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Sa’id Nimr’s Stormy Career:From the Dungeons of Istanbul to the Ranks of Faisal’s Arab Army

Contributed by Jerusalem Quarterly on 28.11.2007:

Sa’id Nimr’s Stormy Career:From the Dungeons of Istanbul to the Ranks of Faisal’s Arab Army

Sonia Nimr


Jerusalem Quarterly

Issue 30

Spring 2007

When my grandfather died in 1970, men carried his coffin on their shoulders on their way to the cemetery. As I watched the sad procession from the balcony, I thought I saw the coffin swaying sideways violently, as if it was trying to force the men to turn back. I told my friend about this, expecting her to laugh at my thoughts and accusing me of having a wild imagination.

But to my surprise, she looked at me with awe and said in a very serious tone, “Oh my God, your grandfather is blessed; he will be elevated to the ranks of holy men.”

“But that is impossible”, I said, finding it very difficult to imagine my grandfather as a saint or a holy man. He seemed not cut out for that kind of stuff. “You know he was a doctor and a man of science. He never prayed once in his life!”

But she insisted and said with deep conviction, “People have seen this sort of thing happen before. I heard that in the village of Qabatiyya, when a man from Abu Rubb family died, they needed at least 20 men to force the coffin down into the grave. They say that holy men refuse to be buried.”

I was confused. I asked, ashamed of my ignorance in such matters, “But if he is not buried, then what they would do with, you know, the body?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “They must put him in a cave or make a shrine for him or something.”

I began to imagine my grandfather’s shrine, and people visiting him, lighting candles or oil lamps and reciting Quran, asking him for little favours, love, marriage, or a cure for a sick one. I could hear my grandfather’s voice coming from the depth of the shrine in response: “Is your son allergic to penicillin?” Or perhaps something even more dramatic, like “Move your oil lamps away; they are suffocating me.”

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