The following folktale was one of my childhood favorites and was told to my mother by her grandmother, Khadija Haji Aden, a pioneering woman of her times.
Once upon a time, there lived a women named Amina and her daughter, Jamila. One day, Amina was on her way to the market when she passed the store of Osman. On the window of his shop, Osman put a sign which read : "Men are created smarter than women". Amina could not believe Osman would put up such a sign, so she entered the store to complain.
"Excuse me, but surely you know the sign is not true!" asked Amina.
"Oh yes, it is indeed true. Men are smarter than women. You women are good at having children but leave the important matters to us." Osman confidently assured.
"If you don't take down that sign by tomorrow, you'll be sorry." Amina warned.
"Ha ha ha!" laughed Osman, " What could you possibly do, you're just a woman!".
"You'll see just how smart we women are!"
On her way home, she began thinking of the best way to teach Osman a lesson. As she passed the palace of King Hassan, the idea came in a flash. She rushed home to tell her daughter, Jamila, about her brilliant plan.
The next day, Jamila entered Osman's shop on a mission of which he knew nothing. Already a beautiful girl, she had on her best clothes and perfume. Osman, who had never met Jamila, wondered who this mysterious lady was. She purchased a couple of items and engaged in small conversation with Osman. On her third visit to his store, Osman finally asked who she was.
"I am Sulekha, daughter of King Hassan." Jamila exclaimed.
"Impossible! The King's daughter is paralyzed and he never lets her out of the palace."
"That is what my father wants everyone in the kingdom to think. He wanted to protect me from men who want to marry me for only for my beauty and wealth."
"I would like to marry you for who you are Sulekha. Is that possible?"
"Oh yes, it is possible, but you have to follow my instructions carefully."
"Anything for you Sulekha" promised Osman.
Jamila went on to explain to Osman that when he went to the palace to ask for her, he must act as if he thinks she is paralyzed. That way, she assured, the King will assume Osman wants her for reasons of love. The next day, Osman rushed to seek an audience with King Hassan. After a long wait, he was finally ushered into the King's office.
"Your highness, it is with great respect that I come to ask for your daughter."
"Are you willing to marry my daughter, even with her condition? asked the King.
"Yes, I do. I will to take care of her and give her all that she asks." Osman promised.
"Very well, the wedding ceremony will take place in one weeks time."
In preparation for the wedding, Osman spent the next week purchasing all types of silks and fabric. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of his young bride, he ordered his first wife to move into the smaller room to be shared with their small children. He even suggested she move in with her mother for some time.
After the wedding ceremony, Osman was taken to the princess' room where he was told his new bride was waiting for him. He saw Sulekha sitting on the bed draped in a beautiful veil. When he lifted the veil, to his surprise he saw the face of a woman, paralyzed, who he had never met.
"Who are you? Where is Sulekha?" shouted Osman.
"What are you talking about? I am Sulekha." cried the princess, who was now very distraught.
Osman realized he had been deceived and was now stuck in a very difficult position. He could not go to the King and ask for a divorce, that might result in jail time or worse. So he told his new bride he had to go and prepare the house for her arrival. He left and went directly to his house to ponder a way out of this situation. Then a knock came at his door. When he opened it, he saw Amina and Jamila.
"How could you do something like this to me?" cried Osman.
"I did warn you about taking down that sign, and you ignored me." Amina explained.
"You have to get me out of this marriage!" Osman demanded.
"If men are so much smarter than women, then why are you asking me for help?"
Osman stubbornly refused to acknowledge that men are not smarter than women, so Amina and Jamila left his house. He asked for advice from some of his friends and no one could come up with a solution. Several days later, Osman ran into Amina and Jamila in town center. He begged Amina to help him find a way out of his predicament. She agreed to help him, with the following demands:
"Before we help you, you must permanently take down your sign and for one week, replace it with another sign stating woman are smarter than men" explained Amina.
"Anything. I'll do anything" pleaded Osman.
Following Amina's advice, Osman opened a haircut parlor for men in his store. Soon, it got back to the King that his son-in law was now a haircutter. He called Osman to the palace right away.
"I thought you owned a shop in town?" asked the King.
"I do, but now I have decided to become a haircutter."
"You can't be a hair cutter and be married to my daughter. I want you to divorce my daughter at once!"
In an instant, Osman was a free man. He took down his sign and never again doubted the intelligence of women.