After Saturday comes Sunday

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After Saturday comes Sunday (Arabic: min sallaf es-sabt lāqā el-ḥadd qiddāmūh‎, lit. ''When Saturday is gone, one will find Sunday''), is a traditional Arab proverb.[citation needed] It has been documented in Egypt and Syria-Lebanon, in the form: sállẹf ẹs-sábt bẹtlâqi l-ḥádd qẹddâmẹk ('Loan Saturday (out), and you will find Sunday before you'), as meaning "the good or bad you do comes back to you".[1][2]

In the Arabic speaking Maronite community of Lebanon, the proverb has been current in the sense that Muslims will do away with Christians after they have dealt with the Jews.[3][4] Israeli folklorist Shimon Khayyat has stated that the proverb, in the sense of "Since the Jews are now persecuted, it is as inevitable that the Christians' turn will come next as it is that Sunday will follow Saturday," has a wider distribution with variants in both Iraqi and Egyptian Arabic.[5][5][6] [7] This more recent usage of the proverb is attributed to Christian Arabs expressing a fear that they might share the fate that befell Jews during the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries. It is often reported to be in use among certain Muslims as a slogan to threaten local Christian communities.[5][6][7]

Usage and background[edit]

Classical Arab proverb[edit]

The proverb appears to have been used in the sense of one's actions having inevitable future ramifications, the way that Sunday inevitably follows Saturday.[1][2]

Folklorist Shimon Khayyat, collecting proverbs predominantly from interviews with Syrian and Lebanese Jews who emigrated to Israel after 1950, but also from manuscript and printed sources, wrote that the phrase is of Middle Eastern Christian origin, and that it means "since the Jews are now persecuted, it is as inevitable that the Christians' turn will come next as it is that Sunday will follow Saturday."[5]

Shimon Khayyat records several regional variants of the expression:

  • sallif issabt bitlāqī il-ḥadd qiddāmak: 'Let Saturday pass first, then you will find Sunday before you.'
  • ugb il-sabit laḥḥad yiǧī: (Iraqi Arabic):'After Saturday comes Sunday.'
  • man qadam (i)l-sabt ylāqī (a)l-ḥadd 'uddāmū (Egyptian variant): 'Whoever lets Saturday go first, will see Sunday in front of him.'[5]

The Lebanese-American scholar Sania Hamady cites the proverb in the form: "Lend Saturday, you will find Sunday ahead of you". In her analysis, this illustrates a utilitarian view of Arabic reciprocity: one gives in the expectation of receiving. The proverb in this view is entrenched in the value-system of taslîf wa-muwâfât (advancement and repayment of favors). Where there is "Service for service, merit goes to the beginner", Arabs have an incentive to assist others because he who is first to proffer a service acquires thereby merit as the initiator in the system of social exchange.[8]

History of usage[edit]

According to a publication by the American Foreign Policy Council, the proverb in the form 'After Saturday, Sunday', was brandished as a popular slogan among supporters of Haj Amin al-Husseini's faction during the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine. The message is reported to have meant that once the Jews had been driven out, the Christians would be expelled.[9]

At that time, it is attested as a Lebanese Christian proverb in pro-Zionist Christian circles among the Maronite community, who read the Palestinian revolt against Great Britain and Jewish immigration as a foretaste of what they imagined might befall their community were Lebanese Muslims to gain ascendancy.[10][11]

On the eve of the publication of the White Paper of 1939, in which Great Britain decided on a restriction on Jewish immigration to Palestine the Palestine Post, founded by the Zionist newspaper man Gershon Agron, reported that the provisions of the policy were injurious not only to Jews, but to Christian Palestinian Arabs, who held twice the number of government jobs than local Muslim Arabs. Morris in this context speaks of the British authorities favoring the Christians with contracts, permits, and jobs, further alienating the majority.[12] The Palestinian Christians were, the article continued, worried that their jobs might be axed. The correspondent then concluded:

'Apart from this consideration of enlightened self-interest, the Christians are anxious for their future as a minority under what will amount to Moslem rule. In fact, some Moslems have been tactless enough to point out to Christians that "after Saturday comes Sunday."[13]

In 1940, a pro-Zionist soil conservationist Walter Clay Lowdermilk asserted the proverb meant that after Arabs 'have destroyed the Jews they will destroy the Christians,' predicting a massacre of Jews would occur if Britain left Palestine. Lowdermilk further claimed that 80,000 Iraqi Assyrians had been massacred after the British relinquished their mandate in Iraq in 1932.[14]

According to Benny Morris around 1947-8 in Palestine, 'all (Christians) were aware of the saying: 'After Saturday, Sunday .[15]

