Weeding the Field

By Musa Akmadov, Set in Chechnya

Translated from Chechen by El’brus Minkailov

Alieva Zulikhan, age 18

Alieva Zulikhan, age 18

Unknown

One day several Muslim students, known as murid in Chechen, agreed to help weed Kunta-hadji’s maize field. They did not tell their spiritual teacher, Ustaz in Chechen, for they knew his temperament well. Instead they waited and when he went away they set off to the field, which lay along the edge of the forest.

This happened at the beginning of summer. Dewdrops hung on the grass and leaves sparkled in the rising sun. A chorus of birds could be heard, and crickets sang in the grass, as if in competition.

The murid sang their own songs while weeding. They worked quickly, soon clearing a wide strip of land. As if awakened, the shoots of maize seemed to stretch towards the sun, swaying in the gentle breeze. The murid were pleased. They rested awhile, then set to work again. But Kunta-hadji came to see what they were doing. They stopped work and greeted him.

“What are you doing? Who told you to weed in my field?” Kunta-hadji asked.

The murid answered, “Nobody. We came because we wanted to help you.”

“I can still do the weeding myself. If not, I would ask for your help. Now pick up your hoes and come here. All the maize in the part of the field you’ve weeded will belong to you. In autumn, come get it.” Kunta-hadji sounded displeased and upset. The murid obeyed without protest, but felt hurt because he refused their help. 

He sat down in the shade and called them to gather round. “Don’t be angry. I made a vow in the name of Allah that I would use only what I gain by my own labour. Please forgive me if I caused you any hurt.”

The students’ eyes filled with tears. They replied, “How can we forgive you? Please forgive us for coming onto your field without your knowledge.”

“Allah forgives you, as I do! Now let’s spend some time together. We can try my maize bread, and talk things over.” Kunta-hadji opened his knapsack, produced folded napkins, and offered them maize-bread and cheese. The murid offered what they had as well.

Time passed in eating and chatting about what had happened until the hour of the noon-tide prayer. They performed the rite with great devotion. Before they left for home, one of the murid made a request of their Ustaz, “Instruct us, please. Give us counsel.”

Kunta-hadji answered, “I will speak of four things. Two you must forget, and the others you must constantly remember. Forget acts of kindness you can do for others. If you speak of them in public, Allah will give you no reward. Forget evil others do to you. By forgetting, you will forsake it, and it will forsake you. But never forget that we must die, and that we must appear before Allah.”

Discussion Questions

  • Why did the followers want to help their teacher? How did the followers feel while weeding? Would you have done the same thing?
  • Why was the Murids’ teacher, Kunta-hadji, displeased at their weeding his field? Why did Kunta-hadji give the Murids the maize from that part of the field? If you were a follower, how would you have felt?
  • Does this situation mean that we should not help others?
  • Has anyone tried to help you when you didn’t want it?
  • Why did Kunta-hadji ask for the Murids’ forgiveness?
  • Why do you think Kunta-hadji offered them his maize-bread while they talked?
  • What advice did Kunta-hadji give to his followers? How do you feel about the advice?
  • Why do you think Kunta-hadji said we should forget about our acts of kindness? And why should we forget about the evil others have done to us? How could this guidance be helpful in your life?
  • Do you know anyone — ordinary or famous — in our times who resembles Kunta-hadji?
  • Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations): All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
    • How do you think Kunta-Hadji’s vow of doing his own work relates to Article 1?
    • How do you think his apology to his students relates to Article 1?
    • Do you think Kunta-Hadji wanted to be treated as having higher status? How is this shown in the story?
    • Have you ever experienced someone who society has granted as of higher status, treat you as a friend, with respect, or with kindness? Tell about it.