Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Reason for the Season of Christmas (12/04/08)
TITLE: Christmas comes to the Caliphate
By Gregory Kane
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“What are you doing?” demanded Abdul, staring at the suspicious shape under the blankets. “Have you picked up another of those magazines with naked women? You know that our Imam has condemned them.”
“No, not at all,” said Ahmed, “I just finished reading something.”
“Is that right? Then you won't mind my—”
Before his cousin could protest, Abdul reached under the blankets and pulled out a leather covered book with the word Injîl etched in gold on the front.
“Where did you get this?” he shrieked, grabbing the younger man by his tunic and hauling him to his feet. “Have you turned apostate?”
“No, I was just curious. It's the book of the prophet `Îsâ, so I thought—”
“Fool!”Ahmed flinched as his cousin's spittle caught him full in the face. “Once, many years ago, this was the Word of Allah, but the christians refused to accept the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. In their wickedness they perverted their Scriptures so that they no longer agree with the Qur'an.”
An uncomfortable silence descended. Ahmed shook himself free and sat down on the rickety bed. Outside, the call of the muezzin blared from a neighbouring loudspeaker but neither man prepared himself for the ritual prayer.
“Where did you get it from?”
“The missionaries in town. The ones who have been making the blind beggars see. I did some work for them, repairing the roof of their house. The older man gave me this Bible and told me to read about `Îsâ. These Christians give gifts to one another at this time of year just as we do at Eid.”
“The Americans? You're working for our enemies? Do you want their president to send a war plane to bomb our village?”
“That's ridiculous,” protested Ahmed. “They are good people; they care for our poor.”
“You know nothing. Christians blaspheme against Allah. They say he had a child by Maryam, that the All Beneficent had sexual relations with a woman. They insult Islam! Soon they will insist that our sisters wear their indecent miniskirts, flaunting their bodies in the street like common harlots. Is this what you want?”
Furious, Ahmed sprang to his feet and pulled the Bible out of his cousin's grasp. Then, with one swift, violent shove, he pushed him into the middle of the room. “I am sick and tired of your insults,” he raged. “You have never read this book. All you ever do is echo the Imam's rantings. And who is to say that he's always right about Islam? I have spent time with these Christians and there is something different about them. Their lives are filled with love. These days all we talk about in the mosque is hate.”
“We submit ourselves to the will of Allah. If the infidels treat our Muslim brothers with evil, we will repay them in kind. It is just.”
“Tell me, Abdul. Do you have any confidence that Allah will accept you when you die? Is he truly pleased with all your hatred?”
“Who can say what happens when we die? If Allah welcomes me to paradise, inshallah, so be it. If not, I shall fall into the abyss.”
“The Christian Bible says a man can know. It says that `Îsâ came to rescue us from ourselves. It says that we should put our faith in him.”
Abdul's hand slipped down to his belt and he retrieved the shafra that he used for skinning hides. In one fluid movement he hurled the blade, striking the Bible and sending it sprawling towards the door. “Don't touch it!” he commanded.
Ahmed hesitated. Then he sat down.
“I'm warning you, cousin. If I find you reading this book again, I will go straight to the Imam and tell him what that American is doing. Then his blood will be on your hands.”
Abdul didn't wait for a response. He stormed from the room, stooping only to retrieve his knife.
Ahmed closed the door, then bent to retrieve the damaged book. Wearily he set it to one side. Later, once everyone had gone to bed, he would read some more and make up his mind about `Îsâ.
Meaning of Arabic words:
`Îsâ = Jesus, Maryam = Mary, Injîl = Bible or New Testament
Qur'an = holy book of Islam, Eid = Muslim festival
Shafra = six inch knife, Inshallah = if Allah wills
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