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On the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet (saw) last month, the Islamic State organized a number of unity conferences on the Seerah. Zafar Bangash , Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, attended conferences in Tehran and Istanbul.

Every year Muslims celebrate the birthday of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, with reverence and respect in the month of Rabi al-Awwal.  Such celebrations are expressions of the deep love Muslims bear for the Prophet (saw).  His birthday, however, needs to be considered as more than simply a celebration, important as it is.  Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala Himself describes the noble messenger as the “best of exemplars” (Q. 33:21), meaning that his example must be followed in all matters.  In order to obey this divine command fully, it is necessary to know his Seerah (life-history) well.  This is where the birthday celebrations of the Prophet (saw) assume greater significance.

Last month there were several international conferences on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday: in Cairo, Tehran and Istanbul.  While the Islamic Republic of Iran has organized such conferences for 20 years to bring Muslims from different madhahib (schools of thought) together on a common platform, Cairo and Istanbul were welcome additions to this year’s celebrations.  Al-Azhar University in Cairo established the Dar at-Taqrib bayna al-Madhahib al-Islamiyyah (“the hall for accommodating Islamic schools of thought”) more than 60 years ago by the efforts of Shaikh Mahmoud Shaltout and Shaikh Mohammad al-Husein al-Kashif al-Ghita, among others, to bring together Muslims to discuss the various schools of thought in Islam, and thus to foster Muslim unity.  Dar at-Taqrib functioned through the nineteen-forties and -fifties before al-Azhar was “nationalized” by the government of Egypt, reducing it to an institution that merely served the narrow interests of the Egyptian nation-state.  Dar at-Taqrib also fell victim to this process of nationalization and became dormant.

After the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Majma’ at-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib was established there.  It has held conferences for twenty years in a constant effort to narrow the differences between Muslims of different schools of thought.  This year’s conference was held against the backdrop of the rising sectarian tensions in Iraq that have led to serious arguments among some Muslims.  The Tehran conference chose the Prophet’s Seerah as its theme, as did the one in Cairo, while the Istanbul conference considered Muslim unity in light of the Seerah.  At each conference, the questions of Muslim unity and how to achieve it were uppermost in everyone’s mind.  It was also clear that Iraq is spinning out of control, and that the situation there will have serious consequences for the Ummah unless this issue is addressed seriously.  Although some speakers from Iraq attempted to create the impression that all is well and that the sectarian conflict is only a minor irritant, not many conference participants accepted this.  Iraq was not the main theme, but the sectarian violence there cast a dark shadow over the deliberations of all the conferences.

Not everything, however, was bleak.  From Cairo came the good news of the revival of the Dar al-Taqrib, and that it will begin to work along the lines originally envisioned by its founders, to bring Muslims together.  This is an important development because Egypt, despite the numerous faults of the regime, is a major centre of Islamic learning and al-Azhar carries much weight in the “Sunni” world.  Why and how al-Azhar and the Egyptian regime agreed to revive the Dar at-Taqrib is an interesting question.  Among leading Muslim scholars there is growing realization that the sectarian divide is being manipulated by the enemies of Islam and can easily cause irreparable damage to the Ummah if not addressed in earnest.  The regimes in the Middle East understand that there are limits to how much they can exploit sectarian differences; hence the desire not to overplay their hand.  The Muslim masses do not buy into the vile anti-Shi’a propaganda being produced by US-sponsored mouthpieces; in fact, throughout the Middle East Hizbullah leader Shaikh Hasan Nasrallah and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of Iran continue to enjoy enormous popularity for standing up to the zionists and Americans.  This makes ordinary people feel empowered and their sense of dignity is restored, something the Arab regimes have demonstrably failed to achieve.

For all Muslims, the Seerah of the Prophet (saw) is a unifying factor.  There are no two Muslims, regardless of their background, who do not agree on the noble character of the messenger of Allah, his teachings, his achievements and his example as most worthy of emulation.  Thus the Majma’ at-Taqrib conference in Tehran (April 6-9) was divided into different themes: his personality traits; his example at the family and community levels; his establishment of the first Islamic state and his dealings with other rulers.  These are vast fields that offer rich material for research.  At least 130 foreign guests from 46 countries covering every part of the world took part in the conference.  The number of papers presented (70) was impressive, but it must be admitted that not every paper met the academic standards one expects at such conferences.  There is a tendency among Muslims, even scholars, to treat such conferences not so much as opportunities to present serious academic work but as excuses to repeat what has already been mentioned in the Seerah books or to talk about contemporary issues.  The latter would be acceptable if it were related to some aspect of the Seerah.  The problem in Iraq is a good example; repeatedly, speakers returned to this theme but did not make the effort to link it to the Seerah, or how to use the Seerah to overcome the problem.

Muslims need to grow out of the habit of simply describing various aspects of the Seerah.  This has already been done through the centuries; what is needed now is to analyze the Seerah to derive lessons from it.  One telling point about the lack of serious scholarship on the Seerah is that there is no authoritative encyclopaedia of the Seerah.  There have been a few attempts to produce what are referred to as “encyclopaedias”, but these are essentially collections of essays put together on various aspects of the Seerah, with little or no coherence.  Equally lamentable is the fact that most universities in the Muslim world do not have specific programmes of Seerah studies.  These are subsumed under Islamic studies, where the Seerah is but one of many subjects that are taught.  In countries where there are well-established chairs for Seerah studies (Pakistan for instance), little research work has been done.  At the Islamic University in Islamabad there is a library with more than 3,000 books on the Seerah, yet no scholar has thought of doing any original research into the Seerah.  The same is true of other universities in the country, where Seerah chairs exist but no research is undertaken to produce any original ideas or courses of action.

In some Muslim countries–Iran and Turkey, for instance–there are serious attempts being made to study other disciplines and produce original material on Islam.  At the Imam Reza Institute in Mashhad, an encyclopaedia of the Qur’an is being prepared under the guidance of Ayatullah Waez-zadeh Khorasani.  At least ten volumes have been produced in Arabic; ten more are under preparation.  At the Centre for Islamic Studies (Islam Arastirmalari Merkezi, ISAM) in Istanbul, an institution affiliated with the Foundation of Religious Affairs in Turkey, an encyclopaedia of Islam is being produced; thirty-three volumes of this 43-volume series have been completed.  Unfortunately, these are in Turkish and it will be some years before Arabic and English translations become available.  Still, this indicates seriousness on the part of some scholars in the Ummah to undertake fundamental research and produce original works.

There is one other aspect worth mentioning.  Egypt is an important centre of learning in the Muslim world.  This is not only because of al-Azhar but also because Egypt has produced a number of great scholars.  Even today some original work on Islam is done there.  Additionally, there are individual scholars in different countries doing research on their own.  Some Muslim rulers have also got involved in this area.  For instance, the Royal Palace in Rabat, Morocco, has a huge library but the king is interested only in tasawwuf.  A great deal of work is being done in this area; next come Hadith and fiqh: Seerah studies are not part of his plan.  

