Hey West! Meet Us Halfway, will ya? – Part III (final)

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King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the Saudi delegation praying in a mosque in a visit to Indonesia last year

This is the third and final part of a series of three blogs that discusses the Saudi Crown Prince’s recent visit to the United States and, in particular, his interview in CBS’s 60 Minutes. Click here for Part I of the blog series.

Sharia Law and the Religious State

Sharia is an all-comprehensive ethicolegal system, but with an unfortunately bad name in the West. To explain this, I would need, in addition to being an expert in Islamic Jurisprudence, a hundred other blogs. I am not an expert, and I know you don’t want to read a hundred blogs. But, here’s an example of a paper that was presented this year at a conference in Harvard Medical School. It’s about the Islamic legal discussion on organ transplantation in the early part of the last century. Now you might not find the specifics of this medical procedure interesting, but the summary shown below gives you an interesting glimpse of a wide-ranging law that is certainly not only about limbs amputations.

Dr. Abdullah Al Joudi’s Poster as presented this year in the Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School

It is unfortunate that an ethicolegal system as significant and as comprehensive as “Sharia” has been given a bad name due to lunatics like Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida and ISIS. The system that govern human relations be it financial, ethical, governmental, judicial or otherwise has been reduced to a very un-orthodoxically reckless interpretation of a very small part of it, the Hudood, which might not even constitute a single percentage of the total collection of Laws.

BTW

Hudood (an Arabic word for boundries, borders or frontiers) is the name of the section in Sharia that discusses penalties for a list of a limited number of ultimate crimes such as murder, brigandage, rape or high treason.

That bad name was amplified and furtherly terrorized by either mere ignorants, or special-interests’ driven Islamophobes who furthered their agendas by the habit of creating rifts between different cultures and civilizations.

The likes of Osama bin Laden saw a new version of a Sharia-compliant country that can actually work within the means and norms of the modern world… and hated it. This is precisely why back in 2001, he purposefully sought, found and recruited 15 naïve Saudis to be brainwashed and led by Non-Saudi experts to carry out his terror act of the century. The last of those “experts” to be arrested, was the Syrian-national Mohammed Zammar; an alleged 9/11 recruiter and a trainer who was caught by the Kurds in war-torn Syria this month. 15 out of the 19 attackers were Saudis not because Saudis in majority harbor terrorist tendencies, but because the head of Al Qaida wanted them to be seen as such. He wanted to damage the image of the only existing sharia-compliant modern nation, and he did. For years, Saudis (officials and citizens alike) have suffered the consequences of anti-terror measures, from one end, as well as terror attacks from the other.

Seventeen years after the ominous attacks, however, the world realized that Saudis did not harbor terrorism, but rather were at the forefront of battling this worldwide problem. Just recently for example, in a debate at the British House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May proclaimed powerfully that her country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia “is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people” in her country

As much as it is important for the world to have realized Saudi Arabia’s vital role in fighting terrorism, it is also extremely important for the world to view the Saudi version of Sharia Law as a beacon towards a prosperous future for the Middle East.

The 60 Minutes interview with Mohammed bin Salman referred to it as the “ancient arrangement of power sharing between the House of Saud and the Wahhabi Islam, the strict predominant faith in Saudi Arabia.” Now, putting aside the “Wahhabi” rhetoric, this religion and state “arrangement” is why Saudi Arabia exists today. It is the glue that keeps our tribal society together. It is the legitimacy of a ruling house that was historically brought back to power by the people four times after it was destroyed by foreign forces. It is why 2.15 Million Kilometers of the world’s deserts that was completely in the dark for thousands of years exists today as a modern civilized member of the United Nations.

Now, I understand the West’s sensitivity towards monarchy and the religious state. But, on the other hand, the West must also recognize that their social experiment, and thus development over history, is as unique as ours.

You must understand, our society did not go through the experiment of a brutal theocratic authority of a single church. We haven’t experienced the superficially biased Noble rule and its inhumane feudal system. And, we did not have a historical libertarian revolution that denounced all this injustice and transformed the power to the hands of the demographic majority. This is a social experiment unique only to the West.

We had a unique experiment of our own that includes conditions inexplicable to Western society. Tribalism in our society, for example, is real, ancient and is going nowhere. To me at least, a religious autocracy with a legitimacy conditional to an ancient undisputed covenant is better than a secular republic with an unconditional legitimacy brought by a popular vote. A republic that is going to be autocratic nonetheless because of votes that are casted almost entirely due to cousinhood, not eligibility. In other words, Democracy or Secularism as they are known in the West can be perfect for Western society, but it might not be for everyone. In the Arab World, it is the secular republics, not the religious monarchies that had their people suffer brutal regimes, untouchable corruption, gruesome genocide and bloody revolutions. During the Arab Spring of bloodshed, the people under the religious monarchic system of Saudi Arabia have enjoyed safety, unity and prosperity.

