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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.

December 21, 2003

Saddam is not a descendant of the Prophet SAW.

via Al-Jazeera comes a story not about Saddam's vanity, but rather of the intellectual wasteland that is most modern Arab theologic inquiry. The egotism of Saddam in trying to attach his lineage to that of the Prophet SAW - especially to that of the martyred Imam Husain AS - comes as no surprise. But the fact that the supposed guardians of the records of the lineage itself are so bereft of any principle that they acquiesced in the first place is beyond outrageous, it verges on the obscene. By removing Saddam's name only now three days after his capture, they reveal themselves to be cowards and liars as well.

The name of Saddam Hussein has been removed from the list of descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

The head of the union of Ashrafs, Al-Sherif Najeh Muhammad Hassan al-Faham al-Aaraji admitted that the ousted president had been able to cheat despite the great value and honour attached to the line which is guarded in Baghdad.

The Ashrafs guard the Prophet's genealogical tree.

"Saddam had forced the origin experts to falsify his genealogical tree so that it went back to the Prophet," he said.

Sadly, this kind of deliberate historical falsification is not limited to genealogy. As long as the collected hadiths of Bukhari are accorded any kind of respect in this world, the worldwide practice of Islam will remain tainted.

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can liberty be imposed?.

an essay in The New Yorker relates a historical parallel to our Iraq adventure - that of French Algieria:

Unlike the French mission in Algeria, Washington’s goal in Iraq is not to prevent the people from governing their own country but to help them to do so. Presumably, the insurgents—about whose politics, allegiances, organization, and objectives shockingly little is known—also want to see Iraqis in power, if not the same ones that Washington might favor. The question “Is America to remain in Iraq?� would ultimately receive the same negative answer from the occupiers as from the guerrillas. But, as the Bush Administration pushes for speedy elections and a speedy exit, Algeria’s example is again worth bearing in mind. In the early nineties, an Islamic fundamentalist party won elections in that country by a solid majority but was prevented from taking power by the secular military, which refused to accept the democratic election of an anti-democratic government. As a result, the country descended into a civil war that is reported to have claimed a hundred thousand lives.

This really is the nub of the question - are we seeking to give Iraq democracy, or liberty? Both are important and idealistic concepts. Democracy is the will of the people, and is more universal a human desire. Liberty is a freedom to dictate the circumstances of your personal life, such that you can achieve the pursuit of happiness (as defined by our American founding documents) and rests solidly upon the First Amendment - freedom of speech and religion.

I am confident that democracy can be imposed, but the outcome is not guaranteed to be liberty. People don't, as a rule, understand liberty as a concept until they actually have to fght for it, to earn it - as our Founders said, the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots. Can liberty be given? I don't think so. It has to be won, not gifted.

I don't doubt that we will succeed in gifting democracy to Iraq. But my prediction is that the result will be a Shi'a theocracy, though unlike Iran the true political clerical leadership of Iraq's Shi'a are more open to the concepts of liberty than the fundamentalists who imposed theocratic rule in Iran were (with the people's democratic blessing).

Ayatollah Sistani will be better than Saddam in all respects - and the true villains remaining on the field are those on the Interim Governing Council who are taking note of Bush's plan to cut and run in time for election 2004, and moving to cement their positions accordingly.

Given a choice between the imposed rule of the IGC and the democratic groundswell of the Shi'a majority, what seems inevitable? Democracy is as desirable, if not more, than liberty, and of the two concepts, only one is within the reach of th emajority of people in Iraq. They will harvest that fruit soon enough.

The Islamic Republic of Iraq is inevitable.

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December 18, 2003

contradictions about Saddam.

Surfing the information overload cohering around the captured-Saddam story, I am struck by the contradictions that abound in evaluating what it all means. The political meme emerged on the Sunday talkshows and the pundit print media that the Democrats should simply give up against Bush, delivered without a trace of irony though the message last week was that Gore's endorsement of Dean somehow undercut democracy. If Gore was Dean's kingmaker, does that make Saddam Bush's?

There's also contradiction regarding Saddam's role in the guerilla resistance. He was found sealed into in a hole without a single communication device, yet also had in possession a cache of documents including (reportedly) minutes of a meeting between guerrilla resistance leaders. So naturally FOX News takes this to mean Saddam was coordinating and funding the resistance. However, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno (commander of the 4th Infantry Division), noting the lack of comm gear in Saddam's hideyhole, suggested that Saddam likely had only symbolic value to the resistance.

Regardless of whether Saddam is a symbol or the guiding hand, his capture would suggest that attacks would decrease. However, another contradiction: Kos points out a whole slew of new attacks, as does Juan Cole, and Riverbend notes that the capture may unite guerilla factions, who can agree on the common cause of sovereignity now that Saddam is moot.

And what about the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? There are reports of jubilation at Saddam's capture, as we would expect - but also pro-Saddam demonstrations around Iraq (and in the US), including recent ones such as in Tikrit that was broken up by US tanks, another in Falluja where some demonstrators were killed by US troops, and another in Mosul (surprisingly) that ended with a truck explosion.

