Monday, December 31, 2007
It has been six years since that fateful day when The Kid, at that time a lonely, reserved misfit whose existence was largely supported by video games and Eminem, heard that ominous call, there was no magnificence in that moment, it was actually a boring evening and The Kid was flat on his ass checking out the new cassette he recorded at the nearby Radio1 shop, but at that moment when "No Leaf Clover" came bursting out the seams of his cheap Chinese player, that he felt like an ancient prophet in a cave.
After that, The Kid's mindset was completely captivated by the magnificence, power and intelligence this form of music can evoke in one's being ; little did he know it, but at that period of his life, he actually worshiped Heavy Metal, and NOT in a metaphorical sense of the word, all his existence was more or less devoted to that obsession, he saw in those drug-addicted, half-naked school dropouts the pinnacle of human evolution and development ; often did he sit late at night, pondering like a historian over manuscripts at their lyrics, carefully trying to "understand" the concise interpretation of this lyric and that, the epic, dark compositions uplifted his spirit and gave him meaning. In fact, unconsciously he believed that the juxtaposition of music and words in such a fashion unlocked a dangerous magic of its own that can only be felt and understood by those devoted followers, from this logic, he considered those rare specimen who agreed with his ways, whom he met during high school as especially enlightened human beings, who had managed to see beyond the usual range of short-sighted men, those men would simply label these highly powerful creations as 'a garbled mess that has nothing to do with music', The Kid knew of those people deviated ways for he had lived upon them for 17 long years, reveling in disgust at their stupidity and 'uneducated animality', he had seen their corrupt, idiotic music about love and butterflies, formless and odorless, and yet another facet of their inferiority, he loathed their attraction to the simple and benign and treasured the complex essence of the truth he had harnessed and uncovered in those magnificent manifestations of the divine. Often did he and his compatriots talk about forming circles to practice the faith, but he was often disappointed in his colleagues, for sometimes he thought that except for their admiration for this music, they were still the savage inferior beasts he saw everywhere, and that they did not hold the key of the knowledge of this great realm like he did. Undeterred, he silently upheld his new faith and tried secretly to flourish within the confines of his society. He had no money to buy a holy instrument, so he secretly practiced his faith passively behind locked doors, he loathed headbanging, which he considered to be an extremist invention that had harmed the faith more than it benefited it and led many common people to shy away from it in disgust, instead, he preferred to air-guitar his emotions while making performer poses and creepy faces, often fantasizing himself to be in the center of whatever social unit he was part of at the time, Singing 'The Wait' in his schoolyard, or fingerpicking 'The Call of Ktulu' in the living room, in those fits of fantasy, students of the school would gaze in awe, and his family would water their eyes, everyone would bow to his greatness and testify to his superiority. He would then sleep comfortably while analyzing the subliminal intentions of the complex faux-pop songs of Soundgarden, before waking up to another tasteless school day where he served as a nondescript entity in a world he felt he did not belong to.
From his youth, The Holy Kid had perceived hints of what was to come, at six years old, when The Kid was still held by his family to be some sort of tortured genius, when he could have told you the capital of any country and the number of days it took Hitler to invade any European country one by one, The Kid has often wondered, for no reason at all, if his playmates were some sort of robots, who were programmed to think and feel in the same predictable emotions, the faith of Heavy Metal came to confirm those theories about the inherent stupidity of those people, and increase his longing for a holy hijra to the promised lands he often saw in television screens.
Years passed and The Kid graduated, having devolved from a child prodigy into a plain and unremarkable dude, more plagued by his supposedly miscast nature than anything else, he joined college, determined to convert as many as he possibly could, into his new philosophy, he had crystallized his teachings in a simple leaflet, and he termed it 'F.T.W.", his determination paid through somewhat, for after years living as a misfit, he seems to have picked up, quite inadvertently, something of human social conduct, and for perhaps the first time in his life since his teenage depression, The Kid found himself to be truthfully enjoying his presence among the ignorant population of his perimeters. He had gained a few converts on the path of truth, and believing his happiness to be stemming from that blessed foundation, he continued in that path unabashed. Yet still, in that warped form of thinking, The Kid was still believing on some level that there are better, more 'educated' human beings out there and he often longed to meet them.
However, by 2006, the actual spell-binding aura which had protected him all these years had slowly faded away, the holy incantations did not move him like they once did, but he relentlessly listened to them in an attempt to bolster his faith, believing this to be a minor lapse, shaking away whatever childish demons that tried to manipulate him, unfortunately, it felt today like a regular routine with no emotions, he now had the means to procure a holy instrument, and be bought three of the blessed tools, thinking that the time had finally come to spread the doctrines into the unsuspecting hordes, to rescue them from the vile clutches of the satanic devils of Arabic pop music.
Laugh not, for The Kid genuinely believed this crap as intensely as it is shed here, he just did not know how religiously he believed in it. It was his driving passion, during boring lectures, he was found of creating setlists for imaginary live shows, he was forever obsessed with the correct order of songs in order to persuade the heathens into the true word of the divine.
But as 2006 drove on, more and more did The Kid find himself more suffocated than liberated by his faith, the search for new items always proved disappointing, both the new and old music he tried to explore he found to be rather lame attempts to sound glorious and evil, most of the bands only had a handful of good songs, barely fitting an album, and by now it had become something of a joke, a ritualistic practice that regulated one's conformity to nonconformity without any true quality of its own, like a failed Pan-Arab revolution ; you like this? then YOU MUST like this, or else you suck! Unfortunately, The Kid cannot pin down an exact moment when he said: "That's it, this is just too ridiculous! But it can be narrowed down to the following moments: The moment when his fellow friend snatched The Kid's holy instrument and played an Arabic medley of the sort The Kid looks upon with aristocratic disfavor, but to his own amazement, it appeared to him for the first time to have a magical shape of melody and it took him to those faraway mental escapes....maybe it was the fact that The Kid couldn't play shit at that time, anyway, this small bit took The Kid into a re-examining of traditional Iraqi songs, apparently an easy way to get people's attention instead of numbing their heads with chugga-chugga, this little oriental piece proved to be quite a decisive Trojan horse later.
But most importantly of all, it was The Kid's first foray at playing with dedicated musicians, there were two of them, the bassist was a weird, but overall okay person. but the lead guitarist, Teez (his real name), was another story. Teez was supposedly Iraq's self-proclaimed 2nd greatest guitarist of all-time (the first being Saad Zai), Teez was like The Kid's musical aspiration taken to extremes, a very idiosyncratic, egotistical person who apparently sucked at everything but playing guitar, and because of this very perceived insecurity, Teez used to insult and mock everyone whenever he could in order to be assured of his prowess. Teez was especially unbearable, and The Kid, now less unsocial and with friends and some girl to talk to late at night, found him to be rather a chore and a model of a human being he was afraid he would become. He loathed Teez, and with this realization, he loathed even more the archetype of the Iraqi 'mattalla' community and its trappings. Another practitioner of the faith, a girl who was even more devoted than himself and into black metal, which we could call 'Sufi Metal' shit, actually got married to another heavy metaller just because he was into the same shit more or less, having been a witness of the hollowness of those petty lives ; it was then that The Kid realized that those 'uber-human' people he dreamed about were nothing but imaginary, like the myth of the Mahdi, and that everybody is more or less quite ordinary ; if anything, those misfits he was one of were as remote as anyone from attaining a higher experience of life, it was more like an amateur venting of frustration that eased itself out through music instead of the way Osama bin Laden or the Virginia Tech killer would do it. If anything, those idiotic animals we held in contempt were having a richer, more realistic life than this denial.
