Averting Shia-Sunni World War by Zahir Ebrahim

Friday, January 08, 2016
AsSalaam-O-Alekum, to Muslims and Non-Muslims alike --- all that word means in English vernacular is “Peace be with you”. I like that greeting. Peace be with you. Why can't I greet all my fellow man with that greeting? I find no such restriction in the Holy Qur'an which enjoins peace as well as justice to be established among all mankind. So I like that greeting. Perhaps a more pertinent greeting might have been “Justice and Peace be with you”. But that is not the traditional greeting of Islam which calls itself the religion of justice and peace. The Islamic greeting is only “peace be with you”. I wonder why?
And I wonder why Muslim historiography suggests that AsSalaam-O-Alekum is to only be used for greeting among the Muslims themselves, not for greeting non-Muslims, despite the categorical universal teaching of the Holy Qur'an being in direct contradiction to that Jewish-like feeling of exceptionalism. And most Muslims buy it. The more religious ones actually frown when non-Muslims are greeted with AsSalaam-O-Alekum. I say frown on – for the sands of time shall soon leave you on the antediluvian shores of history you source your religion from.
Even more bizarre, what does this greeting mean when Muslims are seen to be killing each other across the planet, and the non-Muslims stare at us in befuddlement? What peace? Muslims are killers and should even be kept away from the United States of America --- that is even the charged political slogan of the newest presidential campaign for the 2016 presidential elections.
The manufactured reality that has been accorded to “Islamic” terror and its soldiers of heaven, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, Daesh, good terrorists vs. bad terrorists, good rebels vs. bad rebels, the new Saudi-Iran confrontation on the brew, holy Muslim nations flying the flag of Islam seen to be vying with each other for seeking heaven with Western weapons while the Western alliance keeps bombing and/or sanctioning them to smithereens – only to record the few immediate headlines that greet the general public on a daily basis – what is this fiction of “peace” that Muslims imagine themselves to be the sponsors of, must surely occur to every non-Muslim spectator on planet earth.
Non-Muslims must surely wonder how civilizationally primitive we bunch of Muslims are, 1.6 billion to 2 billion in number, and none the wiser on how to live in amity in our own modernity with any degree of sophistication and wherewithal. They see us continuing to live in antiquity --- divided as we are along ancient historical lines of Shia and Sunni. What is that all about --- non-Muslims can never quite get their heads wrapped around that display of “peace and harmony” among Muslims themselves for their fourteen century long history of antagonism towards each other despite their common Good Book and common beloved Prophet. Just like the Muslims cannot get their heads wrapped around Catholics vs. Protestants, both sharing the same Good Book and common sweet Jesus, and still fighting each other to death through the ages in the name of the same peace-loving Jesus Christ. The last ferocious battle witnessed in my own times, in Ireland. The Catholics and Protestants seem to have as much in common with each other beyond their Good Book and their beloved Savior as the Shias and Sunnis.
I can't and don't wish to speak to the Christian diversity, let Christians solve their own problems if they deem it to be a problem without Muslims pretending to be holier than thou, but I can sure speak, and must speak, to the problem of my own heritage, for it is indeed a problem. Muslims have a common Good Book --- yet virtually all sects among Muslims understand its meaning differently. Why? Because each and every sect among Muslims lives in history. We let historical narratives penned by the hand of man inform us of our religion Islam instead of the singular common scripture of Islam, the Holy Qur'an, inform us of our understanding of Islam. This fact has been true in every single generation after the Prophet of Islam. The previous generations defined what Islam was for the succeeding generations in virtually a geometric progression instead of the Holy Qur'an determining it exclusively. Today what Islam is among Muslims and what Islam is in the Holy Qur'an can appear to someone like Mr. Spock of the Star Trek fable, to even be separate religions. For what else can explain Saudi Arabia vs. Iran today --- the custodian of the two most sacred pilgrimage sites of Islam pitted against the self-proclaimed valih-e-faqih-e-muslimeen?
War among Muslims today may be made imminent no differently than how it was made imminent between Iran and Iraq for eight long years just three decades ago. I hope I am wrong but these clouds of war have been most Machiavellianly setup to quickly mutate into an all out war between Sunnidom vs. Shiadom --- that's bringing into its blood-fold the sympathies and loyalties for one side or other all 1.6 to 2 billion Muslim peoples. Peace? What peace? And Justice, never mind that platitude --- for it hasn't been practiced among any people from time immemorial.