Given the lack of intellectual curiosity in the Muslim world and, even worse, a detachment from the Seerah except at a purely emotional level, it is not surprising that Muslims are in such dire straits.  Without a clear understanding and appreciation of the Seerah, we Muslims will not be able to break out of the present state of jahiliyyah that we have fallen into.  But Seerah studies should not be reduced to producing more books on the same pattern as has existed for centuries.  The Saudis are notorious for this.  They have sponsored a number of books on the Seerah, and each year they also give awards for such books.  These books may be helpful at some level or other, but what they lack is any originality.  Almost every book is a straight narration of the Prophet’s life, with some additional anecdotes or hadiths mentioned to make it slightly different from the ones produced earlier.  It is time to move beyond this approach and to begin to look at the Seerah as a model for change.  This will not come about unless Muslims begin to analyze the Seerah.

This requires both original work and an original approach to understanding the Seerah.  More importantly, the Seerah must be used to derive lessons for the Muslims’ present condition.  Every Seerah book narrates that for the first thirteen years of his mission the Prophet (saw) was powerless in Makkah, yet he established the Islamic State in Madinah soon after arriving there.  How did this transformation from a state of virtual powerlessness to complete power and authority take place? What factors were involved in changing the conditions in and around Madinah to give the Prophet (saw) complete control over his immediate environment? And how did he use the power that he acquired? Regrettably, no Seerah book provides any answers to these basic questions.  We need to ask why, and begin to work out the answers.

The international Seerah conferences that are held each year provide opportunities to direct the attention of Muslim scholars to this vital area.  If Muslims begin to show some originality and creativity in studying the Seerah, there is no reason why we cannot break out of our present predicament and begin to transform our condition in a short period of time.  This task must begin in earnest and soon.  The energy and resources expended in such conferences will begin to yield results only when Muslims put their minds to serious work.  There is no shortage of scholars; only their minds need to be set in the new direction.

One final point is in order.  Seerah studies are not a substitute for studying other aspects of Islam–the Qur’an, ahadith, fiqh and so on.  What is being proposed is that we Muslims begin to look at the Seerah from a new perspective.  The time for such an approach is now, not later.

Press TV (Iran)  

Iranian leaders say that the recent attacks on Shia Muslims in Samarra is not the act by Sunni Muslims, but the work of US and British intelligence.

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution has said the bombing of the holy Shia shrines in Samarra is aimed at provoking sectarian violence.

In a message on the recent bombing of the shrines of the two revered Shia Imams in the Iraqi town of Samarra, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei blamed the intelligence services of the Zionist regime and the occupation forces in Iraq for the bombing, saying such terrorist acts are meant to intensify sectarian violence in the Muslim world.

The Leader urged the Muslims particularly the Iraqi people to remain vigilant in the face of the plots hatched to create sectarian strife between Shias and Sunnis.

He noted the holy shrines of the two revered Shia Imams in the Sunni town of Samarra, had been respected throughout history, whereas the recent event marks the second desecration of these holy sites since the invasion of Iraq by foreign troops.

He emphasized that the occupying forces are instigating insecurity in Iraq and leaving enough space for terrorist movements in order to justify the ongoing illegitimate occupation of the country and to debilitate the government of Iraq.

Calling for Sunni scholars to condemn the sacrilege of the holy sites and Shias to remain calm, Ayatollah Khamenei said our Shia and Sunni brothers in Iraq should beware of the conspiracy against the Muslim unity.

As the tragedy of Iraq draws attention to the problem of sectarianism in the Muslim world, the Majma al-Taqrib in Tehran has led efforts against this problem.  IQBAL SIDDIQUI discusses issues that arose during its latest conference, at the Islamic Centre of England, in London, on June 23 & 24.

In the last weekend of June, when I would normally have been busy sending the Crescent to press, I instead attended an international conference on Proximity amongst Islamic Schools of Thought at the Islamic Centre of England in London.  This was one of a series of conferences on similar themes organized by the Majma al-Taqrib bayna al-Madhahib al-Islamiyyah (the World League for Convergence between Islamic Schools of Thought) in various cities around the world this year.  The Majma al-Taqrib was established in Iran after the Islamic Revolution to continue the work begun by the Dar al-Taqrib bayna al-Madhahib al-Islamiyyah, established by ‘ulama from al-Azhar and Qum, including Shaikh Mahmud Shaltout and Ayatullah Kashif al-Ghita, in the 1950s.  As one would expect, the conference in London was blessed by the attendance of a number of senior scholars and speakers, Shi‘i and Sunni, even though several prominent invitees were unable to make it, including Shaikh Muhammad Ali Taskhiri, head of the Majma al-Taqrib, who was refused a visa to enter Britain; Dr. Abdul Fatah al-Bazam, the Mufti of Damascus, whose talk was read out by someone else;  and Dr Salim al-Awa from Egypt.    

For those who attended the conference, there was both enlightenment and frustration.  The enlightenment came from the contributions of people such as Shaikh Mohsin Araki of Qum, Shaikh A. Moezi of the Islamic Centre of London, Maulana Faiz al-Aqtab Siddiqi of Hijaz College, and Imam Mohammad al-Asi of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought and elected Imam of the Islamic Center in Washington, Dr Kamal al-Helbawi of the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, Hujjatul Islam Saeed Bahmanpour of the Islamic College for Advanced Studies in London, and Dr Mohammad Foad al-Barazi of the Islamic Association of Denmark, who led the protests against the publication of cartoons insulting the Prophet (saw) in that country last year.  The frustration came largely from the attitudes of some attendees, whose commitment to the cause of unity was unfortunately not matched by an understanding of the best approach to achieving it.

There was of course unanimity on the importance of maintaining unity and avoiding disunity.  The tone for the conference as a whole was set in a series of major talks on the first morning of the conference, beginning with the opening address by Shaikh Moezi, who, as Director of the Islamic Centre of England, was effectively the host of the conference.  He placed the current problem of sectarian discord in the context of the clash between Western imperialism since its rise in the nineteenth century and Islamic resistance, which, he pointed out, have evolved in form and approach, reaching its current shape as a result of the Islamic Revolution in Iran nearly three decades ago.  He pointed out that the West had set about exacerbating differences among Muslims after the Revolution, both to weaken Islam internally and to make it appear “primitive and violent” to those who might have been influenced by the Revolution, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Is it not time, he asked rhetorically, for Muslims to come together and prove the West wrong, and show the reality of Islam to all people.  “If the truth of Islam is put across to people,” he said, “they would embrace it, provided that this was done with empathy, understanding and compassion”.  The message, he said, must be of “peace, justice and humility”.  

Once all of this understood, he said, the final question was how this could be achieved.  The key, he said, was to focus on the most important principle of Islam, the oneness of Allah and the unity of faith; in other words, tawheed. This, he said, represented the distillation of all teachings and beliefs of all Muslims, and is the basis not only of proximity between Muslim schools of thought, but of unity between them.  Also central to this, he said, was the role of the Prophet (saw), who spared no effort to establish the unity and brotherhod of the early Muslim community, and guiding them away from disunity and discord.  Finally, he emphasised that the role of the ‘ulama is particularly important in achieving unity at the present time.

Similar tones were set by two other senior Iranian ‘ulama.  Ayatullah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri, the head of the Majma, whose paper was read out at the conference, emphasised that unity was something that Muslims needed to work towards as a rational choice, in order to avoid the problems of disunity.  He pointed out the the Islamic schools of thought only came into being as an expression of human rationality, long after the death of the Prophet (saw), and all constitute part of the rich intellectual tradition of Islam.  Problems only arose when the following of these schools of thought was converted into a narrow-minded and inward-looking enterprise. What is required, therefore, is the “spread of the requisite rationality, the spritis of constructive Islamic dialogue, heartfelt solidarity and the continued search for common ground.”  

