Thursday, November 5, 2009

Leo Africanus - Blog 2

Leo Africanus continues with the death of Hasan’s grandmother. Hasan and Salma started living with Khali after Muhammad divorced Salma. Hasan made a friend named Harun, who is also called the Ferret. Inquisitors took over Granada and forced many people to become baptized. Mariam, Hasan’s half-sister, is worried about her future because she will basically be controlled by men. It is later revealed that her would-be husband is a thief and murderer. Hasan and Harun approached Astaghfirrulah who denounced the Zarwali (Mariam’s proposed husband) so that the engagement was broken. As payback, the Zarwali had Mariam taken to “the quarter” because she was presumed to be a leper. Hasan left with his uncle on a mission with a caravan. Along the way, Hasan received a slave girl named Hiba as a gift, and Khali died. This left Hasan in charge of the caravan, which was probably the first moment that he was forced to really be a man. It had also been Khali’s wish that Hasan would marry his youngest daughter, Fatima. This wish is realized, although their relationship is strained because she seems to not desire the marriage. Harun made up his mind that he was going to marry Mariam, so he eventually helped her escape from the quarter, ran away with her, and married her. Fatima then gives birth to a daughter, Sarwat (Fortune). Hasan’s fortune continued and he amassed large amounts of wealth through shrewd and lucky business deals. He then used his influence to force the Zarwali into exile.

I thought the most unusual part of this section was the way that Hasan developed. He had previously had idealistic goals for the freedom of women (as in his conversation with Mariam), but once he receives Hiba, he is happy to keep her as a slave. Although it appears that he loves her and so does not see her that way, the comparison must be drawn to Muhammad and Warda. The comparison is furthered when Hasan marries Fatima, which is like Muhammad and Salma. It also greatly surprised me that Hasan was so easily drawn into the wealth. He had previously not seemed to be so much stock in such things, but it is clear by the end of the passage that his intentions are to continue to be extravagant, as in the case of his palace. It just seemed strange to me that Hasan’s views of the world could have changed so drastically, although they now seem to fit society’s views much better. To me, it seems like Harun retained his ideals much more purely.

I would really love to hear more about the society from a woman’s point of view. Mariam sums it up when she says, “I must fear all other men: my father today, my husband tomorrow, all those not related to me and from whom I should hide myself” (127). The women live in a constant fear of what they will be led and forced to do merely by society’s conventions. Hiba, like Warda, seems to have more freedom: she does not need to remain veiled, and she is able to be perfumed and dance. I would also have liked to have had the wedding night from Fatima’s point of view. Why did she faint but was still smiling? Why was she trying so hard to please Hasan while still not seeming to want to? Hiba is another mystery. I understand why she would be ashamed of being barren, but I would have thought that she would have reveled in the freedom and continued love of Hasan. I wonder if Hiba and Fatima will eventually have a rift like that between Salma and Warda?

1 comment:

  1. I too was interested in the relationship between Hiba and Fatima. I don't get the overall sense that Fatima desires so badly to be with Hasan like Salma wanted to be with Muhammed so I don't think that she will harbor the same amount of jealousy causing that kind of rift. Also I think that although Hiba does have freedom from child rearing duties, that the overall emphasis placed on women's fertility probably makes her feel like less of a woman. I assume that she felt as though she could never be a considered a suitable wife or for any man or a complete woman without the ability to conceive.