The role of Musa al-Sadr in shaping national identity of Lebanese Shias الصدر ودوره في تأصيل الهوية الوطنية للشيعة في لبنان

The role of Musa al-Sadr in shaping national identity of Lebanese Shias

February 01, 2021

The role of Musa al-Sadr in shaping national identity of Lebanese Shias

Description: 

Lebanese university lecturer in history, Talih Kamal Hamdan, explores the role of the late Imam Musa al-Sadr in shaping a sense of national belonging and identity within the Shia sect in Lebanon, specifically during the 1960s and 1970s.

Understanding the historical formation of the national and political identity of the Shia of Lebanon is particularly relevant today, as contemporary Lebanese Shia Muslims are highly influential actors not only within Lebanon, but on the regional level as well. This is especially the case when viewed from the lens of Hezbollah, a group which considers itself an extension of the general political paradigm shaped by al-Sadr.

Source:  Al Akhbar Newspaper

Date:  September 8, 2015

(Important Note: Please help us keep producing independent translations for you by contributing as little as $1/month here )


Transcript:

Imam al-Sadr and his role in instilling a sense of national identity in Lebanese Shia

Talih Kamal Hamdan

This year marks the 37th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr and his two companions, (an anniversary that) comes at the height of internal, regional and international conflicts; takfirism; and discrimination against sectarian and ethnic minorities in the Arab world, where Shias are the main target of Takfiri groups. The role of Shias in the Lebanese political reality is also being increasingly targeted by way of distorting their nationalist struggles, for which Imam al-Sadr laid solid foundations, and for which thousands of martyrs (of Shia origin) sacrificed their lives. (Many Shias) gave their lives (within these nationalist struggles) in order to free (their) land (from Israeli occupation), fighting (the occupation) as members of national and Islamic resistance groups successively (established) between 1975 and 2006.

The government’s neglect of the villages in the South (of Lebanon), the Beqaa, and Beirut suburbs; together with the deplorable conditions that farmers and their families lived under; and the overwhelming dominance of feudal families who had great political, economic and social influence in these areas, all these were starting points for (the establishment of) left-wing and progressive parties beginning in the mid-50s. These parties sought to fight deprivation, unilateralism of southern political representation, and the blatant denial of the rights of workers and farmers. However, these parties failed to establish social justice. Due to their fragmentation, differing frameworks and (political/ideological) poles, and their ordering of priorities that favored politics over other issues, these parties were not able transform their social standing into influence in the government, thus preventing them from turning the family structure into a national institutional structure. They chose cosmetic changes over (real) change, and social struggles with political and power-based objectives over a comprehensive social revolution. Then came the civil war in 1975 and toppled the social and national, non-sectarian movements, thus giving the upper hand to the 1943 (sectarian) formula only with new faces.

Since the mid-1960s, there had been growing social demand (for the rights of) marginalized groups, especially the Shia community who was suffering from the lack of institutions, jobs and services, and the scattering of its skilled individuals between left-wing parties and Palestinian organizations on the one hand, and opportunistic feudal leaderships on the other. As a result, unlike other Lebanese social groups, (the Shia community) lacked a specific identity.  Therefore, the objective conditions made room for another kind of leadership, (a leadership) that seeks change, and mobilizes its resources to lift (people) from fragmentation to unity, and from a feeling of deprivation to a feeling of power; (a leadership that grants) the right to participate in the government and its administrative and functional departments, (the right to) social development, and (the right to) participate in local, regional and international political decision-making of the Lebanese state. All this on the basis of both a religious identity and a unified national vision. Thereafter, Imam Musa al-Sadr’s movement emerged to call for social and political reform as a priority, on the basis of the “Lebanization” of Shia decision-making, and (the Shia sect’s) integration into the Lebanese state, whom Shias had always felt abandoned by.

Initially, the influential feudal and religious families did not have a negative reaction to the emergence of Imam al-Sadr. However, (with time) his reform movement against traditional feudalism gained strength as he gained large public support. His work was culminated in the adherence of young secular individuals to his project thanks to his undermining of the religious legitimacy granted to the feudal leaderships. (He) took advantage of the political and social situation in the South, the Beqaa and the Beirut suburbs, to begin the process of comprehensive change of the role of Shias in Lebanon.

Imam al-Sadr took the social dimension as a priority, and fought for “ending the deprivation (of basic rights) in the Beqaa and the South”. He started by confronting his opponents from the traditional feudal leaderships, notably Kamel al-Assaad, and left-wing parties, especially the Communist Party, in order to prevent them from “manipulating the Shia youth ideologically and on the basis of party-loyalties.” (1)

Even though (Imam al-Sadr) held firm to his religious foundations, yet he used religion to sharpen the sense of belonging to a national identity, and worked on establishing a social identity that – similar to other sects – combined both patriotism and the exaltation of the (Shia) sect. He replaced family loyalty with religious sectarian loyalty, thus attracting various segments (of society) who had previously adhered to the (powerful) feudal families, or adhered to the left-wing parties with their (various) slogans.  (Imam al-Sadr) also brought back the idea of ​​institutionalizing religious identity by reviving the “Al Ber wal Ehsan” Charity (جمعية البر والإحسان) founded in 1948 by Sayyed Abd al-Hussein Charafeddine in (the city of) Tyre, making it a starting point for his social service activities, and a project similar to the Amel Association (الجمعية الخيرية العاملية) in Beirut. He then established the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon in 1969, which was a major turning point (that struck at) the core of the traditional authoritarian leadership (of Lebanese Shias). He was also able to establish educational, professional and social institutions, after they were absent for many decades because of the (Lebanese) state’s failure (to provide) services and (build) institutions in the South and the Beqaa. By raising the awareness of Shias regarding their sectarian and national identity, (Imam Musa) wanted to stress that they are citizens who have the right to consistent development, to be relieved from deprivation, and protected against Israeli attacks (2).

He built multiple relations with many national and southern actors, and showed an outstanding leadership and a strong ability to influence Lebanese elites and the Lebanese people. Therefore, Sayyed (Musa) was granted Lebanese nationality in 1963 by President Fouad Shehab, and became a permanent guest at the Lebanese symposium, which was composed of Lebanese political and intellectual elites. Therefore, Sayyed Musa was described by Michel Asmar as a “man of the coming time”. He also established relations with famous media figures, especially Ghassan Tueni. However, despite his wide network of internal and external political relations (that he established) on the basis of supporting his reform project, he tried to make sure that his political line stays as independent as possible.

(Imam al-Sadr) was known for his boldness in objecting to the excesses of the (Lebanese) state against southern citizens who were suffering daily from Israeli attacks. As such, he declared a general strike to support the people of the South, and consequently, he established the Southern Council, then the Commission for Southern Support in cooperation with Cardinal Anthony Khreish and a large group of Muslim and Christian scholars and clerics. He also confronted the Palestinian resistance, despite his alliance with it, after its multiple excesses against the southerners. He addressed Abu Ammar (i.e. Yasser Arafat, Former Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization) saying: “Abu Ammar, I (am ready to) protect the Palestinian resistance (even) with my turban, but I will not be silent about its transgressions against people in the South” (3).

Accordingly, Imam al-Sadr is indeed the true father of “Lebanese political Shiism”, which considers the national dimension a priority in its internal movement, and which believes that Lebanon is the permanent home for all its sons and various other social groups, and (a country) that must be defended by all means and at all costs, not on the basis of hegemony and partisanship, but rather partnership and national belonging. This explains the (contemporary) Shia urgency and seriousness to protect Lebanon from both Israeli aggression and the Takfiri threat.

References

1- Abd Al-Raouf Sunno: “The Lebanese War 1975-1990: The Dismemberment of the State and the Rift within the Society”, Volume One, ibid, pg. 145.