Now I am not saying that all Western ideas are bad, nor that we are perfect. But you have to give us our space to grow, and we are growing fast. We want change, and we want it fast. But we want it our way and in our pace.

In any positive relationship, there is mutual understanding, mutual dialogue and mutual compromise. If such things were based on mutual values and bound by mutual respect, mutual existence will be achieved, and it will, indeed, be beneficial for all.

In the conclusion of Mohammed bin Salman’s tour of the USA and Europe, he is saying what all his people are thinking and he is saying it to the people of the West, not only the politicians. Hey! We are here. We are extending our hands. Meet us halfway, will ya?

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Hey West! Meet Us Halfway, will ya? – Part II

 

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A piece by Saknah Al Tormokh in celebration of Saudi women’s right to drive

 

This is the second part of a series of three blogs that discusses the Saudi Crown Prince’s current visit to the United States and, in particular, his interview in CBS’s 60 Minutes. Click here for Part I of the blog series.

Women, and Human Rights, in Saudi Arabia

Whenever the status of Saudi women is discussed, their ability to drive cars is basically the subject of discussion. This embarrassing, unexplainable status is finally over. In June of this year, women will enjoy the maddeningly long hours of congested traffic, high cost of car care and the occasional boobytrap road pits and heart-aching speed bumps as much as men do. Please, please, consider it like the “prohibition period” of the US history and get over it.

I have to say, just to straighten the record, that there was no actual law that prohibited women from driving, just a sudden unexplainable suspension of issuing driving licenses to women that happened decades ago. Women who drove within city limits and got caught were penalized not because they were women, but because they did not carry a valid driver’s license. Despite that, women in rural areas never stopped driving. They never cared to carry a driver’s license, like many of their fellow men in those rural areas anyway. In fact, and on another note, even during this “prohibition period,” young women who were just entering the workforce had access to Uber and Careem drives worth up to $400 a month provided to them by the government for free.

In the subject of equal pay between working men and women, the crown prince mentioned that measures are currently put to ensure equality in the private sector. What many do not know is that Saudi men and women working for the government, who in fact employ almost 85% of the workforce, are equally paid by law since 1955. This is a fact when many women in the West still suffer from just the opposite.

Another issue that bothers the Western world about Saudi Arabia is the wardrobe of Saudi women. Some would kill to see Muslim women wear less, sometimes literally. Now I don’t know what others think, but I for one think that the most lovable luxury about living in Saudi Arabia is wearing the thobe. A robe, mostly white, that is loose, comfortable, breathy, relatively cheap and always a la mode (i.e. everyone, literally everyone, wears the same exact thing everywhere all the time.) And, quoting my wife, ‘the Abaya for women is a luxury’ just the same. I mean, ladies of the West, wouldn’t it be lovely if you’d throw a silky garment of light fabric over your body just before you leave home without the nightmare of making a choice subject to the judgement of being overly or under dressed for the road?

Still, freedom of choice is what matters no matter what taxes associated with it. But in the context of public appearance, modesty for women, as well as men, matters too, at least to our society. When I was watching the part in the interview where this very subject was discussed, a commercial break came on where a teaser of an American TV series displayed an actress in bed almost totally naked to her skin. The irony gave me the shivers. When many Western societies objectify women’s bodies and price-tag them in various industries that appeal primarily to men (like automobiles, or more obviously pornography,) Saudi Arabia is being criticized for having modesty regulations that actually put men and women at a balance in the public environments, be it work places, market places or otherwise.

Women in my country have proven to be a vital half of our society and a very competitive one as well. Today, there are more female students in our universities than there are male ones, their employment rates grow much faster than their counterparts and their representation in government and civil bodies is ever increasing. Still, they demand more of their rights, and rightfully so. We have shortcomings, the Crown Prince acknowledged that, and we want to fix them. But, we want to fix them our way, not anyone else’s, thank you very much.

The same can be said on Human Rights. Saudi Arabia believes in the fundamentals of Human Rights like most of the Western World. We are a founding member of the UN Council and among the first to sign the UN Charter. We were among the first of consignees in most of Human Rights legislations. We do have our different standards in the details, however, and we believe that as a sovereign nation, we have the right to form our own opinion about them.