The real source of all these wars and fratricidal killings among Muslims is the historical bifurcation between Shia and Sunni. The Western hegemons harvest these cracks and lacunas today with as much cunning as the Muslim kingdoms did in antiquity. We can't blame the West altogether for their greedy opportunism to conquer lesser civilizations if we insist on behaving like one. And we surely can't blame them for their exercise of cunning because they learnt the fine art of fratricide and hegemony from Muslim caliphs themselves over the past fourteen centuries.
There is a profligate king in Saudi Arabia holding the Islam flag. There is a holy jurist in Iran holding the Islam flag. The king upholds some variant of Sunni Islam. The jurist upholds some variant of Shia Islam. The West supports the king and is arming his nation to the teeth. The West sanctions the jurist and disarming his nation of effective self-defense. And now they are about to be pitted against each other to become the cause of millions of new entrants to heaven with the Saudi grand mufti declaring Iranians 'not Muslims'. While neither the king of Saudis nor valih-e-faqih of Iran will die in battle, you and me will be called upon to seek heaven by taking sides. And most of us will do so along the Shia-Sunni divide. How predictable is that? It is no prediction. It is not even stochastic. It is exactly deterministic. Those Sunnis who do not like the Saudis will either still support them or stay neutral – for heaven forbid they support the Shia Iran. That is the reality of antagonism between these two macro sects of Muslims today.
See this excerpt from an ancient political treatise (presented as historical fiction) if you think the cracks and lacunas among Shia and Sunni don't exist, or are not known to the arsonists who will come galloping as the fire brigade next, just as they are today the 'harawal dasta', the Marines if you will, fueling and then prognosticating the fire in preparation for the main Army's arrival.
It was the same calculus during the eight year Iran-Iraq war in 1980s. Almost the entire Sunnidom supported Iraq even though some of the Sunni nations did not particularly like Saddaam Hussein. Even when Saddaam was the prima facie aggressor. The history is about to repeat itself, at multiple levels. And as before, the narrative in the Western world will remain under the full control of the sponsors of this war. The same narrative is simply re-echoed in the East.
You can imagine the killing of the Saudi Shia dissent scholar Sheikh Nimr by the Saudi kingdom to be virtually equivalent to the killing of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este, whose calculated assassination in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 precipitated Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia leading to World War I. That world war led to 50 million dead and all existent empires replaced by the rising Pax Americana. That Pax Americana is to be replaced by World Government through these upcoming manufactured world wars. That's the general blueprint. 9/11 was its first provocation for the final push to global transformation. Shia-Sunni conflagration is to be the next in the long series of creating world order out of chaos. All kinds of sophisticated propaganda craft is already being brought to bear to add fuel to the making of these new killing fields just as it was during Iran-Iraq war where brother killed brother, 8 million, an order of magnitude more than the fratricide in the American Civil War.
As history of war is evidence, once brought to the Russian-roulette table, the bloodshed cannot be averted. The time for its prevention is before the die of fait accompli is cast – and all provocations are being brought to bear on this very scenario, of igniting the Shia-Sunni world war. Only the most recent salvo of which is: Saudi Arabia's grand mufti says Iranians are 'not Muslims. Meanwhile, the pious superpower policeman of the world, the United States of America, is openly arming this most virulent strain of Sunnism, the posterchild of Sunnidom as the custodian of Islam's holy sites, the Wahabi-Salafi despotic kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The contribution of this American vassal state to aiding and abetting America's terror systems, is neither secret history nor hidden from anyone.
Can we do something about this age old Shia-Sunni antagonism which is perennially ripe for harvest? These undeniable historical fissures among Muslims are continually enlarged by those who are neither Shia nor Sunni, for their own agendas, and this brazen fact should be obvious to even the most pollyannaish dunceheads. While we can Band-Aid these fissures or pretend we have no fundamental problems ourselves, and all problems are with the West's drive for hegemony and supremacy that leads their Anglo-Saxon instinct for primacy to the doorstep of Machiavelli, the reality stares us in the face. The problem is not solely in the superstars, but in ourselves that we are stupid underlings. As the war of words between Saudi Arabia and Iran heats up, and as Muslim countries and Muslim public start aligning with one or the other side along their sectarian lines (witness here, here, here here, here, here, here, here, here), what can ordinary peoples, you and me, often the spectators of history, and also its canon fodder, do?
I see only one rational and practical solution. Transcend the Shia-Sunni divide by approaching what is common and sacred between them both. The Holy Qur'an! It exists among us in the same pristine form that it did at the time of the Prophet of Islam --- or at least, that is the common belief among all the 1.6 to 2 billion Muslims on earth today.
