In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate

 I, Hasan, the son of Akbar, resident of the village of Saraab, being of sound mind and resolute belief in Muhammad, praise be upon him (PBUH) and the 12 Imams, the Pure Ones, declare this here as my last and final will and testament.

 I have found it my sacred duty to answer the call and volunteer as a suicide martyr for any mission that our Olama (religious leaders) assign to this humble servant. I have given the matter great thought and have consulted extensively with our village Agha (the mullah). Agha, with patience and understanding, allowed me to ask many questions and replied to all my inquiries. In order to assist other brothers who may have similar questions as they contemplate offering themselves in the service of our infallible faith, I hereby report the essence of my conversation with Agha.

 Me. Agha, I offer Your Person my infinite gratitude for giving me a private audience before I head for Tehran and enlist in the Martyrs Brigade. I humbly request that you accept this sum as an insignificant offering, representing my entire worldly possession, as a token of my gratitude for your console and time. It is the payment I received for selling my donkey – my soul-worldly possession of any value. I gave my hoe, shovel, and pick to my elderly parents so that, with the help of my two sisters, they can work our allotted plot and manage to survive. I have only taken enough money from the sale of the donkey to pay for the bus fare to Tehran…

 Mullah. (Quickly tucks the notes under his cloak) and says no need, no need for this, my son. The fact that you are volunteering proves that you place no value on this fistful of dust, this worthless world, and you are aiming for eternal life in Allah’s paradise. If you insist, I’ll accept your offering and will pray for your pure soul.

 Me. Thank you Agha for your kindness. I am particularly grateful to you to allow me to unburden myself, unreservedly, of many questions and be ready to wing my way to the next world with absolute certitude regarding our sacred faith. To do so demands that I ask my questions without any reservation and Your Person have allowed me to do so. I am eternally grateful to you Agha…

 Mullah. Yes, yes, yes. Please go ahead.

 Me. I am committed to embarking on my mission and nothing is going to prevent me from so doing. Yet, over the years, listening to the ulama, your own sermons, and what I have learned from the Quran, the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), and the Sunna (the examples set by Muhammad) have made me think. Most troubling of all has been the whispering of an evil man, my tent-mate in the army from which I was recently discharged. This man never said his five times a-day obligatory prayer, he never consulted the Quran or even did not observe the fast. To the contrary, at every opportunity he raised questions about our infallible faith that caused me great anguish…

 Mullah. Go ahead, son. Get to the point. Realize that I am a busy man and I can only spend so much time with any one person. But, since you are a very special believer and you are on your way to offering yourself in the service of our sacred faith, I will take the time and make every effort to relieve your anguish.

 Me. Thank you, Your Person, I will try and organize my thoughts. Yet, you will pardon me if I end up jumping all over the map from one topic to the next as they pop up in my head…

 Mullah. Go ahead, go ahead. Time is of the essence.

 Me. My motive for volunteering is pure. It is my duty to give the life that Allah has given me for his faith. I am also interested in the promised paradise. I understand that by offering my life I will be admitted into a paradise of indescribable magnificence where rivers of milk and honey course through the endless place, choicest fruits of all kinds adorn the trees and all imaginable nice things are for the residents…

 Mullah. Yes, yes, yes. I know all about these. Get to the point.

 Me. Well, Your Person, I am truly ashamed to ask troubling questions, most of which have been implanted in my mind by this evil tent-mate. For instance, I am confused about the promised paradise and the reward for a martyr – I mean the promised 72 virgins…

 Mullah. Yes, yes, go on. What about it?

 Me. I hope you forgive me. But, with your permission, I will try and lump my questions about the 72 virgins. Would I be married to all 72 of them? I know that we are allowed four wives on earth and as many seeghe (temporary wives) as we wish or we can afford. In this accursed earth, not only I couldn’t afford one virgin for my wife, even a widow declined my parents’ proposal to marry me. Furthermore, I couldn’t even afford to have one seeghe. So, you understand that I am a healthy 26-year-old man and I find this promise most alluring to me…

 Mullah. Yes, I understand. So what is the problem?

