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31 Days of Ghosts: Ghost Stories of the Middle East


 

This takes a lot of research.

First, one has to sit back and detach themselves from what we in the West have identified with what we are familiar with for haunted places.  The closest we know about African or Middle Eastern ghost stories or hauntings would be lore about ancient tombs in Egypt being opened.  To some extent, this could also include romanticized versions of Eastern European ghost stories that include Dracula.

The second thing one has to do is explore the culture and religion that is predominant in the Middle East.  Like in the West, where the predominant religion is Christianity, it is not the only religion.  And in some cases there are those who do not identify with any religion.  In the Middle East, the predominant religion is Islam.  Islam, naturally, is not confined to just the Middle East, as there are those in North Africa and moving into Central, South Central, and Eastern Asia who are devote followers of Islam.

In Islam, and in the Quran, there is no mention of ghosts, but there is mention of Jinn, or an alternate spelling djinn.  These are described as supernatural spirits that live in the unseen dimensions of the universe beyond human sight.  The jinn are mentioned quite frequently in the Quran, and the 72nd sura of the Quran is titled Sūrat al-Jinn.  The Jinn, together with humans and angels, are considered to be the three sentient beings created by God.

We now have that bit of research, but I know there’s several who jumped in excitement because of the familiar “djinn”.  Another spelling is in fact genies, but this is completely removed from the Disney Aladdin  which is again a Western view of the Middle East.  In Arabic, jinn means (loosely) “hidden from sight”, or “to hide” or “to be hidden”.  The word genie comes from the Latin genius, which was believed to be a guardian spirit assigned to protect a person from birth.  While jinn is referenced frequently in the Quran, the word has pre-Islamic history.  Markings found in Northwestern Arabia refer to the worshiping of jinni or at least their tributary status.

In Islamic times, jinn were seen similar to humans in that they have free will.  They live in communities similar to humans, but often in remote locations and even in the air.  While they appear invisible to humans, humans do not appear clearly to jinn.  They have customs, laws, kings and queens and even mourning rituals.  The Quran says that upon the day of judgement, even the jinn will be judged and sent to live in Paradise or Hell depending upon their actions.  Jinn, because they have free will, often dictate their actions either as good or evil.  Some will aid humans, while others will find delight in provoking or harming them.

There are major differences between jinn as viewed in the West and in the East.  Some might even say culture shock, especially as experienced in such writings as The Caliph’s House and In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah.  Tahir Shah moved from London to Morocco and lived in what was described as a jinn occupied home.  And just to make the distinction, In Arabian Nights has very little to do with the adventure story 1001 Arabian Nights, which is a collection of folktales from the region.  Tahir Shah, by the way, born in London, is a humourist author who has also been involved politically in creating the East-West Bridge, which came about after the September 11 attacks.

Often people can create a protection against any ill will a jinn may want to cause.  A talisman or tawiz as referred to among Sufi circles, will aid in the protection against spiritual evil.  This includes the protection against jinn, who, as mentioned before, are considered to have free will of their own.

As far as hauntings go, there may in fact be haunted places anywhere in the Middle East.  Civilizations in that region has existed for thousands of years.  But as much as I could find, there is always those who point to places which are not so much haunted, but very spiritual.  Those include:

  • Mount Sinai (Sinai Peninsula, Egypt) – Where Moses is alleged to receive the Ten Commandments from God.
  • Mount Ararat (Eastern Turkey) – Very important symbol of Armenian culture. In addition, the Bible mentions the “Mountains of Ararat” as the resting spot for Noah’s Ark.
  • Mount Arafat (near Mecca, Saudi Arabia) – A very small mountain (more like a large hill) where Muhammed is supposed to have given his Farewell Sermon 72 days before his death. It remains an important part of the “Hajj” – an important Islamic pilgrimage that takes place in Mecca, which every muslim is to take at least once in their lifetime.

Much of what I did find was located in Afghanistan, which isn’t really in the Middle East, it’s actually in Central Asia.  Greater Middle East, perhaps.  But it’s not IN the Middle East, especially when one considers it borders Pakistan.  However, there are a couple of notable instances which could be called hauntings.

Afghan – Tajikistan border – Hindu Kush mountains – The “Ail”, feminine looking entities with floating hair, pale eyes resembling milky white orbs and glacier pale skin are said to inhabit the region whenever the suns rises so high, that you cannot see your own shadow, or at twilight. Even though they normally go on about their business, it is best to treat them with respect, since the Ail are known to be quite violent and hostile. That is why you almost never see any villagers or nomads out during those times in the day.

