Live from Cairoston

Most dreams I have evaporate as soon as I wake up, but today’s precipitated heavily on my heart. I can extract the sources of many of its symbols, but nevertheless, the take-home message is one I will be reflecting on.

Notably, this was a long dream, with an elaborate scenario. Our town was being invaded by a cult (source: reference to the “cult of Harun Yahya” in a critical article I recently read). The leader of the cult was a religious figure I encountered in Lausanne. Under his leadership worked an army of gruesome 1-foot-tall aliens and hypnotized teenagers. They had already seized a high-school and devoured most of its students. The main character of the dream managed to escape from the school and reach the State Police barracks in the neighboring town. Incidentally, the cult seized the SP barracks in the town they were invading. From a megaphone, the cult leader began to speak softly and calmly thus luring the population of the town hypnotically to come to him (source: Guyana Tragedy). The main character of the dream sneaked into the invaded town where people were now dark under their eyes and confused. The cult’s plan was to gather everyone in one place and execute them all in one blow.

The main character manages to enter a police station where chaos is erupting. In the midst of this turmoil he suddenly enters a state of calmness and approaches a metal door next to the police station’s entrance. The main character knows that this is the “Gate of Umar” (source: thinking about Umar ibn al-Khattab and his Shariah-inspired politics/management or Siyasah Shar’iyyah, the gate must be in reference to the hadith in which Umar is the gate blocking fitna/turmoil). [In the dream] the Prophet Muhammad had declared, “No one enters through this gate except Umar.” This statement was similar to the tone in his declaration that all house doors leading to the courtyard of the mosque were to be sealed off except for that of AbuBakr.

However, the main character of the dream, although he wasn’t Umar, approached the gate with a resolve to enter it. Not only that, but the guard – appointed to prevent anyone from entering it after the death of Umar – acknowledged his attempt and in fact instructed him that it’s the right panel, not the left that is to be pushed. As the main character opens the “Gate of Umar,” he enters into a small courtyard, in the background he can hear the music from ‘Gladiator’ when Russell Crowe is killed at the end of the movie and opens a door to the afterlife. As he enters the courtyard, he sees a hypnotized teen pass by and a heart drawn on the inner wall gets peeled off and evaporates in the air. He hears someone read from Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, “Thus, either the single individual stands in absolute relation to the absolute, or Abraham is lost.”

At the end of the courtyard was another gate which opened to the street, as the main character traversed the courtyard and exited from the other side, he was no longer who he used to be, but was now Umar himself, with a white thawb and beard. In entering through the gate of Umar, he became Umar. “Umar” now crossed the street and proceeded to a known destination. I, the dreamer, do not know where this “Umar” is going, but I see him entering quietly into a small building and being greeting in whispers by a young adult. “Is everything ready?” Umar asks, to which the young man nods. All of the sudden, we see a stream of young children coming out from a room they were hiding in. They know this “Umar” and they smile at his arrival. He hugs some, kisses others and wipes on their heads. I, the dreamer, am shocked when I see the young man hand Umar an axe (source: The Hunting Party). One by one, Umar goes to each child, rests them on the floor and deals their neck a blow with the axe! He finishes them all, then goes back to some few who were moving, and deals them another one to put them to rest (source of sacrifice: Fear and Trembling).

I wake up.

I woke up thinking about this heavy dream, in which “Umar” to protect the children from the invading cult in fact kills them himself. I reflect on the absurdity of this plan and remembered Mishmish, my cat. The first time Mishmish gave birth to three kittens, she ate them all! I didn’t know how to explain this except that she wanted to protect them and by keeping them inside of her she was doing just that. As absurd as it might have seemed, I could only see a mother’s instinct.

“Umar” to protect the children, killed them himself. I then remembered the movie “The Hunting Party” which I had watched the day before, and wondered: If I were a [Muslim] Bosnian father and my village was under siege and the enemy was minutes from our home. As I look at my daughters I would see in them victims of gang-rape and murder. Would I, the loving father, kill them with my own hands rather than they be raped and killed at the hands of a heartless enemy? Would I, to protect my daughters kill them? If I were a Jewish father and the Nazi’s were approaching my home, would I think of my family’s fate in the gas chamber and rush to suffocate them myself in their sleep?

Such is the paradox of a bona fide sacrifice; to protect something you forsake it. For Abraham’s sacrifice of his son was but a sacrifice of Abraham. In killing his son, for the love of God, Abraham was incurring God’s wrath over the murderer. To protect God’s love to him, Abraham was forsaking it. That is how I see the paradox in Abraham’s action.

To protect God’s love, Abraham forsakes it. To protect his daughters the Bosnian father kills them. To protect his family, the Jewish father suffocates them. To protect her kittens, Mishmish eats them. To protect something I forsake it. That is a paradox. However, this paradox is easily explained in the case of “Umar”, the Muslim, the Jew and the cat, but not in the case of Abraham. For when killing their children they are not protecting their “lives” by forsaking their “lives,” but rather they are protecting their peace and rest, by an act of merciful and quick murder instead of succumbing to the endless brutality of a torturing enemy. Yes, they will no longer be alive, but they are resting and they are at peace.

Abraham on the other hand… is utterly different. For in sacrificing his son, he obeys the command of God in order to protect that flow of love emanating from the Divine to himself. However in spilling the blood of an innocent child he incurs the wrath of God. Abraham knows this fate, but he can only proceed, for to reject God’s command is also to incur his wrath. Abraham’s trial was that he was put into a situation where he must incur God’s wrath, at the time his journey in life was close to its end.

I can understand the Bosnian father, I can understand the Jewish father and I can understand the cat. Why, I can understand a nurse hit by Hurricane Katrina; responsible for terminally ill patients faced with imminent drowning, chooses to inject them with a lethal dose of pain-killer. I can even understand the Egyptian father, when losing all his savings in the stock market kills his family lest they suffer poverty. I can understand them, even though as a judge, I would not lessen their sentence (except for the cat). I, as a judge would not forgive them, I would sentence them the way a murderer is sentenced, but I would then take off my robe, go home and as Ahmed, I would pray that the Almighty forgives them.

But Abraham… What can I do for Abraham? After sentencing him the way a murderer is sentenced, how do I go home and pray that the Almighty forgives him, when the reason behind the test from the very beginning was to incur God’s wrath?? Abraham becomes all alone. Abraham’s test is to love God knowing that God will not love him back.

Thus, I cannot agree with Kierkegaard that Abraham proceeded with sacrificing his son because deep inside he knew that God would deliver them both. No, for that would resolve the paradox. Rather, Abraham chose to proceed because deep inside he knew that to love God while expecting reciprocity, is but an act of hypocrisy, and that true love… is one that does not waver if the loved does not respond.

Perhaps I can now understand Abraham, but for sure, I can never be like him.

If one returns once again to the dream, the hypnotic teen in the courtyard should not have been there. For this was a restricted area behind Umar’s gate. Rather than someone who entered the courtyard, I find this person along with the evaporating heart a symbol of the state the main character entered when he transformed into “Umar.” This new “Umar” became, to the observer, a hypnotic figure with no emotions as we know it. No longer can we sympathize with him nor appreciate his actions as sympathetic, and no longer can we trust his reasoning. This new “Umar” when shifting his attention off of “Life” and focusing on the abstract of Rest and Peace, exits the realm of human understanding. For man thinks and plots in this world so that he may survive, where the end product of his actions should be a longer life, whereas this new “Umar” is defeating the entire purpose of man’s actions. He becomes heartless and irrational. However to the new “Umar” he is expressing the utmost level of compassion.

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