The phrase appears to have gained currency to refer to population expulsions, following the establishment of the State of Israel and the subsequent Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries. According to a 1956 field report by American Universities staff, the phrase had been circulating for roughly a decade by that time in the Near East with the sense: 'after the expulsion of the Jews, whose Sabbath is on Saturday, the Christian Westerners will follow.'.[16] According to author Bat Ye'or, it was employed by members of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt in 1947, as part of their demonstrations against Zionism, which spilled over into attacks on Christian communities, held accountable for attempts to secularize Arab society, in 1947. A Coptic church in Zagazig was burnt down, and in anti-Christian demonstrations in Upper Egypt the slogan was:

Today it is Zionism's turn, tomorrow it will be Christianity's; today is Saturday, tomorrow will be Sunday.[17]

Joseph Wahed, founder of advocacy group JIMENA, whose own family was expelled from Egypt in November 1952, recalled in a letter to the Wall Street Journal that sixty years earlier a Copt cited the phrase to his Jewish neighbour.[18][19]

A certain Royce Jones stated that it was a Jordanian slogan used on the eve of the Six-Day War, and that it expressed an intention to commit genocide on Christians.[20][21] Royce's letter was cited by Yosef Tekoah before the UN Security Council as proof of the relief Christians in Bethlehem supposedly felt with the Israeli conquest of the West Bank. The Jordanian representative Muhammad el-Farra dismissed the use of the proverb as 'cheap propaganda' and cited as testimony Bethlemites affirming their allegiance to Jordan.[22]

According to blogger Gerald A. Honigman,[23] the phrase was first given prominent circulation in English by Bernard Lewis in the form: 'First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People,' in an article written for Commentary in early 1976. Lewis claimed that the phrase was heard in the Arab world on the eve of the Six-Day War (1967), and argued that recent developments in Lebanon suggested that the Arabs had reversed their priorities.[24]

The proverb as slogan attributed to Palestinians[edit]

Because of their relevance for Biblical studies Palestinian proverbs have been the object of close attention.[25] The proverb in question does not figure among the 5,000 Palestinian sayings collected by the Bethlehem pastor Sa'īd Abbūd (1933), who, with regard to sayings dealing with Saturday and Sunday, mentions only one: 'Saturday is longer than Sunday', used with a variety of meanings: of the need to stay open for business given that Saturday is busier; of people who don't know their own place, and to a woman whose petticoat is longer than her dress.[26]

Many sources register this proverb's appearance as an Islamic slogan daubed on walls or putatively on the Palestinian flag during the years of the First Intifada (1987-1997).[27][28][29][7] It was indicative of a tension within the Palestinian resistance as Hamas emerged to vie with the PLO for the hearts and minds of people. Historically, Christians have played a distinguished role in the Palestinian Arab nationalist movement since its inception.[30] The more secular and socialist PLO was able to attract and integrate support and leaders from the Palestinian Christian community like George Habash or Hanan Ashrawi,[31] though figures like Habash and Nayef Hawatmeh graduated to a more radical secular leftist politics.[30]

Mordechai Nisan of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs claims the slogan would have been used on a PLO flag when the Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu visited the Holy Land in 1989.[28][32] Nisan opines that there is a Muslim-Arab war being waged against Israel and the Jews, and that Christians all over the world cannot escape being involved:

When the Muslim jihad pursues its Jewish victim, it manipulates and blackmails the West into submission. When the two tangle, the third party never escapes the consequences of the brawl.

The magazine Democratic Palestine, organ of the Palestinian Marxist group, PFLP warned at the time of the first Intifada that Hamas could present a distorted picture of the Palestinian struggle in the world's eyes, as witness its motto: 'The Quran is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. So too, it added, the slogan 'After Saturday comes Sunday' might be understood as suggesting that Hamas might turn to the Christians after finishing with the Jews.[33]

Ilana Kass and Bard E. O'Neill also cite it as a Hamas slogan during the First Intifada with the rise of Islamic groups versus the traditional Palestinian secularism. In a 'worst-case scenario' Christians might be faced down were the Jews destroyed. Christians in such an Islamic state would be second-class citizens.[34]

Israel Amrani, in a 1993 interview with, and commentary on, the Anglican spokeswoman for the PLO, Hanan Ashrawi, called her 'a strange bird in the flock for which she speaks.' Describing a rift in the Palestinian movement between the fundamentalist Hamas and the secular PLO, and arguing that the former movement was opposed at the time to women appearing in public, he cites the proverb as a 'famous Muslim saying: 'sometimes interpreted to mean that after the fundamentalists finish the Jews, they'll deal with the Christians.'[31]