(end of Part II)

Hey West! Meet Us Halfway, will ya? – Part I

<> on June 17, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Being a Saudi citizen, I watched in intrigue CBS 60 Minutes’ exclusive interview with the Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman that was published a few days ago. Being myself, I actually watched it twice! One as a normal person watching an enjoyable program, and another as a nerd watching nervously and closely every detail, from a raised eyebrow to a lengthy sigh, like my life depends on it. I checked with a psychiatrist; it’s absolutely positively normal.

Now, a Saudi would be awestruck by the transparency of the answers of Prince Muhammed. His total attention, I would think, will be captivated by how open he was in handling subjects like women rights, human rights, and even personal expenses. The latter especially is a taboo that almost never have been brought up in a public medium. If I were to discuss this interview with a fellow Saudi, I think that the new openness of our leadership in discussing such subjects will be the focus of our discussion.

Here, however, I look to the West. Yes, you West, I am talking to you. Come here.

This interview came at the margins of a historical visit for the Crown Prince to the USA in which he met President Trump, his team and various leaders of the community and the economy. He is, as you read this, travelling between different states and will spend a few weeks doing that. His main goals are to revive a strategic alliance that was stagnant during the previous administration and to promote a ‘real’ image of Saudi Arabia to the only dependable constant in US Politics; the American Public. Since 9/11, That image was distorted, beaten and taken advantage of for so long and he is there to say ‘no more.’ This is precisely why this interview is very important.

That stereotypical image manifested during the past two decades to revolve around themes like Sharia law, human rights, women rights and, just recently, the war in Yemen. The interview revolved around just that along with touching on the economy and the recent crackdown on corruption.

Allow me to give you my take on the subjects above in this blog series, and I will start with the last but not least.

 

The War In Yemen

The notion that Saudi Arabia is fighting a proxy war with Iran in Yemen for the leadership of the Muslim world has no basis whatsoever. Iran’s regime represents a minority within a minority in Islam. Shias represent about 10% of the Muslim World, of which a minority believe in the authority of Wilayat-i-Faqih that was established by Khomeini of Iran in the Seventies. On top of that, Iran, with its expansionism, have isolated itself even further than the majority of the Muslim world. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is a Sunni state where Sunnis represent the vast majority of Islam. It is the custodian of the two holiest sites of the faith. It is the founding nation of the pan-Islamic world Organization of Islamic Cooperation and a leading member of the Arab League. In other words, Iran do not have the basics to be Saudi Arabia’s rival in the leadership of the Muslim World. The Iranian regime, however, do pose as a threat to Saudi Arabia’s security, and the security of the region as a whole. But to say that the War in Yemen in which at least 400 Saudi soldiers lost their lives undermines the real and direct reason for this war.

Just two days ago, eight ballistic missiles were launched from Yemeni territory into the heart of Saudi Arabia reinforcing a small, yet real, threat to Saudi citizens. It is small because the main threat has been marginalized after the effective destruction of 80% of the ballistic arsenal capabilities of the Houthis back in 2015. Yet, it is still a real threat that no other nation in the world would accept to live by. The Crown Prince made that clear in the interview with an honest acknowledgement of the humanitarian situation on the ground and a real “walk-the-talk” commitment of his country’s continuous effort into tackling it.

The bottom line is that this war in Yemen is one of the very, very, few legitimate ones in this anarchist war-torn world. Unlike most of the military campaigns that are led by superpowers of which names I shall not mention, this one is UN-sanctioned. It is summoned by the elected government of Yemen, led by a multinational coalition and supported by the majority of the international community. The process and tactics used are transparent, accurate and robust in terms of governance and control. Saudi Arabia and its allies did their homework well, yet error is still eminent, and since the start of the campaign, just over five thousand civilians have been reportedly killed. Now, one can argue who is responsible for most of these casualties, but everyone would agree that the loss of as little as one human life is still a heavy responsibility to bear. The matter of the fact is, however, that the civilian casualties associated with this war is relatively miniscule when compared to others, ongoing or recent, and Saudi Arabia is actively engaged in controlling this number once and for all.

(end of part I)

The Archangel’s Last Visit to Earth -PartII

A short story

[ If you missed Part I, CLICK HERE ]

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The Holy Kaaba Today, Grand Mosque of Makkah

“HELP!,” a boy shouted as he banged frantically from behind the door, “ABUBAKER, HELP!” When Abubaker opened the door, he saw a boy gasping for air. He looked like he was running for miles; slouching and having one hand on his knee while the other pointing to the city. “Your friend!” the boy cried as he was catching his breath, “he’s dying!”.

