October 11, 2010

By the author of Aristotle Among the Arabs

I came into this world by chance, and by chance I will depart it. One proof of this is that if my father had not stooped to recover a blown sheet of paper that drifted to the ground one October day in 1913, he would have lost his life. On the evening of that day, an assassin hired by one of his enemies came near his seat in the mayoral house and fired a round of bullets at him. At that very moment, the sheet of paper he was reviewing (which was a brief from the shari'a court) took flight - and at the moment he bent over to retrieve it, the bullets buried themselves in the door behind him, grazing only the edge of his turban. "Is God alive?" he shouted, and fell silent. The assassin, believing he had dealt my father a fatal shot, took off running for his benefactor's house. My father recovered instantly, however, and ran off after him, keenly surmising that he would be led to the house of a wicked adversary called Gado Zarad. Along the way he called out for people to join him on the trail, and in half an hour they had Gado's house surrounded. Half the village turned out and stormed the house, and when they did not find the perpetrator one of their number led an attack on an unroofed house next door where he had fled. The man was found hiding in a corner and was seized and bound with ropes, as was the man who hired him. And my father sent word to the police in Fariskor (some 80 km from Sharabass), who came and took the men into custody and drove them back to the station in Fariskor. My birth took place 40 months later, on February 4, 1918.

If you examine the life of any person, you will find that a kind of chance is what gives rise to his or her birth, i.e. the chance encounter between the spermatazoa of a man and the egg cell in a woman. Whoever concludes from this that there is order or intentionality or a plan is just a dreamer. All that's at work are causes, operating in competition with each other, engendering whoever is engendered and annihilating whoever is annihilated.

'Abdel Rahman Badawi, The Story of My Life, v. 1, ch. 1.