Thursday, December 22, 2011

Alhussain: A Modern Example


I have been asked many times "Why did Imam Hussain (AS) continue with his uprising against the 'Legal' ruler of the time, Yazid? What was the benefit that he was seeking to gain from his historical march? And, most importantly, why did he take his family members with a fleet of some seventy soldiers, risking the fall of the prophets household against a morally corrupt leader?"

Strangely, there are those that attempt to justify the actions of Yazid and his position by labeling Hussain (AS) an outlaw and a defiler of the loyalty towards the "Islamic Leadership". They have completely ignored the immorality of Yazid and his lifestyle and have claimed his eligibility as a Leader and a "Prince of the Faithful" relying on the famous quote "Loyalty towards the leader is mandatory until his orders defy the law of God".

To understand Hussain’s decision, you need not to look further than the Arab Spring of the past year, a movement that caused the fall of four Arab leaders and many other demonstrations throughout the Arab world. This is the same movement that was sparked by Muhammed Bouazizi, a vegetable dealer that literally lit the flame by setting himself on fire on the 17th of December, 2010. To this I ask, what motivated the initial thousands to rise against their established corrupt leaders? Why did the same thousands risk their stable lives to defy their tyrants? Just like Imam Hussain, People realized that life without dignity and self-respect is not worth living. Just like Imam Hussain, these people realized the importance of living under a system that understands and respects their rights as human beings.

To justify the position of Yazid in killing Hussain (AS) and his followers, one needs to justify the violent crackdowns practiced by the Arab governments against their own people. Likewise, to justify the uprising of Hussain, you need to understand the reasons and the motivating factors of the Arab spring. With this in mind, I still find it shameful to justify the killing of the grandson of the prophet by labeling him an outlaw against the Islamic nation therefore deserves the death penalty to set an example for all who dares defy the law of man. But I guess such a person needs to justify his support and his religious leadership’s support for a corrupt political system or (in many of these cases) governor.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ashura: A Day in Qatif



On the 10th of Muharram, 61 Hijra (680 CE), the Islamic nation witnessed the martyrdom of the Prophet's Grandson
Hussain (AS). A death which highlights several controversies in Islamic history as it is resembles and uprise of a Muslim against the corrupt Muslim leader (depicted in Yazid ibn Mu'awiya) of the time. In retaliation, and to ensure his death, Yazid sent his armies to tackle Imam Hussain's progress to Kufa, where its people promised Imam Hussain their allegiance. Since then, the Shia have been commemorating the days of “Ashura” which represent the days from 1st of Muharram till 10th of Muharram.
After the events of Qatif during the past two weeks and the fall of the four men at the hands of the “Anti-Riot” forces, the days of Ashura have had their significance and a different sensation. On the 6th day of Muharram, we found out of March starting at 3:30 PM in what was labeled as the street of martyrs, the same street that witnessed the demonstration of some thousands in Qatif two week ago. As people started to come, the organizers began arranging people for the march. By 3:45 we started marching with the speaker started the Latmiya, the Islamic poetry commemorating the days of Ashura, which was about the success of the Martyr in his sacrifice for the greater good. The organizers held the pictures of the martyrs throughout the demonstration with slogans that have complimented them as being soldiers of Imam Hussain (AS). As we came towards the end, the total gathering seemed to be close to one thousand people with many viewers on the side line. This march showed me that the people of Qatif, no matter the claims against them, are extremely organized and structured. During the march, there were no riots between the marchers, public belongings and shops were undisturbed and their safety maintained, traffic was passing by without much hassle (surprisingly the road was very small).
On the evening of the same day, we attended the lecture Sh. Fawzi Alsaif, a prominent Shia cleric of the region who spoke about the strategies corrupt leaders use to control their public. He mainly focused on the strategy of maintaining the public occupied with anything other than their political situation. In the Arab world that strategy has been to have people running behind money to ensure they can provide their daily nutrition. After the lecture, we attended another Latmiya, one many held in the alleyways of the city of Qatif on a yearly basis. Last night, we completed our activity (a light-weight activity) at 10:30 PM and were at home at around 11 PM.
The days of Ashura are always filled with a lot of activities in Qatif. Stepping into Qatif during this season, the visitor can't help but realize that there is something happening. This activity can consume the individuals time positively as he can visit the many lectures that may hold a significant value, or attend a session of a Latmiya to understand this regions struggles during a specific period, or just to walk around and discuss with the people to gather their understanding of these blessed days and what Imam Hussain's sacrifice means to them. Muharram in Qatif has always been special to me because it is truly a season that brings people of the region together and abolishes the negativity they have for one another.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Qatif: The Revolution Renewed