2- Talal Atrissi: “The conditions of the Shiites of Lebanon have changed,” in: “The Shiites in Lebanon from marginalization to active participation,” ibid., pg. 245

3- “The Supreme Islamic Shiite Council and the Rights of the Sect,” a special booklet issued by the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, January 1974, pg. 10.

——

Subscribe to our mailing list!

Related Posts:

الصدر ودوره في تأصيل الهوية الوطنية للشيعة في لبنان

The role of Musa al-Sadr in shaping national identity of Lebanese Shias

الأخبار

طليع كمال حمدان الثلاثاء 8 أيلول 2015

تأتي الذكرى السابعة والثلاثون لتغييب الإمام موسى الصدر، ورفيقيه، هذا العام، في ذروة التناقضات الداخلية والإقليمية والدولية، وفي ظلّ تصاعد موجات التكفير، والعنصرية الدينية، تجاه الأقليات المذهبية والعرقية في المنطقة العربية، حيث يقع الشيعة العرب على رأس الاستهداف التكفيريّ، وتعاظم استهداف دور الشيعة في الواقع السياسي اللبنانيّ، من خلال تشويه نضالهم الوطني، الذي أرسى أسسه المتينة الإمام الصدر، وعمّدته دماء الشهداء، الذين سقطوا بالآلاف على طريق تحرير الأرض، بعد تعاقب مجموعات المقاومة الوطنية والإسلامية بين 1975- 2006.


شكّل الإهمال الرسمي لقرى الجنوب، والبقاع، والضواحي البيروتية، والأوضاع المزرية للمزارعين وعوائلهم، واستحكام قبضة العائلات التقليدية النافذة سياسياً، واقتصادياً، واجتماعياً على تلك المناطق، منطلقاً للأحزاب اليسارية والتقدمية، منذ منتصف الخمسينيات، لمحاربة الحرمان، وأحادية التمثيل السياسيّ الجنوبيّ، والإجحاف اللاحق بحقوق العمّال والمزارعين، لكنّها أخفقت في إرساء العدالة المجتمعية، بحيث لم تستطع تجيير مكاسبها على الصعيد الاجتماعي نفوذاً في السلطة الرسمية، نتيجة تشرذمها، وتعدّد أطرها وأقطابها، وتقدّم الجانب السياسيّ على ما عداه من قضايا، ما منعها من قطف التحوّلات الاجتماعية في البنية العائلية، وتحويلها إلى بنية مؤسساتية وطنية، فآثرت التجميل على التغيير، والنضالات الاجتماعية ذات المغزى السياسي، والسلطوي، على الثورة الاجتماعية الشاملة، فجاءت الحرب الأهلية، عام 1975، لتطيح الحراك الاجتماعي والحركة الوطنية اللاطائفية، لصالح تركيبة 1943 بوجوهها الجديدة.

فمنذ منتصف الستينيات، أخذت المطالب الاجتماعية تتصدّر واقع الفئات المهمّشة، وعلى رأسها الطائفة الشيعية، التي كانت تعاني من الحرمان على مستوى المؤسسات، والوظائف والخدمات، ومن توزّع طاقاتها بين أحزاب اليسار، والمنظمات الفلسطينية من جهة، وبين الزعامة التقليدية الانتهازية من جهة أخرى، ما جعلها تفتقر إلى هوية محددة، على غرار بقية المكوّنات الاجتماعية في لبنان، فأضحت الظروف الموضوعية أكثر اتساعاً لقيادة من نوع آخر، تحمل سمات التغيير، وتسخّر الإمكانات للارتقاء من التشرذم إلى الوحدة، ومن الشعور بالحرمان إلى الشعور بالقوّة، والحق بالمشاركة في السلطة، وتقسيماتها الإدارية والوظيفية، والتنمية الاجتماعية، والمشاركة في الخيارات السياسية للدولة اللبنانية المحلية والإقليمية والدولية، على أساس مركّب بين هوية دينية، وبعد وطني واحد. فجاءت حركة الإمام موسى الصدر لتحمل عناوين التغيير الاجتماعي، والسياسيّ، كأولوية على أساس «لبننة» الخيار الشيعي، وإدماجه في الدولة اللبنانية، التي لطالما شعروا بأنها تخلّت عنهم لعبث التهميش والإهمال.

أظهر مقدرة كبيرة
على القيادة والتأثير بالنخب اللبنانية والجماهير

لم يشكل ظهور الإمام الصدر، في البداية، صدمة سلبية بين العائلات التقليدية والدينية النافذة، لكنه مع تصاعد حركته التغييرية في وجه الإقطاع التقليدي، واتساع تأييده الجماهيري، ما سهّل إطلاق حركته التغييرية، فتوّج نشاطه بصهر العناصر العلمانية الشابة في مشروعه، من خلال تقويض الشرعية الدينية الممنوحة للزعامة التقليدية، مستفيداً من الواقع السياسي والاجتماعي، في الجنوب والبقاع والضواحي البيروتية، لتبدأ مسيرة التغيير الشامل لدور الشيعة في لبنان.

اتخذ الإمام الصدر من القضية الاجتماعية أولوية، وحمل شعار «رفع الحرمان عن الجنوب والبقاع» مرتكزاً لمواجهة خصومه من الزعامات الإقطاعية التقليدية، وعلى رأسهم كامل الأسعد، ثمّ الأحزاب اليسارية، وعلى رأسها الحزب الشيوعي، لمنعها من «التهام الشباب الشيعيّ أيديولوجياً وحزبياً (1).»

فهو على الرغم من تمسّكه بالثابت الديني، فقد سخّره لخدمة الانتماء إلى الهوية الوطنية، وعمل على تأسيس هوية اجتماعية تجمع ما بين إعلاء شأن الطائفة والتمسك بالوطن، على غرار بقية الطوائف. وبذلك استبدل العصب العائلي بالعصب المذهبي الديني، واستطاع من خلاله أن يستقطب شرائح متعددة، كانت مشرذمة الولاءات بين العائلة التقليدية وخياراتها المتعددة، والأحزاب اليسارية وشعاراتها، فضلاً عن إعادة إحيائه فكرة مأسسة الانتماء والهوية الدينية، فأعاد إحياء «جمعية البرّ والإحسان» التي أسسها السيد عبد الحسين شرف الدين عام 1948 في صور، لتكون منطلقاً لنشاطه الاجتماعيّ والخدماتي، وفي ذلك إعادة لتجربة الجمعية الخيرية العاملية في بيروت، ثمّ جاء تأسيسه للمجلس الإسلامي الشيعي الأعلى في لبنان، عام 1969، ليشكّل نقطة تحول رئيسة، في جوهر الزعامة التقليدية المطلقة. كما استطاع بناء مؤسسات تعليمية ومهنية واجتماعية، بعدما غابت لعقود طويلة، في ظل تقصير الدولة مؤسساتياً، وخدماتياً في الجنوب والبقاع، فأراد من تثبيت وعي الشيعة بهويتهم الطائفية والوطنية التأكيد على كونهم مواطنين لهم الحق في التنمية المتوازنة، ورفع الحرمان، والدفاع عنهم أمام الاعتداءات الإسرائيلية (2).

وقام بنسج علاقات متعددة مع جميع الأطراف الفاعلة وطنياً وجنوبياً، وأظهر مقدرة كبيرة على القيادة والتأثير بالنخب اللبنانية والجماهير، فقد منحه الرئيس فؤاد شهاب الجنسية اللبنانية عام 1963، وأضحى ضيفاً دائماً على الندوة اللبنانية، التي ضمّت في صفوفها النخب السياسية والفكرية اللبنانية، فوصفه ميشال أسمر بـ»رجل الزمن الآتي»، وربطته علاقات مع رجالات الصحافة الكبار، وعلى رأسهم غسّان تويني، وحاول قدر الإمكان الاستقلالية في خطّه السياسيّ، رغم تشبيكه مروحة من العلاقات السياسية الداخلية والخارجية على قاعدة دعم مشروعه التغييريّ.

