Think Not of Him as Slain:
The Culture and Life of Sayid Jarrah
by Pearson Moore
He was the only character to die twice on the Island.
Did he deserve resurrection? His major accomplishments before death were tortures and murders. He was a respected officer in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, but only due to keen ability in using the implements of terror to extract confession from the most recalcitrant prisoner. So effective was he as paid assassin in Ben Linus' employ that he ran out of victims to kill. In violation of the precepts of Islam, he wore gold jewellery, drank Scotch Whisky, and engaged in fornication. By any measure, by his own admission, and most pointedly by the teachings of his faith, he was not a good man.
More than any other character, he struggled with the morality of his actions. Twice he left society, explicitly acknowledging the dark blemishes on his soul. He sought redemption with greater vigour than anyone around him. If his sins were profound, his condemnation of them was sure.
In the end, his faith teaches that he did not die. By giving up his life so his friends might live, the darkness inside him was wiped away. When his body is found, it is not to be washed, for the Quran says he is already clean, inside and out. This is the story of the last great saint of Mittelos, Sayid Hassan Jarrah.
The Struggle Begins
Sayid's father was one of the great heroes from the days of Amad asan al-Bakr, President of Iraq before Saddam Hussein. He was a man respected, not only in his village, but throughout the country. Especially during the years of terror, starting in 1979, he was a pillar of honesty and integrity. He taught his sons virtue and instilled in them the tenets of the Islamic faith. Most of all, he insisted they understand that a man must not disdain difficult tasks. One such task was the taking of life.
The Quran is very clear about the precise manner in which an animal's life is to be ended, especially if the animal is to be used for food. The killing must be done cleanly and humanely, so as to prevent the animal's suffering. If the animal is not respected, or if the killing is performed contrary to scripture, the transgressor is to be held in violation of Islamic law, and the meat from the animal is considered unclean--not suitable for consumption. Halal is more restrictive even than kosher law.
A man must understand that the taking of life--even animal life--is forbidden. An exception applies only in the case in which an animal is required for food, and even then the many rules surrounding the killing, butchering, and preparation of meat must be scrupulously obeyed, or the butcher brings contempt upon himself.
Such was the framework in effect when the great hero of Iraq came to his eldest son, Omer, and instructed him to kill a chicken for dinner. It was an honour, an acknowledgement that Omer was moving into manhood, and he would be expected to complete tasks not agreeable to women and not suited to children. The task was also a challenge, one which the great hero was expecting his son to embrace without hesitation.
Considering the enormous stakes for Omer, we cannot know the rationale for his hesitancy in killing the chicken. He may have flinched at the thought of killing an animal; after a boyhood full of the Quran's teachings on the sacredness of life he would have been more hesitant in this regard than boys from Western countries. Perhaps he knew of the difficulty of adhering to law during the disagreeable business. Maybe he was simply fearful of displeasing his father.
Regardless of the reason, Omer's younger brother, Sayid, was ready for the passage to manhood even if his brother was not. He said the requisite prayer, killed the animal humanely, and allowed Omer to take the credit. But when the father assumed Omer had done it, the older boy corrected him. So it was Sayid who received his great father's approbation and gratitude. "Well done, Sayid," he said.
Perhaps if his older brother had been more of a man Sayid would not have learned to volunteer for the assignments no one else desired. Perhaps he would not have become a perpetrator of crimes he knew to be contrary to his father's moral teachings and those of his faith. But the lessons of childhood are not easily overcome. Ten years later, serving in the Republican Guard, Sayid's superiors knew exactly the type of work he was suited to perform.
No Redemption Without Atonement
The blood of many innocents on his hands, Sayid left the Republican Guard and searched the world for Nadia. He gave up military life altogether and worked for a time as a cook in Paris. Perhaps he thought he had made amends for his crimes. Perhaps he believed by living life as "Najeev" he could begin anew, unencumbered by the heinous behaviour of a previous life.
Even if he could forgive himself, scattered around the world were the broken and suffering victims who would never forget. Someone once said all sins are social; what more social sin than torture? The Nazis branded their victims, tattooed numbers onto their arms. But neither the Nazis nor Sayid had any need to mark their interrogation targets in this manner. Victims of torture have suffered brutal attack on every aspect of their humanity. They are broken; it becomes society's task to restore those few faculties amenable to our care, and to ignore the effects that are beyond our ability to fix.
Amira reminded him he could never separate himself from his past. Her disfigured arms were the results of his expert wartime handiwork. The scars ran even deeper in her soul, to the point that she found more in common with a suffering cat than with the cruel human beings around her, of whom Sayid was the premier example of inhumanity.
Seeing the depths of the woman's pain, Sayid could no longer bear his false denials--to her or to himself--and he confessed. Amira's husband, Sami, was ready to turn Sayid into dog food. Amira was wiser than either her spouse or the torturer in chains before her. She showed greater courage, demonstrated complete fidelity to faith, when she forgave crimes that should have been unforgiveable. She pardoned Sayid, unlocked his chains, and allowed him to start his life again.
