Sunday, October 26, 2008

Allah Bil Khair

Culture is learned ways of acting and thinking, which are transmitted by group members to other group members and which provide for each individual ready made and tested solutions for vital life problem (walter,1952)
(Cox J.L.(1977). Aspects of transcultural psychiatry. British Journal of Psychiatry. 130,211-212)

Allah Bil Khair means literally "God with good". It is the commonly used short version of the original version which means "May God makes your evening full with good". It is the used greeting in traditional cafes and other man social gathering in Iraq. Used by men more often. I have never heard a woman saying "Allah Bil Khair" only when trying to use it its other meaning. Its other use is to mean "are you with me?" so if somebody talks to you and you seem not listening s/he may say: "Allah Bil Khair!?"

My father told me once his story with "Allah Bil Khair". He didn't like it, he said. He liked to say "good evening". It is short, nice, informative, understood, with no religious flavor. Why should God be inserted into our daily life, into our greeting? My father explained. But as my father graduated from university he had to work in a village named "Khirnabat". The road to Khirnabat was unpaved by then. The village was full of scorpions as they told my father by then. It was my father's first trip away from home. He was advised to sleep in a bed with long feet and to put rat poison around the bed feet so that no scorpion would go up to him. He worked for few hours in the morning, but he spent all the other time in his room, as he told me. One day, he felt hemmed in. He needed to go out. He went walking, found a café, went and sat down between the men of the village. The men went silent for some moments. My father felt frightened as he said. The silence became so intense that he felt he is unwelcomed till somebody raised his right hand in the air, looked at my father, raised his body from the chair a little and said: "Allah Bil Khair". My father raised his right hand, raised his body a little from the chair and said with a wide smile: "Alla Bil Khair Akhouya (=brother)". Other men started saying "Allah Bil Khair" to my father after that welcoming him among them. The silence did break into an atmosphere of warm welcoming. My father said to me: "It was only by then that I finally understood what Allah Bil Khair means!"Since then and I love Allah Bil Khair.

The first picture above "a man with a narjela" is one of my father's paintings. The second is taken from the web as a picture representing an old Baghdadi cafe named "Khan Jkhan".

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