With the death of his friends, and his growing interest in politics and religion, The Kid began to read less English and more Arabic, amazingly, the Arabic culture DID turn out to be capable of producing the intelligence, wit and imagination that he so respected and thought unique of Western culture, this reflected on everything of the Kid's behavior, he stopped wearing stupid rock/tanta clothes, began reading Arabic poetry and history, and music-wise, he is now dancing to the same music he found years before to be tasteless and inane, as a matter of fact, whenever an English-speaking song comes about on his play list, he immediately skips it, mentally commenting on its inability to possess the soulful, melismatic qualities of Eastern music. Sighing at the thought of all those leather-pant-dreaming western-wannabes who think they know something.
The moral of this story is that everything taken to extremes is bad, yes you might like something passionately and that's cool, but don't read too far into it, as it puts you in a warped plane of reality that is more often not really the be-all end-all you think it is, Here I only liked loud dark music, which doesn't hurt anyone necessarily, but still, thank God it wasn't something like religion or race.
To give you an example of how my life depended on Rock, here is a piece I wrote in my wee-years in 2002, about the song which I still consider the song that affected me most in all my lifetime, No Leaf Clover, compare it to this article I recently discovered which looks with the same academic analysis and fascination at an Arabic song, apparently, there are maniacs found for almost everything! The idea I'm trying to say here is that Your God can be found in everything, and one should really respect other people's beliefs no matter how inferior they sound to you, for you could end up liking them one day, and if you asked me right now, I'd say that this woman is the greatest singer in the world.
NO LEAF CLOVER, Metallica.
Written by James Hetfield/Lars Ulrich
Reviewed by The Kid in 2001-2002
NOTE: You might not understand a lot without listening to the song (YouTube link to the left) first.
This is probably the foremost fusion of words and music I have ever heard in my whole short life. Never has a song offered such power, emotion, and atmosphere as this one. While lyrically the composition is vague and daunting, with such everyday indistinguishable words, the mirroring of their ideas into the music is what makes Clover totally mind-blowing, the song was performed only once in 1999 in a live show with a SYMPHONY, Metallica wanted to demonstrate that their music owe a lot to orchestrated detail and this one is the prime example of their complex emotional treatment. The song is intended as mourning for the death of a wild, careless human. After a good intro from the symphony that introduces the main riff, the song really starts by James playing a creepy arpeggio figure played on a clean electric guitar, while the symphony coats him with a vivid, Swan Lake-like impression, which puts across a very serene, angelic, and mysterious atmosphere. In what is one of scariest sudden-shock experiences the whole environment is turned upside down by a thundering electric guitar with only a split second of transition between it and the previous calamity, ensuring a devastating back-to-life effect that is both cynical and crushing. In the same moment, rumbling Tambourines underscores the effect, to create a march that eventually reaches conclusion with a loud snare/cymbal crack from Lars Ulrich's drums, the last note is made even more haunting by a short epic horn play, it gives the impression of a vicious resurrection of a sudden mystic power, like the visceral awakening of a slumbering, long-forgotten evil. All this happens in only three seconds, which shows the depth and the understanding of Michael Kamen (the symphony conductor), immediately after this short 'transition' the music ferociously recite the verse riff (NOT the main riff), a heavy riff with a sort of a military seriousness to it, after a full bar James Hetfield comes on the vocal, in a melody that is both wailing and sadly mourning, the sort of reaction you'd expect from a mother who's throwing fits over the dead son, he sings in high-pitched, multi-layered shots : 'And it feels right this time'. The first verse mainly resembles the youth's life, with the loud, dense collaboration of rock and classical furiously ensuing the heating, blazing atmosphere of a wild life revisited in retrospective. The mourner then proceeds to shout some of life's best virtues, in cynical, agonized bites laid together in an abrasive, animal satisfaction and simplicity 'and it feels right this time/ on this crash course feel the big time! /pay no mind to the distant thunder/beauty fills his head with wonder, boy' stating the viewpoint of that said careless individual. When he reaches the verse's end 'Good day to be alive he says' he increases his intensity on the last syllable of 'says' while the symphony proceeds to lift up, then the vocal echoes to create a sort of a dissolving effect as the guitars slow down, the spirit of life is suddenly faltered, and vanishes in a puff of smoke, out of which silently the haunting guitar line of the introduction is reintroduced while James Hetfield leaks the sadness he's conjured in a low-pitch mumble, you could actually see how wild life decomposed into the nothingness implied by this chorus, which is even made more touching by the line : 'Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel / was just a freight train coming your way' It means that the distant, unclear thing up ahead of your life which you have not paid much attention to is basically the much-dreaded end, coming towards you in immeasurable speed, at the same time James pulls out an evocative vocal delay on 'way' the symphony menacingly rises up again, and a soft, assured kick drum then proclaims the impact moment, it's as if this slow moving, giant and inevitable slab of fate hits yet another piece of clay on its never-ending travel, easily plucking it away from the frail roots it had fermented earth with. James repeats the chorus line with percussion and a more refined angelic surrounding, with Jason Newsted's bass remorsefully throbbing a few reflective notes before the whole set is pulled back to the pit again, this time the lyrics deal with outcome of the man's mindless life and where it had led him: 'Does it feel right like this?/ All the pieces fall to his wish!' the 'his' in here is either a tribute to God, meaning that eventually everything happens according to God's will, or the other way around, stating that Devil finally got you and all the things he fed you with finally worked, probably the latter is more accurate as in the next line he blames the deceased for his easy trickery into life's 'quick reward', which, however, could imply God's reproach or devil's denial. After another repetition of the chorus, James struts a bit on the warning line 'It's coming your way', all this, however diminishes when compared with the song's bloody climax: After having Kirk Hammett (lead guitarist) play the silent intro guitar distorted –which creates a sort of a bottled suffering, with James's guitar behind descending into minor keys- the song then reaches the final point, undeniably the best part of the whole song, while at the surface the tension is mercilessly released with an out-of-control Hetfield frantically screaming the chorus line in paint-peeling high-pitch saturated with high voltage energy that would put any nearby Celine to shame while his guitar textures paint a chaotic mood underneath his bellows, the actual undertones is very much in precise control, the symphony tackles the dramatic apocalypse with a few violin notes, which paves the way for Kirk to repeat his distorted intro trick, it achieves the sort of fulfillment the song needs. After this heartfelt outpouring of the chorus, the set repeats the principal riff, and ends on a rising violin note underscored by grumbling tambourines. A sad lament to a deceased individual, and a big warning sign to everyone who is willing to listen. I still remember how it threw me upside down; I never knew anything about music other than it's just a way of spending just a fun time. This one literally blew me away (I kid you not, the actual analysis of this classic took me about six months, before that, I just listened, but I never expected the impression to be so awesome, I was too lowbrow to express my feelings anyway) and eventually it changed my whole outlook on music as not just a tool for having fun, all the silly, kitschy pop music seemed absurd and meaningless, it frightened me that a band with such depth, detail and intelligence actually exists, and if only a tenth of music was as good! It also harbored an as-yet-unexplored interest in classical music, often touted as the highest form of music. It taught me to carefully examine artistic works: books, photos, pictures, songs. Everything had whole new dimensions upon closer inspection. Consequently I found out that this line of thought has even influenced my usual real life relationships and social judgment of persons. Given the song's genuine impressions, it's hard to believe that it is also one of Metallica's most accessible works, while most Metallica classics would take a dozen listens to comfortably sit within the mind, this one could be absorbed in just a few listens, with little details slowly cropping up with each listen, ensuring the song's long lifetime. No Leaf Clover's most noticeable trait is contrast. The contrasting themes between harsh life and silencing death are so strongly realized on all aspects of the song: the music is hard rock on the verses, disproved by the symphonic laid together focal chorus; the vocal is an agonized, mindless simulation of ecstasy done in screeching high-pitch at verses, while at the chorus it's so solemn, peaceful and low-pitch it's hard to believe they came from the same vocalist, this theme is even engrossed in the lyrical context: from the barks of an underdog to the metaphors of a philosopher, even the title -'No Leaf Clover' is the diagonal opposite of a four leaf clover, a luck sign- is a contrast in itself.Several other theories have been discussed as of the actual meaning behind the song (the band rarely gives out interpretations of their songs) including a war theme (Metallica has often written anti-war songs, particularly in the 80s) and just plain, indefinite bad luck, but the song's epic, larger-than-life atmosphere and high musical vocabulary allows no compromises; it deals with the highest form of the old good-and-bad conflict, the most important of humanity's struggles.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Look at this awesome report done by al-Jazeera English on the fearsome foursome, indeed, as evidenced by the VBS.TV documentary before, Marwan still is the most impressive person of the lot and he's still the only one who exudes a cool-guy aura with his deep voice, this one made me yearn back to hungry days rocking in my bedroom. Good luck guys, i hope you do write something good finally...
