Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Hospitality & Torture!

Many things to do and so behind in obligations. Someday, I’ll do a real post on Persian hospitality—a significant factor, I suspect, in our present discontent. I often wonder how any one of us can manage to get anything done with all this seemingly endless (spontaneous) hustle and bustle.

Any how, I have been thinking about the relation between sacred texts, culturally determined interpretations and the Laws since entertaining some guests a few days ago who showed no inclination to leave.

Here is what got me started: some one was telling me recently about a young man being dragged to jail charged with “standing fornication.” Lest you think the worst, let me clarify. The hapless youngster’s sole indiscretion had been shaking hand with a woman in front of some overzealous enforcer of public morality.

Please do note that quite a few of us shake hand all the time without ending up in jail, and some even go a lot farther!

That said, we do live in an Islamic State. There are laws, you see. There are chapters and verses in the Koran which are explicit about the status of women as well as the sanctioned manners of interaction.

Some of those have been codified in laws. The mechanism is complex and you can probably go do some research to gain a better understanding of the stuff if that’s your thing.

The 33rd Sura of The Koran , “The Confederates” in this Project Gutenburg translation has explicitly outlined various expectations of believers both in dealing with women in general and with (and of) Prophet’s wives in particular, which can be (and have been) extended to all women, I suppose:

O wives of the Prophet! should any of you be guilty of a provenlewdness, doubly shall her chastisement be doubled: and with God this is easy.

But whoever of you shall obey God and His Apostle, and shall do that which is right, twice over will we give her her reward, and we have prepared for her a noble provision.

O wives of the Prophet! ye are not as other women. If ye fear God,be not too complaisant of speech, lest the man of unhealthy heart should lust after you, but speak with discreet speech.

And abide still in your houses, and go not in public decked as inthe days of your former ignorance,15 but observe prayer, and pay the impost, and obey God and the Apostle: for God only desireth toput away filthiness from you 16 as his household, and with cleansing to cleanse you.

In various Islamic societies, men and women, in so far as they are believers, are expected to conform. But here is where I become all disgruntled and confused living in Iran. In this same Sura, there are the following clear instructions:

O Believers! enter not into the houses of the Prophet, 23 save by his leave, for a meal, without waiting his time. When ye are invited then enter, and when ye have eaten then disperse at once.24 And engage not in familiar talk, for this would cause the Prophet trouble, and he would be ashamed to bid you go; but God is not ashamed to say the truth. And when ye would ask any gift of his wives, ask it from behind a veil. Purer will this be for your hearts and for their hearts.

So like all other instructions, I am thinking, if something is good enough for the Prophet, surely it must be good enough for the rest of us sinners, at least in some modified form. This is an Islamic State. A lot of people still think themselves Muslims. They surely must have read the Koran.

So why is it that we as a people drop by without calling first? Stay for as long as we possibly can. Are as gaudy as possible Don’t help with the cleaning. And are most belligerently shameless in expecting gifts on all occasions.

No end to the taraddidle. And no end to the petty gossip either.

Why are there no laws regulating the conduct of the omnipresent bothersome guests? This surely is an Islamic State, isn’t it?

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