are some sorrows that are quickly forgotten. Some sorrows have high life
expectancy than others. Some go away but return without warning. Some
sorrows leave us but we don’t leave them, we don’t let go and in fact
recall them at will. Some sorrows have permanent residency. Some sorrows
die only with death.
Human beings have to cope with life’s vicissitudes. There will always
be joy, there will always be sorrow; praise and blame; fame and
notoriety; profit and loss. We are not very good with the positives and
pretty bad with the negatives too. We just get carried away. We embrace
them so hard that they end up possessing us. Relief, sadly, is not for
purchase. It is easy to theorize about treating these unsettling
movements with equanimity; hard to practice.
We all lose something sometime. Fame declines. Praise bleeds into
blame. Profit margins collapse and losses are incurred. Joy gives way to
sorrow. Omar Cabezas, the Nicaraguan revolutionary, describes in his
account of the Sandinistas’ struggle against the dictatorship of
Anastasio Somoza Debayle (another tyrannical darling of the United
States of America) how he took with him all kinds of memorabilia when he
took off to the mountains (see ‘Fire from the Mountain’). Training is
tough. Combat tougher.
Revolutions are not tea parties, as Mao said. One by one, those
mementoes of a different time got lost, he wrote. There was
disappointment and grief, but a war does not pause for these things.
Finally, one is left with nothing by way of token except that which
resides in memory. Certain things are replaceable, certain things not. A
child that dies, for instance.
Death is common to all, grief and grieving is personal. We all lose
loved ones. Some who are so close that they’ve made us who we are, some
who just touched and therefore whose passing is easier to deal with.
There are some who give meaning to our lives. Like children.
Crime and punishment
Some years ago, an infant died. Was not the first and will not be the
last. That is no consolation to parent. We cannot fathom the grief. We
also know that certain losses cause sorrows that cannot have any other
end but death. An infant died and a maid was accused of having caused
the death. The truth of the allegation, the evidence and the fairness of
trail etc., have been explored; we need not regurgitate. All that
matters now is that a mother lost her child and another mother could
Let’s talk of the mother of the infant who is no more. She is a
Muslim living in a country governed by Islamic laws. The relevant codes
of conduct prescribed and the relevant punishment decreed for particular
transgressions are all that matter for all practical purposes.
I am not theologian and cannot claim familiarity of any kind with the
Quran. I’ve heard that when a person is found guilty of murder,
pardoning is the preserve of the near and dear of the victim. Rizana
Nafeek’s life now hangs on the word of the infant’s mother. Or her
silence, as the case may be. I don’t know if there is agreement in the
Islamic world on this particular interpretation but that’s irrelevant.
What matters is that as things stand, only a pardon by the infant’s
mother accompanied perhaps by a demand for blood money can save Rizana.
I reflected on this particular element of Islamic law. Why let a
victim’s nearest kin decree nature of punishment, when it cannot be
established that the sentencing individual has the necessary
intellectual and professional training one would assume is necessary to
measure relevant dimensions of crime and punishment? Perhaps, I thought,
it was because certain losses cannot be recovered and certain sorrows
only perish with death.
The nearest and dearest have to deal with all this and not the
journalist who writes the story, the lawyers defending the accused, the
judge who hears the case or the human rights activist who takes umbrage
at capital punishment.
A death for a death, perhaps gives ‘closure’ as they say in the West.
It is perhaps unguent that will deaden the pain even if it doesn’t cure
the wound completely. There is a need for succour and all things
considered, including cultural preferences and traditions, I cannot say
there is no justice in such a course of action.
Death for death is only one option, though. There is provision for
forgiveness. Forgiving is a ‘letting go’ as well. Perhaps this option
was given considering the fact that one method does not necessarily work
for all. I am not going to pass judgment on which of the two is superior
because I do not know the infant’s mother.
My cultural preferences urge forgiveness.
The lady in question can exercise her rights in this matter. If she
speaks the word ‘death’, that is it. Rizana dies. Her mother and father
lose their child. The lady’s grief, hopefully (for her sake), gets
subdued to a degree which permits her to get on with her life. I will
not judge her.
All I know is that contentment can be obtained in many ways. We can
take and taking can give peace. We can give too, and this can quell
agitation to the extent that is possible. Rizana, alive, will not be a
threat to any child, this is certain. Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al Quthaibi
has a ton of grief upon her chest. The execution of the girl she
believes killed her child might lift enough of it off so she can breathe
again. Forgiving her would not, I believe, lift off a lesser weight.
Naif al-Quthaibi, a little angel, is no more. Her mother will never
see her angel again. Rizana, dead or alive, will not bring this child
back to life. Whatever works for you, Quthaibi.
I am not going to judge. Allah, whom you believe in, is merciful,
I’ve heard my Islamic friends say. I am not of the Islamic faith, but
from now until a decision is made on the life of Rizana, I am going to
murmur a set of words and reflect upon them:
Bismillah-ar-rahmanar-raheem. I am not sure if this amounts to
blasphemy, since I am not of that faith, and beg forgiveness if I offend
the faith or its followers.
I just want to meditate on mercy and I want to think of two children,
Naif al-Quthaibi and Rizana, whose sojourn on this earth, as per the
faith of their families, was sanctioned by Allah, the most beneficial,
the most merciful.