But that model hasn't really worked in history --- why would it work now? You ask...
I would like to submit for your reading pleasure the following series of articles that I composed as a most ordinary student of reality (haqeeqat), on the topics that most divide Muslims along the Shia-Sunni bifurcation. Most of us fall into one of those two macro sectarian categories by virtue of birth and socialization. Whatever subsequent studies some might undertake to understand their respective inheritance, either on their own, or as seminary students en route to scholarship and ullema status, is often froth with the trappings of both data availability bias and confirmation bias. Meaning, incestuous self-reinforcement of the theology, beliefs as well as practices, we each grow up under, while remaining unconscious or at least oblivious of that fact. The self-evident fact is that religion is our inheritance, like the DNA.
But the question that often arises in the mind of the young intelligent Muslim and the young intellectual Muslim, and which he and she is not able to ask openly while living among the patriarchy and their orthodoxy, is should religion be an inheritance? The fact that one is born in a Muslim home already inclines one towards it and decides the fate outright. Whether one is born in a Shia home or Sunni home and any of its sub-sects is only a secondary issue. The question the intelligent Muslim asks, given that one is born in a Muslim civilization, and given that Muslims are so easily pit against one another, does the sectarian divide also have to be an inheritance, or can one just be a Muslim? The inquisitive mind not satisfied by status quo ventures further afield and asks, what does the Holy Qur'an itself say about matters that both the Shia and the Sunni scholars merely presuppose in their theology and which they each argue with such self-righteousness and convictions?
For such youngsters, and I mean by that term those young at heart as well as mind who are unafraid to challenge the idiocy of orthodoxy and want no part of it, here are links to the essays composed thus far based on whatever humble and limited study that this scribe has been able to undertake and deconstruct away from their respective orthodox versions. I offer these humble writings to the laity and their scholars alike, for two reasons: 1) as a means of demonstrating and understanding how we believe what we believe regarding Islamic topics, and what great distance it might sometimes be from what its singular scripture the Holy Qur'an itself conveys on the topic by both its omissions and commissions; and 2) as a means of introducing the lamentably long-dead idea of using the intellect to parse and comprehend the teaching and guidance in the Holy Qur'an directly from the Holy Qur'an itself, using its own verses as the primary source of its own 'tawil' and interpretation. This automatically leads to an informed mind that is sensibly able to compare what socialization/culture/history/home and our overemphasis on "experts" have bequeathed to us as religion, vs. what the actual unadulterated teaching is that is still easy to be found in the Holy Qur'an by anyone with an iota of intelligence and seriousness in disposition to perform their own due diligence.
The results are rather surprising, even shocking, and I share that surprise here both as a learning and teaching tool, as well as in furtherance of the pursuit of the unasked question: what the religion of Islam is for each new generation if its understanding is not to remain ossified in the narratives of antiquity. That unasked question does not imply changing the meaning of Islam or altering the Divine Guidance contained in its singular scripture the Holy Qur'an, as is the primary misdirection in the West today to suit its Western interpretation and Western narrative, but to understand Islam directly from its own unadulterated singular source using our own time and space as the reference point. Just as the people of the past had the opportunity to do the same thing in their own epoch. Why are we taking their understanding of Islam circumscribed by their own time and space, as our own?
This, even on the face of it, appears absurd. To be shackled to their understanding of Islam through our own socialization and confirmation biases, and our paying homage to our elders and deference to our scholars by using their brains in lieu of our own, is an insult to the religion of Islam which has proclaimed itself for all time and all space. The religion of Islam has proclaimed itself in the Holy Qur'an as the Divine Guidance from the Lord of the Worlds, to each and every man and each and every woman in all times with no more Prophets or Messengers to be sent. If that assertion is believed to be true, and no Muslim doubts that it is in fact not just true, but The Truth, then each generation and every people in every civilization must try to understand Islam by decoding its message contained in its own singular scripture, the Holy Qur'an, afresh for their own time and space.
That is so darn obvious that it even surprises me, one not too bright, how easily Islam has thus far been ossified and shackled in the narratives of history not just by the pulpits, but by ordinary peoples themselves. What I offer below is one tiny drop in that new ocean of revisiting the religion of Islam directly from the Holy Qur'an using our own frame of reference to decipher and understand its message. What shall we find in it?
