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A God who cares

Man and beast thou savest, o Lord

Psalm 36: 6

Photos by Carl Raswan


This last chapter deals with the last, and in the opinion of the author, most important pillar that supports the world of the Arabian horse. At the same time this may be the most delicate subject to speak about. Nevertheless the author has decided to include this pillar in his book. To include the question of God and of His influence on the breed of the Arabian horse in a book of the 21st century may sound strange to many a modern people. But to most Arabian people familiar. It is the hope of the author, that the readers of this book, regardless of their heritage, might not bypass it without reflecting on this seventh pillar of this book, the one and most important pillar of life: a personal God who cares!


For the societies of the old East the existence of God was without question. Also nowadays the Muslim world regards God the creator of the universe without doubt. This is even demonstrated in the Museum of Natural History in Riad, unthinkable in any museum of the western world. In this context we set the following motto of the late Dr. Wenzler from Marbach State Stud in Germany: “Breeding is the humble partaking in the creation of God”. This reminds us of someone beyond our own imagination and influence. Regardless of any philosophy or religion, or personal perception of life, we can agree on the fact that we are responsible for our doing, also as breeders of horses.

A God who cares?

In the face of the wave of violence that threatens the world at the beginning of this third millennium, a chapter on the influence of God on the breeding of horses seems, at least, of less importance. Many people will even ask the question if there really is a God who cares. Why, if there is a God, has he forsaken mankind alone with its problems? A crisis of unknown dimensions has developed, especially in large regions of the Near and Middle East: Wars and civil wars, violence and terror in an unprecedented dimension. 60 million refugees worldwide that have lost their homes in 2015. A similar crisis has brought forth badu society in Early Iron Age. A society created by refugees, based on group solidarity and the unwritten law of the desert, aimed at making survival possible for all its members, including the weak. A society relying completely on the camel. Yes, this society was strongly characterized by violence. Meeker, in his book “Literature and Violence in North Arabia”, expresses his hope, that a “study of the unique period” of the Bedouin time, “during which the personal voice was composed in a setting of uncertain relationships, …promises to provide an understanding of the archaic foundations of the religious and political traditions of the arid zone.” In this context he also speaks of the most distinctive features of Near Eastern civilization. In the opinion of the author, the most distinctive feature of that civilization encompasses the knowledge of a personal God. A personal God is synonymous with a God who cares. A God who has revealed and still reveals himself to mankind through his personal voice: His spoken (and later written) word, but as well through his creation, including men and wildlife. The focus of this book has been the horse of the Bedouins, the war horse of Arabia and at the same time the family horse of the black houses of hair. The strong relation between Islam and this breed is obvious. On the other hand, the Biblical texts of the Old and New Testament do not present such a direct connection, but nevertheless are of Semitic origin (Khella, Lamsa). Therefore those texts should not be left out in the study of the Bedouin world. 


Photo Melanie Groger

The Horse in Biblical Texts


Old Testament


The books of the Bible can be looked at from very different viewpoints. Not everyone regards them as the word of God and today historical or critical approaches prevail. Regardless of this, the horse in Biblical texts is a horse of war, as we see in the book of Job. At the same time, the horse stands for strength and reputation of its owner. The horse is the horse of the mighty and noble, such as King Salomon/Sulaiman, the prototype of a ruler. The Bible tells us about Solomon´s/Sulaiman´s horses. 1. Kings 9, 23:


"Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year."


And verse 28 and 29: “And Solomon´s import of horses was from Egypt and Ku´e, and the king´s traders received them from Ku´e at a price. A chariot could be imported from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty; and so through the king´s traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria."

(Ku´e is a region in southeastern Anatolia, a land known for horses in those times.)


