Weeding the Field

By Musa Akmadov, Set in Chechnya

Alieva Zulikhan, age 18

Alieva Zulikhan, age 18


Translated from Chechen by El’brus Minkailov

It happened one day that several Muslim students, or murid in Chechen taken from Arabic, agreed to help out in weeding Kunta-hadji’s field of maize. They took care not to tell their spiritual teacher, or Ustaz in Chechen, about their plan, for they knew his temperament very well. Instead, they waited for a while, and then, when he had gone away for some reason or other, they set off towards the field, which lay along the edge of the forest.

All this took place at the beginning of summer. Drops of dew were hanging on the grass and leaves were sparkling in the rays of the rising sun. A varied chorus of birds could be heard in the fresh morning air. Crickets were singing in the grass, as if in competition.

The followers of the Sheikh sang their own songs as they set about weeding their teacher’s field of maize. They worked quickly and easily. Soon a wide strip of land had been cleared of weeds. As if they had awoken, the shoots of maize seemed to stretch upwards towards the sun, swaying in the gentle breeze.

The murid were pleased with the result of their work. They rested for a while, and then set to work all over again. But then Kunta-hadji himself hailed them and came over to see what they were doing. They stopped work and greeted him in turn. Then they looked intently at their teacher.

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

The murid answered apologetically.

“Nobody. We came along here because we wanted to help you.”

“I’m still perfectly able to do the weeding myself. If I wasn’t, I would ask for your help. Now pick up your hoes and come here. All the maize that grows in the part of the field that you’ve weeded, it will all belong to you. In autumn you can come round and get it.” Kunta-hadji’s voice sounded displeased and upset.

The murid obeyed their teacher without protest. But they felt rather hurt, because their teacher had refused to let them help him. He sat down in the shade, called his followers to gather round.

“Don’t be angry with me. I made a vow in the name of Allah – that I would make use of only what I had gained by my own labours. So please forgive me for the hurt I have caused.”

The murid were deeply moved. Their eyes filled with tears. They replied, “How can we forgive you? Please forgive us for coming onto your field without your knowledge.”

“May Allah forgive you, as I do! Now let’s spend some time together. We can try my maize bread…and talk things over.”

With these words Kunta-hadji opened his traveller’s knapsack, produced folded napkins and offered them maize-bread and cheese.

In turn, the murid offered what they had and thus time passed, in eating and chatting about what had happened, until the hour of noon-tide prayer.

They performed the rite with great devotion and before they left for home, one of the murid made a request of their Ustaz.

“Instruct us, please. Give us counsel.”

Kunta-hadji spoke in answer to their request.

“I will speak of four things. Two of them you must forget, and the other two you must constantly remember. Forget about the acts of kindness which you are able to do for others. If you speak of them in public, Allah will give you no reward. Forget about the evil which others have done to you. For by your forgetting, you will forsake it, and in its turn it will forsake you too. But never forget, always keep in mind, that we must die, and that we must appear before Allah.” Such was the instruction that Kunta-hadji gave to his followers.

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.