Islam is being threatened today by a vicious Shia-Sunni divide, or so they say. The Western media is thus deeply invested in covering this strife and consequently in creating caricatures of this conflict. However what is missing from all the discussions about the Shia-Sunni strife is the fact that the Western world is deeply implicated in the supposed Shia-Sunni conflict that can be seen in the Middle East and the surrounding regions. Among the significant ways that the prevalent stereotypes of the Shia-Sunni conflict are perpetuated is the West are through the visual media representations, some of which are reproduced here in this post. These representations are however also contested by counter-visuals from the Muslim world as can be seen in the visual above. Continue reading
A longer version of this article by Haroon Moghul was originally published here http://religiondispatches.org/no-sunni-and-shia-muslims-have-not-been-fighting-forever/
Several days ago, before the Saudi government’s execution of prominent Shia religious leader Nimr al-Nimr took tensions between Riyadh and Teheran to a new high, a reader emailed me a deceptively ordinary question. It’s worth a second look, not only because it helps us get past the simple headlines—check out the front page of the New York Times today, suggesting the Iranian-Saudi rivalry is embedded in and involves all Sunni and Shia—but because this reader’s question inadvertently helps us understand why so many in the West and the Muslim world keep talking past each other. Continue reading
A personal note by Syeda Batool Ali as a guideline for Ziyarat at Karbala
What takes us there? Why go there at all? Who determines our objective? How and when is that achieved?
In 61 AH a Plea for Help was made from the Plains of Kerbala, ‘Hal min nasirin yansuruna …..’. This historic Call by the Last Prophet’s grandson Hussain, was sent forth in the most emphatic and urgent tone to humanity at large. Continue reading
Recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosted an exhibition on the Sultans of Deccan, based on a diverse group of Shia dynasties in the subcontinent during the early modern period. The Deccan sultanates were originally part of the larger Bahmani Sultanate founded in 1347 by the Turkish governer Alauddin Hassan Bahman Shah. About eighteen Deccan Sultans ruled during the nearly 200 years of the sultanate and its but the exhibition only focuses on the period between 1500- 1700. After 1518, the Bahmani kingdom was divided in four sultanates: Barishahi (of Bidar), Qutbshahi (of Golkonda), Adamshahi (of Ahmadnagar), Imadshahi (of Berar) and Adilshahi (of Bijapur), but are collectively known as the Deccan sultanates.
Here is an excerpt from the museum literature about the exhibition
” Opulence and fantasy characterize the art of India’s Deccan courts during the rule of its sultans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The diamond-rich region attracted artists, poets, writers, and traders from all over the world—including Iran, Turkey, Africa, and Europe—who were drawn to the Shi’a culture and material splendor of the courts. Under their mixed influence, captivating art styles of otherworldly charm evolved. At its zenith, the Deccan became home to Indian and Persian artists, the abode of African elites, and the place where European discoverers embraced new tastes in textiles and gems. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Deccan courts gave way to Mughal domination from the north, but their preceding efflorescence offers a glimpse of the imaginative heights reached in the arts of painting.” Continue reading
Komail Aijazuddin is a Pakistani artist, who often explores religious themes and issues of divinity in his work. A graduate of Studio Art and Art History from New York University, he employs a style of painting that is described as ‘cold-war baroque’ and his depictions often times show Shi’i imagery which are informed by his personal background and observations during the Muharram mourning season.
Recently a friend, a devout Muslim, a highly educated and well-placed professional working on the Wall Street, complained about the ‘incredible’ amount of Muharram related emails and updates that she was receiving through her social media and email. She also wondered aloud why she was receiving these messages and updates because while she was connected with various ‘Islamic’ platforms and organization, she does not subscribe to any ‘Shia’ networks. Before trashing these messages off as spam, because they ‘did not make sense’ to her at all, she then offered to forward some to me because I could better make use of this information as a ‘Shia’ who ‘worshipped these people’.
Curious to see who the people I supposedly worshipped were, on my request she showed me an email recounting the ‘Trials and Tribulations of Imam Zain-ul-Abideen’. The hagiographical tone and language as well as the names of the religious personalities or groups like the Ahle-Bayt were all alien to my friend and she reacted with some surprise when told that Imam Zain-ul-Abideen was only the fancy title of the Prophet’s great-grandson, the son of Imam Hussain. More astonishment followed when I specified that the Shias , like all Muslims, ‘worshipped’ only God but upheld the Prophet and his family with great devotion and reverence. When I pointed out to her that Sunni Muslims were also obliged to show veneration for the Prophet’s family or the Ahle-Bayt based on numerous records from Sunni traditions where the Prophet implores all his followers to show devotion to his family, she was simply tongue-tied. Continue reading
This recently published book titled ‘Foremost in Faith’ is based on a collection of lectures delivered by Maulana Syed Mohammed Jafar Zaidi Shaheed, who was a leading Shia scholar from the subcontinent. His original lectures, which were delivered in Urdu language, have now been translated into English by Syeda Batool Shahid Zulfiqar Ali. In this context, the recent translation of these lectures is very noteworthy as it allows access for the younger generation, who are not very well versed with Urdu and also are not very familiar with the thought provoking discussion and deliberations of Maulana Jafar.
This publication also presents the acknowledgements and appreciations of contemporary Shia scholars from the subcontinent like Allama Syed Muntazir Abbas and Allama Talib Johari who describes Syed Jafar Zaidi as ‘a man draped in the garb of wisdom and knowledge’. It also carries special appreciatory remarks by Ayatollah Syed Aqeel Gharavi who praises Syed Jafar Zaidi as ‘an extremely reliable custodian of pure Islamic culture and values’ and also as ‘a harbinger to later generations of these humanistic as well as futuristic traditions with total scientific integrity and complete scholastic responsibility.’ Maulana Jafar was assassinated in 1980 by extremist sectarian outfits in Pakistan.
The compilation includes five lectures which are all a critique and commentary on five Ayats from the Quran. The five Ayats discussed in detail in these lectures are Ayat e Vilayat, Ayat e Mawaddat, Ayat e Tatheer, Ayat e Nusrat and Surah al Asr. Another additional lecture, which focuses on Prophet Muhammad, is more of a hagiographical account that presents the Prophet as Syed ul Anbia ( Leader of the Prophets).
An extensive article from the Huffington Post on the Arbaeen celebrations in Iraq, to commemorate forty days of mourning after Ashura Muharram 10th. Following are a few extracts from the original article here ……. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sayed-mahdi-almodarresi/arbaeen-pilgrimage_b_6203756.html
It’s not the Muslim Hajj, or the Hindu Kumbh Mela.. Known as Arbaeen, it is the world’s most populous gathering and you’ve probably never heard of it! Not only does the congregation exceed the number of visitors to Mecca (by a factor of five, in fact), it is more significant than Kumbh Mela, since the latter is only held every third year. In short, Arbaeen dwarfs every other rally on the planet, reaching twenty million last year. That is a staggering %60 of Iraq’s entire population, and it is growing year after year.
Above all, Arbaeen is unique because it takes place against the backdrop of chaotic and dangerous geopolitical scenes. Daesh (aka ‘Islamic State’) sees the Shia as theirmortal enemy, so nothing infuriates the terror group more than the sight of Shia pilgrims gathering for their greatest show of faith.
There’s another peculiar feature of Arbaeen. While it is a distinctively Shia spiritual exercise, Sunnis, even Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, and Sabians partake in both the pilgrimage as well as serving of devotees. This is remarkable given the exclusive nature of religious rituals, and it could only mean one thing: people regardless of color or creed see Hussein as a universal, borderless, and meta-religious symbol of freedom and compassion.