Recently a lengthy scholarly article by Dr. Sherif Addel Azeem dealing with the conception of woman in the three Abrahamic religions, has appeared under the title of Women in Islam vs. Women in the Judeo-Christian Tradition: The Myth and the Reality. I have relied on such an article in double checking the historical data of the Islamic tradition on its conception and treatment of women. While agreeing with some of its premises and conclusions, I disagree with others as will become apparent further down in this essay. The juxtaposition of those variant views stimulated by Dr. Azeem’s article has yielded some surprising insights which I’d like to share with the reader.
As is commonly known, the Judaeo-Christian conception of the creation of Adam (which in Hebrew means first man) and Eve (which in Hebrew means first woman) is narrated in detail in Genesis 2:4-3:24. God prohibited both of them from eating the fruits of the forbidden tree. The serpent then seduced Eve to eat from it and Eve, in turn, seduced Adam to eat with her. When God rebuked Adam for what he did, Adam tries to place all the blame on Eve. “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” Consequently, God said to Eve: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” To Adam He said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree … Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life…”
In this narrative, or myth if you will, both Adam and Eve get punished and held responsible for disobedience. God is not punishing one for the faults of another, which would be unfair; neither does he accept Adam’s rationalization that the woman is exclusively responsible for the deed of disobedience. He holds them both responsible and punishes both. This needs to be kept well in mind: God judges, assigns the blame justly and equally; both Adam and Eve are punished.
On the other hand, the Islamic conception of the first sin, while appearing similar to the Judeo-Christian view at first sight (complete with the act of creation, the idyllic garden where everything is good but where Satan lurks in the form of a serpent, the positing of limits to freedom, the act of disobedience, and a meting out of punishment), it is nevertheless different in its conception of woman and what it implies. Here Eve does not come across as a seducer and temptress. The narrative is found in several places in the Qur’an, for example: “O Adam dwell with your wife in the Garden and enjoy as you wish but approach not this tree or you run into harm and transgression. Then Satan whispered to them in order to reveal to them their shame that was hidden from them and he said: ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you become angels or such beings as live forever.’ And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought them to their fall: when they tasted the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: ‘Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was your avowed enemy?’ They said: ‘Our Lord we have wronged our own souls and if You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” (7:19:23).
A careful comparison of the two accounts of the primordial story of the Garden reveals some essential differences. The Qur’an seems to assign equal blame on both Adam and Eve. Nowhere in the Qur’an, try as one may, one will discover the slightest hint that Eve tempted Adam to eat from the tree or even that she had eaten before him. Here Eve is no temptress, no seducer, and no deceiver. Moreover, Eve is not punished with the pains of childbearing. God, according to the Qur’an, punishes no one for another’s faults. Both Adam and Eve committed a sin and then asked God for forgiveness and He forgave them both.
Needless to say, the image of Eve as temptress in the Bible, absent in the Qur’an has impacted in a negative way the image of women throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition. All women were believed to have inherited from their mother, the Biblical Eve, both her guilt and her guile, as part of original sin. Consequently, it is almost logical to think of all of them as untrustworthy and somehow, morally inferior. In the New Testament we read these words by none other than the evangelizer and prime theologian of Christianity, St. Paul: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don’t permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (I Timothy 2:11-14). Also this: “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35). It couldn’t be more clear.
And yet a caveat is in order here. As the founder of Christianity, nowhere in the gospels do we discern Jesus teaching and approving any kind of subordination of one of his followers to another. Instead, he expressly forbade it in any Christian relationship. All three Synoptic gospels record Jesus teaching his disciples that any subordination of one to another, both abusive and customary, is a pagan practice—not something to take place among his followers. Having issued his strong prohibition against subordination of others, he prescribed the Christian alternative to subordination as being the exact opposite: profound service to others, extending even to making the ultimate sacrifice of giving one’s life if necessary: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”
His first phrase, “lord it over”, described the Roman masters who wielded ultimate and unlimited power. His second phrase, “high officials”, referred to lesser Roman officials who, having some limitations of power, “exercised authority” over their citizens. In the nearly identical passages in all three Synoptic gospels, Jesus sternly commanded his disciple that “It shall not be so among you”, clearly forbidding both abusive extreme “lording it over” others, and even more moderate, ordinary “exercise (of) authority” over others. Egalitarian Christians consider that this teaching of Jesus to the men who were the 12 Apostles trumps any subsequent interpretation of the teachings of Paul and Peter that allegedly establishes “Husband-Headship” requiring “Wife-Submission”, or denying women opportunities to serve in any leadership position within the Church. The New Testament of the Bible refers to a number of women in Jesus’ inner circle—notably his Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene who is stated to have discovered the empty tomb of Christ and known as the “apostle to the apostles” since she was the one commissioned by the risen Jesus to go and tell the 11 disciples that he was risen.