The famous passage concerning the war horse can be found in the book of Job. This book from the Old Testament belongs to world-literature. The struggle of a suffering man who all but died in the crisis of both his life and his belief does not leave the reader untouched. In the end it is God who reveals himself to Job. God reveals himself out of the “whirlwind” as the creator of nature and the example of the “war horse” is only one out of many, that God himself gives to Job:


“Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with strength? Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrible. He paws in the valley, and exults in his strength, he goes out to meet the weapons. He laughs at fear, and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword. Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear and the javelin. With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet. When the trumpet sounds, he says Aha! He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.” Job 39: 19-25


This description resembles to a very large degree those of the badu raiding-songs which Musil wrote down at the beginning 20th century, but also sura “al-adiyat” of the qur´an, especially regarding the spirit and the zeal of the horse to take part in battle. After God has revealed himself to Job, Job repents and speaks those well known words: “I know that you canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me. I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee: therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. Job 42: 1-6


Job lived in the land of Uz which is probably referring to the area east or southeast of the Dead Sea, the land of Edom in the Bible. Prior to his miseries Job had owned seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-asses, but no horses are mentioned. So Job could have been an early Arab.

Photo Matson Collection

New Testament


In the New Testament there is mainly one incidence, in its last book, the Revelation given to John, where we find the picture of a war-horse and its rider. This book of the Bible is not easily understood, but it is precise in its following words on the coming Messiah, masih, Jesus, or Isa Ibn Mariam (sura 5: 75):


Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white (safra´) horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a rope dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, …. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords."                                                    Revelation of John 19, 11-16


In the opinion of the author, this text is describing the coming Messiah embodying the ideal of the Bedouins of old, the very badu symbol of manhood and power: a warrior on his steed, the horse riding poet-warrior from the pre-Islamic era, making war (or better peace) by the power of his words. What a privilege for the gone Bedouin society to have brought forth this ultimate ideal that is identical to the description of the Bible of the coming Messiah! This understanding will be underlined by taking a closer look on the connectedness between the Biblical and Bedouin worlds.

Photo Matson Collection: Pan-Arabic Conference 1931

Bedouin Culture in Old Testament Sources


The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, belongs to the Semitic culture. Its books are translated into most languages on earth. The Syrian Khella states in his history on the Arabs from the point of view of a Communist and professor of history in former East Germany: “Both the Old Testament as well as the New Testament are Semitic books that can only be understood by bearing this background in mind.” With other words, the knowledge of Bedouin culture facilitates the understanding of the holy books of Judaism and Christianity to a great extent. And on the other hand Arab people can discover that the Bible is a vital part of their heritage.


This statement may seem wrong for the New Testament at a first glance, but let us discuss this later and see into the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, first. The book Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, is a description of a culture that resembles Bedouin culture as it was preserved from past times until the beginning 20th century. The genealogies are only one striking example of the concordance between Bedouin culture and Biblical record. We have seen in the chapter on the history of the Bedouin, that both developed under the same circumstances of nomadic life and Semitic origin. The book Genesis reads like a history of mankind focusing on family and tribal structures. Genealogies are an important part of it. The very first brothers, Kain and Abel, stand for a shepherd and a farmer. The story of Abraham and his sons is a vivid picture of pastoralism. Abraham leaves the settled life of his forefathers and becomes a nomad when God told him to do so. When Lot, the son of his brother, was captured together with his family and his belongings, Abraham set out with his trained men on a daring raid and freed Lot and all that belonged to him (Genesis 14).


Glubb claimed, a key moment for his learning process was the realization that the Old Testament contained an accurate description of Bedouin life in Genesis 18. And the story of Abraham offering hospitality to the strangers could have been repeated amongst the desert people with whom he lived between 1924 and 1925. Abraham´s sons Isaac and Ishmael, and also his grandsons Esau and Jacob, are pairs of brothers, different in many ways, standing for a duality that is typically Semitic like the Arabic language (Khella). In the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus, the wanderings of the children of Israel through the wilderness of the desert are described, the nomadic time of the history of Israel. In many more books of the Hebrew Bible we have references to Bedouin culture and the desert. Here are some examples:


