Dhul Nun AS2

Dhul Nun AS2


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



But the Sultan demanded one more proof. He ordered

another covered bowl to be brought in and asked the three

men what it contained. The three Alis refilled their sebsis with

kif and began to smoke.



The Three Alis

By Mohammed Ben Abdullah Yussufi


A man had three sons. All three were named Ali. When this man was on his deathbed, he said “I leave half of my land to my son Ali and the other half to my son Ali.” And then he died.

The three Alis fought among themselves as to which two of them would inherit their father’s land, and then they decided to take their dispute to the Sultan. They set out for the Alcazar or Sultan’s Palace with a donkey laden with their belongings. One night while they were asleep, a one-eyed man led away their donkey. in the morning they discovered the theft, and so they sat down and began to smoke kif.

The first Ali took a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said “The thief has one eye.’ The second Ali took a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said “The thief’s name is Amar.” The third Ali took a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said “The thief lives in the Alcazar.” So the the three Alis completed their journey to the Sultan’s Palace, and once there began looking for Amar the one-eyed.

When they found him they acused him of stealing their donkey. He denied it, and so teh three Alis decided to complain about Amar to the Sultan at the same time they were asking him to settle their dispute about their father’s land. When the Sultan had heard their story, he said to them “You did not see Amar steal your donkey. How can I believe the ideas you had while you were smoking kif?”

The three Alis asked the Sultan to test them, and so he ordered a covered bowl to be brought into the room. He asked them what was in the bowl. The three Alis took out their sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said “It is round.” The second Ali took a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said “It is orange.” The third Ali took a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said, “It is a tangerine.”

But the Sultan demanded one more proof. He ordered another covered bowl to be brought in and asked the three men what it contained. The three Alis refilled their sebsis with kif and began to smoke. The first Ali too a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said “It is couscous made frm wheat which is unfit to eat.” The second Ali took a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said “It is couscous made from lamb, which is unfit to eat.”  The third Ali took a few puffs on his sebsi, expelled the burning ash, and said  “It is couscous made for a Sultan who is unfit to rule.”

The Sultan removed the cover of the second bowl and lo! it was filled with couscous. The Sultan asked the three Alis to appear before him on the following day when he would give them a decision about their inheritance.

Then he ordered the chief cook to appear and taste the couscous. The cook did so and immediately became violently ill. Then the Sultan sent for the man who had ground the wheat for the couscous. Under threat of torture this man revealed that he had been violently ill the day before, and that just before grinding the wheat he had taken a shit and had not washed his hands afterwards.

Then the Sultan sent for the man who had prepared the meat for the couscous. This man was in perfect health, and so the Sultan asked him whom he had bought the lamb from. This man answered “From  a peasant woman who brought it to the Alcazar. The Sultan sent for the peasant woman, and she confessed that the lamb’s mother had died, and the lamb had been put to suckle on a bitch.

Finally the Sultan went to his own mother and said “Who was my father?” His mother answered “Your father was my husband the Sultan before you.” The Sultan pulled out his sword, held it to his mother’s throat, and said “I will kill you if you do not tell me who my father is.” The woman trembled and confessed that his father was a wool merchant in the market place.

On the next day the three Alis returned for their audience with the Sultan. The Sultan took them for a walk in the Alcazar and led them to a room with three doors. he turned to the first Ali and said “You told me the wheat in my couscous was unfit to eat. In return I give you everything behind this door.” The sultan opened the first door on a roomful of gold. Then he turned to the second Ali and said “You told me the lamb in my couscous was unfit to eat. In return I give you everything behind this door.” The Sultan opened the second door on a roomful of jewels. Then he turned to the third Ali and said “You told me my couscous was made for a Sultan unfit to rule. In return I give you everything behind behind the door.”

The Sultan opened the third door on a roomful of rocks. Then he said “Those who see what is base deserve what is base. Moreover you are the Ali your father left without an inheritance–unfit to inherit–for you saw that was unfit to inherit the kingdom. We recognized each other.”

*  *  *  *  *

Note: Mohammed Ben Abdullah Yussufi died at the age of 21 in the prison hospital of Tangier, after having been beaten during questioning.  


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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

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The Persistence of the Color Line

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The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”

 His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a Muslim visionary, revolutionary statesman, and founder of the Republic of Turkey. The West knows him best as the leading Ottoman officer in World War I’s Battle of Gallipoli—a defeat for the Allies, and the Ottoman empire’s greatest victory. Gaining fame as an exemplary military officer, he went on to lead his people in the Turkish War of Independence, abolishing the Ottoman Sultanate, emancipating women, and adopting western dress. Deeply influenced by the Enlightenment, Atatürk sought to transform the empire into a modern and secular nation-state, and during his presidency, embarked upon a program of impressive political, economic, and cultural reforms. Militarily and politically he excelled at all levels of conflict, from the tactical, through the operational, to the strategic, and into the rarified realm of grand strategy. His ability to integrate the immediate with the ultimate serves as an important lesson for leaders engaged in the twenty-first century’s great military struggles.

He became the only leader in history to successfully turn a Muslim nation into a Western parliamentary democracy and secular state, leaving behind a legacy of modernization and military and political leadership.

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This subtle, brilliant examination of the period between the War of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase puts Pulitzer-winner Ellis (

Founding Brothers

) among the finest of America’s narrative historians. Six stories, each centering on a significant creative achievement or failure, combine to portray often flawed men and their efforts to lay the republic’s foundation. Set against the extraordinary establishment of the most liberal nation-state in the history of Western Civilization… in the most extensive and richly endowed plot of ground on the planet are the terrible costs of victory, including the perpetuation of slavery and the cruel oppression of Native Americans. Ellis blames the founders’ failures on their decision to opt for an evolutionary revolution, not a risky severance with tradition (as would happen, murderously, in France, which necessitated compromises, like retaining slavery).

Despite the injustices and brutalities that resulted, Ellis argues, this deferral strategy was a profound insight rooted in a realistic appraisal of how enduring social change best happens. Ellis’s lucid, illuminating and ironic prose will make this a holiday season hit.— Publishers Weekly /  American Creation (Joseph Ellis interview)

*   *   *   *   *

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon’s violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King’s assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_”Deadline” (audio)

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The White Masters of the World

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By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 21 July 2012




Home  Amin Sharif

Related files: Dhu’l Nun  The Three Alis   Luqman   The Name of Allah Be Round About Us  The Ways of Women   Merchant of Baghdad

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