The Jinni in the Clock
A three-act play set in Moorish Spain
For children of all ages by
Juwairiah Simpson/Illustrations by Yousef Eshmawi
Cast of Characters
Duwairig the storyteller
The peddler’s donkey
The Cordovan clock-maker
Laborers working on the old Roman bridge
Imam of the Mosque
Town Qadi (i.e. Magistrate, Judge)
A few policemen
Man and woman in the crowd (during courtroom scene)
• This play is based on the children’s book The Jinn in the Clock. In Arabic, a singular genie is a “jinni.”
Scene I A street in Muslim Cordoba
[Stage set—a sun should be posted, to indicate that it is daytime. A door of a shop or house should also be onstage. A bridge prop should be to one side of the stage—either as a picture, or as a physical miniature bridge—though not necessarily to be walked over.
Enter Duwairig the storyteller, center stage. He is an older man who transports water from wells into people’s homes for a living, so he carries a large water jug over his shoulder. He should wear a gray beard, and be a smiling, kindly person.]
Duwairig: Assalam Alaikum. Peace be upon you!
My name is Duwairig. I am a water carrier. Long ago, in Arab desert towns, water carriers took in great jugs to the flat rooftops of people’s homes. I am such a water carrier.
When I am not carrying water, I like to tell stories. Today I will tell you about a genie that got into a clock in the Muslim country of Spain.
In the city of Cordoba, a mechanical clock made by a master craftsman came into the hands of a humble peddler.
[Enter peddler with donkey and cart into center stage (the street).]
This peddler used to travel around with a flea-bitten donkey. The donkey pulled his cart so long as he kept shouting at it. The peddler bought all manner of things, and piled them in his cart. He would walk up and down the streets of the towns he visited and call out the names of his wares and what their prices were at the top of his lungs.
Of all the things he ever had to offer, nothing was ever as beautiful or magical or as dangerous as the fabulous mechanical clock. But you will see for yourselves . . . if you are quiet, and take careful notice of all that passes before you. . . . [Duwairig holds his finger to his lips, looks about carefully and notices the peddler, then swings the huge clay jug up against his back and trudges off stage.]
Peddler: It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it, old girl? What better day to leave Cordoba and travel to Seville. But we are still here in Cordoba, so we should start on our journey.
[Donkey looks happy, nods.]
[A door opens from a house on the street. Lighting to emphasize the doorway would be helpful. A Cordovan craftsman steps out in front of the peddler, looking nervous and strained. He has a bandage over one eye, and bandages on every finger. Trembling, he turns to the peddler.]
Cordovan clock-maker: [holding a beautiful clock out in his hand, but at arm’s length]
Psssst! Hey! Hey, you! Peddler! Come and take . . . uh, I mean, b . . . b . . . buy this clock from me.
Peddler: [his eyes wide] Wow! [Slaps his face in amazement.] Are you joking with me? Clocks are only for sultans or the caliph! I don’t know if I can even afford such new automation!
[Pulls back to consider the clock and then asks, suspiciously] How much is it?
Clock-maker: [nervously] Anything, anything!
Peddler: [appearing crafty and skeptical—he might look at the audience while raising his eyebrows, rub his hands and then stroke his chin as if getting into a negotiating frame of mind] How about one dirham?
[Aside, addressing the audience] That’s barely enough for a cup of tea!
Clock-maker: Fine; anything!
[Peddler shows astonishment]
Clock-Maker: Yes, uh, give me a dirham and the clock is yours. [He walks forward and places the clock in the peddler’s hands. Then he jumps away and seems to forget about taking any money.]
Peddler: Hey, wait for your money!
[Clock-maker wheels around, catches coin—or not—that the peddler pulls out of his pocket and tosses to him. The clock-maker hurries back into his home, slams door. If lighting has been used on the clock-maker’s doorway, it may not be turned off, to signal shift.]]
Peddler (alone): Queer fellow! His nerves seemed to be on edge.
[looking at the clock] Bless my soul, I can hardly believe it! I’ll just put this gorgeous clock into the cart right next to my lunch. They both whet my appetite! [Rubs his stomach and chuckles.]
Ah, yes. A beee-yooo tiful clock. A fine lunch [Pats his lunch sack or basket.] And a stupid donkey. [Peddler says the last scornfully. Donkey looks sad.]