Abubaker did not think twice. He just ran as fast as he can. He had to cross the busy Meccan market and sprawl under the shaded shops, jump over a crossing cart and push through hanging rugs spilling all the merchandise that fell on his way. Unhappy traders shouted at him as he sprinted through carelessly until he reached the Kaaba.

The Kaaba was a cube-shaped house that stood forty feet high. It was shrouded by striped curtains of silk that zigzagged horizontally in alternates of black and white. Traditions say that Abraham and Ishmael were the last men to rebuild the holy house in honor of the one true God. They built it on the foundations of Adam who raised it on those of the angels. Over the years, the Arabs honored the Kaaba that stood alone in the middle of a leveled sacred ground at the center of the bustling city of Makkah. But on that moment when Abubaker stepped in, nothing felt sacred about those grounds.

On that particular day and under the blazing midday sun, the site was almost empty save for a few pilgrims that came to worship the One God, and the other three hundred and sixty deities that were scattered around in all shapes and forms. Of all of them, Hubal Abubaker despised the most. The large human-shaped statue of cornelian pearl that had one arm made of Gold, was the most prominent of the deities and thus placed inside the holy house itself. Every time Abubaker came to the sacred grounds, or the Haram, his eyes would fixate at the Kaaba which seemed to him choked and dishonored ever sense he embraced the new faith. That day, however, the Kaaba was the least of his concern. His eyes were anxiously looking for Muhammed.

It did not take long to find him. The Prophet was overwhelmed by a group of Meccan elders; a dozen or more. They surrounded him tightly. Some of them pinned his limbs to the ground while others struck his face, stomped at his chest and strangled him almost to death.

Abubaker couldn’t believe his eyes. Without a moment of consideration, he jumped at the crowd who went in a violent frenzy. “Leave the man alone,” he cried as he was pulling one and pushing another. While desperately trying to fight off the madness, he managed a quick glance at Muhammed’s bloodily beaten face amidst the fists and feet. Maybe he was just too exhausted, or maybe he was really dying, but the Prophet was not conscious anymore.

Utter outrage took over Abubaker. “Do you kill a man for saying Allah is my one God?” he shouted at the pagans and started beating and kicking endlessly and aimlessly. That was when all of them turned on him, and that was when he, too, lost conscious.

All his body was aching, but the stabbing pain of his broken ribs that actually woke him up. He was at his home when he opened his eyes to the face of his mother. “Thank the gods you are alive,” she said. Abubaker gave little concern to her worry. “Is he well?” he asked with a beaten voice. “You could have been killed,” she said with her eyes rolling in discontent, “your tribesmen are on their way to the elders as we speak! They are threatening to kill a dozen of their sons if you happen to die.”

“Is the Prophet well?” he insisted adjusting his aching body. “Your prophet is well and sound,” she said impatiently. She shook her head in disbelief and extended a bowl of warmed dates. “Here,” she said, “eat something.”

“Not until I see him well.”

“Have you gone mad?!” the mother exclaimed, “you are bruised from your head to toe!”

Abubaker made his mind already. He tried to sit, but his ribs felt crushing in his chest. His mother had to lift him up with all her strength. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and limped to Muhammed’s house leaning on her all the way.

At the door of the house, he hesitated for a moment. He did not wish for the Prophet to see him beaten like this. He tried to collect himself. He straitened his back as much as he could, took a deep breath as much as his crushed ribs allowed, and went in.

There, he saw his beloved Prophet among his fellowship. To him, he looked like a bright full moon among the stars. He was of medium height; neither tall nor short. His shoulders were broad and his built was fine. His wavy hair was black; as black as his wide eyes, and he wore it long and curling to his earlobes. His face was whitish, handsome and edged with thick eyebrows that almost connected above his high-tipped nose. Just as Abubaker entered the room, the Prophet turned to him whole as he always did. He looked at him and smiled. “Here’s the Truth-bearer,” he said proudly.

—————

He never aged a day, Abubaker thought as he looked down at his beloved Prophet’s body. Maybe that was why that memory was so vivid. He touched the Prophet’s thick beard and noticed, perhaps for the first time, that it was as black as his hair. Even at the age of sixty-three, their were only a dozen or so white hairs here and there. He looked at his closed eyes and felt immense eagerness for them to open. But the heavy burden of reality came crashing down at him like a tumbling mountain. His beloved friend, the Last Prophet of God, is dead.

