24  J I M C A R R O L L She launched in, leaving no space for my response. “So you’re going to study Sharia, eh? I don’t know anything about Islamic law, except it’s a mess. But I’m sure you’ll straighten it out for me. You’d better.” Dr. Allison, although a declared agnostic, was a recognized ex- pert in Islam, and in particular, the history of Islamic law. What could I teach her? Perhaps she was open to a good story. Once back in the dorm, I took a deep breath, lay down on the bed and read the mail that had arrived in advance of my ar- rival. There was an interesting letter from Anna. She had missed a period. There was a letter from my mother, longer than I had ever seen from her: My Dear Boy Yacoub, Your clever little niece is writing this for me. She is very sweet to me now that I am an old woman. I am sure you are happy in your studies and that they are sufficient for your contentment. Your long ab- sence has hurt me a great deal, and I don’t know if I shall ever recover from it. Your father and Suhayb have put me aside from their lives, as I expected they would. The other young ones do not replace you. There is much news. Your father is enamored with oil, and he is making a lot of money. I do not see it. He has taken another wife. She is young, and she does not obey me. Our house is one of constant turmoil, and your father sides with her. He makes his bed with her. She is from a tribe lower than ours, the Mutair, and her habits are coarse. You know they breed horses and camels. Her way of speaking reflects her base ex- periences, and she does not respect me as the older wife. Most of your father’s friends have kept one wife,