[The peddler is mesmerized as he walks behind the cart with delight on his face; and all his attention is given to admiring the clock. The walking can be done in circles onstage, to depict travel. Note: The peddler will demonstrate by degrees that, although he is thrilled with his new possession, his personality is taking a turn for the worse. . . .]
Peddler : [taking a stick out of his cart, he hits the donkey several times on the rump]. Get along there, donkey! We haven’t got all day! Get out on that bridge going over the river! [Peddler points with stick towards the bridge. Lighting may be used to emphasize bridge.]
[Donkey jumps, looking startled. The two plod along until they come to the bridge, which they start to cross. Pedestrians pass by them in either direction.]
Pedestrians: [taking turns at commenting]
What a lovely day!
Oh, there are some laborers working down there in the river!
They’re patching up the stones on this old Roman bridge!
[Two or three laborers pose as if they are working at the base of the bridge, doing repairs on the old stone supports. The actors could stand in front of a picture of the bridge. The peddler circles them without noticing anything except his clock. Suddenly he stubs his toe on the ground. He grabs his foot and jumps around in pain.]
Peddler: Aaagh! Aaagh! O! O! OUCH! OUCH! My Toe! [He looks around angrily at passers-by] Hey, Be Careful! [He keeps hopping on one foot. He looks at the laborers. If there is some physical prop symbolizing the bridge, he may seem to lean against it, peering over it to look at the laborers.] Hey YOU down there!
First Laborer[to the second laborer]: Is he talking to us?
Second Laborer[to the first laborer]: I don’t know. He didn’t say “Assalam Alaikum.”
First (or Third) Laborer: [Looking up at peddler] Yes? What do you want, Sir?
Peddler: What’s the matter with you, shaking this bridge so much that it stubbed my toe!?! Watch what you’re doing or I’ll . . . I’ll . . . [he thinks quickly, a big scowl on his face] . . . I’LL COMPLAIN ABOUT YOU TO THE CALIPH’S POLICE! YOUR LIVES WON’T BE WORTH A BROKEN SANDAL WHEN I’M DONE WITH YOU!
[With these words, the peddler gives his poor donkey a whack on the rump that startles the creature out of its wits. The donkey jumps and shakes the cart and the lunch falls off. The actor playing the donkey must take care to bump the “lunch” off the cart, which may be no more than a toy wagon or stroller disguised to look like a cart.
Only the donkey notices the lost lunch. T the peddler won’t pay attention to the donkey’s expressions, which are aimed at the audience. The director may want to have the word “LUNCH” written on the sack or basket lunch.
Meanwhile, the bridge laborers stare at each other with eyebrows high in amazement as they hear the peddler make threats.]
Peddler: [Pushing the donkey] Get along there, donkey!
First Laborer: Ya Salam! [Slaps his thigh in mirth.] “Shaking the bridge,” did he say?
[Laborers laugh together.]
Second Laborer: He must have gotten out on the wrong side of bed this morning!
First (or Third) Laborer: How could we shake a stone bridge that must weigh as much as a thousand elephants?
Second Laborer: [sarcastically] Perhaps he is bewitched by a jinni!
[Peddler and donkey exit stage. While laughing, the laborers must also exit stage (possibly dragging the bridge prop/picture with them). When emphasis is taken off the bridge (also achievable by dimming the light upon the bridge picture or prop), the peddler and donkey come back on stage, continuing their travels.]
Scene II – Country road
[For ease of scene-adjustment, the act may continue while a tree is brought onstage. A symbol of the sun might be affixed to the tree. Suggestion: a stagehand may bring a tree prop onstage or a player, dressed as a tree, may come onstage and assume position. In that case, the tree actor may hold the sun symbol.]
Peddler: Oh, I am tired! We’ve been walking for hours! [Donkey nods wearily.] I’ll just tie you to this tree so you can graze while I have my lunch.
[Donkey looks worried or scared at the mention of the lunch because it knows that the lunch was lost long before.]
Peddler : [Searching in the cart] Hey, where is it? My lunch! It’s not . . . I put it right here next to the . . . clock. Where . . . where is it? WHERE IS IT?! You—YOU STUPID DONKEY! You jiggled my food right off the cart! Why are you so clumsy?? Now what shall I eat while you fill your big, ugly chops with grass?!?! I’ll teach YOU a lesson!
[The peddler beats the donkey while it brays in pain. The peddler finishes his temper tantrum, and takes the clock out of the cart. He sits down and fiddles with the clock.]
