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Legal Proceeding in Poetry: Divorce and Remarriage
A poetic exchange between ʿAbdallāh Raʿfīt and ʿĪsā Kedḥayt, recited by ʿĪsā Kedḥayt and recorded by Sam Liebhaber at ʿĪsā’s home in Jāḏeb, January 2004.
ʿAbdallāh Raʿfīt complains to ʿĪsā Kedḥayt, the district judge for Ḥawf, about the ruling of another judge (Muḥammad “the Cobra”) that ʿAbdallāh must wait for three months after divorcing his first wife before remarrying. This practice, known in Islamic sharīʿa law as ʿidda, is normally applied only to women in order to guarantee the paternity of any offspring born after the divorce. Due to the continuance of matrilineal affiliation in al-Mahra until recent decades, establishing paternity was not as critical for the Mahra as it was among other social groups on the Arabian Peninsula, and the ʿidda was not traditionally practiced in al-Mahra. As tribal law (Ar. ʿurf), Islamic law, and a socially progressive civil code that guaranteed equal rights for men and women converged on al-Mahra under the PDRY, Muḥammad “the Cobra” decided to require both parties to a divorce to wait before remarrying as a means of compromising among the three legal codes. Expecting a quick remarriage as permitted to men under sharīʿa, ʿAbdallāh complains to ʿĪsā Kedḥayt about being forced to wait.
ʿĪsā Kedḥayt does not address the legality of ʿAbdallāh’s case but simply chides him for being impatient. ʿĪsā Kedḥayt reminds ʿAbdallāh that he had earlier advised him against getting divorced and counsels him against reckless behavior that will leave him even more miserable. ʿĪsā Kedḥayt suggests that three months isn’t a long period of time and that ʿAbdallāh could use the time to cool off.
ʿAbdallah Raʿfīt: Translation 1) haḳweyyen eḳalb // we-lbūden ḥdīd We fortified our heart // and became like iron 2) tē ġayw w-rebźā // ġlē ybeddīd Even brothers of the same mother and father // dear to each other, have their differences. 3) ʾār hōh ḥǧennōt // mens waḳt myīd But I have a small issue // that [our] Age itself opposes: 4) snēt ḏ-kedḥayt // we-ġyūǧ yʿēdīd “The Year of Kedḥayt” // during which the men observe al-ʿidda, 5) b-rišm ḏ–ḥayd // w-źawdeh yeśhīd (Acknowledged) by the stamp of their hand // and with witnesses testifying to it. ʿĪsā Kedḥayt: Translation 1) lawb ǧawneš ḥyōm // w-hōlā ḳfōd // we-ġśōh b-rehdīd O Sun, you have set // the shadow of evening has descended // and encircled the expanse of the land. 2) l-ʿabdalleh erid // ebir leddēḥ // ḏ-ʾāṣfeh ǧīd I’ll respond to ʿAbdallāh // the son of Laddēḥ // of good repute 3) ʿāmōrem rwōh // w-rōkeb ġrōy // we-bhēl habdīd They said: “Make a speech // arrange your utterance with meter and rhyme // for a number of words.” 4) we-l-twōl kedḥayt // yhōkel eṭerb // we-l-hān eǧdīd And so to Kedḥayt // he bends the branch // with any little thing that comes up. 5) ḫalfōt le ṣfūt // ʾān ār teḥwūl // w-āḳel zhīd No news has since arrived // if only you realized this // and your mind were discerning 6) mōnā ḫṣōb lūk // nhōr ḏe-ḳfedk // w-mōn essədīd Who has already counselled you // on the day you came you came down to us // and brought you and your estranged wife back together? 7) hīs nekʾak tōn // w-ʿāmerk ḫlāṣ // mḥawźer ǧdīd When you came to us // you said “enough!” // to any new intermediaries. 8) śī ḥatmel lā // essemḥem lēn // ʾām-ār tezhīd This affair doesn’t deserve (our attention), // pardon us for saying so, // if you’ll be reasonable 9) we-mḥammed āṭōf // šēh škī men ḥayṭ // w-heh mhebrīd Muḥammad “the Cobra” // with a sword from the mountains // and razor sharp 10) wezmūk destūr // ḳānūn ḏ–ḥellēt // kel śī meffənīd He gave you a constitution // a law for the land // everything has been detailed 11) lūk ār śāṯeyt // we-mġōren ṭlēḳ // l-ād ṭeyrek rśīd You only have (to wait) three months // and afterwards you’re free // and there’s no one supervising you. 12) ʾār hēt eṭwilk // ḫayr men snēt // teḥfōl we-rdīd But you’ve drawn out (the issue) // (as though) it were more than a year // it has already ripened and then you bring back again. 13) ḏēk ār ṭebʿath // eḏ-bēr effəlūs // yeʿmōl ekdīd It is the nature of a man // who has gone completely broke // to stir up complaints 14) ykeys be-hnefh // w-yewsewūs // b-fōl ḏ–ǧīd He finds something within himself // that whispers to him // with fancies of the good thing (he lost). 15) we-tḏelhen leh // dmā men ʿayn // hṭēr ḫdīd They pour out of him // the tears of his eye // upon his cheeks 16) l-ād heh ḏ-hōṯūḳ // ḥāṭḥawlī // wel nūkā ǧdīd He didn’t hold tight // onto his first good fortune // and nothing new has come.