His Grace


Naimy, Mikhail


Short Story


A poet, philosopher, and biographer of Kahlil Gibran, Mikhail Naimy was born in Lebanon in 1889. He, along with Gibran and eight other writers, founded the New York Pen League, which during the 1920’s and 30’s dedicated itself to the creation of literature in Arabic. "His Grace," originally written in Arabic, tells the story of the Bey, or His Grace As’ad al-Da’waq. The Bey is the last of the sheikhs of the house of Da’waq, a family that once held absolute power in its own small corner of the world, but has recently fallen on hard times and accumulated unmanageable debts. Desperate to maintain his dignity after a local businessman purchases an honorary title in order to spite him, the Bey makes a desperate gambit at one-upmanship, and must live with the results. A restaurant owner who provides the Bey with free evening meal tells much of the story, the whole of us which invites us to consider the distinction between wise and foolish giving—and to ask whether the latter might have a wisdom of its own.

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Imagining America: Stories From the Promised Land, Revised Edition, edited by Wesley Brown (New York: Persea Books, 2003).




Connection and RelationshipGiving and ReceivingHeritage and TraditionImpact and Outcomes

Big Questions

What causes division between people and groups?What kinds of relationships matter the most?How do we know what a gift achieves?What does good giving require?Who should we give to and why?How do we remain loyal to our heritage and traditions?How have my past and heritage shaped me?How do we know the impact of our actions?


Hearing the Call Across Traditions

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. From where does Sheik As’ad receive his original social status? How does he lose this status and how does he try to regain it?
  2. Why is Abu’ Asaf surprised when the narrator and his friend do not know the Bey?
  3. In both Lebanon and New York, why does Sheik As’ad carry himself the way he does?
  4. Why does Abu’ Asaf treat Sheik As’ad as he does? What does the Sheik receive from such treatment? What does Abu’ Asaf receive from his own giving? What do you make of their relationship?
  5. What is the meaning of “grace” in this story? What different forms does it take?
  6. How do you measure the impact of your giving? How do you know when you’ve given enough or the right thing?
  7. How does gratitude (or lack of gratitude) affect our feelings about giving?
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