Friday, August 4, 2017


GOLDEN EDUCATION    I


You have certainly, as I have, heard or read existential questions as to why God did this or that, questions about Lucifer, about evil, about punishment, about free will, about Fate, about disaster, etc, etc. Such questions are anything but new : they have always been asked by believers and non-believers alike. Let me add one more question : Is it easy to believe? The Quran says : "And though thou try much, most men will not believe."  (12.103) "And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him)." (12.106) If I start asking why that is, I may not get the answers I want. So what to do ? Suppose you were (yourself or one member of your family) in a place (a school or anywhere else) and then somebody came in and started shooting at everybody. Would you then start asking who that person was or why he was doing that ? Or would you rush to safety ? Safety is hidaya (guidance).  "It is You we worship and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path –" (1 :5-6) If God says, for example, "And it is not for a soul to believe except by permission of Allah" , (10 : 100) I say right away "Guide us to the straight path –". If I flee from war and become a refugee a thousand miles away I should consider myself lucky, for many others have not had that chance. God help them. My safety comes first. Likewise, I will listen to God and I won’t argue with the arguers. "And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah's Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie." (6 : 116)
I, the author of this piece, am a Muslim because I was born into a Muslim family in a Muslim state. As a kid, I was used to seeing people around me perform their daily prayers, recite the Quran, observe the holy month of Ramadan, etc. I mean, everybody can be a Muslim. You only have to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger, to perform salah (ritual prayer), to pay the zakah, to fast during Ramadan, and to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the Ka`bah at Makkah, if you can afford it. That’s IslamIt's only when you start asking questions that you enter the area between Islam and Iman:  when you want to know why you should be a Muslim and not something else. It’s at this critical phase that a Muslim can either move up to the level of Iman or leave the Faith altogether.  One who, through personal experience and more knowledge, succeeds in discovering the truth and the beauty of Islam will move up, gradually, step by step, to the level of Iman and become a moomin (a believer), not only a Muslim, (a submitter). This person would want to live and enjoy a peaceful Iman experience: to live as a moomin, always trying to improve his Iman in an attempt to reach the level of Ihssan.  This is a long process that starts with "Guide us to the straight path –"  The personal experience and the necessary knowledge will come afterwards. You first build the house (that is Islam), then you put in the furniture (that is Iman), then you add in the home decorators (that is Ihsan). When you reach this level, God becomes your ally and protector. "Indeed, my protector is Allah, who has sent down the Book; and He is an ally to the righteous." (7 :196) "Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light." (2 : 257) Your life becomes good. "Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer - We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do." (16 : 97) It’s like your little heaven in the earth.
How do I know that I reached this level of the Faith ? The answer is :  (The true believers are those) "Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest! Those who believe and do right: Joy is for them, and bliss (their) journey's end." (13 : 28-29) "The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely –" (8 : 2) If I reach this level God says to me : "O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is you return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do." (8 : 105)
Can anybody reach this level of the faith ? Honestly, I don’t know. But why not try ? God says "So fear Allah as much as you are able" (64 : 16) "Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship" (concerning the rituals; that's different from trials.) (2 : 185) But He also detailed ways one can  work his/her way up through the Faith ranks. If I can't fast very often or worship at night while people are sleeping, for example, I may still rise in my Iman by enduring hardships and remaining steadfast in the worst ordeals. Anyway, God Alone will judge my Iman. But I can have clues/signs, just like I know whether I took or lost more weight. If I become pessimistic because of an ordeal, that’s a sign for something. If I remain patient and grateful no matter what happens to me, that’s a sign for something.
What about sins ? Can I sin and yet rise in my Iman ? Well, I can’t sin and get out of it safe and sound. A sin is a sin. There’s punishment in there. There’s no  la la land about it. God will punish me and show me the way I can correct myself. If I try in earnest to correct myself, if I repent each time I sin, that would probably not be a big problem. Tawba nasoh (definite repentance) will come ultimately. Man is fallable and anyone can sin, but men’s hearts differ. The Word of God will have a much better impact on someone who "hath a heart, or giveth ear with full intelligence." (Qaf : 37) "Your Lord is best aware of what is in your minds. If ye are righteous, then lo! He was ever Forgiving unto those who turn (unto Him)." (Al-Isra : 25)