According to the New Testament, Christ saved a woman accused of adultery from an angry mob seeking to punish her, by saying: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”.
Unusually for his epoch, Jesus is said to have provided religious instruction to women. The Gospel of John provides an account of Jesus directly dealing with an issue of morality and women. The passage describes a confrontation between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees over whether a woman, caught in an act of adultery, ought to be stoned. Jesus shames the crowd into dispersing, and averts the execution with the words: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” According to the passage, “They which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last,” leaving Jesus to turn to the woman and say, “Go, and sin no more.”
Another Gospel story concerns Jesus at the house of Martha and Mary where the woman Mary sits at Jesus’ feet as he preaches, while her sister toils in the kitchen preparing a meal. When Martha complains to Mary that she should instead be helping in the kitchen, Jesus says that in fact, “Mary has chosen what is better”
The story of Mark 5:23–34, in which Jesus heals a woman who had bled for 12 year suggests not only that Jesus could cleanse his followers, but this story also challenges Jewish cultural conventions of the time. In Jewish law, women who were menstruating or had given birth were excluded from society. Therefore, the woman in Mark was ostracized for 12 years. Jesus healing her is not only a miracle, but by interacting with an unclean woman, he broke from the accepted practices of the time and embraced women.
So, Jesus treated women with compassion, grace and dignity. The gospels of the New Testament, especially Luke, mention Jesus speaking to or helping women publicly and openly. Martha’s sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet being taught, a privilege reserved for men in Judaism. Jesus had female followers who were his sponsors, and he stopped to express concern for the women of Jerusalem on his way to be crucified. Mary Magdalene is stated in the Gospels to be the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection. In the narratives, Jesus charged her to tell others of what she had seen, even though the testimony of a woman at that time was not considered valid.
The historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that women were more influential during the period of Jesus’ brief ministry than they were in the next thousand years of Christianity. Blainey points to Gospel accounts of Jesus imparting teachings to women, as with a Samaritan woman at a well, and Mary of Bethany, who rubbed his hair in precious ointment; of Jesus curing sick women and publicly expressing admiration for a poor widow who donated some copper coins to the Temple in Jerusalem, his stepping to the aid of the woman accused of adultery, and to the presence of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ side as he was crucified. Blainey concludes: “As the standing of women was not high in Palestine, Jesus’ kindnesses towards them were not always approved by those who strictly upheld tradition. According to Blainey, women were probably the majority of Christians in the first century after Christ. Jesus always showed the greatest esteem and the greatest respect for woman, for every woman, and in particular He was sensitive to female suffering. Going beyond the social and religious barriers of the time, Jesus reestablished woman in her full dignity as a human person before God and before men … Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.
Comparing to Paul’s traditional standing towards women to Jesus’ attitude toward them, what becomes immediately apparent is that somehow his example was not imitated after his death and resurrection. Paul seems eager to put women in their proper place. To be sure, this is not unusual in many religions: the founder establishes certain innovative ideals which at times may even go against well established and revered traditions and customs, but after his death the initial enthusiasm and zeal begins to cool. The attitude toward women in Christianity seems to have been a retrogressive phenomena hardly representing the example of its founder. We shall see further down that something like that also happened to Islam: at a certain point in time a downward movement began and the religion begins to gradually lose its pristine impetus. To be sure, the theory and the ideal remain but the practice leaves much to be desired
Let’s in turn have the Qur’an speak for itself on this issue: “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise– For them all has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward” (33:35). “The believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil, they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise” (9:71). “And their Lord answered them: Truly I will never cause to be lost the work of any of you, Be you a male or female, you are members one of another” (3:195). “Whoever works evil will not be requited but by the like thereof, and whoever works a righteous deed -whether man or woman- and is a believer- such will enter the Garden of bliss” (40:40). “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him/her we will give a new life that is good and pure, and we will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions” (16:97).
