It’s all about Ishmael.

Here’s a story you probably know:

Old Abe was a crotchety, but pious, feller roundabouts 86 years and climbing. He had fine-looking wife named Sara, who also happened to be his half-sister. But they didn’t care. Because she was hot! But Sara was also barren. Still, she wanted her husband to have everything his big ol’ heart desired.

“Oy vey, Sarah! I need some children sprung from these here loins!” Abe said.

Since they hadn’t invented feminists yet, Sara got the bright idea that she would make a present to her husband of her attendant, a right nice Egyptian lady named Hagar, who would be Sara’s surrogate. Hagar made Abe a happy man, indeed: along came a little bundle of joy named Ishmael. Later, it turned out Sara was actually fertile, so she gave birth to Abe’s second son, Isaac. Now, there were about 13 years between Isaac and Ishmael, but wouldn’t you know, they got circumcised around the same time?

Ouch!” Ishmael said.

God said: “Don’t worry, dude. You’re going to be a really old man who begets 12 – and I mean 12 – chiefs. That’s a whole nation, son. Femtini?”

It’s no wonder, then, that Ishmael, having been circumcised while lucid, got to picking on his half-brother, Isaac, who was barely weened. And Sara, being literally the mother of all Jewish mothers, wouldn’t stand for her brilliant boy taking any flack down at the pre-school. So she said, “Off with her head!” Just kidding. Different story. Anyway, let’s just say: Sara and Hagar parted ways. Hagar, next time we meet her, is hanging out by a divine well out in the wilderness.

Even though Abe’s life was going along pretty well for a spry centenarian, he was plagued by night terrors. Now, these dreams were really just God calling to invite himself to an upcoming sacrifice. “Is that static on your end of the line, Abe?” God wanted to know. But, Abe finally got the message. So he took his son up to the mountain and stood at the altar with the boy and was like “All right, Boss, I can’t believe you’re asking me to do this, but you want him? You can have him.”

Upon seeing how loyal ol’ Abe actually was, God said: “Whoa. Hold up. I was just playing. We cool?”

And Abe was so relieved that he sacrificed the first animal he could, which happened to be a ram whose horns were all twisted up in the briar patch.

I’m always lecturing my students in both America and Morocco on the importance of not being vague in their writing. And while most of you reading this will assume the son I’m talking about is Isaac, grammatically speaking, which one was it?

Can’t tell? Good.

In the Muslim version of this Old Testament tale, Isaac isn’t even born when Abe takes Ishmael up on the mount. And what’s more, Ishmael is game for the sacrifice: “Pa, give the Lord what he wants.”

Today, in Morocco, it’s all about Ishmael. It’s Eid Kibir, or Eid-al-Adha. Almost every family has a ram, and today, just like Abraham, Muslims will make a sacrifice. And if they couldn’t afford to buy their own muton, someone else will likely have bought them one, or at least invited them to join in on the festivities.

There are rams everywhere. For the last few days, I’ve heard mutons bleating from rooftops and windows and garages-turned-farmyards. I’ve heard them in my hallway. Almost every time I’ve left my apartment building, I’ve seen a group of men wrestling a ram out of a small truck. There are rams on the tops of busses, in wheelbarrows, in bathrooms, on terraces, on balconies.

Muton bzaf.

But my favorite muton moment was yesterday morning: I was waiting for a petite taxi on Mohammed 6, when a ram came charging past. Shortly thereafter, 10 Moroccan men came sprinting around the corner, hot in pursuit of the furry fugitive. Strangers on the sidewalk joined the herd of shepherds. I didn’t stick around long enough to see if they captured the little guy, but I didn’t need to; his fate’s inevitable.

Eid mubarak said!

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Categories: fulbright, Morocco | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “It’s all about Ishmael.

  1. Thomas Zaslavsky

    Great stories, starting with the first one. Who knew it was Ishmael God wanted (didn’t want)? But — spelling?
    “alter”
    “Muslim’s will”
    “charging passed”

  2. Joel

    I thought it was Isaac in the Bible.

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