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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Final Word on Apostle Paul

Columns

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

HOW DID PAUL COME TO OVERSHADOW  ALL THE OTHER APOSTLES WHEN HE NEVER MET JESUS IN PERSON?
This may strike you as odd but Paul personally knew Jesus  and in fact did spend a great deal more time with Jesus than all the other apostles post the sham crucifixion.  Remember, the Romans were supposed to be under the blindfold that Jesus had died in the crucifixion of  March AD 33. The Romans were indeed taken in as the demise of Jesus  was  even recorded in the annals of Rome,  as he was a  Davidic heir and therefore was of high standing among the Jews. Cornelius Tacitus, a  Roman who was both a historian and senator, documents that, “Christus, from whom their name (of Christians)  is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius.” Hence, if Paul was personally acquainted with Jesus subsequent to the crucifixion, he wasn’t going to promulgate this privillege. Paul was only 16 years old  when Jesus was crucified and assumed by the wider public to have died and if he had openly told the world he had an intimate personal knowledge of Jesus by AD 33, they would have thought he was out of his mind. So the only way he could rationalise his vaunted knowledge of Jesus was to couch his encounter with him in mystical terms. Yet even though to the public his commissioning by  Jesus came across as supernatural,  in pesher it is plain that he met Jesus in the natural.   

WHY WAS PAUL SO VIRULENTLY OPPOSED TO THE EARLY CHURCH?
A lot of hogwash has been said about Paul having never met Jesus even by scholars with PhDs in theology. Like every other Jew of the day, Paul knew about Jesus as a youngster. Paul was born in AD 17 and Jesus as the Davidic heir was a well-known figure at the time. Paul was partly educated at Qumran, the place where Jesus was often found and even taught (he was a rabbi, meaning “teacher”) and to say he never met Jesus is an absurdity. He knew both Jesus and his younger brother James at a  very early age. When he became of age (between ages 12 and 16), Paul joined the Qumran faction known as the Hebrews, the faction that  traditionally had been pro- John the Baptist and which promoted James as the Davidic heir at the expense of  Jesus since Jesus was born in an irregular month for a Davidic heir and was thought to be tacitly cosy with the Roman oppressors.  That’s what he meant when he referred to himself as a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” (PHILIPPIANS 3:5).  Paul also hated the fact that Jesus fancied himself as a Priest-King when his father Joseph was of the tribe  of Judah and not a Levite. When Agrippa I became Rome’s client King of the Jews in AD 37, Paul, who had always been attached to the House of Herod as the Essene order of Benjamin (to which Paul belonged) used to congregate at Agrippa’s home in Jerusalem became the instrument with which Rome persecuted the early church, then known as the Nazarenes or simply the Way. Paul was given authority to arrest any extremist Nazarene anywhere in Palestine. The Nazarenes were headed by James the Just but were actively led by Simon Peter. One of their firebrands, Stephen, was stoned to death by a mob superintended over by Paul in a tactical “coup” whereby the behind-the-scenes Anunnaki wanted to set up Paul as the main propagator in future of  the Jesus saga at the expense of Stephen,  who was already primed to do so.     

JUST HOW EDUCATED WAS THE GREAT APOSTLE PAUL?
He is said to have had the equivalent of two PhDs. He was educated at three schools. The first was Qumran, the Essene headquarters. The second was the School of Hillel in Jerusalem, which was run by the great Jewish rabbi Gamaliel, and where he was contemporaries with the evangelist Luke  and the Annas brothers Theophillus (the sponsor of Luke’s gospel and Acts), Jonathan (the disciple Nathaniel) and Simon.  Gamaliel taught his students not only the tenets of  the Torah and other Old Testament texts but also subjects like classical literature, philosophy, and ethics. Finally, Paul attended  the University of  Tarsus, the Harvard and Oxford of the day. The Greek city  Tarsus, in  today’s south central  Turkey, was the capital of the ancient province of Cilicia and one of the largest trade centres on the Mediterranean coast.  It was in Tarsus that Paul was born, but he was not born a Roman citizen as most scholars would have you believe. A letter dated 23rd  March  59 AD shows that Paul’s Roman citizenship was facilitated by  Seneca, the famous Stoic philosopher who had tutored the schizophrenic Roman  Emperor Nero and who had taken a keen interest in Paul’s version of  Judaism (Paul and Seneca exchanged a great deal of  documented correspondence which can be found in extra-biblical sources).  It is clear from the gospels that Paul was a learned man both religiously and secularly. When he was in Athens, for instance, and debated the Greek philosophers in  a bid to pitch Christianity to them, he copiously  quoted their own savants.  For instance, in ACTS  chapter 17, where he addressed the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, he cited The Phaenomena by the great poet Aratus of Soli not only to demonstrate his erudition but to underline to the Athenians that their religion was tantamount to idolatry (v17). When in v28 he says, “For in Him we live and move and exist”, and in TITUS 1:12 he says, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons,”  he was quoting Epimenides of Knossos (modern-day Crete), a Greek seer and philosopher-poet. In ACTS  17:29, he says, “As even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children’.” Here again, he was quoting Aratus. The expression “Bad company corrupts good morals” in 1 CORINTHIANS 15:33 was lifted straight from Menander, the great Greek playwright.

