattersrelating to government, not to mention the village's affairs.The 'Umdais also presentedas a man who does not respect his word. He promises to give his daughter's hand in marriageto al-Zayn because he wants to exploit al-Zayn's immense strength in cultivating his fields and feeding his animals.At the end he does not fulfil his promise, and no justificationis given. Popular Islam, a distinct feature in Sudanese life, prevails then in most of Salih'sworks. In "The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid"modernization threatens popular Islam and the people, united under the flag of the latter, reject modernization.Later, in The Wedding of Zein, they accept modernization when it comes under the auspices of
popular Islam. In The Season of Migration to the North, popular Islam

is contrastedwith Western civilization, and there again that civilization is rejected when it does not come into agreementwith popular Islam. But the two, that is, popular Islam and Western Civilization are harmoniouslyunited in the personalityof the narrator,who, exposed, like Mustafa, to Western civilization, is at the same time a close friend of his grandfather.The episode of Mustafa strongly convinces the narratorof the value of popular Islam, whereas Daw al-Bayt'sstoryin BandarShdh:Dawal-Bayt probablyconfirmsthe whole people's belief in their tradition.Popular Islam, itself a combination of animism and othodox Islam, mediates between modernityand the strict adherenceto tradition,between the village and the city, between Muslims who practice their religious duties and those who do not.

The Weddngof Zein, p. 77.



BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Abd al-Rahim, Muddathir, "Arabism, Afticanism and Self-Identification in the Sudan", in Journalof ModernAfrican Studes, Vol. 8, No. 2, 1970 2. Al-Muawwar. Cairo: Dar al-Hilil, September, 1971. 3. $lihi, al-Tayyib. BandarSbab: Paw al-Bayt. Beirut: Dir al-cAwda, 1971. 4. . (Salih, Tayeb). "Domat Wad alimid"(The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid), in cUrsal-ZaynwajQija; Ukbrd.(The Wedding of Zein and other Stories. Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. London: Heinemann, 1968.) 5. . "H{ifnatTamr" (A Handful of Dates), in cUrs al-Zayn wa jQisa Ukbrd (The Wedding of Zein and Other Stories. Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. London: Heinemann, 1968). 6. . Mawsimal-Hijra ila al-Sbimal (The Season of Migration to the North. Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. London: Heinemann, 1969).
7. . cUrs al-Zayn wa Qi;as UEkbra (The Wedding of Zein and Other Stories.

Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. London: Heinemann, 1968). 8. The Koran.Trans. Sale, George. London: Frederick Warne and Co., undated. 9. Trimingham, A. Spenser: Islam in the Sudan. London: Frank & Cass, 1965.