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
For the lost souls of the members of Satan-brainwashed Accrrrraaaassscccida, I wish them a Happy Christmas, a Merry Eid, A Blessed Hannukah, and a Fucking Awesome Eid al-Ghadir, may Allah/Jesus/Yehweh/Abu al-Hasneen be pleased with all of us. Hold on to your virgins, too many holy festivals! Let us hope that they rejoice one day in peace, and not commit holy martyrdom in the name of Ozzy Osbourne on the altar of the Church of Punk like our great Ayatosatan Kurt Cobain (AS) did one stupid depressed day.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The Iraqi 'Gheera' comes directly from the classical Arabic 'ghayoor', I haven't heard it being used in other Arabic dialects, it stems from the same human feelings of 'pride' and 'honor' but it is also much more than that, perhaps the 'gheera' has its roots in the Beduoin-descendant importance of protecting the family, especially the women. a 'ghayoor' or an 'abu il gheera' is the proud, honorable William Wallace type of person.
The dilemma of translating 'gheera' came to me when I was trying to translate the following poem, I normally consider patriotic Iraqi songs hypocritical, but apparently, everything can be great if it's done well. and this performance have never failed to stir me, even the over-the-top, bullshitty parts, Hussam al-Rassam, currently Iraq's favorite singer, did an especially good job here, somehow I feel every word and actually the first two times it literally brought tears to my eyes on the 'children sleep on their empty stomaches' line, as you can see in the video, I was not the only one feeling this way, not to mention the way he lays down his issues with our Arab countries in a tone that conveys despair, pride, majesty, sadness all at the same time. It's almost flawless, except for the smiling bimbo at 3:30, but oh well.
This performance is actually a medley of three different 'mawaweel', in short a mawal is a small vocal performance of a poem Iraqi (and maybe Arab) singers perform before jumping headlong into a song, the mawal is usually painful and exquisitely worded, but the subject matter of the mawal and the song can be totally unrelated, for example, you can sing a mawal about the pain and suffering you feel when torn away from your country and then jump headlong into a song about stolen chickens.
Other things of note is that translation often fails to preserve the direct essence and brilliance of the mawal, especially if there is wordplay, for example the first verse which ends with 'dates', 'command' and 'pass us by' is in Iraqi-Arabic 'tamurna', 'timurna' and 'tumurna'. a wordplay often used in Iraqi mawaweel. I have tried however to convey its meaning to the best of my humble capability as someone who earns his bread by translation.
Enjoy it, it's really important.
Fair and well for those who our dates they eat
and we obey your wishes when us you command
for entirely the Basra leans when us you pass by
and Shatt al-Arab greets thee heartily...
May the Lord ails you, my country, O the cradle of civillizations...
I embrace you even if thou embrace the knives themselves....
For I wish to speak, and who is he who believes my fables...
and you, O beloved, bear the anecdotes of Sultans..
The Bread-maker, why do you give your neighbors
while your children sleep on empty stomaches?
And your walls are used but for the slogans, many are the
slogans, few are the walls...
and here you cry alone, and no one shares you tears...
For you need not a tear shed without honor (gheera)
When the horses broke into stride, you calmed their fears
and preserved them, their thrones, kings, and tribes.
Who has not quenched from Kirkuk's oil?
but who invites me on his table today?
I address he who drank Irbil's yoghurt
and he who ate the bread of Sowayra
and he who consumed Thi-Qar's masguf
and he who uttered but the single utterance
and I bemoan for Saladdin isn't present
nor is the Qaqa, nor is Ibn al-Mugheira!
O Sa'ad, do you see Rustam, at the doorstep?
On the Euphrates, his rank and file march
I address those who slept by Abu Nuwas
Lo! How the Tigris remains captive today!
O Ali! O Father of al-Hasan! Dulfiqar is sheathen, and of your
dome the cowardly chips a stone?
I remember when they clinged to my clothes
and yesterday when the peninsula preserved its pride
Yesterday, when my helmet rebound a thousand bullets
the Arab Gulf is my sea, and I didn't flee
I hold thee accountable for all that happened to me
and everyone's sin lies in the corner of his eyes
for I am Iraq, and my name shatters the heavens.
*The poet who wrote this, Samir Sabah, was imprisoned by Jordanian authorities shortly after its release, he was only released after human right organizations intervened, ironically, this concert was in Jordan.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
First, Annie, I don't really support the occupation, but that doesn't require my support for its withdrawal necessarily. The only thing that I really understand right now is that there is no really clear, 1-2-3 way out in this fucked up political condition anymore, in fact, there are only guys who are looking for their own interests. That could mean turning a blind eye to horrible atrocities and creating a pan-Arab hero out of a bloody tyrant, or simply focusing on that tyrant's atrocities all day long perhaps as a justification to cover today's crimes. People like t to hear what they want to hear, seeing people become simplistic entities with cartoonish views of right and wrong has taken out a huge chunk of my faith in human nature. The thing is, if the owner of this blog knows one thing, then it's that nothing is really for sure anymore, it's a huge unjust, unfair mess, be it history, social conduct, politics, secularism or religion. Also, the person known as Anarki13 once said that i'm a know-it-all twat, in fact, what you are witnessing is really just soul-searching, that hopes at getting somewhere in the end. All i did in my recent posts is just copying transcripts of what well-known authors have said, i didn't bring anything out of my own pocket. However, I must say that I've always thought of you as somebody who never listened to anybody's opinions and actually never even took the views of anything seriously but his for that matter, including my own views. So judge not, okay?
Talk about being konfused... :)
Sunday, September 30, 2007
This person was found killed alongside two of his friends in a car on the Qanat bridge, which is near Sadr City, they were back from college after receiving their exam scores. one of them was sunni and the other two were shia, the person himself worked in the interior ministry so he was probably shia. nobody knew why they were killed, and i don't think anybody puzzled much ; it's simply too common. one of the boys however was rumored to be connected to the Mahdi, which makes it even more puzzling since they were killed near the Mahdi stronghold. his best friend, who recently became a close friend of mine due for geographic reasons, called me and told me the news, sobbing. I didn't feel anything.
As a matter of fact, I did feel something for a brief second, it was - this guy will no more try to find jobs, get married, have children, be happy, be sad, travel, swim, play pool, have diarrhea. He turned in for the day.
He's so lucky.
I'm sorry Haitham, for all the qanadir we made you eat in those past years. i hope you forgive us and may you live happily ever after.
oh and by the way, blackwater, fuck you. do you think we will tolerate this anymore?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Not only one, is that which I desire
Your back, your little finger, your liver
your grey hairs which in blood had been soaked
Your chest, your thirsty heart
Your body, My master, that which was crucified
Before you there was not a tragedy
a slaughter from the back to the back
and a head sheathed up on the spear
From a land to another
your head, O the willful, goes round and round"
- Bassim al-Karbali'e, lamenting Imam Hussein' death in Bil Taff Lu Chinit Mawjood
I have been avoiding this post for almost a year now, for fear of meddling into a big sectarian mess that shuold be treaded carefully to say the least. However, my recent re-viewing of South Park's infamous The Passion of The Jew episode convinced me of its importance.
