Honor codes of the Bedouin
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Sharaf and ird are Bedouin honor codes. Along with hospitality and courage/bravery, it is one of the Bedouin aspects of ethics. Bedouin systems of justice are based on these honor codes, although the codes are falling into disuse as more Bedouins accept sharia or national penal codes as the means for dispensing justice.
Ird is the Bedouin honor code for women. A woman is born with her ird intact, but sexual transgression can take her ird away. It is different from virginity, as it is emotional and conceptual. Once lost, ird cannot be regained.
Sharaf is the general Bedouin honor code for men. It can be acquired, augmented, lost, and regained. Sharaf involves protection of the ird of the women of the family, protection of property, and maintenance of the honor of the tribe and protection of the village (if the tribe has settled).
Diyafa (hospitality) is a virtue closely linked to sharaf. If required, even an enemy must be given shelter and fed for some days. Poverty does not exempt one from one's duties in this regard. Generosity is a related virtue, and in many Bedouin societies, gifts must be offered and cannot be declined. The destitute are looked after by the community, and tithing is mandatory in many Bedouin societies.
Hamasa (courage/bravery) is also closely linked to Sharaf. Bravery indicates the willingness to defend one's tribe for the purpose of Aṣabīya (tribal solidarity and balance). It is closely related to muruwa (manliness). It usually entails the ability to withstand pain, including (male) circumcision.
- Patai, Raphael. The Arab Mind. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, 1973.
- Blake, Martha. The Ghinnawa: How Bedouin Women's Poetry Supplements Social Expression.
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