Paul Charles Merkley, professor emeritus in history at Carleton University cites reports from the end of the First Intifada (1993) that the proverb was used as graffiti on walls in Gaza and the Muslim-Arab sections of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.[7]

The initial improvements for Christians under Israeli rule following the Six-Day War led to appeals by Bethlemite Christians for integration within Israel. After Israel began to treat Christians as an integral component of the Palestinian Muslim population, the numerous disabilities inflicted on the latter, including land expropriations and hindrances to family unifications, hit them as well, rendering such an appeal obsolete.[30]

The proverb has some currency in the Bethlehem area—Andre Aciman mentions a sighting of it as a graffiti some time in the early 1990s in Beit Sahur[35]—and many sources, Israeli/Jewish and foreign, cite its use there as evidence that Christian fears of Islamic fundamentalism are what drive Christian Bethlemites to emigrate or request Israeli citizenship.[35][36] As the first Intifada drew to an end with the Oslo Peace talks, it was not only Christians but also Muslims from the West Bank who sought to apply for Israeli citizenship.[30] Donna Rosenthal cites a West Jerusalem resident and Greek Orthodox woman, whose family came from Bethlehem, using the proverb to explain the reasons why she chose to live in Israel.[37] Nadav Shragai supports this view, citing Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein, while adding that a muezzin of the town was heard remarking in 2012: "After Saturday comes Sunday," in the sense that 'after they're done with the Jews, they'll be coming after the Christians,' phrasing that was 'considered unacceptable even in the rapidly Islamizing Bethlehem.'[38] The Arab scholar Salim Munier, who has undertaken research on Palestinian Christians, disagrees, arguing that the emigration from the area is grounded primarily in financial considerations, secondly in peer pressure, and only thirdly in a sense of religious or cultural suffocation.[38]

Attributed to Hezbollah[edit]

In the final days of the 2006 Lebanon War, Nissan Ratzlav-Katz reported on a press release by a Lebanese Foundation for Peace, a Christian diaspora association which appealed to Israel to hit Hezbollah hard, and open Ben Gurion Airport to the Lebanese diaspora. Thousands of Lebanese, it proclaimed, were eager to join the IDF to help liberate their homeland from Islamic fundamentalism,[39] Ratzlav-Katz explained this press release as a reflection of an experience of:

Lebanese Muslim militiamen active against Israel in the 1980s, as they kept up attacks on Lebanese Christians, (who) encapsulated their vision for the Middle East in a catchy phrase, "After Saturday comes Sunday."[40]

Consecutive metonymy of Jews and Christians[edit]

It is sometimes interpreted as a metonymy of the First they came ... narrative[citation needed], to mean that after Muslim fundamentalists finish dealing with the Jews—who celebrate Sabbath on Saturday—they will next deal with the Christians—who celebrate Sabbath on Sunday.[31][38][40]

Other use[edit]

A story title of Sonia Sanchez 'after Saturday Night comes Sunday' uses the row of days to symbolize The Black Woman's Burden and the relationship between love as in Saturday Night Live and (failure of) marriage and family life later.[41]

French Israeli filmmaker and pro-Christian activist Pierre Rehov refers to the saying in a 2007 documentary First Comes Saturday, Then Comes Sunday.[42]


