“Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story”
“UNCLE AYMAN WANTS YOU!”. Alqaeda chief and chronic cave-dweller, Ayman Al-Zhawaahiri wants you to have a nihilistic romp with him in the barren mountains of Bora Bora. Note that dot on his forehead. Brain damage? Let’s see.
By: Brunhilde Liebesbombe, Special to the Mercury News Service. Cairo, Egypt. Exclusive. That elusive and mysterious mark on the forehead of so many Muslim men. It’s seen in the streets of Cairo among nattily dressed businessmen plying their way through vast oceans of humanity and blaring taxis slowly crushing insignificant beggars like gnats; among clerics, just under the edges of their turbans; among peasants mixing their gamoose manure into the fertile soil of Eternal Egypt. But, what does it mean?
It’s called a “zabeeba” or “raisin”. It’s acquired by constantly banging your forehead on the prayer rug atop which you happen to be kneeling as a devotional act to the great Allah who spends His time noting the violent thuds of bone on carpet tossed indifferently on a marble floor – time well spent by the Deity for it is in this act of observation that the devout, fundamentalist gains the keys to his Paradise in the afterlife – the deeper the zabeeba’s color, the more likely Paradise will be vast and welcoming. Or so they think.
We spoke to Dr. Mahmoud Damanhoori of the Cairo Institute for the Prevention of Brain Damage Through Prayer. We asked him during rounds what his opinion was of the zabeeba. His response was shocking:
Sayfuddeen Barabooshli, a patient of Dr. Damanhoori’s, is seen in this photo while undergoing frontal lobe massage therapy to prevent him from biting his own buttocks – a practice that has caused him severe back pain. This syndrome is believed to have been caused by the patient’s praying 5 times a day and banging his head over 200 times on a hard floor.
“Hmmm. Well. We see this with boxers and high platform divers. The constant trauma to the brain occasioned by repeatedly punishing the forehead with blows on stone causes nausea, nystagmus and obsessive-compulsive behavior – some quite bizarre. This kind of prayer must stop before it becomes too widespread and epidemic, especially in a country, like ours, where psychiatric disorders are the rule.” Dr. Damanhoori continued visiting his patients.
In an effort to learn more about this practice, I dressed in the traditional garb of an Egyptian woman, and attended afternoon prayers at the Al-Tabl Mosque in Heliopolis. Seated next to other Egyptians, I carefully watched the men, on the other side, as they went through their devotionals. I was shocked. About 20 of them started to bang their heads as though they were trying to break the surface of the marble floor. One became so caught up in the act of slamming his brains on the floor that the shaykh, who was leading the prayers, rushed over to his extended backside and kicked him in the groin to stop him from crushing his own skull. The man, who should have been taken to a mental hospital, was, instead, complimented for his piety by obviously militant parishioners. We knew they were militants because they all pulled out guns and and celebrated by firing into the ceiling of the mosque. (Photo of the same man seen below)
It was clear that religiosity could be hurtful. We noted that among ancient Christians, it was common in Syria to have monks living on the tops of pillars. St. Symeon the Sylite was once such brave soul whose own shrine still stands today near Aleppo. The practice of living on such pillars even spread to Germany where, unfortunately, the climate was not as accommodating and most monks perished due to frostbite and some would say, even – stupidity.
We spoke to the visiting Jamaican Muslim missionary, Ayatollah Savonorola Coca-Cola, known to many (because of his love for media attention as “The Ayatollah Motorola” or “Ayatollah Motormouth”) about this phenomenon – zabeeba. His answer was also shocking if not for its lack of content, then, for its seeming gibberish:
“Oh, Mann! Ditz za brrraaainn Mann. Itz’all da brrrraaaaaaiiiiin, Mann. Louie! Louie! Everrry nite a ten, I do it agaainn, Mann. Diz li’l gahl she wait for me. Mann.” We noted a very large zabeeba on his forehead.
Brunhilde, seen here leaving the mosque after the shocking scene described in this article.
Conclusions? Too much prayer can destroy your brain cells. One Muslim cleric seemed to sum up the situation quite nicely. He asked that his name remain confidential out of fear that some fanatic with a zabeeba might try to behead him.
“I don’t know if Allah cares about having a big splotch on your forehead. Most scholars agree that Allah would not care about that any more than when a baseball player makes the sign of the cross before he strikes out at home plate.”