اتّصف بالجرأة على الاعتراض على تجاوزات السلطة بحقّ مواطنيها الجنوبيين، الذين كانوا يتعرّضون يومياً للاعتداءات الإسرائيلية، فأعلن الإضراب العام لدعم أهل الجنوب، ونشأ نتيجة ذلك «مجلس الجنوب، وشكّل هيئة نصرة الجنوب مع الكاردينال أنطونيوس خريش، ومجموعة كبيرة من علماء ورجال دين مسلمين ومسيحيين، كما أنه اعترض على المقاومة الفلسطينية، رغم تحالفه معها، بعدما زادت تجاوزاتها ضدّ الجنوبيين، فخاطب أبا عمّار قائلاً: «يا أبا عمّار، بعمامتي أحمي المقاومة الفلسطينية، لكن لن أسكت عن تجاوزاتها ضدّ الناس في الجنوب (3).»

وعليه، فالإمام الصدر هو الباعث الحقيقي «للشيعية السياسية اللبنانية»، التي تجعل من البعد الوطني أولوية في حركتها الداخلية، وتجعل من لبنان وطناً نهائياً لجميع أبنائه ومكوناته المختلفة، يجب الدفاع عنه بكل الوسائل حتى لو غلت التضحيات، على قاعدة الشراكة لا الهيمنة، والمشروعية الوطنية لا الفئوية، وهذا ما يفسر الاندفاعة الشيعية في حماية لبنان من الاعتداءات الإسرائيلية، والخطر التكفيري.

هوامش

1ـ عبد الرؤوف سنّو: «حرب لبنان 1975-1990، تفكّك الدولة وتصدّع المجتمع»، المجلد الأول، مرجع سابق، ص: 145.
2 ـ طلال عتريسي: «تغيّر أحوال شيعة لبنان»، في: «الشيعة في لبنان من التهميش إلى المشاركة الفاعلة»، مرجع سابق، ص: 245
3 ـ انظر: «المجلس الإسلامي الشيعي الأعلى وحقوق الطائفة»، كتيّب خاص صادر عن المجلس الإسلامي الشيعي الأعلى، كانون الثاني 1974، ص: 10.
* أستاذ جامعي

A Delegated System of Governance: Understanding the Concepts of Imamat and Wilayat in Shi’a Islam, Part II

A Delegated System of Governance: Understanding the Concepts of Imamat and Wilayat in Shi’a Islam, Part II

October 13, 2020

by Mansoureh Tajik for the Saker Blog

 “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

In Part I of this topic (See here), the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran under the leadership of Imam Khomeini was referenced as a specific example of a system in governance based on Imamat and Wilayat as interpreted, implemented, and practiced in Shi’a Islam. Iran was a nation pegged and primed to become a model for a fully secularized, westernized, and liberalized society in a Muslim majority land. This was a nation endowed with lucrative material wealth and natural resources, several millennia of civilization, culture, and written history but headed by a darling pro-Western puppet regime brought about through series of costly overt and covert schemes and operations.

As well it was stated in the article that the inception of this system was to bring the Word of God into the governance of people exactly when supercilious Western elites, that is, the sorts of elites who have this delusion that history begins and ends with them, were gleefully celebrating an envisioned modern Atlantis in which the Word of God has no place in its systems of governance. Still, the Islamic Republic of Iran happened. Not only did the Islamic Republic of Iran happen, it became a significant, enduring, and dynamic force to reckon with despite all options on and under the table that were thrown at it. Talk about the showing of a heavenly middle phalange. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Before attending to the next segment, I would like to address here a question posed in the comment section of the part I of the essay since the response to that helps with specific points in the overall argument of the essays. “daniel” on October 02, 2020  ·  at 4:46 am EST/EDT wrote:

“99.25% of the participants voted “yes” to an Islamic Republic system of government in Iran[1] replacing a system of monarchy based on an inherited position transfer from a king to his eldest son.”

Was the Iran 1979 referendum (results shown above) a once off thing & considered binding for life or was it set up as a recurring probing exercise which follows some regular interval, say a 50 years cycle?

Until 1979, any major movement, like the Constitutional Movement of 1906 or any systematic mechanism that could have legitimately and authentically admitted the will of the people into the system of governance had often been violently suppressed. I addressed some of that in another essay last year titled “Willfully and Consciously Demonizing Shia: the Leadership of the Pious.” Please see here.

The revolution of 1979 happened because for hundreds of years almost all major and minor movements to reform the system of governance according to authentic desires and will of the people of Iran had failed. The referendum in 1979 was the first and the ONLY straight forward mechanism at that time to get the voices of the people heard, clearly documented, and actualized. After some revisions to the constitution 10 years later, another nationwide referendum was held and 97.38% of the participants approved the revised version of the constitution. Furthermore, through direct election of their representatives into Majlis Shoraye Islami (an assembly of 290 seats) and Majlis Khobregah Rahbari, the Assembly of Experts for Leadership (consisting of 88 seats), the people of Iran could make decisions about the constitution and the Wali Faqih, respectively.

When there are already appropriate, effective, and functioning venues and mechanisms in place, the need for a referendum becomes null and void unless either all of those systems become so corrupt and dysfunctional that the will of the people can no longer be genuinely manifested, or the issue in question is so novel that the approval of which does not fall within the realm of the established mechanisms and requires a nationwide referendum. So far, we have had neither of those situations occurring in Iran.

I would like to add a comment that I thought the answer provided by another commenter “arash” a good use of the instrument of jadal—a form of argument when one uses already accepted conventions of the opponent as proof and/or refutation of one’s own argument. Although I think “daniel” may have asked the question out of sincere curiosity, I do understand the sensitivity of the question and what may have prompted that response. A repeated ad nauseam favorite false statement by the Zionist West, Inc. has often been that a democratic referendum can work in a Muslim land only once: to bring about an Islamic State into power (often referencing Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood experience of 1950s as example); then it is stopped for good. Nevertheless, we are glad that the democratic processes work so very well and in an exemplary manner at least in the US, France, UK, and elsewhere in the West. Electoral College Votes. Two Party Systems. AIPAC. Industry Lobbies. Yellow Vests. Brexit. Arbitrary Lockdowns…

People. Glass Houses. Stones.

Now, in continuing with our topic in this follow-up essay, we start with defining the terms and concepts related to the topic of wilayat and Imamat. The term wilayat is derived from tri-literal root word “wāw lām yā,” literally meaning “something that comes very closely on the heels of another of a similar essence without distance and separation between the two.[1] Depending on the context, the word wali could take different (but related) meanings. Prominent among the meanings are guardian, protector, friend, ally, encouraging, aiding, assisting, heeding, following, parent, and offspring.[2] The common denominator and implicit in all these meanings of wali and its derivatives are two conjectures: 1) a spiritual and devotional nearness, intimacy, and companionship; 2) a reciprocal and mutual relationship both in theory and in practice.

Generally speaking, anyone and anything can become anyone’s wali and/or one can choose him/her/it as his wali, be it an informal choice and/or a formal declaration though laws and conventions. If you want to know who your wali is, you must take an inventory of who and what your closest allies, companions, influencers, friends, masters, and followers are and how you spend most of your time. While at it, you should examine what credentials those awlia (plural form of wali) have, where they are leading you, what the final destination and ultimate consequence of the path in which you are following that wali are. Let’s make the meaning of the term more palpable and empirical.