Now, why do I sin ? Very often it’s either because I am pessimistic (and think God is not going to help me anytime soon) or because I feel self-sufficient and think that even God’s punishment would not affect my life anytime soon. Why should I expect God to help me ? Did  I become a Muslim to serve God or to make God serve me ? What if God gave me everything I wanted ? Would I even care about moving up from the level of Islam to the level of Iman ? God first gave me a chance to become a Muslim, now He gives me a chance to become a moomin (a believer). This is a grade, I have to work hard to get up there. I have to work hard psychologically and intellectually. So if God puts me in a pitiful situation, that’s my chance to create a harmony between the physical things I do as a Muslim (praying, fasting…) and the spiritual framework within which I do these things. By doing so, I give a meaning to my salah (prayer), to my fasting, to my pilgimage… I am not only imitating other people, I am translating the language of my own heart and mind into physical acts. This will not happen overnight : it comes bit by bit. God knows what I want. God knows what I need. God knows the limits of my patience more than I do. God knows everything about me, even before I was born. What matters now is my intention, is what I have at heart. Do I want to serve God or do I want God to serve me? If I just want God to serve me, I will remain no more than a Muslim, which is per se a GREAT thing). If I want to serve God, God will put the angels and the whole universe at my service. Trial by ordeal is painful. But I know that non-believers too go through painful experiences. It’s my intention, it’s my heart, that turns my painful experience into grades on the ladder of the Faith. It’s ups and downs. My Iman may go up very high, then it plummits, then it goes up higher than ever before, then it dies away, then it revives again and becomes stronger and stronger …until I find myself on the straight path. Yes, it’s a long experience, because the rule is : the higher you rise in your faith the harder your trials will be. Now, what if I fail a test/trial ? Very simply, I will be punished. When I feel alright, even if I am a moomin, I may fall to temptations, I may forget all the sufferings I experienced during my last ordeal. So God will remind me by a new ordeal. That good job which gave me such a strong feeling of security and self-suffiency, well, I'm losing it now. I try by all means to get a new job : all to no avail. My feeling of security is replaced by pessimism. What do I do ? Well, I either give in to my animal instincts, pushed by my overwhelming pessimism, or I remember my Lord and run to Him for safety. Unfortunately for me, God may not remove my calamity anytime soon indeed. He will wait for me to learn a lesson. God will wait for me to put more questions to myself, to go through a self-analysis, to think more objectively about the world around me, about life, about my role in this world, about my goal in this life. God will wait for me to be honest with myself. If I do this I will rise higher and higher in the Faith. As for the job, God created the whole world, how can’t He find me a good job, a good wife… ? If I am a true moomin God cannot only give me a good job, He can give me all the tools and means to grow, to become an eviable person.