Peddler: I don’t know what time it is, but I’ll set it at one o’clock, since by the sun [he looks up] it was mid-day just about an hour ago—time, in fact, for the duhr prayer. [He sets and winds the clock.] There! Hey! How about that! Well, what do ya know? It’s one o’clock at night! I didn’t even realize. . . . No wonder I feel so grouchy. I should be asleep.
[The peddler spreads his cloak on the ground and curls up to sleep. The donkey—who understands him but cannot talk—shows its amazement. But it cannot do anything and must stay where tied. After a short while, an elderly traveler comes along the road.]
Elderly passer-by: Assalam Alaikum! Peace, Brother. Hmm, perhaps not THAT much peace. I say, wake up! I invite you to pray the ‘Asr with me, the midmost prayer of the day. Come on now, wake up–[He shakes the peddler by the shoulders.]
Peddler: [opening one eye} Leave me alone, Old Fool. It’s the middle of the night.
Elderly passer-by: [pleasantly enough] What? Forgive me—I didn’t mean to scare you. I can see you’re all confused—I just hoped to have someone to pray with. It’s so nice to make friends on the road.
Peddler: I didn’t come onto the road to make friends, you senile old meddler! Can’t you see that it’s the middle of the night? Just look at my clock if you’re not sure. Then go away!
Elderly passer-by: I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the Rejected. [He looks warily at the clock and hurries away.]
[Stage Directions: Remove sun symbol and replace with moon symbol. If an actor ‘playing’ a tree is holding the sun, he/she may simply flip it over, and the backside of the sun can be the moon.]
[Peddler awakens from his sleep and stretches his arms with a noisy yawn.]
Peddler: Ah! The sun has already risen and I have missed the Fajr prayer! That’s too bad. [He peers at the clock to make sure he is right. Nods in satisfaction—but makes no move to pray.]
A new day! All right, donkey; let’s hit the road. We need to get to a village for some breakfast and a chance to sell our wares.
[Sleeping donkey looks upset while the peddler harnesses it to the cart once more. They walk along awhile—around the stage in a full circle. While they walk, stagehands may bring in the inn door (which can suffice to symbolize the inn). A table and chairs might also help represent the inn. Peddler comes up to inn door.
Scene III—The Inn
[ Props: a loaf of bread, a round of cheese and a dish must be within the innkeeper’s reach.]
Peddler: I wonder if anyone is awake yet? [He knocks at door.]
Innkeeper: [comes to the door with candle in hand, in sleeping attire] Assalam Alaikum. Welcome, Brother. Are you seeking a bed for the night and a stall for your donkey? You’ve come to the right place.
Peddler: What?! The sun has just risen and already you speak of beds and stalls? Greedy for every coin you can get your hands on, eh? I bet you would sell your own mother her wedding ring!
Innkeeper: What is this discourteous talk? I only greet you as a Muslim brother, and of course I have my business to run . . .
Peddler: May you run it into the ground. I’ll have none of it. I want a loaf of bread, a round of cheese, and no more. I say, look sharp you don’t ask a monstrous price for my breakfast, or I’ll leave at once and you will never see the gleam of my dirhams!
Innkeeper: [to himself] I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the rejected. This poor soul has lost his mind. In fact, I specifically seek refuge in Allah from the disease—or perhaps it is an evil jinni—that has laid hold of this peddler’s brain! [He sets food upon the table at which the peddler has seated himself. Peddler gobbles up the food which is given to him, and tosses a couple of coins on the table.]
Peddler: That’s all I wanted. I’m out of here!
Innkeeper: But it is darkest night outside. Stay, at least, until the sun comes up.
Peddler: Have you completely lost your mind? [Peddler hurriedly exits stage with his cart and donkey. Innkeeper shakes his head in pity and horror and exits stage at other side.]
End Act I
Police Station/Chief-of-Police’s house
[Stage directions: Moon symbol remains visible. Stage is divided into two. The Chief-of-Police’s house is on one side, with the bed prominent, and a prop door to the outside street. On the farthest side of the stage, next to the bed, should be a small table with food upon it. On the other half of the stage, beyond a second door, there is a table and desk that symbolize the police station. Lighting, if used, can reflect where the action takes place.]
Peddler [front of stage]:
Pots and Pans! Scarves and Laces!
Baskets and Fans! Coffee cups and vases!
Come and buy! Come and buy!
[Sound of baby crying.] A mother, calling from offstage: Stop that racket! You’ve woken up my baby!
