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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

July 29, 2002

This post is jihad.

There's a lengthy post by Muslimpundit which goes to immense pains to justify the perception of jihad by the West as intrinsically violent. I suspect that Adil would love Eric Raymond's recent screed as they are extremely complementary.

Muslimpundit has little reason to like me, based on past correspondence (he didn't post my apologetic email followup, but I really have no excuse), so I fully expect to be visited by his sharp-pointed stick soon. So I may as well give him more material to roast me with :)

Let me state my opinion as to the overall flaw in his arguments - Muslimpundit has a Sunni-centric view of Islam. He ascribes great importance to collections of certain hadith which are (as I will demonstrate later) critically flawed. He is very well-read on topics of Islamic literature and commentary, but restricts himself to mostly Sunni sources and viewpoints. In fact, most of his generalizations about Islam are basically correct, but applied to only a small portion of the vast body of Islamic practice, jurispriudence and philosophy. It is true that Sunnis comprise the majority of the Islamic population, but the dominant Sunni theological frameworks are not the sole criterion on which Islam can be judged.

on to the fray.

His basic argument is that attempts by "moderate muslims" to stress the importance of jihad in contexts other than violent war are misguided and naive. While opinion can certainly differ in terms of theological analysis, he seems to go out of his way to put the cart before the horse. Promoting deviant interpretations of Islam is certainly a gravy train for linking by Instapundit, but this essay is a polemic, not a rigorous analysis. Not that there's anything wrong with polemics!

His first point is largely anecdotal. He asserts that "much commentary" has been published that proves that the "proper context as a term of Islamic literature" for the word jihad is "fighting to make God’s Word superior”. I certainly don't doubt that there are sources that do in fact make such assertions, but this is not proof. To compare, here is an equally anecdotal but opposing commentary, which proves in my opinion that there is no such thing as "proper" context. There is only context. Which one you choose depends on what polemic you have in mind.

He goes on to link the arabic word qitaal (fighting) to jihad, and claims that jihad is a conditional form of qitaal, despite the fact that they have different roots. It's worthy to note that the Qur'an quite explicitly discusses qitaal, and jihaad, and does not synonomize these two terms. I am sure that Adil's library of Islamic Analysts have many volumes on the "functional equivalence" but as far as I am concerned as a Muslim, if the Qur'an meant qitaal when it says jihad, it would say qitaal, not jihaad.

It is critical to note that the great wars of conquest in Islam were initiated by the three Sunni Caliphs after the Prophet's death. The fourth Caliph Ali AS, who was explicitly identified by the Prophet SAW as his heir, sought to restrain these. Therefore, much of the analysis and commentary that argues in favor of jihad as synonomous in context to qital, is self-serving polemic to justify the actions of those who controlled Islam after the Prophet's death without his permission. As they say, the victors write history, and Ali AS was not a victor in the political realm (His son, Husain AS, the grandson of the Prophet SAW, was murdered later by the Ummaiyad dynasty Caliph, effectively cementing their control over Islam's direction).

Adil's next point pertains to hadith (supposed quotations of the Prophet, whose accuracy is evaluated based on the veracity of the people in the chain of transmission, or isnad) . He quotes one hadith that supports the idea of violent jihad as "lesser" and inferior to the non-violent kind. He then quotes a numberof Sunni sources who (unsurprisingly) cast doubt on the isnad of this hadith. Fair enough! In my opinion, most hadith - whether they are true or not - have faulty isnad. I don't really care whether that hadith is accurate or not - because the Qur'an trumps hadith by definition.

Adil conveniently ignores mention of these Qur'anic verses :

"O you who believe, . . . do not kill (or destroy) yourself." (Qur'an 4:29)

"And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for the requirement of justice." (6:152)

"Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter, or for spreading mischief in the land, it is as if he had slayed the whole people" (Qur'an 5:32)

In fact the Qur'anic discussion of jihad is a very rich discussion, with a great deal of historical and symbolic context. These translations only hint at this, and do no justice to the depth of meaning about jihad (and qital) that exists. To say that the Qur'an prortrays Jihad as a violent means is at best a sloppy mischaracterization, at worst a gross deliberate distortion.

>ASIDE: I hope that H.D. Miller is reading this and can lend his commentary.

Ironically, Adil goes on to invoke other hadith which support the view of jihad as violence. He has an uncritical devotion to the books of hadith by Sunni compilers Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. To say that these two books contain innaccurate hadith is an understatement.