Solomon said : My Lord! Forgive me and bestow on me sovereignty such as shall not belong to any after me. Lo! Thou art the Bestower. (35) So We made the wind subservient unto him, setting fair by his command whithersoever he intended. (36) And the unruly, every builder and diver (made We subservient), (37) And others linked together in chains, (38) (Saying): This is Our gift, so bestow thou, or withhold, without reckoning. (39)  (Sad) Not everybody can be Solomon. Not everybody can be rich –even in America and China. From the very beginning life was based on dualities, just like the whole world. Male and female, day and night, good and bad, rich and poor, faith and heresy. Both believers and non-believers can be poor or rich, but believers and non-believers do not approach life in the same way. Even believers do not approach life in the same way all the time. Hence, the importance of guidance. God will show me the way, but He will not always push me to do something or prevent me from doing something. God says : We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may observe right measure; and He revealed iron, wherein is mighty power and (many) uses for mankind, (Al-Hadeed :25) I’m not going to lecture you on what you could do with a knife or with your money or with your body. Just as I have a unique finger or ocular print, I can also have a different psyche, a different destiny from others. But I am not totally master my my destiny. Lo! this is an Admonishment, that whosoever will may choose a way unto his Lord. (29 Yet ye will not, unless Allah willeth. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise. (Al-Insan : 30) Even when it comes to remembering God. So whosoever will may heed. (55) And they will not heed unless Allah willeth (it). (Al-Muddathir : 56) God even cometh in between the man and his own heart (Al-Anfal : 24)  But God’s meddling in  my life will generally differ according to two things : 1) my faith (the degree of my faith in God ; 2) the kind of good God wants to grant me with sooner or later. Lo! my Lord is Merciful, Loving. (Hud : 90) But when I am leaving my place of work for the last time, without having any alternative in the offing, I may not even care about that good thing God may be keeping for me. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want sleepless nights. I don’t want to hear comments or see looks that make me feel small. I want happiness now, and for ever. Why should I be laid off by a human like myself ? Why should other people continue to go to work ? Why should other people live a normal life ? The same questions, my friend. They have always been asked by believers and non-believers alike. Reason alone cannot answer these questions. We only try to philosophize things, as I am doing in my blog. Because we know what’s in the Quran, we know what happens in life around us, but there are things we don’t know. And it’s these things we don’t know that make it hard for you and me to understand anything.

If I am a moomin (a believer), God gives me in the Quran an interesting example of how I could misinterpret God’s actions. The story of Moses with Al-Khidr (in the Surah of Al-Kahf) shows me that even a prophet cannot always understand God’s’behaviour’. This story shows that it’s quite normal (it’s human nature) if I cannot undertand what’s happening to me, because I am using human reason/logic to think about these things. The problem is not with reason, though. The problem is that we humans base our reasoning on data which may not be complete. God has all the data, that’s the difference. It’s like God managing my heritage without my knowledge but wisely

http://www.quranexplorer.com/quran/

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Suppose you were in a beautiful garden and then you got a call with bad news : chances are you’d forget all about the beauty of the garden. All your thoughts will focus on your SELF. There’s nothing more important to you than your SELF. And that’s normal. « Man was created weak. » (annisaa 28) Paradoxically, it’s at our moments of weakness that we pay attention to things we wouldn’t notice normally. This morning I went past a very old house on the outskirts of the city. It was in the worst possible state you could imagine. The French family who built this house and lived in it for years and years, during the colonial era, would be shocked to know that it has been turned into a dirty animal shed with lots of filth all around. Of all those French colons there remains one family in the whole area and it still lives in its old house. I have seen more than a dozen such uninhabited old houses in and around Sidi Moussa Elmajdoub, a rural commune, some miles away, which was called by the first French colons « La Suisse du Maroc » (The Switzerland of Morocco), however exaggerated that might be ; to everybody here the real Switzerland of Morocco is Ifran, in the Atlas Mountains. (When I visited Ifran with friends in 1995 I said if this is Ifran I wonder what Paradise is like !) Anyway, a few weeks ago I went to  Sidi Moussa Elmajdoub on foot and I was a bit dazzled  (once again) by the beauty of the valley and the artificial waterfalls built by the French and I can understand why the first colons called the place the Switzerland of Morocco. (At least at that time there was no dam on the river and so there must have been much more water than now.) The problem is, I was just going past a large graveyard, with lots of graves in it, when the rustic beauty of the valley snatched a broad smile from my face. I quickle forgot all about the graveyard and took pleasure in walking alongside the waterfalls. Such is the power of temptation ! But it is unislamic to feel and enjoy the beauty of the world ? Is it unislamic to live in a beautiful mansion in the middle of the greenery ?
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This beauty was made for us, but it can also turn against us. It’s like knide, you remember (chapter 1) ?
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So why should there be such pleasures in the first place ? Why should there be such a dazzling beauty ? Well, it’s the same place, the same Switzerland of Morocco, for the French colons, for those who lived there before them and for those live in there now. The same beauty, the same temptations, the same graveyard. But God did not make beauty only. He also allowed for there to be nasty things –for us to reflect. I wrote a whole post about trial : Why Sould I Be Tried?  So  you can understand that I’m talking here about trial.
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Even the soldiers who served the French colonial authorities were not all French. Many came from other French colonies. And the foreign people who were then in our cities and villages were not all French. Also there were local collaborators. We learnt all this at school. The question is, does onr choose to be a colon or a collaborator ? A colon or a collaborator may have a family and children to feed. These children will not necessarily know how their father got the money to buy them good food or good clothes or build them a good house. Another question is, what’s the difference between a house built with money made by collaborating and a house built with money made by legitimate trade, for example ? For a stranger, what matters is the look of the house : is it nice or not ? He will be thrilled at the beauty of the house, of the car, of the factory, of the children… even if he knows the origin of the money. It’s because people look at the look, not at the origin. If this stranger were poor or single or homeless, who would care about him ? He may even be of those who
(…)
Maybe the French family who lived in that old house (turned into an animal shed) enjoyed the beauty of the house and the area in that beautiful time, but then the French had to leave. Maybe they weren’t even happy with the money they got when they sold everything. I can imagine the house was beautiful like a beautiful French high school girl. You can’t compensate that with money. But why is the house so dirty now ? Is it because the owner of the place is so poor that he only cares about the money he gets from the animals ? Doesn’t he care about beauty ? Or could he be « a wise person » who believes beauty is transient ? Could he be happy with his life ? I don’t even know who it is, so I can’t answer those questions. But what would you do in his place ? What would you care about ? That’s a very big question.