An alcoholic has chosen alcohol and its colleagues –that is, anything and anyone connected to it by way of selling, serving, producing, distributing, and more – as his awlia. He spends part of his time chasing after getting that alcohol and the remainder of his time following where that alcohol takes him (in mind, body, and soul). Obedient to his wali to the bone. Ditto with a drug addict, sex addict, food addict, fame addict, internet addict, and you name it. For capitalists, capital et al. are their awlia. For Satan worshippers, Satan is their wali. They chase to find it and they follow where it leads, a downward spiral to be sure. For some Trump and his handlers are their wali/awlia; for others Biden and his handlers are their wali/awlia. Some choose Muhammad bin Salman as their wali, and some do the same with Abul Fattah el-Sisi. Sultan Erdogan Jr. is wali to some and Netanyahu is wali to others. Zionism, imperialism, globalism, and more are all awlia to this, that, and the other. For some, their ego is their wali and for some others their wants, lusts, ambitions and greed.

A troupe of wretched examples to be sure. The reality of our world is such that hopeless examples of wali far exceed the worthy and upright ones. As Molana Jalal-iddin Muhammad (Molavi) in Mathnavi reminds us: رشته ای بر گردنم افکنده دوست — می کشد هر جا که خاطرخواه اوست“A bridle around my neck placed by the beloved – Taking me place to place wherever s/he desires.” So, it behooves us to choose wisely that/s/he which/who we choose as our wali. Generally speaking, that is.

More specifically, however, about the term wali (and its plural form awlia), Quran issues certain caveats. There is a verse in Quran (2:255) called Ayatul Kursi which is memorized and often recited by Muslims with the two verses that follow it, verse 256 and verse 257.[3] The trio offer many blessings and bounties for those who recite them regularly. So, they are quite well-known among those who are blessed enough to have chosen Quran as their regular companion. All three verses and their translations are in the reference sections. Here, however, I would like to restate first Verse 257 in which the word Wali with a specific meaning of Protecting Guardian and its plural form awlia meaning guardians are used:

 “Allah is Wali [Protecting Guardian] of those who have believed. He brings them out of the darkness(es) toward the light. And those who disbelieved, their awlia [guardians] are the Taghut [transgressing oppressor and evildoers] who bring them out of the light toward the darkness(es). Those are the companions of the fire and they abide therein forever.”

Thus there is only One True Wali for humanity and that is God, the Protecting Guardian. If a person or a collective (an Ummah) chooses anyone and anything other than God as his/her/their guardians, then they are eventually led into nothing but all sorts of darkness: Oppression, misery, ignorance, transgression and more. The choice is clear: Choose One True Wali, or become slaves to many masters and false gods and their self-serving impulses. If a nation does not choose God as One True Wali, it appears that any good-for-nothing two-bit jerk with some capital, fire power, and conniving skills would dare to imagine himself as qualified to be their master and make decision for them. I am just saying.

Logic, reason, wisdom, common sense, and intelligence all dictate that we, as individuals and/or as collectives choose the best and the most qualified for guardianship, administration, and caretaking of our affairs according to our beliefs and ideals. And nobody is putting a gun/sword over anyone’s head to choose God as their Wali.

I can see an explosion of fiery questions in so many minds. Wasn’t Islam spread by sword?! Didn’t Allah-fearing Muslims attack nations and forced people to convert to Islam or get decapitated?! Does the word Daesh/ISIS mean anything?! I am very grateful that you are asking all these questions, notwithstanding the questionable assumptions. The key to answering all these questions is following all the intricate details that one way or another link to the concept of wali and use concrete and true examples to distinguish true from false, which by the end of these essays we will have done, Inshallah.

Verse 256 of Chapter 2 (Baqarah) that we mentioned above states that:

“There is no compulsion in the religion. Certainly a distinction has been clearly made between the right and the wrong. Therefore, whoever disbelieves in false idols/evildoing transgressors and believes in Allah, then certainly he has grasped onto a robust anchor that will not break. And Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.”

Since there is no (read, must not be any) compulsion in this religion and the distinction between right and wrong has been clearly made, our job is to first reject all false awlia and then accept One True Wali. If we do not, our punishment/the consequence is to fall into dizzying vortices of fear and regret. If we succeed in doing this though, then we have grasped onto a “robust anchor”—an unbreakable, firm, unwavering, and lasting chain and handhold. Again, the choice is clear and is ours.

Now, we need to follow up on two clues: 1) How God as Wali translates into the concept of wilayat of a person, which means guardianship, stewardship, caretaking, safekeeping, and supervision by other than God; 2) What/who the bands in the unbreakable chain of “robust anchor” are.

As Muslims, we believe the Almighty God has absolute Wilayat, the Absolute Protecting Guardianship, of all creation, including the human beings. This Wilayat takes two inter-linked and inter-related types of laws that govern us (humans) and the world in which we live. One form relates to the laws of Taqwin, or the innate laws of nature. Everyone and everything from a speck of dust to electrons to multi-cellular complex beings to the universe at large submits to, or is a Muslim to, these laws of Taqwin.

We are able to study the chemistry of water because the electrons, the protons, the neutrons, the atoms, the molecules, the hydrogen bonds, and every drop of water, every stream, river, lake, and ocean all faithfully submit to the laws of Taqwin. Because there is a law, we can learn from the repeated patterns made possible by that law and try to manipulate observable things around us. It does not really matter if someone believes in God or s/he is an agnostic or an atheist. Every ounce of his/her existence submits, or is a Muslim to the laws of Taqwin set by God, the Creator. When we study biology, anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, parasitology, microbiology, immunology, virology, ecology, and whatever else, we are in fact trying to understand the laws of Taqwin regardless of whether we fully understand or willingly admit this fact or not.

Most of these laws could be observed, learned, experimented with, and from them countless lessons could be drawn. God’s Wilayat in Taqwin is Absolute. That we can manipulate a gene, for example, it does not mean that somehow we have gained some sort of a veto power to overwrite the laws of Taqwin. It only means the laws of Taqwin that govern the genes offer a level of flexibility to be “interpreted,” to a certain point, in practice. So, those “scientists” with a tiny bit of knowledge but huge propensity for arrogance should exercise caution not to get too cocky since they do not really know when their arrogance might just force them to nosedive into abyss. Wilayat over Taqwin is not our topic of discussion here, so we leave it be.

The other form of God’s Wilayat relate to the laws of Tashri’e. These are laws that are sent to people by God through His great Messengers and Prophets (May peace be upon them all) to guide humanity in this life and prepare/educate/equip them with the appropriate knowledge and skill for the Hereafter. The first prophet, we are taught by Quran, was Adam (peace be upon him) and the last one was Prophet Muhammad. However, great prophets of God were not merely some post office employees given a piece of mail to deliver. They were also given the responsibility and mandate to govern the societies of believers in accordance to the laws set by God Almighty. In other words, they were delegated by God to govern; an authorized or deputized Wilayat. In this regard then a prophet is Wali of God, and all prophets are Awlia of God, Awlia-Allah.

Why? Because the one who knows and understands the laws best, the one who has been trained and assisted by the Law Maker the best, the one who is the most truthful, honest, trustworthy, pious, and pure and behaves most authentically in accordance with the laws of God and obeys him in heart, body, mind, and soul is the best qualified person to govern the believers of God based on His laws. It is not an unreasonable and illogical concept that would be hard to grasp. It is rather simple.