Pots and Pans! Scarves and Laces!
Baskets and Fans! Coffee cups and vases!
Come and buy, Come and buy!
[Enter Imam of the Town Mosque, walking along the street]
Imam: Assalam Alaikum.
[Peddler gestures to his cart of wares, inviting the imam to come take a look.]
Imam: Oh, no thank you. I don’t want to buy anything. I just wanted to invite you to the mosque for the ‘Isha prayer. Didn’t you hear the adhan?
Peddler: [guffaws] Ho Ho! Another practical joker. But look here, my dear fellow—just see what time my clock says!
[Imam does not look at the clock yet.]
Imam: [smiling politely] I’m no practical joker. I am the imam of the mosque of this town and I wouldn’t lie to you.
Peddler: Oh, sure . . . and I am Harun ar-Rasheed, the great caliph in Baghdad. Huh! You can’t pull the wool over MY eyes, you scoundrel. Begone with you! I can tell time as well as the next man.
[Peddler hops over to the clock and cuddles it in his arms.]
Peddler: See? What did I tell you? It is still morning. There are a good three or four hours left before it’s even time for the Duhr prayer.
[Imam glances doubtfully at the clock and becomes momentarily hypnotized by it. He must give himself a good shake and hold his hand up to block the view of the clock.]
Imam: I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the Rejected. Repeat what I have said, Brother, and come to pray. And do please rid yourself of this strange clock!
Peddler: Mind your own business.
Pots and Pans! Scarves and Laces!
Baskets and Fans! Coffee cups and vases!
Come and buy, Come and buy!
[Imam shakes his head and exits. Peddler belligerently ignores him. Spotlight to bedroom of Chief-of-Police and his wife (if possible, darken light on peddler, who may remain quietly on stage).]
Chief-of-Police’s Wife: Psssst!
[Wife leans over husband’s head and pinches or grabs his ear as if to pull it off his head.]
Wife: Did you hear that? Oh, my own “Chief-of-Police,” did you hear that racket? We shall all lose our health if we don’t get any sleep. And who’s going to sleep with a madman yelling his lungs out in the street? Answer me that!
Chief-of-Police: [weakly] Maybe he’ll go away now. [Pulls pillow over his head.]
[Wife makes a sound of disgust and rips the pillow off. She pulls her husband’s ear more viciously, not letting go.]
Chief-of-Police: OW! What do you think you’re doing?
Wife: [pouting and sulking] A sad state I’m in, I can tell you that! I should have listened to my mother and have married someone else. But nooooo; I thought that if I married the Chief-of-Police, I would be safe and secure from harm all my life. [She lets go, starts to cry.] Oh dear, how shameful!
Chief-of-Police: You’re making such a fuss.
Wife: [turning on him] I could be murdered in my bed while you sleep there like a puppy dog. Oh, you great whale, you would be SNORING while these pillows were splattered with my blood. I can see how much you love me.
Peddler: [from the street]
Pots and Pans! Scarves and Laces!
Baskets and Fans! Coffee cups and Vases!
It’s still early! Come and buy!
Wife: [sucking her breath in alarm] Do you hear that? DO YOU HEAR THAT?
Chief-of-Police: He’ll give up in awhile. Leave me alone. Where’s my pillow?
Wife: [hysterically] That crazy man is right under our window! Suppose he tries to break in? What would my father, the town judge, say about you then?
Chief-of-Police: [giving up] All right, all right already. I’m going . . . uh, listen—about your father—well[clears his throat nervously]—I’m sure he would have given the poor guy outside a few moments to break the law, as I have. Er—you don’t have to worry your pretty little head. . . just go to sleep my—my—Darling.
[With a satisfied air, the nagging wife cuddles back up amidst her pillows and bed sheets, snuggling back to sleep.]
[Stage directions: Light comes on outside Chief-of-Police’s house and dims in bedroom (if this is possible). Chief-of-Police goes to his front door, where the peddler is banging his fist.]
Peddler: Hey, you in there! Don’t you want to buy anything? Come out and see what I’ve got. I’ll give you a real bargain.
Chief-of-Police: [flinging open door, or bounding through curtain doorway] Are you completely insane? There’ll be no more of that tonight, thank you very much! Off with you to the police station.
[Chief-of-police grabs the peddler by the scruff of his neck and drags him to the police station on other side of stage. The clock remains in the cart. They enter police station.]