All of a sudden, Abubaker became aware of his surroundings. Aisha, his daughter and the Prophet’s wife, was crying with her helper at the corner of that dark room. Her crying made him aware of the wetness on his cheeks. He realized that he was weeping all along. He also realized how this calamity took its toll on the community outside. He could hear mature men wailing like widows grieving for their loss. Their voices were grotesquely mixed, but he was able to recognize Umar’s. He could barely make a word out of twenty that came out of the man, but it was obvious how grief-stricken he was. “The Prophet cannot die!” Umar howled just outside Aisha’s door.

“If only I can sacrifice myself, my mother and my father for you, O Prophet” Abubaker said as he wiped the blessed’s wet forehead. As much as he mourned the tragedy of his people, Umar’s maddening denial made him feel a sudden responsibility towards them. He thought that if Umar, who the Prophet himself dubbed The Inspired, was at this tragic state, one could only imagine the state of the others. He looked at the Prophet’s peaceful face for the last time, and drew the white cloth over it.

The moment he stepped out the house, he saw the tragic reality. The Prophet’s own mosque, the root and the pinnacle of the monotheistic faith, was in an abysmal state of chaos. Not a single person within the overcrowded walls was sane enough to be spoken to. Even the greatest of the Prophet’s apostles were in their own deplorable condition. Ibn Awf was on the floor covering his face; his body rocking back and forth. Uthman was on his knees, his hands loose at his sides and his soulless eyes staring at thin air. Ali, Fatima’s husband, was nowhere to be seen. And Umar, the so called Inspired, have taken the pedestal. His unsheathed sword rose to the ceiling as he screamed threats at the confused mass. “Hypocrites!” he cried at the people, his red eyes sparked of anger, agony and tears. “I will kill the hypocrite who says the Prophet is dead,” he shouted, “I will split his head open with this sword!”

“Umar!” Abubaker exclaimed in disapproval as he walked to him, “calm yourself!”

“The Prophet did not die, Abubaker, he went to God like Moses did at the Mount. He will be back,” Umar said; his eyes looked down at Abubaker for any sign of consent, “Can’t you see?”

As much as Umar was known to be the most powerful and wise, he seemed to Abubaker like a child who was weak and lost. A dangerously deranged child, rather. Umar looked back and pointed at the crowd, “hypocrites,” he proclaimed angrily, “you wish death upon my beloved Prophet! I will kill every single one of you if I have to.”

“That is enough,” Abubaker said in an unmistakably authoritative tone, “step down, Umar!”

But the deranged man did not even look at Abubaker this time. He continued threatening the people, shouting at them and shaking his sword in the air.

“STEP… DOWN!” Abubaker annunciated his command.

Umar stopped. The heavy built and rather large man wheezed like a heartbroken maiden as he stepped down.

That was when Abubaker took the pedestal. The latter was a small wooden box made of three steps. A Roman who lived in Medina made it for the Prophet after he saw him preaching from a top a palm trunk. When Abubaker took the first step, he remembered that palm trunk. He remembered how everyone in the mosque heard it weep the first time the Prophet used the wooden box instead. He remembered how it’s frightening and unbelievable sound did not stop until the blessed pat it as if to comfort the lifeless thing. If only he can comfort the lives of us today, he thought sadly.

Abubaker then took his second step up. He stopped there and did not dare to take his third. The last step was the Prophet’s, and no one can take the Prophet’s place.

He then turned to the people. He scanned for once at their sad faces that looked eager and thirsty. “Whoever worshipped Muhammed,” he announced with a clear yet trembling voice, “let it be known to him that his god has just died. And whoever worshipped Allah, let it be known to him that Allah is ever alive and never dies.” After that very moment, all the words were lost. His mind couldn’t make out a logical phrase to comfort those people. Nothing could have comfort them, except for faith.

He started with the words that the Prophet used every time he was about to recite the Holy Quran.

I seek refuge with God from Satan, the Outcast.
In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful.

Then, he recited:

Muhammed is no more than a messenger, and messengers have passed away before him. Then, if he were to die or be slain, will you turn about on your heels? Whoever turns about on his heels can in no way harm Allah. As for the grateful ones, Allah will soon reward them.
[Al Imran, 144]

Umar’s soaked eyes opened wide. “Is that a verse from the Quran?” he asked as if the shock of this tragedy evaporated all the verses of the holy book that he memorized by heart. To him, rather to everyone, it was as if they have just heard it for the first time ever.