During the past week, the city of Qatif has witnessed major demonstrations that engulfed the entire city.  The trigger of this march was the death of the 19 year old Nasser Al-Mheishi at the hands of the Saudi Army (anti-riot forces) placed in the city since early this year.  Since then, the same forces have had their part in the deaths of at least three (confirmed) deaths and several other injuries.  To make matters worse, the army did not release the bodies to the families of the victims before requesting the ransom of pardoning the death.  All of this just a few days before the sacred month of Muharram.  A month that accommodates the activities of “Ashura”.

Whether it is a calculated plot against the Shiite community or an irrational action by the individuals involved in the shooting, it seems that the system is incapable of keeping up with the tide when it comes to treating its public.  The oppression of the public is no longer an option and the attempt to hide unrest within country borders is no longer as easy as it has ti compete with technology, a resource that has evolved to ensure all is capable of broadcasting the news live and on the spot.

Reading the Saudi MOI report [1], the blame again is (as usual) on foreign agents aiming to destroy the safe haven we live in.  Of course it seems that we in Saudi are the targets of all conspiracies. If there is unrest within the borders of Saudi, it is a plot by foreign powers that have injected their agents within the same.  It never seems to be a failure to relate to the many minorities in the Kingdom from the ruling class.  They are never required to stoop down to the level of the commoners and try to understand their needs.  Instead, the ruling class, being the “all wise leadership” that they propagate to be, have set the requirements and defined the problems of this common Saudi.  Sadly, none of these problems and needs have a requirement that expects action from them.

The Saudi ruling family is continuously failing to understand that by ensuring the rights of the Shiite public, they can win their loyalty.  By ensuring that these people are safe from attacks such as that which happened earlier this week (and condemning the individuals involved in harming this group of people) they can ensure that this community will provide them with their trust.  The “Divide & Conquer” strategy does not apply any longer in Saudi when people are no longer ignorant of each other.  In an age of technology and debate, people have the opportunity to share with each other and understand one another.  The “Dark Ages” of Saudi Arabia have passed and now we face a new age of enlightenment.

Reference
[1] Saudi Press Agency [2011], “Checkpoints and Security vehicles exposed to gunfire from rioters in Qatif”, Arabic Title: “مصدر مسؤول بوزارة الداخلية: تعرض عدد من النقاط الامنية و المركبات الامنية لاطلاق نار من معتدين في القطيف”, url: http://www.spa.gov.sa/details.php?id=946283, Published on: 24-Nov-2011, Accessed on: 24-Nov-2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Scientific Evolution: A True Measure of Islamic Faith


To die as a true Muslim can be the greatest honor anyone can consume.  The questions I would like to ask here: How many have passed away and can truly say they have honored their faith? How many can acknowledge they have functioned positively in their community? What is this religion we call Islam that seems to be producing corrupt individuals, terrorists, dictators and a backward culture that struggles for the basic life necessities?  I have always asked myself these questions when I am not defending my faith against such claims.  Searching for the answers has been difficult given that our religious community views itself incapable of solving their problems until God fulfills his promise on this earth [1].

The first step to truly step forward is to acknowledge that we, as a Muslim community, are potentially flawed and are susceptible to delusions [2] and therefore, like any other community, need to critically consider our strengths and weaknesses [9]. By doing so we can take the first step in defining where we lagged while others have bypassed us [5].  The next step is to look at our understanding of our faith. Our Islamic traditions already provide us with so much to push forward and progressively advance.  It emphasizes on education and scientific development as a means of discovering God [7].  It has provided us with basic guidelines on Social Commonwealth, the laws of Charity can be considered as a simple example [6].  It even has provided us with the basics of implementing “Social Justice” [8].

