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!|