That moment, another vivid memory struck Abubaker. This time, it was a very recent one. Four months ago, and during the Hajj, the Prophet stood at Mount Arafat and gave what felt to everyone like it was his last sermon. The Farewell Sermon. When he stepped down after saying those everlasting words, he gazed at his feet and pondered for a moment. Then he raised his head and looked at Abubaker. “A slave was given a choice,” he spoke softly; sadness sensed in his tone, “a choice between the lushes of this world, or that of which with God.” He paused momentarily and continued, “the slave chose that of which with God.”

“It was him,” Abubaker whispered as the tears of epiphany came down the side of his cheek, “he was the slave.”

[Check out an audio of The Farewell Sermon by Cat Stevens: CLICK HERE]

The Archangel’s Last Visit to Earth

A short story
the farm
‘The Farm’ by Ibrahim Al Zaikan

Abdulrahman was standing anxiously at his sister’s house door that led into the mosque. The palms of his hands sweat and his heart raced. He nervously brushed his teeth with a Miswaktwig as he waited for the permission to enter. It was so quiet that he could hear himself breathing heavily. So quiet, that he almost forgot the hundreds of men who were sitting in rows all around. There were so many of them on the mosque’s floor that he had to skip over their shoulders as he came through, yet they were as silent as statues of stone. No wonder Abdulrahman forgot about them; pigeons could have rested on their lifeless limbs and not a twitch was expected of them.

Yet, those men were not to be blamed for their numbing grief. The last few days were agonizing to the whole community, and above all, to his sister. He really hoped for the best as he waited at her door, but given that she has sent for him in that early hour of the day, no less than the worst was expected.

At last, and after a minute of waiting that lasted for hours, the door opened revealing a very dark room. “What happened?” Abdulrahman asked the helper who looked out the crack of the door. “He summoned his daughter,” she said softly, “and when she came to him, he whispered into her ears. I don’t know what he had told her, but Fatima went out crying after that.” She stopped for a moment and pondered at her feet. “Your sister has been splashing his face with water all night long to ease the heat of pain,” she looked up with soaked eyes and said, “Aisha knows it is very soon.”

Abdulrahman has always been expecting the worst, but he was in a state of denial like the rest of the men around him. Is it the end, he asked himself, just like that? Despite the stabbing ache in his heart, he had no reaction to offer. None, until he walked into the dark room.

The whole mud-built house was only twelve feet long and fifteen feet wide. He was standing at the room’s only door that opened to the prayer hall. There was a small window with a curtain that promised blinding bright light if only opened. The room was dark, but the tiny strings of sunshine that escaped the curtain were just enough for Abdulrahman to see. And, there was not much to see in that simple empty house save the silhouette of two humans on the floor. As he walked closer, his heart wrenched to the scene that he wished he would never witness.

Aisha, his sister, was sitting on the floor and leaning at the wall facing him. Her legs laid straight with her husband sitting in between, his back leaning at her chest and his head resting between her neck and shoulder. She had one arm around his shivering body and a hand palming his wet forehead. As much as she wanted to ease the agony of her beloved husband, she could not. Their shirts soaked with his sweat as if they just got out of the water. Seeing his sister and her beloved husband in that state was painful enough for Abdulrahman, but once her sad and tiresome eyes found his, he felt his heart shred into pieces. He knew that what all Muslims feared in the past few days was happening. The Last Prophet of God to humanity will die today, and there shall be no prophet to be sent to this Earth after him.

“Prophet of God,” Aisha spoke softly to her husband’s ear as she hugged his torso from behind, “do you want it?” she said and pointed at her brother’s Miswak. The prophet was eyeing it since Abdulrahman walked in. He nodded to her in agreement. Her brother came closer and handed the twig to her. She squeezed at it and found it too stiff for him. “May I soften it for you?” she asked. He nodded again. So, she bit a small piece and spat. Then, she chewed on the fresh new tip until it became soft and wet. The Prophet reached to the Miswak and passed it on his teeth. “There is no God worthy of worship except the one true God” he barely uttered, “Death is full of agonies.”

Suddenly, Abdulrahman saw his sister grind her teeth. It seemed as if the body of the Prophet has become too heavy on her. The Prophet dropped his head back at her and muttered. They heard him recite:

 … with those on whom You have bestowed your grace; the prophets, the truth-bearers, the martyrs and the good.

He labored a moan, and exhaled painfully: “O Allah, forgive me, have mercy upon my soul and join me to the most exalted companionship.”