ASIDE2: Let me preface this part with a few disclaimers. I have respect for Sunni muslims as my brothers in Islam. These are matters of theological debate, not religious quality or piety. I have not insulted the Caliphs here, nor have I impugned the Sunni faith. This tradition of cross-analysis only serves to strengthen Islam, not weaken it, as long as it is done in the common spirit of religious self-examination. If what I have written offends you, please write to me.

The objective of Bukhari and Muslim was to collect hadith, not to consider their authenticity. The ulema of the Hanafi school (one-fourth of all Sunnis) have critiqued these books as containing many weak and unconfirmed hadith.

for example, there are hadith in these collections that refer to Allah as a visible, material being:

Abu Huraira also narrates that a group of people asked the holy Prophet, "Shall we see our Creator on the Day of Judgement?" He replied, "Of course. At mid-day when the sky is free of clouds, does the Sun hurt you, if you look at it?"

and here's a reference to Allah's "bare leg" :

Allah will say in reply, 'Have you any sign between you and Allah so that you may see Him and identify Him?' They will say, 'Yes.' Then Allah will show them His bare leg. Thereupon the believers will raise their heads upwards and will see Him in the same condition as they saw Him for the first time.

this directly contradicts the Qur'an itself (again, translations, aaargh) :

"Vision comprehends Him not, and He comprehends (all) vision_." (6:103)

" He (Moses) said: 'My Lord! Show me (Thyself), so that I may look upon Thee.' He said: 'You cannot (bear to) see me...'" (7:143)

Let me note that I hate to precision-quote the Qur'an like this. I don't claim that my arguments are absolutely axiomatic. But I do think that they can at least recoignize that there is room for dissent, and disagreement.

but the strangeness of the hadith quoted in Bukhari does not stop there. There are stories about the Prophet Moses, running naked after a stone, that had stolen his clothes, and thus all his followers saw his "defective genitals". Moses then had to beat the stone so severely that it shrieked. Please allow me to state, for the record, WTF?!

The point I am making is that Adil's uncritical recognition of hadith as automatically beyond dispute if they are sourced from Bukhari or Muslim (ironically referred to by Sunnis as "Sahih" which means truthful) is out of character. But there is a persistent blind spot when it comes to these books. I have to admit to some distaste for the way that "Sahih" Muslim and Bukhari are accorded respect in some circles even above that afforded to the Qur'an itself.

It is also important to note that much of the deranged and depraved interpretations of Islam stemming from our Saudi and Wahabi "allies" draws much of its strength from Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, as well as a super-strict reading of the Qur'an (which ignores the contextual deeper meanings therein).

Adil does make a minor reference to the Qur'an in his essay, but doesn't actually quote any of it. He just states that the Qur'an subscribes to a "warfare-approach" to jihad. In fact, all such references to warfare are in the context of defending against oppression, and again he does not bother to draw any disctinction between use of jihad and qital in the text of the Qur'an (after all, he already demonstrated that these were synonyms by considering hadith and literature, so why bother? :P) He denies the defensive warfare interpretation, but just exhorts the reader to "look it up" in the "index". Presumably he means, find an English translation ? The implicit assumption of accuracy is quite erroneous.

anyway, my purpose is just to demonstrate that the qiuestion of Jihad is not closed. Muslimpundit has a nice summary of one viewpoint, but the inevitable barrage of links to his post are mistaken if they think it's complete or definitive. (But hey, he's Muslim, and he agrees with us, so it must be true, right?).

The Ithna Ashari Shi'a community has published a detailed account of a great debate between an Ithna Ashari jurist and a Sunni, that took place in Pakistan about a hundred years ago. The account has been published online as Peshawar Nights. Note that the description of Shia Islam is slanted towards the specific Itghna Ashari version - Ismaili Shi'a would disagree with the claims about the immortal Imam Mahdi returning as a saviour. But it is worth reading for its analysis on the misconcepotions about Shi'a Islam by the Sunni community, and gives a flavor of the doctrinal and theological diversity within Islam.

The definitive book about Shia philosophy and belief however is straight from the source - the great Peak of Eloquence (Nahj ul Balagha) , the collection of speeches by Ali AS himself. It can be found online here but I personally recommend reading it in book form, the paperback is very cheap on (that's not an affiliate link, btw, I wont get any profit if you buy it).

