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The ‘wajib’ is a very important part of many culture, but certainly middle eastern culture.

The English translation is akin to obligation, moral duty or responsibility.

Something like that.

My family originates from a small village, and growing up in the west, I had always struggled with the whole concept of the wajib.

It honor the wajib is an expectation you grow up with

It can seem brutal, relentless and never ending, a little over the top at time.

What is the point of it exactly?

In short, a wajib is a kind of offering you make to your community whenever there is any kind of occasion.

And there are many occasions that warrant a wajib.

A wedding or engagement, a graduation, baptism, when someone is born or when someone dies, when someone from overseas has come into town, when someone is traveling overseas.

When someone is sick or in hospital, when someone comes home from being in the hospital, birthdays, religious holidays, when someone invites you for lunch or a visit, don’t go empty handed and you’ll need to invite them back

And if someone comes to visit you, you have to repay that visit too.

If someone brings over some food in a container, you have to return the container with some food in it, not empty. 

An engagement, wedding or a funeral, may have several ‘Wajibs‘ attached to it (before, during and after).

And this would be only a few.

There are also consequences for not adhering to the protocols on wajib’s.

You see, it’s based on the principle of reciprocity.

People will honor their wajib to you, as long as you honor your wajib to them.

So if you opt-out, you basically become outcast, disowned by the community.

Now for years I really struggled with this, it just seemed a little over the top –

But as I started reflecting a little deeper, I began to understand.

I began to understand that the wajib is like a social glue that binds the community together.

It’s a responsibility (or duty) you take upon yourself to honor your neighbor.

It’s grounded in common decency and respect.

So the community is built on a mutual reliance on each other.

On shared values and outwardly projecting those values, even if only symbolically.

So it’s no longer just about you 

And I’m finding a real inherent beauty in that.

The more others rely on you, the greater the reason to get out of bed in the morning.

This isn’t always easy, but it has value.

You’re never left wanting, you’ll never die of starvation and in your time of need, the whole community rallies behind you.

You become part of something bigger than yourself.

Your world expands.

What did my life look like when I abandoned the wajib?

Increasingly isolated and lonely.

There were moments of pleasure, but no real substance or meaning.

There was no glue binding me to my community, and my community to me.


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