For they would come up with their cattle and their tents, coming like locusts for number; both they and their camels could not be counted; so that they wasted the land as they came in.                                                                 Judges 6:6


As whirlwinds in the Negeb sweep on, it comes from the desert, from a terrible land… .The plunderer plunders, and the destroyer destroys

Go, set a watchman, let him announce what he sees. When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, riders on asses, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.”                                                                                      Isaiah 21:1b/6-7


The Bedouin tent, the home of the nomads and the sanctuary of “God´s guest”, has not changed since the times of the Old Testament: The tent is called bayt/bait/beit (house) both by the Bedouin and in the Old Testament. And according to Jabbur, it is without doubt that the term bayt was borrowed to refer to the house built of brick or stone. Also Solomon sang of the black tents of Arabia in the Song of Songs: “Black I am, and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem; black like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon” (Song of Songs 1:5). If one compares the shapes of the letters b in Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Ethiopic, South Arabian, Phoenician, Sinaitic and Latin, in all their different forms, they do not differ from the configuration of the hair tent in shape, and in most of these languages the pronunciation of the letter approximates that of the term bayt (Jabbur). Doughty points out the similarity between the division of the Bedouin tent in a public hall for men and guests, and an inner woman´s and household apartment with the “house of goat hair” containing the tabernacle of the “nomad God” of Israel that Moses built (Exodus 26:7). And also in later times the picture of the Bedouin tent is used in the pictorial language of the Bible. Referring to God, the prophet Isaiah declares: It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22). And to the people of Israel it is said: Enlarge the place of your tent and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lenghten your cords and strenghten your stakes (Isaiah 54:2). 


Bedouin Culture in New Testament Sources


Many more citation could be listed to show the firm roots of the Old Testament in Bedouin culture. The New Testament on the other hand is written in a non-Semitic language, Greek, the Lingua Franca of that time in the eastern Mediterranean area. The existence of a New Testament in the Semitic language Aramaic, the so called Peschitta manuscripts dating back to the fifth century, is less known. This text is regarded as the original version of the New Testament by some authorities (Lamsa). So it is no surprise that this book in all its parts belongs to the Semitic culture. Indeed, the message of Jesus was given in the Aramaic language, the language of Aram, Syria, that was used in his time in daily conduct, as Hebrew was only used for religious purpose. All authors of the New Testament but one, Luke, were Jews or Half-Jews. Also, the theology of Paul was thoroughly Semitic, as it was firmly based on the Hebrew Old Testament and, in the opinion of the author, his thinking was in no way shaped by a Greek mindset. Much more, the author believes that the speeches of Christ and even the very heart of the gospel can be much better understood by examining its Semitic background and by a knowledge of the culture and societies of the Middle East, including the Bedouin era, a living mirror of that past times until the beginning 20th century. Some examples may support this thesis:


Again we find genealogies of the Messiah, Jesus from the house of David, in the gospel of Matthews and Luke, or precisely those are the genealogies of his stepfather Joseph reaching back to Abraham or Adam respectively. The knowledge of the importance and holiness of Bedouin hospitality helps to understand the parable in Luke 14:16-24:


A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, Come; for all is now ready. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused….. So the servant came and reported it to his master. The householder (rabb al-bayt) in anger said to his servant, Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame. And the servant said, Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room. And the master said to the servant, Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house (bayt) may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.


