Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 4, Scene 1b

TOC page here.

We pick up right where we left off, with Dave the imam worried about blasphemy:

“Then it’s from the Qur’an?”

“Indeed it is.” He walked over to a bookcase and took down a thick volume, its leather cover stamped with gold calligraphy. “Let me find you the exact quotation.” He licked a finger, paged through the text, humming to himself. “Aha. Sura 91, The Sun. Very early in the revelations; the Prophet first preached simple monotheism to the pagans of Quraysh—of Mecca, that is.”

Mustapha said, “You see? We knew you could help, Dave.”

Diana said, “What does it say?”

“Ma’am, your partner will tell you that it is impossible to translate the Qur’an into English or any other language without losing a great deal of the meaning, but this particular passage is really quite clear.” He leaned back in his head and began reciting in sonorous Arabic. His singing voice was a full octave lower than his speaking voice. Diana let the words flow over her: they made her feel young again, traveling dusty parts of the world when Grace was a toddler.

After Bustani was finished, he remained still for a moment, head back, eyes closed.

Mustapha said, “You’re not going to make me translate, are you, Dave?”

The imam opened his eyes and smiled at them. “Detective, if I were going to try to bring you back to the faith, we would start elsewhere. In English, the words are something like:

By the Sun in its splendor

And by the Moon that follows

By the day that shows the Sun’s glory

And by the night that conceals it

By the Earth and Him who stretched it forth

And by the soul and Him who perfected it

And inspired within it right and wrong

Surely blissful is he who purifies his soul

And miserable is he who pollutes it.

Diana asked, “So, the writer is saying that our victim had polluted his soul?”

Bustani placed the open book on his desk. “It’s blasphemy; an insult to God. The whole point of these early verses is that the tribal customs of blood feud and revenge needed to be replaced: we’re all to be held to the same standard. Whatever your victim had done was up to God to judge, not to mankind. You read about these ISIS people, al-Qaeda, whatever they call themselves, throwing gay men off rooftops and beheading people for watching soccer: they’re missing the message in the same way. Like when the KKK or abortion clinic bombers call themselves Christians. It’s simply not our business to take vengeance for moral crimes.”

Diana said, “So this could be one of these terrorist cells, you’re saying? As in, they’ve misinterpreted the message that badly?”

Bustani winced. “Please don’t associate Islam with this. No, is the answer to your question; because while these people are depraved, to mark a body like this? Tattooing, body piercing, all that is deeply frowned upon. God made your body and it is not to be modified. They might put a sign next to him, but they wouldn’t draw on his body. This is vile, but it’s also sort of… inauthentic. Like ISIS.” He finished his tea. “May I ask? Who was this man, your victim?”

Mustapha said, “Homeless guy with a drinking problem.”

“Hmm. Perhaps a very badly misunderstood application of the prohibition against alcohol? But the solution wouldn’t be to kill the poor fellow; again, we leave judgment to God, who is merciful.”

“Yeah? We leave judgment to juries, who usually aren’t. Thanks for your help, Dave.”

So here we have the rest of the scene. We’ve already established that Mustapha isn’t comfortable with the remnants of his ancestral faith, but when it’s directly relevant to the case, he’s willing to deal with it. We’ve got links to Islam, the Qur’an and a polluted soul, but all of them are questionable, because one of the themes of this book is people who don’t quite fit into the mould.



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  1. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 4, Scene 1a | Julian Cage

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