One of the things I've been reading lately are English translations of the old Muslim myths. Those of you who have been reading the Hall for a year or more will remember that we talked a lot about mythology during the invasion of Iraq. Mythology, out of which arise people's visions of who they are and what they ought to be, is probably more important than any political speechmaking. It is in the symbols of mythology where wars are really won, or really lost.
Here's a piece that I pass on largely without comment, except to say why it struck me as interesting. In the wake of certain recent events, we have heard a great deal about how being seen naked was an unmitigated humiliation for Arabs. Yet I find that one of the great heroes of early Islam was called Naked Dhiraar:
Because of the Roman archers, Dhiraar kept on his coat of mail and helmet, and in his hand carried a shield made of elephant hide, which had once belonged to a Roman. Having gone halfway to the Roman line, he stopped and raising his head, gave his personal battle cry:
I am the death of the Pale Ones;
I am the killer of the Romans;
I am a scourge sent upon you;
I am Dhiraar bin Al Azwar!
As a few of the Roman champions advanced to answer his challenge, Dhiraar quickly disrobed; and the Romans knew him at once as the Naked Champion. In the next few minutes, Dhiraar killed several Romans, including two generals, one of whom was the governor of Amman and the other the governor of Tiberius.