About Abraham Hebrews 11: 9+10 says: By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob… For he looked forward to the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. Thus in the New Testament the nomadic life of the father of all believers stands as a picture for the journey of our earthen lives. Let us furthermore paint this picture with the colors of Bedouin culture, using also some of the allegories we have cited from the Old Testament on the page above: God made a covenant with Abraham under His tent of stars (Genesis 15: 5+6): “Look towards heaven and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendents be.” And he believed the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And the Apostle Paul, in Galatians 3: 7-14, continues: So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith.


enlarging the tent

In other words the house (bayt) of Abraham, which has been a tent of a Bedouin, must be enlarged, because it must provide room not only for his natural children, but also for all who believe in the promised offspring. And it was fitting, that God chose a tent-maker (Acts 18:3) by profession, to enlarge his house: Paul or Saul of Tarsus. This man changed from a fierce enemy to the man, who had the greatest share in bringing the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, to the gentile people. After the Messiah had revealed himself to Saul near Damascus, Saul went away into Arabia (Galatians 1:17), which became the first land in which he performed his profession as “tent-maker” in a totally new dimension.


We see, that both the Old and the New Testament contain much more than echoes of ancient times of pastoralism and Oriental or Bedouin culture. Both books share a common root with the Bedouin society of the Arab peninsula and we should not separate them from each other. To understand their messages, knowledge and understanding of the culture of the Orient is of great importance. 

Different Books of Revelation - Bible and Koran


This short comparison of the books of the Bible to the Koran will not deal with controversial religious matters, but will just have a short look on stylistic and literary forms, as well as the genesis of those books. The qur ´an was revealed to the prophet Mohammed. Every word is said to have been dictated to him by Gabriel, an angel sent to him by God. Therefore the Koran contains only one literary form: direct speech of God. As result, every single word is of divine origin and therefore its understanding is most often done in a literal, concrete and faithful way.


The Bible, on the other hand, presents an organic historic genesis. There are many different authors ranging over many centuries. Its books boast of many different literary forms: narration, prophetic speech, prayer, dialogue, parables, letters, odes and songs. Also, it contains a variety of stylistic forms: pictorial speech, various artistic dictions, even satirical passages. The texts are arranged and organized in many ways, according to formal or logical reasons. Resulting in different ways of interpreting the Bible that developed in the course of time, dependent on many factors. The science of Christian theology has undergone an evolution and development, some for the better, some for the worse, always depending on the point of view. Contradictory standpoints are common. There are also individuals or groups that have an understanding of Biblical texts not unlike the Islamic understanding of the Koran. But the many different forms of literary texts need to be approached differently by the reader. Even concrete facts may carry additional levels of meaning. The spirit of the texts is of greatest importance for their understanding.


This leads us back to Bedouin literature, poetry. It has been shown under pillar four, Bedouin tradition, that: “Image in classical Arab poetry, according to Sumi, is therefore to be understood not as `picture´ but as `likeness´, as a matter of spiritual similarity, an anti-pictorial meaning, which originates with the account of man´s creation “in the image and likeness of God” (in the First Book of the Bible, Genesis). The Arabic concept of surah, usually translated as “image” has etymologically a similar meaning: “mental image, a resemblance of any object, formed or conceived by the mind, an idea, a meaning of frequent occurrence in philosophical works.” In other words, we find a strong similarity between badu poetry and Biblical texts in using pictures to describe spiritual similarities, that Sumi even describes as an anti-pictorial meaning. Therefore, the Islamic understanding of Biblical texts (for example the statement of Jesus being the son of God) may not necessarily lead to the right conclusions. To understand or to describe God and his qualities, as well as man´s relation to him, transcends our knowledge and our imagination. Thus it seems more appropriate to the author to follow the way of both badu poetry and Biblical texts, by applying spiritual similarities only. This also means that a literate, concrete and faithful understanding may fall short of a spiritual understanding. This does not exclude faith, as all different Biblical texts in form as well as style aim at arousing in the reader or hearer faith and deeds. 

the good shepherd of the Bible as Model for the Relation of God and Man

Photo Carl Raswan


Coming from the Bedouin concept of surah, the usage of pictures in their classical poetry, we will examine the picture of a shepherd and his sheep in both Old and New Testament, a picture that is used to describe men´s relation to God. This is not yet a true Bedouin example, but it already transcends the hadar world from which the Bible has borrowed so many pictures from the profession of farming to show some aspects of the relation between God and men. King David´s 23rd Psalm has become one of the most inspiring pieces of world literature:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restored my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadows of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Though preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Also Jesus of Nazareth used the picture of a shepherd and his herd when he spoke about the good shepherd:


