The story of Umar and Marvi is a legend of the Sindhi people that expresses a fundamental tribal value of the Sindhi people. A young, beautiful teenage girl (Marvi) is kidnapped from her tribe by a young prince (Umar) who is enamoured by her and wants to make her his wife. She is taken to his palace where he, his mother and his sisters promise her wealth, honor, and happiness, if she will marry the prince. Instead she refuses to deny her loyalty to her tribal values and to the man to whom she was pledged as a little girl. Despite all the joys the world can offer, she refuses even to the extent of pushing away all the delectable food they offer. In the end, relatives of Marvi come searching and Umar gives her up, submitting at last to her wish and unbending will. She arrives home faithful to the end, but in such a weakened state that she dies.
A western twist on the story would have Marvi and Umar eventually fall in love to demonstrate that romantic love conquers all and is stronger than traditional values. Individual rights, happiness and freedom is a message with strong appeal in the west. But in the Sindhi context nothing is more important than loyalty and conformity to community values. It is not the individual life of Marvi that counts (she dies in the end), but her willingness to sacrifice all to maintain the traditional values and concerns of her people. The call to loyalty goes beyond individual needs and Marvi becomes the ultimate role model for all Sindhi girls to emulate.
the parable of Marvi … can reveal to the Sindhi people the meaning of Jesus’ life
A “missionary” for equality and individual rights will despise this story as a message that prevents the Sindhi people from embracing “enlightened” western values. A missionary for the kingdom of God, however, recognizes that such stories can provide bridges for the gospel. This does not occur through a power struggle to overcome or replace the Sindhi values presented, but by recognizing that the values portrayed have at their heart an eternal truth recognized by the Sindhi that can be enhanced and given fresh meaning through the story of Jesus.
In Jesus’ temptation (Luke 4), the devil offers him many good things: sustenance that gives life, power that convinces the world, control over the earth to make things right. But the price is to abandon God’s will. In the end, Jesus’ choice to reject the good things offered and follow God’s will costs him his life. To hold fast to that which is right and true and eternal in the face of the attractive choices of this world is one understanding of the parable of Marvi that can reveal to the Sindhi people the meaning of Jesus’ life.
In the story of Umar and Marvi, she is praised but mourned by her people. However, for Jesus, God could not let such an expression of loyalty and love see decay (Acts 2:31) – the Messiah lives! Moreover the invitation to life given through Christ extends to the Sindhi people – a people who already appreciate the value of such a sacrifice.