Then, there was it; that sound of ringing bells with no source to be found. A sound that the Prophet’s companions used to hear when he was receiving revelations. Abdulrahman and Aisha knew that the Archangel was present in the room. The Prophet always trembled at Gabriel’s presence. After all, he was the first Angel. He was the only direct messenger between the Creator and his creation. He was there when Adam ate from the forbidden tree. He was with Noah when his Ark rode the mountainous waves, with Abraham when he sat unharmed amidst the blazing fire of the pagans who wished him harm, with Moses when the great sea split asunder and with Jesus when he rose to his Lord untouched. Surely, the presence of the Holy Spirit was always trembling, but this time was different. The Prophet raised his head as droplets of sweat shined like pearls at his forehead. There was silence for a moment except for the weeping of Aisha. Then, he raised his hand and pointed to the heavens. “Nay! The most exalted companionship,” he said. At last, as if the Archangel himself was giving him a choice between life and death, he repeated: “Nay! The most exalted companionship!”

“The most exalted companionship!”

The hand of Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, fell to his side as he gave his last breath. “We belong to Allah, and to him we return,” Aisha cried as she buried her face in her husband’s neck. She was indeed sad for the loss of her loving husband, true, but she was also mourning for all of humanity. The last Prophet died, and no prophet will come after him. The last link between the heavens and Earth was severed; never to be tied again.

She then turned to her brother. “Bring my father to me!” she said, “bring the Truth-bearer!”

(End of Part I)

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What to Write?

6yearoldletter
One of my first letters to my parents written at the age of six. Sure I had the environment in my mind when I recycled an envelope, but in just a short sentence, I’ve managed to butcher the grammar of my mother language, misspelled my very own name and introduced the letter ‘arrow’ in vain hope that it would be adopted in the Arabic alphabets. Needless to say, it had not.

Before that, why write?

I believe that if life is a test, then love is the passing score. Now the fact that “life IS a test” is something to discuss later, but love is the passing score? Well, you know the famous saying, “live as if you were to die tomorrow?” Whoever said that doesn’t want you to literally have that terrifying feeling that some convicted murderer might have the eve of his or her scheduled execution. Whoever said that wanted you to think of what really, really, matters in life. You may calm down now.

As a Muslim, I believe that attaining God’s pleasure is what really, really matters. We don’t, however, get to know that God is really pleased with us until we pass. This is why he said: “… serve (worship) thy Lord till the Inevitable cometh unto thee.” (AlHijr, 99) Yet, the concept of worship is unique in Islam, and the pleasure of God manifests in numerous things. Another possible subject for later. And, he made signs of the attainment of his pleasure. One of which, is people’s love to you.

The Prophet was once standing in one of the streets of Medina when mourners carrying a coffin came across. As the funeral passed along, he heard bystanders speaking ill about the deceased. He whispered, “it shall be true.” Another funeral passed along the same street and the bystanders spoke well about it. He, again, whispered: “it shall be true.” When asked about it, the blessed said: “If a person who died had four to testify for him, shall enter paradise. Even three. Even two. You are God’s witnesses on Earth” (AlBukhari)

Therefore, it is safe to say that people are what really, really matter. How your mere existence affect their lives is something that you should take very seriously.

Thus I write, so you testify for me. Its that simple.

Now! What to Write?

“History is the lesson, life is the test and love is the passing score” is what I chose to be the title of my blog. This, in essence, is what I am going to write about.

History is the Lesson

If life’s a test, history is the test bank. Remember the night before that MATH 301 test? Wouldn’t it been stupid of you had you not dug into the test bank? That old box-file of a thousand tests passed along from generation to generation of test takers until it fell into your hands as you held them up in prayer. History is such; a collection of the lives of legions before you who passed through the same road, gone through the same choices and took the same test. Wouldn’t it be stupid of you not to care?

I love history, but don’t get me wrong. I am neither a historian nor I am planing to bore you with theses of historical blabber. I may, however, write about an unusual historical figure or two. Unusual to the West, at least. I may write about the culture and history of a country that is seldom thought of as having ancient and rich versions of them both.

Maybe one day, I will tell you about a strange event that happened 400 million years ago, yet its implications are controlling the world today. Or about the Mad Dog who once saved the Islamic dominion, and thus, Christendom itself. Or, maybe, I will tell you why my great grand father was sued by a Maharaja, or the reason why Charles Belgrave and his guards broke into the house of my other great grand father.

Life is the Test

As I said before, I’ve lived just above thirty summers. Those years, though young still, were full of interesting incidents, unexpected turns, learnt lessons and some books. Nice memories they are, yet my love of meditation and pondering, to me, gave the nice cake some icing and a cherry on top. To the sorrow of the younger generation, such blessings (i.e. meditation and pondering) are rare nowadays and, sometimes, dubbed weird.