Sadly, modern day Islamic nations have imported the majority of their sciences, except that which is an attribute of the Islamic nation (e.g. Islamic studies and Arabic language), when one day they were exporting the same sciences.  Based on where we stand and the tools made available to us, we can start developing these sciences in our homelands.  The only requirement here is to enable researchers to produce freely.  Only when you reduce the limitations you have on the results of research can your nation develop and grow and only when we have researchers who are funded and supported to evolve the sciences can we evolve.  This will empower our local thinkers and researcher to develop a local version of the sciences and technologies we have imported [10].

However, the news is not all bad.  Recently, in Saudi Arabia, a project was initiated for a solar power energy station which aims to catch up with and surpass nations who have gained a head start on them [4].  The station aims to use the latest in technologies in utilizing solar energy.  In addition to this, we have recently witnessed the opening of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) which has opened up mainly to import researching talents to the Middle East generally and to Saudi Arabia specifically [3].  These and similar initiatives are just small building blocks in the right direction and I wish we can see the fruits of these and similar projects in the not too distant future.

References

[1] Jawdat Sa’eed (1989), “Until They Change That Which is in Them: Eighth Edition”, Arabic Title: “حتي يغيروا ما بانفسهم: الطبعة الثامنة” Presented by: Malik Bin Nabi, Chapter: “Introduction”, Arabic Name: “مدخل”, page: 17.
 [2] Jawdat Sa’eed (1989), “Until They Change That Which is in Them: Eighth Edition”, Arabic Title: “حتي يغيروا ما بانفسهم: الطبعة الثامنة” Presented by: Malik Bin Nabi, Chapter: “A General Law for Mankind”, Arabic Name: “سنى عامة للبشر”, page: 35.
 [3] kaust.com.sa (2011], “Vision and Mission”, url: http://www.kaust.edu.sa/about/ vision_mission.html#mission, accessed on: 07-Nov-2011
[4] Lucien Ziegler (2011), “Saudi Arabia is Serious About Solar Energy”, url: http://arabianomics.com/2011/04/18/why-saudi-arabia-is-serious-about-solar-energy/, published on: 18-Apr-2011, Accessed on: 07-Nov-2011
[5] Muqtedar Khan, 2004 “The Role of Social Scientists in Muslim Societies”, Islamic Horizon (USA), May 2004.
[6] Quran [9, 60]
[7] Quran [45, 3-5]
[8] Sayed Aliakbar Rabinataj and Rmezan Mahdavi Azadboni (2011), “Religion and Politics” in International Conference on Social Science and Humanity vol. 5, IACSIT Press, Singapore.
[9] Tawfiq Alsaif, (2006) “Reform as a Religious Necessity”, Arabic Title: “الحداثة كحاجة دينية”, Chapter: “The Beginning: Self Criticism”, Arabic Title: “البداية: نقد الذات”, page: 69
[10] Tawfiq Alsaif, (2006) “Reform as a Religious Necessity”, Arabic Title: “الحداثة كحاجة دينية”, Chapter: “The Question on Reform”, Arabic Title: “سؤال الحداثة”, page: 110


Thursday, October 27, 2011

White Samurai & Black Ninja


When first arriving in Saudi Arabia, you will notice two major clans: The White Samurai and The Black Ninja. Unlike the Japanese Samurai and Ninja, Saudi's clans are living together with a common understanding. Upon further observation, you will notice that the Samurai act as guardians to the ninjas as it seems that they are incapable protecting themselves.  There are a lot of complications between the two clans in Saudi Arabia that has provided the conditions to arrive at this type of relationship between the two.  One such complication is the role the two played traditionally and the role they wish to play given the circumstances provided by the modern age.