Kabul – Kabul University -
 It has been told that some of the abandoned dorms and abandoned classrooms were used by the Taliban to torture and kill people whom dare defy them. While some foreign aid workers were helping out on re-building Kabul University, it was said by many that they smelled the foul scent of rotting flesh, feces and other bodily wastes. Others said they also saw the entities of the victims that were tortured to death by the Taliban or heard screaming and crying in pain, when there was no one there.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in 31 Days Of Ghosts, Weird facts

 

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Learn something new everyday


As many of you know, I work at a weekly newspaper for a small town.  The area isn’t that large and we don’t have a lot of staff, so we rely on our readership to get some news to us.  We also have community news, which is happenings in and around the different communities in the area of Lake Diefenbaker.  Some of those correspondents will add a quote at the end of each news write up for the week.  I’ve shared several here.

This one caught my eye, not only for the quote itself, but also by who it is quoting.

“The Friend of God has these three qualities; a generosity like that of the ocean, a compassion like that of the sun, and a humility like that of the earth.” ~Bayazid, Tadhkirat

A little research and I found this at wikipedia.

Tazkirat al-Awliyā

Tazkirat al-Awliyā (Persian: تذکرة الاولیا, literally “Biographies of the Saints”), also transliterated as Tadhkirat al-Awliya or Tazkerat-ol-Owliya, is a 72-chapter book written by the Persian poet and mystic Attar about the life of famous Sufis and their miraculous deeds (Karamats). This is the only surviving work of Attar written as prose. It starts with a biography of Imam Jafar Sadiq , the Sixth Imam of Shia and ends with one of Mansur Al-Hallaj’s , the Sufi Martyr.

Also, as linked in the biographies further down the page:

Bayazid Bastami

Bayazid Bastami (Persian بايزيد بسطامى ), also known as Abu Yazid Bistami or Tayfur Abu Yazid al-Bustami, (804-874 or 877/8[1] CE) was a Persian[2] Sufi born in Bastam, Iran.

Essentially, the use of this quote and the fact it originated from Islamic origins says something about people in this area.  For the most part, people in the Lake Diefenbaker region are not quick to get caught up in the furor of hyped inaccuracy.  And they are open minded and tolerant enough to see things as they should be seen.  Something beautiful and worth learning.  We’ve still got a way to go in this area of Saskatchewan, if not the entire province, but I think we’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we could be.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Life, randomness

 

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The 99


In “THE 99,” Naif Al-Mutawa’s new generation of comic book heroes fight more than crime — they smash stereotypes and battle extremism. Named after the 99 attributes of Allah, his characters reinforce positive messages of Islam and cross cultures to create a new moral framework for confronting evil, even teaming up with the Justice League of America.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Fun, randomness

 

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Burn


Before I begin, let me first state that this photo originally was found at this flickr page.  It’s meant to be artistic and symbolize something as it states in the description.

The photographer made the comment that it was the second roll of film, and it took forever to get the right photo and was pleased with the result.  It also had this comment in italics.

I’ll open this book and blow the dust from these pages of desire and lust. I’ll search for a spell perfect for you… ‘Cause I need to get you enchanted with me too

It was art, so my opening preamble about this image really has nothing to do with what the artist was attempting to convey.  I just know what my reaction upon seeing it was.

What I saw, before reading anything else or exploring the photographer’s flickr stream, was that I saw a burning book.  And then came my abject horror.  Anybody who knows me should also know I hate book burning with a passion.  It’s not so much the act of getting rid of something unwanted, I get that.  We have recycle programs for unwanted newspapers and even books.  Often times there are too many books to be sold.  Not everyone will buy a book, and therefore, the unwanted books have to go somewhere.  Sometimes a library, sometimes a school, but often times they are recycled, or destroyed because there just isn’t any need for them.

Those are different than the more thought of uses for burning a book.  Which is to destroy it for the sake of erasing the text printed on the pages.  It’s a barbaric form of censorship.  Censorship is something else I have a major problem with, because it’s such a fine line to walk.  That’s something I’ll get into at another time.  Book burning, however, is very much a violent way of showing disapproval of the printed word.  We’ve seen it over the course of history, the most recent and famous of which has been in Nazi Germany, when books by Jewish authors, scholars and philosophers were destroyed in very public means.  We’ve seen several more different scenarios as of late, shocking, but not the whole sale destruction as what took place during and before the Second World War.

