Islamic Fiction Contest Winner - 2016
IWA Member Category - 1st Place
Jidda Henna and the Eid Competition
by: Fawzia Gilani
Long, long ago in a small village there lived an old woman with a very kind heart who everyone called Jidda Henna. They called her Jidda Henna because she had a special gift. She could make the most beautiful patterns with henna. People would come from miles around to have Jidda work on their hands for weddings and Eids.
In the same village lived a young woman called Batala. Batala had learned the art of henna from Jidda. But now Batala thought that she was far better than Jidda. Batala would boast about how beautifully she could do henna patterns. She would charge the villagers great amounts of money for the work that she did.
But Jidda was not like Batala, she was kind and humble. When poor villagers could not pay for henna designs, Jidda would say, “Never mind, your smiles and duas are enough for me.” And this would only make the villagers love Jidda more.
Batala would sneer at Jidda and say, “How silly that you spend hours making patterns and then you walk away without even a penny.”
“I walk away with something far more precious than money,” Jidda would answer.
“Smiles and duas!”
One day the villagers spoke of a great Eid competition. The queen was searching for the finest henna artist in the land. “She will give one hundred pieces of gold to whoever can make the best henna design,” said the villagers. “The winner will have the honor of being the Royal Henna Artist!”
The competition was on the third day of Eid. Everyone was so excited.
Batala was standing close to Jidda and remarked, “I’m sure I’ll win the prize!”
“Inshallah,” said the old lady with a smile.
The palace was not too far from the village so as the days of Eid arrived Jidda prepared for her little journey. Jidda took out her best henna bag which contained her paste and tools.
On the day Batala decided to ride with Jidda Henna.
“If I go with Jidda, she’ll be sure to share her food with me,” thought Batala.
Just as Jidda was climbing onto the cart, Batala saw Jidda’s special henna bag next to her food basket. Batala quickly grabbed the bag and hid it under her shawl and then climbed onto the cart. “Inshallah we’ll be there by the afternoon,” called Jidda.
“Yes, yes, yes,” said Batala as she pushed Jidda’s bag under her seat.
On rode Jidda and Batala. It was a lovely warm day and Jidda sent lots of love and praise to Allah. Again and again and again Jidda whispered the dua of Prophet David, peace be upon him.
"O my Lord! Enable me that I may be grateful for Your favours, which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may work righteousness that will please You: And admit me, by Your Grace, to the ranks of Your righteous servants." (27:19)
Batala waited and waited and waited for the right moment when she could throw Jidda’s bag on the side of the road. Then the moment came when they were close to the palace. Jidda slowed down her horse to turn a corner near some trees. As she did Batala quickly threw Jidda’s henna bag over to the side. A short while later Jidda asked, “Are you hungry yet? I have some eggs and bread in my basket. Let’s stop here to eat.” “Oh I’m very hungry now!” said Batala with a smile.
When Jidda reached for her food basket, she noticed that her henna bag was missing. “O dear!” said Jidda. “I can’t find my henna bag!” Jidda sighed sadly. She knew she couldn’t win the henna competition without her henna bag.
Batala smiled wickedly but then pretended to be concerned.
“Well where did you put it?” she asked. Then she got up and pretended to be looking for it the cart and in the basket. Then she walked this way and that way as though she was really upset.
Jidda and Batala had no sooner finished their meal, even though Jidda didn’t seem to eat very much, when they heard someone crying for help.
“I wonder who it could be?” said Jidda.
But Batala didn’t care and she didn’t want to know.
“Let’s be on our way!” said Batala. “Otherwise we’ll be late!”
“But someone is crying, how can we leave them?” said Jidda.
“Well you can waste your time if you want but I’m off to the palace to collect my prize!
It’s not too far so I’ll walk!” said Betala and with that shestormed off leaving Jidda by herself.
Jidda heard the crying again.
“Where are you my child?” she called. “I’m coming to help you. Don’t fear, don’t cry.”
Jidda walked closer and closer to the crying until she saw a girl with her long hair and ribbons caught in a bramble bush.
“Help me, please!” cried the girl, “I can’t get free.”
“Don’t worry my child,” soothed old Jidda. “Inshallah everything will be well.”
It took Jidda a little time but eventually the girl was free. The girl told Jidda that she was reaching for some flowers when the wind blew and her hair and ribbons got caught in the brambles. Jidda led the girl to her cart and gave her some food and water.
“Dear Jidda,” said the girl, “please come to my home so my mother can give you her thanks and a gift for helping me.”
“Your happiness is my gift,” said Jidda with a smile.
The girl held out her basket in which she had collected flowers and other things.
“Inshallah I will remember you in my duas,” said the girl, “but please if you won’t come home with me then you must pick something from here.”
Jidda peered into the girl’s basket. There were lots of pretty flowers and stones and then something caught her eye. In the basket beneath the flowers she saw her henna bag!
“Subhan Allah!” said Jidda gently pulling out the bag. “Where did you get this?”
“I found it on the side of the road,” replied the girl. “You can have it! Please take it!” said the girl seeing how Jidda’s eyes lit up. “Very well,” said Jidda, “ but not before I make some henna patterns on your hand!”
Jidda sat beside the girl and drew the most splendid henna patterns all across the girl’s hands.
“How beautiful!” exclaimed the girl. She thanked Jidda again and again.
When the girl had left, Jidda resumed her journey to the palace. She wondered whether she would get there on time.
When Jidda got to the palace she was taken to a large hall where she saw lots and lots of women and girls sitting down and working quietly over the hands of women and girls. Everyone was busy making henna patterns.
But before Jidda had a chance to begin the queen’s waiting lady came to the front and said in a shrill voice, “My dear sisters please stop. Alhamdulilah, the Eid competition is at an end.”
Jidda sighed. “Never mind,” she told herself. Jidda decided to wait and see who the lucky winner was. All the girls and women with henna patterns were asked to wait until their henna dried. Meanwhile there was a lovely banquet with delicious food for everyone. Ladies and girls sang Eid songs while others sat and listened. After what seemed a long time, the women and girls decorated with henna went to wash their hands. When they returned they lined up so that the queen and princess could inspect the henna designs.
Everyone watched as the queen and princess paced up and down the line. Up and down they went again and again. Then the princess and queen began to whisper to each other. Everyone held their breath. Finally the queen nodded.
Then something very strange happened. The queen began to walk towards the crowd of henna artists with a jeweled casket in her hands. Jidda looked around and then she saw Batala, who came to stand by her side. Batala began to beam and smile widely.
“She’s coming to congratulate me! She’s coming to give me the prize!”!” said Batala.
“Look she’s walking straight towards me!”
Batala was right, the queen was walking straight towards her.
Jidda smiled. “Mashallah! Well done, Batala!” she said. Jidda stepped back so that she could make room for the queen.
But instead of walking to Batala, the queen stopped in front of Jidda.
“Congratulations!” said the queen. “You have been awarded the prize for the best henna artist in the land!”
Jidda was shocked. “How could that be?” she asked. “I didn’t even get a chance to do a henna design. I arrived late!”
The queen explained that there was a henna design on the hands of one of the girls whose mother lived at the palace. “She told us that you helped her get free of the bramble bush. Her design is the best design of all!” said the queen.
All the women and girls looked at the girl’s hands and they all agreed that Jidda’s design was indeed the best.
“You are awarded this prize and you will be the Royal Henna Artist for Eid,” declared the queen.
Jidda smiled a very big smile and said, “Alhamdulilah!”