I wonder whether you have ever seen a little child or teenager draw something in an old copybook that he wouldn’t show to anybody. The copybook is full of drawings of horses or pets or movie characters or imaginary or real persons –why ? You, who can’t draw, would say WOW ! You are amazed at the child’s creativity. But to him that’s quite normal, it’s natural. And suppose he wanted to show his « work », who would be interested ? Don’t you know of painters/writers…who were recognized as such only after their death or very late in their life ? Don’t you know of artists who died poor while their work brought lots of money to other people ? Does such an artist necessarily have someone in mind (an audience) when he creates something ?

You know, it’s springtime right now, and the other day I was walking in the nearby wood when suddenly my eyes fell on a beautiful wild flower. As I was looking at that particular flower I noticed other flowers just beside it –maybe much less beautiful, but each with a different colour, each with a different shape. Once I was leaving a school where I gave evening classes when a 17-year-old female student of mine waved to me and said in a voice filled with awe : « Teacher, look over there ! » She pointed almost with a trembling hand at a car that was parked across the street. Between us, my heart leapt when I saw the car. It was just marvellous. (Didn’t I say temptation is so powerful !) I understood why the girl was looking at the car with such reverence. Well, I too went around in that wood, walking slowly, going from path to path, looking with such wonder at all those wild flowers, examining, like a passionale botanist, the shape, the colour, the peculiarities of each flower. When you are in such a place, looking with your heart rather than with your eyes, you can’t help asking : But why did God make this flower grow here, at this particular place, where nobody will see or care about it ? How many people will come and spend half an hour going from flower to flower and looking at their colours and shapes ? Well, is the number so important ? You remember those verses at the beginning of this book ? "And though thou try much, most men will not believe."  (12.103) "And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners (unto Him)." (12.106) God knows all that ! He knows that only a few would ever care. God says :
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It’s for those people, who
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That God made that beauty. If God says to those people
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they will certainly say : No !
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This penitent servant (عَبْدٍ مُّنِيبٍ) will be sensible to all beauty : be it wild beauty in the woods or man-made beauty like that wonderful car parked in front of the school. But this penitent servant  will not be impressed too much by man-made beauty when he knows the origin. He will care as much about the look, not at the origin.
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This penitent servant  knows that it’s all trial.
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But here’s the problem ! If that is what you believe, well, you will be tested. You can’t feign, once or twice.
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If you pass the first test, prepare for the next. The higher you rise in your iman (faith) the harder your trial will be. And you’ll be tried with people around you, people who have wonderful cars, nice houses, good jobs, lovely children…and even people who don’t have anyhting at all.
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You’ll be like a lonely sailor in a pitiless sea, lonely except from God. Each time you go beyond a wave in this monstrous sea of temptations you say
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until  you reach the shore with the least damage. It’s a fascinating experience, but it’s very, very hard. It’s like learning chess on a software application, you go from level 1 to level 12. Except that you risk leaving plenty of feathers there!