The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” …


This reminds us of all the herdsmen of the Bedouins, who, by singing their little songs, guided their herds of camels out to pasture in the morning and back to the tents in the evenings. And Jesus continues about himself: “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. …I came that they have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; and they follow me, and I give them eternal life.” (from John 10: 3 b until 28 a)


On the contrary, the Bible compares men without trust in God to sheep without a shepherd (1. Kings 22: 17, Matthew 9: 36). 


bedouin society as model for the relation god - man

Photos: both left ones by Carl Raswan, right: Matson Collection

Based on the picture of the herder and his sheep as reflection of the relation between God and men, as cited above, we will return to the Bedouin world, this special part of the heritage of the Old East. The first question we will ask here is: What is the very essence of Bedouin life? The answer is obvious: The relationship between man and animal. There was and is no other society on earth that was formed by this inter-species relation to such great extent. Bedouin society was shaped by animals, more precise, by the relation of man and animal. Especially two bonds with different animal species were characteristic of badu life. Both animals were considered to belong to the family of the Bedouin, but occupied different places in it.


The camel was not only the center around which the badu world was built, but also its main and absolutely necessary foundation. The camel was much more than the main economic factor. Everything, from material things to the life of a person, was measured in the unit of camels. The Bedouin was defined by the camel. By himself and by others. A camel-herder was a Bedouin, and vice versa. Without the camel there would never have existed a Bedouin world. This we can say with full right. The Bedouin society developed in the circumstances of the desert into a violent society, also thanks to the camel. The camel was at one time instrument of aggression and object of aggression.


The life surrounding camel-herding was also the reason behind the development of the only art of the desert: the poetic word. The camel did even help to shape the Arabic language by its own sounds and its rhythmic movements. All this we have come to learn on the pages of this book. The camel, on which the society of the desert was built, was a symbol for the relationship of a child to her mother. On the dromedary´s adaptation to the desert and its milk daily life was dependend, but also especially on raids, or in war. The Bedouin was a nomad, and his profession was the raising and herding of camels, and to go out for plundering. What we call raids was an undertaking not aimed at killing, as any bloodshed had long lasting consequences, but only to secure camels or other booty. Also the right of the weak to survive was clearly regulated. A woman, for example, could claim back part of the booty by addressing the raiders with her words only. The spoken word figured prominently in the desert. Over centuries the only art the desert knew was the poetic word, a fact already stressed many times. Poetry occupied and shaped a large portion of social life and coined public opinion and personal inclinations at a time.


In its sophisticated verses an ideal developed: a triad of the horse-riding poet-warrior. The horse symbolized manhood and all attributes connected. Identification of man and horse reached a climax. We have examined this in detail in pillar four: Bedouin tradition. The horse transformed the camel-riding raider into another person: the horse-riding warrior poet. The poet or any Bedouin considered the horse his likeness, given to him by God. The horse has reached Arabia centuries after the camel. It was, in opposition to camels, a heavy burden for the Bedouin to keep horses in the desert, as it was more difficult to sustain them than humans. But he did nevertheless do anything to save it. It was taken inside the tent in times of perils, like storms, but had also the right to enter it at any time. This pearl of great pride, as it was called, was sheltered in a sort of black shell hidden in the immense desert-sea. It became much more of a family member than any other animal of the Bedouin. Because the horse was the animal most dear to him, allowing him to set out for combat, man against man. Thus, the horse became the beloved comrade of the Bedouin in the decisive times and matters of life and death, the times when both together faced the enemy.


