HOME, SWEET HEAVEN INSTALLMENT #14

Chapter Fourteen

Abdul Barakzai sat unhappily on his spartan chair, his elbows resting on the table before him, his face in his hands. The closed door of his daughter’s bedroom failed to block the sound of her weeping. He looked up briefly to the sight of his wife’s angry glare. Vicious, he thought. Glad I’m not a foreign invader, reminiscing of his clan’s women, who had been greatly feared by Soviets and Americans alike, as well as a long chain of their predecessors, the Grecians under Alexander the Great, the Turks and the British, each of whom had learned to respect Afghan sovereignty the hard way. They all had lost battles and lives at the hands of the fierce, hardy and courageous men and their cruel, merciless women who reveled in relieving wounded soldiers of their bowels and their privates.

For his modest station in life, Abdul was an educated man; among his Pashtun clanspeople he had great respect for the exploits of his namesake Abdul Ahad Mohmand, the first Afghan cosmonaut who in 1988 had spent nine days aboard the Russian space station Mir. He respected his wife too, despite the upbringing that taught him to think of her as less than fully human. He looked her way again. Her evil eye brought to his mind Rudyard Kipling’s famous 1895 poem The Young English Soldier, which immortalized the second of three nineteenth-century wars the British had engaged in against the Afghan people in 1878-9. He silently spoke to himself the final two stanzas:

“If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white,

Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight:

So take open order, lie down and sit tight,

And wait for support like a soldier

Wait, wait, wait like a soldier

“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,

And the women come out and cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier

Go, go, go like a soldier,

Go, go, go like a soldier,

Go, go, go like a soldier,

So-oldier – of – the Queen!

Abdul’s wife was angry with him for his heavy-handed treatment of their daughter, who had been exposed to wrongful Western influence through the efforts of a gang of American Christians who had come into their lives through what they had called “The Joshua Project”, an ill-conceived effort to Christianize his fellow townspeople, including his own family.

At the heart of his current problem with his wife and his daughter was the inroad this group had made into his wife’s heart and her subsequent contamination of his daughter with these thoughts. Like all his friends and associates and their forebears for as long as anyone could remember, Allah be praised, he was a loyal and devout Sunni Muslim, and that was the way they would remain, regardless of this present unpleasantness.

A side issue of this problem was his wife’s absorption of the Christian intruders’ heretic notion that women were as blessed as men and deserved the opportunity of education, just as did all men. Blasphemous! he shouted within himself, gnashing his teeth in rage at her usurpation of position that had become so great that she had begun to infect their daughter with the thought of a manly education. Filthy trash! Before the group had attempted to impose itself upon them, his hatred had been limited to foreign invaders, Jews and the Shi’a sect of Islam, the pretenders to the Islam of tradition, those insufferable, arrogant creatures who thought the leaders of the faith should remain in the family of Muhammad, Allah be praised. This animosity had been familiar, as comfortable as the warm body of his wife. Now he didn’t know which to hate more. He thought of his wife, who so recently had upset the serenity of his family life.

She had been caught attempting to read a Bible. A Bible! He knew enough about this Western God to know that the God of the Christians was also the God of the evil, depraved Jews, worthy of slaughter to the last man, woman and child. Now this ugly document sat there on the table in front of him, figuratively as well as physically between his wife and him. He reached out to grab it and throw it into the trash, but something held him back so strongly that his muscles seemed to melt.

“Who are you?” The man reeled back in shock at the sudden appearance before him of a woman of such breathtakingly radiant beauty that he almost fell to his knees. Her commanding presence stripped away his ingrained view of womanhood and left his soul exposed and vulnerable. “Who are you?” His response to Her question with his own was completely automatic. In her presence his mind had gone completely blank.

“Who are you?” Wisdom repeated.

“I am Abdul Barakzai, a Taliban fighter in the name of Allah.”

“Who are you?” She demanded.

“I am a Pashtun warrior of the clan of Yusuf-zai.”

“Who is Yusuf?”

“Yusuf ibn Yaacob, a very great and noble ancestor, Allah be praised.”

“Who is Yaacob?”

He hesitated. He had known the answer from childhood, but now the implication struck him like a thunderbolt.

“Yes. You are Abdul Barakzai, son of Joseph, son of Jacob, of the Israelite tribe of Joseph, which was led captive out of Samaria in 721 B.C. by King Shalmaneser of Assyria. You were relocated to where you still live now, all these centuries later. Moreover, your blood is that of Joseph’s son Ephraim, and you are indeed the offspring of another very great and noble ancestor, Joshua, who assumed the reigns of leadership from Moses and led the Israelites across the River Jordan into the Promised Land. Joshua’s God – your God – was very different than Mohammad’s Allah to whom you were introduced in the eighth century. Although Allah had freed you from the chains of other gods into whose worship you had descended, the Jehovah whom your ancestors worshiped before them was greater in love. Moreover, this Jehovah represented a Trinitarian God, three Persons bound together in a family relationship so close that this God is really one God, as the amulets many of your women even now declare: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.’ Pick up the Bible and this time treat it with the respect it deserves.”

As Abdul reached for the Bible, it opened of itself to Deuteronomy Chapter 6. He picked it up, preserving the location of the open pages. “Read verses four and five,” She commanded. He read the passage, repeating to himself the verses She had just quoted. “The Shema of Israel,” She told him. “Read to this day by every committed Jew, and, since its inclusion into the New Testament, by every Christian as well. You yourself are an Israelite, Abdul, just like all your friends, relatives and associates. You are intimately connected with the Jews. Your Joshua stood tall with another great and noble man, Caleb of the tribe of Judah, to whom Joshua gave the city of Hebron as promised by God for his own valor. You act like Jews, circumcising your male infants on the eighth day, and your women wear amulets that preserve the Jewish Shema. You even have a mezusah affixed to your own doorpost which contains the Shema, as commanded by Moses in Deuteronomy 6:9. You and your friends wear prayer shawls and light candles on Friday nights like all good Jews around the world. Now we’ll turn to the Book of Second Kings.” The pages riffled of their own accord, resting on Chapter 17.

“Read the first six verses,” she commanded. He read the following:

“In the twelfth year of Ahaz, king of Judah, began Hoshea, the son of Elah, to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the kings of Israel who were before him. Against him came up Shalmaneser, king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents. And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore, the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria came up thoughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”

“You recognize the names, I can see,” She said. “Halah, Habor, Gozan River. They sound familiar, don’t they?”

“Yes,” he said quietly.

The notion of being the equivalent of a Jew was overwhelming, as Wisdom saw. Yet She remained firm about his acknowledging that fact. “Do you remember those Christians you were thinking about a few minutes back?”

“Yes.” His scowl deepened.

“Contact their leader tomorrow, and ask for as many Bibles as they can give you. Then you – personally – will be handing them out to your neighbors.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. Not your wife. Not your daughter. You. Keep one for yourself and another for your daughter. And then start reading it. I’ll be around from time to time to answer your questions, and you’d better have some good questions to ask.”

Abdul responded nonverbally with a pout.

“Deal with it, Abdul. And start to treat your family like people instead of animals. I’ll be back.” Wisdom left.

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