Bluebeard and Muawiya’s Hair

In 4th or 5th grade, we learned from an English textbook, an Oxford English series, or something like that. The books were full of captivating stories that aroused our curious young minds. I remembered one pf the stories after I saw a Twitter clip. It was a picture of a French, Israeli soldier. He had a wall displaying women’s underwear, which proves he is a pervert. He surely stole the clothing items from the drawers of Palestinian women that he or his colleagues killed. I was so disgusted that I remembered the story of Bluebeard, to which I was introduced by the book I mentioned.

By now, you probably know that I am infatuated by folktales. And with the same token, I despise ethnic extremists of all colors. I don’t appreciate the narration of history by fanatics who do not take folktales for what they are, simple traditional art. They have a vested interest in actively exploiting folktales to massage their egos, deform and politicize them, and treat the folktales as if they were current news. It’s always about their ancestors, whom they present as angels, while their traditional foes are depicted as awful creatures. Furthermore, their narration is so detailed, as if their claims have supporting evidence in a nation that never kept birth and death records until recently.

Students of history must be careful in handling such issues; they must refrain from boasting about their ancestry as if they lived their time. Ancestry is tricky, and there is no certainty about it, particularly in a place marred with wars, intermingling of races through migrations and trade. One story can have so many versions, including a novel or other work of art. To illustrate my point, I will tell you the story of Bluebeard, compiled from different versions.

In French, Bluebeard, is known as “La Barbe bleue”, since the 1967 story was originally written by a Frenchman. La Barbe bleue was either a nobleman, maybe a prince, or a king who married women only to kill them; in some versions, in order to inherit their wealth, in others, because he was a psychopath.

Soon after he killed his sixth wife, he approached a woman in the town who had daughters who were of marrying age  and asked her for the hands of one of them. She agreed, and he married the girl, and took her to his palace.

Soon, he had to travel, and he left the many keys to the palace doors with his new wife and warned her to never open one specific door.

However, a few days later, curiosity defeated her, and she opened the door she was not supposed to open. When Bluebeard returned, he found out that one of the keys had blood stains on it. He knew she had violated his trust, and he was enraged. He threatened to cut her head. But, luckily, she was saved by some friends and escaped death.

///end of the summarized story.

As we know, there are violent people whose thirst for blood is never quenched Bluebeard is an example. If people fail to reign over such psychopaths, they destroy them and sniff away their lives.

Let me give you a hint: some will probably claim their brave forefathers painted their beards blue because it was a sign of bravery. Or they would boast that their ancestors enslaved the women of their foes and killed them. Maybe one righteous ancestor decided to stop it the killings. In fact, he might be the first hero who established legal codes for humanity! Maybe that ancestor was better than Hammurabi, if not better than him!

Now imagine: If you had to, how would you rewrite the Bluebeard tale? Would you sympathize with him is Bluebeard belonged to what you believe is your tribe or clan? 

The progeny of Muawyia Bin Abu Sufyan in Eritrea

Muawya Bin Abu Sufyan was a cousin of the prophet Mohammed and the founder of the Umayyad dynasty. His father, Abu Sufyan, was a wealthy Quraishi notable, and a relative of the prophet Mohammed. However, he hated the prophet so much that he derided and belittled him repeatedly by referring to him as a shepherd. The prophet and his companions suffered a great deal from Abu Sufyan’s enmity; he fought in battles against the Muslims. But eventually, Abu Sufyan accepted Islam, as did many people from the Quraish tribe.

Muawiya was among the few learned men in Mecca, and he became the writer of the wahey, divine messages of the Quran that the angel Gabriel delivered to the prophet.

After the death of the prophet, Muawiya was appointed as the commander of Levant, or Sham region: Syria, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. For a long time, the Levant was under the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire. After defeating the Byzantine empire, Muawiya became the governor of the region and inherited a developed government structure and bureaucracy. That helped him become an almost independent ruler.

Three deputies to the prophet had died when Ali was elected as fourth caliph by a council. But Muawiya refused to pledge allegiance to Ali, instead, he became his staunch rival.

War broke out, and Ali was assassinated at a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, during the battle of Nehrewan; his son Hassan became the 5th caliph, but six months later he abdicated to Muawiya. Muawiya named himself the 6th caliph …

That is the genesis of the Sunni-Shia schism that is still crippling Muslims to this day: the Shia have allegiance to Ali and his son Hasan, while those who accepted Muawiya became known as Sunni.

Warning: There were many intricacies and conflicts, this is a very simplistic, summarized presentation. For further understanding, please refer to more books and lectures on the subject.

Muawya is remembered in history for his diplomatic skills; his political genius earned him a title: The Shrewdest of the Arabs.

A friend from Akele-Guzai once told me his relatives believe Muawiya is their ancestor (that is one additional snippet for the ethnic extremists who think their DNA was created in the village they hail from … I never told you about my probable Akele-Guzai ancestry on one side of my ancestry! Maybe someday I will.

Shaaret Muawiya (Muawiya’s hair)

 Here is the inspiration for today’s episode…

My friend Yerhewo Amlakh posted a question on his Facebook page and asked, “Some people] if you get closer to them, they go further, if you keep your distance, they try to get closer. What shall we do?”

That is when Shaaret Muawiya came to mind, I mentioned that, and he liked it. Then I promised to expand on it believing it would serve as a lesson in diplomacy and politics.

The common Arabic saying is considered a smart tactic to follow when facing a delicate situation, a rivalry, or an unwanted contest. Shaaret Muawiya means Muawiya’s hair. Now I will tell you the origin of the saying.

Someone asked Muawiya, “How do you govern the Sham successfully despite the many problems including the political upheavals?

Muawiya replied: “If there was a single hair connecting me to the people, I would make sure it wouldn’t be cut.”


Muawiya said, “If they pulled it, I would release it, and if they released it, I would pull.”

That skill helped him maintain the social and political stability and equilibrium of his domain.

When politics change, it is the effect of what is known as shaaret Muawiya used in one way or another. A ruler must be harsh or kind depending on the situation: punish and reward justly to keep peace and to avoid ruling the people as if they were your cattle. Balance is the secret, and in that, Muawiya’s hair helps manage difficult situations in a balanced way; it has become like a dictum that’s mentioned frequently in foreign relations and diplomacy.

Finally, let me leave you with another saying attributed to the fourth Caliph, Ali Bin Abu Talib: “Don’t be soft, lest you be squeezed; don’t be dry, lest you be broken.”


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