Some people surpass themselves by practising certain sports or by engaging in certain adventures.
A
penitent servant  surpasses himself by practising his faith, on the ground, in reality. In either case, you’re doing that for the good of your own soul.
(…)
The world is full of people, but only a few of them mean to you. Your family and your friends mean to you more than anybody else. Idem for God. In the Quran we read :
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How can this one mean to God anything ? If you want to mean something to somebody you do something to please him, don’t you ? If you want to mean something to God you do something to please Him, don’t you ? But if you can lie to people, if you can feign to people, you can’t lie to God.
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All the temptations, all the glamour, all the beauty in the world was made for that purpose.
(…)
And just as we reveal to God that we are truly sincere, God reveals to us, through our tests, that when everybody lets us down, God alone stays by ours ide to support and save us. Just we know God more and more we end up loving Him.

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In the late 1980’s a classmate of mine shared with me a number of American magazines (Time, Newsweek…), and one day he said : « Look ! » At that age I was shocked. I still had a beautiful image of such American big cities as New York, Los Angelos… Several years before that an American tutor said to me : « Don’t think America is Paradise ! » But what my classmate wanted to show me in that American magazine was shocking, to say the least. Otherwise he wouldn’t even have thought of showing it me. And it was in an american magazine ! It’s serious. Waste –all imaginable waste– covering the ground between high scarpers on the streets of New York. As if that was not shocking enough, my classmate showed me in another American magazine pictures of American citizens sleeping in cardboard boxes on the streets of Washington, DC, the Capital of the United States of America. It was just unbelievable. Now, in hindsight, I would say : So what ? The neighbourhood where I grew up until age 22 was bordered with two small landfills. The whole neighbourhood has now disappeared, making way for a new residential area. The two landfills have disappeared too, and the two streets that lined the old neighbourhood are now as clean as most of the streets in the city. I don’t think that what I saw in the magazine would be seen today by passersby on that NY City street. Maybe a new skyscraper has risen in that place. So, today, I would rather look at the minds and the hands and the arms that can raise these buildings as high as the sky. I would rather look at the epic American volunteerism, I would rather look at those millions of znonymous American citizens who donate (for love) to help not only fellow citizens but many people around the world as well. I would rather look at American civil society, at american freedom of speech, without which I may have never seen such shocking images. The problem is, it takes a lot of time (and good faith) to change one’s point of view. You have to be an eagle-eyed observer to see what many other people don’t. But what would you say when you hear or read a report on women from my country who serve as prostitutes in other Arab countries ? Is that more important for you to know than the increasing numbers of Moroccan youths living in Morocco, a poor third world country, who become doctors, engineers, highly specialized technicians, experts in all fiels, designers and inventors, successful buisnessmen and women…. ? Should I look at the beautiful waterfalls as were freshly made by the French, in « the Switzerland of Morocco », or at those parts of the resort which have been littered by young Moroccan visitors with all kinds of empty cans and bottles or at the filth left behind by country people on their way to their fields ? Should I look at the wood seats as they were placed in there by the French, for future visitors to si tat, or at the food waste left by careless picnickers ? Should I look at the hut beside the palace or at the palace beside the hut ? If you were sitting at a café in N.Y. City, would you sit out there and look at women’s legs and breasts, or at the amazing diversity of the city dwellers ? If you think that what you are seeing is not good, what are waiting for to change it ?

