Final Word on John the Baptist
Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…
This week, we conclude the Jesus Papers with questions on the ill-fated Messiah of Aaron
WHERE IS JOHN THE BAPTIST’S HEAD BURIED?
His disciples buried him in a tomb at Sebaste (Samaria). However, the exact location of his burial site was kept a closely-guarded secret for two reasons in the main. First, they wanted to keep alive the mystique of his being the Elijah who was expected to reappear and intervene in Jewish religio-politico affairs. Hence, making known the whereabouts of his resting place would have reduced him to a purely mortal man who would never reanimate and participate in temporal affairs again. Secondly, Jews in general frowned upon the adulation of tombs of prophets. That’s why Jesus in MATTHEW 23:29 railed at the scribes and Pharisees for their penchant to “build the tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous”.
I READ FROM SOMEWHERE THAT THE CAVE IN WHICH JOHN THE BAPTIST USED TO LODGE IN THE JUDEAN WILDERNESS HAS BEEN FOUND. IS IT TRUE?
It is true yes. The cave was discovered in 2004 following four years of archaeological excavations by Shimon Gibson and James Tabor at a place in Israel called Suba. The cave dated back to the 8th century BC. One of the reasons it was deduced the cave had been used by John the Baptist was that it had primitive drawings of him etched into its walls. The drawings showed a man wearing a skin garment, a bodiless head, and a platter with a sword across it, amongst other depictions. All these constitute aspects about the life and fate of the Baptist. The drawings of course must have been made by people who were making pilgrimages to the cave maybe a century or two after the Baptist’s death.
JESUS, THE DAVIDIC MESSIAH GOT MARRIED AND HAD OFFSPRING. ON THE OTHER HAND, JOHN THE BAPTIST, THE PRIESTLY MESSIAH, CHOSE A LIFE OF CELIBACY. WHY DID JOHN ELECT TO BE THE ODD ONE OUT?
There are basically two reasons why the Baptist opted for a chaste life. First, he was an Essene. Essenes in general disdained marriage. They thought coitus was a stain, somewhat, on one’s spirituality. Second, John’s father Zechariah also only reluctantly entered into marriage and only with a view to beget a heir. If he had his own way, Zechariah would have died without issue but he was persuaded by Simeon, his No. 2 in the Essene hierarchy, to produce a heir. Once he did that, he never had intimate relations with his wife Elizabeth ever again and they never ever lived together. This aversion to marry in all probability must have rubbed off on his son John. It was because John died without heirs (thus rendering extinct the Aaronite bloodline) that Jesus (who was part-Aaronite as his mother Mary was Aaronite) claimed both the Davidic messiahship and the priestly messiahship. The Jesus dynasty thus became the Melchizedek, or priest-kings, beginning with Jesus himself as Paul clearly lays down. Not long after the crucifixion, James, the immediate younger brother of Jesus, was installed as the high priest of the Essene community. Had John sired a heir, or had he had a brother, that would not have happened: his son or brother would have become the head of the Essenes.
WHAT DID JOHN THE BAPTIST MEAN WHEN HE SAID “YOU BROOD OF VIPERS?”
This denunciation (against the Pharisees) is found in MATTHEW 3:7 and LUKE 3:7. Jesus also uttered it in MATTHEW 12:34 and 23:33. It was an Essene phrase that was used to refer to lying tongues. A viper was the most poisonous snake found in the Palestine of the day and so it became a metaphor for a lying tongue. In JAMES 3:8, the tongue is described as a restless evil full of poison (snake venom). In the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Damascus Rule, the Pharisees are derided as people who “open their mouth with a blaspheming tongue against the laws of the covenant of God”. The phrase was therefore not a malicious insult as such but a figure of speech.