According to Saudi culture the Ninja is still viewed as a fragile jewel and a vulnerable being that needs to be protected against all harm.  To play the role of protector, a Guardian Samurai is appointed (through fatherhood, brotherhood or marriage).  This creates a problem for them as it cripples them from managing their lives efficiently and effectively.  To support the Samurai in his role, the legal system has placed limitations on the Ninja's choices in life by requesting the approval of their Samurai guardians.   The limitations practiced against them have affected their commuting, travel, marriage and even their income.

The situation between the two has grown in complexity as the traditional relationship is being challenged by New Age values and opportunities. In Saudi Arabia the two do not understand the limitations of their interaction and they are required to interact in the modern day.  They do not understand the obligations they have for each other and they are required to define these obligations.  They are incapable of defining their rights and they are required to understand these rights.  

Given the situation, there is a solution. The legal system needs to establish a system where the two are considered as human beings with equal rights.  They both should be considered as responsible for the choices they make and they should both be protected equally by the system against other parties.  Once the two parties are viewed as equals in the eyes of the legal system, the two will be equipped to play their roles in society effectively.  To support this further, the legal system should relax its restrictions against the inter-mixing of the two.  This will aid the two on understanding each other.  It will also help them in building a platform were they can share a level plane of mutual respect. Once this is done they can both play an effective role in building their community.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saudi, Awamia and Loyalty


During the past week an uprising in the small town of Awamia, Qatif rocked the stability of Saudi Arabia.  The trigger of this small uprising was the imprisonment of an old man in an attempt to extract his son.  From another angle, it was the authorities acting as mafia goons by taking hostages to force others in doing their bidding.  Whether this action has been approved by the Ministry of Interior or not, the aftermath of this action has shown us the level of wisdom our “wise leadership” has.  If they issued they did not issue the order, then the actor should be punished accordingly.  If not, a public apology needs to be issued to the individual.

Qatif has always been a problematic and tension filled region for the Wahhabi regime of Saudi Arabia.  Yet, it seems that the regime has never attempted to eliminate or at least reduce these tensions.  At the beginning the regime injected many non-Shiite (the primary Islamic sect in the Eastern Province) within the borders of Qatif and its surroundings in an attempt to reduce the Shiite percentage in the region.  They then attempted to erase the Shiite identity by closing down their mosques and prohibiting their traditions.  The event mentioned above has re-triggered another famous card and that is the public doubting of the loyalty of this minority. 

My only question here is what has the Saudi regime done to gain the loyalty of this minority?  Has it guaranteed their rights as citizens? Or has it maintained their dignity and self-respect? Has it implemented any legislation to prosecute against their discrimination? Or has it seriously punished against their public slander?  In truth, there was no serious action by the regime to answer any of the questions mentioned above.  Till this day there is no law that is put in place or is implemented to ensure this group’s contribution to the success of Saudi Arabia.  And a country which distances some of its public because of faith or tribe cripples itself in its progress.

To enable Saudi Arabia in ensuring the events of Awamia do not repeat, it should seriously reconsider its policies with regards to minorities.  The old war games that were played thirty years ago will no longer work as technology has enabled people to connect and contribute to each other’s experiences.  No longer is the public hiding behind its geographical were they are told by the regime of what is going on outside.  The influence that the regime had one day on its people no longer applies as the same people can confirm the information from various channels.  Unless the Saudi Regime revaluates it treatment towards its common public it will struggle to maintain its legitimate hold on its people.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Only in Saudi


Only in Saudi is the traffic laws are a group of legislation on a piece of paper, never abided by nor respected by anyone (including all official staff).

Only in Saudi is your complaint shelved under the title "under study" never to see the light of day.

Only in Saudi does the citizen need to check his obligations without knowing his rights because the official body seems to be on a long term slumber.

Only in Saudi does the trader ensure the income to his pockets by lying and cheating without fear of being prosecuted.

Only in Saudi do the rich get richer while the rest of the nation disputes their minor differences.

Only in Saudi do we claim we have been liberated by the light of Islam yet our citizens attempt to escape the prisons of their borders.