COULD YOU SHED CLEARER LIGHT ON HOW PAUL MET JESUS SINCE THE VERSION OF EVENTS IN ACTS SOUNDS SORT OF THEATRICAL?
The so-called Damascus event as recorded in various passages of ACTS was not the first time  Paul encountered Jesus. It simply marked the occasion of  his switch of allegiance from the fundamentalist Pharisees (who were ready to kill to enforce and uphold rabbinical Judaism) to  the Jesus movement, the so-called Hellenists who advocated pro-Roman cooperation.  It did not even take place in Damascus: it took place at Qumran, in AD 40, when a conference was held to discuss the Jewish position in relation to Rome. Nor was it supernatural at all:  it was natural through and through. At the Qumran sanctuary, the counterpart to the Jerusalem Temple,  there was a prayer platform which had a half roof. The platform was metaphorically referred to as Heaven. Between noon and 3 pm each day, the half roof was open and therefore it was said “Heaven is open”. Paul arrived at the conference with a view to tear into Jesus. Paul was particularly irate that a statue of the reigning Roman Emperor Caligula had been set up within the Jerusalem Temple and put the blame for such a sacrilege squarely on people like Jesus,  who advocated a passive stance toward Roman rule.  When Paul entered the prayer room, in which the conference was being held, part of the roof had been removed, allowing the sun to shine down to indicate the time and to reveal  the priest who was conducting prayers above. Paul first prostrated himself along with other congregants, averting his eyes to avoid looking too long up into the blazing sun.  Then defying all protocols, he launched into an angry tirade at Jesus,  denouncing him as a “bastard”. Jesus, who  was on the pulpit, calmly asked him to come and sit at the front of the pews.  Then he belted off a sermon in which he not only bemoaned  why Paul was “persecuting” him but  sagely pointed out the error of Paul’s ways. Having listened to Jesus’s persuasive sermon, it dawned on Paul that  he had been blinded by sectarian dogma and immediately disposed himself to make amends,  profusely apologising to Jesus.  Later, Jesus asked Simon Zelotes ( who goes by the code name Ananias in ACTS chapter 9) to instruct Paul as to  why Jesus was indeed Priest-King. Simon Zelotes was at first reluctant to address him, considering his reputation as the foremost afflicter  of the Jesus movement but he at long last relented. Metaphorically, Paul had hitherto been “blind”: now after his enlightenment by Simon Zelotes, he “saw the light of life”, a phrase  that we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. But it was not until three years later, in AD 43, that Paul was fully converted to the Jesus cause.

OTHER THAN THE DAMASCUS INCIDENT, WHAT EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE CAN YOU ADDUCE THAT JESUS DID INTERACT WITH PAUL POST THE CRUCIFIXION?
One is 2 TIMOTHY 2:9. In the passage, Paul, who was under house arrest in Rome at King Agrippa II’s house (whilst awaiting his first trial before Roman governors Felix and Festus) sent a coded message that “The Word of God is no fettered”. “The Word  of God” as we have long demonstrated was the pesher name for Jesus. The message Paul was trying to convey was that Jesus was free: he had not been pounced upon by the Roman authorities, who were looking for him not  as the Jesus who had been crucified but as “Chrestus”, the underground leader of the Christians in Rome.   

AT THE TIME OF HIS CONVERSION, PAUL IS SAID TO HAVE BEEN IN DAMASCUS WITH A MANDATE BY THE HIGH PRIEST TO ARREST CHRISTIANS. WAS DAMASCUS PART OF PALESTINE AT THE TIME?
No: Damascus was part of Syria and the High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple had no jurisdiction in Syria. In fact, his jurisdiction was restricted to Judea only. The Damascus Luke alludes to in ACTS is actually Qumran, the Essene headquarters in the Judean Wilderness. The Dead Sea Scrolls’ Damascus Document makes it plain that Damascus was actually a name the Essenes had earmarked for Qumran in a liberated Israel and therefore used in their coded writings.