Is it stated in Quran that the prophets of God have guardianship over the believers’ affairs? Yes. A few examples are helpful. During the time of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), he had the legitimate Wilayat and guardianship to govern and lead the society of the believers. During the time of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), he had the legitimate Wilayat and guardianship to govern and arbitrate the affairs of the believers. Likewise with Prophet Isa Son of Maryam (peace be upon him), Prophet David (peace be upon him), Prophet Issac (peace be upon him), Prophet Muhammad  and all other prophets of God. Relevant verses abound in Quran but here are a few examples:

In Chapter 4 (Nisaa), Verse 64:1-8, it is stated: “And We did not send any Messengers except for them to be obeyed by Permission from God.”

Chapter 4, Verse 59:1-10 reads: “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those among you who have the guardianship of your affairs.”

Chapter 26 (Shu’ara), Verses 105-110: “The people of Noah denied the Messengers. When their brother Noah said to them, ‘Will you not fear God? Indeed, I am a trustworthy Messenger to you. Therefore, fear God and obey me. And I do not ask of you any payment for it. My payment is not but from the Lord of the Worlds. So, fear God and obey me.”

Chapter 26, Verses 142-145: “When said to them their brother Saleh, ‘Will you not fear God? Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger. So, fear God and obey me. And I do not ask of you any payment for it. My payment is not but from the Lord of the Worlds.”

Chapter 26, Verses 160-164: “People of Lut denied the Messengers. When said to them their brother Lut, ‘Will you not fear God? Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger. So, fear God and obey me. And I do not ask of you any payment for it. My payment is not but from the Lord of the Worlds.”

Therefore, this guardianship, this delegated (by God) system of governance is entrusted to Prophets who are trustworthy and get their wages/salary directly from God. They are not there to fill their pockets, accumulate wealth, and fulfill their lofty desires at the expense of people and under the guise of governing them. They have primacy over any other person for that position.

These are all Prophets of God and we are saying that Prophet Muhmmad was the last of the Prophets. Then, what happened after him? Was the world left without a Wali? Were people and the believers left on their own to find someone, anyone, to govern their affairs? Was there any criterion? Did the Prophet leave the people stranded to fight and divide? Would that even be a responsible and wise thing to do?

It is quite evident that we Shi’a Muslims believe that Wilayat did not end with the Prophet and the guardianship of the society of the believers, the Muslim Ummah, had a clear path to take. This brings us to the next phase of the essay in which we explore the term Imamat and how a major division occurred as soon as the Prophet passed away. We are entering into a very complex territory and a minefield and, with God’s Help, I will need to do some major mine neutralization. So, stay tuned, please.

References

[1] Jafari MR & Haeri SH (1390). “An Inquiry into the meaning of the term Wali.” Quarterly Special in Imamat Research, No. 1, Imamat Cultural FoundationSpring 1390.

[2] Norasideh AA, Feyzullah-Zadeh AA, and Mastery Farahani J (1391). “Semantics of the term ‘Wali’ in Al-Quran Al-Karim.” Arabic Literature Bulletin,No. 7 (6/65), Pages 151-168. Shahid Beheshti University, College of Literature and Social Sciences.

[3] Holy Quran, Chapter 2 (Al-Baqara), Verses 255-257:

اللّهُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَیُّ الْقَیُّومُ لاَ تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَهٌ وَ لاَ نَوْمٌ لَّهُ مَا فِی السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِی الأَرْضِ مَن ذَا الَّذِی یَشْفَعُ عِنْدَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ یَعْلَمُ مَا بَیْنَ أَیْدِیهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَ لاَ یُحِیطُونَ بِشَیْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلاَّ بِمَا شَاء وَسِعَ کُرْسِیُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الأَرْضَ وَ لاَ یَۆُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا وَ هُوَ الْعَلِیُّ الْعَظِیمُ (255)

“Allah is One, there is no God but Him, the Ever existing, the Sustainer of all that exists. It does not overtake Him either slumber or sleep. To Him belongs all there is in the heavens and whatever on the earth. Who is the one who can intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them. And they will not encompass anything of His knowledge except that which He Wills. His dominance extends to all the heavens and the earth. And it will not tire Him the guardianship of them both.”

لاَ إِکْرَاهَ فِی الدِّینِ قَد تَّبَیَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَیِّ فَمَنْ یَکْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَ یُۆْمِن بِاللّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَکَ بِالْعُرْوَهِ الْوُثْقَیَ لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللّهُ سَمِیعٌ عَلِیمٌ (256)

“There is no compulsion in the religion. Certainly a distinction has been clearly made between the right and the wrong. Therefore, whoever disbelieves the false idols/evildoing transgressors and believes in Allah, then certainly he has grasped onto a robust anchor that is unbreakable. And Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.”

اللّهُ وَلِیُّ الَّذِینَ آمَنُواْ یُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَی النُّوُرِ وَالَّذِینَ کَفَرُواْ أَوْلِیَآۆُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ یُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَی الظُّلُمَاتِ أُوْلَئِکَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِیهَا خَالِدُونَ (257)

“Allah is Wali [Protecting Guardian] of those who have believed. He brings them out of the darkness(es) toward the light. And those who disbelieved, their awlia [guardians] are the Taghut [transgressing oppressor and evildoers] who bring them out of the light toward the darkness(es). Those are the companions of the fire and they abide therein forever.”

Imam Khomeini’s Model: High and Mighty against the High-and-Mighty

By Batoul Ghaddaf

Beirut – From Islam vs. West to Islam vs Imperialism in all of their forms, Imam Khomeini proposed a groundbreaking worldview.

Prior to the Islamic revolution of Iran, Islamist groups declared war on the West, making it seem as if it is the West vs Islam, yet when Imam Khomeini came, he abolished this concept. He introduced a new term, a new strategy to act as he declared “Not Eastern nor Western, but an Islamic Republic”, stating the conflict as to be Islam vs Imperialism. This strategy gave life to a new worldview that has become a continued legacy. When other Islamists were speaking to the imperialist west as their rival, Imam Khomeini was saying they are not even our rivals, our rivals make them our equals, and we refuse to be equated with the imperialists.

This approach posed by Imam Khomeini broke the spirit of American hegemony on the Iranian people from one side and on the Arabs, who thought Camp David was the end of their dreams of sovereignty on another. It restored faith and confidence in not the governments, but the people, the individuals as creators of their own independence and future. This was most evident when the youth decided to attack the American embassy in Iran in 1979, where Imam Khomeini responded saying, “America cannot do a damn thing to us.” This statement became the headline of many big newspapers around the world. It was a shock to the American authorities. No one expected a “nobody”-state which just had its revolution to revolt this aggressively against the United States of America.

The supremacy Imam Khomeini stood against was not just limited to the Western world, although it seems as so today. In 1989, he sent a letter to the USSR predicting the fall of communism and inviting them to read about the Islamic revolution. The minister of foreign affairs of the USSR paid the Imam a visit to deliver the response. This man saw himself as the representative of the Eastern most powerful country in the world. To meet Khomeini, he was taken into a humble room with an old rug, where he had to take his shoes off to enter. He then waited for more than 30 minutes for Khomeini. He read the letter with stutters and shivers in the presence of Imam Khomeini. This reaction was mostly out of shock as he did not expect that the Imam would have the upper hand in this meeting. It is never that a weak state has the upper hand against a strong state. When he was done, Imam Khomeini spoke for only a minute and simply left before the translator could finish translating to the minister, paying no attention to the minister beyond what he came there for.

