Posted by: treksinai | August 12, 2008

the bedouin religious mindset

Selah, a potential leader of this particular Bedouin tribe explained to me, “Allah will only care about whether you were a good man or not. If you are a Muslim and but not a good person, why would Allah accept you? If you are not a Muslim but you are a good man, why would Allah not accept you?” My response was a smile accompanied by a nod – I have talked to many different types of Muslims in my life, from pakistan, to Afghanistan, to Morocco, to Iran, to the Emirates, to American, to Tunisian, Jordan, Syria etc…  

There is something different about the way this man thinks. He was born Israeli-Bedouin (along with many others of his era) – as the Sinai belonged to them for a decade or so during his time of birth. (The Sinai went back to Egypt in 1981).

In St. Catherine there are orthodox monks, a constant flow of Christian and Jewish tourists, and 2 mosques that resound 5 times a day across the entire valley. Jews and Christians bring money to this Muslim community… there isn’t animosity between the differences in beliefs – that i have noticed. To them, whites are christians, browns are muslims (slightly simplified, but my point remains) and there isn’t much more to it. I have often heard bedouins talk about the heart of a person… I like this notion.

I recently talked to a tunisian Muslim in Cairo who explained that there were 5 things a man had to do in order to be a ‘real’ Muslim. None of them had to do with the heart… just duties to fulfill. He told me that praying was like kissing your father, where obviously the child who kisses the father the most Loves him the most. A direct connection between quantity of prayers/kisses and amount of Love.

I thought this was similar to a situation where i saw 5 young men stand up when an old man came to greet them. He was slightly gauche as he walked funny and seemed to have a cataract. At first i liked the respect they showed this elderly man, but then i quickly realized that despite dutifully standing as a sign of respect for the man, they were mocking him amongst each other. The standing up is nothing in itself – it is a Sign of something True within… if it isn’t true within, then the sign isn’t a sign anymore… it is nothing but foulness masked in piety. The heart matters, and i think the Bedouins realize that more strongly because they meet so many people of various faiths – and there isn’t a group that stands out. they see good and bad people in every religion, even their own. So maybe they realize something that more people need to come to understand… once the religions are stripped away, are you a Good person, are you a Godly person?

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