Journey of Redemption
The cause is always just, or so it seems to the one willing to help the wronged.
Shannon was not yet his lover, but when circumstance indicated Sawyer had stolen the asthmatic woman's inhaler, Sayid felt revulsion at the confidence man's inhumanity. One does not treat a suffering human being in this manner, and one especially does not disrespect a woman in this way. The others tried to reason with Sawyer, to no avail. Sayid knew what must be done, and he knew he was the only one trained in such operations.
The torture of Sawyer revealed nothing. It would be three years, plus thirty years' mileage, before Hurley discovered the inhaler at the entrances to the caves. Sawyer had never possessed the inhaler. The only result that obtained from Sayid's use of torture was a deep wedge of enmity driven between two men.
Even without evidence of the inhaler's whereabouts, Sayid knew the torture had been futile. Sawyer likely knew nothing about the device. That he was an uncultured and uncaring human being was evident in every foul utterance from between his lips, but a lack of benevolence did not confer guilt. Sayid confessed his shame to Kate, kissed her hand, and left the safety of the camp on a journey of redemption.
It must have seemed to him cosmic retribution when his sojourn brought him to a trap, the lair of the Island's most crazed inhabitant, and prolonged torture aimed at forcing from him knowledge of Alex's condition and location. The torturer, subjected to the same tools of the craft he manipulated with such ease, facing cruel demand for information he did not possess. He could only guess who Alex might be, for he had never heard the name. It was through Danielle Rousseau that the survivors obtained their first maps of the Island, and learned they were not alone. Somewhere on the Island--perhaps watching their every move--were the Others.
Ask Dr. Science
Sayid's walkabout journeys were not the only occasions during which he made important discoveries. He repaired the cockpit transceiver that first captured the French woman's recorded voice. Familiar with all manner of communications equipment, he calculated the age of the message from the esoteric iteration count alone. Sayid's expertise was not confined to the torture of prisoners; from complicated electronic devices he devised radios, transceivers, telephones--even a radar for Michael's raft. Every new improvised gadget from Sayid's beachside laboratory provided an occasion for greater insights into the Island.
Sayid understood science. He had a broader and more practical technical education than even Jack Shephard, and he profited from a lifetime of having to apply scientific knowledge and method in diverse and time-critical situations on the battlefield and in real life. When he determined a magnetic deviation of greater than twenty degrees from Locke's compass, he knew the deflection was too severe to dismiss. Months before physicist Dr. Daniel Faraday's arrival on Mittelos, and only short days after the crash, he already knew there was something strange about the Island and its electromagnetism.
Sayid was expert in all manner of technical specialties, including avionics, telecommunications, electromagnetism, and cartography. But possibly it was his understanding of human nature that proved most valuable to his fellow survivors. The scene of his final interrogation with "Henry Gale" was one of the most powerful in the six years of the series. He had just buried the woman he loved, Shannon.
SAYID: Where is she buried?
SAYID: Listen to me. You said you buried your wife. Tell me where.
GALE: What are you going to...?
GALE: In the jungle. By the balloon, in the jungle.
SAYID: How deep? How deep did you dig the grave?
GALE: I don't -- it was...
SAYID: How deep? How many shovelfuls of earth? Did you use your hands? How long did it take you?
GALE: I don't remember.
SAYID: You would remember! You would remember how deep. You would remember every shovelful, every moment. You would remember what it felt like to place her body inside. You would remember if you buried the woman you loved. You would remember -- if it were true!
From the moment "Henry Gale" answered he didn't remember the number of shovelfuls of dirt he had dug for his wife's grave, Sayid knew "Henry" was an imposter, lying because he was one of Them--an Other.
This conversation, in the midst of the last torture Sayid would perform, revealed much about both master manipulator Benjamin Linus and spiritually tortured Sayid Jarrah. Whoever this "Henry Gale" person really was, he didn't care about people. He had never had a wife, maybe never had anyone close to his heart, certainly he had never had to endure a loved one's death. Sayid was a torturer, and he would soon become a professional killer, but he had a heart. He deigned to allow others into his heart, to feel their pain as his own, to feel the complete sense of devastating loss that was the only good part of death.
The Economics of Retribution
The teaching of the Holy Quran is clear. Murder is not permitted. It is an abomination before the Creator of all that is good. Exception is made for the taking of animal life, but the rules of halal are strict, and are to be scrupulously obeyed.
Human life is another matter entirely. If animal life is sacred, human life is infinitely more sacred. The most Holy Book tells us, "the taking of one innocent life is like taking all of Mankind" (5:33). To take life in the manner of an assassin, as Sayid did, is to profane the Quran. It is simply not a thinkable option to any person of faith.
Sayid knew he had placed himself in grave danger by his actions. Perhaps no earthly judge would ever know of his foul deeds, but the Judge with greatest bearing on his final disposition certainly did know. Was redemption even possible at this point?