It should be clear from the above passage that the Qur’anic view of women is no different than that of men. They, both, are God’s creatures whose sublime goal on earth is to worship their Lord, do righteous deeds, and avoid evil and they, both, will be assessed accordingly. The Qur’an never mentions that the woman is the devil’s gateway or that she is a deceiver by nature. Moreover, it never mentions that man is God’s image; all men and all women are his creatures, that is all. According to the Qur’an, a woman’s role on earth is not limited only to childbirth. She is required to do as many good deeds as any other man is required to do. The Qur’an never says that no upright women have ever existed. To the contrary, the Qur’an has instructed all the believers, women as well as men, to follow the example of those ideal women such as the Virgin Mary and the Pharaoh’s wife: “And Allah sets forth, As an example to those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: ‘O my lord build for me, in nearness to you, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings and save me from those who do wrong.’ And Mary the daughter of Imran who guarded her chastity and We breathed into her body of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His revelations and was one of the devout” (66:11-13).
In fact, according to Dr. Azeem, the difference between the Biblical and the Qur’anic attitude towards the female sex starts as soon as a female is born. For example, the Bible states that the period of the mother’s ritual impurity is twice as long if a girl is born than if a boy is (Lev. 12:2-5). The Catholic Bible states explicitly that: “The birth of a daughter is a loss” (Ecclesiasticus 22:3). It was this very same idea of treating daughters as sources of shame that led the pagan Arabs, before the advent of Islam, to practice female infanticide. The Qur’an severely condemned this heinous practice: “When news is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief. With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! what an evil they decide on?” (16:59). The Qur’an makes no distinction between boys and girls. It considers the birth of a female as a gift and a blessing from God, the same as the birth of a male. The Qur’an even mentions the gift of the female birth first:” To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female children to whomever He wills and bestows male children to whomever He wills” (42:49).
In order to wipe out all the traces of female infanticide in the nascent Muslim society, Prophet Muhammad promised those who were blessed with daughters of a great reward if they would bring them up kindly: “He who is involved in bringing up daughters, and accords benevolent treatment towards them, they will be protection for him against Hell-Fire”. “Whoever maintains two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Resurrection Day like this; and he joined his fingers”.
Now, to be fair, we should ask: is the Qur’anic position any different? One short story narrated in the Qur’an sums its position up concisely. Khawlah was a Muslim woman whose husband Aws pronounced this statement at a moment of anger: “You are to me as the back of my mother.” This was held by pagan Arabs to be a statement of divorce which freed the husband from any conjugal responsibility but did not leave the wife free to leave the husband’s home or to marry another man. Having heard these words from her husband, Khawlah was in a miserable situation. She went straight to the Prophet of Islam to plead her case. The Prophet was of the opinion that she should be patient since there seemed to be no way out. Khawla kept arguing with the Prophet in an attempt to save her suspended marriage. Shortly, the Qur’an intervened; Khawla’s plea was accepted. The divine verdict abolished this iniquitous custom. One full chapter (Chapter 58) of the Qur’an whose title is “Almujadilah” or “The woman who is arguing” was named after this incident: “Allah has heard and accepted the statement of the woman who pleads with you (the Prophet) concerning her husband and carries her complaint to Allah, and Allah hears the arguments between both of you for Allah hears and sees all things….” (58:1). A woman in the Qur’anic conception has the right to argue even with the Prophet of Islam himself. No one has the right to instruct her to be silent. She is under no obligation to consider her husband the one and only reference in matters of law and religion.
According to the Bible, a man must fulfill any vows he might make to God. He must not break his word. On the other hand, a woman’s vow is not necessarily binding on her. It has to be approved by her father, if she is living in his house, or by her husband, if she is married. If a father/husband does not endorse his daughter’s/wife’s vows, all pledges made by her become null and void: “But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand ….Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself” (Num. 30:2-15). In Islam, the vow of every Muslim, male or female, is binding on him/her. No one has the power to repudiate the pledges of anyone else. Failure to keep a solemn oath, made by a man or a woman, has to be expiated as indicated in the Qur’an: “He [God] will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; Or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths you have sworn. But keep your oaths” (5:89). Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, men and women, used to present their oath of allegiance to him personally. Women, as well as men, would independently come to him and pledge their oaths: “O Prophet, When believing women come to you to make a covenant with you that they will not associate in worship anything with God, nor steal, nor fornicate, nor kill their own children, nor slander anyone, nor disobey you in any just matter, then make a covenant with them and pray to God for the forgiveness of their sins. Indeed God is Forgiving and most Merciful” (60:12).