One of those has been groups, mostly in the States and mostly by right wing fundamentalist Christian groups, that have burned books from the Harry Potter series.  Really?  Honestly?  A children’s book?  I can see, in their defense, why they would have come up with this notion.  The book is about witches and wizards at a school, set somewhere in England.  As it states in the Bible, witchcraft is a devilish thing.  But what got me is that the book was accused of teach children witchcraft.  So, I say again: really?  If you believe that it’s not for your child, then don’t let your child read it.  Oh, and if you have no children, then don’t get into the discussion.  Parents need to read books with their child.  Parenting isn’t something where you plop the child in front of the television and just hope for the best while feeding them, clothing them and sending them to school.  I’ve known a good number of parents that have read the entire Harry Potter series with their children and made it a very wonderful experience.

I know the comparison with Twilight and Harry Potter is out there, really, I do.  And I even know that there have been those who burned copies of Twilight in response to the burning of Harry Potter books.  My disgust envelopes those people as well.  Saying that burning a book is reprehensible, especially a book from a series you might like, then turning around and burning another book is hypocritical.  It’s also not helping.

The other book which has seen it’s share of threats to help stoke the flames is not a fictional book, persay.  It, like the Holy Bible, is a book which millions and millions of people follow faithfully.  It’s called the Qu’ran.  In this case, however, the burning of this book isn’t about reading to children.  It’s all about religious intolerance.  I will admit, religion is the motivator in the burning of Harry Potter books, but burning the Qu’ran is fueled with such a venomous hatred.  The complete intolerance to a religion that those who accuse it of being the heart of terrorism are only acting on their own fears and misguided understanding.  They say it’s an evil book, yet don’t even take the time to open it and read what it has to say.  They’ll burn it without hesitation, unless so shamed by the rest of the world.  What exactly would burning the Qu’ran do, except fuel the hatred and intolerance, and ignorance of a religion.  Instead of learning what they can of the religion, most who suffer from the seemingly incurable disease of Islamophobia, will react with knee jerk assumptions and “popular opinion” of the time.  These people don’t even try to take the opportunity to understand the religion, nor do they take the time to decipher between what is part of the religion and what is part of the culture from where the religion is practiced.

Book burning is a very vile form of censorship, that speaks to people that it’s okay to belittle ideas.  It says “your work is reprehensible, therefore it must be destroyed”.  Which can only develop a cycle that another group might find a work reprehensible.  After all, what if a group so publicly stated they were going to burn a Bible.  Think of the reaction there would be to that.  There might even be those that would demand a call to arms and be willing to go to war.

Now, sit back and think for just a moment.  Harry Potter fans may not band together in the face of such an insult, but do you not think for a minute that the reaction to the burning of the Bible would not be the very same reaction to the burning of the Qu’ran?

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in randomness, Rants

 

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The Way I See It: Habit forming


Yes yes, I know, bad pun.

Considering that the discussion is going to include the dress and formal style of women in the Roman Catholic Church, and comparing them to another group of women who recently have been receiving a great deal of backlash; Muslim women.

This is something people should consider.

I really had to pause and think about this after I saw a small cartoon.  It showed two women (in the Asian style of art), one dressed in a nun’s habit, and the other wearing what appears to be the hijab, or Muslim head scarf.  The caption above the nun said “a nun can be covered head to toe in order to devote herself to God, right?”  The caption above the Muslim woman then read “But if a Muslim girl does the same, why is she oppressed?”  It’s an interesting argument, and opinions are scattered across the world on the meaning behind the hijab, burka, niqab and so on.

There’s different views on the Islamic dress for women.  Some say it’s very much an oppressive set of clothing that is forced upon women.  Now yes, there are cases like that, but you can point to any organized religion and see the very same thing.  Shocking, I know, but even in the Christian faith there are examples of oppression.  There are also a large number of women within the Islamic faith who willingly wear the hijab, niqab or burka as a proclamation of their faith.  Just like Roman Catholic Nuns do.  And even within the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church, not all nuns wear the fully covering habit that is often thought of when a nun is discussed.

Recently various governments throughout the world have declared that they wish to ban the burka (and other Muslim head coverings).  France and Quebec have been at the forefront of this.  I researched the Muslim population of Quebec, which has the second largest population of Islamic worshipers with just over 100,000 (Nunavut claims the least with 30, and that territory is building a mosque).  But let’s clarify things.  In Quebec, the government has stated that the burka and niqab are not welcome in schools and medical facilities, and other provinces are considering a similar ban.  This, however, is contradictory to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states under Section 2(a) the wearing of the hijab is permitted in schools and medical facilities.  Even the furniture giant, IKEA, has developed its own Muslim friendly head scarf for Muslim employees, with the first in Canada being in Edmonton to adopt the IKEA head scarf.

