• C. E. Padwick


Turning over the stock of the Moslem bookshops clustered round the door of the Great Mosque at Damascus, I found, among the heavier works and the little books of devotion, the usual tattered pile of romances sold for the smallest copper coins. I knew its like in Cairo, in Aleppo, in Transjordania, and I knew that stories bought for love of a story often have more influence than text books, so I turned it over, and among the pile of tales of love and crime or of‘Autar the desert hero, I came on one that bore the name of the Nebi‘Isa. This tale, miserably printed and without distinction in Arabic, yet seemed so good a guide to popular, unofficial ideas of the next world on its gloomier side that I brought it back to Cairo. Here I showed the tale bought in Damascus to my friend Mr. Tahir Khemiri, who was born in Tunis. He recognized not only the story but the very phrases that had caught the attention of a child, and said “It's the story my grandmother used to tell me in Tunis.” Since, then, this story gives us a glimpse of the life of popular, unbookish Islam from Damascus to Tunis, I thought it worth translation, that it might be shared by others who care for the common folk and their stories.