I recently heard an interesting radio show on China Radio International. A French journalist was telling a Chinese journalist about his trip to the Chinese Wigur province. He told her, among other things, about an oasis. As soon as the Chinese journalist heard the name, she said : « Ah, it’s known for its apples ! » The French journalist agreed and said how amazed he was to see that in that small oasis, surrounded by an immense forbidding desert, people grew apples, grapes and all sorts of fruits ! He then talked of another placen in which, he said, temeratures would reach 50°C, explaining that by the fact that the place lay below sea-level. The Chinese journalist recongnized the place at once and agreed that i twas the hottest place in china. But then she was greatly surprised, as I was, when the French journalist said that no farther than 100 km away from this hellish place…it SNOWED ! what can this teach us about us humans ? First, we can’t always know what’s beyond the hellish place or what’s beyond the place where it snows –just as we don’t know whether this woman was once a prostitute or may become a prostitute in the future. Not all famines are God-made : many famines are man-made. And even when we know that this famine was man-made we should sit idly by and wait for people to die. Why did those people settle in that Wigur oasis, in the middle of the desert, and did not go to a place with milder weather, Nay, they settled in there and turned the place into a garden of apples and grapes… It’s like they turned hell into heaven. They chose to be positive people. They chose to be civilized people. They chose to be good citizens, who fed themselves and produced good fruits for their fellow citizens. That’s what God wants us to do.

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

When I was in high school I read this joke in an Arab magazine.
A-      Imagine America and its allies entered a nuclear war with the USSR and its allies, the Northern Hemisphere would be annhilated, and so we the peoples of the South would become the masters of the world !
B-      Stop dreaming. America and the USSR have already agreed to destroy the South before starting a war in the North !


When the first believers from Madinah met the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) secretly in Makkah for the first time, and discussed with him the idea of his migration to their city, they said to him : "What would we have in return if we gave you asylum and protection ?" He said : "Heaven". And they were satisfied with that. When Islam became strong in Madinah, the same  Madinah people who first met the prophet (pbuh) in Makkah said to him : "We have done what you asked for, can you now confirm that we’ll go to Heaven ? " He said : "Yes ! "

But…  "Lagouader, there are no 'cinemas' in Heaven, no sporting clubs, no beaches, no places to go. You just eat and drink and sleep. That’s boredom !" We were a few classmates having a little casual discussion in the school library when someone threw that comment on me as though she wanted to pick a row. That classmate was aged between 24 and 26. She was still single and, of course, she saw the future in bright colours. She was right. Immediately after graduation she got a good job in a heavenly town. I have not heard of her since. But I have never forgotten her words.

Maybe my former classmate meant by "cinemas" movie theaters rather than movies. Well, in all of Casablanca (pop : 5 million people) there’s only a dozen movie theaters and only a few people can afford to pay 70 dirhams (8 dollars US) to see a film in the cinema when a DVD costs 5 dhs. The only two cinema rooms in my city were shut down more than 25 years ago. The best coffee for two people (plus WIFI and free TV) at the best café won’t cost you more than 25 dhs and you can stay as long as you wish. A good breakfast is at 30 dhs. 5 dhs is what you’ll pay for an hour in the best internet café. If you have a smartphone (and most people have one) you can have a 24-hour internet access (one day only) for 10 dhs. So how many people would pay 70 dhs to go to the cinema in a country where the monthly minimum wage is a little more than 2,500 dhs ?


Personally, I have never seen a film in a movie theater, but I have seen many films on TV. Besides, I can see cinema everywhere. Life is cinema. "57.20. Know that the life of this world is only play, and idle talk, and pageantry, and boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children; (…) the life of the world is but matter of illusion." Initially, football was a game, a passtime for the youth. It has now become so serious that it has been linked to nations’ honour ! Initially, music was a hobby, a passtime. It has now become an industry ! Just see how football players and managers talk in press conferences, how musicians behave in TV shows. A lot of ethiquette, a lot of do’s and don’ts : all cinema. Cinema is everywhere : in our wedding and funeral ceremonies, in our official receptions, in (the way we sit and talk at) the café, restaurant, public places. Think of match-fixing, think of election rigging, think of plagiarized speeches…We play cinema even when we talk on the phone.