Hujjatul-Islam Mohsen Araki, a former director of the Islamic Centre of England, who is now a scholar at Qum, focused on the “social character” of Islam, as exemplified by all Prophets of Islam from Ibraham (as) onwards, as being at the heart of Muslim unity.  This character is best represented by the personality of the Prophet (saw), on which there is no difference between Muslims of any sect or school of thought.  Our attitude, he said, must be that we all love those who love the Prophet, and we all hate those who hate the Prophet. Differences of opinion or ijtihad that emerged after the death of the Prophet must not be made bases of conflict or hatred.

Dr Kamal al-Halbawy, an Egyptian Ikhwan leader based in London, explicitly assumed the role of responding to the Iranian overtures on behalf of Sunni Muslims.  He welcomed the openness of the Iranian ‘ulama, and expressed his solidarity with their call for open discussion of common issues as a basis for unity.  He reminded the conference that al-Azhar had long ago ruled that “the School of the Ahl al-Bayt” (i.e. the Ja‘fari or Shi‘i fiqh) is recognised as  one of the legitimate schools of thought in Islam, alongside the major Sunni schools of thought.  He said that this understanding was central to obeying the Qur’anic injunction forbidding extremism and maintaining the Ummah on the “middle way”.  Proximity depends, he said, on respecting differences between the schools of thought, without denying them or pretending that they do not exist.  There were differences between Muslims even at the time of the Prophet, he reminded the conference; but he quoted the modern Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra (d. 1974) as saying that differences should end with the deaths of those who differed, not become the basis for lasting conflict.  

It was on this basis, he said, that he was involved in talks between ‘ulama of different schools of thought in Britain aimed at the rejection of bigotry and the promotion of brotherhood between Muslims. The objectives of these talks, he told the conference, was to work for the dissemination of true Islam, promoting the unity of the Ummah, forming committees for dialogue, and agreeing a common identity as Muslims.

Consensus of such important generalities underpinned much of the rest of the conference, with useful contributions from speakers such as Maulana Faiz Siddiqi, speaking on the role of Muslim minorities in the West; Shaikh Mohammad Bagher Naseri of Iraq, who gave a passionate appeal for practical steps to be taken to end the sectarian conflict in his country; Hasan Mussa from Sweden; Dr Anas Shaqfah of Austria; and Dr Mohammad Foad al-Barazi from Denmark, who outlined a comprehensive programme for promoting unity and co-operating between Muslim communities living in non-Muslim countries.

The only area where there was some lack of consensus, resulting in frustration between some of the conference participants, was on how to approach the historical issues on which there has traditionally been disagreement between Muslims of different schools, particular the period of political disagreement following the death of the Prophet (saw).  Although there appeared to be general consensus among all participants that disagreement on these issues need not be a barrier to unity, as they were relatively insignificant compared to all Muslims’ shared love for the Prophet, there was still some reluctance to discuss them.  

Imam Muhammad al-Asi of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, who has recently been studying these issues, and discussing them during his Friday khutbahs outside the Islamic Center in Washington DC, made them the subject of his talk on the evening of the first day of the conference.  His approach is to re-examine the various issues on which there has been controversy, seeking to minimise the areas of difference and look for a common understanding on which Sunnis and Shi‘is can agree.  Even this, however, appeared too much for some of those at the conference, including the chairman of the session in which Imam al-Asi was speaking, who seemed to think that these areas are so controversial that any discussion of them risks causing discord.  

For such people, the favoured approach is simply to ignore these issues and pretend that they don’t exist, rather than acknowledging and discussing them.  In some circumstances, this is certainly the best approach; in his paper Error, Deviation, Correction and Convergence in Muslim Political Thought (1996), the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui said that such issues could be “black-boxed” -- a scientific term meaning that they should be set aside for resolution at a later time -- in order to avoid controversy and to focus the attention of the global Islamic movement on more immediate problems on which all Muslims do agree.  

However, Imam al-Asi was working on a slightly different approach, supported by other speakers at the conference, including this author, which suggests that once there is agreement that the differences between schools of thought are secondary to the consensus on key issues such as the Qur’an and the Sunnah and Seerah of the Prophet (saw), that the differences are primarily historical rather than fiqhi, and that disagreement on them need not be an obstacle to fraternal harmony and Islamic unity, it should be possible for ‘ulama and scholars to discuss these differences openly and frankly without risk of conflict.

Imam al-Asi was unfortunately not able to complete his presentation due to lack of time, but his approach was supported the following day by Hujjatul Islam Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour of the College of Advanced Studies in London. In his paper called ‘The true unity is achieved only through constant exchange of ideas’, Agha Bahmanpour emphasised that open and constant discussion of such issues was essential for achieving true unity, but that such discussions needed to be based on certain ground-rules to avoid dissension.  In particular, he said, all parties need to base their arguments on the Sunnah and the Seerah, on which there is no dispute; he reminded the conference that even the different readings of some parts of these subjects by ‘ulama of different schools of thought are in fact based on the same original sources.  The dispute, he said, is based not on the person of the Prophet, but on the interpretation of what came from the Prophet, and of events after the Prophet.  These, he said, we must be open to debating frankly, without bitterness and hostility; and the key to achieving this is for scholars of all schools to be open to disagreement and criticism of their own ideas without reacting emotionally or personally.

This is, of course, a matter of scholarly debate, and it is perfectly legitimate to argue, as Dr Kalim did, and as some continue to do, that such matters are best “black-boxed” until a later date.  However, there are also dangers to this approach; partly because of the implication that Muslims of different schools of thought are unable to discuss such matters amicably, and also, more importantly, because it prevents unity-minded scholars from developing effective alternative understandings of Muslim history to counter the propaganda of the sectarian Muslims on both sides of the divide, who continue to use divisive versions of the same history to promote their own, deeply damaging sectarian agendas.  

It is, of course, always the case that the level of most discourses trails behind that of the leading edge of the Islamic movement, which is defined by the most advanced of Muslim scholars and thinkers.  It is only the fact that a far-sighted few carry the discourse on to new levels that keeps the discourse as a whole moving forward, despite the conservative inertia of the majority of scholars.  This may be where we are at this time: with the challenge of sectarianism demanding a radical new approach from those scholars willing to address historical issues head on, confident that they can do so without risk of backsliding into unnecessary controversy, even though many of those who are genuinely committed to a unity approach remain fearful of the implications of their own understanding.

Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has referred to the establishment of the Islamic States Union as a necessity.

"Islamic countries have more material and spiritual dependence on each other than other states. Establishing such a union can play a vital role in expanding ties between Muslim nations," IRIB quoted Shahroudi as speaking in a meeting with President of Senegal's National Assembly Macky Sall.

He expressed hope parliaments of Islamic states would prepare framework for the foundation of the union during the next meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Countries (OIC), to be held in Dakar.

For his part, Sall urged officials of Islamic countries to establish more close contacts with each other and consolidate their efforts.


Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has urged the Muslims to forge unity to thwart plots hatched by the enemies.

