Final Word on Josephus
Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…
This week we tackle questions about the iconic Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the destruction of Jerusalem
HOW RELIABLE ARE THE WRITINGS OF FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS?
Like all history, they are reliable only to a certain extent. No record of history is truthful through and through. There are accounts in which the bias in his writings are quite blatant. For example, Josephus (37-100 AD) calls the Zealots in the AD 66 uprising against the Romans as terrorists. They were not terrorists: they were freedom fighters. In some cases, he lies outrightly, such as when he says he was a Pharisee. If he were, he would have written precious much about the Pharisees. But he wrote very little about them and instead dwelt on the Essenes at disproportionate length. Clearly, he was an Essene, at least at some point in time, but he would not openly identify with the Essenes because at the time he was writing (post-70 AD), the Essenes had been outlawed for their centrality in the AD 66 uprising; only the Pharisees were allowed to operate. In general, however, Josephus is fairly reliable and is in fact crucial. Without him, our knowledge of the happenings in first century Palestine would be substantially diminished.
YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT TWO PERSONS WITH THE NAME FLAVIUS – FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS AND FLAVIUS TITUS. WERE THE TWO RELATED?
They were related yes but in a political rather than a familial way. Flavius was the clan name of a succession of dynastic emperors who ruled the Roman Empire from AD 69 to AD 96. These were Vespasian (69-79 AD); his son Titus (79-81 AD); and his other son Domitian (81-96 AD). Each of the three emperors carried the name Flavius in his full names after their ancestral patriarch Marcus Flavius who lived in the fourth century BC. The collective reign of the three emperors is therefore in history referred to as the Flavian dynasty. Josephus was born Joseph ben Matthias. When he sold out to the Romans in AD 69, the year Vespasian became emperor, and became a Roman citizen, he adopted the emperor’s clan name Flavius and became interpreter and advisor to Crown Prince General Flavius Titus. Since he wrote his books under the name Flavius Josephus, it is by this name that he is best known.
EXACTLY WHAT SPARKED THE JEWISH REVOLT AGAINST THE ROMANS IN 66 AD? JOSEPHUS OFTEN IMMERSES YOU IN SUCH IN SUCH A SEA OF UNNECESSARY DETAIL THAT YOU GET LOST.
It was the appearance of Halley’s Comet on January 25 of AD 66. The Zealots were Essenes and Essenes were astrologers. They believed that the appearance of certain heavenly phenomena signalled a watershed event. Their inspiration was the Great Revolt of 164 BC, in which the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem from Greek-Syrian domination. The Maccabees revolution was inspired by Halley’s Comet, which had appeared in that year too (it is seen every 71-74 years). Josephus actually plainly states that the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple was the result of the Jews misinterpreting “a star resembling a sword which stood over the city, a comet that continued a whole year”. The Zealots thought they could replicate the Maccabees feat since the comet was a sign of good lucky. It turned out it was sometimes a sign of ill luck.
WAS YOUR “LEGENDARY” JOSEPHUS A MAN OF VIRTUE? I ASK BECAUSE EVEN WHEN HE RELOCATED TO ROME, HE WAS ALWAYS UNDER HEAVY GUARD AS EVEN THE JEWS OF THE DIASPORA BAYED FOR HIS BLOOD FOR DINING AND WINING WITH THE ENEMY IN THE ROMANS.
He had his black marks; at the same time, he had his plusses. First, he was very cerebral. As a kid he was a child prodigy. This is what he writes in his autobiography in this regard: “I made mighty proficiency in the improvements of my learning, and appeared to have both a great memory and understanding. Moreover, when I was a child, and about fourteen years of age, I was commended by all for the love I had to learning; on which account the high priests and principal men of the city came then frequently to me together, in order to know my opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law.” Second, he was a proficient lawyer and surpassingly eloquent in speech. For instance, in AD 62, at only age 26, he travelled to Rome to argue before Roman Emperor Nero the release of priestly men who Felix, the Roman governor of Judea, had imprisoned without trial on trumped up charges. He was successful. It was his great eloquence, coupled with his cunning, that endeared him to the then Roman general Vespasian. Thirdly, he was an illustrious soldier. When the Zealot war against the Romans broke out in AD 66, he commanded the Galilean forces at only age 29 with no leadership or military experience and bravely fought the Romans under General Vespasian in the battle of Jotapata before he surrendered following a seven-week siege in June-July AD 67. As much as he is deserving of condemnation for one reason or the other, let us give him credit where it is due.
