“I have walked the mountains with my sheep and goats and drunk deeply at the wells of my village. I have always lived in the house of my fathers and prayed their prayers for the coming of the rains, the ripening of the crops and the bearing of many children to play in the courtyard and ripen also into marriage and begetting.
Sometimes life has been hard as we coped with death, disease, pestilence, drought, flood, famine, war, greedy landlords and merchants, usurers, corrupt officials and tax gatherers, but always the rhythms of life, like those of the women beating the clothes on the rocks by the river, would wash away our sufferings and feast the spirit. I want to die in my compound, surrounded by a lifetime’s familiarities, my children and the eternal promise of Allah and his Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him.”
His dream sank under the weight of a torrent he hardly understood, except by the name misfortune. It came over the top of the usual afflictions and was more than traditional peasant stoicism could possibly manage. It took his village, shook it down, seduced its young and then swept it away.
His wife died during her thirteenth childbirth. Their surviving children drifted on or fled in a quest to try their luck in the great and growing city of Sodom. He died in the dilapidated and ghost ridden remains of his village, in the company of his grief, disappointment and doubt, alone.
Most of his children lived out their lives in the squalid alleys of the slums of Sodom, struggling precariously from hand to mouth, doing any dirty, dangerous, unhealthy and meanly paid casual work, so that they could survive for another day or week. The eldest, Kemal, had the ruthless and brutal cunning to make his way to better things, but he was murdered by a couple of hit men not long after his father’s death. Another, Abdul, found solace in the mosque. Yet its very order and piety made what he saw outside it seem all the more outrageous and anguishing; especially the routine flouting of the Laws of Allah and his Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be upon Him.
An unflinching commitment to Sharya Law, a well developed sense of hate and a ruthlessness worthy of his brother Kemal was his answer; which is why he tried to kill the beautiful, and once adored Anuda, the youngest sister, who had found her way in Sodom through the loins of some of its richest and most powerful men. She had a nice apartment in one of the better districts of town, wore disgustingly immodest western clothes and makeup, and could afford a driver, who fortunately saved her from her brother by taking the knife blow meant for her.
Abdul fled deeper into the networks of the Muslim Brotherhood, their training camps and their resolve for jihad and martyrdom. He fought in Lebanon and later was wounded in Afghanistan. Eventually, he blew himself up in a crowded restaurant in Tel Aviv, crying “God is Great!”
Anuda swore on the grave of her driver that his death was not in vain and that her spared life would be put to some better use. Instead of sitting around in cafes with her friends, she learnt to read and write properly, went back to school and developed a love of learning. In the process she discovered an inquiring and able intellect. She also discovered that she could combine this with her already formidable capacity to nuance social and sexual interplay, to leverage her power and prospects.
She became the PA to one of her old lovers who was a politician of considerable standing in Sodom. It was one of her proudest moments when many years later as a government minister, she was able to get through the legislature a charter of women’s’ rights, albeit wheelchair bound by an assassin’s bullet and in the teeth of bitter opposition from the religious right.
Today she lives in hiding as an exile, with a fatwa stalking her.