In Islam, the honor, respect, and esteem attached to motherhood are unparalleled. The Qur’an places the importance of kindness to parents as second only to worshipping God Almighty: “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, And that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, Say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, But address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, Lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! bestow on them Your Mercy as they Cherished me in childhood’ ” (17:23-24). The Qur’an in several other places puts special emphasis on the mother’s great role in giving birth and nursing: “And We have enjoined on man to be good to his parents: In travail upon travail did his mother bear him and in two years was his weaning. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents” (31:14).
The very special place of mothers in Islam has been eloquently described by Prophet Muhammad: “A man asked the Prophet: ‘Whom should I honor most?’ The Prophet replied: ‘Your mother’. ‘And who comes next?’ asked the man. The Prophet replied: ‘Your mother’. ‘And who comes next?’ asked the man. The Prophet replied: ‘Your mother!’. ‘And who comes next?’ asked the man. The Prophet replied: ‘Your father'”. Among the few precepts of Islam which Muslims still faithfully observe to the present day is the considerate treatment of mothers. The honor that Muslim mothers receive from their sons and daughters is exemplary. The intensely warm relations between Muslim mothers and their children and the deep respect with which Muslim men approach their mothers usually amaze Westerners.
The one question all the non-Muslims, who had read an earlier version of this study, had in common was: do Muslim women in the Muslim world today receive this noble treatment described here? The answer, unfortunately, is: No. Since this question is inevitable in any discussion concerning the status of women in Islam, we have to elaborate on the answer in order to provide the reader with the complete picture.
It has to be made clear first that the vast differences among Muslim societies make most generalizations too simplistic. There is a wide spectrum of attitudes towards women in the Muslim world today. These attitudes differ from one society to another and within each individual society. Nevertheless, certain general trends are discernible. Almost all Muslim societies have, to one degree or another, deviated from the ideals of Islam with respect to the status of women. These deviations have, for the most part, been in one of two opposite directions. The first direction is more conservative, restrictive, and traditions-oriented, while the second is more liberal and Western-oriented.
The societies that have digressed in the first direction treat women according to the customs and traditions inherited from their forebears. These traditions usually deprive women of many rights granted to them by Islam. Besides, women are treated according to standards far different from those applied to men. This discrimination pervades the life of any female: she is received with less joy at birth than a boy; she is less likely to go to school; she might be deprived any share of her family’s inheritance; she is under continuous surveillance in order not to behave immodestly while her brother’s immodest acts are tolerated; she might even be killed for committing what her male family members usually boast of doing; she has very little say in family affairs or community interests; she might not have full control over her property and her marriage gifts; and finally as a mother she herself would prefer to produce boys so that she can attain a higher status in her community.
On the other hand, there are Muslim societies (or certain classes within some societies) that have been swept over by the Western culture and way of life. These societies often imitate unthinkingly whatever they receive from the West and usually end up adopting the worst and most superficial (often called “progressive”) practices of Western civilization, the worst perhaps being the dispatching or religion per se as passé and unprogressive and not very modern and “enlightened.” In these societies, a typical “modern” woman’s top priority in life is to enhance her physical beauty. Therefore, she is often obsessed with her body’s shape, size, and weight. She tends to care more about her body than her mind and more about her charms than her intellect. Her ability to charm, attract, and excite is more valued in the society than her educational achievements, intellectual pursuits, and social work. One is not expected to find a copy of the Qur’an in her purse since it is full of cosmetics that accompany her wherever she goes. Her spirituality has no room in a society preoccupied with her attractiveness. Therefore, she ends up spending her life striving more in realizing her femininity than in fulfilling her humanity. The cartoon below brilliantly makes the point. But there must exist a more nuanced and harmonious view of women. Paradoxically, it turns out that the more balanced, harmonious view is the traditional one, often forgotten or discarded.
Why did Muslim societies deviate from the ideals of Islam? There is no easy answer. The ineluctable fact remains that Muslim societies have deviated from Islamic precepts concerning so many aspects of their lives for a long time now. There is a wide gap between what Muslims are supposed to believe in and what they actually practice, as indeed there is also one in Judaism and one in Christianity. The gap has been there for centuries and has been widening. Terrorism and ideological fanaticism is not and never was an Islamic phenomenon. Perhaps it is this ever widening gap that can be blamed for disastrous consequences on the Muslim world: political tyranny and fragmentation, economic backwardness, social injustice, scientific bankruptcy, intellectual stagnation, etc. The non-Islamic status of women in the Muslim world today is merely a symptom of a deeper malady. The cartoon of the two women carrying AK47, one Moslem and one Western, makes the point in this regard. Any reform in the current status of Muslim women is not expected to be fruitful if not accompanied with more comprehensive reforms of the Muslim societies’ whole way of life. Irshad Manji has recently shown us a possible way to analyze the situation and begin the reform process with her book titled The Trouble with Islam Today. The subject will be dealt in part II of this essay. Indeed, the Muslim world is in need for a renaissance that will bring it closer to the ideals of Islam. To sum up, the notion that the poor status of Muslim women today is due to Islam itself is an utter misconception. The problems of Muslims in general are not due to too much attachment to Islam, rather, they may well be due to a long and deep detachment from it.