 Me. Well, as I said, will all 72 of them be my wives? Would I be able to divorce one or all of them? Can I punish them if they misbehave, like women are wont to do? Having the same 72 virgins forever is a long long time. Could I get rid of them and get some new ones? Would I be able to choose my virgins from a lineup or will they be assigned to me, whether I like them or not? You see, Your Person, I hate to confess this. I have a hankering for a special kind of woman – the blue-eye-blonds, the infidel European and Americans. Would they be in heaven, would Allah make exceptions for them since they are so beautiful? Allah can make exceptions, the scripture says, “He does as he wills and ordains as he wishes.” The type of women I am talking about I have seen in a couple of movies are the ones who get my juices bubbling, pardon me for my impertinences Agha . I don’t care much for scrawny shriveled women like the ones in this village. See what I mean?

 Mullah. Son, all these questions are irrelevant. Why do you think it is called paradise? It is just that, paradise. It means that you get your heart’s desire since you have earned admission to it.

 Me. Thank you, thank you, Your Person. I knew that you would answer my questions satisfactorily. Now, the older of my sisters is 24 and not married. There is no suitor in sight and chances are that she will go to her grave virgin. She was seriously thinking about volunteering for the Martyr Brigade and going with me to Tehran. We talked about it and I told her about the 72 virgins that I will be getting. That was a mistake, I believe. She asked what she would get for her sacrifice. I had to wreck my brain to come up with an answer. I didn’t think that she would get 72 men. Because, Allah forbid and I do beg your forgiveness for what I am about to say next. If a woman serves 72 men that would be like a brothel, right, Your Person? That just doesn’t seem right and it is not very practical for one woman to satisfy the lust of 72 men. I told her that she would probably be one of the 72 virgins that another man would get since given the shortage of men in this village and our poverty she is likely to go to the grave virgin anyway. She became furious and almost slapped me in the face.

 Mullah. Yes. That’s women for you. They are so feeble and emotional. And at the slightest thing they get provoked and become completely irrational— best not to engage them in any serious discourse. They are childlike, even when they are old. For this reason, Allah has ordained in the Quran that men are rulers over women. Women are not equal to men. Women need wise and strong rulers to keep them in line. Otherwise, the whole world would be ruined. Besides, what if women don’t like what they get? The scripture says that a woman’s testimony in the court of law is worth half of that of a man’s, no prophet of Allah has been a woman, no Imams has been a woman, no Ayatollah, not even a mullah has ever been a woman. They just have to know their rank and their place and be grateful to men who care for them, support them and feed them.

 Me. Excuse my impertinence Your Person, but my mother is a woman and she is by far more rational, calmer, and wiser than my father. How could that be if women are by design inferior, emotional, and childlike and need men to manage them?

 Mullah. Son, you are showing signs of wavering in your faith. These are not my sayings; they are the scripture, the very words of Allah himself. Tonight say extra prayers and repent. I, for my part, shall pray for you so that you do not succumb to the whisperings of the accursed Satan.

 Me. Thank you, thank you a thousand times Your Person. But the trouble is with my brain. It keeps raising all kinds of questions. For instance, this tent-mate of mine once asked me, “Why Imam Jafar is called ‘the Truthful?’ Was it because the other eleven Imams were liars?” See how troubling the question can be. I told him that the other Imams must have practiced ketman (secretiveness) and taqiyya (denying) in instances that could cause trouble. They were not actually liars. They exercised wisdom and practiced what is prescribed in the scripture. Am I correct Your Person?

 Mullah. Yes and no. You are correct that the Pure Imams were not liars. Yet, it is not up to you to judge the Pure Imams in any way that impugns their character and life. It is not up to you to justify what the Prophet or the Pure Imams did. They are in a special realm of Allah and they are not subject to the same rules that govern us, the sinful mortals.