HOW DID JOSEPHUS END UP A CLIENT OF ROME?
When the Romans overran Jotapata in June-July AD 67, Josephus and forty others were trapped in a cave. General Vespasian, who wanted Josephus alive as commander of the Galilean chapter of the rebellion, called upon them to surrender but they insisted they would rather they took their own lives. They therefore made a suicide pact (Josephus’s cleverly contrived idea) by which they were to kill each other by turns through drawing lots, with the last person killing himself. As it was, Josephus was one of the last two. Since he cherished his life, he convinced the other guy that they simply surrender to Vespasian, which they did. General Vespasian was taken in by the sharp wit and sweet tongue of Josephus. When he was being interrogated, Josephus told the Roman general that he was actually a prophet of the Jewish god Yahweh and that Yahweh had made known to him that he had decided to punish the Jews and adopt the Romans as his people, that Vespasian was the messiah the prophets of old had spoken about, and that Vespasian was destined to be emperor. Instead of executing him, a smitten Vespasian simply imprisoned him to see whether his prophecy would bear out. It did, as Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in July AD 69 after a draconian and seemingly deranged Nero committed suicide in AD 68. That’s how Josephus earned his freedom and the esteem of the emperor as a divine prophet. He first became advisor and interpreter to the new Roman general Flavius Titus right in Judea before he finally left for Rome with the general in AD 71 after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Roman temple. There, he was given Roman citizenship and a very generous pension and lived in the lap of luxury. That’s why he was branded a traitor by the Jews everywhere and became their mortal enemy.
I DID READ PART OF THE JEWISH ANTIQUITIES BY FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS AS PER YOUR RECOMMENDATION. I FIND THAT HE WRITES RATHER GLOWINGLY OF ROMAN GENERAL TITUS. IT SOUNDS LIKE PROPAGANDA RATHER THAN OBJECTIVE HISTORY. YOUR TAKE?
You are not the only one to have made such an observation. A number of historians have done so too. Certainly, Josephus’s claim, for instance, that Titus saved an entire legion of Roman soldiers by single-handedly fighting back crowds of armed Judeans is laughable to say the very least. Josephus also says the temple was destroyed by wayward Roman soldiers contrary to the wishes of General Titus, who had ordered that it be spared “even if it be used as a fortress because its beauty should be preserved as a possession of Rome”. However, another historian, Sulpicius Severus, writes that Titus expressly ordered the sacking of the temple. It must be borne in mind, albeit, that the destruction of the temple and the overall carnage in Jerusalem in AD 70 arose not because Titus was bloodthirsty. He tried his best, using Josephus as his go-between, to get the insurgents to surrender but to no avail. Moreover, though Titus was reputed as a merciless general who ordered the execution of suspected traitors on the spot and was received by Romans as “another Nero” when he succeeded his deceased father in June AD 79, it turned out he was actually a very, very good man. He ruled for just over two years before his death in September AD 81 but he turned out to be a very popular emperor. One of the first things he did as emperor was to proclaim an amnesty for traitors on trial. The historian Suetonius writes that if in one single day the emperor did not perform at least one beneficial act for his rein, he ruefully remarked, “Friends, I have a lost a day”. He was tough and ruthless as a general only because that came with the territory: in those highly tumultuous times, a general had to be a Saddam if he was to keep his emperor’s domain intact.
HOW LONG DID THE ROMAN SIEGE OF JERUSALEM LAST AND HOW WERE THE CASUALTIES LIKE?
