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.