Combs

There has been someone who manufactured combs and who had his workshop in the street wherein you could also find his guild. His name was ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (the slave of the Almighty) and he always could be seen in his jallaba, the long dress with the hood and wide sleeves, and a litham, a veil which covered his somewhat severe facial expressions.

The material he used for his combs, he derived from the skull of oxes. He bought them from several butchers. He dried the skulls at a rented place, he removed the horns, opened them along their length and straightened them above a fire. The last act, of course, had to be done in a very careful way, as they easily broke into pieces. Thereafter he cut his combs out of them.

On a very simple workbench he made decorative boxes wherein people kept antimony as make-up for their eyes. He moved a stick, which had the shape of a bow by means of his left hand. The stick had been connected to an axis, so that the whole started to move. In his left hand he held a knife and with his foot he pressed on a counterweight. When working, he recited parts of the Qur’an in a melodious voice.

I discovered that he had an eye-disease of a rather common type in Africa, because of which he had almost completely become blind. However, because of his long experience, he had a marvellous intuition in regard to his job, although he could not see much thereof.

Sometimes he complained that because of the import of plastic combs he had less work: “Isn’t it a shame that people buy plastic combs instead of the qualitatively much better combs of bone. And why…? Only because they are cheaper. Added to that it can be said that working in a factory and being occupied with mass production is very monotonous work. It threatens an occupation like mine. My job may look simple in your eyes, but there is an inner value hidden in it, which cannot be explained into words. I only discovered it after many years of labour and even if I would like to do so, I cannot transmit this experience just like that to my son. He is, moreover, not interested in it and according to me he hopes to learn another trade. This occupation goes back from master to pupil till the days of Seth, the son of Adam. He taught it to mankind. And cannot you say that the teachings of a prophet (as Seth was a prophet) need to have both an inner and an outer meaning? Slowly I discovered that everything connected to this work has a certain value and that hidden in each act is some wisdom. Not everyone is able to understand this. Even if one is unaware hereof, then it is very stupid to neglect the inheritance of the prophets. People are forced to work, day in day out, together with a machine in a factory and you have to do a completely meaningless job.”

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