I learned something very interesting yesterday. One of my students was telling us about a man they know who claims to be a faith-healer. The guy takes a piece of aluminum foil, dips it in water, recites a few verses of the Qur’an over it, presses it between his hands…and then it ignites! Poof! Then he places the warm foil over whatever part of the body ails you and you’re supposed to be cured. Luckily, my student did some homework on his own and found out that all it takes is a little chloride in the water and the aluminum foil will catch fire every time.

I find this to be very amazing and disgusting at the same time.

Amazing: Because my student was actually able to track down the trick just by doing a search on the internet. Makes you wonder, is there anything left that isn’t on the internet? My student gets an A+ resourcefulness and diligence!

Disgusting: Because this *&^*R #$@* “faith healer” is making a sham, a joke, a parlor trick out of Islam and the Qur’an and I want to bash his head in for misleading people. See, the great thing about being able to pull off a trick like this is that there is no shortage of poor people here to believe you. Even if you ‘cure’ them for free, that still guarantees a steady stream of cash, gifts, disciples, and maybe even your own shrine.

In the area that we live in, there is a big ‘pir’ here, a ‘saint’. He’s called the ‘Pir of Golra Sharif.’ His father was a ‘pir’ and so was his father before him. His job is to sit around in his shrine and look wise, and periodically do faith-healings and pray for you….for a price. Incidentally, he drives a red Pajero. (Ford Montero SUV I think it’s called…) He’s quite a local celebrity.

My little brother has seen him many times. Last year, there was a disease traveling around all the buffalos in the village in front of our house, and so the villagers consulted the pir about what to do. He gave them instructions, and the next day, in the big cricket field up the road from our house, the villagers had assembled all their buffalos and were waiting for him. They had erected a sort of doorway made from three poles, two up and one laid across, and from the center of it, they had hung a Qur’an.

The Pir arrived, (in his red SUV) walked through the field with the thousands of buffalos and climbed up onto the platform. He then told the villagers to start walking their buffalos through the doorway they had assembled, underneath the hanging Qur’an. While they were doing this, he raised his hands to make dua and said, “OOOOOOOooooooOOOOOOOOO” (buffalo noise)

He was praying for the buffalos in their own language.

I wish I was joking, I really do, but my little brother saw it with his own eyes, heard the ‘saint’ himself, lowing like a buffalo for the entire time. He said he almost died trying not to laugh, and then he wanted to cry. The villagers were deadly-serious about the whole affair. It cost them a lot of money and they pinned their hopes on this pir (as compared to a veterinary doctor) to stop the spread of the disease. Apparently pirs aren’t big on science or anything, so he wouldn’t know that by gathering the buffalos together in one place, he was probably spreading the disease around.

Normally I’m not a violent man, but I would like to beat the holy -ahem- *stuff* out of the Pir and He-Who-Ignites-Aluminum-Foil and all those like him. The Qur’an is not a book of magic, and Islam is not sorcery. It’s a way of life. If you follow the way of life, you will cure your personal evils and save your society from contracting moral and ethical disease. (You’ll also earn bonus points and a palace in Paradise, what a deal!)

The Qur’an is like a prescription that a doctor has written you, not the medicine itself, but just the piece of paper. If you follow through with the prescription, if you do what the prescription says (Salah: Take five of these and call me in the morning) you will be cured. However, if you just take the prescription and read it over and over again (Aspirin! Aspirin! Aspirin!) nothing’s going to happen. The same applies to wearing the prescription around your neck to avert evil or disease, or hanging the prescription from a doorway and stampeding buffalos beneath it.



Abez is a 50% white, 50% Pakistani, and 100% Muslim. She is also chronically ill and terminally awesome. She is the ever-lovin Momma of: - Khalid, a special little boy with autism - Iman, a special little girl with especially big hair -Musfira, an especially devious baby Spoiler, Abez is also Zeba Khan on Muslimmatters.org.

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