Slowly, this Khomeinist worldview shaped an Islamic political philosophy implemented in Iranian foreign policy today. A political philosophy which holds enmity towards arrogance and oppression and friendship and compassion towards the oppressed. This is evident in the friendship the Islamic Republic held with China and the help it offered, and still offers, to Palestinian leaders. The former has great economic relations with Iran, considering Iran a permanent exports partner. These relations have been made since the birth of the Islamic republic in 1979. The latter has been offered help and received training and weaponry. PLO leader Yasser Arafat called Iran “his own home” when he visited Khomeini in Tehran. In addition to these, the Cuban late president Fidel Castro visited the house of Imam Khomeini and his grave in 2001. He considered the victory of the Islamic Revolution as a major change in the power dynamics in favor of the oppressed countries against the colonial ones.

The legacy continues with the current Islamic Revolution Leader Khamenei through declaring enmity towards arrogant behaviors of Pompeo, as he speaks to the Arabs, and of Trump, the epitome of white supremacy which has not stopped in American politics long after slavery has ended. 

Therefore, according to the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, these attitudes of supremacy and hegemony could not be tackled with a language of rivals and equals. Diplomacy has no place with oppressive states. The only attitude to be expected of Islamic Iran against such states is for Iran to be, as Khomeini planted, high and mighty against the high-and-mighty.

Willfully and Consciously Demonizing Shia: the Leadership of the Pious

Mansoureh Tajik for The Saker Blog

January 23, 2020

Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” This essay may be billed as a companion to, or a rebuttal of, or a commentary on Pepe Escobar’s article titled, “The Roots of American Demonization of Shia Islam” posted here. I am uncertain about a suitable label. Perhaps the readers could formulate a mental tag & file as they deem appropriate.

The core thesis of Pepe Escobar’s article relates to “Shia Islam and the failure of the West to understand it.” It is stated, “the congenital incapacity of so-called US elites to even attempt to understand Shi’ism – thus 24/7 demonization, demeaning not only Shias by also Shia-led governments.” Let’s suppose we know what is meant by “US elites” here. Let us suppose it means a network of formal and informal financial, military, and political entities that have the power and the means to influence and control the ultimate decisions and the actions of the United States as a collective. The statement, as structured, appears to suggest that “demonization and demeaning Shias and Shia-led governments” is a consequence, a product, an effect, if you will, of an “incapacity” by those elites “to attempt to understand Shi’ism”. In other words, they bash it because they do not have the capacity to understand it. No evidence was provided to support this causal link.

In the essay before you, I assert precisely the opposite and provide empirical as well as logical evidence that demonstrate the demonization and demeaning of Shia and Shia-led governments is because those elites understand EXACTLY what Shia is all about. I would go even further and explain, with evidence, what core elements about Shia make those so-called elites so scared and horrified that they have little choice but to continue their demonization campaign against Shia. Before filling these two very tall orders, however, it would be useful to first discuss and respond to several key points raised in Pepe Escobar’s article as a prelude to the essay itself.

Firstly, the article upholds there is a “congenital incapacity of US elites to attempt to understand Shi’ism.”  To the best of our knowledge, there is no congenital (present at birth) defects that adversely predisposes anyone to be incapable of understanding Shia. Nor is there any evidence of any genetic disorder or hereditary predisposition in the world and among people (elite or non-elite) that bars anyone from understanding Shia people and/or governments established based on the principles of Shia school of thought. If there is, we, the Shia, would like to see it.

Of course, this is not to disregard freedom and rights afforded by poetic license and/or to show that effectiveness of caricatured expressions to drive a point home are not appreciated. Rather, we do not wish to help corner anyone, not even figuratively, into any sort of inescapable trap of imagined incapacitation to understand Shia.

Secondly and with respect to “some serious academic research about the appeal of Shi’ism,” there is already a large body of serious academic research that explores and examines not only the appeal of Shia school of thought but also the essential features that make it an effective force. Indeed, these are the very evidence that when we look into and examine, we realize the animosity of the “Western elites” (with the US being its current façade and flag bearer) is not out of some misunderstanding or a random and/or institutionalized ignorance but a calculated, deliberate, and conscious malevolence. A few of these research is addressed in the essay as well.

Thirdly, regarding the suggestion for “visits to selected sacred sites across Southwest Asia: Najaf, Karbala, Mashhad, Qom and the Sayyida Zeinab shrine near Damascus,” by all means, this is an excellent advice. But those who visit should do so with an open heart in order to truly experience how it feels like to be welcomed with open arms by true patrons of those holy sites. Knowing who they are, how they lived, and what they did is paramount to gaining a better understanding about why they are so revered and avidly guarded by the Shia.

Fourthly, with respect to the statement by Dr. Marandi quoted in the article, “The American irrational hatred of Shi’ism stems from its strong sense of resisting injustice,” more needs to be said. It is true that resisting oppression and aggression, fighting against injustice, and defending those who are oppressed in the world are all core beliefs in Shia school of thought. Also, it is true that we have living examples of martyrs who sacrificed everything they had for their belief. However, that is neither the whole story nor unique only to Shia. There are other schools of thought that might be engaged in similar efforts but are not demonized as Shia is. Not only that, some of those ideologies are even propped up, by these very elites, as examples to follow in Shia’s stead and to even fight Shia. Since I am familiar with Dr. Marandi’s work, I presume the above statement may have been extracted from a much larger and more comprehensive context and explanation.

Fifthly, with regard to Blake Archer Williams’ argument titled, A Reaction from Tehran to the Martyrdom of General Qāsem Soleymānī,” it is evident that he provided his real-time reaction to the news of the martyrdom of Shahid Sardar Soleymani in that essay. An analytical response to the question posed to him at a time when he is not in the midst of grieving will certainly produce a more cogent and focused response. Nevertheless, he wrote, “So the role of the politician in democracies seems not to be to try to understand anything but simply carry out the agenda of the elites who own them.” This is a fair assessment of the referenced politicians. However, it does not directly answer the reasons behind a serious aversion of their elite handlers and the barrage of sustained multi-pronged attacks against Shia. The answer is somewhat hidden within layers elsewhere in the article in a reference to the history of the West and Muslim interactions in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Furthermore, martyrdom is cited as a key deciding factor. Yes, martyrdom, by its very nature and design, makes things easier for Shia to fight and resist earnestly and robustly. At the same time, it makes it costlier for the oppressors to regress further into their corrupt and criminal ways. But martyrdom explains only one part, albeit a critical part, of Shia’s effectiveness. It does not explain the full picture. And it does not explain it as cause for adamant aversion demonstrated by US elites against Shia.

Lastly, regarding Princess Vittoria who “would rather frame the debate around the unquestioning American attitude towards Wahhabism” and stating she does not think “this has anything to do with hating Shi’ism or ignoring it,” for the sake of clarity, I must first state that Wahhabism to Islam is what homosexuality is to nature: an anomaly and a deviance. Full stop. Without sustained propaganda and active support by the West to shove either of them as anything legitimate down people’s throat, neither will see the light of the day and neither will amount to anything more than arbitrary aberrations meant to be expelled.

Therefore I found it odd that real origin of Wahhabism, both as an ideological tool and as a movement, which was adopted and perfected by Western elites, particularly Britain, to counter Islam and Muslims is overlooked. Given that Shia is (and has been) on the top of the Wahhabies’ hit list, based on what logic it could then be deducted that this has nothing to do with Shia? Here, too, I imagine extraction of a few lines out of a much larger context might have made the statement a curious one.

As for “Iranian revolution and Shia groups in the Middle East are today the only successful force of resistance to the US, and that causes them to be hated more than others. But only after all other Sunni opponents had been disposed of, killed, terrified (just think of Algeria, but there are dozens of other examples) or corrupted.” The point is well taken but it raises two more serious questions: 1) What made Shia the only successful force of resistance (thus the target of severe hatred. as asserted)? 2) What made the other Sunni opponents so disposable, terrified, and corrupt? The answer to these two questions, too, are addressed in this essay.