What effect will Saddam's capture have on the ultimate goal of Iraqi democracy? That hinges on how the capture is viewed and processed (politically speaking) by the Shi'a majority population. Juan Cole's wife offers the possibility that Shi'a resistance to occupation will increase, emboldened by the removal of the only force they ever feared. However, Syed Hassan al Naji, the Baghdad commander of Muqtada Sadr's militia "the Army of Mehdi", is quoted by CNN as proclaiming "We will be friends with the Americans because of this." And there's no word on reaction from Ayatollah Sistani, whose insistence on elections remains at odds with the Administration's favoritism of the "temporary" Governing Council - though SCIRI did organize marches in celebration.

My sole interest is in seeing the Administration leverage Saddam's capture towards the goal of Iraqi liberation, rather than domestic political gain. I see some positive signs of this, such as France and Germany's increased willingness to comply with debt amelioration (note that the issue of denial of contracts to those ocuntries was hardly a significant threat to them). But given the morass of contradictory claims and facts, it's hard to see what effect the capture will ultimately have - until it's all within the purview of history rather than news, at any rate.

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December 4, 2003


fellow Muslim "TheBit" runs a very rigorous group blog devoted to examining Islamic theology from within, ie the perspective of a practicing believer (as opposed to a secular or a self-hating viewpoint). It is with some pleasure that I note the addition of Harun Moghul, whose name will be familiar to any regular readers of alt.muslim.

Harun's latest entry is a great example of the detailed self-examination that so characterizes the blog. Excerpt:

By questioning Islamic law as a project, however, do not believe I advocate a "salad-bowl" religion or the creation of a religion intent only on blind imitation (commonly referred to as "taqleed"). I do believe that, even from the perspective of the Qur'an alone (ignoring for the time being Hadith literature), certain behaviors are licit and certain others are illicit. Yet the more I search for a firm basis upon which to ground these injunctions, the more elusive it seems. What I find instead is that there is another aspect to the very idea of Islam -- submission -- itself, an idea of inevitability, lacking in the fierce optimism that characterizes some presentations of Islam, especially in the West.

We often view Islam as a religion preaching free will (How often do we hear: "La ikraha fi al-deen," there is no compulsion in religion? [2 256]). Yet I am coming to the view that what we ignore is that the religion of Islam offers free choice in only the most fleeting manner. Faith is a mystery, when we look into it. Law is rationalization of the supra-rational, when we consider it. Reality, from the Islamic point of view, really exists at many levels of comprehension, the more thorough of which must (in my view) admit to the possibility that there is no meaningful choice. At least, none that Islam can (or perhaps even should) provide.

From the Islamic point of view, practicing submission is the only reasonable choice before a person. We are able to accept the divinity of the Qur'an through various investigative techniques, but upon accepting its divinity, we are made to understand that divinity itself is incomprehensible. Not to say that it borders nothingness, as is often the Jewish conception, but that though it is a very real presence in our lives, for improving us or punishing us, the Divine is nonetheless beyond human logic. Once making the choice to live Islam, we can use our intellects to advance understandings of Islam, of its injunctions, but we cannot apply our intellects upon Islam itself, as a faith from God, nor can we apply our intellects to see whether or not we have made a free choice.

I don't see these essays as making a specific point, but rather making a series of observations that, upon reflection, become the basis for further self-examination. They are a starting point for questions, not an end point of answers. As such though it is well-representative of and rightful heir to the 14 centuries of Islamic philosophy and analysis of the faith from within - a rich tradition that today's critics of the faith are blissfully ignorant of, and which I consider TheBut, Asim, and Harun to be today's representatives of.

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December 2, 2003

And Jesus was black, too.

Meryl Yourish might be disappointed, but I actually found the column on 1920's Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig's polemics against Islam to be intriguing. The specific attacks on Islam are unoriginal, but the historical context is interesting. Most of the polemical attacks against Islam that I was aware of were from Christian sources stemming from ongoing political dispute over the holy lands (Saladin's memory was still fresh), whereas Judaism at the time was centered in Christian Europe.

I do think that Rosenweig's prophecy that "The coming millennium will go down in world history as a struggle between Orient and Occident, between the church and Islam, between the Germanic peoples and the Arabs," was more of a self-fulfilling one, and that his energies might have been better focused on European/Germanic anti-Semitism rather than the Islamic bogeyman.

As Yourish points out, the same columnist has an essay whimsically titled "Mahathir is right: Jews do rule the world"[1] which goes on to credit Judaism with the invention of democracy, the philosophical framework that made Protestantism possible, and the messianic inspiration of America's founding. Ok, sure, why not? Though the rest of the essay is devoted to specific faults of Arab cultures (because they have no volunteer fire departments or school boards) and the concept of God in Islam (as explained by Jewish polemicist Franz Rosenzweig! quelle surprise), and doesn't really address how the asserted Jewish foundation of the edifice of Western civlization translates into direct rule over the globe by the Elders of Zion. I am sure this will be a topic of a future column.

[1]I'm glad the columnist isn't Muslim, he would have had to contend with accusations of blood libel (since, by trying to justify Mathahir's claim, he is encouraging violence against Jews by giving Muslims convenient rationalizations with which to pursue their murderous intent. Without which no doubt they would have gone peaceably home to volunteer on their local fire departments and school boards).

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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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