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1 Chapter 4 Azim

“Hey Jude. You want to join me for a drink?” Azim Fazal poked his head into Zelig’s office interrupting his writing-meditation. Judah realized that he had been there most of the afternoon. As always, time was irrelevant when he was writing. Whenever he left this task now, it was like leaving one group of friends to deal with something else, but all the while he was away, he couldn’t help feel an urgent need to get back to his friends. In reality Judah didn’t have many friends, but Azim had been an exception. Ever since he started at CU this professor of History and Islamic studies had been his companion. Judah loved the debates he would have with Azim, not so much over religion, but over history, although both were invigorating. And after September 11, Judah had several opportunities to eloquently defend his friend and Islam from attacks by witch hunters who tried to force their beliefs on others. Coming from a Jew, this had a particular impact on those who listened. He spoke at several rallies and would often quote Islam’s founder Mohammed saying, “‘All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a nonArab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white — except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware: Do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.’ Does this sound like a belief system that would justify the taking of innocent lives? Or perhaps we should condemn

2 Judaism and Christianity who hold the following verse sacred from Psalm 137, ‘O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones’. All religions have skeletons in their closet and deeds done by followers that we would rather not remember, but we cannot and should not judge a belief or a people based on the actions of a few extremists. As the great philosopher Tevye the milkman observed, if we take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth than the whole world will be blind and toothless.”

“Jude, come on man, you cannot stay here all night. We must get you out before you get stuck in your rut.”

“Azim, I was right in the middle of discovering that I was a dragon. And you interrupted that.”

“Good for me. You are not still writing that absurd stuff about Abraham being an Egyptian Pharaoh are you?”

“Yes, come on you know that history is always rewritten by the victors’ perspectives. Is it not possible that those who wrote the history we have canonized in the Bible and even the Koran was written by an anti-Egyptian faction who wanted to put as much distance as possible between them and their enemy? You don’t have to go any further than the Koran to prove my point. Both writings have many of the same characters in them, but we see

3 them from different perspectives. Who is right? The truth is probably that neither one is right. Do we have any substantive proof that Solomon or David or Moses or even Abraham existed at the time and place we are supposed to believe they did?”

“Ah such blasphemy. I shall have to add you to my hit list, but later. Tonight we go drinking and maybe break a few of each other’s commandments. And later I shall find you a nice Moslem woman who can straighten you out.”

Judah’s grin told Azim that he had won the argument for now. The only comeback he had was to mutter something about a student already trying to set him up with some woman in Glenwood Springs. He was not actually certain why he was thinking of her, but he was with a little excitement that made no sense to him.

As they settled into their favorite pub, Azim asked. “So how is your new class going?”

“Very good. There was lots of discussion and I could see lights going on. We even established the major problem with this class at the very first and that is, can man really change? Are we predisposed to this negative world or can we believe that the world can change?”

Azim nodded. “Yes, history seems to say that no matter how many roads we pave with good intentions, we are still moving forward on a road that is heading towards hell. No matter how many religions we found that teach love and peace, it seems all end up on a

4 road of destruction. I see this all too clearly in my own faith. Islam comes from two words, salaam, which means peace and taslim, which means submission. How can anyone get from that core belief that it is OK to take innocent life or any life for that matter? One who follows Islam is called a Muslim, which can be translated as one with peace. Peace is the core and foundation of our belief as it is with Judaism and Christianity and yet what the world perceives of all of these religions is death and destruction carrying their false beliefs that somehow their religion backs up these actions. Buddhism and Hinduism can boast no better with their wars in India and other places to establish dominance for one group or the other. The Tibetans seem to hold the most reverence for life, but who knows if they ever regain control of their country if they will see war and terrorism as justified in order to hang onto it.”

“Well, you are certainly preaching to the choir here my friend.” Judah loved Azim because of these conversations. He was always at ease speaking with him.

Azim smiled and continued “It is no accident that one of the physical characteristics of anger is squinting the eyes. If we could see clearly we would most likely not be angry. We must be able to see what may not be obviously visible. Most of us when confronted with a child who does outrageous things can react with patience and understanding. This is a child after all. I remember one time I was disciplining my daughter and she flew into a rage and started yelling and screaming and telling me that she hated me. I didn't react back with anger, I knew she didn't mean those things. I let her spend her anger, then we talked, and then we hugged, and it was over. Had I been confronted with that kind of

5 anger from an adult, I doubt I would have been as forgiving. Is it any wonder that conflicts exist. At least with my girls, they have the assurance, proven time and again, that I love them unconditionally and the bonus is that they have returned that unconditional love to me. There are many who have never had that assurance. The goal of most religions is to provide that assurance on a spiritual level, but we must truly accept it. We must identify the child in others (as well as ourselves) and treat them as a loving parent. What this does is allow an "other" the space to grow. But I offer again the analogy of seeing in the other not only a child, but your child. I feel no envy when my girls succeed, only pride. It is easy to support your own child, so the trick is to expand your definition of who is your family.” Azim finished off his drink with that last comment and Judah knew again why this man was his friend.

“Azim, you should be teaching my class. I agree that one of the keys may well be getting in touch with that inner child in us all and seeing others in the same way. Children have a way of getting into serious arguments one minute and then playing together as if nothing had happened the next. Friends often have the same capability. This is the stuff of prophets and holy men which is available to each and every one of us. I read a book by Rabbi Nilton Bonder called The Kabbalah of Envy that also puts this into perspective. He says, ‘Prophecy comes from a wise person's ability to keep his eyes open when everyone else's are closed.’ Bonder talks about the Rabbinic concept of tinok she-nishbah, which is a captive child that does not know of his origin. This child must be treated with extreme patience and forgiveness. But that's the problem. When we are greeted with anger we must learn to develop an understanding that the person before us is a tinok she-

6 nishbah. I have been doing some reading about dealing with the inner child and the bottom line seems to be that Bonder's assessment here and the concepts he quotes have a very solid basis psychologically. Each one of us has that inner-child, and I would venture to say that for a number of us, diagnosed or not, that child has never really been nurtured. Bonder gives us a great Yiddish verb farginen which means ‘to open space, to share pleasure; it is the exact opposite of the verb to envy.’ It is much easier to grieve with someone then to rejoice with them. To farginen someone takes discipline and practice. Bonder recommends some other ways to accomplish lovingkindness in conversation and avoiding conflict. One of the first ways to avoid conflict is learning to see each situation clearly. I have heard the story that Bonder tells before, but I love it: ‘The king visited the royal prison and spoke with the prisoners. Each who approached vowed his innocence, except for one prisoner, who confessed to being a thief. "Get this scoundrel out of here!" exclaimed the king. ‘He will corrupt the innocent!’”

This was the way these two party animals shared the next few hours and few drinks and maybe a little lascivious looking. Azim went home to his wife and family and Judah went home to write. Oedipus had promised that he would remember his vision in more detail over time and he was anxious to see where those memories led. But instead of exploring his visions with Oedipus, he wrote of more adventures with Theseus and Pirithous.