During these three days of Eid Al-Adha we did a tour to the north of the country, passing through a lot of small fishing villages along the coast dominated by a strong smell of dried fish and people on vacation. The villages where teeming with people! We really enjoyed this part of Oman and we realized what a great family gathering this important holiday is. Muscatis leave the capital en masse to visit their birthplace and their parents during Eid Al-Adha. We finally ended up in Sohar, formerly capital of the country and the birth place of two of the globally most famous Omanis, Sinbad the Sailor and Ahmed Ibn Majid. The real Oman is, of course, located outside of Muscat. During our trip we also passed through Sawaidi, the birth place of a famous Omani to be. Talib Omar, one of my best friends. I meet him every Thursday for some of the most enjoyable conversations. Last Thursday we had this talk:
“Yesterday I saw this little ant on my floor and my first thought was to kill it, but than I realized how amazing it was, this little life walking on my floor, with all its legs and body moving forward and I thought, woow, another of his great creations!” Talib said with great joy in his face and continued passionately: “Our prophet said that life is precious and that humankind shouldn´t kill anything. All life has the same value! The prophet Mohammed was fantastic!”
“Oman is mainly Ibadi?” I asked him, my very good friend Tali Omar, during this, one of our many Thursday meetings, when we discuss everything from religion to football.
“I don´t see myself belonging to any specific arm of Islam. I am sunni, shite, ibadi, all. I am a Muslim in all ways. It is simple really, it is just to follow the ten commandments of the Bible. I try to do as good as I can.”
Talib is one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. He has been the big difference in many ways, regarding the success or failure to put the Expedition on it feet and his wisdom is plentiful. And he never talks bad about anyone, doesn´t pass judgement without knowing, he is well read and educated in life, he speaks with a soft voice, always in a non-aggressive way and he is never pushy, but always helpful, very generous and no matter how busy, bogged down with work, he always takes time to listen and help. Lately he has spent hours in his phone trying to help me find my way through the sign-free parts of Muscat. He is a devout Muslim which prays 5 times a day, he listens often to prayers on the radio or TV and he reads a lot on the same subject.
“I prefer to read books by Western scholars when it comes to Islam” , he says, “They go deeper, question and are more neutral, which means you get a broader spectrum of Islam.”
“Why do you think Islam is so misunderstood in the West?”
“Well, it has become to politicized. Really from the beginning with the Ummiyads and up until today it is far to often based on political and not spiritual power. And when two Muslim sides are at war, like Iran or Iraq or like in Somalia, they blame each other for not being true believers. I guess, like Christianity, look at the catholics and protestants in Northern Ireland…..” I chip in with the former republic of Yugoslavia, “….they´re still not getting along even though they should be called educated people. Because one problem for Islam is that in many Muslim countries education is poor and if you get a bad Imam preaching in an uneducated area, we have a situation. Therefore, if it is a poor country with big divisions between rich and poor, than people will join the opposition whether they are fanatics or not! Education and a fair government is vital!”
“One thing I realized during my time in Yemen studying Arabic, was that in reality, like the Talibans in Afghanistan” , I said, “These geezers don´t even speak or understand Arabic, how than can they than properly understand the Quran? They don´t even know what they are reading.”
“True. I haven´t thought about that.”
“What about the issue of women? I get a lot of questions from my readers about Islam and their views on women and then they, the readers, refer to some horrible article written about lashing or stoning woman. And add that some Muslims say that it is written in the Quran that the beating of women is a right.”
“The situation for women is not good. Indeed it is terrible. But that has to do with the old culture in this area, which was strong far before the arrival of Islam, and this ancient culture has unfortunately been applied to Islam. But that is not good, because it is a fact, that The Prophet loved women and he had some very strong women around himself and if people try to read his first sermon where he specifically said that society has to protect women and give them the same rights. I have a daughter myself, she plays football and I will give her every chance in life to choose what she wants to do in her life. And regarding beating woman, in Oman it is written in the law that it is forbidden, but it is still not easy to implement, because if a woman goes to court, she will pay a social prize of being evicted from the community. So we still have some time before it works perfectly.”
All throughout our conversation his mobile has rung, messages has poured in, it is Eid Al-adha, plus that Talib really never takes a day off work. Suddenly somebody very important calls and our time is up and we return in his Porsche to Al Ghubra where I live. He stops half way at a mosque for midday prayers. For me Talib is a role model of how a human being should be.
The shopping for Eid Al-Adha is hysterical right now!