Only in Saudi do we have religious police that only chase after the weak and hiding all social, financial and political corruption practiced by the strong.

Only in Saudi do we preach the morals of prophet Muhammed without seeing their impact on our social life.

Only in Saudi will you find that your female family members are not allowed to drive but it is OK for them to be secluded with a foreign driver (which is against the teachings of Islam).

Only in Saudi does a woman need to seek her legal guardian's permission to do anything.  In case her husband, father or brother/s is dead, the legal guardian will be her under-age son.

Only in Saudi do we have a huge income yet the majority of our cities are poor and under budgeted.

Only in Saudi will you have some cities having roads that are paved every six months whilst other cities/villages do not have any paved roads.

Only in Saudi do our high level officials claim that the corrupt actions are of those working beneath them yet there is no attempt to filter out those corrupt individuals.

Only in Saudi do we have a king of humanity whilst human rights are the least respected within the borders of his kingdom.

I believe that the above only scratches the surface of the problems here.  I say "only in Saudi" because we rule according to Islamic law which, according to our authorities, ensures the integrity of all individual in the community.  Yet, Islam in the kingdom has been perverted to guarantee the rights of the less than one percent over the rest of the population.  

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Revolutions and Information Systems


The past ten years have provided us with several revolutions that have made it easier for us to understand the multiple stages of a revolution and the judgment of the degree of success of each revolution.  It started with Afghanistan with the toppling of Taliban.  Shortly after that, the Iraqi regime was toppled.  After that and quite recently, the whole Arab world has started with their revolutions.   As we speak today, we have witnessed the fall of three Arabic regimes (not including Iraq), the continuation of the revolution in a number of Arab countries and the failure of it in several others.  Doing a simple comparison, we can see a close relationship between revolutions and Information Systems.

In any respectful organization, the beating heart will be its core Information System.  In such an organization, the Information System, once is established, is difficult to replace without following the same stages of a revolution.  The first stage of both is the pregnancy stage.  This is where the initial group of people develop their understanding of what is wrong with the current political/information system and suggest a corrective action. 

The second stage is “giving birth” to the idea by staging demonstrations against the political systems and trying to get people on board in the case of information systems.  At this stage, the common public joins the demonstration and in the case of information systems, this will usually reach to mid management being convinced in the upgrade. 

Third and Fourth stage are interchangeable.  One is where the revolution gets support from external bodies.  This can be military, such as the case with Iraq and recently Libya, or political such as the case with Egypt.  This will map to higher management agreeing to the upgrade in Information Systems.  The second is when the current political system starts to lose its members to the revolution.  In comparison with Information Systems, this stage is depicted by the supporting team of the current core system place their focus on the new upgrade and one by one start abandoning the current system.

The fifth stage, and the stage of “no return”, is when the army defects the current political system.  In the past revolutions, we have had examples of the army joining ranks with the revolution and others where the army abandoned the political system (both by choice and force).  This is exemplified by setting the interfaces to the upgraded system.  Usually, in the case of Information Systems, this is where the main interface switches to the upgraded system.  In certain cases, the new core will have an upgrade that may replace a number of interfaces.  If this stage was successful you will know that the revolution was successful and as the case with Information Systems, it will take time for the new Political System to establish itself.

We have had multiple failed revolutions and, by looking at the set stages above, it is easy to define where they failed.  In the case of Saudi Arabia (The Revolution of Hunain), failure was at the second stage and that is to get the public’s support.  As for Bahrain, the revolution succeeded in gaining Bahraini pubic support, however, it failed to gain support from Bahraini officials and was attached by external forces.  Egypt managed to cross all stages (starting from stage two) in a very short period while in Libya it spanned the period of 6 months.  As mentioned above, we have had many examples from the Arab world of successful and failed revolutions, of which the transition between the different stages is clear.

