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Cyrus Frees the Jews

Benson C Sail
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Meanwhile, all sorts of complications arise that throw a question mark over the legitimacy of Jesus

Nabunaid returned to Babylonia in  539 BC, when he heard that Cyrus, the mighty Persian King, had Babylon in his sights. It seemed the Babylonian  priesthood had somehow become disenchanted with his regent Belshazzar’s rule when initially  he had been their darling. For when Cyrus marched into the city of Babylon, he was welcomed in the manner of a messiah. The propaganda word Cyrus put out there was that he had been expressly  invited by the Babylonian god Marduk himself.

Whilst Belshazzar was killed, probably because he wanted to get up to some kind of mischief, Nabunaid was spared and so lived to a ripe old age. Having grasped the hand of Marduk as a sign of the god’s seal of approval, Cyrus  was prompt in effecting radical reforms in his new empire, which extended to the “Four Corners of the Earth” as he brashly announced in his inscriptions. Perhaps the happiest beneficiaries of his reforms were the Jews.

He declared their exile over, consented to the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, and ordered that all the articles Nebuchadnezzar had looted  of the destroyed Temple be returned.    Cyrus also proclaimed a general amnesty that allowed people to worship any god they pleased and not be force-fed a faith. The Jews, however, did not return all at once. The return occurred in waves and over a period of 110 years. The first wave comprised of 50,000 Jews and set off in 538 BC. They were led by Zerubabbel, who Cyrus appointed as the new governor of Israel.

The second wave was led by Sheltiel, Zerubabbel’s son. About 42,360 Jews were participants in this wave. With this reinforcement, the Temple was rebuilt and completed in 516 BC. The third wave of returnees set  off in 458 BC. They were led by Ezra the scribe. Ezra was at the head of 5000 Jews. The fourth and final wave was led by Nehemiah, who was cup-bearer to the Persian King and who took over from Zerubabbel as Israel’s next governor. It is not known exactly how many Jews were in this group though it must have comprised a good number of the Jewish nobility as it was escorted by a sizeable contingent of the Persian army.

Nehemiah was responsible for performing the feat of constructing the Jerusalem wall in only 52 days. He was in Jerusalem for 12 years before he returned to Persia to resume his royal court  duties but he was forced to beat a path back to Jerusalem in 431 BC to help arrest the deteriorating security, religious, and social  conditions. Altogether, there were about seven Jewish governors  of Judah from circa 538 BC to 443 BC. The last governor was Hananiah, whose exact circumstances are unclear. In the next 200 years after Hananiah, Persia dominated all of the Middle East and Egypt, During all this time Palestine was a client state of Persia and was directly ruled by a Persian governor.

WAS JESUS OF A CURSED LINEAGE?

There is a section of the gospels which practically nobody reads, including pastors. This is the genealogy, the lineage of Jesus.  Throughout the 30 years or so that I have been a Christian, I have never heard a single sermon on the genealogy of Jesus. This is unfortunate because the genealogy, when investigated by cross-reference with Old Testament records, yields some very valuable insights on the ancestry of Jesus. Furthermore, it provides context as to why he was such a love-him-or-loathe-him figure as well as why the circumstances of his birth were overshadowed by a scandal that continued to haunt him for the rest of his life.  

The genealogies are found in MATTHEW 1:1-17 and LUKE 3:23-38. The scope of each of the two genealogies is tailored to the audiences for whom the gospel narratives were primarily intended.  Matthew was fundamentally writing for the Jews; hence he begins his genealogy with Abraham, the father of the Jewish race. On the other hand, Luke, a Greek, targeted Gentiles. Accordingly, he began his genealogy with Adam, the father of the human race.

Why did Matthew and Luke deem it necessary to furnish a genealogy of Jesus? Certainly, if Jesus was a God-man, as the bulk of Christendom believe, there would be no need for a genealogy. God will not need details about his family background. The only reason, therefore, why the two evangelists decided to include a genealogy in their accounts was because they wanted to set down   evidence of Jesus’s royal credentials. They wanted to demonstrate that Jesus was a descendent of David, Israel’s covenant king, and therefore had the right pedigree.

Both Mathew and Luke do articulate Jesus’ Davidic connection. The very first line of Matthew’s gospel reads, “This is the record of the ancestry of Jesus Christ, the son of David …” In LUKE 1:32, we’re told, plainly, that Jesus would “sit on the throne of his father David”.  It was the Jews’ Anunnaki  “god” Ishkur-Adad – generically called Yahweh in the Bible – who through the prophet Nathan declared to David during his waning days that only  a Jew of  Davidic stock would ever rule Israel (2 SAMUEL 7:12-16).

