Of Satan’s parents, demonic cats and murder by telekinesis
Shortly before the fast-breaking last Friday, a fiercely pro-government television station was airing a live broadcast from Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square, featuring a prominent professor of theology in a Q&A session with a pious audience of thousands.
I am probably a closet misanthrope, but I was lucky not to miss this one with all its amusing eccentricity which kept my eyes and ears glued to the screen at a roadside restaurant. I would be nearly sinning if I did not share the contents! This is a compilation of questions asked during the broadcast, plus some queries directed at the same professor on his official web page:
--- Are marble tombstones religiously illicit?
--- If someone reads names on tombstones, would he suffer amnesia?
--- Is marrying between two religious feasts permissible?
--- I was breastfed by a woman for one week after my birth. Can I now marry her son?
--- Can a pregnant woman have her hair cut? Would that affect her child’s future?
--- Can I sell pirated CDs and books?
--- Does keeping a cat as a pet bring bad luck?
--- Does Satan have a father and a mother?
--- Is a woman having her period allowed to cook?
--- Can I pray with a small stain of eau de cologne on my suit?
--- I shall give birth soon, and have a pet cat at home. Will it be religiously permissible to put the cat to death?
--- Is it religiously forbidden to stand up and drink water?
--- Are Muslims obliged to visit seven mosques every Friday?
--- Is a 3G wedding permissible in Islam? (No idea what a 3G wedding is.)
--- Does the sport of swimming amount to praying?
--- If I go to Heaven, do I have to put up with my spouse there?
--- Can I have tooth filling when I am in a state of impurity?
No doubt, this is the kind of generation Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is keen to raise. At least the TV shows could become an attraction for TV-haters like me if the prime minister succeeds. All the same, the holy Q&A session at Sultanahmet reminded me of my own queries to the Diyanet, or the Religious Affairs Directorate, a few years earlier; and helped me solve a near mystery on a recent governmental appointment.
In 2008, I sent an e-mail message, asking Diyanet whether it was a sin if women put on makeup and wore jewelry. Diyanet’s reply said: “Changing God-given [facial] features in order to lure attention and look more beautiful is banned in Islam.” Fair enough.
Out of curiosity, I then rephrased my query: “We often see the pious wives and daughters of prominent people, like our president and prime minister, in generous quantities of makeup and wearing… expensive jewelry and ornaments. Is that behavior compatible with Islam?” Diyanet replied: “... Women can put on ornaments as long as they do not expose their private parts... Since women are allowed to expose their hands and faces, any ornamentation [makeup and jewelry] on hands and faces can be seen as [religiously] permissible.” And I shouted a loud “Bravo!” for Diyanet for not failing me and confirming that its fatwas differed from one person to another.
The questions directed at the professor of theology also helped me understand how a former columnist/anchorman has risen to the hall of fame and recently become Mr. Erdoğan’s chief advisor (economy). Eminent advisor Yiğit Bulut’s theory to explain the Gezi protests inevitably reminds one of the questions asked at Sultanahmet: “It was all a giant telekinetic attack by dark forces to discredit Prime Minister Erdoğan, because he had made Turkey a ‘model for the world’.”
And I wanted to ask Diyanet’s queries page: Is it religiously permissible to make statements so as to endanger public health by risking mass deaths from too much laughter? But I gave up. It is perfectly normal in a country where pious masses ask these questions for enlightenment and vote for a pious prime minister whose choice of chief advisor explains the protests by telekinetic conspiracy theories.