Still, there remains the puzzling and not fully solved question of how the Arabian horse could be transformed into this unique man-loving war-horse by the hands of the Bedouin warrior and  raider. And the answer is simple and at the same time absolutely convincing: through love. Through the love of the warrior, or better of his whole family. The war-horse was mastered by his master not by submission, but by love. Therefore: The mystery of the violent Bedouin society is the mutual love between man and horse. Man loved horse and horse loved man. It was a relationship of trust and respect. This is an anacronism: To train a horse to become a war horse by love. How can this be understood? The answer again is simple. The fleeing instinct of the horse was overcome through confidence, through confidence of the horse in its rider. The horse became the friend of the Bedouin, because the Bedouin knew how to tame it. Mutlak Batal told the following to Lady Blunt: “Our ancestors caught the foals like we catch young gazelles.” They took them into their home, into their family. The relationship was sometimes so close that horse and rider even shared their feelings, their likes and dislikes, just like an elderly marriage after many years together. This closeness has formed the character of the Arabian horse, until today.


Although the wisdom of Salomon was said to have been without parallel, his statement on the horse does not reveal horsemanship: “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the back of fools.” (Proverbs 26: 3). The Bedouins have reached farther. Their relationship towards the horse, described in detail on the pages of this book, is also illustrated by the following true story: Hans Jürgen Gottet from Switzerland, and his wife have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s. Hans Jürgen, a lover of Arabian horses since childhood, since the books of the German author Karl May, had bought himself a desert bred stallion and a mare for his wife. But soon he would not get along with his dominant horse, that was a true war horse. Hans Jürgen became afraid of his temperament and did only handle his stallion with a whip in his hand. But when he used it to control the horse, the horse did not react as he had thought. Instead of obeying the force used on him, the stallion became angry, very angry. Hans Jürgen found himself lying flat on the ground and his head between both front legs of the fiery animal and the front teeth snarling into his face. He believed that the last bell had rung for him. But the horse only menaced him. An old Bedouin, who had observed this, approached Hans Jürgen later and told him: Do never use a whip on one of our horses! Do not even hold it in your hands! Don´t you see that your stallion loves you? He is just waiting for you to show your love to him, too. Hans Jürgen was thunderstruck. But he followed the advice and he and his stallion became the closest friends you can imagine. If you should hear, or some day hopefully read the stories about their eleven month long trip from Saudi Arabia back home to Switzerland, you will understand the great personality of this true Bedouin horse.


This incidence and the astonishing wisdom of the old Bedouin opened the author´s eyes. The simple truth that helped heal the broken relation between a man and his horse came from a man of the East, not from a westerner. The understanding of the stallion´s behavior does not fit into “common sense” of our days. This mutual love across the inter-species barrier between man and horse as we find it in the Bedouin world cannot be compared to the relation of sheep to their shepherd, as the above cited Biblical texts describe. It reaches farther, has become a much closer relation. It much rather resembles a team, the rider relying on his horse, in the most dangerous times. The badu attitude towards their horses and animals and their standing in society is striking compared to the traditional standing of the animals in Jewish and Christian societies. The latter two did not pay great attention to them. Both were and are hadar societies. The animals are not vital to them, although today animals, especially pets, but also horses, occupy a new role as family members. A shepherd and his sheep is the ultimate relationship that Christianity and Judaism know as model of the relation between God and man. But Bedouin society has, as has already been stressed, reached farther. 

