The Ma’rifa Barber

It was a sweltering August weekend on Ilford Lane; the high street was teeming with beaming, movie star faces, inching along in gleaming, convertible sports cars and booming bass lines. The shops and markets on either side were thronging with customers, laden with designer bags and baklava boxes, like rows of ants heaving a booty of sugar lumps along a kitchen floor. Wedding season was in full flow. As were the plethora of barbers and salons along the lane: Asian, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Somali, male, female, retro, traditional, high-brow, cheap and cheerful. It seemed as if everyone had decided to get their special trims or facials on this day. It wasn’t unusual today to see queues extending out of every barber shop and salon and, consequently, tempers were beginning to fray; nerves were itching; patience was fizzling in the heat.

However, one barber shop, hidden away in the centre of the lane by the name of ‘One Cut’, was deserted. A solitary barber could be seen brushing the floor, which was already pristine, and polishing the mirrors, which were clearer than water. Suddenly, the bell jingled, and a singular fellow appeared in the shop. His head was completely shaved, yet his beard hung lustrously and free.

    “I would like a ma’rifa cut please,” announced the visitor.

    The barber glanced at the man and smiled. “Okay, you have made all the preparations for this cut?”

    The man wiped his hand over his bald head and beard. “I have indeed. I cut as much of my hair as I could…”

    “Okay, good,” remarked the barber. “Why are you having the ma’rifa cut, if I may ask?”

    “Well, I’m getting married soon,” replied the man, “and part of the mahr my beloved has asked for is the ma’rifa cut. Without it, there will be no marriage.”

    The barber smiled: “The ma’rifa cut is expensive. Are you happy to pay the price?”

    “I am indeed. I have the fee.”

    “Okay, but you must pay the fee before you receive the cut. That is the special condition for the ma’rifa cut.”

    The man acquiesced, and took everything he had and placed it on the silver tray the barber now held before him, everything: his dreams of becoming rich, of his upcoming marriage to the wondrous girl next door, of having strong sons and beautiful daughters, of establishing deep, immovable roots, and every single thing of value he had. He dumped it all on the barber’s tray.

   “Many thanks,” said the barber. “And now, please take a seat. In order to perform the ma’rifa cut, I must cover you with this apron. Are you happy with this?

   The man took a seat, facing the crystal-clear mirror: “More than happy…”

   “Excellent,” replied the barber, and he proceeded to wrap the apron of his attributes around the seated man.

    “Okay, are you ready sir?”

    “Yes, please go ahead.” answered the man, his eyes closed.

    “Everything will change after this, as you know. Are you still ready to proceed?”

    “Most certainly, I am ready.”

    “Well, just to advise you, when I cut the hair, it will be invisible, but it will start growing again, so you will have to manage it with regular shaving and treatments. If you keep on top of it, it will never grow too much to impair you…”

    “Okay, many thanks for your kind advice.”

    “It is my pleasure sir. Right, so here we go.” And with that, the barber searched for the hair of the man’s desires and delusions which was growing out of his heart and cut it clean off. It only took one cut.

    “Okay sir. All done. You can open your eyes. Please take a look in the mirror and confirm you are happy with the results.”

    The man opened his eyes and gazed deeply into the reflection. All that he could see was the barber and an empty chair. He smiled and laughed ecstatically. He couldn’t see his self at all.

   “Beautiful, absolutely beautiful!”

    He got up, still covered with the apron of attributes, and warmly embraced the barber, who said:

    “The hair will remain short, and the apron will remain on you, as long as you take the medicines which are outlined in the book, which we spoke of before.”

    The man nodded and once again embraced the barber, tears streaming down his face.

    Then a couple of sharp-looking, designer-clothed guys opened the door and came in to take a look. All they could see was the barber standing there.

    The guy at the back whispered: “This place is empty… Probably a reason for that, let’s check out another place.” The others agreed and walked out without a word.  

Then the man released the barber and walked out of ‘One Cut’, with his fresh cut. The barber swept away all the dross and dust on the floor and kept polishing that shining mirror….

May, 2022


Ilford Lane- busy shopping area in East London, famous for the diverse ethnicity

Mahr- bride price

Ma’rifa- In Islamic spirituality, ma’rifa means the knowledge of God, and it is a spiritual reality in which the worshipper becomes so close to God that they lose sight of themselves and live through the divine light of the One True God.

This entry was posted in allegory, Short Stories, Sufi/Mystical and tagged , by Novid Shaid. Bookmark the permalink.

About Novid Shaid

I am a Muslim writer and English teacher. I have written poetry, short stories, a play, and I am currently working on a novella. My subject matter and themes are related to Islam, Sufism, politics and also my job as a secondary school teacher. My work is copyrighted and any works published here may not used or copied without my prior consent. You can contact me via the "Contact Me" page, if you wish to use any these writings. I am keen to gain the notice of publishers and if any are interested in my writings, please contact me via the "Contact Me" page. Was salaam, Peace

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