I could easily tie between revolutions and Information System migrations as a result of my background.  Both start their pregnancy with the idea, and move to gain support from the directly impacted.  The next stage is gaining support from the visionaries and those supporting the current system.  The next stage is the defection of the systems main life line.  Once this happens, the current system starts to resign and tries to set an exit policy for itself.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Double Standard


During the first few days of Ramadan, King Abdullah issued a statement to the Syrian government to not prosecute people for practicing their basic freedoms of expressing their views.  The King continued his suggestions to the Syrian government of not practicing force to crush the demonstrations and give the people what they are asking for.  This has contradicted with how the body represented by the King has treated the demonstrations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.  

Both Saudi and Bahrain’s demonstrations were peaceful demonstrations and did not request to topple the governments, unlike those in Syria.  The requirement of the demonstrators of the first was to simply free prisoners of opinions (those that showed an opinion that contradicted with the path of the government).  The second was a request of reform to the government (a non-major reform).   

To continue the oppression of the public’s freedom of speech, the Saudi authorities have ensured to imprison anyone who speaks his mind and criticizes their ruling.  A small example was the imprisonment of a Shi'ite cleric from the city of Hofuf last week because of his position against the government.   In addition to this, the authorities (in both cases) tried to limit media coverage as much as possible.  The cycle was then complete when the religious figures ensured to provide Islamic rulings against the demonstrations.

I wish for our “Legal Guardians” (Government) to stick by one standard.  If they wish to oppress their public, they should invite all else to follow suite.  However, if they wish to preach humanitarian values to the outside world, I wish they would start within their border first to set the right example.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Grand Conspiracy


As a man, I have many identities.  Whilst dressed in any one of those identities, there is always someone who is conspiring against me.  As a Muslim, the world is conspiring to wipe out my religion.  As an Arab the UK has conspired to wipe out my language and traditions.  As a Middle Eastern, the US is conspiring with Israel to ensure I am unaware of the borders of Palestine.  As a Saudi, the US is conspiring to rob me of my natural resources.   Being from the Eastern Province, the Government is plotting to steal my Oil.  As a Qatifi, the Wahabi movement is conspiring to rid the world of my culture and faith.  However I decide to look at it, there is always someone who is plotting against me to ensure my total failure and total loss.

The above is a simple snapshot of how the members of the common minority group evaluate their situation.  It may not follow the exact stages as stated above as the above relate to someone from the coastal city of Qatif.  By placing road blocks for progress, you will notice that the communities of the minorities fail to develop and as such, remain to be true “Ghettos”.   From these Ghettos, sometimes you get the exceptions that have decided to tear themselves away from the dilemma that the world is conspiring against them.  By doing so, they managed to focus on their personal goals and therefore are more likely to succeed then other members of their communities.

In essence a Ghetto to me is nothing more than a state of mind.  The mentality of the Ghetto is a mentality that allows the individual to place excuses outside the boarders of his own flaws to justify his failure.  This is usually done by blaming others for his failures and, in the case if there is no one to blame, blame it on the system that has been setup to make him fail.  In contrast, those who have attempted to outgrow their “Ghetto” mentality have managed to be extremely successful.  As a small example of this we can consider Barak Obama who managed to overcome two conspiracies when he became US President.  The first is him being from an African Heritage.  The Second is him being from an Islamic descent.   Another example from the realm of Saudi is Abduljaleel Alsaif who managed to overcome the general prejudice of the community, the dilemma of him being from Qatif and a Shiite to become a member of the Shura Council of Saudi Arabia, the advisory board to the Saudi King.

The above two examples show that a person can achieve a lot if he abandons the “Ghetto” mentality and attempts to grow himself beyond what his community is willing to offer.  There are many opportunities that a person can grasp if he explores beyond the borders of his own social circle and such opportunities can escalate the person’s financial as well as social stature.  Another way describe this action is simply “Thinking out of the Box”.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Worshiping the Past


“This is a people that have passed away; they shall have what they earned and you shall have what you earn, and you shall not be called upon to answer for what they did” {Quran, 2:134}.  God in the previous verse instructs us to focus on the here and now rather than the past.  He informs us in this verse that all we reap as Muslims as what we do for the present rather than weep for the past.  Yet when we visit Some Muslim communities, its public will focus primarily on the achievements of their forefathers.