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July 20, 2002

The special qualities of Arabic.

H.D. Miller has a lengthy post inspired by my recent piece on translations (and subsequent commentary on Ideofact).

He brilliantly describes the complexity of the Arabic language. He starts with a great quote by Joel Carmichael in his book, The Shaping of the Arabs: "Arabic loses on translation but all other languages gain on being translated into Arabic"

He then goes on to say:

individual Arabic words are formed from simple three letter roots. To these simple roots suffixes, prefixes, and infixes are added, and vowels are changed to produce a large number of individual words which have, either actually or metaphorically, meanings somehow related to the idea behind the simple root. For example, the Arabic root k-t-b is expressed as a verbal infinitive as kataba, meaning "to write". From that basic root we can then get the words kitab "book", kAtib "writer", maktUb "written" (with a metaphorical meaning of "predestined"), maktab "office", maktaba "library", makAtaba "correspondence", kutubi "bookseller", kuttAb "elementary school", istiktAb "dictation", makAtib "correspondent" or "reporter", muktatib "subscriber", and about a hundred more variations all produced from that original three letter root.
All of the words springing from the triliteral root k-t-b have that similar three letter sound to bind them together, which means that each of the words shaped from the root, when spoken, are capable of evoking any of the other words shaped from that same root... To the native speaker all of these various meanings resonate at either the conscious or unconscious level.

The richness and suppleness of the language and the way it lent itself to the most magnificent and evocative poetry, coupled with the way the Qur'an bound religion and language tightly together, meant that for the Muslims of the Classical era grammar was one of the greatest of their sciences. Medieval Muslim grammarians studied their own language with an intensity we reserve for partical physics and professional football. ...They even invented semiotics a full thousand years before Charles Pierce and Ferdinand de Saussure figured it out anew from scratch.

Of course, it's an element of my faith that Arabic was nurtured to this level of richness and complexity for the single purpose of serving as the language of the Qur'an. But even non-Shi'a non-Muslims can and have acknowledged this richness and complexity without having to necessarily believe in a divine origin to it. To each his own :) However, the vary nature of the Arabic language should itself be the first warning against strict, fundamentalist, literal readings of the Qur'an. Anyone claiming that there is zero esoteric, figurative, or symbolic content in the words of the Qur'an, whether they believe it to be of divine origin or not, is grotesquely ignorant.

I have to thank H.D for writing his piece - it's clear his knowledge of Arabic far outstrips mine. I do have to take exception with his minor assertion that:

'Ali was murdered in 661 CE, before the nuqat, the dots, were added to the Arabic script. They're an invention of a grammarian named al-Thaqafi in the first decades of the 8th century. So, there's no way 'Ali could have spent an evening boring his dinner guests with grammatical small talk.

I have asked H.D. to provide a source reference for this claim, but I am quite certain of its authenticity since the anecdote mentioned therein is extremely well-documented in the Shi'a oral tradition. There is often a bias against oral traditions in Western cultures, assuming that the printed word is superior to the spoken one. But I personally know at least four people in my community who have the entire text of the Qur'an committed to memory (we call such people by the honorific, Hafiz al-Qur'an). In fact the written word is just as subject to manipulation and alteration as the spoken one. And in cultures with strong oral traditions, a great deal of discipline surrounds memorization and propagation of these works of history and literature, such as the anecdote of Ali AS discussing the nuqta.

The bottom line is, I trust an oral tradition over a written record when it comes to Eastern works of literature or history. I trust the written word over the oral tradition when it comes to Western works of literature or history. Just as I don't put much stock in a Western historian's claim about Ali AS, I would not bother with someone in the streets of Cairo offerring to recite Shakespeare!

I'm also bound to point out that when Ali AS spoke on religion, it was never small talk. Even the usurping caliphs deferred to Ali's AS judgement in recognition of Ali's rightful position as the "gate to the City of Knowledge". Ali AS had enormous responsibility to ensure that Islam as delivered by the Prophet SAW survived in the face of the innovation and manipulation of the Ummaiyads, and so never wasted an opportunity to educate his followers. It would have been a sublime honor indeed to have received his knowledge first hand.

(I fully realise that Howard did not intend to denigrate Ali AS, nor do I mean to imply that Howard is uaware of the difference between oral and writtem traditions. This is my blog, I only write about the thoughts that go through my brain. I'm still not convinced anyone reads it besides my mom, and I'm not all that sure she does, either! I'm not trying to prove anyone wrong or propagate a point of view. I'm just putting thoughts to keyboard.)

