Saturday, December 17, 2011

Brief Resume of Muslim History

  This article was written a few years ago. the virus of Taliban has spread in Pakistan to the extent that even 'mainstream' political parties pay homage to them. Atrocities have acquired an epidemic status.

            A brief resume of early Muslim history is a pre-requisite to understand the Taliban movement. An under current of messianic zeal is never far from the surface in Muslim societies. It goes back to the Prophets time. He would, however, temper his message with due consideration for human frailties and preferred persuasion to coercion.  On the occasion of the signature ceremony on the peace treaty document (Suleh-e-Hudaibiah) between Muslims and the Quraish[i] of Mecca, the latter objected to his title “ Messenger of God” under his signature. He scratched out the title when he signed the document, rather than forego the obvious advantages of the treaty.
He was to capture Mecca the following year with out firing a shot, or in his case with out launching an arrow. He did not seek revenge from the leaders of Mecca, forgiving even the woman Hinda of the Umayyad clan who had, after the defeat of Muslims in the second battle against the Quraish, chewed the raw liver of his favorite uncle Hamza.
The prophet was gradualist and tolerated affronts to his person with a smile. He did not proscribe alcohol [ii] asking the believers to abstain from it before the congregational prayers the second caliph outlawed it. At the height of his power a Jewish woman on a street in Madina verbally assaulted him. His devotees wanted to lynch the woman. He restrained them and listened to her patiently.          
I have gone to some length in describing the Prophet’s sagacity to emphasize the fact that his followers, soon after his demise, cast aside his open minded and judicious approach to problems. After him Umar who was to be the second caliph imposed the first Caliph Abu Bakr on the populace.
About a hundred and fifty years after the prophet, Abbasids who took over the caliphate, which was by then full-fledged hereditary office. They got the clerics and jurists to meddle with the traditions of the prophet [iii].
The main body of traditions was adulterated with spurious quotations. In the process all the saying which emphasized tolerance, compromise, free will in adoption of any creed, proscription of coercion in conversion, near equal status of women, fair treatment of minorities, pursuit of education etc were eradicated from the texts. A noted scholar Imam Bokhari found about six hundred fifty credible ones among the seventeen thousand then extant.
One “scholar” Ibn-e-Tamayya in early Abbasid period followed an intolerant version of Islam as propounded by one of early jurists of Islam, Imam Ibne Hanbal. Another disservice the scholars did to Islam was to proscribe Ijtehad-research, innovation and critical thought- thus closing the gates of rational analysis, leaving only blind belief in stead. The name of Imam Ghazali an eminent jurist of his time springs to mind. His influence was overwhelming. His stated intent was to discourage dissention in ranks.
Fortunately for the faith, the intolerant version did not take root; that is till the eighteenth century when a mediocre Arab cleric by the name of Abdul Wahab revived it. He was not very successful either till he made a compact with am ambitious Chieftain, the founder of the house of Saud.
 Wahabi beliefs were largely confined to what is Saudi Arabia now, though a tiny percentage of Muslims did follow the system in other Muslim countries. Mainstream Sunnis in India shunned them before independence. Eighty percent of Muslims are of Sunni and the majority of those follow the most known jurist of Sunni Islam Imam Abu Hanifa. Twenty percent of the faithful are Shias and follow Imam Jafar Sadiq. Imam Abu Hanifa was Imam Jafars’s pupil.
 Wahabi sect was given a tremendous boost by the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia. Erstwhile minor tribal Chiefs wanted to live it up. The Mullahs objected. They palmed them off with funds for Madresahs- seminaries out side their own country. Literally thousands were established in Pakistan. That country suffers from grinding poverty and abysmally low literacy rate. If any one offered food, clothes and shelter, millions would swamp him. The seminaries offered religious education too. It was actually memorizing Quran and indoctrination in fantasy- of wine women and dance in the after world. A cadre of hypnotized youth was thus created. When unleashed, they went around targeting and attacking non-Muslims and even Muslims who did not agree with their handlers.
In historical terms, the recent set backs like establishment of Israel, the debacle of 1967 six day war, the 1971 Civil war in East Pakistan, the total reversal after early successes in 1973 [iv] Yom Kippur war, Afghan Jihad and post Gulf II war demolition of Iraq, have driven Muslims further away from the path of development, sciences and enlightenment.
Students at the seminaries, now popularly known as Taliban, did not need much persuasion to cross over to Afghanistan to wage the jihad against the infidel. They got a new patron with messianic zeal, Osama Bin Laden, who was worth six hundred million Dollars. All sections and ethnicities of Afghans fought the war against the Soviets. Taliban were the best organized, financed and led. After soviet retreat they eliminated other factions in short order and committed atrocities especially on the minority Shias and women. They closed girl’s schools, sent all female workers, Doctors, teachers, and office workers home. Incessant warfare over two decades had left innumerable widows and orphans with no means of support. No longer allowed to work many resorted to begging and prostitution.
 Taliban imposed “religious” courts where destitute women and other disenfranchised populace were summarily tried with out the benefit of defense, witnesses or even prosecuting attorneys. Deranged clerics handed down judgments after a few minutes deliberation. The punishment could be public beatings, amputation of a hand or foot or stoning to death. Thousands in Kabul’s main sports stadium watched the spectacle. On the streets religious police caned women not covered from head to foot, or wearing high heels. Men were subject to measurement of beards, which had to be regulation length, and the more zealous security guards would check the pubic area to see if it was properly shaved. Men had to wear ankle length lower body wear to play soccer- football. Members of one Pakistani soccer team had their heads shaved because they wore shorts.
            The virus spread to Pakistan where a common slogan used to be “who will save Pakistan, Taliban, Taliban”. Sectarian violence increased. Members of the “other” sect were murdered for the greater glory of Islam. In Karachi alone, scores of young Shia physicians were killed in cold blood. Mosques were torched, clerics butchered, and kidnapped. Christians and Hindus were not spared either.
Things have actually been getting worse. The political wing of the parties on the lunatic fringe actually won elections in two provinces in Pakistan. But for 9/11 when the US government was forced to exorcise the ghosts-Osama and Saddam-, which were largely their own creation- the deadly virus of Taliban, would have engulfed Pakistan in an epidemic of extremism. It may still do so.

