From ALQ: Muhammad Zafzaf’s ‘Borges in the Hereafter’

If I send them to you, only three forces will be left to combat: the Arabs, the Maghariba, and the Turks. If only I’d known how nice this world was, I’d have committed suicide ages ago. “The sixth charge, the one that spilled his proverbial glass, is as follows: he failed to be circumcised.”  Laughter broke out in the hall. We don’t want to burden the eminent writer. “What did you do with him after that?”  “They detained him,” said the presiding judge, “deprived him of food and drink until he died, crucified him, then set him on fire. And the Turks are children of devils; it won’t take more than an hour for them to run out of arrows, at which point our horsemen will surround and finish the last of them off.’” A man came with glasses of water, distributing them among the attendees. Even though I lived in the Abbasid Era, I know that person there. Then, turning to address Ahmad ibn Abi Duwad, Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Malik al-Zayyat said, “Briefly state the charges against al-Afshin, commander of the armies of al-Muʿtasim.” He paused. But death settles everything as far as the judge and the judged are concerned, not to mention the false witnesses, the military leaders, the rulers, and the vermin whose scuttling can be heard all around them. For example, I know that the man beside you is Yazdan ibn Badhan and that he was killed in the very same era and on the very same charge as our Afshin. worried.”  “Not at all! Perhaps he’s got another appointment to get to.”  “Right away,” acceded Ahmad ibn Abi Duwad, who grated on Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Malik al-Zayyat’s nerves—even in the Hereafter. Poor souls!”  Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading… I too failed to be circumcised during the eighty years I spent there. Just as his life was cut short, so too were his stories. “I’m newly dead and not yet familiar with your customs here in the Hereafter.”  “We hear everything,” said the presiding judge, “so say anything. Naturally, others will also join him—join us—, even the writer of this story.”  “Go on, then. Not that they aren’t already doing that one way or another. Proceed, proceed, Ahmad.”  “As for the fifth charge,” Ahmad proceeded, “al-Afshin’s brother wrote a letter addressed to that pretender Quhyar, which read, ‘No one can bring victory to this pure religion’—Zoroastrianism, he meant!—‘if not I, not you, nor Babak. “You sure know how to welcome the dead. The charges against al-Afshin were six,” Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Malik al-Zayyat pressed on, “as Ahmad Amin has most recently set forth on the authority of al-Tabari and al-Masʿudi, each of whom are present here today.” “First,” Ahmad finally began, “al-Afshin was charged with whipping two men until their backs were bare of flesh, because they—an imam and a muezzin—had destroyed the idols of a temple.  “Second, a book containing blasphemies against God was found in his home, ornamented with gold and jewels and satin brocade. In response to this charge, al-Afshin claimed it was an heirloom whose ethical model he cultivated but whose false intellection he discarded.  “Third, he was charged with eating the flesh of strangled beasts, alleging it was more succulent than meat ritually slaughtered with a swift knife to the jugular. My, how he witnessed—throughout his very, very, short life—the multitude of his countrymen who were accused of heresy then tortured or killed. “As you know, we’ve already sentenced al-Afshin to death. Borges laughed too, until his eyes filled with tears, then said to Ahmad, “So? The cases here in the Hereafter remain, beyond a reasonable doubt, the same as those in the Therenow. President,”—Borges coughed—“do you know my name?”  “Naturally,” the so-called president replied. Borges,” he said. The executioners are surely among us, roving this world so vast and infinite.”  “Surely they’re languishing in the lowest depths of the Fire,” Borges interjected, “with shackles around their necks and legs. Borges in the Hereafter By Muhammad Zafzaf Translated by Lily Sadowsky   In fact, it wasn’t people but History that Borges condemned in his well-known short stories. In any event, you should keep this story a secret, for if they discover out there that this world here is so nice, they’ll surely kill themselves en masse. Throughout, Borges will hear strange accusations, many of which would never have occurred to his Christian mind but which have nonetheless been raised by compilers such as al-Tabari, al-Masʿudi, and others.  * As Borges entered the courtroom in his elegant European attire (but not in the company of his much younger wife), he kept glancing at the gallery. He’s therefore being brought to witness the trial of that one Afshin, charged with heresy. My, how many—across space and time—against whom judgments have been issued have been in need of a retrial! Borges didn’t understand what was happening around him but asked Ahmad nonetheless, “Which charge sent al-Afshin to death?”  Ahmad took a gulp of water. Well, actually—to see how we were forced to condemn them, for fear of being killed ourselves.”  “But, Mr. He was an emperor of Ethiopia.”  “I know him well. His name is Haile Selassie. “It’s as if you’re in a hurry, Mr. He must also have known that anyone who says reason rejects that definition is, well, also a heretic. This is incompatible with the precepts of Islam. However, we could only attest to the six that are still committed to the Memory of those in the Therenow. President,” Borges cut in, “we’re already dead.”  “I know, I know,” he said, “and don’t call me ‘Mr. Borges,” said an attendee who was seated nearby. There in the Therenow, they never cease to toil, to battle, and starve one another. Just like I read in your Book.” The presiding judge laughed before repeating, “Recite the six charges leveled at al-Afshin.”  “We are seated in fraternal session,” Ahmad recited, “to welcome our guest, new to the Hereafter.”  “Okay, no matter. By the way, he’d recovered his sight in the Hereafter, after losing it in the Therenow. We’re all equal. The Arabs are no more than dogs; toss them a crumb and bash their skulls in. It seems Borges—throughout his very short life—never quite understood the meaning of heresy. If only he could have condemned more! From ALQ: Muhammad Zafzaf’s ‘Borges in the Hereafter’ July 4, 2022 by mlynxqualey This short story   is part of the Summer 2022 JOKE-themed issue of   ArabLit Quarterly,   guest-edited by Anam Zafar. In fact, it’s he who dies and joins us here who rests. Everyone was wearing black robes! The Maghariba are head-eaters; they’ll be dropping like flies of their own accord. They might have entered Paradise, for all we know! This has been the case in Sind, Hind, and China, in Arab countries, and in Latin America, where Borges was raised. “But he seems… He came to remember the past and to see for himself how heretics were condemned. Certainly, he knew that anyone who defies the One Opinion is a heretic. “He said he hadn’t wanted to cut that member of his body for fear of death. President.’ Here, there’s no ‘president’—only ‘precedent.’ We just want to entertain you and maybe right some wrongs in the process. “What good people you all are!” he said. We just want to entertain and remind you of the Therenow, where people still believe with absolute certainty that they’re immortal.”  “I beg your pardon, Mr. He’s just contemplating the next poem he’ll write about his dogs. I have the cavalry on my side, as well as strong and valiant soldiers. Look behind you, my brother Borges. Well, as it turns out, he’s been given the chance to attend the after-death retrial of al-Afshin, commander of the armies of al-Muʿtasim, about whom Abu Tammam wrote:  Al-Afshin wore the sands of warand feared the blade of a still-sheathed sword.  Amid spears and streams of red,he rode his will like a horse—ahead!  While Borges, in his oh-so-short life, knew nothing of the great commander, he had been interested in the Abbasid era by way of the Thousand and One Nights. “By the way, don’t you think the two of them are off drinking together somewhere? Ask al-Tabari or Ibn al-Athir or Ibn Khaldun; they’re all present here in this First Level of the Hereafter.” Borges stood and approached the gallery. Borges,” Ahmad replied. What an absurd life it is! Sometimes he goes to the Italian Wing and has a drink with those he warred against.”  “I didn’t know he wrote poetry in the Therenow,” said Borges.  “Everything is possible in the Hereafter. Borges, whose own lifetime was so short (only about eighty years), was incapable of condemning all such mortals passing through this long-drawn-out History. In any event, our chat has carried on too long, and we must return to the matter at hand.” The presiding judge cleared his throat and was met with silent approval from all around him. “God forbid! We lived in the same era,” Borges replied. We shall summarize them for the eminent Borges, who came to us from the twentieth century of the Christian Era. It’s the Hereafter, and no reporters, police officers, or heads of state are here today. It seems he was blinded from weeping so profusely over them.  “Don’t marvel, Mr. I suppose that’s why he decided, upon hearing news of the retrial, to spend his day sitting in court instead of taking a stroll. Did he defend himself?”  “Yes, Mr. “It’s just trial-as-usual, not unlike what would have taken place in Latin America. He said he hadn’t known that skipping the snip was deviation from Islam.” “Trials must have been so strange in that era,” said Borges. God is Much-Forgiving and Most-Merciful.”  “The charges are many,” stated Ahmad ibn Abi Duwad. Borges?”  “I wouldn’t know,” he replied. “They include murder, abduction, looting, religious and moral transgression, scorching fields, et cetera. Isn’t that so, Mr. “Everyone here in the Hereafter knows the name of everyone else. “Fourth, he was accused of receiving letters from the supposed ‘People of Mecca,’ in which they—in the language of his native Ustrushana—addressed him as ‘Lord of Lords.’ That heathen might as well have taken a page from Pharaoh’s book and said, ‘I am your Lord, Most High.’”  The presiding judge cleared his throat.

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