World history From Alfa to Omega Or The human tragedy
While reading the Bible the first thing that strikes the eye is a holistic image of a human being. At first, according to the Book of Genesis, God created man on the last day of the creation in his own image and likeness and let them have domination on an entire world. But although outwardly a human being has divine qualities their nature and essence is not ideal. Moreover at the end of each day of creation it is said: “God saw that it was good” but the same conclusion was not made at the end of the sixth day. Probably God was in doubt. God created man endowed with reason and free will and is immediately convinced that his created being is imperfect hence the man and the woman does not obey the will of God and sinned. And in order to put a man to the true path Adam and Eve were punished and were sent forth from the Garden of Eden. And God told the first woman “great will be your pain in childbirth, still your desire will be for your husband, but he will be your master”. These means that from the beginning God created man and woman equal and the consequence of the first sin became ruling.
In turn God said to Adam: “the Earth is cursed on your account; in pain you will get your food from it at all your life”.
Secondly, Cain killed his brother Abel. And the Lord said to Cain: “you are cursed from the earth. No longer will the earth give you her fruit as the reward of your work, you will be a wanderer in flight over the earth”.
And later when humanity has multiplied the Lord saw that the sin of men was great on the earth, and that all the thoughts of their heart were evil and the Lord had sorrow because he had made men on the earth, and grief was in his heart”. And the Lord said to himself: “I will take away creatures, whom I have made from the face of the earth, even man and beast and that which goes on the earth and every bird of the air for I have sorrow for having made them”.
Thirdly, God made up his mind due to and granted people one more chance again. The Lord said to Noah: “The end of flesh has come; the earth is full of their violent doings”. The destruction came on every living thing moving on the Earth, birds and cattle and beasts and everything which went on the earth and every man”. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark were kept from death. And when the waters were away the “Lord said in his heart: “I will not again put curse on the earth because of men for the thoughts of men’s heart are evil from their earliest days; never again will I send destruction on all living things as I have done”.
The fourth, God said that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were evil and sinned a lot. Thus he decided to destroy these cities and told Abraham about it. When Abram said to God “Will you let destruction come on the righteous with the sinners?” And the Lord said that if by chance there are even ten righteous men within the cities, he will have mercy on the towns for their sakes.
In the book of John it is written, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. I won’t dare to talk about the Word, but I can briefly touch upon some of its manifestations – the speech and the especially significant part of the speech—the “word”: It can be stated that words are condensations of human mind, with the help of which meaningful speech is formed. In other words, things and phenomena – utterly everything is expressed through words. Every time when we narrate or write a word, a thing or phenomena emerges within us. That is why it is said that every word is a whole word. By the way, the possibility to create words is God’s gift to humans. “And out of the ground the Lord formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof”. Combining the words we express a complete thought, and combining separate thoughts we get, for example, a story. To write the World history many ideas formed from different words are needed that can become a thick book or a multi-volume work. But if this is the only way of writing history. The reader may himself connect, combine words, make them vivid, as much as he is familiar with words.
Reader create yourself, you are able to do more than I did.
And Here’s the Whole Story
Sinning, fratricide, genocide, theft, robbery, greed, deceit, crime, treachery, betrayal, selfishness, philandering, homosexuality, child abuse, harlotry, drug abuse, ebriosity, self-seeking, violence, authority, ambition, avarice, greediness, vanity, ostentation, adulation, servility, self exaltation, materialism, bribery, racketeering, corruption, dictatorship, tyranny, slavery, peonage, avidity, murder, state, World War, oligarchy, banditry, terrorism, the mafia
After reading these words, new words are coined within us and the list of them gradually increases and everyone of it visualizes a human vice which gives birth to a vile deeds and acts. As these deeds and acts are vast, the words visualizing them are vast. But the question is not limited to the words. The words are gathered, combined and linked, and turn into ideas, thoughts, images and then outgrow into a story.