But the talking heads south of the border would have the entire world believe that anyone wearing the Islamic garb is equal to a terrorist.  News flash: the individuals that struck out against America on 9/11 were terrorists, who just happened to be Islamic.  They aren’t any different than the individuals who fire bombed Planned Parenting clinics recently in the States.  Those individuals claimed to be Christian.  Religious affiliation aside, both groups have one thing in common.  They’re terrorists, plain and simple.  They wish to spread fear and cause injury using acts of violence.  While the individuals that caused nearly 3,000 deaths over nine years ago were Islamic, that does not mean that Islam condoned those actions.  Just as Christianity and the different denomination did not condone the fire bombing of a Planned Parenting clinic.  Or the burning of the Qu’ran.

The talking heads need to read their Bible.  After that, we in Canada need to read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we need to remember that many Muslims were born in Canada, while others came here to escape oppression.  Instead, what they are finding is just more of it.  That needs to stop.  If we can look at a nun and find nothing wrong with a full covering of a traditional nun’s habit, then we should give the same respect to a woman of Islam who by choice would wear the hijab or burka to express her own faith.

Other topics related to this around the web:

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in randomness, Rants, The Way I See It

 

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The Way I See It: Books, words are powerful things


John Milton (1608-1674). Milton wrote many of ...

Image via Wikipedia

And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.”

Areopagitica: A Speech of Mr. John Milton For the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing To the Parliament of England(1644)

Words. They are an incredibly powerful thing, more powerful than any stockpile of nuclear weapons throughout the world. They can teach, they can be used to debate, they can entertain, and they can let the imagination run wild. It is any wonder that books are so very important in our society, these bound volumes which contain thousands of words.

Authors, true authors who craft and create so magnificent a world, write for joy, for sheer thrill of exploration, and some aspect of self fulfilment. For a time, we had lost that, as we became sucked into the world of the idiot box. Taking nothing away from television, but books can do something that even the most experienced special effects crew cannot. An individual’s imagination through words can produce so much more than any of the major motion pictures could even create.

Books have been sacred for many, and rightly so. They contain information, adventure, they provoke thought and they state facts. A book can be autobiographical or it can be philosophical or pure fiction. But we treasure these things like nothing else. As we move into the 21st Century, the paper bound novels have changed. They have become a digital format that users can download and print off or read from their e-readers.

So what does any of that have to do with John Milton’s quote from his speech?

We are witnessing history as it repeats itself time and time again. The most recent cases of this repetition comes in the form of two separate books. One is a book series geared toward children, the other is a holy text held in high regard by the second largest religion in the world. I’m talking about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and the Muslim book of Islam called the Qur’an. Two separate books, or in the case of Harry Potter, a series of books, that at first glance have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Thanks to one act, however, they have a lot in common.

In the 1940′s, while war raged in Europe, Adolph Hitler deemed certain books as poisonous, particularly those written by Jews. He ordered them destroyed. The world looked on in horror, and vowed that such an act was beyond contempt. To destroy the works of an author was a reprehensible act. Since that time, images of members of the Nazi Party burning books has been equated with pure evil.

But some people weren’t paying attention.

When J. K. Rowling created her series, it was a simple idea that wove into a complex story. And it was loved by children everywhere. Fundamentally, that series did something important; it got children to read books again. Coupled with the movies, the Harry Potter series became an extremely popular series. However, there were those in the extreme that dissected the series and ignored it for what it was. They sited Biblical scripture about wizards and sorcery, ignoring the fact that children realized this was a work of fantasy. Of fiction. But those in the extreme took the most extreme thing they could do, and gathered Harry Potter books to be burned. They demanded the series be banned from schools and libraries. In some cases they succeeded. But that didn’t stop those who wanted to read the story.

Now, we are witnessing another such event, but this time with the holy book of Islam. An organization in Florida has stated it will hold a Qur’an burning on September 11th. They state it is in support of those who wish to block the building of the Ground Zero Mosque, and hope to send a message to Al-Qaeda. Completely forgetting that the building they are protesting is neither a mosque, nor is it at Ground Zero, where the World Trade Centre in New York was destroyed years ago.

In both cases, the extreme felt it was a wake up call, and the only way to show it was by showing defiance against it. So they did the one thing that history has done time and time again. They burned books. Just like the Nazis did.

I look upon these two particular acts with the same regret and contempt that those who grew up during the Second World War may have felt when books were burned in Nazi Germany. What was done with the Harry Potter books and what is happening with the Qur’an is no different. And we should look upon it no differently than what happened during the Second World War.

I would hope that there are those who remember this, and never let it happen again.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2010 in randomness, Rants, The Way I See It

 

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