Addressing a group of Ulema and intellectuals in Morocco on Sunday night, he said the enemies have launched a propaganda campaign to deviate our youths from the path of Islam.

It is the duty of the Islamic intellectuals to foil such plots, he said.

Global arrogance has provoked the sentiments of followers of religions by masterminding plots, he said, calling for enhanced Muslim vigilance.

The enemies try to cause rifts among various Islamic sects through deployment of their troops to Islamic countries such as Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan and provide support for extremist groups, he said, highlighting the role of Islamic Ulema in forging unity and solidarity among Muslims at this sensitive juncture.

Moroccan Ulema also briefed Shahroudi on the latest developments in the Muslim world and called for the convergence of Islamic nations against the global arrogance and the Zionists.

Shahroudi will later leave Morocco for Senegal.


A number of striking findings came in an underreported poll published in April 2007. The poll, commissioned by the University of Maryland confirms previous research on the subject . The poll conducted across four majority Muslim countries (Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, and Indonesia) showed overwhelming support for the following:

• Application of Shariah law in Muslim countries
• Unification with other countries in a Pan Islamic state ie. Caliphate
• Opposition to occupation and western foreign policy
• Opposition to the imposition of western values in Muslim lands
• Opposition to the use of violence against civilians

For some of these issues, the level of consensus is in excess of 75%.


1. It indicates the real views on the Muslim street

2. It blows the false myths about the political ideas of Islam and violence

3. It shows that the ideas underpinning the global war on terror are dangerous for the whole world and are deceptive to Western audiences

4. It proves the need for a change in western foreign policy towards the Muslim world

5. It proves that the Caliphate resonates in the Muslim world and that there is a need for all to understand these ideas from their advocates

1. It indicates the real views on the Muslim street

Tony Blair stated in many speeches that the Muslim world does not have to choose between dictatorship and a ‘Taleban style theocracy’. Rather, he argued, that the shared universal values of western democracy and liberty should be the future for Muslims.

It is true people hate dictatorship, occupation and corruption. However, it is false to think that the Muslim world feels the only way this can end is to choose a system like the one Blair, Bush and others advocate.

Muslims see the Shariah in governance as a means of guaranteeing their authority in appointing the ruler, and giving the checks and balances of accountability. Islam, Shariah and the Caliphate are what Muslims see as their liberation from dictatorship, occupation and corruption. It is a system that comes from their beliefs and values and is in accordance with their history.

2. It blows the false myths about the political ideas of Islam and violence

Right wing and hawkish commentators in the west argue that there is an inherent link between the political ideas of Islam and violence as a means to see Islam established. This survey has proved this is a lie and is false. People in the Muslim world want Islam but do not see political violence as a means to achieve it. In reality the overwhelming activism for the return of Islam and the Caliphate in the Muslim world has been through a political method.

3. It shows that the ideas underpinning the War on Terror are dangerous and are deceive the people in the west.

Political leaders, such as Bush, Blair, Cheney, John Reid and others have all attacked the principle of anyone working for a Caliphate and Shariah in the Muslim world.

President Bush stated, when referring to people that share the ideology of Al Qaeda "They hope to establish a violent political utopia across the Middle East, which they call caliphate, where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology."

Tony Blair also weighed in, when after the 7/7 attacks on London he stated that Britain must confront - “an evil ideology”, defining this as “their barbaric ideas.” These included: “the establishment of effectively Taliban States and Shari’ah law in the Arab world en route to one Caliphate of all Muslim nations.”

Charles Clarke when Home Secretary in 2005 made a speech to the right wing neo-conservative US think tank the Heritage Foundation stating in regards to the Muslim world: “What drives these people on is ideas. And, unlike the liberation movements of the post-World War II era, these are not political ideas like national independence from colonial rule, or equality for all citizens without regard for race or creed, or freedom of expression without totalitarian repression. Such ambitions are, at least in principle, negotiable and in many cases have actually been negotiated. However, there can be no negotiation about the re-creation of the Caliphate; there can be no negotiation about the imposition of Sharia law”.

They have led people in their own population to believe these are ideas of a fringe group of Muslims and most Muslims disagree with the idea of Shariah, Caliphate and any political manifestation of Islam. It is this thinking that deludes people into believing that they can ‘solve’ the problems of the Muslim world by bombing some groups, banning others and changing a couple of regimes.

The reality is that Islam, Shariah and Caliphate are the political ideas of the majority. Therefore, the war that these politicians launched is one that is against the ideas that are the majority mainstream ideas of the Muslim world – the ideas that people see as their liberation from tyrannical oppression, economic dependency and political slavery. They are fooling their own population into a false idea that is a war that can be won. They say it is to be a ‘long’ war. If they are trying to fight the ideas of approximately 1 billion people this is to be a never ending war.

4. It proves the need for a change in western foreign policy towards the Muslim world

The late Robin Cook said, after the Iraq war was over, that the challenge for the west is to reform its foreign policy with the Muslim world – meaning that he recognised that a colonial relationship was no longer tenable. The sad reality is that Bush and Blair interpreted the alternative to ruling through proxy dictators as direct rule via occupation. The unfortunate reality is that the likes of David Cameron and his small circle of neocon advisors agree with this analysis. The Gordon Brown analysis is like that of the Iraq Study group in the USA – that is that the policy of intervention to suppress the expression of these political ideas of Islam is essential, but that the military option is a last resort.

The hopeful sign is that the mainstream populations in Britain, Europe and America were against the Iraq war, and do not support these politicians in their desire to intervene, interfere and invade. They are sceptical about the arguments about liberal interventionism – seeing it as a hypocritical excuse to intervene for material gain. They are sceptical about the scare mongering about terrorist threats. Even where they see the need to take security measures at home they see this foreign policy as worsening the problem. They recognise that heightening anger in the Muslim world and destroying civil society does not make the world a safer place.

5. It proves that the Caliphate today resonates in the Muslim world and that there is a need for all to understand these ideas from their advocates

Above all this survey reflects the emergence of the return of the Caliphate as a majority desire. It proves that the Muslim masses want to live by the Shari’ah. It proves that the west has lost the battle of ideas. And it proves that Islam has won the battle for hearts and minds.

Given that this is the case, this shows that there is an urgent need for people to understand these ideas from those who carry them and believe in them. Many ordinary people in western countries see past the lies and spin of politicians. There is currently no effective voice that is countering these government inspired lies with the real facts about what Muslims the world over want. There is a huge burden on the Muslim community to advocate Islam as an alternative for the Muslim world.
Maryam Sakeenah                        

Years ago, a U.S diplomat was quoted as saying, "We do not want a war with Islam but we want a war within Islam." It seemed at that time a maniacal pronouncement of a fanatic neocon whom one could conveniently make an exception for.

Today, I understand the matter-of-fact honesty of the maniac. And I acknowledge the truth about the world_ that it is perhaps the maniac who has the last word, after all. It is the maniac whose 'Word Goes,' as Bush Sr. had said so long ago. And it sends chills down my spine.

There is method in the madness. It happened piece by piece in a well-orchestrated sequence. Sadly, though, as we get sucked into the black hole, we forget to understand the method till it makes us pieces in the jigsaw, in the grip of an intelligent madness.

