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Fair Ladies for the Altar

By Khalid Baig

It happened soon after Muslims conquered Egypt in 20 A.H. A delegation of the local Copts approached the governor Umro bin al-a'as, Radi-Allahu unhu, with a pressing matter. While life in Egypt depended upon the Nile, the river itself demanded an yearly human sacrifice. To satisfy this requirement, on the 12th night of June a virgin girl was dressed as a bride then thrown into the river. Otherwise the river would drop to a trickle. His response was immediate. The river would have to do without the human sacrifice. Islam destroys all superstitions and rites of Ignorance.

Days passed. Then weeks. Then months. The river remained dry. Caught between a river that "demanded" human sacrifice, and the new rulers who would not permit it, the people prepared to migrate. Seeing this Umro bin al-a'as wrote to Khalifa Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu unhu. "You did the right thing," Sayyidna Umar wrote back. "Islam does destroy all rituals of Ignorance. I am sending you a note. Drop it into the river." The note was a letter to the river. It read: "From the servant of Allah, Ameerul-Momineen Umar to the Nile of Egypt. If you were flowing of your own accord then you can stop flowing. But if it is Allah, the One, the Almighty, Who makes you flow, then we pray to Him that He should force you to start flowing again."

And so it happened, writes historian Ibn Taghri Berdi in "An-Najum uz-zahira fi akhbar muluk Misr walqahira." (Vol. 1, p. 35). Governor Umro bin al-a'as dropped the letter into the river and the next morning the Nile had started flowing at its full level. Islam had liberated the women in Egypt from the tyranny of a terrible pagan practice.

Human sacrifice in one form or another was common to all pagan societies. A very large number of these sacrifices involved women. They were thrown into rivers or lakes (to appease these vital sources of life), buried alive in the foundations of bridges (to make the bridge strong), or just offered as sacrifice to the gods for the protection of the community.

The game London Bridge Is Broken Down, and the accompanying rhyme, preserve unmistakable traces of human sacrifice at the building of a bridge. The bridge has fallen down, and all rebuilding attempts will fail, whereupon follows -- with an apparent lack of connection -- the arrest of a woman prisoner.

London Bridge has fallen down, fallen down, fallen down,
Build it up with lime and stone ...
Stone and lime would wash away ...
Build it up with iron bars ...
Iron bars would bend and break ... etc. etc.
What has this poor prisoner done? ...
Off to prison she must go.
My fair lady!

Ibn Battuta gives an account of the practice in pagan Maldive Islands. Every month a young virgin girl was dressed up then left overnight in a temple on the shore to appease a ginni. In the morning they would find the girl dead and violated. A Muslim visitor Abul Barkat Berberi learned about it from his host, an old woman whose only daughter had been drafted for the next sacrifice. Abul Barkat, who was a hafiz, offered to go in her place. In the temple he kept reciting the Qur'an all night. When they found him alive and well next morning, the news spread throughout the island and within a month the entire population had accepted Islam. The woman of another land had been liberated from the pagan tyranny.

The record of Christianity is less clear. First, it endorsed the basic idea of human sacrifice by suggesting that Jesus had died on the Cross to atone for the sins of humanity. Second, it was content to merely change the pagan rites into more benign forms. The earlier offerings of human sacrifices of Saturnalia were replaced by offerings of Christmas gifts. Same with Halloween. Halloween started in Great Britain with the ancient Druid culture. The Druids believed that the witches, ghosts, and evil spirits walked on earth on the night of October 31. They would light huge bonfires to ward off these spirits. They would then go from door to door asking for treats. These "treats" were not candy. They were victims ---young virgins--- for human sacrifices. If the Druids received their "treat" they would leave a lighted jack-o'-lantern at that house as a sign that a sacrifice had been obtained there.

That most of these symbols survive (and thrive) today reminds us that the post-Christian Western civilization remains at heart a pagan civilization, albeit a more polished one. The drastic rituals have been replaced but the crooked ideas behind them survive. What was the idea behind throwing a virgin into the Nile? That a woman must sacrifice her life for the economic prosperity of the society. In forcing the women outside the home and herding them into offices and factories, the Industrial Revolution preserved the same idea. In putting them on display to attract customers, the "Marketing Revolution" preserved the same idea. The women must sacrifice their lives, dignity, and security for the economic prosperity of the society. If it leaves them prey to an avalanche of advances and assaults, so be it. If it destroys the home and family life, so be it. The goddess of "economic progress" demands their sacrifice, and they must submit. Today the woman has been uprooted from her home, separated from her family, violated, left to tend for herself, and expected to be grateful for this "emancipation"!

How can we explain what was going on with the Nile? Perhaps the answer lies in that when a people choose to reject Allah's clear Signs and Commands, then their own chosen path of destruction is made easy for them. "Those who reject Our Signs, We will lead them step by step to ruin while they know not." [Al-A'raf 7:182]. As the Nile remained dry, it was a test of the believers. Would they hold fast to the rejection of all pagan rites or would they waver in the face of an apparent calamity? The letter to the river was a marvelous act. It radiated unwavering faith in Allah and unremitting disdain for pagan beliefs and practices. Only such faith could free humanity from the cruelty of pagan Ignorance.

The test continues. For the women today need to be liberated from the tyranny of modern paganism, just like they needed to be liberated from the tyranny of ancient paganism.


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