The extended name of the Shiite imams

January 25, 2008 at 11:50 pm (Arabic, History, Islam, Shiite Islam)

While I should have been working on a post on jihad, I was toying around with the extended names of the Shiite imams. Most Arab names include the name of the father (the formula “bin” or “ibn” followed by the father’s name) but some include the names of more ancestors. For no reason whatsoever, here are the extended names of the Twelver and Ismaili imams.

The current Twelver Imam is Abu-l-Qāsim Muhammad al-Mahdī bin al-Hassan al-’Askarī, twelfth in the line (hence “Twelver Shiites”). He is the so-called “Hidden Imam”. The current Nizari Qasim-Shahi Ismaili Imam is His Highness Shāh Karīm al-Hussaynī Āgā (or Āghā) Khān IV, forty-ninth in the line. (In actuality, Arab naming conventions are not used among the Ismailis.) Read the rest of this entry »


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One step forward, two steps back

December 24, 2006 at 5:44 pm (Iraq, News, Shiite Islam)

As geoff noted, we were prematurely jubilant upon the news that Shiite politicians had formed a bloc and sought as-Sistani’s blessing for it. As-Sistani refused to do so, on grounds that he could not endorse a measure that would divide Shiites. This was an oblique reference to as-Sadr.

Frankly, I was disappointed but not all that surprised. If he endorsed the bloc, the potential for a civil war between Shiites would increase. As Iraq’s Shiites’ leader, it seems he felt this would not be something he could in good conscience do.

What this means is that rather than forcing as-Sadr to give up his militia-mongering, Shiite politicians would have to pander to as-Sadr and what conditions he would set.

Undoubtedly, one of these conditions would include a guarantee from the government that attacks on Shiites will stop and that perpetrators would be severely punished. It is to be expected that another sick condition would include some guarantee of autonomy to his militias and to Shiite areas. Thus, although anti-Sunni attacks may stop, as-Sadr would be able to continue to exercise armed hegemony over his areas.

And we must not forget one of as-Sadr’s prime sponsors: Iran. It may also be possible that as-Sistani refused to endorse the bloc so as to avoid a confrontation with Iran or its proxies.

A major problem with allowing as-Sadr autonomy is that then he would become Iran’s Iraqi equivalent to Lebanon’s Nasrollah.

[Saying that I wanted to see how the meeting went with as-Sistani turned out to be the right approach. I suppose it pays to be cautious when it comes to developments in world politics.]

And as much as the Shiites have suffered, it is time for permanent measures to be emplaced to protect their security, otherwise this militia-mongering will become endemic to Iraqi Shiite society, as has happened among the Palestinians, which would not be good at all.

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Good news: Shiites form bloc, seek ceasefire

December 21, 2006 at 11:25 pm (Iraq, Islamism, News, Shiite Islam, World War III)

Contrary to memes that Iraq is going to heck in a handbasket, the Shiites are getting their…stuff together.

“Shiites seek cease-fire from cleric” by Qassim Abdul-Zahra of Associated Press, courtesy of Yahoo! News.

When I first read the headline, I assumed a Shiite delegation would be going to Muqtada as-Sadr, the Shiite militia leader, to ask for a ceasefire. But I was wrong. The Shiites wanted the blessing of the senior-most Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatullah as-Sayyid Ali al-Husseini as-Sistani, for a ceasefire. They then plan to speak with as-Sadr about him joining the mainstream, whereby the Shiites would be able to get him to reign his militias in.

Meeting as-Sistani is a significant step because if he gives his blessing, not only will the Shiite bloc in the Iraqi government gain legitimacy but it would be incumbent upon Shiites to support the bloc. After all, as a cleric, the Grand Ayatullah is acting in persona Imami, on behalf of and in the person of the Hidden Imam. To disobey or go against the Grand Ayatullah would be to disobey or go against the Imam, which is tantamount to apostasy from Islam as far as Shiites are concerned.

This is also significant because this means that Shiite politics may be swinging from militant Irani-backed Sadrists to quietist stability-promoting Iraqi Shiites.

I don’t know how as-Sadr would respond, but it would be quite difficult for him to maintain his legitimacy and popular support if he essentially spurns an endeavor blessed by the Grand Ayatullah himself. Although as-Sadr has significant issues with the clerical authorities, for reasons of religious legitimacy he cannot splinter off explicitly or blatantly. I hope Shiites use this as a tool to bludgeon him into submission.

By the way, the author of the article – (قاسم عبد الزهراء, qāsim ‛abdu-z-zahrā’) Qassim Abdul-Zahra – you can’t get a more Shiite name than that. In fact, it would be considered blasphemous by Sunnis. (عبد, ‛abd) means “servant” or “slave,” and (الزهراء, az-zahrā’) is a feminine adjective meaning “the radiant” and is an epithet of (فاطمة بنت محمد, fāTimah bint muHammad) Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter and Ali’s wife, whom Shiites revere. Technically, one can only use one of God’s 99 names in Islam after (عبد, ‛abd), otherwise it would be considered idolatry or polytheism.

Let’s see how this plays out. In any case, that a political coalition is forming among Shiites that rejects as-Sadr’s militancy is a significant development indeed. Now if only the Sunnis would follow suit.

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Iraq better before than now: a pet peeve

December 21, 2006 at 4:59 pm (History, Idiots, Iraq, Shiite Islam, US Government, World War III)

In the comment thread for “We’re not winning in Iraq?” by geoff of Uncommon Misconceptions, a person named Jerry Chandler said:

Never mind that before the U.S. invaded Iraq that the Sunnis and
Shiites were living in relative Peace even to the point of inter-
marrying, just like Catholics and Protestants. What Dubya should
have done was gone in to Iraq, took out Saddam, arrested him
and charged him with crimes against humanity in the International
It is my fondest hope that one of the first items on the Democratic
agenda should be the impeachment of both Dubya and Cheney.
Buy the way, feel free to publish my e-mail address. Since I don’t
have an official web-site and I’d like to continue this discussion
Jerry Chandler
Omaha ne

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people mischaracterize the situation in Iraq prior to its liberation in such a way as to suggest or explicitly claim that the liberation thereof resulted in an Iraq far worse off than it was under Saddam Hussein and his regime. Read the rest of this entry »

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