Kurdish Culture

Kurdish Proverb

1 “AgarBra Lapisht brabe magar muqader la lay khodabe” (If brothers stand back to back and support each other, only death (God’s will) can defeat them.)

Small nations and minority people must maintain close ties and good relations with each other.  The Kurds are just such a nation and people.  As they say in America, “Even if we have no one else, we have each other.”  In hard times this is especially true.  Friends will not always stay during times of trouble, but brothers have no choice and will remain by your side.  With someone by your side you would be strong enough to face what comes.

The Kurds have such a long experience and history of being betrayed by others that we say we do not have any friends – only the mountains which are our castle.  The betrayal of others has helped us to keep our family ties strong.  In many case five or six brothers would marry and have children, but would still live together for protection and as a way to cooperate to meet the needs of the family.  One would plant crops and take care of the farm animals; another would watch the cattle, another would bring wood, another would buy and sell goods.  Nobody alone could do all of these things and there was no law or police or government to protect individuals – only the family and the tribe could do that.

Bundle of sticks

Thank God that even today family ties between the Kurds are very strong.  Our youth are still willing to work hard and sacrifice themselves to support their family.  Some of them went to Europe, not for eating, drinking, dancing and having fun, but to work hard and support four or five families of his friends and relatives.  They were taught this family loyalty since they were babies.  I remember when I went to school, the first story I learned in first grade.  A father gathered his seven children and asked each of them to bring him two sticks.  Then he asked each of the children to give him one of the two sticks.  The father broke each of the seven sticks in two.  Then the father asked for the other seven sticks and tied all seven of them together in a bundle.  The father tried to break the bundle in two but he could not.  He handed the bundle to the children but none of them could break it either, even when they all tried together.  Then the father said to them, “Look!  You are just the same as these seven sticks.  If you stay together and support each other, no one can break you – just like these bundled sticks.  If you do not support each other everyone can break you, just as you saw me break your sticks individually.  Then he read them the proverb, “If brothers stand back to back and support each other only death or God’s will can defeat them”.

There is an Arab proverb that was very common before Islam which said, “Support your brother, right or wrong”.  This is what most of the tribes do.  They will support other tribal members regardless of whether they are right or wrong.  Members of political parties will also support their leaders or other members regardless of whether these people are doing right or wrong.  One day the prophet Mohammed repeated this Arab proverb and said to his companions, “Support your brother, right or wrong”.  They were surprised because they had learned from Islam that they cannot engage in racism and they cannot support wrong conduct.  So they asked the Prophet, “O God’s Messenger.  We must support our brother if he is doing right, but how can we support him if he is doing wrong?”  The Prophet told them that they must support their brother if he is doing right, and must stop him if he is doing wrong.  Stopping him from doing wrong is giving him support.

I believe that this is the difference between racism and true love for each other, and our families and our nation.  If we support our friends even when they are wrong we engage in racism and ignorance.  Our duty is to show our real love by stopping our friends when they do wrong, and to support them only when they do right.  It is sad that many people today still go back to those ignorant times and support racism and nationalism even when they know they are wrong.

Posted 2/24/08

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May 5, 2008

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