[i] Quraish were the leading tribe and primary opponents of the prophet. The prophet himself belonged to the tribe, but to a subsidiary branch.
[ii] A Muslim Canadian scholar had challenged Muslim clerics to prove that he proscribed the blushful Hippocrene totally. He apparently got the better of his challengers.
[iii]  As mentioned else where too the prophet had expressly forbidden any documentation of his sayings lest they compete with the word of god. They had been recorded two hundred years after him from memory passed on from his companions to their progeny over several generations.
[iv] King Husain of Jordan had flown in a helicopter to Jerusalem to warn Israeli PM Golda Meir of the impending attack. Her defense chief, Moshe Dyan had arrogantly discounted the possibility.
 Besides the establishment of a new Muslim state Pakistan in 1947, the only other positive event in recent Muslim history was the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1957. Muslims all the world over specially in the USA, Europe,  Pakistan, India and the Far East were euphoric. Shia-Sunni divide was, for the time, set aside. Arabs were ambivalent.
 But the gain was lost in the eight year war with Iraq. Rulers of Arab countries were apprehensive that people in their own countries will be encouraged by the successful revolution in Iran and rise against  them and along with the USA which was smarting  under the insult of hostage crisis, gave the go ahead to Saddam for the aggression.
 Establishment of a theocratic Shia regime also antagonized Sunni Muslims

Dr. S. Akhtar Ehtisham
(607) 776-3336
P.O. Box 469,
Bath NY 14810
All religions try to take over the establishment and if they fail, they collaborate with it, be it feudal or capitalist.
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