When I first watched The Passion of The Christ back when it was just released, like many others, I was in complete awe of the film. Deeply moved, and compounded by explicit hatred at the jews. At the time, like any good-loving Muslim, I didn't give any extra thought into the innate, inherent evil of anything Jewish.
I watched the film again about a month ago, and found that there is little more in the film that actually makes it something above a simple 'snuff film', the only significane it served is the fact that the man being killed, unlike millions others killed in a similar fashion, is the principle focus of a major world religion. The Passion itself is a medieval performance piece whose only purpose is to incite anti-semitism. Discussions into the film's possible and unintended (or intended) inciting of similar sentiments have been dead and done, but the myriad similarity between the centrality of the crucification and the Shiite's Flagellation processions is what forced me to criticise it here.
For a year, I have been pondering over and over about what Shi'ism is about. In Sunni Islam, the history of the Arab/Islamic Nation is basically: everybody lived happily ever after until very recently, the bulk of wars between people deemed companions to the prophet are often ignored or passed in silence. This amazing discovery forced me to read and re-examine my beliefs, and since then it has been an endless fascination for me to read about the history and origins of the endless Sunni-Shiite conflict.
The first thing that struck me odd in Shiism is that, while it tries hard to claim that its ideology is derived from reason and logic, it's present spiritual force is exactly the same force that grips you when you see the Messiah being whipped by Roman Soldiers until his ribs poke out, unreasoning raw sympathy for another human being compounded a million times by the perceived saintly stature of the man in your consciousness, a force so emotionally terrible that strips you of any thinking, so strong that your heart eventually convince yourself it must be true, the problem with such gushing sensations is that the heart is often an unreliable conductor To quote the late leader of Badr/SCIRI (now SIIC) Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim: "Shiism was kept alive in two things and two things only: the focus on the plight of Hussein and his mother, Fatima al-Zahraa."
There is no better example of this logic-less method of persuasion that the story of Fatima al-Zahraa's Rib, supposedly, before the death of the prophet, he appointed his cousin, Ali, as his successor, but the first caliph was Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, when Ali refused to extend allegiance, Omar ibn al-Khataab, one of the most important companions in Sunni Islam, went to his house and started shouting and threatening to burn it even though Fatima, Ali's wife and Prophet Mohammed's only daughter, is inside, eventually, Omar (sometimes not him, but a minor slaved called Qunfudh) crushed Fatima using the door of the house, that her rib was broken, and she was forced into a miscarriage of the third child Muhsin, before dying six months later, in a notorious day Shiites uphold as 'Zahraa's Martyrdom' Amazingly, Imam Ali, easily the most self-righterous, strongest and most courageous figure in Islam, did absolutely nothing for the death of his wife and child. and went to 'grudgingly' accept the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Omar, even advising the latter on certain matters, for fear over the unity of Islam!!!! This is the same Ali whose self-imposed puritanical approach to life and refusal to compromise on anything led him, knownigly, to his defeat by the more wily and persuasive Muawiya. In fact, first act on the first day of his caliphate some 30 years later was chasing Ubaidullah bin Omar, who killed a Persian without any charges after the second caliph was killed, such is his stubborn adherence to the principles, that it is seems ridiculous, even hugely insulting to his character, that he would contend with 'accepting the unity of Islam' when such grave sins were committed not only under the tent of Islam, but to his personal family and wife.
When I asked a very devout Shiite friend of mine from Najaf about Ali's actions, his simple explanation was that 'it was told to Ali that he have to act this way by the Prophet', an even more puzzling mystical solution, as the prophet could have easily dispensed of his two companions, both of which belonging to minor tribes who pose no real threat to him, when he was alive.
Unfortuantely, this illogical story is a foundation for the Shiite faith ; A neutral person, with no previous knoweldge of Ali and Omar, would have trouble not being affected by the yearly wealth of poems and latmiyas, set to heart-piercing melodies, telling in horrible detail the wounds and injuries suffering the saintly lady by the 'oppressors and criminals'. If Laughing is infections, then crying is terminal. Even though Abu Bakr and Omar had differences with Fatima, their latter actions when they assumed the caliphate were unlike those of the following tyrannical kings such as Muawiya or Yazid, or even those like Omar's successor Uthman ; they remained as poor as they were before ruling, their clothes and food remained as rough as the Prophet (and Ali's), and their actions were in the interest of the Islamic State overall. Some Shiite scholars like Mohammed Fadhulallah, Hezbollah's spiritual leader, tried to negate this story, but he was ruthlessly and harshly denounced by both the common and the other Ayatollahs such as Iraq's Ali Sistani, quoting: 'The tragedy of Zahraa is essential to our sect, and without it, our sect would become quite simply the same as the other sect.' This is correct, because to Shiism the whole idea is of a single , continous tapestry of suffering and pain since the death of the Prophet Mohammed until today, and to break a crucial pillar of that fragment would ultimately lead to the downfall of the whole sect.
That is not to say that Shiism is devoid of any positive principles, like the countless other revolutions throughout history, such as communism and pan-Arab nationalism, Shiism started with a noble true cause that throughout history was shortened to nothing more than rituals and beliefs which are recognized as more important than its true spirit, the spirit of revolution against the rulers who descended into wordly pleasures and mixed religious rule with that of a king. Open any Shiite website and you would find the larger section of the site dedicated to the Shiite Opus Dei-like hymns of flagellation, wailing over the ethereal Battle of Kerbala and all the time asking for the venegance and revenge, which easily replaced the spirit of corrective revolution as the driving force of inspiration for the creed, thankfully, that revenge is postponed until the day when Imam Mahdi (GHA) will rise up, and whose first act shall be to to resurrect Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman, Aisha, Muawiya, Yazid, Harun, and probably Saddam, to punish them for the deaths of Ali, Fatima, Hasan, Hussein, Musa al-Kazim, Ali al-Ridha and other reverred figures. Imam Mahdi serves as the simple opium found in the cultures of many oppressed folks by which their little dreams of getting a shot at the oppression of state comes true and accomplishes what they failed to do. It is actually that story which led me to drop my belief in both the Sunni and Shiite versions of the Mahdi, the only form of Mahdi I believe in now is the Second Coming of Christ, which exists in Islam as well.
My study of Shiism also changed my view of the Umayyid and Abbasid rulers, for it is apparent as the sun that Muawiya bin Abu Sufayan and his son Yazid have played a great deal in the dissolution of the puritanical principles of religion, perhaps they were only instruments for the unavoidable current of human nature, which abandoned Ali's tight adherence to religion and sought a freer, more joyous interpretation of life, nevertheless, it clarified my vision and opened up my mind as the history of our nation, and i have to thank Shiism for that.
The following passage in the book Sultan's Preachers, by the secular Shiite Ali al-Wardi, helped me in a great way formulate the ideas I expressed above:
ALI AL-WARDI's VIEWS OF SHIISM:
We have said earlier that the Saffavids have tamed the prinicples of Shiism, reducing it into a 'slumbering revolution', a dormant volcano with only a few smokes signifiying its earlier destructive capabilites. Shiism still has in its folds innate residues of its old revolutionary spirit, extensions whose original function was exhausted and has since then functioned in a harmful, not useful manner. An objective examiner of Shiism will find mysterious social activities which deserves amazement and further observation. Rituals which would stun some of its origins, bringing others to revile in disgust at its myths and exaggerations. Nevertheless, we cannot purposefully explain those mysterious patterns but as artifacts of the past centuries where Shiism was the brinstorm of revolution in the Islamic world.