In the interest of forging Muslim unity (what with all the emphasis worldwide to divide Muslims along sectarian lines and have them kill each other), I have taken up the topics that divide us fundamentally, often on idiotic grounds due to want of knowledge of the Holy Qur'an itself. More to come, if life and opportunity permit, and if motivation persists. Discussion is encouraged. Corrections are welcome; it will surely help cogency if corrections are offered not as “expert” opinions of this and that “scholar”, but from the same source as these analyses are themselves based upon, the Holy Qur'an.
Articles in the series: What does the Holy Qur'an Say
In addition, I have been studying the subject of Imam Mahdi like many Muslims who are interested in this topic, and have realized that what the vast majority of Muslims, both Shia and Sunni, have been led to believe about eschatology appears to be entirely Indeterminate in the Holy Qur'an! Most of what we are taught is actually from books and pages outside of the Holy Qur'an. What does the Holy Qur'an itself have to say about Imam Mahdi – the Awaited Savior of humanity – if anything at all? The exploration of this question (in item [6] above) led to writing the following letter which I hope may inspire many more Muslims to dare to use their own intellect to try to decipher the message of the Holy Qur'an and to base their faith upon that decipherment in their own time and space.
Such individual endeavors automatically plant the fundamental seeds of amity among Muslims: to gather around the Holy Qur'an for comprehending any and all issues which divide us, as the primary source of seeking understanding of the Divine scripture. To understand what the Holy Qur'an itself teaches on its own topics, instead of what the pen of holy man says it teaches. This endeavor, undertaken with a desire to learn rather than to confirm presuppositions, dissuades from the idiotic sectarian disunity that is evidently natural to us, preventing us from becoming one people, an ummah, because of the artifacts of history, historiography, hagiography and the unfortunate socialization into that orthodoxy. We are all beholden to this socialized orthodoxy by birth such that despite our best intentions, we, in fact, end up following the religion of our forefathers as in the infamous age of Jahiliya of antiquity. Is our age, the modern age, fundamentally all that different?
Without hesitation I advance the argument that our base attitudes are really not all that much different despite our traveling in modern airliners instead of on camels and horses. Our civilization may have marched on outwardly, but inwardly, we are still living in the past. We still continue to draw on our meagre understanding of what is largely the socialized past, to inform us on how to interpret our present. Socialization into our history as part of both culture, and what is deemed religious, continues to inform our beliefs and order our rituals. It is that base reality which fundamentally divides us into Shia and Sunni by birth. This is self-evident. The end result, under Machiavellian doctrinal motivation and tickling of the right sensibilities --- fratricide, Muslims killing Muslims. Whereas, the Holy Qur'an, which contains none of that history, historiography, or hagiography, nor sects and partisanship, easily unites us if we only permit the Good Book to speak for itself. If we only permit its verses to be the main source of interpretation for its own verses, without referring to what the hand of man conjured up to become the happenstances of history (historical events) and its partisan narratives (hadith literature, who said what to whom). By definition history and its narratives are anecdotal, for, indeed, an alternate history and alternate future is always possible. Whereas the Good Book, the Holy Qur'an, is Divine Guidance for all histories and all futures of mankind --- empowering mankind to change its own conditions and its own futures --- if one accepts its assertion of timeless Divine Guidance to all mankind. How can one particular instance of history among a tribal people circumscribe its understanding? It sensibly follows that it cannot. For that reason none of the particulars of the period of revelations is in the Holy Qur'an which otherwise uses ample histories and parables of other nations past to forewarn Muslims of what can become of them if they followed the same paths.
Preventing that transition of understanding the Holy Scripture from its own verses in the light of one's own times, is not just in the interest of both the empire du jour and the clergy classes for the abundant opportunities of divide and control that status quo confers, but also self-interest. Who likes to accept that they have been largely socialized into myths as religion?
Compounding that reality of social control is the cognitive infiltration from the dominance of Western modernity that is wholly materialistic, and which altogether denies the legitimacy of spiritual existence and Divine Guidance. Charles Taliaferro, a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, says in his interview to Tehran Times (January 7, 2016): “[T]here is not an intensive quest in European and American university and college courses to reconstruct the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Perhaps this is partly a reflection of what many historians in the West believe about Jesus: they think it very difficult to get behind the primary sources to Jesus himself and so they focus more on the emergence and history of Christianity rather than highlight the historical Jesus. As a philosopher I believe that such skepticism about the historical Jesus and Muhammad is based on philosophical assumptions of secular naturalism which presupposes by definition that prophecy and revelation is impossible, an assumption that, in my view, is unjustified. Historically, there are Western sources that depict Islam as a dangerous threat to Western civilization. ...”
