A Testament to Arab Hospitality

The Milky Way

A war-torn state and a country ruled by an oppressive military junta for decades are home to the world's most generous people, research suggests.

People in Iraq are the kindest to strangers, while Myanmar's residents give the most away, according to the CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) World Giving Index 2016.

In the last month, eight in 10 Iraqis have helped someone they don't know, with Libyans helping almost as many.

BBC News Oct 26

That "dim glowing band arching across the night sky" at night which we call the Milky Way is a testament to Arab hospitality. The Milky Way became visible perhaps less than a thousand years after Allah's workhorse angel, Gabriel, accidentally created the sandy deserts of Arabia.

Legend has it that Allah, after creating the universe i.e. heaven and earth, noticed that there was no sand. To remedy this oversight before anyone noticed, He sent Gabriel with a bag of sand to spread around. As the angel was carefully laying sand all around the world, Satan, who was flying behind unnoticed pieced the bag carrying the sand dumping all the remaining fine gravel on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Milky Way is also an inadvertent creation of Gabriel. Virgil Gheorghiu in his admiring biography of the Prophet, La vie de Mahomet (Robert Laffont, 1974) tells the story of a traveler who was received by a poor Arab who had nothing to offer him to eat.

This was unthinkable. With a heavy heart the host decided to slaughter his only son to feed the stranger. When a god who sees everything and anticipates little, clued in on what was about to happen, He hurriedly dispatched Gabriel with a live lamb.

It was a close thing. The angel just managed to push the child aside as the knife came down cutting the throat of the lamb instead of the man’s son. However, Gabriel flew so fast on such short notice to make it in time to save the child that the lamb's white wool sheared off creating the Milky Way.

Surprisingly, the Milky Way being strands of a sheep's wool scattered between heaven and earth is not at odds with the Koranic view of our universe which places Paradise just above the clouds.

Bernard Payeur, October 26, 2016