The Shia-Sunni divide threatens to gape wider everyday in Iraq as casualties on both sides mount. Lebanon, a year after the Hezbollah's stunning resistance to the Israeli attack, is at war with 'extremists' in its own ranks. Pakistan grows restive in its self-defeating ordeal of warring on its own frontlines. The Afghan regime pleads help to keep its homegrown group of 'extremists', the Taliban, at bay. A cracked up Palestine drifts further apart, its bloodlines severed. To many the spectacle of a Muslim world at war against itself proves a pathological predisposition of Muslims for conflict and violence, and that the 'problem' is with Islam. The deeper diggers wonder, in this madness of Muslim pitted against Muslim, who really is the enemy? Whose agenda, really?

  The echoes of the prophecy of engineering a war within Islam are loud. But Muslims, ironically, have heads stuck firmly in the sand in their refusal to see the pattern, the unhidden hand. Neo-colonialism unveils its new façade, its latest tactic_ the war within. We play to the tune as we busy ourselves defining and tagging each other in labels tailor-made to create rifts keeping us apart, making those of our own, 'the other'. We have moderates, fanatics, fundamentalists, traditionalists, conservatives, liberals, extremists, Islamists, enlightened ones, moderates and secularists. Words invented to pit one against the 'other', to fragment, alienize. Words invented to give a name, a type, a brand, a separation and perpetuation to one's approach to Islam. Yet Islam bears no shades of grey. Truth stands clear, gleaming boldly. Its essence is Unity, Oneness_ not just as an aspect of belief in God but as a trait irradiated through all its facets.

The brand-names and labels are a phenomenon extrinsic and even odious to very fabric of Islam. It wreaks havoc on its essential unity of idea and geography as Muslims find themselves forced to choose an 'ism' for themselves to define their interpretation of Islam.

The many faces on T.V talk shows professing a 'moderate' affiliation to Islam reflect a total ignorance of the very nature of Islam as a holistic, comprehensive way of life and not a theory, a dogma, a means to procure a narrow agenda. It is not and cannot be broken up into an 'ism': "Enter into Islam completely,"  Says the Quran.

The 'isms' proliferate as the West plays its moves. "The war is between our values and theirs", said Bush. Musharraf echoed the idea in local context, "The fight is between the forces of extremism and the forces of moderation." It smells divisive, cutting across the body-politic, erecting thick walls and barriers. A war within Islam.

As Olmert and Blair take turns shaking hands with Abbas smiling into the camera triumphantly, Hamas-ruled Gaza struggles in the fetters of blockades, embargoes, sanctions, air-strikes and raids. "The terrorists must be isolated," the Fatah-Israel representatives announced. "We can have no links with those who support extremism," they righteously upheld.  And so, the hordes of impoverished refugees in Gaza have their fates written down in alien hands.

Ask the man on the street. A Palestinian blogger writes, " Hamas has a lot of support among the Palestinian people. They're genuine, of the people and for the people. And Abbas has a gang of traitors and corrupt criminals with him who have no support among us. In fact, if any one's a terrorist, it's those many in Abbas's gang." Wasn't it democracy and freedom the West proudly believed in? Lo and behold, an American analyst defines his select brand of democracy and the punishment for choosing the 'wrong kind' of it: "This is the punishment for Palestinians for having chosen extremists as their representatives."

So far so good. Before the Palestinians can even begin asking for a state of their own, they have a fixing up of their incorrigibly divided state to undertake. A long, long haul. Self-determination, freedom, independence, peace and all that jazz can wait… While behind the camera-smiles and handshakes, Israel opportunely busies itself building up its arsenal with dollars and weapons flowing in from its greatest ally.

In Pakistan the Lal Masjid crackdown has, among other things, helped sharpen and deepen the cracks. The enlightened moderates smoked out the bearded, capped, veiled, Quran-carrying innocents and justified the 'moral crusade' as a noble mission of the liberal-moderate forces against the 'extremists.' The label did it all. Many felt shy of sympathizing with the butchered inmates for fear of the detested 'extremist' or 'pro-extremist' tag. Those who wear the label proud, however, seethe in resentment_ raw, wounded, restive, desperate… In a hadith of the Prophet (S), one of the signs of the Day of Judgement is that 'the killer would not know why he kills, nor would the victim know why he is killed.'

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, highly regarded by the public, has struggled for years to stem the tide of secularism imposed on the country through their formidable intellectual struggle and a peacefully conducted social movement. It suffers extra-judicial kidnappings, deportations, arrests and crackdowns. Moderates versus Extremist, again.

In Somalia, after decades of anarchy, the Islamic Courts Union moved in and won over the public by its scrupulous rule and its swift progress to return the country to stability and peace. Alleged to be 'supporting Al Qaeda', Ethiopian troops backed and financed by the U.S moved in . The Somali 'moderates' allied with the advancing army against the 'orthodox' Islamists of the Union of Islamic Courts fighters. The death toll and atrocities mounted sharply. The fighters and the fought, the falling corpses were largely Muslim.

Who made the labels? Who tagged them on? Who gives the definitions? Who thrives on the divisions? From Baghdad to Palestine to Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is the U.S-backed undemocratic regimes, the string puppets doing the dirty jobs for self-perpetuation. The puppeteers pronounce 'A War Within Islam', and sit back to watch the spectacle_ Muslim against Muslim, moderate versus extremist, liberal versus fundamentalist_ and congratulate themselves. Finally, they can take a back seat and let the Great Game go on. 'Muslims are pathologically conflict-prone, you know…'

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution has venerated the advent of the Hajj in a message addressed to millions of devout Muslims gathering in Saudi Arabia to perform the religious rituals.

The following is the full text of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's message to pilgrims:

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Praise be unto God, the Lord of all the world and peace upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon his pure Household and his companions

Greetings to the pilgrims of the House of God, the guests of the Almighty's abode and those who have answered His Divine call ... and hail to hearts freshened by the remembrance of God and opened to His unsparing blessings and bounties. In these elixir-like days, nights and hours, many a man who gratefully consigned themselves to the Divine attraction, illuminated their hearts through penitence and repentance and cleansed themselves of the darkness of sin and idolatry in the waves of Divine mercifulness coming constantly one after another in this holy land. May God's peace be upon these hearts and these virtuous and self-purified people.

It would be most appropriate if all my brothers and sisters did think deeply over such a blessing and avail themselves of this great opportunity. They should not allow the worldly preoccupations which are our habitual engagements to occupy their hearts as usual. In this atmosphere of monotheism and unadulterated divinity, they should let their craving hearts soar and collect the necessary provisions to persevere on the path of God and the right path by the remembrance of God, penitence and supplication, a resolute will of truthfulness, good thinking and rectitude and seeking the help of God.

Here is the center of true and pure monotheism. Here is the place where Abraham (A.S), The Friend of God, left as a memorial for all the true believers of the world throughout history a symbol of monotheism which is the subjugation of one's carnal desires and complete submission before the Divine command by bringing his beloved to the altar. Here is the place where Muhammad Mustafa (S.A) raised the flag of monotheism against the wishes of the arrogant and bullying elements-and the wealthy of his time and deemed aversion to Taghoot along with belief in God as the condition for salvation: "Therefore whoever forsakes Taghoot and does believe in Allah, he shall grasp a most secure handle that never breaks" (2-256)

Hajj is the opportunity to review and revisit these great lessons. Disavowal from the infidels and aversion to idols and idolaters is the prevailing spirit of the believers' Hajj. Each and every corner of Hajj is a manifestation of devoting one's heart to God, striving in His name and path, disavowing from Satan, stoning and rejecting and standing against him. Each and every corner of Hajj is the embodiment of unity and solidarity among the believers where natural and contractual differences fade away and the significance of the true and monotheistic unity and brotherhood is upheld.