The story lines up human villainous blemishes and inhuman deeds. At first there was a sinful person. Probably he was lazy, nefarious one who had stolen the food from his brother or neighbor at the dawn of the story. Then appeared the other, relying on his strength, seized others food. Thus loot rises which becomes the lifestyle of others. Human story is a story of deeds of human faults. On the core of the blemish lies the biggest sin – delusion to enjoy the life at any rate, to serve everything to satisfy this delusion. Not to work as much as possible, to eat delicious foods and drink, to have sex, to keep servants, to achieve power at any cost, at least over a child, over people, over a state, over the world, over the nature to be able to give orders, as Nazar the Brave said “Now stand there, punks!”.
A state is created that should become their defender, to ensure their safety. But, instead, the state becomes a tool in the hands of the authorities for advanced and vast stealing. It is just to the point to remember the story of Alexander the Great. A pirate was brought to him for punishment. Alexander asked him: “Are you a pirate? Do you rob people?”. The latter replied: “Yes, My Lord, I rob people with my little boat to meet the needs of my family and I am called a pirate. But if an entire nation is robbed with thousands of ships and people they are called a Great Leader or a Great Ruler”.
A new era of war between states begins and is going on up to present. What is war if not a legalized robbery and a legalized murder? Wars have never ended with victory, because the victorious state had been defeated in the next war, and on the other hand, the both sides – the victorious and the defeated states – had only victims, one more, the other less. The theft was dilapidated in a short time. Thus the result of wars has always been blood and destruction, the human suffering. Has the Europeans realized that they had destroyed the creation of God when conquering America? Has the Turk realized that he has not only destroyed chapels built by others but he has stopped the building of the new ones. Of course not. And the victorious war is presented as a heroism, protection of Motherland, the nation safety, the base for a brilliant future, a pompous words are woven to glorify the victims, slogans “no one is forgotten nothing is forgotten”, unknown soldiers are praised, monuments are build, even Medal of Honors are rewarded posthumous. It is apparent, that all this is directed to the alive that are prepared for the next wars. But the reality is that the rulers has nourished their ambition and urge for power, provide their entertainment and pleasure, enjoying life in their own way. The losers had partially revoked from their amusement and pleasure, filled with revenge and got ready for the next war.
By the way as to the revenge; in ancient times blood revenge was very common when in case of a murder, the relative of the victim, to uphold the honor of his family, was obliged to kill either the murderer or his close relative. The latter should treat likewise and thus endlessly. In the course the civilization of the society, realizing the dangerous effects of this phenomenon, the state assumes the responsibility to punish the murderer and gradually the blood revenge is being forced out from the civilized societies. But the States moved this phenomenon of revenge to international relations.
It is not arbitrary that great tragedians Aeschylus , Sophocles , Euripides , Shakespeare and other geniuses see the tragedy of a person as well as of a society in human poor-spirited blemishes. Dante , describing the hell in his “Divine Comedy”, had probably suffered a lot finding appropriate punishment for each vice and placing human soles in a hell and had to describe the hell as giant abyss which is divided into several circles of suffering. Balzac in his “Human Tragedy” has not suffered less describing the human vice. Pavstos Buzand uses such words as hatred, jaundice, malice, rancor, villainy, conspiracy and so on in describing the human ghastly taints and deeds. More horrifying is the description of Movses Khorenatsi – ignorance, whoredom, stupidity, self-conceit, gold lover, insincere, vainglorious, vanity, rigmarole, indolence, arrogance, peroration, ebriosity, swank, authorities steeling with thieves, grafter, stingy and greedy, abductor and so on. Movses Khorenatsi the cause of the tragic situation of Armenia of his times considered the inhumane vice and deeds of humans. Hardly a nation is found that does not agree with Movses Khorenatsi’s “Lament”. But if Movses Khorenatsi is mourning the Armenian condition, Grigor Narekatsi in the poem “Book of Lamentations” is mourning for the world generally, for human condition laden with sins. He is sure that if we put human vices on one of the pan of the scale and on the other – the Mount Ararat, the mountain will be lighter. As to enumerating the words describing the human blemish used by Narekatsi, means to do Sisyphean work. Since the world has currently become a big market and everything has become a matter of trade, and consumer philosophy prevails; when every single day the advertisements tell us what we do need, and the criteria of human, social and spiritual values is money, the inhumane vices and deeds of a man has become more vivid and advancing.