WHY, WHEN, AND HOW DID PAUL CHANGE HIS NAME FROM SAUL TO PAUL?
Luke uses the name Saul until ACTS 13:9, when he switches to Paul. People have had the misconception that it was Jesus who renamed Saul as Paul upon his conversion. That’s simply not true. ACTS 13:9 says “Paul, who was also called Paul”, not “Saul, who became known as Paul”. What that means is simply that Paul went by  both names since childhood. It was typical for first century Jews to have an original  Jewish name and a secondary Greek name, e.g. “John, also called Mark” (ACTS 12:12) and  Paul's companion Silas (ACTS 15-18), who was also known as Silvanus (2 CORINTHIANS  1:19). Paul means “a small man”. Certainly, Jesus would never have christened  the apostle who was destined for great things with such a disparaging name. Saul therefore must have been also called by the name Paul from childhood apparently because he was of a slight physical stature.  Luke’s onward reference to him as Paul from ACTS 13:9 was meant to underline the fact that before his conversion, he persecuted the Son of David, Jesus, just as the first Jewish King,  Saul, persecuted Jesus’s genealogical father David before he became king. Upon his conversion, therefore, the name Saul had to be discarded completely since it had a negative historical connotation.  

WHAT WERE THE SPECIFIC ROLES OF PAUL AND SIMON PETER IN WORLD EVANGELISM?
James had decided that both were going to be his evangelistic ambassadors to the Roman world.  But Paul  was to concentrate on ministration to Gentiles, whilst Simon Peter was to devote himself to Jews of the Diaspora.   

WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE THEOLOGY OF JAMES AND THAT OF PAUL? FOR JUDGING FROM GALATIANS AND THE EPISTLE OF JAMES, THE TWO DID NOT EXACTLY GET ALONG.
James’ brand of Christianity was Judeo-Christianity. It was Christianity that was strictly Torah-observant. On the other hand, Paul’s brand of Christianity was a radical one which sought to breakaway from the straitjacket of Judaism, to forge a standalone religion. The Christianity that   is observed today in all of Christendom is all Pauline Christianity.  For example, Paul preached that faith in Jesus alone was sufficient for salvation, whereas James strongly countered that, scoffing that faith had to be accompanied by good and exemplary works; otherwise, it was a dead faith.  Paul’s Christianity elevated Jesus to the status of a God-Man, whereas James’s Christianity received Jesus as a mere mortal but who was larger than life anyway. Because of Paul’s radical theology, there came a time when James had to send deputations  to Asia Minor to try and undo the damage Paul’s theology had wrought. James and others called Paul the “Man of Lies”, a tag that we constantly encounter in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

JUST HOW PRONOUNCED WAS THE TENSION BETWEEEN PAUL AND JAMES AS YOU HINTED IN ONE OF YOUR ARTICLES?
It was a heated one. Paul never exactly accepted James’s authority because he (Paul) was in constant touch with Jesus up until the time he (Paul) he died. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul angrily ticks off the men who came from James to right the “falsehoods” he had preached. He actually cursed them (GALATIANS 1:9) and crudely added: “I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves” (GALATIANS 5:12). He argued that he was commissioned into ministry not by any ordinary man (meaning James) but by “Christ himself”. He publicly denounced Simon Peter, who was wavering between the theology of James and that of Paul, as a hypocrite (GALATIANS 2:11-14).

IF JESUS WAS NOT GOD, WHY DID PAUL GO TO THE EXTENT HE DID IN PROJECTING HIM AS SUCH AND AT THE  RISK OF HIS OWN LIFE?
The Anunnaki (Enlil-Jehovah’s faction) hoodwinked him into doing so. Remember, Paul did not launch into outright evangelism after his conversion. He says he first went to Arabia for three years. It seems it was whilst he was in Arabia that he was indoctrinated by the Anunnaki to propagate a new religion that would project Jesus as God as part of their futuristic agenda to enslave mankind both spiritually and psychologically. In return, the Anunnaki promised him rich afterlife rewards on their planet Nibiru (2 TIMOTHY 7:8), to which they even astral-projected him at one time to demonstrate to him that his labours would indeed not be in vain (2 CORINTHIANS 12:2).     

HOW DID PAUL AND THE OTHER APOSTLES DIE?
Paul was put to the sword by Roman Emperor Nero in AD 64 after serving time at the notorious Mamertine Prison along with Simon Peter (Paul makes reference to his stint here in TIMOTHY 4:21/26 and PHILIPPIANS 1:13). Simon Peter was also crucified upside-down by the same anti-Christian emperor in the same year. Jesus, who was in Rome at the time (using the cover name Chrestus)  actually decided to come out of hiding and hand himself over to the Roman  authorities (who were looking for the ring leader of the Christian movement)  but Simon Peter  urged against the move, insisting he was ready to die in his stead. Simon Zelotes died whilst performing a levitation feat in Rome in the AD 40s.   Of course we know what happened to Judas Iscariot, James the son of Zebedee, and James the Just. Only the apostle John lived to a ripe old age and died a natural death. As for the other apostles, the manner of their deaths as handed down to us is all embellished myth, with no tangible facts whatsoever.

NEXT WEEK: QUESTIONS ON THE PRIESTLY MESSIAH

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GONE FISHING

28th March 2023

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!

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“I Propose to Diana Tonight”

28th March 2023

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

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RAMADAN – The Blessed Month of Fasting

28th March 2023

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.

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