These are the lessons that we, the Muslims, from all parts of the world, have to learn; lessons on which bases we have to plan our lives and futures.

The Holy Koran refers to the strong stand against the enemies, compassion and kindness among the believers as well as courtesy and obedience to God as the three indications of an Islamic society. "Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and his followers should be solid of heart against the disbelievers, but most compassionate amongst themselves; you see them bowing down, prostrating, imploring Grace from God" (48-29)

These are the three basic pillars necessary for the establishment of the glorious and dignified body of the Muslim Ummah.

Bearing in mind this fact, all the Muslim people can appropriately identify the ailments of the present Muslim world.

Today, the treacherous enemies of the Muslim Ummah are the organizers of the hegemonic centers and expansionist and aggressive powers which consider the Islamic awakening as a great threat to their illegitimate interests and their oppressive domination over the Muslim world. All the Muslim nations led by their political and religious authorities, intellectuals and national leaders need to form a united Islamic front against this invading enemy with full strength. They need to muster all the elements of power within themselves and properly strengthen the Muslim Ummah. Knowledge and insight, resourcefulness and vigilance, responsibility and commitment, confidence and hope in Divine promises, refraining from petty and trivial wants in order to attain the consent of God and abiding by the duties ... are all the basic elements contributing to the sovereignty of the Islamic Ummah leading it to dignity, independence and material and spiritual progress and preventing the enemies from the attainment of their unlawful wishes.

Compassion among the believers is the second pillar and another indication for the desired status of the Muslim Ummah. Disunity and conflict among the parts of the Muslim Ummah are dangerous diseases which must be treated with all might. Our enemies have long been making great efforts in this area. Today, those who have become terrified due to the Islamic awakening have intensified their efforts. All that the caring people are saying is that the differences must not turn into conflicts and that plurality should not lead to belligerence.

The Iranian nation has named this year as the year of Islamic solidarity. This naming was used due to the awareness of the intensified plots hatched in order to sow the seeds of discord among our brothers. These plots proved to be effective in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and some people in these Islamic countries were instigated to oppose some of their own countrymen and to spill their blood. The traces of this conspiracy were visible in all these bitter and tragic incidents and people with keen sights noticed the hands of the enemy in them.

The command of "being compassionate amongst themselves" in the Holy Koran is tantamount to the extirpation of such pugnacities. In these glorious days and during the various rituals of Hajj, one may see Muslims from all over the world and from various faiths going around one single house, praying in the direction of one Qibla, stoning in unison the symbol of the rejected Satan, acting in the same way to sacrifice the carnal desires and passions and, in unison, practicing supplication during the Arafat and Mashar gathering places. The same closeness and togetherness is also visible among all the Islamic faiths in terms of the most basic religious percepts, regulations and beliefs. Therefore, why should the prejudices and prejudgments be allowed to kindle fire among them and why should the treacherous hands of enemies be allowed to stoke this ravaging fire?

Today there are some who, under false pretexts and due to their narrow-mindedness and lack of prudence, consider a great number of Muslims as infidels and even consider spilling their blood as lawful. Whether they are aware of it or not, they are in the servitude of idolatry, unbelief and arrogance. Many a person who' used the term of infidelity for the reverence of the holy shrines of Muhammad the Great Prophet of Islam (S.A), the Pious and the Imams (PBUH) which is actually honoring religion and religiousness, became the servants of infields and oppressors and collaborated with them in attaining their wicked goals.

The real religious figures and scholars, committed intellectuals and sincere authorities must combat such perilous phenomena.

Today, Islamic unity and solidarity are definite religious duties which may be materialized and practiced through cooperation among the wise and caring people.

Formation of a fortified front against the Arrogant powers on one hand and compassion and convergence on the other are the two pillars of dignity. Accompanied by the third pillar which is comprised of the courtesy and obedience to God, these pillars enable the Muslim Ummah to tread steadfastly on the same path which led to the pinnacle of glory and dignity for Muslims during the very outset of Islam. Consequently, the Muslim Ummah will be saved from the humiliating backwardness which has been imposed on it in recent centuries. The precursor of this great move has emerged and the awakening waves are more or less on the move in the Muslim world. The media and propaganda belonging to the enemies try to attribute any freedom and justice seeking movement in any part of the world to Iran or Shi'ism. They try to hold Iran, which was the first flag bearer of the victory of the Islamic awakening, responsible for the blows dealt to them by the zealots in the Muslim countries in the areas of politics or culture. The peerless epic of Hezbollah created in the 33Day War, the prudent resistance of the Iraqi nation which led to the formation of a parliament and a government not favored by the occupiers, the astonishing patience and perseverance of the legal government of Palestine and its self-sacrificing people and many other signs of the revival of Islam in Muslim countries are all accused of being linked to Iranism or Shi'ism in order to impede the unanimous support of the Muslim world. However, such a ruse will not be able to withstand the Divine tradition which heralds the victory for the strugglers in the cause of God and the victory-bearers of the religion of God. The future belongs to the Muslim Ummah and each and every one of us may contribute to the nearness of that future proportionate to the amount of responsibility or capability we have.

Hajj rituals are a great opportunity for you fortunate Hajjis to prepare yourselves for this cause more than before.

I hope the Divine aid and the blessing of Hazrat Al-Mahdi, May God hasten His arrival, will be with you in this great aim.

Greeting to you

Peace of God and his blessings and bounties upon you Sayyed Ali AI-Hosseini AI-Khamenei

Zafar Bangash

This month, an estimated 2 million Muslims will gather in the Hijaz for the Hajj, the annual gathering of the Ummah in accordance with the orders of Allah swt. and the Seerah of the Prophet.  But the Hajj they perform  is far removed from what it is supposed to be.

If the past is any guide, an estimated two million Muslims will perform Hajj this year as well.  There is another tradition that will be followed to the letter: Hajj will be performed in a mechanical way without most hujjaj ever realising why Allah wants them to go through such a physically and financially demanding exercise.  Is there any other purpose beyond visiting the House of Allah for a specified number of days?  No doubt visiting the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah is a richly rewarding experience in itself; how many of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims will have this honour in their lifetime?

But it behooves us to ask what the real purpose of Hajj is, and why it is not realized at present.  What factors are involved in preventing Muslims from understanding the real purposes and significance of Hajj, based on the teachings of the Qur’an and the life-struggle of Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad, upon them both be peace and blessings, whose Sunnah the Muslims are trying to follow by performing Hajj?

