Saturday, August 28, 2004


Radhi's Pride

Allah bil Khair:
In Iraq, when someone enters a room or joins a gathering, he salutes all by saying "al Salaam alaikum" [May peace be upon you]. This is practiced not just in Iraq but all over the Muslim world. One of the social etiquettes unique to Iraq is that as soon as the person sits down, those present would say "Allah bil Khair!" [A truncated form of a sentence that means: May God bless you with a good morning, evening, etc.]. The person would respond with the same words. For some reason, this procedure is followed mainly by men and not often by women.

In farming in Iraq, tenant farming and farm hired labor are virtually unknown. The traditional form is known as share-cropping. The land-owner provides the land, management, working capital, irrigation water, seeds, fertilizers, machinery for working the land or harvesting. The share-cropper, who lives with his family on the land, contributes his labor. Once a year, usually after harvest, accounts are settled. After deducing all expenses, the net profit is shared 50-50. If the share-cropper bears the expenses, he takes two-thirds of the profits. This is the system most commonly used in central Iraq.


Radhi is a share-cropper at my farm; he is in his late 30's, mild-tempered and poor. A few years ago I noticed that Radhi was somehow unhappy, and even cross; he remained so for a number of weeks. I finally decided to find out what was bothering him. After a long and an oblique conversation, he came out with it: he reminded me that on one occasion, about a month back, he had come to join a gathering where I was too busy discussing something with somebody and I did not say "Allah bil Khair" to him!

I really had to work hard at convincing him that I had not intended to insult him or to imply in any way to others present that he was too insignificant!

I was reminded of this incident by someone who commented on an earlier post and was apparently angered by my contention that army officers felt bitter about being humiliated. His or her thesis was that life is more precious than pride.

You cannot ask these people to change their structure of values overnight… no more than you can ask Americans to do so. As a matter of fact, Islam, as does Christianity, frowns on pride and vanity… and it could not change that aspect in 1400 years of trying!

The issue is really even more compound. I think there are a lot more people in this country who can live with feelings of guilt than those who can live with shame!

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Listed on Blogwise