Where: Kafr Karam, a village in the Iraqi desert
On the other hand . . . as the men continue talking . . .
"It's true that we're reaping what we sowed: the fruit of our broken oaths. We've failed. In the past, we were ourselves, good, virtuous Arabs with just enough vanity to give us a bit of guts. Instead of improving over time, we've degenerated."
"And where have we gone wrong?"
"In our faith. We've lost it, and we've lost face along with it."
"As far as I know our mosques are full."
"Yes, but what's become of the believers? They go to prayers mechanically, and then, as soon as the service is over, they return to the world of illusions. That's not faith."
"Fifty years ago, when I was in Jordan ... I stopped in a village near Ammam. It was the time of prayer. I went to a mosque with a group of men, and we set about performing our ritual ablutions in a little paved courtyard. The imam . . . came up to us and asked, 'Young men, what are you doing here?' 'We're washing ourselves for prayer,' I replied. He inquired further: 'Do you think your goatskins will suffice to cleanse you?' I pointed out to him that it was our duty to perform our ablutions before entering the prayer hall. He took a fine fresh fig from his pocket and washed it meticulously in a glass of water, then he peeled it open before our eyes. Inside, the beautiful fig was crawling with maggots. The imam concluded his lesson by saying, 'It's not a question of washing your bodies, but your souls, young men. If you're rotten inside, neither rivers nor oceans will suffice to make you clean.'"
"Don't try to make others wear the hat we've fashioned for ourselves with our own hands. If the Americans are here, it's our fault. By losing our faith, we've also lost our bearings and our sense of honor."
Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra (pgs. 36 & 37)
I've got to say that I was impressed by the imam's example and words. He reminded me of Jesus in Mark 7 when the Pharisees were complaining that Jesus' disciples ate without washing their hands. Jesus replied that these people honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God. He further stated that outward things were not what make people clean and things entering the body didn't make people unclean. Jesus put it this way:
"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")
20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "
I think the point the imam didn't make or perhaps he implied and his listeners understood what he meant is how to make yourself inwardly clean. How to clean up the rot and wash out the filth. Did he think further actions were key? I can't say. What do you think is the answer to washing the soul? Can you do it on your own? If so, how? How do you make yourself inwardly pure before God? Do you agree that by going back to faith will make life better (e.g. no wars coming to the land)?