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The quandary I find myself in reminds me of the story of Layla and Harun-ar-Rashid, the famous Abbasid emperor. Upon hearing that a Bedouin poet named Qays had fallen hopelessly in love with Layla and lost his mind for her, and was therefore named Majnun—the madman—the emperor became very curious about the woman who had caused such misery.

This Layla must be a very special creature, he thought. A woman far superior to all other woman. Perhaps she is an enchantress unequaled in beauty and charm.

Excited, intrigued, he played every trick in the book to find a way to see Layla with his own eyes.
Finally, one day they brought Layla to emperor’s palace when she took off her veil, Harun-ar-Rashid was disillusioned. Not that Layla was ugly, crippled, or old. But she wasn’t extraordinarily attractive either. She was a human being with ordinary human needs and several defects, a simple woman, like countless others.

The emperor did not hide his disappointment. “Are you the one Majnun has been crazy about? Why, you look so ordinary. What is so special about you?”
Layla broke into a smile. “Yes, I am Layla. But you are not Majnun,” she answered. “You have to see me with the eyes of Majnun. Otherwise you could ever solve this mystery called Love.”

‘Love cannot be explained. It can only be experienced.
Love cannot be explained, yet it explains all.’


—Manuscript from The Forty rules of Love by Elif Shafak



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