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July 19, 2002

Islam: the essential basis of Iranian freedom.

Finally the Bush Administration has had something to say about the situation in Iran. Unfortunately, it was just words, as Ledeen admits, it is unlikely that US policies towards Iran will change, and I'm not even sure how they should change. What really can the US do? This is an internal struggle. I hope they suceed but it has to be them who succeed. Iran must never be Afghanistan.

Tthe Open Letter to Iran probably will be seen by more Iranians and have more impact, Brendan O'Neill's snide comments notwithstanding (did he even bother to READ the Open Letter? clearly not. Pejmanpundit eviscerates him accordingly), I truly think the Open Letter is something concrete.

I do think there is a clear path for the Iranians to follow. The problem with battling tyrranny is that if you do it on their terms, they already have the infrastructure in place to deal you defeat after defeat. As Ghandi demonstrated, you have to take the game out of their court. In India, it was by applying economic and public-opinion pressure to the British citizenry, who then made the occupation of India untenable.

The key seems to be outlined in this piece by Thomas Friedman, which describes the Iranian political establishment as three elements:

Iran has three power centers. There is Iran-E -- the evil conservative clerics, intelligence services and shock troops of the regime, who still have a monopoly on all the tools of coercion and are responsible for Iran's support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the killing of Iranian intellectuals a few years ago.

Then there is Iran-C -- the rational conservatives among the clerics and bazaari merchants, who backed the Islamic revolution out of a real revulsion for the Shah's secular despotism, but who favor democracy and the rule of law. For now, Iran-C is aligned with Iran-E.

Finally, there is Iran-R, all the reformers -- the economically strapped middle class, the rising student generation and former revolutionaries who are fed up with clerical rule. They want more democracy and less imposed religion, and they are leading the opposition in Parliament but they have the least power.

That's why the key to peaceful change in Iran is a break within the conservative ruling elite. The key is to get Iran-C, the rational conservatives, to break with Iran-E, the dark conservatives, and forge a new alliance with the reformers. It's not impossible.

(emphasis mine). And I share Friedman's optimism that the alliance of Iran-R with Iran-C is not impossible, because of recent events. As I noted earlier, Ayatollah Taheri, a senior cleric in the religius theocracy, has resigned in anger and issued a blistering denunciation of the ruling elite. It's notable that Taheri was appointed to his post by the Ayatollah Khameini himself. Khameini has made an attempt at damage control by co-opting of the message away from the topic of oppression towards talk of "corruption and poverty" but I am optimistic that Iran-R and Iran-C have moved closer together.

But mere closeness isn;t enough. As Friedman noted, Iran-C has to actually break its alliance with Iran-E. It's essential to keep in mind that a secular democracy, with American-style separation of Church and State, won't sit well with Iran-C. Iran-C prefers the status quo to that, because after all they are religious conservatives. That's why they supported the installation of the Islamic Republic in the first place and why they aren't abandoning Iran-E. To get them to change allegiances, they will have to be assured that a new Iran won't be a western-style free for all on their core Islamic values. Which are the same values as Western values, btw, but thats another discussion :)

So, part of what must be promoted amongst the Iranian people is the principle that Freedom is good for Islam. Freedom of religion, as a secular concept in the Constitution, is actually isomorphic with Qur'anic Ayat 2:256 :

which roughly translates to "there is no compulsion in religion".

The idea that freedom is the true face of Islam and that the Islam promoted by the theocracy is at odds with the Qur'an itself is essential. It will also give legitimacy to the Iran-C group who need more than vague assertions from we Americans that "our system is good, try it!".

If I were making the argument to a member of Iran-C as to why they should abandon Iran-E, I would phrase it thusly:

"America itself is built upon the same universal truth expressed in the Holy Qur'an, that there is no compulsion in religion (2:256). Pious muslims in America, Shi'a and Sunni and Sufi alike, are all free to build masjids, practice their faith in peace, and worship the glory of Allah. The theocracy has denied the basic freedom of faith and has gone against the Qur'an itself. What value is morality and virtue when it is imposed from above instead of rising from within? Freedom of religion and faith is the birthright of the Muslim and the generous bounty of Allah. The people of Iran deserve no less."

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July 16, 2002

Translate this.

recognize this quote?