Chief-of-Police: Go fetch this crazy peddler’s cart from the street in front of my house.
First officer: Yes, Sir!
Chief-of-Police: [to peddler] Did you know that there is a fine for disturbing the peace?
Peddler: Well. . . I . . .er . . . I guess so.
Chief-of-Police: It’s a steep fine. Do you think you can pay it?
Peddler: [reaches into his pocket to feel his money. It looks like he can’t find much.] What if I can’t?
Chief-of-Police: Ha! Well, then you can just work off your debt to society by doing public service, like cleaning the streets.
Peddler: What?! I have to earn money to support my wife and children in Cadiz. I can’t waste my time in your town.
Chief-of-Police: You should have thought of that before you made such a din in the middle of the night.
Peddler: The middle of the night? Are you kidding? Is it really the middle of the night? [He rushes over to the window and looks at the sky.]
Chief-of-Police: You can see for yourself.
[Peddler slaps himself on the face in amazement.]
Peddler: Ya Salam! It really IS the middle of the night!
[The cart is pushed by the officers into view outside the police station.]
Peddler: Say . . . I do believe I can pay that fine. You see, I have a piece of merchandise that is of exceptional value, if you will accept it in place of money.
Chief-of-Police: Let’s see what it is.
Peddler: [pointing, but careful not to look at the clock, because he has suddenly realized how dangerous it is] There it is!
Chief-of-Police: [stunned] I see it but I can hardly believe it. [He runs out to the clock and grabs it.] Why, it’s magnificent! How on earth could a scrawny little peddler like you have a clock like this? Did you steal it?
Peddler: Allah forbid! I bought it fair and square. Will you accept it as payment for the fine?
Chief-of-Police: You can bet your britches I will. Now you just cool off in jail for the rest of the night. Boys, lock him up.
[Officers drag peddler away, or pull his arms behind his back to restrain him, etc.]
Peddler: Hey! Wait a minute . . ! [Struggles]
[Chief-of-police rushes home. Light darkens on police station and comes on at the door and upon the bedroom of the chief-of-police.]
Chief-of-police: [shaking wife in bed] Wake up, Woman. Look at what your man has brought home.
Wife: [sitting up in bed, she sees the clock, claps hands gleefully] Oh my goodness! Is this for us?
Chief-of-police: The finest for the finest!
Wife: Why, it’s exquisite! It looks like something that you’d find in the palace in Cordoba! Let me hold it. . . .
Chief-of-police: Certainly, my Sweet . . . Doesn’t it just seem like it’s talking to you?
Wife: Oh yes! And won’t it make my friends jealous! Not one of them has anything this elegant.
[Both the chief-of-police and his wife bring their faces close to the clock as if they are listening to it. They stare at it as well. There should be something creepy about the way they do it.]
Wife: [titters] Ooohohoo! It is talking to silly little me. It says it’s time to EAT!
[Wife prances off to the kitchen—on a small stage, she may seat herself at the table with the food. She proceeds to eat, greedily. On a larger stage, a kitchen can be cut off from bedroom by curtain/divider and emphasized with a spotlight.]
Chief-of-police: No, not time to eat. It is much later than that. This wise clock tells me it’s time to sleep. All work and no sleep make the Chief-of-police a dull boy! [He throws himself down upon bed and begins to snore.]
[Duwairig comes out center stage.]
Duwairig: Was this a normal clock, my friends? [This question may be addressed to the audience itself. They might answer yes or no.]
The peddler could be a fine fellow, but when he was out of sorts, he had a sharp tongue and a contradictory nature. When he remembered his manners, he tried to control himself. The clock helped him forget to do that.
The chief-of-police, I have been told, had a tendency to laziness. A voice from the clock encouraged that bad habit.
And the chief-of-police’s wife was a spoiled woman who liked to get her way. She had a great fondness for food. That little voice she heard in the clock told her she could have or do anything she wanted.
You may be surprised to hear that not one day, but two and a half days passed wherein the chief-of-police did nothing but sleep, sleep, sleep, only catching a bite to eat between winks. His wife had a never-ending feast, only pausing to snooze when her weary head dropped upon a loaf of bread for use as a pillow.
What did they all forget to say when they felt a strange evil force coming from the clock? [Audience may say “I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the Rejected.” If the audience does not say this, Duwairig says:]
1. Then listen well, for you will hear the correct words soon enough, and you should always remember them for protection.”