With this brief forward, we attend to main aims of the essay. One is to show so-called US elites demonize and demean Shia and Shia-led governments because they understand EXACTLY what Shia is. And the second is to answer the question of what the absolute essential elements of Shia are that make those so-called elites so horrified that they have no other choice but to continue their demonization campaign against Shia. We begin attending to the two aims using a few relevant examples in recent history.

In November 1891, Seyyed Mohammad Hassan Husayni Nouri Shirazi, better known as Mirzaye Shirazi, issued a short fatwa which simply read:

“Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, On this day, use of tobacco and tobacco products in any way and shape is equivalent to a war with Imam-e Zaman (May God Hasten his return).”[1]

Handwritten Fatwa by Mirzaye Shirazi regarding Tobacco Prohibition

This seemingly simple line began what is now known as “Tobacco Movement” in Iran. Immediately following the distribution of that fatwa among the public, the people of Iran burnt and destroyed any and all tobacco products and any related paraphernalia. The fatwa, in effect, made null and void a series of concessions made in secret by then corrupt king, Naseriddin Shah Ghajar, to the British company, Talbot. The concessions had given Britain the exclusive rights to everything that had anything to do with tobacco in Iran for a period of fifty years. In exchange, Naseriddin Shah would receive an insignificant sum which itself was to be used to pay back for an extortionate loan the king had received from Britain for his decadence and wasteful indulgences. All these at the expense of the Iranian nation.

Plenty of archived documents, books, and articles are produced in English around this movement.[2,3,4] A simple search in the literature using relevant key words produces hundreds of documents dating back to the beginning of the movement in 19th Century. Everything including the roles played by the clergy, the merchants, the devout Shia population, the women of the royal court, westoxicated[5] intellectuals[6], and more is studied by academic and not-so-academic centers in Britain, France, US, and others in the West. It would take a unique form of tenacity to flip through page after pages of these documents and not admit that the West knows what Shia is all about.

From our side of the hedge, it is evident that Iranians, especially the clergy, knew what challenges would follow. In his memoires, Ayatullah Seyyed Hasan Modarres (1871-1937), revered scholar and Mujtahid, wrote,[7]

“When I went to Najaf, I visited Mirzaye Shirazi who was in Samerah. I told him the story of our triumph over the tobacco event. I saw signs of worry appeared on his face. He remained silent and tears began rolling down his face. I was surprised by his reaction. I had expected to make him happy with that news. When I asked him about it, he said, ‘Now, the malevolent powers and enemies of Islam realize where the main power of this nation and the focal point of Shia movements’ strength is. I am now seriously worried about the future of the Islamic nation.” [Page 138]

Ayatullah Modarres further wrote about the dynamic interplay between the role of the people and the role of ulama (pious and learned scholars of Islam and Quran) and in bringing about an effective outcome,

“Mirza’s fatwa was a flame that was set in caches of gunpowder hidden deeply within the hearts of the Iranian people. If these hearts were not filled with such gunpowder, a piece of paper with a few broken lines written with a faded ink could not have possibly produced such blazing flames.”[8]

Elsewhere he wrote,

“The tobacco event was like a canon fired at dawn. It awakened an astute nation from its slumber and informed people that a relentless quake must follow. The masses of people had not been informed of the depth of the matter but they felt the danger since they trusted their ulama. So, they mobilized and followed them.”[9]

Tobacco movement, or Nehzat_e Tanbakoo as it is called in Iran, and what transpired thereafter were only an exercise and a practice run for the next nehzat (movement), Nehzat_e Mashrooteh, or Constitutional Movement[10] of 1906. The pivotal role ulama played in this movement, too, is well studied —indubitably more by the outsiders than by the insiders. Those interested could do a literature search and find plenty of sources to keep them busy for months. A note of caution though, the framing of various research in this area to examine the role various groups played (like any other research in the world) often betrays the hidden agenda of those who financed the research for exploitative purposes. Therefore, it is important to “follow the money” as part of your overall assessment of any document. Beware, as well, that they often pull “a Harvard”[11] or “a Reuters”[12] and the actual sources of funding may be kept hidden for decades.

Notable clerical figures[13] in the constitutional movement included Sheykh Fazullah Nouri, Akhound Khorasani, Seyyed Abdullah Behbahani, Hasan Modarres, and Seyyed Muhammad Tabatabei. The clergy, again, played a critical role in informing, mobilizing, and leading the masses in support of the constitutional movement. The basic rationale was that anything that limits the power of corrupt kings and cuts off the hands of foreign powers is a positive step forward.

However, once the clergy and believing people realized the influence of Western agents and their operatives, secular and westoxicated intellectuals in drafting the constitution, they began their open defiance.[14] Every single one of the cleric directly involved in the constitutional were killed.

Late Imam Khomeini (God rest his soul) in a couple of his speeches dissected this tragedy as follows,

“In the constitutional [movement] they saw one or a few mulla in Najaf, a few turban-headed mulla in Tehran turned the foundation of tyrannical and despotic rulers upside down and established constitutional limits. Here, those who opposed did not sit still. They were active, too. If we were to tell the story, it gets really long. But about this very constitutional limits, Sheykh Fazullah Nouri (God rest his soul) stood up and said, ‘the constitution must be based on the rule of God. The rules must agree with Islamic rules.’ At the same time as he was saying these things, he also worked on the addendum to the constitution. That was his efforts, too. His opponents and the foreigners, when they saw such power in the clergy they pulled such tricks that, in Iran, Sheykh Fazlullah who was a Mujahid and high status Mujtahid, they fabricated a show trial and they put a deviant cleric look-alike to try and convict him. Then they hanged him in the middle of Tupkhaneh and in the presence of a large crowd.”[15]

“You gentlemen have all heard about the constitutional period. A bunch of people did not want Islam to have any power in this country. And they were after turning the situation to their own advantage. They poisoned the atmosphere so much that someone like late Agha Sheykh Fazlullah who was a notable figure in Iran then, and was favored, they made such a poisonous atmosphere that they hanged him in the middle of a square and some stood around and clapped. This was a plot to cast aside Islam. And they did. After that, the constitution was not the sort of constitution that the ulama in Najaf wanted. Even the subject of late Agha Sheykh Fazlullah was portrayed in such a distorted way that not even a peep came out of there [Najaf]. This climate they created in Iran and elsewhere, this climate facilitated Agha Sheykh Fazullah’s conviction in the hands of some of these very clerics of Iran itself. Then they brought him into the middle of the square and hanged him. Then, they stood and clapped. They struck a blow against Islam at that time. And people were heedless. And even the ulama were heedless.”[16]

A series of similar movements that followed could be presented, dissected, and examined at length. The Iranian oil nationalization movement in 1951 to cut off the British hand[17, 18], for example, in which Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, then elected prime minister, was able to bring about (though it was very short lived) again with the help of very influential clerics such as Ayatullah Seyyed Abulghasem Kashani, Ayatullah Vaez-Zadeh Khorasani, Ayatullah Mohammad Taqi Khansari, and more who rallied the masses of people behind him. Once Mossadegh succeeded, however, he and his secular cabinet became too trusting of and too lenient toward another foreign power, the US. The coup d’etat of 1953 (Operation Ajax) by the US, followed by the Iranian Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954[19] gave foreign companies 40% of Iranian oil, effectively replaced Britain by the US as the master of the Pahlavi regime followed by decades of killing, imprisonment, torture, and sending to exile of thousands of people.

Imam Khomeini’s speeches in June 1963 and the uprisings that followed, his powerful speech in 1964 and the movement by the religious scholars, his exile that year and unrelenting struggles that led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, have all been well examined and documented.

