Connect with us
Advertisement

Moses Brazen Serpent

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

It was his symbol of Pharaonic authority way back in Egypt

Moses’ divorce from Miriam, his half-sister wife, took place at Hazeroth. From there, the Israelites moved to Rithmah  just slightly further north  within the broader Kadesh-Barnea  region, also known as the Wilderness of Zin or the  Wilderness of Paran,  but towards the border with Edom.

Here, Adad, the Anunnaki Jehovah of the exodus, ordered Moses to spy out the land he had pledged to the Israelites – Canaan. This gesture was crucial if they had to know the strength of the enemy and acquaint with the fertility and vegetation of the land they would eventually come to possess.Moses assembled a crack 12-man espionage team, one from each tribe. The team was led by Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim and Caleb from the tribe of Judah.

They were instructed to survey the Promised Land from the Negev Desert in the south to the “hill country” in the north (where the Jebusites, Hittites, and Amorites were concentrated).  The spies were expected to bring back with them specimens of crops that flourished in that land just to assure the doubting Thomases among the Israelites that the place of their bequest was indeed worthwhile, that it was worth dying for in the inevitable and in fact looming land-grab war.

The mission took 40 days to complete, which was reasonable for a rather spare piece of territory that was 240 km long and 96 km wide. The spy scouts were impressed with the fecundity and greenery of the Promised Land, which those days was not as arid as it is today. Particularly noteworthy was the valley of Eshcol, whose lush hillsides were awash with figs, grapes, and pomegranates. The fruits were so humongous in our time that would only be possible if they were GMOs, that is, genetically modified foods. 

A single cluster of grapes, for instance, had to be carried not by one person but two. When the scouts returned, they, on that basis alone, gave a very good report to Moses which was in affirmation of the fact that the Promised Land was the utopia it was touted as. “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” Sadly, that was the only good news they had in store for their compatriots. The rest was far from encouraging. Exactly what was that and what followed thereafter?

ADAD PRONOUNCES 40 YEARS OF PENAL WANDERINGS ON HIS PEOPLE

The scouts reported that most of the Canaanite cities were fortified. They were surrounded by walls as much as 20 feet thick and 25 feet high, with guards stationed on watchtowers. One city in particular struck fear in the hearts of the scouts. This was Hebron, as the Israelites would later call it, but at the time it was known as Kiriath Arba. Hebron was inhabited by a race of giants known as the Anakim, from whom the infamous Goliath arose. 

The Anakim, we have long learnt, were also known as the Nephilim, the offspring resulting from intermarriages between Earthling women and the Igigi, the space-based Anunnaki.  “We saw giants there, the descendants of the Anakim,” the scouts recounted. “All the people we saw were huge. Next to them, we were like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought too. We can’t go up against them: They are way stronger than us.”

There was yet another black mark against the Promised Land, the scouts reported. It   “devoured those living in it”, meaning it was prone to earthquakes, an observation which indeed had merit 
as Israel sits along the Syrian-African fault line, which runs along the border with Jordan. It is part of the Great Rift Valley that extends from northern Syria to Mozambique. The broader region has consistently experienced large-scale earthquakes every 80 to 100 years for centuries and a number of less deadlier ones in-between. About 30 years before the exodus, in 1365 BC, a serious earthquake had hit the Holy Land.

When news of the scouts’ report seeped through, a loud lamentation went up from the community of Israel in a manner akin to a mass funeral. They accused Moses and Aaron for setting them up so they ended up in the lion’s den and told the duo to their face that they would no longer recognise them as their leaders but would instead elect a new leader who would take them back to Egypt. When Joshua and Caleb took the floor and tried to reassure the people that contrary to the testimony of the other ten scouts the Israelite army was capable of defeating the Anakim in that they had an all-powerful god in Adad, the people thought the two were raving mad and even braced to have them stoned.

Having gotten wind of these goings-on, a livid Adad summoned Moses and there and then read the riot act. He said he was going to disinherit the Israelites, that is, disown them, since they were incapable of trusting him despite the many “wondrous” feats he had performed on their behalf.  Prostrating himself before Adad, Moses implored against this extreme measure, arguing all too vehemently that Adad would lose face in the eyes of the  Egyptians if he so did as he would come across to them as a capricious and feckless  god who left his people in the lurch after having brought them this far.

To his credit, Adad relented upon hearing Moses’ entreaties. However, he made two comeuppance pronouncements nonetheless. First, all the ten scouts who filed the  negative report about the reconnaissance mission would be struck dead – for telling the truth (what a god!): only Joshua and Caleb, who spoke with an optimistic tone, would be spared. Second, he was going to banish the Israelites to endless, back-and-forth wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years, one year for each day of the duration of the espionage mission.