Since “God” so said, the Jews simply never accepted anybody who wasn’t a descendent of David to rule over them.  For example, King Herod (reign: 37 BC to 4 BC) went out of his way to try and win the devotion and affections of the Jews. He even built a magnificent Temple for good measure, the globe’s architectural masterpiece of the day. The Jews were unmoved.

Being   half-Arab, Herod was not a true blue Jew. Worse still, he did not have a single drop of Davidic blood coursing in his veins.  Even the prophets themselves – Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc – referred to Israel’s throne as “David’s throne”, that is, one worthy only of a descendent of David and no less. Yet although Jesus was of Davidic lineage, he was tainted in two ways. FIRST, THERE WAS A CURSE ONCE UPON A TIME IN HIS ANCESTRY. SECOND, HE WAS BORN IN CIRCUMSTANCES ANATHEMA TO A DYNASTIC HEIR.  
 
THE CURSE OF JECONIAH

The Jewish king who caused problems for Jesus, who considerably dented his legitimacy, was Jeconiah (also known as Coniah and as Jehoiachin). In terms of monarchical  profile, Jeconiah was dismally undistinguished. He officially ruled over Judah for only three months but the effect he had on the fate of his nation was probably of eternal proportions.   

Jeconiah ascended to the throne at the very tender age of 18, on December 9, 598 BC, following the foul death of his father Jehoiakim.  Then just after 100 days on the throne, he was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar on March 15, 597 BC (“beware the ides of March” a soothsayer had warned Julius Caesar) and led into incarcerated exile in Babylon. In the greater scheme of things, his fate was inevitable: it was part of a series of  Seven Chastisements Ishkur-Adad, had pronounced upon the Jews for diluting their loyalty to him with intermittent worship of rival “gods” (LEVITICUS 26:27-28 /PSALMS 12:6)). However, since the Babylonian Chastisement, the second of the seven, occurred on Jeconiah’s watch, a sadistic Adad slapped a further curse on him personally (?).    

Adad pronounced the curse through the prophet Jeremiah thus: “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot, a vessel no one cares for?  Why are he and his children hurled and cast into a land that they do not know? O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days, for none of his seed shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah (JEREMIAH 22:28-30).” The boy king did no wrong: he incurred a personalised curse all because a national curse took effect when he was reigning. We Christians ought to wake up: our “God” is a joke really!

The Kingdom of Judah was not left without a king though as Nebuchadnezzar appointed his own client king in place of Jeconiah. This was Zedekiah, Jeconiah’s 21-year-old uncle, another youngster. About ten years later, Nebuchadnezzar struck again after an intransigent Zedekiah revolted.  This was the beginning of the Babylonian captivity proper, when Solomon’s Temple was razed to the ground and virtually every able-bodied Jew, including Zedekiah himself, was matched off to Babylon.

To ensure there was no rabble-rousing heir for the Jews to possibly rally around, all of Zedekiah’s ten sons, who included toddlers, were killed in cold blood and Zedekiah had his eyes gouged out. He was to die whilst in captivity. The exile ended in 539 BC, when Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon and issued a decree to free the Jews. As highlighted above, the Jews left in batches.

The Jews naturally did not recognise Zedekiah as their king. Only Jeconiah counted as he was the linear and anointed king. At the same time, they were well aware of the fact that he was accursed, including his descendents, which meant that there was never going to be another King of Judah from his loins. That was what complicated things for Jesus. He was legally a descendent of Jeconiah and was by rights disqualified from ever occupying the throne of Judah. But did the Jeconiah curse indeed invalidate the accession of Jesus to the throne of a liberated Israel?     

A CANCELLED CURSE

Let us take another look at the Jeconiah curse. There were three aspects to the curse. First, Jeconiah would not prosper in his life time. Second, his own descendents too would not prosper. Third, none of the Jeconiah offspring would ever be King of the Jews. We will begin with Jeconiah himself. Contrary to the wishes of his god, JECONIAH DID ACTUALLY PROSPER.   True, Nebuchadnezzar did confine him to jail but he was released after 36 years, on March 27,  561 BC, by  Nebuchadnezzar’s successor Merodach.

What happened upon his release? Merodach exalted him above every other king that was in captivity in Babylon at the time (2 KINGS 25:27-28).   In other words, Jeconiah became a national patriarch in a foreign domain, a kind of elder statesman whose views in regard to the affairs of the nation were periodically sought. This may come as a shock to Christians but prophecies did not always come true. 

For instance, this was what a “major” prophet had said about Jeconiah: “And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon saith the LORD: for I will break the yoke of the King of Babylon” – JEREMIAH 28:4. The same Adad who had surrendered Jeconiah and the rest of Judah for that matter into Babylonian bondage declared that he was nonetheless going to ensure that Jeconiah returned to Judah some day. This prophecy never came to pass as Jeconiah died right in Babylon. The Bible is full of consistencies which Christians tragically, hypocritically, and therefore comically  assume away.

