Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, January 21st, 2018

The Superstitious Number 39


The Superstitious Number 39

The world is replete with different sorts of thoughts, ideas, feelings and beliefs. These thoughts, ideas and beliefs are basically the endeavors to understand the world or the different phenomena in the world. Since the very beginning of their life on earth human beings have wondered about different things existing in the world and the different incidents and phenomena occurring around. This has led to the formation of different sets of thoughts, ideas and beliefs.

The same thoughts, ideas and beliefs have afterwards formed the ideologies, isms and religions. In this particular journey of understanding the world and life human beings have not always been logical and reasonable. Therefore, there have been sets of beliefs and thoughts that are much distant from the logical interpretations and yet they exist in human societies as a major portion of their cultural, traditional and religious beliefs.

Superstitions are also the types of beliefs that are not based on logical interpretations. They are based on beliefs which are supernatural and are not necessarily governed by physical laws. They basically try to prognosticate the happenings in daily life on the basis of certain incidents that have already occurred.

In this way the result of a particular happening or incident is necessitated by an earlier happening not based on the theory of cause and effect and they, in scientific interpretations, are much apart from each other. The clear example of a superstition is an omen. For example, if a black cat crosses your way it is considered a bad omen and is believed to bring bad luck, though in logical sense both the mentioned incident and its result are not related to each other clearly.

Superstitions exist in most of the cultures of the world. They are able to make their way through the generations as a part of inherited beliefs. Superstitions are also linked with the religions, but they are not the production of religions. However, there are superstitions existing in most of the religions of the world.

Further, the religious people are more likely to accept the superstitions than the non-religious people. One of the basic reasons of the transmission of superstitions and their survival is through the sanctity that is preserved for traditional values and the interests that are maintained for the folk stories and legends.

In addition, there is a tendency in most of the people not to question the superstitions that are transferred to them. At the same time it must also be kept in mind that most of the superstitions are taught to the people as a part of their nourishment, while they are too small to differentiate between what is logical and what is not.

So, they are already inculcated in them by the time they become young. Moreover, it can also be observed that superstitions are more common in backward societies that are marked with religious fundamentalism and hard-line traditional values.

Afghan society is a kind of society that is marked with extremist religious beliefs and traditional values. There is great shortage of analytical way of thinking in ordinary life. Most of the Afghan people do not bother to challenge the superstitious ideas that are transferred to them from their ancestors. They believe in them blindly and even suggest others and their next generations to keep them intact.

Though there are many superstitions in Afghan society one of the most recent ones that have been influencing Afghan people in somewhat ridiculous way is the belief that number 39 is associated to a pimp. This superstitious belief has influenced different people in different ways.

It influenced the people too much especially in the case of number plates of vehicles. When the five digits number plates initiating with number 39 were started being issued the people immediately reacted. This did not only influence the people who owned such cars, but went to the extent of affecting their prices. Some of the statements by the influenced people in this regard are very interesting. "I am gutted that my car has a 39 number plate. I have had enough of people's taunts," said Ahmad Ghafor, a taxi driver in Kabul.

"It gets worse when I have women customers in the car. Other drivers signal to me or blow their horn saying 'shall we pay you to drop these ladies to my place?'"
Mr Ghafor said he had tried to sell his car, but no one would buy it.

"You wouldn't dare to drive a car containing number plate 39 on roads in Heart,"
Fawad Heravi a car dealer said.
"Can you believe that I sold a car for $7,000 because of this 39 number plate? Its actual price was $12,000," says Qais Yasini, a car dealer in Mazar-e Sharif in the north.
It is really important to note that this superstitious belief is not only limited to cars. It has also influenced people having 39 as their house numbers or their mobile numbers.

But the most ridiculous instant of the phenomenon came during the Loya Jirga in Kabul. The members were divided in 40 delegations and the delegates having the number 39 rejected to participate in the meeting unless the number was changed to 41.

Some of the statements during the situation are very interesting. One delegate said, "I don't want to return to my area and be called a pimp. I don't care if it is true or not, but people out there believe in it. Look no one wants to have a vehicle with number plate 39. And yet, you want me to be in 39?''

"It is sad to see delegates raise such issues at such an important meeting. We have more important things to deal with," one delegate from northern Afghanistan said.
"But when I raised it, everyone else told me to shut up. Everyone said, they didn't want to be called [a pimp] or their children and family members harassed in streets, schools and neighborhoods. So then a committee 41 was established,'' the delegate continued.

This example really shows how much superstition has penetrated within Afghan society. The elders of the society instead of being involved in serious discussions regarding the issues that are influencing the country to an alarming extent are themselves involved in such superstitious beliefs so it would be very difficult to make the society free of them.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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