To hold these truth for for obvious in oneself, this whole man being to create equalizes, that to be to equip by their creator with some unalienable right, which among those to be life, freedom and happiness continuation -- which to fix these line, government being to institute among man, to derive their right power assent to govern, which all times that any form government to become destructive these end, right people to change or remove, and to institute new government, to create its base according to such principle, and to organize its power in a form, as to seem them most probably to carry out their Safety and happiness.

its the Declaration of Independence, after having been run through the Babelfish from English to French and back again.

Here it is again having gone through Chinese translation and back:

We hold these truth are self-evident, that all people are the equal which creates, then they with certain cannot become estranged by theirs creator the right subsidizes, is lives inside these, is free and -- consolidates these rights to the happiness pursue, the government is set up inside the person, derives their just strength from the agreement government, whenever government's any one form changes the destructive these terminals, it are the people right revise or abolish it, and sets up the new government, builds its foundation in such principle, with organizes its strength by such form, Very possibly seems as for them affects their safety and the happiness

The general gist is sort of preserved, but consider someone trying to decipher it without benefit of access to or any knowledge of the original text. "All people are the equal which creates" - means what? that People are God? And how would you interpret "government being to institute among man" ?

But this is merely an empirical example of why translations are fundamentally flawed. Trying to apply them to religious texts like the Qur'an is Sisyphean. Shi'a muslims like myself believe in a depth of meaning beyond the literal, which are obliterated in any attempt at translation. This is what the Qur'an is to the Shi'a :

To us, as to all Muslims, the Qur'an is the Word of Allah, revealed to Rasulullah (SAW) in the language of revelation and transcribed into the manifest Arabic language by a divine process. In effect, each word of the Qur'an is Allah's pristine, unaltered revelation.
It has, for mankind, a Guidance (al-Huda) that separates right from wrong (al-Furqan). It has within it all knowledge of everything pertaining to creation. The Qur'an itself says that there is nothing in the universe that is not in the Qur'an.
The bulk of the information of the Qur'an is in its multitude of allegorical and esoteric interpretations. Another level of information is in its numerical usage of words and letters, another in the numerical values attached to each letter, another in its order, another in the letters opening certain chapters, another in its captivating sounds, another in the way each verse was revealed - the list is almost unending.

The best analogy is that the Qur'an is a compressed file, where (due to its divine origin) the comprssion ratio is infinite. This interpretation is not shared by most Sunnis, and is outright rejected by the fanatical Wahabis and Qutbis (who go through extreme contortions to deny the words of the Qur'an itself on the matter. See Ideofact for a detailed analysis of the specific contortions of Qutb).

the very choice of the language of Arabic was no accident either. The richness of Arabic poetry in the pre-Islam arabian culture had no equal, and in fact the Qur'an itself is poetry on a scale that completely overwhelmed the pagan worshippers. The power of Qur'anic revelation was confirmation of the divine origin. None of this is even remotely describable to an english audience. And this innate complexity is intrinsic to the structure of the language itself:

Yet another level of information exists in the strokes of pen required in writing each word in Arabic. It was not by accident that Arabic was chosen for this Final Revelation. The language itself was nurtured in preparation for this task. The word Allah written in Arabic, for example, contains volumes of information that is completely lost if written in any other script. We know how Amirul Mu'mineen (SA) spent an entire night talking of the meaning of the dot (nuqta) under the letter "be" of bismillah, without exhausting the subject.

This is why I recite the Qur'an in Arabic and do not use translations in my religious practice. It is also why we pray in Arabic, even why we append "SAW" to the name of the Prophet Muhammad SAW and not PBUH. SAW are the english-transliteration of the Arabic initials for Peace be Upon Him. PBUH is the english, SAW represents the Arabic as best as possible without access to the Arabic script.

If a muslim does not understand Arabic, they still should recite it in Arabic only. It is easy to learn to read Arabic even if you do not understand it. And what is the point of reciting something that is not understood? If you believe the Qur'an to be writen by a man, then precisely none. But if the Qur'an contains the literal Words of Allah as revealed, with all divinity intact, then the mouth is repeating these divine words. The eyes see the divine script, the ears hear the divine sound, of the revelation.

It is said that angels perceive the reciter of the Qur'an as a shining star. Thus do translations fail utterly. And if understanding the Qur'an is your aim, then again the divide between Shi'a and Sunni arise. But that's a topic for later.