Finally, a fully functioning Islamic Republic based on tenets of Shia Islam was established thanks to two significant factors: 1) An active, aware, fearless, and devout Shia community ready to receive the message of its believing, pious, wise, and brave religious leaders; 2) An active, aware, fearless, and pious imam and leader. Article 1 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran confirms the establishment of an Islamic system of government based on “Iranian Nations’ long lasting belief in Quran’s authority in Truth and Justice following a victorious revolution under the leadership of eminent source of emulation, Grand Ayatullah Imam Khomeini.”[20]

Article 2 of the constitution clearly spells out the 5 pillars (primary principles) of Shia Islam and the responsibility of the Shia community as follows,

“Islamic Republic is a system based on a belief in:

  1. The Oneness of God (there is no god but God), the Governance and Laws belong to Him, the necessity to submit to God’s laws [Tawhid];
  2. The revelations and the essential role they play in describing the laws [Nubuwwah, or Prophethood];
  3. Mi’ad [The Hereafter, the Day of Judgment, Return of everything to God] and its constructive role in propelling human evolution toward God;
  4. God’s Justice [Adl] in all creations and rules;
  5. Imammat (the guardianship of infallible Imams) and uninterrupted leadership of the pious and their role in the continuation of the Islamic Revolution;
  6. Human dignity, human excellence, and liberty integrated with responsibility before God by means of: a) ongoing scholarship by the learned and fully qualified Faqih based on the Book and the tradition of the infallibles (God’s Peace be upon them all); b) use of science, technology, and progressive human experiences and struggle to move them forward; c) defiance of all oppressors, tyrants, and any form of oppression, and establishment of justice, equity, and independence in political, economic, social, cultural, and that which ensures national unity.”[21]

On March 21, 1979, nearly 98.2% of eligible voters in Iran said “yes” to an Islamic Republic. After 40 years, 9 months, and 13 days of sustained, relentless, and unparalleled multifaceted military, economic, and media attacks by so-called elites of the West, tens of millions of people poured into streets to mourn one of their most beloved soldiers of God. Why? Because he heard the commands of his wise and pious leader, his devoted wali, Seyyed Ali, and he obeyed in upholding the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the end. We congratulate and envy his martyrdom.

So, what is so special about this constitution? A lot but we will focus on what is more relevant to this essay. It contains the answer to the question why “24/7 demonization, demeaning not only Shias by also Shia-led governments by so-called US elites” that was posed by Pepe Escobar.

The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran says the leadership, the governance, the imamat, if you will, the guardianship of the people and nations of the world and their affairs cannot be and must not be entrusted to anyone other than pious, righteous, non-corrupt, just, wise, learned, fearless, and selfless leaders. For Shia, it would be an Imam. In his absence, his rightful Nayib or vice-Imam, the one who most closely resembles him in piety of thoughts, words, and deeds.

The so-called elites would have had nothing to fear if Shia, too, accepted any corrupt, depraved, and sinful jester as their leader and the guardian of their affairs. Only if Shia could have been a normal community and satisfied with the choice between bad, worse, ugly, or the lesser evils. أَعـوذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَّيْـطانِ الرَّجيـم (I seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan).

References

[1] Najafi M (1398). “Andisheh-ye Siasi dar Nehzat-haye Islami Tariq Mo’aser Iran” (Political Thoughts in Islamic Movements of Contemporary History of Iran). Special Collection No. 12On the Occasion of the 1st of Jamadi ul-Awal, the Anniversary of the Issuance of Fatwa in Prohibition of Tobacco. Available online at: http://moaser.iki.ac.ir/book/export/html/339

[2] Gillard D, Bourne K, Watt DC (1985). Great Britain Foreign Office. British documents on foreign affairs. Reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. Part I, From the mid-nineteenth century to the First World War. Series B, The Near and Middle East, 1856-1914. Vol. 13: Persia, Britain and Russia, 1886-1907. Vol. 14: Persia, Britain and Russia, 1907-1914. University Publications of America.

[3] Keddie NR (1966). Religion and Rebellion in Iran: The Tobacco Protest of 1891-1892. Frank Cass & CO Ltd. Publisher. ISBN:071461971X, 9780714619712.

[4] Oxford Dictionary of Islam (2020). “Tobacco Protest (Iran): 1891 – 92.” Available online at: http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2389

[5] Westoxification is a term used as a translation of the term “Gharbzadegi” coined by Iranian scholar, Jalal Al-e Ahmad in his well know book by the same name.

[6] Mahmoodi K & Jelodar ES (2011). “Orientalized from Within: Modernity and Modern Anti-Imperial Iranian Intellectual Gharbzadegi and the Roots of Mental Wretchedness.” Canadian Center for Science and Education. doi:10.5539/ach.v3n2p19. Available online at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272693398_Orientalized_from_Within_Modernity_and_Modern_Anti-Imperial_Iranian_Intellectual_Gharbzadegi_and_the_Roots_of_Mental_Wretchedness

[7] Najafi M, Isfahani Karbalaei H, and Ja’afarian R (1373 HS), Sade-ye Tahrim-e Tanbakoo (The Century of the Prohibition of Tobacco), In Persian. 1st Edition. Amir Kabir Publishing. Tehran, Iran.

[8] Ibid. Page 130.

[9] Ibid. Page 139.

[10] Oxford Islamic Studies Online (2020). “Constitutional Revolution (Iran).” Available online at: http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e450

[11] Camila Domonoske (2016). “50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat.” National Public Radio, September 13, 2016. Available online at: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/13/493739074/50-years-ago-sugar-industry-quietly-paid-scientists-to-point-blame-at-fat

[12] Guy Falconbridge (2020). “Britain secretly funded Reuters in 1960s and 1970s: documents.” Reuters, January 13, 2020. Available online at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-media/britain-secretly-funded-reuters-in-1960s-and-1970s-documents-idUSKBN1ZC20H

[13] Hermann D (2012). “Akhund Khurasani and the Iranian Constitutional Movement.” Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 49(3): 430-453.

[14] Shirkhani A & Rezaei M (1390 HS). Naqsh_e Rohaniat dar Enghelab Mashrouteh (The Role of the Clergy in the Constitutional Movement). Islamic Revolution Studies, Summer 1390. In Persian. Available online at: http://ensani.ir/file/download/article/20120419195128-8054-21.pdf

[15] Sahifeye Noor, Collection of speeches, messages, interviews, decrees, religious permits, and letters by Imam Khomeini. Vol. 13, Page 175.

[16] Sahifeye Noor, Collection of speeches, messages, interviews, decrees, religious permits, and letters by Imam Khomeini. Vol. 18, Page 181.

[17] Keesing’s Record of World Events (formerly Keesing’s Contemporary Archives), Volume VIII, July, 1951 Persia, Iranian, Page 11569 © 1931-2006 Keesing’s Worldwide, LLC -All Rights Reserved. Available online at: http://web.stanford.edu/group/tomzgroup/pmwiki/uploads/3195-1951-07-Keesings-a-OEP.pdf

[18] International Court of Justice Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Case (United Kingdom v. Iran) Preliminary Objection judgment of Jul 22nd, 1952. Available online at: https://www.icj-cij.org/files/case-related/16/016-19520722-JUD-01-00-EN.pdf

[19] Heiss MA (1994). “The United States, Great Britain, and the Creation of the Iranian Oil Consortium, 1953-1954.” The International History Review, 16(3): 511-535. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Publishing.

[20] Fathi M & Koohi Isfehani K (Editors.). Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran with Commentaries and Interpretation by Guardian Council (1359-1396). Guardian Council Research Center, Tehran. 1397. Article 1, Page 14. Available online at: https://www.shora-gc.ir/files/fa/news/1398/9/21/4354_236.pdf

[21] Ibid. Article 2, Page 14.

%d bloggers like this: