The Villainy you Teach Me

Merchant of Venice Shylock

As it lay in ruins and bitter poverty now, it wasn’t always this barren. From Nakfa in northern Eritrea to Finchawa in Ethiopia it was a splendid land of glorious kings. Their men at the avant garde of civilization and women epitome of African beauty, they made gold coins embossed with King’s seals and stories of their wealth and generosity spread across the known world. Armah, the King of Aksum was one of the last kings of his line and the rich civilization. Its in his court, 1400 years ago this story took place. Amidst sartorial extravagance of knights and clergy perched in long columns, was the throne of Christian King, Ashamah Negus. It was no ordinary day for today the fate of these lowly Arabs be decided.

Those who have come to live in protection of the great Ethiopian King because of the oppression of their brethren in Mecca. Word has it that they are the followers of a new religion that denounces polytheism. The source of great anxiety was however their beliefs that would enrage their hosts deeply. They did not believe that Jesus was crucified and God ordained Trinity. Their Prophet ﷺsaid Jesus was taken to heavens and one of the traitors was crucified to punish him for treason. They did not believe that Jesus or Moses were sons of God. Precious gifts were sent for King and the clergy through two of emissaries of the polytheists in Mecca to tip the scales in their favor.  Masters of rhetoric, they would get these blasphemous innovators out of the Christian lands.

The grand king Ashamah Negus was no fool. Ancient wisdom and intuition were a pre-requisites of becoming a king along with uprightness of character and judgment. The immigrants were sent for. All was at stake and a colossal defense was needed. If they were expelled from this land, there was nowhere under the sky they could find refugee. It was then when young Jaffar bin Tayyar ra was chosen for the task. An undertaking of astronomical proportions. He slowly stepped forward and started speaking. What he said went down in history as the most courageous and eloquent speech in history in front of an emperor.

“O King! we were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we adored idols, we lived in unchastity, we ate the dead bodies, and we spoke abominations, we disregarded every feeling of humanity, and the duties of hospitality and neighborhood were neglected; we knew no law but that of the strong, when Allah raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty, and purity we were aware; and he ﷺcalled to the Oneness of Allah , and taught us not to associate anything with Him. He ﷺforbade us the worship of idols; and he enjoined us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to regard the rights of the neighbors and kith and kin; he ﷺforbade us to speak evil of women, or to eat the substance of orphans; he ﷺordered us to flee from the vices, and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms, and to observe fast.

We have believed in him. We have accepted his teachings and his injunctions to worship Allah, and not to associate anything with Him, and we have allowed what He has allowed, and prohibited what He has prohibited. For this reason, our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forsake the worship of Allah and return to the worship of idols and other abominations. They have tortured and injured us, until finding no safety among them; we have come to your country, and hope you will protect us from oppression.”

The court was brought to silence. The king than started asking questions about their beliefs on Christianity and with same succinct plainness he told how they believed in the virgin birth and the miracles of Jesus. Very few kings of the yore are known to have change of heart like Negus. He listened to the great words from a fearless youth who endured the cruelty of his own blood and crossed into another continent to protect his people. His faith moved him. The king returned the gifts as ‘bribes’ and ordered his vast kingdom to open up for these guests. Word has it that he converted to Islam and Prophet ﷺpraised him and offered his funeral in absence.

In 1935, Mussolini invade Ethiopia with lethal gas prohibited in 1922 Geneva Protocol killing 275,000 men, women and children. Ethiopia requested then League of Nations to resolve the genocide but it conveniently ignored the screams. Ironically Italy asked the same league to accept annexation in 1936 which everyone happily did except Soviet Union. It took only 3 years to import 35,441 Italian colonizers, men and women who continued the genocide. On 14th July 2016 a truck containing 19-tonne of explosive matter hit the Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France and killed 84 people and injured 303. An attack that saddened everyone around the globe. Same innocent “question” resurfaced. ‘Why do they hate us’?

I sometimes wonder what do they tell their children in schools in history classes about places like Algeria, Morocco, Tunis, Ethiopia and Afghanistan? I wonder when US citizens tell their veterans how valuable their ‘services’ are, what do they really think their forces do around the world? As the rhetoric on both sides grow from mild to rancorous I muse, how much more blood has to spill before the white man is satiated? This repetition of history is just what Quran refers to as the vicious circle of thankless nations. There was a time when Pocahontas placed her head on top of her colonizer John Smith when her father wanted to execute him, thus saving his life. When the colored of the world were curious and loved the foreigners. Centuries later the colored has learned the blood letting from their beloveds. The fire has reached the one who ignited it. In the words of Shylock “The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction”


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Lahore Times.

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1 Comment

  • July 19, 2016


    outstanding collection of words , i knew less before but learn a lot ,