During the course of these 40 years, he would in one way or the other kill off those who were 20 years and older, save for the clans and offspring of Joshua and Caleb. Only the relations and progeny of Joshua and Caleb  would set foot in the Promised Land. On hearing this, the protesting elements changed tack. They now decided to detach from the Israelite contingent and invade Canaan on their own independent of Moses: that way, they would,  if successful,  avoid Adad’s diabolical scheme to systematically and methodically  erase them from the face of the earth. Sadly, they were  too few and as yet inexperienced.

BESIDES, THEY DID NOT HAVE THE ADDED BATTLEFIELD ADVANTAGE OF THE ALL-POWERFUL ARK OF THE COVENANT. They were soundly defeated and repulsed by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. Moses was gracious enough to welcome them back as they showed genuine penitence. Meanwhile, Adad made good on his promise to punish the ten spies whose negative report caused disquiet and panic among the Israelite population. He visited an unspecified  “plague” on them in which they all  perished. Exactly how Adad focused these plagues on his intended victims is a mystery.   

ADAD CONTINUES TO BARE HIS FANGS

Thus far, a pattern was emerging in relation to the dynamics between Adad, Moses, and the Nation of Israel.  The Israelites simply never learnt lessons despite the fact that Adad ruled them with an iron fist. They were an implacably stubborn lot.  The more Adad struck terror in their midst with his summary executions, the more hardened they became in  their resolve to defy him. It seemed they had become accustomed to witnessing terror wrought by their own god and therefore grown insensitive to it.

On his part, Adad was determined to exact retribution on them, sworn that he would never brook any nonsense. The slightest intimation of displeasure with him would be met by a disproportionately  but consistently heavy-handed response,  invariably capital punishment. If Adad’s killing spree was somewhat kept in check, it was thanks to the relative restraint forced upon him by Moses. Every time Adad pronounced doom on some ranks of the Israelites, Moses threw himself at his feet and begged him to either exercise mercy or show leniency.

Otherwise, had Moses been Adad’s yes-man through and through, his people would have long been decimated thanks to his god’s penchant for the perpetration of gloating evil. Moses, however, could only temper Adad’s excesses, not reverse them full circle.  Adad continued to unleash his cruelty and ferocity on his hapless people. To him,  if his chosen people did not learn lessons, that was all the more reason to hit them harder with each transgression.  

 
Four more killing episodes followed after Rithman while Moses was still their leader. The first concerned a man  who was found gathering wood on the Sabbath. Adad had decreed that no work of any kind must be done on the Sabbath. He ordered that the man be stoned to death, in line with EXODUS 35:2. The second had to do with what became known as Korah’s rebellion. Korah (a priest), two fellow ring leaders, and 250 others confronted Moses in a bid to impeach him for what they thought was his rather inept leadership.

Korah  was particularly disillusioned that the Promised Land wasn’t going to be had soon enough but it was now a thing of a very uncertain future considering what Adad had pronounced.  When Adad heard of what was happening, he had the three ring leaders “swallowed up by the ground on which they stood”. Again, this was no miracle. What simply happened was that they were frog-marched to a mudcrack site (which have a very hard crust but are very soft underneath, like thin ice on a pond, and abound in some parts of the Arabian desert especially around oases), where they were made to drown in the quicksand.

(It is clear the story was not exactly as related in the Book of Numbers. For example, NUMBERS 16:32 says the three died along with members of their families, but some of the psalms, which became fashionable during the reign of King David about three hundred years later, are attributed to the “sons of Korah”, suggesting they did not die along with their father).   Their  250 followers Adad terminated by strafing them with a fierce blaze from his flying saucer.

The following day, when the people swarmed in on Moses and set about accusing him of his being a supine accomplice of his god in the deaths of Korah and his loyalists, Adad sent a plague that killed 14,700 people. The third took place at a place known as Shittim, where the Israelites were camped, in the country of the Moabites. It so happened that some Israelite soldiers were plucking around with Moabite women. The Moabite  women not only lured the soldiers into a sex cult but enticed them into worshipping a Moabite god, that is,  an Enkite god. Once again, Adad had made it clear that “idolatory” would be punishable by death.  He ordered Moses to round up all the culprits and execute them in broad daylight. Altogether, 24,000 soldiers were killed.
     
MIRACLE OR MIRAGE?
 

Finally, there was the incident of the “snake bites”. The Israelites were en route to the Moabite country having set off from Mount Hor. The journey was an arduous one in that it was rather long-winded: they had to skirt the boundaries of Edom as the King of Edom had refused them permission to pass through his country. In the process, some among the Israelite army were so overcome with fatigue  they began to plot against Moses for bringing upon them such untold hardships.