[If the audience does say the right words, then Duwairig responds:]
2. Alhamdullilah! You are wiser than the peddler, the Chief-of-police and his wife, all put together!
Duwairig: Uh-oh—here comes the judge! He’s looking for his daughter and her husband, the chief-of-police.
[Duwairig exits stage. Town Qadi comes out on stage accompanied by the two police officers. They approach the Chief-of-police’s house.]
Town Qadi: Where is my poor daughter and her husband? We haven’t seen them come out of this house in two and a half days. Knock on that door!
[Officers knock repeatedly.]
Qadi: Bang harder!
Qadi: Break that door down!
[They break the door down and all barge in. They find the chief-of-police snoring in bed.]
Qadi:[thunders] What is the meaning of this? Wake that man up!
Chief-of-Police: Huh? Huh?
Qadi: Where is my baby girl? What did you do with her?
First Officer: She’s here in the kitchen, sir!
[Wife burps. Makes sounds of indigestion and sleepiness, and holds stomach.]
Qadi: Someone has done something to her. That’s not the way she acts normally. [Goes back to chief-of-police.] Why have you been sleeping? Why didn’t you come to work? Speak up, if you want to keep your job!
Chief-of-Police: The clock . . . it kept saying it was time to sleep.
Qadi: [turning on daughter, who is being lugged by policemen] Daughter, what did he do to you?
Wife: Nothing, Baba. It was the clock. It said it was time to eat!
Qadi: The clock, the clock . . . uh-hoh! There it is! [Looks at it suspiciously.] Something isn’t right with this clock, may Allah protect me. But I’ll get to the bottom of this mystery, Allah willing. I’ll find out the truth of this matter, because I’m the judge in this town. I order EVERYBODY to the courthouse tomorrow afternoon, and you, O Shiftless Chief of Police, bring that strange clock with you!
End Act II
[Scene: Qadi sits above everyone, perhaps at a judge’s bench, or behind a podium on a tall stool. His ‘elevated’ position of authority must be evident. The configuration of the stage setting must suggest a courtroom.]
Qadi: Bismillah, Al Rahman, Alraheem. . . Court Secretary, are all those summoned now present?
Court Secretary: Yes, your Eminence.
Qadi: Does that include the former owner of the clock, whom I summoned by urgent messenger from Cordoba?
Court Secretary: Yes, your Eminence. The Caliph’s police chief had him personally escorted to our town.
Qadi: Well and good, Alhamdullilah. And now we will get to the rock bottom of this matter! I call upon the chief-of-police to stand before me.
Court Secretary: Chief-of-police, rise and come forward.
Qadi: Chief-of-police, why didn’t you appear at work for two and a half days?
Chief-of-police: [mumbles] I don’t know.
Qadi: [sternly] Speak up! The court cannot hear you!
Chief-of-Police: [much louder] I said, I don’t know!
[The audience in the courtroom erupts in giggles.]
Qadi: SILENCE! I’ll get to the bottom of this matter. Beware, those who laugh, that you do not end up behind bars before the day is through.
[Complete silence ensues.]
Qadi: [to chief-of-police} Let me phrase my question another way. Why did you go to sleep?
Chief-of-Police: Because it was time.
Qadi: And why did you think it was “time”?
Chief-of-Police: The clock said so.
Qadi: Aha! [bangs down cudgel] Next witness!
Court Secretary: Innkeeper, rise and come forward.
Qadi: Assalam Alaikum.
Innkeeper: Wa Alaikum Salam.
Qadi: Are you the innkeeper?
Inkeeper: I am.
Qadi: Did you notice anything strange about this customer of yours [Qadi nods towards peddler] on the day he stepped onto your premises?
Innkeeper: I must admit that I did, your Eminence.
Qadi: Will you be so good as to tell us, frankly and truthfully, exactly what it was about him that struck you as abnormal?
Innkeeper: I noticed two specific things about the man in question, your Eminence. One was his abrupt rudeness. He accused me of being greedy The other thing was his bizarre comment that the sun had just risen when in fact it had just set. I assumed from that moment onwards that I was dealing with a madman.
Qadi: Did he say anything about a clock?
Qadi: Hmmmm. Next witness.
Court secretary: The court summons the imam of this town to rise and come forward.
Imam: Assalam Alaikum.
Qadi: Wa alaikum salam, Brother. What do you have to say about this man? [Qadi again gestures towards the peddler.]