Let us compare this with another obligatory duty of Muslims: the five-times daily salah.  If an average Muslim were asked to describe it, the likely explanation would include the following: to be in a state of tahara (cleanliness), perform wudu, make the niyah, and the mechanics of how salah is performed.  Some might even mention that since it is one of the faraid (compulsory acts of ibadah) it has to be performed regularly.  All these descriptions and explanations are correct, but they do not reflect its true significance.  The word salah is derived from the Arabic root sila, meaning link.  Thus, salah is the renewal of our link with Allah by our standing before Him.  When we utter the takbir al-ahram to start our salah, we turn our backs on the world around us and initiate direct communication with Allah, praising and thanking Him for what He has bestowed upon us and beseeching Him for His help and guidance.  There are two other aspects that must be kept in mind: salah is a great leveller, and is meant to instill discipline.  When we stand for salah, all distinctions of class, position and authority are obliterated; whether rich or poor, big or small, official or layman, all are equal before Allah; the only thing that counts is our taqwa.

Like salah, Hajj too has been reduced to a few rituals without appreciating its true meaning or significance.  Allah subhanahu wa ta‘ala says in the noble Qur’an: “And people owe Allah [the obligation of] Hajj to the Sacred House; [that is] for those who have the means and the ability to undertake the journey” (Q. 3:97).  The “means” and “ability” refer to both financial and emotional as well as physical ability to fulfil the task.

Hajj is the re-enactment of the struggles of Ibrahim and Ismail (as).  But we must also remember that Ibrahim (as) was a rebel against the power of taghoot in his native land.  For rejecting his people’s false gods, he was thrown into the fire by Nimrod but miraculously saved by Allah.  Are we prepared to rebel against the taghoots of our time, or we are content with simply indulging in the rituals of Hajj without understanding the struggle of Ibrahim (as) or reliving it?

There are two other aspects of Hajj that demand attention.  First, Hajj is the grand annual assembly of the Ummah, unmatched by any other event in history.  It is meant to reflect the unity of the Ummah.  Although Muslims gather from all over the world for Hajj, the vast majority come and go quite oblivious of the plight of their fellow Muslims.  This is a great opportunity wasted.  Allah wants us to get to know each other; Hajj provides a perfect occasion for us to do so, and yet most Muslims perform Hajj in the company of millions of fellow Muslims but remain totally oblivious of their problems or suffering.  

This is not accidental; such behaviour has been deliberately cultivated.  To understand how Muslims have fallen into this, we need to examine recent history.  At the beginning of the last century, the British and French competed for control of the Middle East.  The British had realized the significance of the Hijaz, especially the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah that were administered by the Uthmaniyya khilafah.  These are important places for mobilizing Muslims.  A British officer, Captain R.F Burton, later to become famous as Sir Richard Burton, had expressed concern as early as the 1850s that Makkah and Madinah could be used to propagate ideas that are hostile to Britain, which  had colonised large parts of the Muslim world.  This was spelled out even more clearly by the British Consul General in Jeddah, a person named Zohrab.  In a message to the Foreign Office in London in 1902, he wrote: “The point of real importance to England politically, I believe is that Hijaz is the focal point of Muslim thought and the nucleus from which radiate ideas, advice, instructions and dogmatic implications… The Hijaz is also a point of much political importance to England and its relations with India… [Certain persons] I am persuaded proceed on the Hajj for political reasons.  Makkah being free of European intrusion is safe ground on which gatherings can be held, and ideas exchanged.  Up to the present time we have kept no watch on those who come and go… Thus meetings may be convened at Makkah at which combinations hostile to us may form without our knowing anything till the shell bursts in our midst… If this Consulate could have a trusted Mussalman agent in Makkah, I believe a great deal of valuable intelligence could be obtained.”

The British consul general’s warning and advice were taken so seriously in London that soon Britain had not one but two trusted “Mussalman” agents serving it in the Arabian Peninsula.  One was Sharif Husain ibn Ali of Makkah, who had been appointed by the Turks as governor of the Hijaz in November 1908; the other was Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, founder of the present-day kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Both were paid £5,000 sterling per month and a lump sum of £20,000 annually, according to a statement by Winston Churchill, then British secretary for the colonies, in the House of Commons on March 2, 1922.  The two British agents first undermined Turkish rule in the Arabian Peninsula, and later fought each other for control of the Hijaz.  Abdul Aziz ibn Saud with his Bedouin hordes turned out to be more ruthless and was successful in driving Sharif Husain out of the Hijaz.  

In order to placate Husain, the British carved out Trans-Jordan from the Turkish province of Palestine (which they had occupied in 1918) and placed one of Sharif Husain’s sons, Abdullah, on its throne; his other son, Faisal, was handed control of Syria.  Faisal was driven out of there but the British made him king of Iraq, which they also controlled.  Even that did not last long; Iraqi Ba‘ath nationalists murdered his grandson Faisal II and the hopes of Husain’s family ruling the entire Arabian Peninsula were dashed.  It was left in control of Jordan only, where it continues to this day, under the pompous title of “the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan”, though it is little more than a US-zionist colony serving the interests of the enemies of Islam.

The brigand Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, who had made his mark by robbing pilgrims’ caravans, had consolidated his grip on the entire Arabian Peninsula, including the Hijaz, by 1932, thanks to British military and financial help.  He named it “Saudi” Arabia in complete violation of the Prophet’s Sunnah; he (saw) had named this blessed land the Arabian Peninsula.  Abdul Aziz and the Aal-e Saud continued to act as British agents until the second world war and then switched to serving American interests once the US emerged as a major power on the world stage.  As part of its duties, the House of Saud prevents any activity at the time of Hajj that would lead to criticism of US policies.  The Saudis serve their American masters rather than Allah subhanahu wa ta‘ala.  This explains why Muslims are prevented from using Hajj as a unifying force for the Ummah or as an occasion to find solutions for its many problems.

We should also bear in mind that while the House of Saud treats the Arabian Peninsula, including Makkah and Madinah, as family property, refusing to heed Muslim advice on the status and administration of the Haramain, this was not always the case.  Until 1957 the Nawab of Hyderabad Deccan paid an annual subsidy of £25 million for the maintenance of Makkah and Madinah and for services to the hujjaj.  Oil had been discovered in the Arabian Peninsula much earlier, but Western oil-companies paid such a pittance for it that the House of Saud could not afford proper maintenance of the Haramain (Makkah and Madinah) without outside help.  It was only after 1957 that they started to bear the costs on their own.  What this shows is that the Ummah has never recognised the Haramain as the private property of Aal-e Saud; they are illegal occupiers of these holy places and have caused much damage to them.

Under the pretext of providing “better services” to the hujjaj, the historic sites of Makkah and Madinah have been systematically destroyed.  In their place have emerged Western-style concrete buildings—five-star hotels, shopping plazas with such western food-chains as Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and grease-filled McDonald hamburgers that cater to the tastes of Westernized Muslims but despoil the spiritual environments of Makkah and Madinah.  Throughout the world people preserve their historic sites as cherished monuments; the House of Saud is busy obliterating the holy sites of Islam.  Today there is no trace of the house where the Prophet (saw) was born or of the house where he lived with Umm al-Mu’mineen Khadija (ra) in Makkah.  Madinah’s historic sites have suffered similar destruction.  By contrast, relics that promote and project the history of the House of Saud are carefully preserved.