Sometimes cinema is inevitable. When Moroccan merchants in previous times arrived at the (empty) marketplace in Sub-Saharan Africa, they would lay down the goods they wanted to sell and then retreat to a safe place ; then they would make a fire and beat huge drums to indicate their arrival. The local merchants would then arrive at the marketplace, lay down their goods and take away the Moroccan goods and then withdraw. They too beat their drums to indicate their departure, so the Moroccan merchants would collect the African goods and come back home safe and sound. That’s beautiful cinema.

I can’t name names, but let me tell the story like this. A wealthy man from a poor Arab country married three young Arab women at a time, none knew about the man’s marriage with the other two. The scandal broke out when one of the three discovered the truth. You can imagine her shock : she was a beautiful Arab actress. This clever lady played cinema on us poor Arab viewers, the lucky man played cinema on her in one of his homes.

A man chose a good traditional musical band to play in a wedding party. The band did not come on time. The man became angry as time wore on. When the band finally arrived, the man showed no signs of anger. He welcomed its members with a gorgeous smile. He waited until the party was over and all the guests had dined and gone away. Then he said to the band : "Come along !" He showed them the head and feet of a big cat and said : "Look ! That’s what you ate !"

That’s real cinema. We Moroccans love couscous. Take a listen ! I heard this on the radio. A group of fuqha (men who know the Quran by heart) were guests somewhere in the countryside. The naughty boys of the hamlet knew that the fuqha would be served couscous. Their leader had a Satanic idea. He and his comrades collected scorpions in the nearby woods, then pulled out the poisonous stingers and kept the thus inoffensive creatures. They waited until the fuqha started reciting the Quran, then until they were served tea, and then (I don’t  know how) they setcretly put the scorpions inside the room where the fuqha were reciting the Quran, and once the big plate of couscous was brought in and placed in the middle of the room one of the naughty boys started to shout : "Scorpions ! Scorpions !" And some of those in the room saw the scorpions indeed and in no time the house was evacuated while the boys ran off with the couscous ! 

Countrymen love playing cinema on one another. Take a listen. I heard this story too on the radio. But I have to set the scene first. Only fuqha can lead prayers in mosques, especially in the countryside. Most of these fuqha are paid by the people living around the mosque. In one hamlet, though, a Jew offered to contribute like the others to pay the fqih (singular of fuqha). That was unheard of anywhere anytime. The fqih believed the Jew and accepted his offer. But some of the Muslim men of the hamlet had kind of bad faith. They wanted to poke fun at the fqih when he knew that the Jew had only beguiled him with a false promise. So the Muslim men gave the fqih the due pay. The Jew did not go to the fqih on the day of payment. He invited him to dinner instead, and gave him 200 dirhams –more than anybody else’s contribution. On his return to the mosque, the fqih found the "bad-faithed" men waiting to tease him. They said : "How about the Jew ? Did he keep his promise ?" He said : "Yes, I wish you were all Jews like him !"

Of course, as you would expect, some people can’t stand cinema. Here’s an example. The best known Arab ruler who said good poetry was Abu Firas Al-Hamadani. Oum Kalthoum sang one of his unforgettable poems. Ibn Al-Mu’tazz too was a caliph (although for a single day and a single night only) and he wrote good poetry. But one of his predecessors, Al-Mamoon, was not a good poet. And yet he ventured to read out a piece in front of an audiance who could tell good from bad poetry. No sooner had he finished his reading than the audiance started hailing him as a great poet. One man did not speak, though. It was Abu Nawass, the most famous Arab poet of all times. The Caliph said to him : "What do you think of Our Poem, you poet ? Did you like it ? " Abu Nawass said : "By God I didn’t ! It’s anything but poetry." Furious, the Caliph sent him to the stable, as humiliating imprisonment. After a whole month spent in the stablewith donkeys and sheep, Abu Nawass was released. Soon after, he was invited to a new reading by the Caliph. As the Caliph began to read out his new poem, Abu Nawass rose up from his chair and headed for the door. The Caliph shouted at him : "Where are you going ? " Abu Nawass said : "To the stable, sir ! "