Those artifacts could be summed down in such:
1. The Imamate: Shiites today look upon their old Imams, the descendants of Ali, in a strong holy fashion, considering them infallible, and bringing them to a level above humanity, as well as seeking their tombs for intercession in every plight. The principle behind the act of glorifying Imams used to be revolutionary, an indirect criticism of the decadence of the Muslim rulers, in a fashion simliar to Plato and Farabi's Utopian society solutions.
2. The Mahdi : This belief is the principle upon which many revolutions were based, socially speaking, the Mahdi is a rebel, many rebels in the past were named Mahdi even though they themsleves did not claim to be so. Researchers were puzzled over the origin of the term in Islam, but it is clear that al-Mahdi is an arabization of Torah's Messiah, the heroic savior of divine guidance. Anyone reading Ezekiel will find a curious resemblance between the chapter and Shiism's Mahdi.Simply put, the dreams of the oppressed is the same everywhere, everytime. As the oppressed who cannot avenge his prosecution seeks a dream-like future prophecy, and builds towering castles of hope. Sociologists found that the oppressed society often tends to create myths to fight its unjust rulers, those myths are called 'Social myths'.
Thus, we can say that modern-day Shiism lost the social concepts of the Mahdi and retained the mythical shell of ideological dictum.
3. The third is Dissimuilation (taqqiya), a social pattern that accompanies revolution when it begins, old Shiites sought taqqiya to be free from the state's chase. Today, Taqqiya lost that revolutionary status and become embedded in the new religious, political and social system that the Shiites follow, a mere relic from older times.
4. The fourth is the what is today termed 'Hussein's Cememoration', which was in its earlier form a slogan for anti-state propaganda, eventually developing with the passage of time into meaningless rituals. Shiites of yore would gather in the cellars to cememorate the huge injustice on Hussein, implicity discussing state oppression on various fields, in a move simliar to today's underground rebellion movements. Today, Shiites forgot the principles for which Hussein revolted, and they would even engage against those prinicples just the same, as long as they cry and mourn him, as if this was the final intended destination. Today, Shiites visit Hussein's grave by the thousands each year, and then return like they went, doing nothing but screaming and yelling. Today, they are dormant rebels drugged by their own authority, turning the swords they fought the authority with into chains and spears.
|Mel Gibson:||You can't say my movie sucked, or else you're saying Christianity sucked!|
|Stan:||No, dude, if you wanna be Christian, that's cool, but, you should follow what Jesus taught instead of how he got killed. Focusing on how he got killed is what people did in the Dark Ages and it ends up with really bad results.|
|Jack:||You know, he's right, Elise. We shouldn't focus our faith on the torture and execution of Christ.|
|Shlomo:||Yeah. Lots of people got crucified in those times. We shouldn't rely on violence to inspire faith.|
|Cartman:||Aw, aw, no, come on, people, we're so close to completing my final solution!|
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
This was soon followed by all sorts of reactions from both sides of the British Sykos-Picot divide, in addition to others from the Arab world, ranging everywhere from apologetic to extreme far-right, I have collected the ones I could find here, there might be others:
Arguing for Iraq: Catholic Sunni Shia, Silly Bahraini
Arguing for Jordan: Black Iris( has the most interesting discussions in its comments),
Moey , Bakkouz(now removed).
Balanced: Mkilany , Qwaider,
Interestingly, further research revealed a Jordanian Facebook group called We Hate Iraqis.
Aimed at expelling the '1)smelly, 2)suddenly rich Iraqis 3)who've been less than 10 years in Jordan', I constitutionally violate the 2nd clause, but obviously i am (3) and I am sure as shit smelly, I'm sorry folks but I sweat a lot and your water is scarce. So i thought i'd save it to you and rot for the sake of keeping your natural resources.
All jokes aside, the treatment of Iraqis in Jordanian airport is certainly unacceptable as a lot of Jordanians have pointed out, but some Jordanians (and Iraqis) have quickly descended into a name game, let us look at some of the arguments:
Jordanian: If you don't like it, get out. This happens everywhere...
Iraqis: We're giving you oil for (10, 20, 100) years and this is how you repay us? We built you.
Jordanian: Who killed Saddam Hussein? You bastards! (few Pan-Arab tears shed here)
Iraqi: You traitors! We are all Arab (national pan-Arab anthem plays here, but the happy commercial does not end on good terms...)
Jordanian: Shut up, ya balad al-Shiqaq wa Nifaq (Land of Discord & Hypocrisy, the favorite Arab slander of Iraqis, thank you Mr. Hajaj)
Iraqi: Shut up, Qawm Lot (the infamous anicent butt-sex freaks people of the Prophet Lot, unfortunately situated near the Dead Sea.)
The thing is, while abuse of Iraqis in Jordan is an issue, I don't think Iraqis have that much of a right to complain, considering the complaints issued by the blogs i listed above, and the soccer-celebration incident I posted about before, one fact must be emphasized:
a) WE ARE ALL ARAB. and most importantly
b) ARABS BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME.
Yes, it's a mighty true shame ; but it's true, if Jordanians were in Iraq, I'm sure we'd kick their asses if they were celebaring the national team winning in our country and causing massive traffic jams we don't need. Maybe if Saddam Hussein was in power, he'd make use of the event to showcase his prowess as a Pan-Arab leader, but the people themselves wouldn't feel that happy, to quote the saying "A crow tells a crow, your face is black."
We're not much better than Jordanians, even before I got into Jordan, I was warned by many friends that Jordanians 'hate our guts', judging from personal experience, my homeland (and all Arabs, as I found out) exaggerate in terms of racism, so while I tried hard to shrug this off, I nevertheless embraced Jordan with a huge feeling of self-conciousness, eventually I found out that you basically can get your way around here pretty much okay in terms of day-to-day interaction if you respect people and be pleasant with them. It's hard to exactly describe the love-hate relationship between Arabs of different countries, but it's best summarized by the Bedouin saying: 'Me and my brother on my cousin, me and my cousin on the enemy.', sure, there are stone-faced racists who will never change the way they think, and it is my regret that I actually managed to make friends with one, but there are a lot of decent and generous people as well, the last time I entered Jordan was September 2006 with my grandparents, for the first time I was nervous because of the many rejection stories I have heard, amazingly, it wasn't me who was the problem but my 84-year old grandfather, who had a FAKE passport, my grandfather's passport was done in Iraq through a connection, who brought it to him with somebody else's fingerprints on it, being a stalwart man of principle, Grandpa insisted that he get a clean passport so he can put his own print on it, sure enough, the passport comes a week later, what we didn't know is that the man who did it (either the connection or the passport officer) had simply ripped the page and replaced it with a new one. Anyway, after being held by intelligence officers for about 15 minutes, they gave him a two-weeks admission notice based on his old age, another thing which might have helped was his serving in the Palestine 1948 war, anyway, my grandfather said that the Jordanian officials were 'very respectful' and a few months later he said that they were 'doing a very good job.' My grandmother, a naturally racist person like many others, stranglely agreed.
There is a sizable amount of unjustified racism and blame, but it's hard for me to point any finger because both sides are equally selective in perceiving each other's *virtues*, and this is my way of trying to show Jordanians that there are some Iraqis like me who are certainly thankful for all that they are doing but equally hopeful that they can accept criticism with an open heart. I know some of the words posted at those blogs are needlessly harsh but I would suppose that under the circumstances they were projected to it's somewhat reasonable, have a bad experience with a country at its borders, you're going to label the whole country altogether...we are not asking to be received by open arms, and we are aware of the economic problems caused by a sizable refugee group, but there are also benefits in exchange for those.
While those words are somehow unrelalistic given the circumstances, but in the larger world, we are all insignificant if we continue to squabble like this. I hope there would be one improbable day when Iraqis, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Palestinians and all realize that those phony classifications are drawn by a map based on a British-French treaty held in 1916.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
ANYONE who's been following this blog would have no difficulty finding out that I am as optimistic about Iraq as a dead skunk on the side-road, all the books that I read, all the things I see and hear everyday, from friends, from TV, from parents, all serves to confirm my deductions about the future of the country-to-have-been. You could only imagine my own shock as I found myself trying hard as a I can to resist swelling tears as I was watching the Iraqi team win the semifinal on a penalty shot against South Korea, looking up, I realized something, none of the players were smiling...