Well, not just historically, but it is very much the present narrative in the West. And our own new Muslim and non-Muslim generations in both hemispheres are growing up under that universal cultural rubric. Whatever we know or believe or understand of Islam is a reaction to the mantras and presuppositions of our own time, just as it was in the past for the mantras and presuppositions of their own time. That fundamental presupposition today, as the quoted philosopher says, is “secular naturalism which presupposes by definition that prophecy and revelation is impossible,”. Evidently, a lot more Muslims also believe that to be true despite all our pious proclamations if one were to judge from our lack of study of the scripture itself. While it is understandable that non Muslims may have little interest in studying the Holy Qur'an, strangely, few Muslims dare to apply their own intellect to study a scripture which so boldly presupposes and continually affirms that the Holy Qur'an is indeed a revealed book. We instead go to our own elders for the source of our religious beliefs.
Well, that is precisely what the Arabs in their age of Jahiliya did too. They did not believe that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a Prophet of God bringing them Divine revelations as Guidance from Beyond. They instead relied on their own elders for their beliefs. It is irrelevant what their beliefs were. The source of their belief was their own socialization, their own elders, their own heritage. Shocking? What do you do when you open up your favorite hadith and history books? Or your favorite exegeses? You are using your elders, long dead, to tell you what your socialized religion is. That fact has divided us into Shia and Sunni. Not the Holy Qur'an, but the pious works of our elders. That observation is beyond doubt. It is self-evident.
The revealing term used by professor Charles Taliaferro, “secular naturalism”, begs a few sentences of explanation for those who may be unfamiliar with its scope and how we are all affected by it without often realizing it. It fundamentally means that the laws of nature are general, universal, and a-religious. These natural laws determine the “how” of nature and apply in all frames of reference to everything in existence, including to man. The rational and objectifying processes of science applied by man to understand these natural laws are the best method to discover and harness this “how” of nature. In the laws of nature there is no such construct as moral law. Morality is but a subjective value system, and all spiritual questions of the “why” of existence are immanent, i.e., philosophical, in the mind of man, entirely abstract, and not part of the laws of nature. Naturalists separate the two quests between objective and subjective: science deals with “how”, religion deals with “why”. That core presupposition of modern Jahiliya, that there is nothing beyond the laws of nature, automatically precludes all notions of divinity, and consequently, also divine revelation, prophethood, etc., thus making morality and world religions a mere utilitarian convention among their respective philosophers for inducing social harmony, or social control, among the sheep.
This materialist conception of nature stemming from the core philosophy of “secular naturalism”, taken to its natural conclusion leads society and civilization to the path of social Darwinianism and Nietzschean Nihilism when led by his ablest Superman. Whence, all things concerning the affairs of man become relative and arbitrary, where ends justify means, wolves appear in sheep clothing, and where might and intelligence, abilities and skills, cunning and sophistication determine the survival of the species under the natural law of the Jungle, survival of the fittest. In that existential reality of rule by force, or might disguised as moral law, the ones with more narrative power win in controlling their flock --- and this is how divide and conquer has always succeeded in the service of the most cunning power.
The narrative today emanating from all pulpits, including the geopolitical pulpits, after the “militant Islam” mantras and after getting Muslims to kill each other in many different guises, is eschatology, the Last Days, the arrival of Imam Mahdi, the Awaited Savior of mankind.
Is that concept of divine interventionism and eschatology which is common to both Shia and Sunni theology with minor variations, in the Holy Qur'an itself?
It is important to learn this fact because as those given to the study of geopolitics can easily fear, the narrative of eschatology may well become a key source of doctrinal motivation, intellectual commitment, and patriotic gratification, for both camps in the long war being engineered between the 1.6 to 2 billion Shiadom vs. Sunnidom by those obeying the secular natural laws and its corollaries.
Let's not fall for the fabricated narratives of Machiavelli again and again. Inform our leaders, our generals, our rulers, our scholars, our opinion-makers, that we do not wish to be participant in their geopolitical games. That we are not sheep and that we refuse to service the mutton eaters. That we have no quarrel among Shia and Sunni and that we choose to proactively gather on the Holy Qur'an to bridge our reactionary chasms of history instead of on their narratives.

Thank you.

First Published Friday, January 8, 2016 05:56 am | Last Updated Friday, September 9, 2016 01:00 pm 4891

Averting Shia-Sunni World War by Zahir Ebrahim 11 / 11

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