Further ideas from Honor & Shame by Roland Muller...
Honour for an Arab is the absence of shame - every Arab desires and strives to be more honourable. Honouring elders has a high value – exemplified by the story of two sons, each asked by their father to go and fetch water. The elder says no, the younger says yes, but does not go. In western eyes both have dishonoured the father while in eastern eyes the younger is seen as the better son for saving face for his father.
Honourable acts would include hospitality, flattery and gift-giving. Hospitality is one of the most important ways of showing honour – it honours the guest and covers any shame the host may have. It is the aim that any visit to an Arab home will honour the guest. The opposite is also true – a visitor kept at the door will be shamed for all to see. They will not return. Flattery meanwhile honours the recipient and is a public display of honour from the flatterer. As far as gifts are concerned, if you admire anything in an Arab home the hosts will be quick to insist that you receive it as a gift. Even if you don’t admire something gifts will be offered and the host will insist that you eat and drink – this is considered an obligation by the host. The guest must be willing to accept such hospitality.
Family history accrues honour and it is the duty of the eldest son especially to maintain that honour.
Education bestows honour and many poor families sacrifice almost everything, parents working endlessly to help an elder son receive a higher education thus elevating the status of the whole family and tribe.
Marriage brings honour - but if the behaviour of a wife injures a man swift judgment will result. The arrival of the first son brings higher status to the couple and so to the wider family.
Honour in the Arabic language: Arabs will wish each other joy on three specific occasions – the birth of a boy, the coming to light of a poet and the foaling of a noble mare! Language is so powerful that Arabs will listen intently to someone speaking well – whether he speaks the truth or not. Arab poetry is full of vainglory – the Arab hero is defiant, boastful and will fight to the death for his women!
To be continued...
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