I never kept a diary, and so I will start writing some of its pages here. The exciting ones, that is. For example, I may tell you about the day I was received as a hero in the desert of Al Aflaj, or the day I hung behind a truck looking in desperation for my wife.

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As for the quiet moments every once in a while, especially in the privacy of my backyard tent and the company of my chai, will, there lie the epiphanies. Some are abstracts. Those can be as abstract as a manhole in the street (Not crazy, just deserving a little benefit of the doubt.)

It won’t be delusional all the time, I promise. I like reading too, so I might write about a book that I loved. I also know a thing or two in business and entrepreneurship.

And, finally, I may write about the faith that lives in a billion hearts, but seen through a handful of eyes. Neither will I engage in missionary work nor in preaching, yet I will share beautiful delicacies of my often misunderstood faith as I ponder upon them.

Disclaimer

I read occasionally, but kindly do not take me as a scholar of literature. I write, but I am not exactly Hemingway. I sometimes utter poems (not a poet). I am neither a historian nor a cleric. Please, please, do not be offended by my mistakes that are going to be as often as my posts (grammatical, orthographical or otherwise.) All this is, a collection of thoughts and opinions of a singular simple mind. It is meant to be conversational, flowing and raw. It will not go through any kind of editorial scrutiny. I know at least one person who would be biting his finger nails as he reads this. To him I say, I am very grateful for your offer to edit my posts before they go online. I promise you that I will be much more (I know!) careful when I’m writing an actual book. So, rain check? 🙂

I also tend to write in both the Mother Language (Arabic) and the Stepfather Language (English, that is. Since it was forced on us as we were kids, and now became a main requisite of our household’s sustenance, we cannot be anything less than respectful and grateful towards it. Just like a stepfather, I’d imagine.)

The fact that I am going to write in English and Arabic will, surely, make posts take longer to be published. I am telling you this to warn those who might perish in agonizing linger lest a post was late for their weekly read (Let me humor myself, I beg you.)

Intention is the soul of any effort. And, I intend to give you a simple blog that is enjoyable, beneficial and amiable. A chipper that you won’t be sad if you miss, but you’ll be happy to have.

 

 

 

 

 

My First

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In the Name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful

 

My name is Abdulrahman Muhammed Al Bassam. I’ve been on this earth for just about half of the average lifespan of a typical specimen of my race. In my thirty some years that I lived, I’ve always been myself, but myself changed a lot. This is because I was allowed to, and I was allowed to because I was born to Muhammad Abdulrahman Al Bassam and Deena Bassam Al Bassam; a six of a kind rare blessing indeed. God bless them, for to them, I owe it all.

‘Myself’ is a collection of many things as well. To borrow from HRH Khaled Al Faisal’s poetry, I am really “a collection of a man. Of every thing and its contra, you will find in me.”

I was born in Bahrain but I am a Saudi. I talk like a Manaman, but I live in Khobar all my life. I think English, but I am an Arab. My father is a KFUPMer (look it up,) three of my uncles are, my brother is, I studied myself in KFUPM schools until I graduated from high school and I’ve always thought I will be attending college in KFUPM. I didn’t. I’ve actually done my university in literally the farthest from KFUPM; thousands of miles away in the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I studied Geophysics, but I work in investments. I founded an engineering firm, yet I am not an engineer. I’ve run a darn restaurant and I don’t even eat much. I have God to thank for my good health, yet I went through the scariest procedures you could ever think of. No, really.

I’ve been shy all my childhood, yet I love speaking to a crowd. I’ve been my teacher’s favorite pick for any morning announcement they wanted to make. This, or my father was literally calling my school and demanding to humiliate his first born. Painful, but I guess it worked. I gave Friday sermons to the U of C Muslim community for over a year, God forgive me! Thanks dad!

I am a very lucky husband who married a very unlucky wife. Its unlikely, but after almost 13 years of marriage, I really think that she might be sort of into me. And, we are business partners.

We have a son. His name is Muhammed. He’s a tiny bunch of months old, but a handful of a boy, God bless him.

I am a Muslim from Saudi Arabia, and after 15 years of trying to make us sorry for it, I’ve never been more proud. So much so, that I am halfway through writing a book that tells a story of my people and my country. A story that if you managed to see through the unfamiliar looks, wardrobe or language, you might just find it nostalgically familiar.

Its been a hefty thirty some years, and I’ve decided to share some of it with you. I hope you’d care, and I promise I’ll do my best to make it worth the time you will unselfishly be spending.

Yours Sincerely,
Abdulrahman M. AlBassam

Khobar, Asharqiya
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia