This week we deal with question relating to the sect of the Essenes, of which Jesus was a member
YOU SAID THE ESSENES, THE GROUP THAT PRODUCED JESUS, ARE NOT DIRECTLY MENTIONED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. IF THEY ARE INDIRECTLY MENTIONED, HOW DOES ONE GET A HINT IT IS THEY WHO ARE BEING TALKED ABOUT?
You will not be able to tell if you haven’t read the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Essenes did not actually call themselves Essenes. According to the Jewish historian and philosopher Philo Judeaus, Essenes was “a name awarded to them in recognition of their holiness”. It stemmed from the Greek and Egyptian term meaning secret and sacred, which was befitting: the Essenes flaunted holiness like a badge and lived in self-imposed isolation. The Essenes had several philosophically descriptive names. One of these was “the poor”. They were poor because they generally shared everything and therefore had no individual property. When you encounter the term poor in the gospels, rest assured you are reading about the Essenes. The Beatitudes in MATTHEW 5 begin with “Blessed are the poor”. That introductory sets the tone for all the remaining 7 Beatitudes that follow. They are about extolling the virtues of the Essenes. In other words, Jesus, who is said to have uttered them, was saying unless you morally bankrupt and spiritually corrupt Pharisees and Sadducees emulate our humility and spirituality, woe unto you. Although the Essenes are not directly mentioned in the Bible, secular chroniclers of the day such as Flavius Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and Pliny the younger give them prominent mention, in some cases even much more than the Pharisees and Sadducees. What is ironic is that it is they who wrote the New Testament. All the language and philosophy you find in the Dead Sea Scrolls is found in the Bible from Matthew all the way to Revelation.
WHY DID THE ESSENES SET THEMSELVES APART FROM THE REST AND SECLUDE THEMSELVES AT QUMRAN?
The Essenes had removed themselves from mainstream society around 175 BC to live a monastic life about 40 to 50 km southeast of Jerusalem. The name they chose for this cluster of settlements was Judean Wilderness. Although it was generally characterised by arid and uninviting terrain, the Judean Wilderness did have scanty vegetation. Examples of the mini-settlements that comprised the Judean Wilderness were Mird; Mar Saba; Mazin; Ain Feshka; and Qumran. Qumran was the principal settlement. Qumran, Ain Feshka, and Mazin were located on the West coast of the Dead Sea. Although the Qumran settlers are best known as Essenes, they primarily referred to themselves as the Nozrei ha brit, meaning “Keepers of the Covenant” – the Davidic Covenant by which the Jewish Anunnaki god Enlil, best known as Jehovah, promised David and his descendents everlasting rule over Israel. In their formative stages, however, the Essenes called themselves the Sons of Zadok, or simply Zadokites. In one sense, this meant “Righteous Men”. In another, it meant “adherents to the Zadok order”. Zadok, a Levite and descendent of Aaron, was the temple high priest during the reign of King Solomon. All the first 30 priests from Eleazer, the son of Aaron, to the Babylonian captivity were Aaronites. But after the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BC, priests were arbitrarily appointed by the occupying power as well as by puppet Jewish kings who served the interests of the occupying power. Moreover, the Davidic dynasty was banished from ever ruling Israel after the Babylonian captivity. To some section of the Jews, this not only amounted to a desecration but was a breach of the Davidic Covenant. So circa 175 BC, this section of the Jews separated itself from other Jews and set up its own community at Qumran in protest. There, the community awaited two messiahs to liberate Israel from foreign occupation – the Davidic messiah from the tribe of Judah and the priestly messiah from the tribe of Levi. It also awaited a prophet like Moses or Elijah. This community of Jewish puritans and fundamentalists is what became known as the Essenes.
HOW DID THE ESSENES DIFFER FROM THE PHARISEES AND SADDUCEES?
Generally speaking, the Sadducees were the aristocrats of the day. They were the elite of Jewry. It was the Sadducees who ran the Jerusalem Temple and dominated the Sanhedrin, the Jerusalem-based Jewish governing council. The Pharisees were mostly teachers of the law of Moses, the so-called scribes. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees worshipped in the Jerusalem Temple, although the Pharisees did have local houses of worship called synagogues. However, neither the Sadducees nor the Pharisees were exactly in one accord. Each group had splinter groups. For instance, the Herodian Sadducees were the Sadducees proper. Qumran too had its share of Pharisees and Sadducees who were amenable to Essene ideals. The Essenes regarded the Sadducees and Pharisees as corrupting and sacrilegious. For instance, whereas animal sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple were the order of the day, the Essenes never sacrificed animals at their sanctuary at Qumran. The Essenes never even ate meat: the only flesh they ate was that of fish. Those who say Jesus was the “sacrificial lamb” of God are totally mistaken. Jesus was an Essene and Essenes did not believe in animal sacrifices or such typology. The Essenes were staunch champions of the restoration of the Aaronite priesthood to the Jewish temple and the Davidic dynasty to the Jewish throne. That’s why both Jesus and John the Baptist arose from their ranks.
OTHER THAN ESSENES, WHAT OTHER NAMES DID THE ESSENES CALL THEMSELVES?
