Chafika & Metwally – A Search For a Moral Basis

In Egyptian folklore there is a a famous Mawaal called Chafika and Metwally, which one of my friends introduced me to, it’s based on a folktale about a brother and sister from Gerga a famous village in upper Egypt where Metwally is sent to join the Army and afterwards discovers that his sister “Chafika” escapes her petty existence in Gerga and moves to the city. Chafika’s poverty forces her to work as a belly dancer and eventually a woman of the night. throughout the Dialogue of the Mawaal the theme is Metwally’s shame and disgrace, and his journey to find Chafika where he eventually buries his shame by killing her with the help of some of his friends and get’s off by only six months in jail as this is a crime of honor, and then celebrated as a  hero in his small village, portrayed walking with his head held high.

Soad Hosny Ahmed Zaki and Mahmoud Abd El Aziz in the 1979 production of the folktale

Soad Hosny Ahmed Zaki and Mahmoud Abd El Aziz in the 1979 production of the folktale

As i listened to the Mawaal (a traditional genre of vocal Arabic music) i posed a lot of questions, but the most controversial one was what was the moral basis on which Metwally’s actions are based, what was his drive, and what was the motive of his friends to help him in his quest of finding Chafika, the judge letting him go off easily and the villagers celebrating him as a hero.
If you were born and raised in a third world country the first answer you will get is Religion, Traditions and pride of course, where the argument is that traditions and pride are derived from religion, making religion the sole moral basis and motive of all characters in the Mawaal. but is it really so? does this mean that in the absence of religion, the story  line will differ? would have Metwally and the others have taken a different route?

Well As noted by Christian Arab writer, Norma Khouri, honor killings originate from the belief that a woman’s chastity is the property of her families, a cultural norm that comes “from our ancient tribal days, from the Hammurabi and Assyrian tribes of 1200 B.C.”[31]Matthew A. Goldstein, J.D. (Arizona), has also noted that honor killings were encouraged in ancient Rome, where male family members who did not take actions against the female adulterers in their family were “actively persecuted”. Wikipedia

Well if honor killings is dated before the three largest religions in the world and in the same time there is no direct relationship between religions and honor killing then this voids the whole assumption that the Moral basis in the story is Religion leaving pride and traditions without a source.

But if not Religion then what is?

If  you trace the origins of honor killings, male dominance, slavery, racism, and others you will find that it goes back to pre-historic ages, however i cant deny that no one single discriminating act in modern history wasn’t at least once given a religious basis.

Religious minorities in Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist states where only the followers of the dominant religion would go to heaven and the rest will burn in hell, Discrimination against women where all societal systems advocate for male dominance and some for the exploitation or suppression of women, Slavery where humanity’s only justification is that religions didn’t prohibit it (It took humanity 1940 Years to recognize that slavery is wrong !! and countries like KSA (The origin of Islam) almost 1400 years to recognize the same.)

jco0173l.jpgForget about humanity for a second, if you are just a fan of Animal Planet, Nat Geo you will have a clue to where I’m going, what’s is the moral basis of hyena’s and wolf packs in deciding the ranking of the herd / pack members, what is the moral basis of Matting season fights, what is the moral basis behind your old dog fighting the new one ..

Organized Religion for some represents the path for salvation, the system that guides their way,  represents societal norms and controls in both their meanings however for a group of people religion is just a way to give their life styles, choices in life a holy cover, a quoting that gives their decisions divine support, where the actual moral basis is basic human instincts; Sexual Jealousy, Dominance, envy and other lovely traits of humanity. the problem with the basic human instincts is that they are not justified, not tangible and most of the time can’t be explained, on the other hand religion a divinely designed system…which needs to be followed and implemented..literally based solely on faith. A good cover ain’t it.

Regardless that All religions in their essence call for justice and Equality, humanity has always found a way to justify their actions that are solely based on Human basic instincts through Religion, discriminate against others, Whether by limiting the scope of the referred to Justice and Equality on the followers of the same religion or by designing societal rules that demeans weaker human beings aka women and children  ..


Regardless that All religions in their essence call for justice and Equality, humanity has always found a way to use Religion to discriminate against others

Should we blame it on religion? Well i think humanity takes the fall for that one, yes religion was used – Alot – throughout history to provide a cover or justification to a lot of devilish acts, but organized religion is a system that differs in implementation from a group to another, can be used for good and evil, can be used to advocate good deeds or defend devilish ones and eventually implementation is always the name of the game.

This takes me to my concluding point if religion isn’t the moral basis of our story, what would humanity look like now in the absence of it’s presumed moral basis? or to rephrase it what would humanity look like now if Human Basic instincts was it’s only declared moral basis?

2 Responses to “Chafika & Metwally – A Search For a Moral Basis”
  1. Alia Elkilany says:

    good point pf view (Y)(Y)

  2. G says:

    That’s an interesting, fair point of view… I like how deep you went in research, and didn’t just presented what’s already there…
    I also love pieces that ends with questions… Bon travail monsieur K 😊

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