This reminds me of an anecdote I read in Taha Hussein’s book, Al-Ayam. A group of Egyptian university students (in the 1940’s) decided to boycot the lectures of an Italian professor in protest against Mussolini’s role in WWII. The Italian professor waited for some time in the classroom, then went to the Egyptian students gathering outside. He said (in Arabic) : "You are like someone who wanted to anger his wife, so he made himself impotent ! " That’s a creative comment. That’s what poets do. They play with words. In a way, they make verbal cinema. A talented poet can say a love poem about a person he/she has never loved. Those poets who have actually fallen in love can express their love in the most exaggerated way. Old Arab critics said : "أعذب الشعر أكذبه"  (The sweetest poetry is the least truthful). That’s why the Quran says :
(…)
But there must be poets, real or fake. Just like cinema, poetry too is inevitable sometimes. We need to compliment or soothe one another. We all love to hear nice words about us, about our possessions, our cities, our countries. Advertisers hire people who have the beautiful word, the beautiful quill. Also movie stars sometimes. These people are happy to play cinema on you and me and we all like it. I am saying this because my former classmate also spoke of beaches and places to go. She said there are no beaches in Heaven.

Personally, I live in a sea-side city and I don’t go to the beach in the summer. But I do go the rest of the year. So I have seen some of the walls and houses that were brought down by a small Tsunami a few years ago. (There’s a video of that on line.) Each time I go to the beach now I recall the real Tsunami, the one that hit many of the best beaches in the world in 2004. You all know that no script-writer or film-director can ever imagine anything like that. People talked of the Apocalyps. Eyewitnesses spoke of it better than poets. I remember seeing on Al-Arabiya TV channel a young German woman and her mother who returned there to meet with the brave man who saved them from death. But that’s what can happen to any beach in the world. No one is immune to this kind of macabre cinema.  It does does not take much for the fire to devastate a whole forest or a tower block. And yet all that is closer to our cinema than to the real thing. There’s much more than just Tsunami or fire. There’s the Apocalyps.
(…)
That’s frightening. And that’s the point. God wants to scare me in order to save me
(…)
Many people are not afraid of smoking, junkfood or road accidents. Many people venture into dangerous places. They are heroes. But I am afraid and I am not ashamed to say so. I don’t want to go to Hell.
(   )

Now look at this scene and see the cinema in there.
(   )
And this :
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I am scared. I am cowardly. I am what you will. But I want to be with these :
(   )

I am scared, but I am hopeful.

Is there going to be any such thing as the cinema in Heaven ? Why not ? The Quran says :
(   )

But I am not interested in Heaven only. I want to lead a normal life in this world too. God says to me :

(   )
My former classmate also spoke of sporting clubs. I am not a sportsman. But I do walk at least two hours per day twice a week. I have been doing so for many years now. When I go for a walk in the woods or at the beach I come across men and women of all ages. But I see only those who can jog or walk. Many people can neither jog nor walk. If I grow older that will happen to me too.
(   )
That’s a fact. Another fact is death.
(   )
The Quran challenges me :
(   )
So what should I do ? Should I turn a blind eye and a deaf ear soas to look like a modern person ? The Quran says to me :
(   )
One day I heard a respectable columnist say on a radio show: "Frankly, I am quite aware of the dangers that I risk, but I just can not do without the cigarette! " The question is, what do I stand to lose if I  believe ? The Quran puts it this way :

(   )
Here are people who are spending their money ; they are « losing » something : why ? To impress other people ? to impress people weaker than themselves ? Excuse me, but, to me, that’s nonesense.
(  )
God said to the prophet (pbuh) :
(   )

Personally, I dread      . I don’t want to     .  So why should I take riskes ? 
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