They were all crying too.
It was magical, as if they were all thinking the same thing as I am. This is not a regular victory, this is a bittersweet one, a deeper, more meaningful one. To me, that was a 'born-again' movie moment, something which definitely was one of those moments that make life worth living. I did not even care if they won the final, as that moment had singlehadedly convinced me in a very practical manner of something I was dilligently trying to shed my skin away from all this past period : that one can love his country with no strings attached whatsoever - but they did win the final in a historic match.
If you do recall correctly, A similar event presented itself when Iraqi singer Shadha Hasoon won the StarAcademy contest, another event that was trumpeted up our helpless asses as a figure that Iraq was still strong, my reaction was audibly toilety. As a matter of fact, I was not basking alone in my cave of contempt but a great portion of people felt the same way, so why should football, yet another leisure-time concept imported from the infidel West, trigger such emotions? While both singing and football are universal delights, football is too embedded in the national consciousness to be regarded as a 'western import' now, even though some half-brained clerics occasionally try to voice that idea, football has nothing that could be considered as in explicit violation of religious decrees, and it found its die-hard audience as the number 1 sport in most of the world countries, including Iraq.
Here's something interesting: I went out after the game to the commercial Rabia district, where scores of Iraqis gathered shouting and chanting in front of the most popular Iraqi restaurant, Qassim Abu il-Kass, I even shared a bit into the 'mosh-pit' of people jumping up and down and it was all fine for about 10 or 15 minutes, and that's when this black 4x4 came in out of nowhere, somebody was standing on top of it, and he was holding a picture of Saddam Hussein, he was shouting at the top of his voice only for one thing: "our blood, our soul, we sacrifice to you Saddam" (which is hugely ironic, since "we" are still alive and chanting), a few chimed in this, but i believe most did not, and in fact it generated a counter-chant (our blood, our soul, we give to you Iraq), I was revelling with disgust and I really considered hurling a shoe at the picture of the man who was the only one sacrificed so far, but it didn't last long, since the Jordanian security guards came, very angry and rugged, and started dispersing the crowds, they took about a dozen young men for charges ranging from holding the Iraqi flag, talking back, and beating a daff (tambourine like thingie), they may have had a right to disperse us, as the street was a major commercial one and it was clogged bad, but their most violent, uncouth method of doing so was certainly reflective of the solidarity of the Arab nations, and it is really nice if compared to this picture taken in Sweden, where the people there are perhaps 1/10 of the ones in Jordan but the celerbation there was 10 times as bigger, allegedly WITH the help of the police, who closed the place for them (click to enlarge):
Yes, I do realize that probably it may have no effect on the bloodbath back home, and things could be darker than one would ever imagine, but what this thing did for me, and hopefully for many other Iraqis, is that it reminded us that there is indeed something that is common between all of us that is real and genuine, a deep chord that is resonating still inside, whether it was already present and we lost it, or whether we are all hoping for that could transpire practically in the future, in any case, for the first time in my life, I believe in Iraq with conviction, and that is certainly enough.
NOTE: This seminal Zeyad post includes a lot of pictures about worldwide Iraqi celebrations , the ones in Jordan feature the Saddam picture i was talking about as well as a hazy YouTube video of the Jordanian security episode.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
HIGHS: Simple fun, accurate reprensetation of social diversity, focused and never meandering.
LOWS: One or two lines of the translation are inaccurate, a little too much focus on the horrors of Saddam slightly deterrs the MTV vibe.
FINAL RATING: Four and a half members out of a possible five of the heavy metal band Accrasscida, who are almost in every fucking Iraq documentary that I review, here's a stereotype for you: Filmmaker wanna make Iraq look cool for folks back home to see? Show the local heavy metal band. Me cool. Me play guitar. wow.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
This was one of the two Iraqi documentaries that were nominated for the Best Documentary Award at the last Oscars (both lost for Global Warming), it revolves around Dr. Riyadh, a member of the Sunni Islamic Party which was one of the few, if not the only, Sunni fronts that supported entering the first elections held in January 2005 ( only to pull out at the last minute), following him around as he treks between his home in now-notorious Adhamiya, the charity medical clinic there, and his stint as he tries to rally votes for himself as the Baghdad governorate candidate for the Islamic Party. This central story is told in juxtaposition with a subplot about the efforts of UN officials and other MNF officials as they try to set up said elections, mostly shot indoors in conference halls and private contractor rooms. While Iraq For Sale was a dull talking-heads information piece, this one is the capture-them-unawares personal setting, watching it again for this review turned up some pretty unexpected gems of normal Iraqis captured amidst their daily life: a scene of Dr. Riyadh's wife and daughter trying to kill flies completely oblivious to a raging battle outside, a Najaf woman who complaints that her husband spends all his time with Muqtada al-Sadr, Kurdish men in a car talking about the evils of Arab Patriotism, a visit to the notorious Abu Gharib camps, and a very disturbing segment of a family friend who accidentally metions that he asked Americans for help retrieving his kidnapped son while he does not realize that the kidnappers are still on the phone. It all sounds pretty exciting here, but that was not what I felt the first time I watched, personal documentaries like this are made or broken by the human being you're going to spend those 90 minutes with, and Dr. Riyadh isn't really star material, forget the 'this is real wihout glitz' approach ; the Dr. is a sullen, featureless man who is serious and morbid most of the time, while the monotonus Kadhum al-Sahir soundtrack tries hard to convince you there is something sad in front of your eyes, Dr. Riyadh's desk employee mannerisms shines most boringly in the breadth of the film, even when trying to promote himself in upcoming elections with patients and neighbors in an amusingly low-key election campaign, fortunately the home-video segments are somewhat lively, with a wife who is skeptical about her husband's political aspirations and daughters who are constantly on the tease. Also, as compared to Iraq in Fragments, the artistic vision of the filmmaker: the soundtrack, which is just one song repeated, sounds more forced than coloring, nothing like the gloomy soundscapes of James Longley in Fragments which truly underscores the despair in the characters eyes. The series of official conferences leading up to the elections wind up being filler instead of adding depth, so by the anti-climactic end of the film where the party pulls out of the elections rendering all of the film's point mute and Dr. Riyadh standing in the hallway while his wife and daughters tease him, you are left not sure what it is all about. My Country has a good story and a handful of powerful scenes which are lost between lackluster presentation and wavering storytelling.
Click here to download My Country, My Country (torrent, requires free subscription to site)
PROS: Some interesting scenes of Iraqi experiences during the war.
CONS: Boring hero, unfocused storytelling, soundtrack hell.
ROTTEN TOMATOES: 85% Fresh Rating
KONFUSED RATING: 3 scenes of Dr. Riyadh sulkingly driving his car around Baghdad out of a possible five.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Click here to WATCH the documentary on Google Video.
GOOD: Insightful information on the purpose and function of private corporations in the war
CONS: Shockers all outdated, unbalanced, subjective approach raises credibility concerns, very impersonal, no iraqis.
ROTTEN TOMATOES RATINGS: 20 red tomato reviews out of 20, 100% FreshTomato rating.