Imam: I saw him shouting in the street last Saturday night. Naturally, I went over to invite him to the mosque as it was almost time for the ‘Isha prayer. He seemed to regard me as a practical joker. He was quite convinced that it was morning and held this opinion due to a certain clock in his possession. When I left, he was hugging it.
Qadi: Strange behavior! But, Allah willing, I will get to the bottom of this matter. [slams down cudgel] Clock-maker!
Court Secretary: Clock-maker, rise and come forward.
Clock-maker: [extremely nervous, he keeps glancing towards the clock in fright] Y . . y . . . yes, S. . . sir.
Qadi: Well? Spit it out! What’s the secret behind this clock? Did you put a spell on it?
Clock-maker: [gasps] No, not me, your Eminence. [He is visibly trembling.]
Qadi: Get a grip on yourself, man. No one is going to hurt you.
Clock-maker: I’m not scared of you, sir. I’m scared of the—of the—the—uh—clock!
Qadi: [taken aback] Eh what? Scared of the clock, did you say? Come, come—explain yourself! Don’t make a mockery of my court.
Clock-maker: I’m scared of the jinni inside the clock!
Qadi: Auzu billahi min al shaitan al rajeem! I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the rejected! How do you know there is a jinni inside that clock?
Clock-maker: A clock-maker from Baghdad came here, to Al-Andalus—to Cordoba—just about a year ago. He is one of the most talented craftsmen I have ever met. The design of this clock—so beautiful, as you can see—is not originally mine. It is his.
Qadi: Well? Go on! I haven’t made heads or tails of your story yet.
Clock-maker: I . . . I became jealous of him. You see, I used to be the chief craftsman of mechanical objects for the Caliph. I used to be at the palace regularly, almost every day. When this fellow from Baghdad came along, I eventually lost my position. I was forced to open a small shop in Cordoba. I lost my prestige; my income fell . . . [raises handkerchief to eyes]
Qadi: Finish the story! [slams down cudgel]
Clock-maker: Yes, your Eminence. I happened to hear that the clock-maker from Baghdad had promised to make a stupendous clock for the Caliph. He boasted that it would outshine any clock that had ever been made, both in its mechanical workings and in its beauty. He was working on it secretly in his shop, and nobody had seen it to say if his boasts were true.
I thought that if I could present the Caliph with such a clock before my rival did, I might be reinstated to my former high position. I am a very good mechanical craftsman, you know . . . but I had lost my confidence. I feared that the man from Baghdad would come up with a superior design. To make a long story short—
Qadi: [barks] Please do!
Clock-maker: Yes, sir. To make it short, I—I broke into the other craftsman’s workshop
one night and looked at his designs.
[Audience murmurs disapproval.]
Clock-maker: [looking around at people in courtroom, he hangs his head in shame] The craftsman from Baghdad seemed to be stumped over a certain problem in his design. Luckily—or maybe unluckily, for me, I can’t really say which—I was able to find a solution to his problem right away. I went back to my own shop and immediately began to make the beautiful clock that you see before you. The other guy hadn’t finished his own, you see, because he was still trying to work out that problem. . . .
Qadi: [impatiently] And so?
Clock-maker: [still looking fearfully at the clock, placed in the center of the courtroom] I was preparing to present the clock to the Caliph when the news of my preparations got to the ears of my rival. One morning he burst into my workshop and stood staring angrily at the clock I had made, based on his design. He was mad as a hornet. “Does it work?” he demanded. All I could say was, “yes,” because I was sort of embarrassed and ashamed—
“You stole my design, didn’t you?” he hissed at me, and I nodded. I had a big lump in my throat because I was already disgusted with myself for having stolen the design, and I couldn’t bring myself to lie as well—
Qadi: You can cleanse your conscience later on! As for the present, I would like you to prove what you said a little while ago, about there being a jinni in that clock.
[Crowd murmurs nervously.]
Clock-maker: Ha! That doesn’t take much proving, does it? The peddler proved it, didn’t he? So did your son-in-law, the chief-of-police. Before them, I proved it. If you insist, I will tell you how the jinni got in there.
The craftsman from Baghdad was so infuriated that he decided to take revenge on me. He found a magician and he paid him a pouch of gold dinars to command an evil jinni to occupy my clock.
I know it because he came back and sneered about it right in my face. Then he left me in my workshop with this evil clock. From that minute onwards, it was nothing but a curse to me. I began to injure myself with my own tools! On the first day, I smashed my fingers with my hammer; on the second, I ripped three fingernails out with pliers, and on the third, I nearly gauged out my left eye.