According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes went by several names. They called themselves the Keepers of the Covenant; the Sons of Zadok; the Righteous Ones; the Elect; the Sons of Light; the Holy; the Saints; the Perfect of the Way; the Poor; the Osim (meaning something like healer); the Zealots (meaning people who are zealous for the law, although these term predominantly applied to their military wing); the New Convenanters; the Remnants of Israel; Lebanon, which means white because they wore sparklingly white linen; etc. Also, the Essenes had several sects amongst them, each with its own adopted name. For example, there was a sect of the Essenes known as the “Few” and another known as the “Many”. This kind of language peppers the gospels and sadly the overwhelming majority of the pathetically ignorant Christian clergy settle for the generalised superficial interpretation of these terms. The Jesus movement was called the Nazarenes, not Christians. The Nazarenes were an offshoot of the Essenes. Nazarenes primarily meant “People of the Branch”. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Branch of David was another name for the Davidic messiah, this being Jesus in the first century. A secondary meaning of the term Nazarenes was “Fish Men”.
IF THE ESSENES OR ESSENE AFFILIATES WROTE MUCH OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AS YOU SAID, SURELY THEY WOULD HAVE MENTIONED THEMSELVES IN THE BIBLE INSTEAD OF MENTIONING ONLY THEIR RIVALS SUCH AS SADDUCCEES AND PHARISEES.
It is probable that in the earlier gospel versions as well as epistles that are now lost, the Essenes directly mentioned themselves. The versions we today find in the Bible are edited ones. The gospels and epistles were continuously edited to accommodate certain philosophical and doctrinal slants which reflected the schisms amongst the early church. In AD 66, the Essenes waged what was to become a 7-year war against the Romans. They were crushed by Roman general Flavius Titus and the Jerusalem temple was destroyed. That was the end of the Essenes and Sadducees: only Pharisean Judaism was allowed to flourish by the Romans because it was inimical to both the other two. From that time henceforth, it was suicidal for anybody to call himself an Essene. Hence, the versions of gospels and epistles that were published post AD 70 (which form the basis essentially of those we have in today’s Bible) could not risk employment of the term Essene. Even Josephus never mentioned the Essenes in his first work, The Wars of the Jews, which was published in AD 75. He first made mention of them in The Jewish Antiquities, which was published in AD 93, when Roman anti-Essene sentiment had substantially subsided. Josephus claimed he was a Pharisee but this of course was a self-preservation tactic: he was an Essene. It is clear he was an Essene because he wrote a great deal more about the Essenes than the Pharisees, let alone the Sadducees. But conscious of the peril that attached to calling oneself an Essene in the 70s AD (when he became a property and imbongi of the Romans,) he elected to play it safe and dub himself a Pharisee.
IF THE ESSENES WERE AS PEACEFUL AS CONTEMPORARY HISTORIANS DESCRIBE THEM, WHY DID THEY HAVE AN UNDERGROUND MILITARY WING IN THE ZEALOTS?
The Essenes were a government of national unity at a microcosmic level. Among the Essenes were fundamentalist Sadducees as opposed to the Herodian Sadducees who ran the Jerusalem temple; moderate Pharisees as opposed to conservative Pharisees who were based in Jerusalem; the Egyptian-based Theraputae who were headed by Theudas Barabbas; the Samaritan-based Magi who were headed by Simon Zelotes; the People of the Way, founded by John the Baptist; the Nazarenes, who were headed by James the Just (the brother of Jesus); and the Zealots who were headed by Hezekiah, his son Judas of Galilee, Judas Iscariot, and Menahem ben Judah (the brother of Judas of Galilee) and Joseph Gishala in that order. The Zealots were not Essenes as such initially: they were political as opposed to philosophical allies of the Essenes. Flavius Josephus describes the Zealots as a “fourth sect of the Jews” after the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. It was not until after the death of James the Just in AD 62 that the Zealots took control of Qumran. “Zealot” was a cover name: it meant “those who are zealous for the role” and was actually another name of the Essenes before it was usurped by Galilean revolutionaries. The Zealots officially called themselves Galileans because Galilee was their principal bastion. The Essenes were extremely civil and peaceful. It was the Zealots who were drawn to the Essenes because of their spirituality and puritan character and not vice versa. Sadly, instead of Essene sanctity rubbing off on the Zealots, it was Zealot radicalism that at long last corrupted the other.
HOW WAS THE ESSENE WAY OF LIFE?