IN ONE OF YOUR ARTICLES, YOU SAID ZECHARIAH, THE FATHER OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, WAS KILLED BY AN AGENT OF JUDAS OF GALILEE, THE THEN LEADER OF THE ZEALOTS, IN 6 AD. ARE MATTHEW AND LUKE REFERRING TO THE SAME INCIDENT IN MATTHEW 23:35 AND LUKE 11:50-51?
MATTHEW 23:35 quotes Jesus as saying to the Pharisees, “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” In LUKE 11:50-51, Jesus is quoted as saying, “That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who perished between the altar and the temple.” The Zechariah Jesus is talking about in either passage is not the father of John the Baptist: it is Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest whose death in the temple by way of stoning is recorded in 2 CHRONICLES 24:20-22. Jesus cited the deaths of two martyrs from the first book of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and the last book of the Hebrew Bible (in the first century, 2 Chronicles was the last book of the Hebrew Bible, not Malachi as is the case today) to illustrate the persecution of the righteous since the foundation of the world to date. The “Barachias” in Matthew is a later insertion by a copyist: he does not appear in the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest Bible, nor indeed in any of the earlier manuscripts of the gospel of Matthew. The copyist seems to have confused the “Zechariah son of Barachias” mentioned by Flavius Josephus in his book Wars of the Jews who was killed by the Zealots in the temple when they seized power in AD 66 after overthrowing the Romans. Indeed, Luke, arguably the most reliable of the synoptic gospels, does not mention Barachias at all.
YOU SAID JESUS WAS AN ENKITE. WAS JOHN THE BAPTIST AN ENKITE TOO?
Yes he was. Jesus and John the Baptist were Essenes and all Essenes were Enkites (champions or instruments of the Enki clan’s agenda, Enki being the great Anunnaki figure who was pro-mankind having genetically engineered us into existence). The Age of Pieces, which numerically began in AD 1, was an age which the Enkites were to preside over (The Enlilites had presided over the Age of Aries, which lasted from 2160 BC to the hypothetical year 0) but the Enlilites led by Apollo (Utu-Shamash, the grandson of Enlil, the Jehovah of the Bible, who in the book of Revelation – an Enkite document – is referred to as Apollyon or Abbadon) hijacked it. The name John is actually Oannes in its antecedents and Oannes was the name Enki also went by as the Fish God or God of the Sea. The ubiquitous water symbolism in the gospels (by way of baptism) was essentially an Enkite motif.
IF I FOLLOWED YOU CORRECTLY, SOME OF JOHN THE BAPTIST’S DISCIPLES, SUCH AS SIMON PETER AND HIS BROTHER ANDREW, FLOOR-CROSSED TO THE JESUS MOVEMENT. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REST OF JOHN’S FOLLOWERS?
Although Jesus and John were Essenes in substance, they were basically a faction within the overall Essene fraternity. When the two leading dynastic personages banded together to spearhead the messianic movement in AD 23, they called it the Nazarenes. The term meant two things basically. One meaning was “fishes”. The other was “branchites”. The fish connotation had to do with John, whose name derived from Oannes, the Sumerian Fish God Enki (Note that the Christian symbol in the first century was not a cross: it was a fish. The idea of the cross was devised by the Catholics). The branch connotation had to with Jesus, who as the Davidic heir was a Davidic branch. But Jesus and John did split in AD 29 and therefore had their own disciples. After the crucifixion, Jesus’s disciples were now led by his younger brother James the Just. On the other hand, John the Baptist’s disciples were led by a man known as Banus, who Josephus talks about and even apprenticed with. But in AD 37, the bulk of the followers of John the Baptist left Judea to escape the mass persecution of the Nazarenes that was led by the as yet unconverted Paul. They eventually settled in today’s southern Iraq. They are called Mandeans. The Mandeans continue to revere John the Baptist, who they call Yahia Yuhana, and hate Jesus like the plague. They denounce Jesus as a rebel (for breaking with John the Baptist) and as a heretic (for betraying Gnostic secrets).
WHO WAS SENIOR BETWEEN JESUS AND JOHN THE BAPTIST?