  1. ^ a b Entry 2861 "من قدم السبت يلقى الحد قدامه". Ahmed Taymor Pasha (Arabic: بقلم العلامة المحقق أحمد تيمور باشا‎), Folkloric Saying (Arabic: بقلم العلامة المحقق أحمد تيمور باشا‎), Al Ahram Center for Translation and Publishing, 5th Edition, 2007, ISBN 977-157-012-9.
  2. ^ a b Michel Feghali (1938). Proverbes et Dictons Syro-Libabais. Travaux et Mémoires De L'institut D'ethnologie XXVI. Paris: Institut D'Ethnologie. pp. 347–348. Give to Saturday and Sunday will be ahead of you. For encouraging someone to give service and help someone else. You will be treated well or badly according to your actions.
  3. ^ Laura Zittrain Eisenberg, My Enemy's Enemy: Lebanon in the Early Zionist Imagination, Wayne State University Press 1994 p. 13
  4. ^ David Hirst, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East, Nation Books, 2010 p.39.
  5. ^ a b c d e Khayyat, Shimon L. (1985). "Relations between Muslims, Jews and Christians as Reflected in Arabic Proverbs". Folklore. Taylor & Francis. 96 (2): 199. JSTOR 1259642.(subscription required)
  6. ^ a b American Universities Field Staff, Reports: Southwest Asia series, vol.5 1956 p.4.
  7. ^ a b c d Paul Charles Merkley, Christian Attitudes towards the State of Israel, McGill-Queen's Press, 2001, pp.118,126: 'Muslim fundamentalists in Algeria have publicly declared their intention to "liquidate Jews, Christians, and unbelievers." In this spirit, we are to understand the slogan often seen on walls in Gaza and the West Bank, and in Muslim-Arab sections of Jerusalem and Bethlehem:"After Saturday, comes Sunday- or, more explicitly, "On Saturday we will kill the Jews; on Sunday, we will kill the Christians,' source MECC News Report 6 nos and 12 (November/December 1993.
  8. ^ Sania Hamady, Temperament and Character of Arabs, Twayne Publishers 1960 p.30
  9. ^ 'Israel.' in The World Almanac of Islamism: 2014, Rowman & Littlefield 2014 pp. 181-196.
  10. ^ Hirst, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East, Nation Books, 2010 p.39. Speaking of the Maronite elite, Hirst writes: 'For the likes of these, the Rebellion was less a natural response to what the British and Zionists had been doing to the Palestinians than it was a reminder of the melancholic warning a Lebanese Christian proverb -'After Saturday, Sunday' –conveys: once the Muslims have done away with the Jews, the Christians' turn will come. One of their Zionist confidants reported that, in their eyes, it was 'proof of what rule by a Muslim majority would mean'; and they were 'terribly afraid lest the Arabs win this war.'
  11. ^ Laura Zittrain Eisenberg, My Enemy's Enemy: Lebanon in the Early Zionist Imagination, Wayne State University Press 1994 p.13: 'Lebanese Christians have a proverb suggesting that once the Muslims do away with the Jews, they will turn on the Christians: "After Saturday, Sunday."
  12. ^ Benny Morris,1948: A History of the First Arab–Israeli War, Yale University Press, 2008 pp.12–13.:'A major fault line ran between the Muslim majority and the generally more prosperous, better-educated Christians, who were concentrated in the large towns. The British authorities favored the Christians with contracts, permits, and jobs, further alienating the majority. Through the Mandate, and especially in such crisis periods as the Arab Revolt of 1936–1939 and 1947–1948, Muslims suspected Christians of collaborating with the "enemy" and secretly hoping for continued (Christian) British rule or even Zionist victory. These suspicions were expressed in slogans, popular during the revolt, such as "After Saturday, Sunday"—that is, that the Muslims would take care of the Christians after they had "sorted out" the Jews. This probably further alienated the Christians from Muslim political aspirations, though many, to be sure, kept up nationalist appearances. "The Christians [of Jaffa] had participated in the 1936–1937 disturbances under duress and out of fear of the Muslims. The Christians' hearts now and generally are not with the rioting," reported the Haganah Intelligence Service.'
  13. ^ 'Britain Advised to Delay White Paper,' The Palestine Post, 4 May 1939 p.1
  14. ^ Walter Clay Lowdermilk, Tracing Land Use Across Ancient Boundaries: Letters on the Use of Land in the Old World, To: H.H. Bennett, Chief, Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 1940 p.106:'They have a saying, "After Saturday comes Sunday", which means after they have destroyed the Jews they will destroy the Christians. And now the Jews are discouraged for if the "White Paper" is put through and the Jews are left as a minority, they will be massacred, as were the 80,000 Assyrian Christians by the Moslems of Iraq when England withdrew from the Mandate of Iraq and made her an Independent Arab State'
  15. ^ Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press 2004 p.25.
  16. ^ American Universities Field Staff, Reports: Southwest Asia series, vol.5 1956 p.4:'There is a decade-old saying in the Near East that 'after Saturday, comes Sunday,' meaning that after the expulsion of the Jews, whose Sabbath is on Saturday, the Christian Westerners will follow'.
  17. ^ Bat Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press 2002 p.179