 Me. Yes, yes Your Person. That answers great many of my questions. Studying the Sunna baffled me about some of the things the Prophet did. In his late fifties, for instance, the Prophet married the nine-year-old daughter of his friend and best disciple. No ordinary man of that advanced age should bed down with a tender child of nine. Right?

 Mullah. Son, I see that you are a troubled soul. Your faith is tested…

 Me. But Your Person, Allah has given me a brain to think with and I cannot help but think about things. If I do not use my brain, then what good is it? Why Allah gave me brains in the first place if I am not to use it?

 Mullah. Yes, Allah has given you brains to use it to serve him, love him and obey him and follow the dictates of the Seal of the Prophets. Yet, there is a price to pay for the gift of the brains. It is, unfortunately, the very instrument that the accursed Satan infiltrates to plant seeds of doubt, lead you astray and destroy your faith. I see pieces of evidence of this in your questioning.

 Me. Your Person, I beg you to forgive me. You are right indeed. It is the accursed Satan who takes over me, manipulates my thoughts and enflames me. You have been so kind and indulging that I find it in me to ask a few more questions that really trouble me. And since I am headed for the next world, I want to arrive there with absolute certitude about our holy faith and its teachings…

 Mullah. I have other urgent matters to attend to them. Please speak up and let us be done.

 Me. Yes, yes. I will get to the point directly, but first I beg your forgiveness for this very question is a shameful one. As you recall, my late cousin Ghasem, blessed with his soul, was killed in a religious mission. Our very own Ayatollah declared him a martyr and the government pays his parents a monthly stipend for it. You, yourself, during his burial, proclaimed him a martyr and assured us all that he was in heaven already…

 Mullah. Yes, yes. I thought that you were going to get to the question. I need not be reminded of all these preliminaries. What is the question?

 Me. Well, I was a lad when they brought his body to the village for burial. My father and uncle asked me to help with the washing of his body before burial. I noticed that although much of his chest and head were seriously injured, his instrument was fully intact.

 Mullah. Yes?

 Me. Well, how should I say this? Fine, my question is how my martyred cousin, blessed with his soul, is going to partake from the 72 virgins if his instrument was buried with the rest of his body. I saw it with my own eyes that it was buried. Would they issue him a new instrument in paradise? If he is not issued a new instrument, he would most likely sit around, sigh in frustration, and weep bitterly for eternity. That would be true hell, not paradise.

 Mullah. Son, you have not only a questioning mind that the accursed Satan has completely taken over, you have a mind that is fixated on sex. You are in dire trouble and in great need of spiritual rehabilitation.

 Me. Yes, Your Person. You are correct as always. But, sex is important to healthy men. Is it not for this reason that the Prophet himself had numerous wives, that Muslims are allowed four wives and many Seeghe? And you, yourself, have four wives and reportedly partake of Seeghe on your biannual journey to the shrine of Imam Reza?

 Mullah. Now, you have exceeded my patience with your vulgarity. I demand that you take your filthy self out of my presence at once before I have you lynched for blasphemy.


 I ran out of the Mullah’s house as if the devil himself was after me and left the village in the dead of night fearing the wrath of the powerful mullah. It may be that Satan has taken over my brain and it is he who is raising these blasphemous questions. But even my donkey has a mind of its own and did not always do what I wanted it to do.

 Am I less than a donkey to blindly believe and obey what others say? I did not even scratch the surface of the mounds of questions that I have. Why, for instance, our Mullah can have four wives and comfortable life built on the sweat and blood of us destitute villagers? We have to pay Khums (Tithe, one-fifth) of our meager earnings? We have to give Zakat (religious contributions) and even gladly offer our life when they demand it. They have their paradise here on earth, thanks to the servitude of fools like us while giving us phony promises as compensation in the afterlife. I have changed my mind about joining the Martyrs Brigade, until such time that some religious authority can give satisfactory answers to all my questions.

 My Satan-possessed mind advises all young men and women to beware of the mullahs. They are wolves in sheep’s garbs.

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