Political Islam:The Shiite way [Archives:2003/633/Opinion]

April 27 2003

Hassan Al-Haifi
Last week, the Americans in Iraq got a taste of one of the most interesting phenomenon in Islam: the Memorial Tribute to Al-Hussein Bin Ali Bin Abu Talib, the revered grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (PAUP). The significance of this event is that it highlights one of the paramount events in Shiite customs. The significance of this event to the Americans is that it underscores the point that freedom and political rights are nothing new to Islam. In fact, Islam was the first spiritual and social movement that underscored the importance of the political participation of the constituency long before Robespierre, Thomas Paine and others demanded “No taxation without representation” (over a thousand years before them). This is important in order to let it be known to all those emails and White House contenders, who think otherwise, that “freedom” and civil liberties are vital and dynamic issues in Islam and are not just their baby. They are probably even more important than the mechanical worship rites, to which some of the misguided Moslem constituencies have devoted 99% of their energy to at the expense of these real fundamental social tenets of Islam. The Shiites in Karbala were emphasizing their determination to carry on the struggle initiated by Hussein in his struggle against the Omayyad Caliphs, who at that time in the Seventh Century have imposed a tyrannical regime in the Moslem State, which Islam totally abhors, and against all forms of tyranny that followed. That is why the Shiites were the most vocal opponents to Saddam's regime and sacrificed thousands of people in their fight against the regime, while Washington was buddy-buddy with Saddam. That is also why the Shiite regime in Iran was very effective in removing the tyrannical rule of the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavhi, while the United States used to consider the latter “their policeman in the region”. Thus, we really have no reason to have to be reminded about what rights and liberties are, since it was in fact Islam, which introduced these concepts to the West in the first place. In fact, Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, that Islam was an important source for encouraging the development of the fight for civil liberties in the West.
On the other hand, the commemorations in Karbala were an astute reminder to the newly implanted invaders in Iraq that they are far from receiving total submission of the Iraqi and Moslem World for this invasion. Accordingly, there is really no need to continue with this aggrandizement of the invasion as deliverance of the Iraqis from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. For one thing, if they had truly been considerate of the Iraqis, the Americans should not have helped Saddam to power in the first place and supported most of his demonic activities in the region for a decade or so, until he got carried away with himself and invaded Kuwait.
For those who are unfamiliar with the way Islam is manifested in this world, it is not difficult to summarize briefly the major features that distinguish the Islamic sects from one another, thus one can at least clarify some issues. First of all from a spiritual conceptual standpoint, as much as it may be exaggerated at times, even by some misguided Moslems, there are basically no differences among Moslems with regards to their monotheistic concepts and the Five Pillars of Islam, etc. The differences really come down to some of the political and social ramifications introduced by Islam, which have become corrupted to a certain extent by religious scholars that served the interests of despotic rulers over the ages since the dawn of Islam. The Shiites, realizing that Al-Hussein fought against the tyranny of the Moslem despots in his age tend to be the more active adherents to the important social regime, which Islam envisioned for the world (Islam is, after all, a universal message). Moreover, Islam introduced political tolerance to a significant level to the point where exemplary Moslem rulers over the ages (namely the First Four Caliphs and some other Moslem rulers that followed later on) would dwell in tears, if they heard that a member of their constituency complained of an injustice here and there. During the rule of one of the more enlightened of the Omayyad Caliphs (in the Eighth Century, Omer Bin Abdul-Aziz), it is reported that there was not one beggar to be found throughout the Moslem State then, because of his strict application of the social justice that Islam demanded and his personal attention to handling all grievances against corrupt or malevolent deputies or officers.
The Shiites therefore look to Hussein Bin Ali, as a benevolent manifestation of the calls for social justice and civil liberties that Islam demands and his willingness to sacrifice his life for these important elements in Islam gave rise to the reinforcement of the Shiite Moslem constituency. The Shiite Sect originates back to the people who followed Hussein's father Ali [the Fourth Caliph (the word Shi'a in Arabic means followers; i.e. the followers of Ali) after the death of the Prophet Mohammed (PAUP). Ali was also well recognized by all Moslems (Sunnis and Shiites) as the originator of the Social Contract that Islam truly implanted as a basis for government, which Moslems have somehow overlooked. Such political notions were later picked was up by many Western Scholars as a basis for their drive for political freedom and social justice, and thus its application in the West, to a certain extent.
This is the crux of the issues that really now govern the situation in Iraq, and it will not be difficult for the Shiites and Sunnis of Iraq to come to terms, notwithstanding the false notions that many “experts” like to convey that the Sunni-Shiite “split” is an important element in the shaping of the future of Iraq. Both sects certainly view the American continued presence and influence as anathema to the social and political freedoms which Islam calls for. Make no mistake about that!