He could have gone to a monastery. They don't ask you there what your religion is. The pay is low, but then, Sayid wasn't interested in the rate of compensation when he joined Build Our World. He was never going to leave the Dominican Republic. He would spend the remainder of his miserable life building homes for hurricane survivors, for the destitute, for the poorest of the poor. His only hope was that eternal penance would save him from the worst tortures of the next world.
We were never told of Sayid's true motivation for leaving the Dominican Republic. Neither Locke's visit nor Ben's seemed to convince him to abandon his volunteer work. But Ilana knew to find him in a bar, drinking hundred-dollar-a-shot Scotch. Apparently he had not distributed his assassin's fees to the poor.
I wonder now, in light of events that occurred in Dharmaville later (later in this case, of course, meaning thirty years earlier!) if Sayid didn't already have a plan. Ben was a calculating mass murderer, in Sayid's own words, "a monster responsible for nothing short of genocide." Might not the removal from this world of one as evil as Ben serve as a great work of penance, perhaps even greater than a lifetime of work for the poor?
A Second Level of Karma
The bullet from Roger Linus' rifle penetrated Sayid's abdomen in precisely the same location Sayid had shot his son, Ben. Karma, again. Both shots would have been lethal without medical attention, or a miracle. Ben was put in the care of an obstetrician. No one had taught her what to do with a bullet to the abdomen, but at least she had proper medical equipment. Sayid had the benefit of a bona fide trauma surgeon, but in a van zipping along at 80 kilometres per hour down bumpy dirt roads Jack was not going to get the opportunity to operate.
Both the twelve-year-old boy and his would-be assassin would need a miracle to survive. Lucky for Ben, the Temple was in peak condition in 1977. Not so thirty years later. Dogen's blade-across-the-palm test showed the healing waters no longer healed. Sayid would have to be left to his own devices, some other miracle, or a painful death by internal haemorrhaging and sepsis.
No one could account for Sayid's resurrection hours later and thirty years in the future, by the side of the healing waters. Miles confirmed what everyone believed, and what Dogen feared: Sayid had been dead, but now he was alive. Since the pool had not cured Sayid, Dogen believed there could be only one possibility. Somehow, perhaps through the "sickness", the Man in Black had raised Sayid from the dead.
Dogen's tests only confirmed Sayid's state. He had the sickness; his full surrender to the Smoke Monster, to "evil incarnate", was inevitable.
Green Life, Green Death
أخضر الحياة والموت الأخضر
Those who have read my previous essays know of my abiding fascination with the events surrounding the green pill in Episode 6.03. I've written three essays on the green pill. I recommend those who have not yet read any of the previous analyses take a look at the most recent article concerning the green capsule:
Please feel free to read the entire article, however the most relevant sections begin with "La Vie En Vert" about two-thirds of the way through the essay. You won't miss the header--it's highlighted in bold green.
Part of the fascination of these scenes, for me, centres around Jack's rejection of Dogen's assertion. But Jack takes this rejection to an entirely new, almost unthinkable level. He places his trust in Sayid, just as Sayid places his trust in Jack. The event was beyond comprehension because the evidence of Sayid's turn to evil was so strong. Dogen was a man of integrity, and he believed Sayid to have succumbed. Sayid's behaviour was not in keeping with anything we saw before his resurrection.
Subsequent events gave us no reason to believe Sayid carried within him even the smallest particle of humanity. These events appeared to make Jack's actions in Episode 6.03 all the more inscrutable. Probably the most reasonable conclusion we might have been able to offer, up until Episode 6.14, is that Jack made a very bad judgment. He was wrong about Sayid.
Think Not of Him as Slain
What Sayid did was no accident. No evil thing could commit the selfless act he performed. Few righteous men can ever claim the courage and goodness that filled Sayid's heart.
[Sawyer pulls all the wires from the timer - Sun and Jack gasp - timer pauses at 1:31 and then countdown accelerates.]
SAYID [to Jack]: Listen carefully. There's a well on the main island, half mile south from the camp we just left. Desmond's inside it. Locke wants him dead, which means you're going to need him. Do you understand me?
JACK: Why are you telling me this?
SAYID: Because it's going to be you, Jack.
[Sayid grabs bomb and runs off.]
We should have known. Dogen was a good man, but he was no judge of character. Jack was right to have trusted Sayid. Sayid lived so that he might save Kate and Jack--the Dragonslayer and the Bringer of Light. He gave his life so his friends could live. No greater love has any man than this.
This is what Holy Scripture says of Sayid Jarrah: "the saving of one life is like saving all of Mankind" (Holy Quran, 5:33). We might argue that he saved only a handful of lives by sacrificing himself in the submarine. But those handful of lives saved the Island, and therefore saved the world. Sayid saved us all.
When his body is found, there will be great sadness for the passing of this most holy man. But the sadness will mix with joy. There will be music, and feasting, and speeches of remembrance, and the deepest fondness in human hearts, for all know of the final truth contained in his life and acts: he did not die, and all the beauty of paradise attends him.
سعيد جراح ، الرجل الصالح
Posted by DarkUFO at 9/20/2010 06:26:00 pm 39 CommentsPearson Moore , Sayid