After that I knew I could never take my clock to the Caliph. All I could think about was getting rid of it.
Peddler: [bitterly] And that’s where I came in! Let me at him! Let me at him! [Peddler is restrained by officers.]
Qadi: Order in the court! SILENCE! [Silence falls over the courtroom. Qadi looks very ill at ease.] Now, ah . . . [clears throat, drums fingers] . . .Wh—wh—what shall we do?
[Quiet in courtroom. No one says anything, but many look afraid and cower. Only the innkeeper and the imam are perfectly composed. They look at each other. The inkeeper nods and the imam steps forward.]
Imam: Shame on you all! Do you not know that there is neither might nor power except Allah the Almighty? Have you forgotten the greatest lesson of faith?
[People murmur, nod.]
Imam: Allah is our Protector. Remember Him, seek refuge in Him, and He will have mercy on you and give you a way out—either in this life or the next. Still, we will have our share of woes and horror while we live. Even our prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had to fight black magic himself when he himself was afflicted by sorcery.
Man in crowd: So we should be afraid?
Woman in crowd: I am confused. Should we be afraid or not?
Imam: We should be afraid when we forget that there is only One true power to really fear. We should be afraid when we allow ourselves to be scared of the puny power of a jinni.
We should be afraid when we forget to seek refuge in Allah from evil, even the evil of those who love us.
When you are afraid, remember that Allah’s power is infinite and can snuff out the jiini’s power as a puff of wind blows out a candle.
[Imam turns toward Qadi] Permit me, Brother, to recite those surahs which were recommended by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, when in the presence of black magic.
Qadi: [nervously] Yes, please do so at once.
Imam: [raises hands slightly in supplication] Oh Allah! We seek refuge in You from Satan the rejected. We seek refuge in You from the evil of this clock. We seek refuge in You from the jinni in the clock!
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak
From the evil of that which He created;
From the evil of the darkness when it is intense.
And from the evil of malignant witchcraft,
And from the evil of the envier when he envies.
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind,
the King of mankind,
the God of mankind,
From the evil of the sneaking whisperer,
Who whispers in the hearts of mankind,
Of the jinn and of mankind.”
[Stage directions: Visual effect may be achieved if one actor/stagehand, positioned under the table upon which the clock is placed, pours water over dry ice at this point. The steam/mist can represent the departure of the jinni. Alternately, a child actor may be dressed as an evil jinni (devil) and emerge from under the table, scare the jurors, then run off stage.]
[A portion of the courtroom audience should gasp or “oooh” and “aaaah.” Some may cover their faces with their hands, or grab onto one another while the manifestations take place. Imam walks up to the clock, holds it up to his ear, shakes it. Then he puts it back on the table.]
Imam: Alhamdullilah, the jinni is gone!
Qadi: [shaken, but relieved] Thank you, Brother! May Allah reward you. You may be seated. Now! [slams down cudgel] The verdict! A decision has been reached.
Court Secretary: A decision has been reached!
Qadi: The peddler has already been detained here several days and has consequently been deprived of earning a living during this time. I suppose that is punishment enough for disturbing our peaceful town. I rule that his clock be confiscated. How much did you pay for it, peddler?
Peddler: One dirham.
Qadi: [eyes widen in surprise] Well, you have forfeited that dirham. No doubt you would like to go home now?
Qadi: You may, as soon as this court adjourns. As for you, Chief-of-police, I rule that you be made to work overtime, to make up for the days you missed by sleeping. And don’t ever do it again!
Chief-of-Police: [sheepishly] Oh no, sir.
Qadi: You, Clock-maker! I am afraid yours is a more serious case. You stole, of your own admission—in this case, you stole a design.
Clock-maker: [standing up] I wish to repent, your Eminence.
Qadi: [nods approvingly] So you may. I was just going to say that the nature of your theft is a strange one. I am going to order that this case be submitted to the Caliph himself, especially since the craftsman from Baghdad has meddled in magic. It is a grave sin in Islam! However, in my letter, I will recommend that after such punishment as the Caliph deems fit, the two of you be reconciled and made to work together as a team. You could help each other.
[Clock-maker looks surprised.]
Qadi: It is a shame someone didn’t think of teaming you two before. May Allah guide you both. Court adjourned! [Bangs down cudgel for the last time.]
Please feel free to use!