Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Friday 27/2

Today is the weekend. The whole family gets together and we have breakfast and lunch together. This doesn’t always happen during the week since our schedules are so different with school and work. On the weekend I always cook something special, since I have lots of time. I envy house wives because they have lots of time all week long. Today I cooked stuffed vegetables (dolma), it included zucchini, cucumber and pepper. You can also add onions and other vegetables but I wanted to keep it simple. The woman that helps me clean the house came today with her son, he is younger than Majid. They are a poor, well mannered and trust worthy family. She has lots of dignity which I really like about her. It makes me respect her, I would never exchange her for another hired help. I finished cooking and she did the clean up afterwards. I served lunch for myself and the kids in the kitchen and for her and her son in the garden where the sun was warm and beautiful. The weather is more spring than winter. I don’t like to eat while they wait. I think it would be insulting to them and in bad taste from my part. I remember the words of prophet Muhammad when referring to poor people, “Feed them from what you eat and dress them from your own clothes”. I usually donate some of my clothes that are in good shape and also shoes. I am too ashamed to give away something that is not in a good shape or that is not ironed. I feel it might be insulting to the receiver. I like to be generous and treat people as I would like to be treated. Friday is a day of prayer for Muslims. People go to mosques and other places of worship. Khalid and Majid decided to went out for prayers. I was worried about them with all the explosions and troubles that are happening all over the place. Then they came back home safely. Each time they go somewhere, I stay worried and I recite verses from the Quran in my heart. I keep praying to god that they return home safely. I think that belief in god is a person’s last resort in time of hardship.


This is the first month of the higri year (muslim calendar). We use the regular calendar used in the west for our daily life, business dealings and birthdays. I don’t know at what point we stopped using the Islamic calendar as the official calendar in Arabic countries. I know people are more committed to the muslim calendar in Persian gulf countries like Saudi Arabia. It stayed as a symbolic thing in most Arabic countries. It is symbolic of our the police and the army as a precaution against potential trouble caused by the Shi’ite muslim sect. The first ten days of this month commemorate the killing of Hussein may peace be upon him. He was the son of Fatima the youngest daughter of prophet Muhammad. Hussein attempted a now famous revolution against the Ummayed ruling family at the time. At the time there was lots of corruption and oppression in the ruling ranks. People in Iraq pleaded with Hussein, who was living in the Arabian peninsula. Hussein decided to answer the call and traveled to Iraq with his family, brothers, their wives and children. They were about 70 people. Negotiations occurred between them and the ruler in Syria. The ruler sent them threats. Messengers were sent to warn Hussein from entering into a battle because he would be at the losing end. They told him that the people of Iraq are with him in heart but their swords would be used against him. History books mention that he considered withdrawing and return to his home. He wasn’t interested in power and wealth but rather he was an honorable person wanting to support the poor and weak and stand up to the corrupt rulers. According to history books, the oppressive ruler wouldn’t allow Hussein to return home. He was afraid that the opposition would strengthen and he would come back to fight him at a later point. So he sent an army to surround them. On the tenth day of muharam, close to a water well in Karbala, they were denied access to water, they were killed. Hussein and his supports fought in the most honorable way, but all the men died. As for the women and children they were taken prisoners to Syria. With them the severed head of Hussein to show to the ruler. Hussein’s revolution remained alive in stories that people tell from one generation to the next. About an honorable man who wouldn’t stay silent in the face of oppression. He paid the price with his life and the life of his family.


Now everywhere you look in Baghdad you see black flags, in sadness about the death of Hussein. Many house holds cook to give food to the poor, a specific kind of food. When we cook on this occasion we stir the food in the pot with a huge spatula while saying, may peace be upon you, O! father of Abed Allah, may god have mercy on you, god bless you and bless your place in heaven with the martyrs and prophets. I love this story but it is also painful. I don’t like the exaggerations that happen. The hitting over the head or the self whipping. These are violent and hurtful acts that bare no relation to the story of Hussein. Remembering the story of Hussein brings up noble, refined and beautiful values that are inspiring to the soul. They make a person remember the values that Hussein died for. These values are about to become extinct. We live in a time where people are willing to die for material things.

[translation by]

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