Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Of Kings and Prophets

I would not normally comment on the visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to England had he not found it necessary to hand out good advice to British Muslims on how to behave and displayed his total ignorance of political reality by stating that he was sure the British government would find a way of helping end the tragic ordeal of the Palestinians. Was it not the British government that both created the Palestinian tragedy and the Kindgom of Saudi Arabia?

The current Saudi King may be called Abdullah, but he seems to have little understanding of the name. The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be with him, was proud to be called Abdullah, literally a slave of Allah. He helped his wife in the kitchen, mended his own sandals and slept on a rough bed made of palm fibre which left its marks on his body. He stood in prayer until his ankles were swollen. He treated his companions as equal and saw it his duty to serve the Master of the Universe rather than be served.

King Abdullah, on the other hand, whilst wanting to be the rightful heir of the prophetic mission, arrived at Heathrow airport with six planes carrying 23 personal advisors and over 400 aides, his luggage took three hours unloading, and the whole entourage was carried into London in 84 limousines. He sure prefers the glamour of the world to the glory of God. The fact that he does not treat his fellow Saudis as equals prompted demonstrations by human rights campaigners upon his arrival. Saudi Arabia sadly has become a class or cast society with members of the Royal family on top and foreign guest workers at the bottom of the hierarchy - some common ground between his country and Britain at least.

The King of Saudi Arabia likes to style himself as the Custodian of the two Holy Places. In Arabic he is called the servant of the two holy places, leading to the irony that visitors to his Kingdom find large banners at the entry of towns welcoming the "servant". Thus the servant becomes more important than the master. He wants to be praised and served himself, rather than serve any cause. He even puts his name in gold lettering on the cloth covering the holy Kaaba in Makkah, stating that it was donated by his wealth. At the same time he serves the two holy places poorly, as any pilgrim witnessing the disorganisation during the annual Hajj can attest, and has abandoned the third holy place of Islam, Jerusalem altogether. So now he looks to Britain to solve this problem in a neighbouring country for him. Had the Saudi Royal family encouraged the millions of pilgrims arriving annually to continue their pilgrimage to Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem instead of preventing them from going there by a pretended boycott of Israel, we would not now have to fear about the future of this third holiest shrine of Islam.

The king spoke of the two countries, his and the Queen Elizabeth’s, uniting around their "shared values". By the way, I abstain from calling Britain the United Kingdom since it has neither a king nor is it united, with Scotland, for example, actively seeking to wrestle away from under the Royal sovereignty. I guess those shared values are the values of rulers, not of the people. They are the values of arrogance and disrespect for one’s subjects. No doubt, there will also be shared interests, expressed in arms deals and backhanders.

The king would have done well to actually read the 15th century Qur’an the queen proudly displayed to him as part of the world’s treasures her family had amassed over the centuries. In verse 18 of Surah 31 (Luqman) it states (in the translation of Yusuf Ali): "And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth not any arrogant boaster."