The story has not changed because the man himself has not changed but has accumulated and multiplied his blemishes and vices in the course of time. The man keeps on finding the causes of his inhumane blemishes outside of himself, blames the devil, but there is no devil, we are the devils, it is inside of us, it is our freedom of choice of free will given to us by God, which is generally wicked. The man keeps on justifying even the largest sin with the divine power of reason not only before the others but also before his own conscience, tries to justify his the most villainous deed before others. It is more vividly described in the Bible, when after committing the first sin the God asked Adam why he ate that apple, he answered: “This woman, whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I took it”. So Adam first blamed the God then Eve but not himself. When the God gave the same question to Eve, she replied, “I was tricked by the deceit of the snake and I took it”. As we see Eve was more humble, she blamed only the wisest snake. It is noteworthy that there is no devil in this case. It is not accidentally said that a good deed has thousands of parents, and the evil is an orphan. Everyone is to be blamed but the sinner himself.
When you learn the modern scientific understanding of the Universe, you see a great explosion, millions of temperatures, collision of stars, collapse, black hollow which absorbs everything, and suddenly you imagine a trivial, lost corner of the Universe, where reason was shaped, birds are singing, the river is flowing, the trees cast a shadow and in this boundless divine surroundings people instead of enjoying the life, they struggle with each other and do everything to destroy the life on our Earth.
A question rises. Where are the human generous impulses and inclinations that we see around us? Have they vanished? Of course not. They do exist and proceed with the existence. Let`s talk about the self-sacrifice; for instance, heroes of the war are ready to give their lives for the sake of their battle friend, for their Motherland sacrificing themselves and the future of their children. But such generous, eminent and stately actions get lost, dissolved in the horrors of war, whether the war is won or not. The Don Quixotes exist nowadays and probably thanks to them that the world has not been finally and totally destroyed.
And at last a prominent question; all the children are wonderful, where do the villains appear from? Let us find the answer to this question.
When I decided to give an ostentatious title to this little essay and wrote it on computer, a black square appeared, and it seemed to me that I am starting to understand the meaning of the K. Malevich “Black Square”. It is known from physics that the absolute black body absorbs all the energy. The same happens in the course of human history when human vices and repulsive actions absorb the positive actions and lofty intentions, and the spirit plunges into the darkness. This process is very similar to the astrophysical “black hole” which devours all the material in the sphere of its influence, and as much it devours, there’s nothing that can get out of it, even a small spark of light.
Human history, too, absorbs everything humane and is apparently like a “black hole” but from which, unlike the black one, blood is poured out of it
We all have to look way out of that predicament. We may burn a lamp of hope and try to stay a man, much better Human.
Elpidophoros sees his future in GOA. Or not?
Archbishop Demetrios’ possible retirement has been discussed more and more often, and not only in the media but also in Orthodox forums and blogs, which highlights the importance of this event and the difficulties the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will soon face. However, the accents drastically differ from those in official statements and open letters.
The GOA issues are much more complicated as Demetrios is not the root cause of the crisis. The point is that even after at the moment of its birth the Archdiocese wasn’t independent enough, and now it’s even less so. Each of its Dioceses is subject to Constantinople, each of its bishops is controlled directly – so nothing really depends on the Archbishop in these circumstances. In spite of this, the GOA Primate’s retirement is inevitable.
In this situation many see Bursa Metropolitan Elpidophoros Lambriniadis as Demetrios’ successor, though opinions vary. His supporters say that his appointment is a chance to increase the GOA’s self-sufficiency and make it more modern and open. Opponents consider this Constantinople’s trick to impose dictatorship and dispel all hopes for independence in the guise of liberalism and an effective crisis manager. There are even those who believe Elpidophoros will become an American Patriarch…
It’s hard to say if these conjectures are based on reliable information. Either can’t we say with certainty that Elpidophoros is involved in disseminating these gossips, but they obviously play into his hands. Metropolitan of Bursa is not only an ambitious person but also a pragmatic one, and his program is not of that great significance in this context. By the way, he may become the one to bring the LGBTQ issues to the GOARCH agenda. Recently, along with some largest benefactors to the GOA, even Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia has paid notice to them in his essay for the Wheel.