The war itself is referred to as the first Jewish-Roman War. It lasted from AD 66 to AD 73, although it was practically over in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. The siege of Jerusalem by General Flavius Titus lasted 7 months from March to September AD 70. The Jewish insurgents, led by the Zealots, were a hard nut to crack. Titus used four legions (equivalent to about 40,000 troops inclusive of auxiliaries) in the campaign. Josephus documents that 1.1 million were killed, the vast majority of whom Jews, and 97,000 were captured. Later, Titus released 40,000 Jews who were non-combatants but the insurrectionists, including their wives and children, were taken into slavery. Josephus says the supply of slaves so deluged the market that the slave price plunged precipitately! Josephus lost his parents and his first wife in the war. Josephus himself, whilst imploring his fellow Jews to surrender in his capacity as interpreter and go-between, was struck in the head with a stone and knocked unconscious but he survived and was soon doing his duty again. The Romans erected a fence of palisades around the city so that it was fully enclosed and there was no means of escape. All trees within fifteen kilometers of the city were hewn down for this purpose and another – mass crucifixions. Captured insurgents were crucified in various mocking positions at a rate of 500 per day, with the result that no single tree was seen throughout Jerusalem! The Romans used starvation of the fenced-in Jews as a physiological weapon, to the extent where the Jews had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Josephus provides one such example thus: ““One woman slew her son, and then roasted him, and ate the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this, the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them, and withal uncovered what was left of her son.”
SINCE YOU SAID THE ANUNNAKI CONTROL THE AFFAIRS OF EARTH FROM BEHIND THE SCENES, TO WHAT EXTENT WERE THEY INVOLVED IN THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN 70 AD?
It is they who cleverly orchestrated it. In LEVITICUS 26: 27-33, Enlil, the Anunnaki God of the Jews who is best known as Jehovah, had served notice to the Jews that he was going to chastise them seven times for “whoring after other gods” at his expense. The destruction of Jerusalem was the fifth such chastisement. Josephus hinted about this knowledge when he wrote in War of the Jews that, “The Deity, indeed long since, had sentenced the Temple to the flames … And one may well marvel at the exactness of the cycle of Destiny; for, as I said, she waited until the very month and the very day on which in bygone times the Temple had been burnt by the Babylonians,” the Babylonian captivity having been the second chastisement. General Titus also had an idea about Anunnaki involvement in the whole saga. When he was asked to accept the wreath of victory by his lieutenants for making mince of the Jews, he declined, saying, “There’s no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God”. He said he was simply the instrument the Jewish god had used to punish them. On his way back to Rome, he stopped over at Memphis in Egypt to venerate Apis, the bull deity. The bull deity as we now know was a symbol of Enlil.
DID THE ZEALOTS REGISTER ANY SIGNIFICANT VICTORIES IN THEIR AD 66 WAR AGAINST THE ROMANS?
They were formidable. They solidly held out against the Romans for five years. The fortress of Masada for one did not fall until AD 73, three years after Jerusalem had fallen. At one stage in AD 70, General Titus was nearly captured by the Zealots during a sudden attack. A case could be made that to a degree, the Zealots were the architects of their own demise. They were busy warring against each other at the same time as they were fighting the Romans. They had four factions waging a mini- civil war. In addition, they were busy looting the temple of its treasures, particularly gold, besides extorting similar personal treasures from fellow Jews. Jewish deserters to neighbouring Syria, fearing that the gold they had grabbed could be appropriated by Roman soldiers if they encountered them, began to swallow it for temporary storage in their guts. Big mistake. When rumour spread that all the Jews who were fleeing Jerusalem were a gold mine walking, Arabs and Syrians resorted to cutting their stomachs open as a matter of routine. Josephus records that “in one night alone, no less than 2000 Jews were ripped up”. Whether they were stitched up after being ripped up he does not say. Meanwhile, the haul of gold in the process was such that its market price, like that of slaves, took a dramatic tumble.
NEXT WEEK: QUESTIONS ON THE BIBLE AS A TEXT
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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!
“I Propose to Diana Tonight”
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 – The Blessed Month of Fasting
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.