  18. ^ 'Anyone Notice the Persecution of Mideast Christians?,' WSJ 17 October 2011
  19. ^ Lela Gilbert, Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner, Encounter Books.2013 p.85
  20. ^ Yonah Alexander, Nicholas N. Kittrie, Crescent and star: Arab & Israeli perspectives on the Middle East conflict,AMS Press, 1973 pp.262, 266:" 'After Saturday comes Sunday, an Arab tells me' – the proverb meaning that after the Jews are massacred it will be the turn of the Christians.'(p.262)
  21. ^ Royce Jones, "Into Jerusalem, on to Bethlehem,' Sunday Telegraph 12 June 1967:'On the eve of the six-day war the slogan in Jordan was:"Sunday comes after Saturday. On Saturday we murder the Jews; the next day the Christians." That was plainly understood to mean what it said'.
  22. ^ UNISPAL, 'The situation in the Middle East,' Archived October 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine S/PV.1423, 7 May 1968 paras 44,77.
  23. ^ 'Double Dhimmitude, Part II,' 9 January 2011
  24. ^ Bernard Lewis, 'The Return of Islam,' for Commentary January 1976: 'In the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967, an ominous phrase was sometimes heard, "First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people." The Saturday people have proved unexpectedly recalcitrant, and recent events in Lebanon indicate that the priorities may have been reversed.'
  25. ^ Shelomo Dov Goitein, The Present Day Arab Proverb as Testimony to the Social History of the Middle East, (original version 1952) in Shelomo Dov Goitein, Studies in Islamic History and Institutions, BRILL 2010 pp.361-369 p.373
  26. ^ Sa'īd Abbūd, (Kitāb al-ṭurfah al-bāhijah fī al-amthāl wa-al-ḥikam al-ʻArabīyah al-dārijah)5000 arabische Sprichwörter aus Palästina, Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen an der Universität Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1933; Martin Thilo,(ed.) Fünftausend Sprichwörter aus Palästina, Beiband zum Jahrgang xl der Mitteilungen der Auslands-Hochschule an der Universität Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1937 p. 114:' Der Samstag ist länger als der Sonntag, denn an ihm häufen sich die Arbeiten über dem Menschen zusammen, und er ist genötigt, länger aufzubleiben. Desgleichen wird es vom dem, was nicht an seinem Platze ist, gebraucht.- Das Sprichwort wurde zu einer Frau gesagt, deren weißer Unterrock länger als ihr Oberkleid war, und sie verstand es gleich.'
  27. ^ Mario Apostolov,Religious Minorities, Nation States, and Security: Five Cases from the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, Ashgate, 2001 pp.68-69.
  28. ^ a b Mordechai Nisan, Identity and Civilization: Essays on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, University Press of America 1999 p. 161.
  29. ^ Lela Gilbert, Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner, Encounter Books 2013 p.7
  30. ^ a b c d Daphne Tsimhoni, 'Palestinian Christians and the Peace Process: The Dilemma of a Minority,' in Ilan Peleg (ed.) The Middle East Peace Process: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, (1998) SUNY 2012 pp.141-160.
  31. ^ a b c Israel Amrani, 'Hanan Ashrawi,' Mother Jones, March/April 1993.
  32. ^ Alan Cowell, 'Peace in Bethlehem, Little Good Will,' The New York Times, December 25, 1989.
  33. ^ Harold M. Cubert, The PFLP's Changing Role in the Middle East, (1997) Routledge 2014 p.178 n.29, citing 'The Islamic Fundamentalist Movement in Palestine: Focus on Hamas,' Democratic Palestine No.51, July–August–September 1992 p. 15:'Hamas could serve to distort the image of the intifada and the Palestinian national movement in the eyes of the world. To further illustrate the real face of Hamas, it is sufficient to point to some of Hamas' seemingly silly but actually dangerous mottos, like: 'the Quran is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people'. Another slogan, 'After Saturday comes Sunday*, could be understood as an indication that after finishing with the Jews, Hamas will turn to the Christians. How can such mottos serve the Palestinian struggle?'
  34. ^ Ilana Kass, Bard E. O'Neill, The Deadly Embrace: The Impact of Israeli and Palestinian Rejectionism on the Peace Process, University Press of America, 1997, p.252.
  35. ^ a b Andre Aciman, 'In the Muslim City of Bethlehem,' in The New York Times Magazine on December 24, 1995.
  36. ^ Daphne Tsimhoni, Christian Communities in Jerusalem and the West Bank Since 1948: An Historical, Social, and Political Study, Praeger, 1993 p. 183.
  37. ^ Donna Rosenthal, The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land, Simon and Schuster, 2003, p.308.
  38. ^ a b c Nadav Shragai, 'Why are Christians leaving Bethlehem?,' Israel HaYom 26 December 2012.
  39. ^ Brigitte Gabriel, 'Thank You, Israel!,' Archived January 1, 2015, at the Wayback Machine FrontPage Magazine July 18, 2006
  40. ^ a b Nissan Ratzlav-Katz 'Be Thorough, Israel,' National Review Online, August 7, 2006
  41. ^ Tanisha C. Ford,"Talkin' 'bout a Revolution": The Music and Activism of Nina Simone, 1950-1974, University of Wisconsin--Madison, 2005, p. 67
  42. ^ First comes Saturday, then Comes Sunday Middle East Studio., undated.