Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Sword of Reform

Below is a piece on Wahabism by Ali al Wardi, translated by exile iraqi/gilgamesh (thanks gilgamesh!) and edited by yours truly. My comments are in red and gilgamesh's are in blue. gilgamesh (or anybody): feel free to correct my edits if you find any fault in them.

"In this context [the author talked previously about graves and the sending of the corpses of dead Shia worldwide to Iraq] one should mention that recently [at the time of this writing - 1960s?] there were in the Pakistani town of Tiri violent clashes concerning these problems. In this city and around it the Shia who live there are accustomed to holding processions to commemorate Imam Husayn on 10th of Muharrem every year. Curiously enough there is a religious school, the "Madrasat al-Hudda" in this very city which is visited by many students with zeal and where the Madhab [ confession] of the Wahabi form is taught.

The Wahabis nurture a secret hatred against the Shia and asked them to abolish the processions they were used to holding every year because these processions are "heresy" and a deviation from Islam in their eyes. In the year 1962 the Wahabis eventually began to mark these processions with violence – they attacked the participants on 10th Muharrem with shovels, axes and wooden clubs. There were hundreds of injured and dead. It was a terrible slaughter in which many Sunnis were remarkably killed because they were used to participating in these processions, like many Sunnis in Iraq were.

The highest authority of the Shia at the time, Sayyed al-Hakim, regretted these incidents, sent a telegraph to the Pakistani ambassador in Baghdad and authorities in Pakistan and asked them to take strict measures against the leaders of these horrible gangs of criminals...

This incident resembles in some respect the acts of Wahabis in Kerbala in the year 1802 [massacre] or in the city of at-Ta'if in the year 1924 and in different cities which were conquered by the Wahabis or where they could impose their strong influence. Once the Wahabis attacked Egyptian pilgrims on their way to Mecca, for no other reason than the Egyptian pilgrims were used to taking a "mahmal" [ a "mahmal" is a wonderful ornate cedar chair, sent by Islamic rulers as a sign of their sovereignty on the pilgrimage to Mecca] with them on their journey to Mecca.

The Wahabis want all Muslims to go back to the simple teachings as they existed in early Islamic times; they want nothing added to or anything omitted from these original teachings. This is very difficult to realize and probably in most Islamic countries impossible. Maybe it is possible to carry out these simple teachings in the desert where the living circumstances did not change much from earlier times. In the Rif and in the cities the living circumstances have changed profoundly and the people are in need of other people and other means that help them to cope with their struggles.

Meanwhile the Wahabis still believe that it is possible to reform the faith of people by the sword and horrible massacres. Many rulers have used this method in the past, too, but only achieved the opposite of what they had wanted. The "reform" of a belief by the sword leads to nothing but a radicalization of faith in the hearts and minds of the believers [ the ones being attacked and "reformed"] and a much stronger grip on their faith. [Mahdi Army, anyone?]

The Wahabis destroyed the graves of some Imams in al-Baqi [ in Medina] and believe that if they destroy all these graves [some Shia leave gold and ornaments on the graves of Shia Imams] once and for all, the faith in them will be rooted out totally, too. But they don't guess that the belief in holy graves will only grow stronger in the hearts and minds of the believer and that one day will come when they will be rebuilt and carry twice as much gold and ornaments as they did prior to their destruction.

Whoever wants to reform the faith of people, has to change the living circumstances and the social state and psychic mood because faith is their product and not the result of logical and abstract thinking. It is just ridiculous to ask something from people they will not understand and unjust to impose something on them they cannot carry out."

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