"Enjoin believing men to turn their eyes away from temptation and to
restrain their carnal desires," the first line said. "This will make
their lives purer."
His smile widened. Someone must have seen Daliya exiting a few nights ago, and
it probably wasn't the first time. The memory brightened his mood. Whereas he
thought of himself as wispy and insubstantial, she was full and complicated, a
soul worth clinging to. He continued reading.
"Enjoin believing women to turn their eyes away from temptation and to
preserve their chastity; not to display their adornments."
Oh, but such adornments. If this writer only knew. Another set of numbers
followed, 24:39, meaning the writer had skipped ahead. The next passage took his
"As for the unbelievers, their works are like a mirage in a desert. The
thirsty traveler thinks it is water, but when he comes near he finds that it is
nothing. He finds God there, who pays him back in full. Swift is God's
Najeeb wondered angrily what sort of "reckoning" the writer had in
mind. Did God's self-appointed scold also intend to be His avenger? He crumpled
the page, then reconsidered, smoothing it out and reaching for a pen. This
demanded a reply. He pulled his own copy of the Koran from between English
editions of Philip Roth and Paul Auster, thumbing the pages. Where was that
verse that had recently caught his eye? There. Just as he remembered. He'd be
quoting it out of context, of course. In fact, he was likely misinterpreting it
altogether, a thought that returned his smile with a gleam of mischief.
"2:79," he wrote. Then he scribbled in rusty Arabic: "Woe betide
those that write the scriptures with their own hands and then declare: 'This is
from God,' in order to gain some paltry end."
He stuffed the page into the messenger's own envelope and resealed it with tape,
then wrote on the outside in Urdu, "A reply to this morning's visitor to
apartment 12." After a second cup of tea he grabbed his satchel and the
keys to his scooter, taking care to lock the door before rushing down the
stairwell. He posted the envelope by the mailboxes at the entrance, wondering
how long it would be before someone took the bait. For a moment he had
misgivings--why stir the pot?--and his stomach rumbled, as queasy as if he'd
just eaten too much chapal kebab. He'd have to remind Daliya to take more care
in her comings and goings. The city grew more dangerous and irrational by the
"Meddlesome fanatics," Najeeb muttered on his way into the streets.
"They'll be the death of us all."
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...