It is clear from these developments that the Jeconiah curse did not bear out in full measure: only the element of a descendent of his never having to sit on the throne of Israel was fulfilled though this was simply in the nature of things and not because Adad intended it. I say this because THE JECONIAH CURSE ACTUALLY LAPSED. In JEREMIAH 22:24, Adad had said thus to Jeconiah: “As surely as I live … even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim King of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.”

Adad had compared Jeconiah to a signet ring, a symbol of divine as well as monarchical authority: Adad  himself  wore this ring and so did other members of the Anunnaki royalty and Egyptian kings.  Now, let us listen to what another prophet of the same Adad said to Zerubbabel upon his return from Babylon:  “On that day … I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel … and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you … (HAGGAI 2:23).”

Adad here designates Zerubbabel as a potential king by likening him to his signet ring. Clearly, the Jeconiah curse was at this point rendered null and void. It explains why Jerubbabel,  Jeconiah’s grandson legally speaking, did prosper: when the exile ended, he was not only instrumental in resettling the freed Jews in Jerusalem but he was appointed governor of Judea.     

Sadly, the matter of the status of the Jeconiah curse was a rather grey area to the Jews of  Jesus’ day. Some thought Jesus was not entitled both to the symbolic and literal throne of Judah as his ancestral line had been the subject of a curse. This was the more influential view. Those who recognised that the curse had been withdrawn as per prophet Haggai were in the minority. Since the matter was not settled with cut and dry finality,  later Christian redactors inserted phrases in the gospel texts  that made it look like both Matthew and Luke had intimated that Jesus was not fathered by Joseph but was begot supernaturally.  

IN TRUTH, HOWEVER,  JESUS WAS UNAFFECTED BY THE JECONIAH CURSE.   
 
THE ROLE OF NERI

Both Mathew and Luke were cognisant of the Jeconiah curse and the problems it threw up for Jesus. In their accounts, therefore, they made sure it was somewhat disambiguated. How?
Let us begin with Matthew. On concluding his genealogical line-up, after the words “Jacob became the father of Joseph”, Matthew adds: “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Contrary to what some ranks of the so-called scholars aver, this statement had nothing to do with the drivel that Joseph was not the real father of Jesus or that Jesus was born to Mary only by supernatural means, without the involvement of a male agent. 

Mathew featured Mary in a genealogy  she was not part and parcel of,  the genealogy of  Joseph,  for two reasons only. The first one was to demonstrate that Jesus was a descendent of  David not only through Joseph but through Mary as well. As such, the Jeconiah curse  had to be evaluated  in this context. Matthew, however, did not expand on his point.    Noting this shortcoming, Luke decided to plug it. Now, Luke is my most favourite evangelist.

Like the other three, he is not consistently truthful and even shows bias in some respects but he is the most accurate historically as even scholars now almost unanimously agree. The man was not only a chronicler but he was an intellectual, a doctor, and so he made sure he meticulously investigated everything to make sure what he set down was in general unimpeachable (LUKE 1:3-4). Whilst Matthew traces the ancestry of Jesus through Joseph, Luke does so through  Mary. Both Joseph and Mary were descendents of David but Joseph came through the line of Solomon, David’s heir, whereas Mary came through the line of Nathan, Solomon’s  elder brother.

According to Luke, Joseph and Mary’s lines did converge at Shealtiel as indeed the two genealogies bear the name Shealtiel. However, what Luke found was that Shealtiel was not the son of Jeconiah but the son of Neri (LUKE 3:27).  WHAT MUST HAVE HAPPENED WAS THAT WHILST IN PRISON AND CONSCIOUS OF THE RAMIFICATIONS OF HIS CURSE,  JECONIAH   ASKED HIS COUSIN NERI OF THE LINE OF NATHAN TO “SERVE”   HIS (JECONIAH’S) WIFE AND SIRE HEIRS FOR  HIM PARTICULARLY THAT HE WAS NOT SURE WHEN HE WOULD BE RELEASED FROM JAIL.

Such arrangements, called levirates, were common among Jews particularly when a wealthy or dynastic relation died childless or simply was infertile. Thus whilst Jeconiah was the legal father of Shealtiel and at least four other children out of Jeconiah’s  seven, their biological father was actually Neri. That way, the Jeconiah curse was rendered invalid, with all descendents henceforth – Jesus included – benefitting  from such a setup. Indeed prophet Haggai’s euphoria over Zerubbabel says it all. But as  I have already indicated, the issue was quite a sticking point to the Jews of Jesus’ day and therefore remained a divisive bone of contention indefinitely.  

NEXT WEEK:   NEW ERA DAWNS ON EARTH

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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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