Photos Carl Raswan

Japanese scientist Sumi wrote on the relation between man and horse: …”It is not coincidental that the Arabic poetic tradition selected the horse as one of the main motifs of the fakhr unit; the horse, as the Emir (Abd El Kader, annotation by the author) argues, is the symbol of excellence and nobility in the poet´s tribal community. In order to build the ideal image of culmination in light of both the qasidah structure and of the tribal community, the poet makes use of the steed´s physical beauty and sturdiness, which God granted only to the horse among beasts. The horse is chosen to be the lord of beasts by God for its beauty and high value. According to the tradition, God conferred khayr on the horse (khayl), joined in its forelock. Khayr is “moral and physical good, anything that is good or ideal, good fortune, prosperity, happiness.” Khayr is also used by the Arabs to signify horses. Having illustrated the steed´s dignity in all senses, Imru´al-Qays further utilizes the technique of wasf in order to construct his own image as champion by overlapping himself with the image of the massive, powerful steed. For the poet, the horse is not a mere object of poetic wasf. The poem instead presents the symbiotic relationship of poet and horse. Furthermore, according to Daumas, the Emir states, “physical attributes alone do not constitute a perfect horse. It is necessary, because of his intelligence, because of his affection for the man who feeds him, cares for him, and rides him, that man and horse be as one.” Moreover, in the hunt, the steed also “keeps the hunter/persona safe from dangers in the chase” and “share the emotions of sorrow and pleasure of the hunter by fighting.” The hunter/persona and the horse are portrayed as united not only in the sphere of body, but also in spirit.”


The badu ideal of manhood was only complete with the horse. The climax was a man who could rely on the power of his word and the power of his horse. Such a man could win the hearts of many. And such a man - a man described by the injil using the above picture from the Bedouin world - will come from heaven, in other words, he will come from God: “Behold, a white horse” - John begins his passage on the returning Messiah with the horse. Therefore the horse is of special importance in this context.


It is noteworthy, that the New Testament, and not Islamic tradition, depicts the Messiah as rider on a white horse. Not too many people have noticed this connection to the Bedouin world. There is no other likely possibility in the light of the many parallels to be found between the world of the Bedouin and the world of the Bible. What picture would be more fitting for the Messiah than this picture of rider and horse from badu tradition? A picture far preceding any other picture of horse and rider from other traditions. Therefore the white horse of the book of Revelation, in the tradition of the desert a horse of sheikhs, kings and princes, will be a Bedouin horse, an Arabian horse, the most beautiful horse of the World, the world famous horse that already has planted friendships across political and religious frontiers. This is also reflected in the Islamic tradition connected with the ritus of circumcision. The custom to have the boy ride on a horse, if possible a white horse, was clearly reflected in the words and tears of an old man in Germany that had to say good bye to his beloved, but mortally sick pony. He was not a Muslim, but he told the author with pride, how the Turkish boys of his town gained confidence in riding his companion of many years when they took part in the festival of their circumcision. 


The coming Messiah


Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white (safra´) horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a rope dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, …. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.                                                     Revelation of John 19, 11-16


Behold a white horse” , and the rider on his back: al-masih, Christ, the Messiah. Also Islam is waiting for a man to be born at the end of time. The qur´an in sura 5: 75 speaks of him, al-masih, as the son of Mary. For Christianity there is no doubt, that Jesus of Nazareth is the coming Messiah. For sure, Jesus occupies different roles for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish people. And there are different traditions concerning the Messiah coming to fulfill his task to bring everlasting peace. Jesus is regarded a very special person. Both the qu´ran and the indjil speak of Jesus as the word of God (sura 19: 34, John 1). In sura 19: 20 he is named “holy son”. His teachings and his life stand out, even for those who do not agree with his divine claim.


This common hope of the three religions in a special person sent by God to bring peace, could this common hope not be a foundation to strive for a new beginning of peaceful relations among the nations and religions? For all who live under the one black tent of stars that God has vaulted above us all. And like the stars in heaven, glittering in the darkest night like pearls, which guided the Bedouins on their wanderings through the desert, could we not follow the one shining example of Jesus? Let us set aside the many questions and differences and concentrate on our common hope, the Messiah, the word of God, bringing everlasting peace! When he will come, he will solve all the open questions. 

Annotation: The Messiah is already active in the Arab world and reveals himself to single persons through dreams and other ways. He alone is the way to our heavenly father and nobody has to wait until the day of his GREAT RETURN but can address Jesus simply by talking/praying to him. And for sure he will answer and will find you in whatever situation you are. He is already the good shepherd! Also, feel free to contact us!

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