When considering the backward communities, you will notice that the majority are living in the past, clinging to old tales of Heroism and progress while the rest of the world is developing and progressing.  If we look at the example of the US, a nation that is around 235 years old, we can see how this nation has developed, especially during the past century.  Maybe this was a direct result of the US not having any past history that it allowed it encouraged it to register itself in the modern history books and establish itself as a world leader.   In contrast, let us consider the situation of the nations of the Middle East.  This region has developed all sciences during the dark ages of Europe and it is truly proud of that achievement.  However, that pride did not allow the region  to sustain their scientific development and social growth.  For over a century the Middle East has been living in its dark ages while the west has been developing the sciences that the East has provided.

Looking at the Muslim Community, we have fine examples of those that have aimed to compete in the modern world, the samples of Malaysia aiming to be an industry giant, Dubai being the Middle East’s commercial hub and recently Turkey evolving their social system to compete with that of the West.  And we have examples of Nations that have been incapable of neither producing nor competing as a result of their grip on the past, to differences resulting from different interpretations of historical events.   A hold and grip on past events that has blinded them from their current situation.

At the end of the day, we as a community need to be competing at a global level to show our respect for our Islamic heritage.  We have all heard stories of old.  Stories of past success stories where the Islamic world was dominating the world through science, discovery and trade.  I guess that feels like a dream to me when considering the current situation of the vast Islamic community.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Culture, Tradition, Religion

From the start of this year several Arab regimes have been toppled with the threat of several others being toppled in the near future. During this period Saudi Arabia has witnessed several attempts of performing peaceful protests to request some basic rights. These have included the release of those imprisoned and held without charge, a little more freedoms for the Saudi public, to allow women to drive, exposure of public expenditure to the Saudi public... etc. Whenever such a threat of a peaceful protest rose, the Saudi authorities ensured public "Safety" with extreme force. In addition to this, during this period the official authorities have utilized the Islamic institute to preach the following three phrases "This is not part of our culture or traditions or religion".

As a starting point, I would like to differentiate between culture, tradition and religion. Culture defines customs in a community, the folklore and source of habits and traditions in a community. As for tradition, it defines the inherited habits, usually having the custom or religion as the main sources of the action. As for religion, it is usually an established faith. Now looking at the three items, we can see that the first two are man-made (or internal to the community) whilst the third is usually divine (or is external to the community). The first two are usually narrow in scope (as defined by a tribe or a small community) whilst the third spans out globally (for successful religions). The first two are only recognized by the community whilst the third is usually recognized by in nation who has followers of the religion.

After defining the three items, let’s consider the three in the context of protests within the Middle Eastern community. Part of our culture is to uphold against wrongdoings and fight for justice and protect the weak. Our culture is littered with stories of those who have protested against tyrants and unjust rulers especially during the Omayyad and Abbasid eras. A simple lesson in history will invalidate the first statement. As for tradition, all you need to do is think along the lines of Saudi people protesting against Israel during Friday prayers. These are usually peaceful protest describing the injustice that the Palestinians face during the Friday sermons. This is an inherited tradition that Saudis have continued since the establishment of the state of Israel. And as such the second statement is invalidated. As for the third, part of the rich Islamic tradition (Religious Values) that is practiced and is carried through is the popular saying of the prophet "He who witnesses wrongdoing, let him change it with his hands (take an action against it). If he could not, let him change it with his tongue (use his words). If he could not, let him change it in with his heart (Refuse it) and that is the weakest of faith". In his popular saying the prophet describes protesting against wrongdoings as faith. The more direct the methodology is, the stronger the faith, and that invalidates the third statement.