KONFUSED KID RATING: One Abu Gharib detainee's choked penis out of a possible five.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The Iraqi Documentaries series is about reviewing half a dozen documentaries about Iraq I have seen so far, I have already reviewed two of them before, one here on my blog and the other for another publication, but now that I have seen more documentaries I have a bigger picture and my opinions may have different, the documentaries in question are arranged in the order I saw them:
1. Iraq in Fragments (shot 2004, released 2006, nominated for Oscar '07) by James Langley
2. I Know I'm Not Alone (shot 2003) by Political musician Michael Franti
3. My Country, My Country (shot 2004-2005, also nominated for Oscar '07) by Laura Poitras
4. Voices of Iraq (2004) by the people of Iraq
5. Hometown Baghdad (2006, Chat The Planet)
and maybe Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, although i'm not really interested in anything not directly involving Iraqi people.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
A. I say so
B. We were talking about Azuz's lung cancer. My friend, a Christian doctor of high calibre, said that he'd give Azuz four months, as you know and I vaguely knew, cancer is extremely difficult if it is discovered later, this is especially true for lung cancer, and Wikipedia says that the 5-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is 14%. As you would lovingly noticed, I put Abdilaziz al-Hakim's name first on my God's Dead Pool on the right, miracle? Allah be praised. To celebrate this, I have decorated Azuz's name in yellow, much to the disdain of my sectarain friend, Shaqawa.
If indeed al-Hakim bites one last cigarette and goes in search for his lost brother, this would create a very vague power vaccum at Badr/SIIC/UIA, first, Hakim Jr, a smiling dude who looks a lot like high-school homosexual cannon fodder, is highly unqualified for this task, there are a lot of hawks at SCIRI, sorry, SIIC so while they cannot risk not crowning Uday, I'm sorry, Ammar's hand because the heavyweight clerical Hakim name means unquestioning public approval, my guess is that he would be a puppet in the hands of someone much more agile. Hadi al-Amiri, head of Badr Corps, is butch, and there's also one of the most wicked faces i ever saw, Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer. One can never forget somebody like Big Bear-double Adil Abdulmahdi, so it's a very interesting issue. Anyway, I am going to pray now. oh God, look at the rest of the list, NEXT NEXT NEXT!
Saturday, June 09, 2007
One of the most controversial cases in Sunni-Shiite debates is the succession of Prophet Mohammed, any researcher looking into the case through modern objective lenses will feel that the case is one of the far past and has no exclusive relationship to the present, Iraqis opinion was different, as they believe the person who succeded the prophet will be their intercessor and could rescue him from damnation.
The foundations of intercessions is common in all major religions in one form or another, but we could argue that its effects are subdued earlier on, as people pour their interest in performing righteous deeds more than indirect intercession, however as time takes its course people revert to their old social pattern, immersed in life and far away from religion, they find themselves drowning in sins and has no hope for salvation unless by a guided figure who will be their ticket to God. They do not ask God directly, for their example is the one of a criminal being led to the court, finding no other solution but to seek a ‘middle man’, so he dedicates his effort to this ‘middle man’, thinking that his heart must soften and be moved by dignity to come to his aid, people extend this principle to what happens before the afterlife as well, when someone is ill, had a relative dead, is in heavy debt, or is surrounded by plague, they would hurry to a shrine of a saint or imam and would cry and beseech him. They rarely address God himself, for he is like the Sultan who is unreachable due to his high esteem and regard.
The story of Hasan Kibreet is a very fitting example for the social values dominant at those times, Kibreet was a shaqi in al-Kadhimiya district of Baghdad who lived at late Ottoman, early-British period. The many tales people weave around him depict him as a bloodthirsty butcher of the sort that kills a man and then walks in his funeral the next day, others relate incidents which could only be interpreted as sadistic, as he takes pleasure in bloodshed and pain, when he participated wit the Mujahideen in al-Sha’eeba incidents during World War I he would not only kill enemy soldiers but would decapitate them and bring their heads to clerics who were with the Mujahideen, who were sickened by his deed and would reproach him without any effect.
Someone asked Kibreet about the number of his victims and how he shall face his creator, he said that he killed a lot of people but he is hoping for the intercession of Fatima al-Zahraa, saying that one day while he went with a number of Baghdad shaqis to rob rich houses there, he passed the Sheikh Ma’roof cemetery in Kadhimiya, and he heard the sound of a pleading girl who is crying for Fatima al-Zahraa’s mercy, Kibreet realized that she was about to be raped while still a virgin, so he decided to add one more victim to his list for ‘Fatima al-Zahraa’, killing him and returning the girl to her parents safely. It is highly likely that Kibreet died while being certain that he will get that intercession, and many people of
They are not to blame, as they are forced to do this due to their conditions, as they have grown up with the morals of Jahiliya, and have taken a custom to it and cannot deviate from it, on the other hand, they fear the punishment of God and hellfire, so they must reach a solace to pacify the catch-22.
Tob Abu Khuzama:
After Ottoman Sultan Murad re-liberated Baghdad from the hands of Iranian Saffavids in 1638, he left one of his heavy cannons to be put at the gate of the fortress, the cannon grew in the eyes of Baghdad’s peasants, Sunnis in particular, to hold something of a sanitly essence by which people are blessed and myths are spun around. The cannon was named ‘Tob Abu Khuzama’, allegedly because there was a small crack at its rim which legend has it that the cannon was at heavens when Baghdad was being laid siege to, and that God ordered Gabriel to descend to Earth to aid Sultan Murad to liberate Baghdad, so Gabriel descended, leading it by the rim. Other legends speak of the pattern of fish on its sides, saying that they stuck to the cannon while it crossed the ‘sea of power’ in its heavenly descent, and that the cannon picked up dirt and transformed it into bombs by the will of God. Other stories mention that Sultan Murad once became angry at the cannon and struck it by his fist, causing the crack as a testament to his physical strength. Another story talk about the cannon itself becoming angry (perhaps by the Sultan’s punch), so it hurled itself in the
Those legends escalated into saintly proportions, women would bless their children by it, and would swear by it and hold promises near it, custom has it that the newborn in Baghdad is brought at his 7th day, circled around the cannon, and have his head inserted inside the cannon three times, this continued until it was moved to the war museum prior to World War II, people forgot it and its saintly essence, not so long ago, the cannon was returned to al-Madyaan square, and is today an artifact without any divine value. (Konfused Kid - It was pulled out after 2003 by bandits who probably tried to make good use of its copper)
In conclusion, We cannot understand religious rites in
Konfused Kid: I had no intention to translate the passages regarding intercession as most of them were related to a principle which I felt wasn’t relevant to modern times, at least not as powerful as al-Wardi envisions it to be here , but after re-reading it casts very illuminating lights on the contradictory values of religion in Iraqis, it could explain how people who are supposed to be devout can go about their daily life while knowing that they have shed so much blood and destruction. Today, the principle of intercession has faded from the forefront of Sunnis, who claim to ‘ask God alone’. Perhaps influenced by Wahaabism, anyway, it is clear from al-Wardi that a few centuries Sunnis were just as attached to intercession as Shiites. Ironically, Saddam Hussein carried out many of the practices pointed at by al-Wardi here, I cannot remember how many gigantic mosques has he built in the last years of his reign.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Iraqi Moral Values:
Iraqis in the Ottoman period were closer to Bedouin values than Islamic values, due to the control of the ‘Bedouin tide’ on them, there is a stark difference between the values of Bedouins and Islam, in a nutshell, Bedouin values glorify racism, vengeance, looting, killing women to wash away shame and so forth, while Islam condemns all that and considers it banned. Nevertheless, those values were common in the Ottoman period as many people glorified the man who shakes the ground when he walks and who robs houses at night out of manhood, describing him as a ‘lion’, ‘nightman’ or ‘tribe’s pride’.
Those Bedouin tides have always encompassed the Iraqi society at one time or another, in a continuous ebb and flow as
- The Ottoman conquest came after a series of Mongul conquests in which no civil government to promote trade and encourage production and irrigation was established, one of the darkest passages of Iraqi history and the lowest of civilization. Post-Abbasid governments were first interested in conquest and taxes instead of reconstruction and order, city dwellers were forced to take shelter in Bedouin and tribal ruggedness as a reaction to save money and soul.