However, for such an ambitious person as Elpodophoros, the American Archdiocese is unlikely a primary career interest. The Metropolitan likely sees the GOA as a platform to return to the Patriarchal elections in Turkey. Although this fact fills the Archdiocese’s members with indignation, but today the GOA is just an interim stage in a race for the Patriarch See in Istanbul, on the outskirts of Europe. It will be so until the Archdiocese’s benefactors and hierarchs become concerned not with the figure of Demetrios but with internal reforms and the revision of relations with Constantinople. Or – until the See indeed moves to the US. Up to this moment anyone can promise to the GOA laity anything in blogs and on the sidelines – this is a free country.
Rohingya Crisis Needs World’s Support
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres came to Bangladesh to see firsthand the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.
Before they left, they urged the world not to turn a blind eye to the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing their homes in neighboring Myanmar.
Over 700,000 Rohingya have taken shelter in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh since August 2017. Many now fear that their shanty homes – made of bamboos and plastic sheets, perched on deforested hills – could crumble under the heavy rains of the monsoon season.
But the flow of refugees has not stopped. As Kim and Guterres visited Cox’s Bazar under gray skies, more people arrived with stories of hardship and brutality.
“I have worked in some of the poorest countries in the world, but the experience here has been deeply troubling,” Kim said. “I have been deeply moved by the courage and the dignity of the Rohingya people, and appalled by their stories of what they had to endure: rape, torture, killing, burning of homes. As the UN Secretary-General said, the Rohingya are one of the most discriminated against and vulnerable communities on Earth. ”
The Government of Bangladesh has done the world a great service by keeping its borders open and supporting the refugees, Kim said. But the responsibility should not be Bangladesh’s alone.
The number of refugees in Cox’s Bazar— one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh—is now more than twice that of the local population.
Despite its own challenges, Bangladesh has been drawing from its own resources to respond to the crisis. Among other measures, the country has allocated 5,000 acres of land for temporary shelters, provided food relief, deployed mobile medical teams, and carried out large-scale immunization campaigns. Bangladesh has built 13 access roads to the temporary and registered camps and established water points and sanitation facilities.
With the monsoon rains continuing, the government has relocated 30,000 people to safer ground while preparing to move other vulnerable people, with support from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations
As the needs continue to grow, the World Bank Group announced last week up to $480 million in grant-based support to Bangladesh for health, education, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and other services for the refugees until they can return home safely, voluntarily, and with dignity. This financing will also help build the country’s capacity to deal with the crisis. The World Bank’s ongoing programs also will support the people in Cox’s Bazar.
But the UN Secretary-General said more funds are urgently needed as a key $950 million humanitarian aid plan is just over a quarter funded.
Prior to visiting Cox’s Bazar, Kim and Guterres met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to express their gratitude to the people and government of Bangladesh.
“The government’s relief effort, along with those of domestic and international relief agencies, has saved thousands of lives,” Kim said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the government to create and maintain dignifying living conditions for the Rohingya people. We’ve come to an agreement that we will build some more permanent structures and provide more services—the kinds of basic things that everyone needs, such as health care and education.”
Kim explained that support for the Rohingya is one of several areas where the Bank Group is working closely with Bangladesh.
“With respect to the government of Bangladesh, we believe so strongly in the direction they are going – for issues quite separate from the Rohingya – that we provided over $3 billion of low interest, long maturity loans this year for Bangladesh’s development priorities,” Kim said.
He added that this is the highest level of financing the World Bank has ever provided to Bangladesh from the International Development Association—the Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. IFC, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, also committed more than $420 million [AC1] [DLB2] of financing to private companies in Bangladesh this year.
“We consider Bangladesh an important partner in reducing global poverty, and we’re committed to helping Bangladesh achieve its aspiration of becoming an upper-middle income country,” Kim said.
The joint World Bank-UN visit to the refugee camp signals a closer working relationship with the United Nations to address fragility, conflict, violence, and forced displacement—situations that can last a decade or more, requiring more resources than humanitarian aid alone can provide.
Kim, Guterres, and Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, all described the current level of cooperation between the World Bank and UN agencies as unprecedented.
“We have been working very closely with our UN partners to bring humanitarian response and development together,” Kim said. “The refugee situation around the world is everybody’s problem. It’s not just a problem for host countries, or just a problem for the refugees—this is everybody’s problem. What I saw today was heart-breaking and appalling. On the other hand, I was deeply inspired by the courage and dignity of the people who were kind enough to speak with us.”
“The work is not done; it’s just getting started,” Kim concluded. “At the World Bank Group, we are committed to doing more to make sure that the Rohingya, and all of us, can see justice. We are all Rohingyas.”
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