The soldiers not only were famished, being sustained on the usual Tamarind manna, but they had parched throats owing to a dire shortage of water, as a result of which they grew nostalgic of  Egypt as they always were prone to do. According to the Pentateuch writers, Adad reacted by unleashing on them a swarm of highly venomous snakes in an incident that came to involve the famous Bronze Serpent and in which many soldiers are said to have succumbed to the snake bites.   

The story of the Bronze Serpent is one of the unseemliest of the Bible. It goes as follows according to NUMBER 21:4-9. “They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;  they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 

So the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.’ And Moses interceded for the people.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a  serpent of copper, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.’ And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”     

The story has two major anomalies. First, Adad had forbidden the Nation of Israel from making graven images. So how could he have instructed Moses to make a simulacrum of a snake when ordinarily such a gesture would have carried a death penalty meted out by he himself? Second, THE SNAKE WAS THE SYMBOL OF ENKITE GODS, more so Enki, Marduk, and Ningishzidda. These not only were sworn Enlilite rivals but they were the butt of  Enlilite jokes. Every  time Enlil sneered at Marduk, for instance, he referred to him as “the Great Serpent”. So how could Adad have gotten Moses to exalt a clan of rival gods? It all simply defies logic. Given the aforesaid contrarieties, how do we explain the incident?
 
BRONZE SERPENT WAS MOSES’ PHARAONIC STAFF

First, although the Pentateuch writers cast the swarm of snakes as a miraculous plague Adad visited on the Israelites, that was far from the case. The place in which the Israelites were trekking through after a successful military campaign against the Canaanite king Arad was the Arovar Valley, just below the twin-peaked Mount Hor. THEN AS NOW, THE BROADER SETTING OF THIS AREA WAS INFESTED WITH SNAKES AND SCORPIONS.

In the 7th century, a log of the Assyrian army under King Esaharddon when campaigning in this area described it as “a remote district, a desert plain of salty land, a region of droughts, with snakes and scorpions which cover the soil like ants.” Indeed, DEUTERONOMY 8:14-15 underscores the naturalness of this snake phenomenon in the area in these words: “The LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint.”

This was Moses talking in his valedictory speech to the Nation of Israel. SO THE EVENT WAS PERFECTLY NATURAL: THE ISRAELITES JUST HAPPENED TO FIND THEMSELVES IN AN EXPANSE OF WILDERNESS RIDDLED WITH HIGHLY POISONOUS SNAKES AND SCORPIONS. If people were mass-beaten by snakes (as they slept mainly as the Arovar snakes can simply pop out of the sand and strike), then the necessity of their healing did certainly arise. Exactly how were they healed?

The Pentateuch writers would have us believe that once again, Adad performed a miracle, by having Moses raise up a bronze snake to which every victim of a snake bite simply had to look and instantly be restored to full health. That is  a stretching of the truth: it is an embellishment of  the facts of the matter.  You will be aware by now that among the exodus caravan were Egyptians. And among these Egyptians were trained healers, known in Egypt as the Theraputae.

As Egyptians, the Theraputae worshipped or venerated Enki, who alongside his genius son Ningishzidda was reputed as the god of healing.  IT WERE THE THERAPUTAE WHO SPRANG INTO ACTION AND ADMINISTERED THE ELIXIRS THAT NEUTRALISED THE SNAKE POISON. For the Theraputae to perform such a duty, they insisted that their god, Enki, had to be at least momentarily exalted in the circumstances that prevailed, whereupon Moses had no option but  to cave in.

Now, the medium of exaltation was not a bronze pole that had to be set up on the spur of the moment. MOSES IMPROVISED WITH HIS OWN PHARAONIC STAFF THAT HE HAD COME WITH FROM EGYPT.  A pharaonic staff  was the symbol of a Pharaoh’s authority and was topped with a snake sculpted in bronze. Thus as the ranks of the Theraputae were busy doing their medical rounds, Moses held up his pharaonic staff for every patient to symbolically gaze upon.

Sadly, the story over time was infused with godly and miraculous overtones so that even during the time of Hezekiah King of Judah 600 years later, the Israelites were paying religious homage to Moses pharaonic staff in commemoration of the Arovah “miracle healing”! But there is still more to the bronze snake symbolism. That we unpack next week.

NEXT WEEK:   COPPER AND ENKI

Continue Reading

Columns

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!

Continue Reading

Columns

“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

Continue Reading

Columns

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.

Continue Reading