In addition to the physical destruction of Makkah and Madinah, there is an equally serious attempt underway to empty the Hajj of its true divine content and meaning.  Allah subhanahu wa ta‘ala commands in the Qur’an that during Hajj, Muslims must proclaim their dissociation (bara’a) from the mushrikeen (Q. 9: 1-18).  These ayaat were revealed in the ninth year of the hijrah, when the Muslims, led by Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra), had already left Madinah for Makkah to perform Hajj.  The Prophet, upon whom be peace, immediately dispatched Imam Ali (ra) to proclaim these ayaat at the time of Hajj.  This open and clear dissociation from the mushrikeen is a Qur’anic command, yet under the weight of official dogma and historical perversion it has been abandoned and almost totally forgotten.  One must ask why so few ulama draw attention to this important command of the Qur’an.  In fact, these ayaat are seldom or never mentioned in the context of Hajj.  Why? Are Muslims not suffering grievously at the hands of the present-day mushrikeen—the rulers of America, Britain, France, Israel, India and the like?  If the answer is yes (and there is no other possible answer), why is the occasion of Hajj not used to mobilise the Ummah to defend Muslims from the crimes of these enemies of Islam? How much more suffering must Muslims endure before the Hajj can be restored to its proper role: a unique annual focal point for asserting the unity of the Ummah, commitment to the cause of Allah, and our determination to stand against all the oppressive forces in the world, in line with Divine command and the example of Allah’s Messenger (saw)?  The plight of the people of Palestine and the continued occupation of al-Quds by the zionists, the horrendous crimes being perpetrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Chechnya, and other atrocities elsewhere, make it imperative that the Hajj be used as an occasion to mobilise Muslims against the enemies of Islam and the Ummah.  

There is a symbiotic relationship between the ritualisation (and therefore trivialisation) of the Hajj and the imposition of Western-style architecture on the sacred environment of the Haramain.  Both are meant to keep Muslims distracted by mundane things — rituals at Hajj and consumerism of the worst kind in the marketplace — so that the Muslims have no time or attention left for reflection or to find solutions to the problems facing the Ummah.  Exposing the enemies of Islam would also expose the House of Saud as agents of the mushrikeen; that would hardly be conducive to their continued control of the Haramain.  Their determination to prevent implementation of a divine command is in total violation of Islam’s law and is the worst kind of bida‘ imaginable.  Are we Muslims willing to change all this, or shall we continue to ignore the most important aspect of Hajj and thus make ourselves guilty of violating Allah’s command?

Magdi Abdelhadi

One cleric said science had proved Mecca to be the centre of the Earth. Muslim scientists and clerics have called for the adoption of Mecca time to replace GMT, arguing that the Saudi city is the true centre of the Earth.

Mecca is the direction all Muslims face when they perform their daily prayers. The call was issued at a conference held in the Gulf state of Qatar under the title: Mecca, the Centre of the Earth, Theory and Practice.

One geologist argued that unlike other longitudes, Mecca's was in perfect alignment to magnetic north.

He said the English had imposed GMT on the rest of the world by force when Britain was a big colonial power, and it was about time that changed.

Mecca watch

A prominent cleric, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawy, said modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true centre of the Earth; proof, he said, of the greatness of the Muslim "qibla" - the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray.

The meeting also reviewed what has been described as a Mecca watch, the brainchild of a French Muslim.

The watch is said to rotate anti-clockwise and is supposed to help Muslims determine the direction of Mecca from any point on Earth.

The meeting in Qatar is part of a popular trend in some Muslim societies of seeking to find Koranic precedents for modern science.

It is called "Ijaz al-Koran", which roughly translates as the "miraculous nature of the holy text".

The underlying belief is that scientific truths were also revealed in the Muslim holy book, and it is the work of scholars to unearth and publicise the textual evidence.

But the movement is not without its critics, who say that the notion that modern science was revealed in the Koran confuses spiritual truth, which is constant, and empirical truth, which depends on the state of science at any given point in time.

By the time many readers see this issue of Crescent International, the
US presidential elections will have taken place and the results known.  Failing some drastic turnaround in the last days of campaigning (after Crescent goes to press), Barack Obama is likely to be confirmed as the US"s first black president, in what is already being widely anticipated  as a total and deliberate repudiation of the legacy of the presidency of George W. Bush.  Last month saw the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), on which Jews repent their sins and are supposedly cleansed of them. (The day was marked in Israel this year by pogroms against Arabs in Acre and other towns).  In the US, the change of presidency will be treated by many Americans as having a similar effect: yes, the Bush administration has committed many errors in the last few years, but the (expected) anointment of a successor promoted as the precise opposite of everything the neo-cons stand for will be taken as wiping the slate clean and representing a new start.  This is a rewriting of history that Muslims must not make the error of accepting.

The reality is that even if Obama is inaugurated in January, and liberal America leads the world in celebrating the passing of the neo-con era, the change will be one of image and style rather than substance.  What Americans have increasingly rejected in recent years has not been the arrogance, duplicity and aggression of the Bush administration, but the failure of its strategies.  Had the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive aggression against perceived enemies proved more successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, the election of a neo-con successor would have been assured, regardless of the fact that the wars were based on lies  "  to the American people as much as the rest of the world  "  and that America is hated all over the world as a result.  

The assumptions that underpin the policies of the neo-con era, particularly the US"s right to rule the world in its own interests and to legitimise that rule by the fiction that it is acting in the interests of the whole world, are shared by all American politicians, and will not change.  All that an Obama administration will do, as demonstrated by his unprecedented support for Israel (criticised even by the US state department) and his commitment to the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan (which he has described as " good war"), will be to try to pursue the same agenda more effectively.  

Much has been made of his pledge to "talk with Iran" instead of isolating and attacking it; but the key there is what he will be saying and what his objectives will be. In that again, there will be no change; his object will be undermine and subvert the Islamic state and erode its independence, gradually bringing it back into the "international community" of nations under US overlordship.  Similar changes of approach may be seen towards Hamas, again because the policy of trying to isolate and destroy it has failed; Obama has made it absolutely clear that he will be as pro-Israel as Bush and Clinton before him. In both cases, what the Bush administration tried and failed to do through years of political pressure and threats, an Obama administration will try to do by  softer diplomacy and inducements.  It will make a change, no doubt, but is hardly cause for celebration.  

But the Bush years cannot be written off as an aberration, a regrettable period of madness prompted by the shock of 9/11.  Bush was elected before 9/11, supported by many Muslims who were angry at the aggressions of the Clinton years: the support for Israel, the starvation and repeated bombings of Iraq, the  attacks  of  Libya  and  Sudan, etc.   The  problem  theworld has is not neo-conservatism, but American hegemonic imperialism; and that is a fundamental element of American dealings with the rest of the world throughout its history and will not about to change any time soon.  

The celebratory mood of change that will accompany a likely Obama victory should not blind Muslims to these realities; the sense of shock and disappointment that will be felt around the world if John McCain manages to overturn the odds after all " if, for example, America suffers a convenient terrorist attack in the run-up to the polls  "  would in fact be better preparation for what the world can expect regardless of who is elected to succeed George W. Bush.  

Some Americans at least have become aware in recent years that their country is now regarded by most of the rest of the world as a threatening and hostile world power.  Their object will be to soften its image while protecting their interests, by exercising "soft power" rather than "hard power".  And some in the world will find it convenient to support them in this and pretend that America really has changed.  This is a mistake Muslims cannot afford to make.  We must be absolutely clear: whoever wins the election on November 4, America"s war on the world will continue, and so too must Muslim resistance to it.


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