Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Questions from Sasha

Returning from Fakhr el-Din with the other guests of the IWF Forum (the IWF-ers themselves dining in Jordanian homes), and having refrained from the hubbly-bubbly after dinner, I find myself alert and with a few minutes to answer some questions I received in an email from Sasha, who is curious about sharia, security, and camels. Sasha apologizes, saying that in the paucity of her early childhood education she had never heard of sharia.

Well, Sasha, let me explain. There are three sources for the Muslim faith: the Qu'ran, the hadith, and the sharia. The Qu'ran is the Islamic holy book, which contains the series of revelations to the Prophet Muhammad from Allah. Muhammad himself was illiterate, so these revelations were written down after his death. The hadith is a series of stories about Muhammad, his life and wisdom. These stories also were collected after Muhammad's death, and part of their authority derives from their authorship among Muhammad's wives and close companions. The sharia is the large and complex system of Islamic law, which was codified by the Abbasid Muslims after they conquered Persia, moved the caliphate from Damascus to Baghdad, and adopted many of the customs of their Persian subjects. These laws became the Islamic legal code during what we call the Middle Ages. Sharia governs every aspect of Muslim life, from commerce to inheritance to marriage.

Now, Sasha, about security. I feel safe, and I now feel foolish that I ever feared to come here. As Zuhair, our guide chez autobus, said to us, "some of your friends and family told you not to come to Jordan, am I right?" And that was true for each of we sixteen. On our second day of travel, we were joined by a lady from New Jersey and her husband. The New Jersey IWF-er said that all the other members of IWF New Jersey had been afraid to come to the Cornerstone Conference. On the other hand, in the interest of full disclosure, I must report that security at the Amman Grand Hyatt is . . . well, let's just say lax. Although there is airport-type screening at the front door, and although there is always a police car in the drive, and although there is a soldier armed with an automatic weapon in the lobby every time someone of prominence is in the hotel, the two back entrances to the hotel (and there may be more, but I have seen two) are unguarded. This was quite a surprise the evening I strolled down the back promenade.

As for camels, I appreciate your apprehension, Sasha, but you need not worry. Camels have a bad reputation that is undeserved, in my opinion. Yes, camels do make a loud and strange sound when they want to complain, but really this bark is worse than their bite. Camels are very nice upon acquaintance. I had a lovely camel ride in Wadi Rumm, and our camel driver sang as he walked along. I suppose I should mention that camels surround themselves (happily, or not, I do not know) with a penumbra of flies. Many flies. Clouds of flies. When we ladies resumed our travels from the Wadi, I looked up the aisle from the back of the bus and saw that each of us had brought along a personal retinue from the insect realm.

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