Looking at our culture, traditions and religion there is a clear sign to show that we, as Arabs, have performed the three types of protests that our Prophet describes. This has started from the days of the prophet (saw) in his attempt to spread the word of God across the land and ensure equality between all social classes, till the day king Abdul-Aziz united the kingdom under the rule of Islam. To protest against the ill treatment of the common public is a way to revitalize the culture that was started by the prophet and refreshed by King Abdul-Aziz. By denying the people their right to protest against the ill treatment handed down to them is a true statement against our culture, traditions and religious belief.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Greater Struggle

Once the Muslims conquered Makah, the prophet told his followers "Now is the time for you to perform the greater Struggle (Jihad)".  The followers enquired about this greater struggle that the prophet is emphasizing on.  They have just lost their companions, their belongings and their family members.  The prophet replied "it is the struggle with one's self".

What is this greater struggle prophet Muhammad is talking about and labels it as " the struggle with one's self ".  How can one struggle with oneself?  What are the answers that a person should expect from such a struggle?  More importantly, what are the questions that one needs to ask himself? I have always viewed this statement to point to the way a person understands himself and how a person will know himself.  In other words, a human being should evaluate himself without prejudice or bias.  He or She should view themselves from a third person perspective therefore colliding with what was taken for granted.  Rarely will you find those that question their beliefs and convictions without such prejudice. 

To perform this “Greater Struggle”, a person needs to place himself within his world and his community, the way a person evaluates his beliefs and coming to terms with all his shortcomings.  This internal struggle starts with man’s capability to admit to himself that he is wrong and ending with his capability to collide with is convictions.  To understand this further, the internal struggle is man’s path to improving himself and (ultimately) to perfection.   The first step in this “path to perfection” is to raise the right question.  This questioning process starts with “who am I?” And for this question, I doubt if everyone can answer.  “Who am I?” usually has a lot of backlog that will need justification to yourself, justifications of your actions, justification of your thoughts and justification of your convictions. 

Once a Man can answer the question to “who am I?” the answer will open up doors to many other questions and in accordance will expose the individual’s naked image of himself to himself.  This in turn will expose the flaws of the questioner, flaws that he may know about and flaws that he may not know about.  Once these flaws are identified a person can start to push towards completing himself physically as well as spiritually.  Answering such questions could guide anyone who dares to question himself unto success and a better life.   This in turn will put the questioner unto the golden path of perfection.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Modern Man Vs. Religious Man

What does it mean to be spiritual and religious? These two terms during the modern age have taken a twist to mean traditional and conservative. The problem is that those who support this view come from the religious community itself. You will see the pious man following two contradicting lives: 1) living for worldly gains and 2) living for the Day of Judgment. When he is asked about the two contradictory lives he is living, usually he fails to answer.

Religion has recently failed to answer some of the dire questions its followers may have when coming to terms with the modern age. To substitute for this, the religious figures have tied heaven to their leadership. As a result, they successfully managed to kill the human mind and have alienated all that contradicts their explanation. In turn, the pious follower will reject any idea that might contradict with his scholar’s teachings and will require him to think.

You will find that most of those who are considered to be part of the Muslim world live this dual life. The first is his pious life where you will find the individual praying, fasting and heavily worshipping God. The second is when he steps out of the mosque where he starts to lie and cheat to eat his brother that little bit more. Even when it comes to fundamentals, where the prophet and his followers have set an ideal example of how to defy injustice, how to ensure the spread of the common good and how to treat your brothers, it seems that the law of jungle is dominating the Islamic world, the strong eating the weak and religion being utilized to those in power and not the common good.

Sadly, the Muslim public has been a nation of followers and not thinkers, consumers and not producers, cattle and not humans. When going through the Quran, it is clear that it sets the path of the believers as thinkers. This can be viewed in the stories it tells of the prophets, where it describes how they rejected the way of their forefathers and started searching for God. In comparison, it tells the tale of the non-believers, hell’s population. Throughout, it describes them as imitators of their forefathers and slaves to their traditions. However, looking at modern day Islam, Muslims have been nothing more than slaves to the traditions of ignorance and have taken for granted that their world is still flat. As a result, these pious scholars have (deliberately or not) deviated Muslims from their true path and have successfully killed the human mind within their public, where Muslims have become consumers and not a producers, followers and not a thinkers, slaves and not a free men.