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                                                                                     feeding orphans and widows in Damascus

When life becomes strange, tender, and full of pain, when my daily fare and that of this tilted civilization mirror one another, when fortune steps out in her fickle dance, shifting partners, poetry soothes me. Mahmoud Darwish, the late great Palestinian poet wrote these verses honoring my favorite city– The Damascene Collar of the Dove:

B
In Damascus:
I see all of my language
written with a woman’s needle
on a grain of wheat,
refined by the partridge of the Mesopotamian rivers
C
In Damascus:
the names of the Arabian horses have been embroidered,
since Jahili times
and through judgement day,
or after,
…with gold threads…

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Jahili times. That would be now. In the introduction to Married to Muhammad  I’ve written:

There is a term for the time before Islam, which is often misunderstood. Jahiliyya is known as the “Era of Ignorance,” although brutality, arrogance, and retaliation are more faithful to the Arabic. Prophet Muhammad’s approach was one of mild manner, calm deliberation, and gentleness, known as halim, an attribute of Allah as well as an antidote to this kind of attitude and behavior:

instructions for Jahiliyya

[…the jahil, a wild, violent and impetuous character who follows the inspiration of unbridled passion and is cruel by following his animal instincts; in one word, a barbarian.
words by Ignaz Goldziher.]

Know you are right.
Think fist and knife-edge.
Do not appear
foolish, no matter what.

Control your woman
and your guests; keep them
a little afraid, and thankful
for your protection.

Guard your clan’s
honor. Carve a notch
on your weapon of choice
for each successful pay-back.

If someone calls you animal,
smile and answer — lion,
hyena, crocodile, fighting cock—
the meek are the pack animals of the ferocious.

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Peace-on-Earth, a working verb, earns meager wages in this Jahili time. May all be well, easeful, prosperous, and with loved ones in this time of the increase of light!

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