Sunday, April 2, 2006

Dromedaries & Dental Hygiene

As I perused the vacation snaps last night, I grudgingly reminded myself - no doubt prompted by this camel whom I met in my travels - to make an appointment to see a dentist. *Sigh* - I hate dentists probably more than I hate doctors. I believe I developed my first cavity in my mother's womb whereas my brother has never had a speck of mercury in his mouth. In any case, since this is a Sunday morning and I haven't a useful or productive thought it my head, I will use this time effectively by drinking more tea, further contributing to the antique ivory patina which my teeth have acquired since my arrival in Morocco.

My connection of camels and cuspids isn't gratuitous (my photo alone should be gurgling, belching & farting at a 1,000 words a minute). A few years ago, a judge in an Islamic court in the north-eastern Nigerian state of Sokoto ordered a man to pay 50 camels as compensation to his wife, who lost 10 of her teeth after he pummelled her to unconsciousness. The sentence was staggering as the value of one camel (@ $200) is more than the entire annual income for most people in the defendant's area. More recently, Iranian student leader Akbar Atri was beaten so badly by plainclothes religious police that his jaw was broken and he lost two teeth. In court, a judge ruled that Mr. Atri owed his attackers money for assaulting them - the price of a camel. Presumably this was the straw that broke the camel's back as he has since fled Iran.

An aside on retaliation in Islam - scroll down 3 paragraphs if you don't give a tinker's dam. Hadiths are the reports of Muhammad’s words and actions outside of the Quran. In conjunction with the Quran, these reports are the foundations for later legal rulings. One "reliable" hadith collector and editor is Abu Da'ud, who walked the earth in the 9th century, and wrote the 3rd of the 6 canonical hadith collections recognized by Sunni Muslims. "True" Islam, (as taught by Muhammad) adheres to lex talionis, or the law of retaliation. In this century, eyes of the guilty are being surgically removed as compensation to the injured party (it's okay Knarf: I promise, no gruesome photos disguised as fluffy kittens). I would add that the victim can select 3 options: retaliation, forgiveness, or compensation. I wonder how often option 2 is invoked? - I'll just keep my thoughts to myself. Now, based on Abu Da'ud's reckoning and allowing for inflation, the following chart of compensation has been drawn up:

(1) All fingers are of equal value, so the victim gets 10 camels per finger.
(2) Teeth carry the same value as fingers, whether the teeth are molars or incisors, so the victim gets ten camels per tooth.
(3) This is also true of toes and fingers.
(4) Completely cutting off the nose requires 100 camels
(5) Cutting off the tip of the nose requires 50 camels, or the equivalent in gold or silver, or a 100 cows, or a 1,000 sheep.
(6) Cutting off half a hand requires half the payment of 100 camels.
(7) For one foot, the payment is half of 100 camels.
(8) For a wound in the head, 33 1/3 camels must be paid.
(9) "For a head thrust that reaches the body, the same blood-wit must be paid" as the previous injury.

Based on these calculations, our Nigerian battered wife received short shrift: she was owed 100 not 50 camels. Anyway, later jurists offered a monetary alternative based on the value of a camel. This was considered progressive.

(Jeez, to think this all started by looking at a few holiday photos - bet you can't wait for me to go through the rest).

For those who are less interested in the going rate of their forefinger and more interested in cross-species dental arcana (and who isn't?), the adult camel has 34 permanent teeth. The adult human has 32 teeth, while Cat in Rabat has 27 adult teeth (less 4 wisdoms) and 1 remaining baby tooth - surely her fountain of youth, or at least her personal Portrait of Dorian Gray. Should said baby tooth get the heave-ho (as I suspect will happen sooner than later, hence my reluctance to visit a dentist), she will quickly age and wither away, a Cassandra-like creature who will be reduced to little more than a voice that no one heeds. Hell, she's halfway there already.

Addendum: Is it my imagination, or does this camel bear an uncanny resemblance to the late actor Don Knotts?

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