Ottoman Statewas past its prosperity and power and started showing signs of stagnation and decay at the time when it seized in the 16th Century. It was not supposed to stay alive afterwards for a long time but what kept it so was what became known as the ‘Eastern Affair’, as major powers such as Britain and France were interested in keeping the Ottoman State balanced between life and death so it does not die without their having a proper agreement on how to distribute its wealth. As a result, Iraq suffered under a long era of governmental decay and cultural backwardness, which prompted Bedouin tribes to rule supreme. Iraq
- Ottoman state was preoccupied with its continuous war with
Iran, which allowed tribes to do as they please in . The state itself used the tribes sometimes in its war against Iraq Iran, those tribes are known to fight not for any patriotic or religious motive but only for the bounty and to gain rewards that enable dominance on nearby tribes, wide areas of thus is under the control of Tribal sheikhs ruling according to Bedouin custom. Iraq
- Diseases filled
at the Ottoman period once every 10 years, an important factor in crystallizing Bedouin tides and destroying civilizations. Iraq
Cities and Tribes
There are two social patterns that lay evidence to the extremity of the Bedouin tide in the Ottoman era ; the sparse population and the high ratio of tribes per cities. Mid-19th century
On the other hand, city dwellers had three levels of social identification as opposed to the sole tribal one. First of all comes the neighborhood or district against all other neighborhoods in his city, as it comes to be a synonym for the tribe for Bedouins, this local identification would expand to what we could the ‘city’ identification, when the city is threatened under a common ailment. The third level is sectarian, such as when a sectarian case is raised or a state of one of the two sects comes to invade, the citizens then forget all their district and city identifications and pour their attention on that, to quote the Bedouin saying: “Me and my brother on our cousin, and me and our cousin on the stranger.” Hereby, it is clear that sectarianism is another level of social awareness, and is not based on religion or care for it.
The Phenomenon of ‘Shaqawa’
One of the most important social aspects that hint at the Bedouin tide is the ‘shaqawa’, which gives us a clear insight on the values and composition of the Iraqi society.
A “shaqi”, legally speaking, is a criminal who loots houses and imposes ‘taxes’ on the rich. Socially however, he is a hero by which the neighborhood takes pride, he does not disobey the dominant local customs – often a rich, noble guardian of his neighbors, and is keen to observe the rights of ‘the common bread and salt’, his criminal behavior is directed both at the government and at those who do not encompass his identification. Many a bloody battle has been fought at night between the Shaqi and the governmental soldiers, as his status in the eyes of the people increases with the increasing number of victims and battles, if he enters prison, it is a medal on his chest, if he is killed ; a funeral comes out to mourn the ‘great’ man. (Konfused Kid – I have often wondered how come the criminals are always loved, this seems to be universal somewhat in humans, Natural Born Killers, anyone?)
The ratio of shaqis to normal population was very few per district, in spite of their small numbers, they exemplified the social standards with clarity. Their small numbers is a result of the rare qualities one must have to be the shaqi : Courage, physical prowess, weapon efficiency, a stout heart and a dashing spirit. If one person gets lucky and have all this, and then gets to be luckier by surviving a few bloody battles, then his reputation will soar in his neighborhood, eventually adopting all the manners of the confident protector and champion, with a certain ‘walk’ and ‘talk’. Most boys in the neighborhood look up to him as a role model, wishing to be like him when they listen to their fathers and relatives speak copiously, most of those boys will never be like him as explained earlier, which could lead them to suffer immense psychological complexes like the ones which troubled Khalaf bin Ameen.
Khalaf bin Ameen:
Khalaf bin Ameen lived at late-Ottoman period, Baghdadis still chuckle at his anecdotes, all revolving about him being an ugly, cowardly person wishing all the time to be a shaqi to be looked at, he had holstered two big guns which he never uses unless he is absolutely certain that the danger has passed completely. He would spin tales of the most intricate detail about his adventures of looting, mudering and robbing, most of which attributed to himself naturally, if a big heist is attempted, Khalaf would go to people asking whether his name was included in the list of the accused, laying birth to the famous saying: “Didn’t they mention the name of your uncle?”, he would try to confess for crimes he did not commit to attempt and enter jail, but the governor would obstinately release him every time, leading him to come about complaining about the unjust governor who releases the criminals and imprisons the ‘innocents’. Most people, like Khalaf, loved to pompously pose as shaqis, bin Ameen was alone in the spotlight because he exaggerated himself to the point of mockery. A lot of people still carry that trait, and if their hearts are exposed to the masses then we would see many Khalaf bin Ameens. Dr. Mustafa Juwad traces the traditions of Shaqawa to those of the ‘Ayareen’ and ‘Shuttar’ who dominated Baghdad at the Abassid, while the comparison is valid, there is a huge difference; a Shaqi works alone while Ayareen and Shuttar were groups that resembled military soldiers at times and unions at others, and my personal judgement is that the ‘Ayareen’ represented the revolution of the poor over the rich as a result of the aristocracy that grew in the civilized Baghdad at the time, the rich capital of a far-reaching empire. Historians say that when ayareens and bandits would intercept tribes they would justify this by taking their right of ‘zakat’, of which merchants deprived them. This social condition is undoubtedly different from the Ottoman-era
The Principle of Intercession will be the focus of the next post.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Glimpes in the Social History of Modern Iraq
Published in 1951.
To study Iraqi society, an interest which I have become fascinated by for quite a substantial amount of time, I realized that I cannot understand society at present unless I understand the conditions by which it passed in its past decades, as each event must have left an impact, large or small, on the current behavior and thinking of people.
I would also like to point out a dilemma which always plagued me enormously in previous books, the question of neutrality and objectivity. Many delicate subjects will be discussed in this book regarding the viewpoints of many Iraqis, and those people are quite taken to view history the same way one would view a multi-faceted pyramid, as each group focuses on one side while omitting the others altogether.
Iraqis are not different from other human beings, to be subjective is a natural human trait that could be weak or strong according to circumstances, a person undergoes in his social life a hypnosis that we could call ‘social hypnosis’, as society exerts on man since early childhood various impulses in values, morals, beliefs, and social considerations and by so puts man’s thinking in certain moulds that are hard to break. Thus, a person born in a certain environment is usually personified by the environment’s religious, political and emotional definitions. He believes that he took up those patterns by his own free will and choice while not realizing that he is merely the making of his own social environment.
Hypnosis can affect human beings to a degree that he could see white as black or to think that a particularly repulsive odor is quite pleasant.
It is a common mistake to think that Shiism began in
What we wish to extract from all this is that
Ottoman State has appeared in Turkey since the 7th Hijri century, but it expanded Westward first towards Europe, and never headed East towards Iraq and other Arab states before the emergence of the Saffavid state in Iran, ever since then Iraq becomes the grounds for violent clashes between the Iranian and Ottoman states, something that will last for three centuries. From here the famous Iraqi saying: “be nil ajam wil room balwa ibtilayna” (Between the Ajam (Persians) and Room (Turks) we fell into tragedy), this ‘balwa’ in Iraq came because the Iranian State adopted Shiism as a slogan while the Ottoman picked up Sunnism, escalating sectarian tensions in Iraq unbearably. Sectarain tensions existed in
Sectarain war, on its outward appearance, is based on the clash between those who adhere to the prophet’s household and those who adhere to his companions. As a matter of fact, both Ottoman and Iranian states were both similar in being as far as possible from the principles of both the Prophet’s household and companions. Both were in the vein of traditional imperialist countries which bore little resemblance to the Islamic State witnessed in the days of the Prophet and his Rashidun Caliphs. Ottoman-era Iraqis knew nothing of this, as all that was important to them as that the state be of their sect, so their Imams shrines are venerated and their religious practices and festivities are taken proper care of, the state then is free to do as it pleases as its affairs does not concern them and they believe it is of little concern to their religion.