I thought I amply dwelt on this point in the course of the series. In the gospels, there is clearly a deliberate attempt to subordinate John the Baptist to Jesus, especially in the gospel of John, when the fact of the matter was that John was senior. History is written by the victors and through the likes of Paul, who wrote almost half the New Testament, and the subterfuge of the pro-Jesus Nicene Council of AD 325, which decided what had to go into the Bible and what should be left out, Jesus was elevated to a God-Man and as a result every other contemporary figure of note became little more than an also-ran. In the event, John the Baptist was almost totally eclipsed by “The Lord”. What is ironic though is that Jesus himself made it clear that John was the greatest man who ever lived (maybe with a touch of hyperbole but telling all the same). This is made much more clearer in the Hebrew version of Matthew, not the doctored Greek version (the familiar English translation) the men of the pulpit like to quote. The Hebrew version has Jesus state, unequivocally and unqualified, that, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John”, period. Jesus also says in the same Hebrew version that, “For all the prophets and the law spoke concerning him (John)”. Jesus goes on to say, “John was sent to save the world”. All these statements I have cited were altered in the Greek version in a bid to deliberately diminish John. Note that Jesus and John were Essenes and in the Essene hierarchy, the seniormost was not the Davidic heir but the high priest. That’s why high priest Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, was senior to Joseph, Jesus’s father. Both Jesus and Joseph were third in the hierarchy. It was only after the death of John the Baptist that the Davidic heir also became the high priest.
HOW HAVE CHRISTIANS RECEIVED THE JESUS PAPERS BEN?
Surprisingly, they have been the most avid readers of the series. About three quarters of the questions came from Christians, including pastors and elders. They said they felt safe to ask questions since I do not publish names of questioners. I constantly get invitations to propound to them face to face but I’m reluctant to do so as it is not my intention to be a mini-celebrity.
YOU SAID YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN DESPITE YOUR FORTHRIGHT CRITIQUES ON THE FIGURES WHO LAID THE FOUNDATION FOR THE FAITH. WHAT DOES YOUR PASTOR SAY ABOU YOUR WRITNGS AND WHAT ROLE DO YOU PLAY IN YOUR CHURCH?
I’m a Christian yes and I’ll always be a Christian. I fellowship at a Pentecostal church in Gaborone. I enjoy the vibe of church fellowship in itself and the fact that I always learn something new from the sermons. These new insights are not doctrinal as such: they are about leading a morally upright life. Pastors rarely teach doctrine (a huge lapse): they concentrate on morals and righteousness because it is a more straightforward subject. Even at home, I like listening to telecast sermons by Joel Osteen, Dr Charles Stanley, Fred Price, Jentzen Frentzen, Joseph Prince, Joyce Meyer, and the late Myles Munroe. In the past, I used to be leader of our cell group but I excused myself at some point as the teachings I was expected to help inculcate were overwhelmingly at odds with the knowledge that was now at my command. But I do attend the cell group meetings once in a while, not to propagate my outlook but for sheer camaraderie. My pastor has never once engaged me about my writings. He strictly minds his own business.
BENSON “SHIT” SAILI, YOU HAVE DESTROYED MY FAITH. I THINK YOU ARE A FALLEN ANGEL STRAIGHT FROM THE PIT OF HELL. TRUST ME, THE DAY I GET TO LAY MY HANDS ON YOU, I’LL SEE TO IT THAT YOU ARE TOSSED INTO THE BRINE OF THE DEAD SEA ALONG WITH YOUR DEAD “SHITTY” SCROLLS!
You should do your homework Brother. The Dead Sea is so saline and therefore so dense that nothing sinks in it: everything stays afloat. I recommend that you use a gun instead. For as long as you aim well and target the right part of my body, you will achieve your goal much more decisively. So propose a rendezvous: I will be keenly waiting on you.
NEXT WEEK: WE BEGIN A NEWS SERIES
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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.