Flavius Josephus and Philo provide a very highly illuminating and remarkable portrait of the Essene way of life. They were a marvelous people the Essenes. They were arable and pastoral farmers, beekeepers, artisans, and craftsmen. All these activities were purely for subsistence purposes: they never engaged in commerce at all. They were absolutely peaceful, never kept slaves, and made no instruments of war. Although they did study philosophy (particularly Pythagorean philosophy), mathematics, astrology, and medicine (herbs, vibrational healing from stones, and spiritual healing), they emphasised moral and virtue the most. They preached and practiced love of God; love of virtue; and love of mankind. They practiced mutual love and renounced riches: their society was totally egalitarian. All possessions were shared; all were economic equals. They were remarkably just: all judgements were passed by a court with not less than 100 people on the bench! They had prophets and astrologers who were “rarely wrong” in their predictions. However, they were very strict in the administration of justice. People who betrayed their secrets (that is, Gnostic secrets) were either expelled from the Essene community or, rarely so, killed. Menstruating women were forbidden to come into contact with men and were not to allow themselves to be seen at all. A man could not join the Essene community if he was handicapped in any way or had a stigmatic disease such as leprosy for instance. Essenes were not allowed to mix with or go into the homes of non-Essene lest they be “tainted” or “defiled”. Because of the therapeautic prowess of the Theraputae among them, the Essenes were able to live up to 120 years, which was as unusual those days as it is in our day.
HOW UNIQUE WAS ESSENE THEOLOGY RELATIVE TO THAT OF MAINSTREAM JEWS?
The Essenes’ spiritual philosophy was based not on Judaism as such but on the teachings of Pythagoras, the great Greek mathematician and philosopher (see HYPERLINK "http://www.essene.com/History/PythagorasAndNazareans.html" http://www.essene.com/History/PythagorasAndNazareans.html for a highly insightful comparison between Essene and Pythagorean way of life.) They had their own sanctuary at Qumran and therefore never worshiped in the Jerusalem temple. In their sanctuary, they never sacrificed animals at all. Their overall leader was called the Teacher of Righteousness. This was their high priest. They forbade swearing oaths. They were strict adherents to Sabbath requirements: even cooking and going to the toilet was not allowed on the Sabbath. Whilst they forgave each other, they had a permanent hate of their enemies. An Essene was obliged to bath his body in full at least twice daily, before a meal. To them, inward cleanness had to be mirrored by outward cleanliness. In addition, they had numerous bathing rituals which were regularly conducted. Co-ption into full Essene fellowship was rigorous: it took 3 years. They believed not in an afterlife Heaven but a theocracy right here on Earth in which Israel would rule the whole world. They anticipated an apocalyptic war between they, the Sons of Light, and everybody else, the Sons of Darkness. This war would be led by the messiah of David, who they awaited along with the messiah of Aaron. They believed in the immortality of the soul nevertheless. The body was regarded as a prison from which the soul was liberated at death.
In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device). But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration. Consider these examples:
Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs. Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, the business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over £18,000 (around P ¼ m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.
Another recent SMB hacking story which appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didn’t even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the company’s payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli. As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.
And in May 2019, the city of Baltimore’s computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.
Of course, hackers target governments or business giants but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches. Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.
This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employees’ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability. A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.
Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge. Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email. Out of the physical workplace, your employees’ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.
Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employees’ productivity. Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi, sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clients’ addresses and phone numbers.
BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps. Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a system’s data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore. Ransomware attacks are on the increase, predicted to occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.
Lastly there is phishing – the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise – whereby cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data –usernames, passwords, credit card details –usually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.
Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt, consult your IT security consultants. You can’t put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!
About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.
As he trudged the woods, Williams had a sudden premonition that pointed to Diana’s imminent fate as per Christopher Andersen’s book The Day Diana Died. “When the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,” Williams was later to reminisce. “In the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.”
Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. “I have never seen him so upset,” Mary recounted. “He felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.”
The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. He took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch Investigative Unit.
The report read as follows:
“On 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.”
Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.
Meanwhile, General, even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: “In The Independent Diana was described as ‘a woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anything’. She was ‘suffering from a form of arrested development’. ‘Isn’t it time she started using her head?’ asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled ‘A Story of Love’; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: ‘William can’t help it, he just doesn’t like the man.’ William was reportedly ‘horrified’ and ‘doesn’t think Mr Fayed is good for his mother’ – or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatrist’s chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana ‘On the Couch’, asking why she was so ‘depressed’ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications – about Prince Philip’s hostility to the relationship, Diana’s prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.”
DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ
Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodi’s bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. “Well, eventually we will be going out to a restaurant”, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleagues’ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal. Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.
At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet. The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates. Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.
Rita, General, was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. “But Diana, remember what I told Dodi,” Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, “Yes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.” Well, she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.
As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, “I have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.”
Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.
THE“TELL ME YES” RING IS DELIVERED
Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the “Tell Me Yes” engagement ring Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome. It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.
The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law, had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrative Dodi transaction. Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the one he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but Dodi was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ploy on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree. With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.
Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana. There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious choice for her.
The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodi’s apartment after the crash, has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.
Dodi was also shown Repossi’s sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.
DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS
At about 7 pm, Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodi’s apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.
As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene Delorm and showed him the engagement ring. “Dodi came into my kitchen,” Delorm relates. “He looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldn’t hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box … He said, ‘Rene, I’m going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinner’.” Rene described the ring as “a spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet box”.
Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.
Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. “They called me and said we’re coming back (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are
Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).
‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’an (2 : 185)
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.
Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a ‘full service’. This ‘service’ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ‘rest’ through fasting.
Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allah’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.
The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.” We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.
Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a ‘proper’ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of one’s feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’”
This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.
Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich one’s conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.
Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allah’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.
The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.