Many self-appointed experts in Islam turn to English translations of the Qur'an and from these, derive all sorts of generalizations and inferences about the religion. The most noted offender of this type is Eric Raymond, whose five-part series on Islam (starting here) is ludicrously flawed (and which I will deconstruct later), but examples abound within the warblogsphere.

UPDATES 071702:

Ideofact (Bill Allison) comments.

Stephen Skubinna shares a book recommendation by Mark Twain, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, translated into French and back again into English. More empirical evidence :)

UPDATES 071902

Traveling Shoes (H.D. Miller) comments

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July 8, 2002

roots of islamo-fascism: prune the right tree.

Is Bin Laden dead? I personally think so. It's been nine months and we haven't heard a peep from him. Systematically, America has exposed his distortions, destroyed his infrastructure, and dethroned the Taliban, OBL's planned nucleus of his new empire. More tellingly, the Islamic givernments which were as much a focus of OBL's rage as America itself, have now all rallied to America's side on the public stage. OBL has not taken advantage of this, though it plays directly into his hands regarding the need for tearing down the Arab givernments and replacing them with a unified Caliphate based on his own visions.

An article in Arab News goes further in the analysis, noting that even if OBL is alive physically. he is dead, politically. :

Bin Laden is the known face of a particular brand of politics that committed suicide in New York and Washington on Sept.11, 2001, killing thousands of innocent people in the process.
What were the key elements in that system?
The first was a cynical misinterpretation of Islam that began decades ago by such romantic-idealists as the Pakistani Abul-Ala Maudoodi and the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb. Although Maudoodi and Qutb were not serious thinkers, they could, at least offer a coherent ideology based on a narrow reading of the Islamic texts. Their ideas, distilled down to Bin Laden, became mere slogans designed to incite zealots to murder.
People like Maudoodi and Qutb could catch the ball and run largely because most Muslim intellectuals did not deem it necessary to continue the work of Muslim philosophers. Modern Muslim intellectuals, seduced by fashionable Western ideologies, left the new urban masses of Islam’s teeming cities exposed to the half-baked ideas that Maudoodi and Qutb peddled. In time, Maudoodo-Qutbism provided the ideological topos in which Bin Ladenism could grow.
Now, however, many Muslim intellectuals are returning home, so to speak. They are rediscovering Islam’s philosophical heritage and beginning to continue the work started by pioneers of Islamic political thought over 1,000 years ago. Paradoxically, it is Maudoodo-Qutbism that is now being exposed as a pseudo-Islamic version of Western totalitarian ideologies.

As a practicing Shi'a myself, I am hardly unbiased, but I do have the opinion that extreme literalist fundamentalism is a disease unique to Sunni Islam. The tyranny imposed upon Iranians is actually Sunni-flavored, since it depends on ruling councils of ulema to interpret religious dogma. Iran's theocracy is not a true Shi'a hierarchy of Imamate because if the Ayatollah tomorrow decreed democracy to prevail, he would simply be replaced by the mullahs.

Taheri fails to note that Maudoodi and Qutb are both inheritors of the Wahabi school of thought. founded by Abdul Wahab and which now dominates Saudi Arabia. M/Q are just the recent incarnations of the fundamentalist reading. It stretches back to the Hanbali school of thought as well.

However, Shi'a theology allows - even demands - symbolic readings of the Qur'an. The great Shi'a jurist Imam Jafa al-Sadiq - who actually mentored the Sunni founders of the dominant Sunni schools of thought - laid the foundation for Islamic rationalist philosophy, emphasising the importance of al-Aql (Reason) as the primary faculty of mankind. The great works of Ikhwan us-Safa and Dai'm al-Islam are completely unknown to Western armchair analysts of Islam, but are central to the core of true Islamic theologic philosophy (the very word philosophy comes from eth Arabic word, "falsafat"). A more accessible work, translated into English, is the great Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), the sayings of Amirul Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was the chosen successor of the prophet Muhammad SAW and who all Shi'a revere as the only person of the Prophet's SAW companions who had the authority to interpret the Qur'an. Muhammad SAW himself said that "I am the city of Knowledge, and Ali is the Gate.

Nahul Balagha is also available online.

Dinesh D'Souza has a pair of articles on National Review and The Weekly Standard that discuss Qutb's influence on OBL. Ideofact has some further analysis on Qutb here, here, and here.

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July 6, 2002


just testing...

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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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