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Spread by the Sword?


Qa'im

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

           

            Not only is Islam the second-largest religion in the world, but it is the world’s fastest growing religion. With globalization and the influx of Muslim immigration to the West, many people are reluctantly meeting Muslims for the first time. Fear of the unknown is common, but that fear is constantly perpetuated by images of violence in the Muslim world. As a visible minority with little political leverage, the Muslim community is an easy target for xenophobes, warmongers, and nationalists. The Muslim world is the needed bogeyman for the military-industrial complex, private security companies, and isolationist politicians to thrive. Rather than trying to understand the complex imperial and economic variables that cause violence in the Muslim world, it is both simpler and more cunning to resort to generalized arguments about Islam. This view, however, overlooks the many scientific and philosophical contributions Muslims have made to Western civilization. More importantly, it distorts the reality of the Muslim civilization’s mostly-tolerant history. The centuries-old narrative that Islam was “spread by the sword” is still popular today, and it causes Muslims living in the West to be looked at as a suspicious Trojan horse waiting to Islamize the world. It is therefore necessary for us to deconstruct this worldview. This paper will briefly explore the rise and expansion of Islam, and demonstrate that tolerance and plurality were founding principles of Islamic ethics.

            Since the early days of the Prophet Muhammad’s ministry, Islam’s relationship with non-Muslim communities has been notable. Shortly after the Muslim migration to Medina (then known as Yathrib) in 622 CE, the Prophet drafted the Constitution of Medina. This charter put an end to tribal infighting in Medina, created a new judicial system, guaranteed the mutual protection of Muslims and non-Muslims, and established a new “Community of Believers (mu’mineen)”. (Gil, 2004, pp. 21) This community would include the Jewish tribes of Medina, while still recognizing their distinct identity and laws. Although Bernard Lewis claims that the Constitution of Medina was a unilateral proclamation by Muhammad, (Lewis, 1993, pp. 22) Muslim sources generally referred to it as a pact between the Muslims and the Jews following the two pledges at `Aqaba. Furthermore, Wellhausen, a German orientalist, regarded this charter to be a multilateral agreement negotiated between all of the involved groups. (Gil, 2004, pp. 22)

            The Prophet Muhammad also ratified writs of protection to other communities. The Ashtiname of Muhammad, which was written by `Ali b. Abi Talib upon the commission of Muhammad, granted privileges to the Christian monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. (Ratliff, 2012, pp. 63) The document guarantees that Christians are not to be overtaxed, plundered, disturbed, or coerced into marriages. (Morrow, 2013) These covenants demonstrate that the Prophet pursued a peaceful and tolerant coexistence with other communities, and made his followers accountable to ethical principles of justice.            

The Prophet Muhammad very plainly stressed the equality of all people, regardless of tribe, colour, class, or ethnicity. While rights differed among subgroups of society, the Islamic civilization held no concept of the natural subordination of individuals or groups. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127) Conversion to Islam only required a simple declaration of faith, while becoming a member of the ancient Greek polity was only possible for Greek male property owners. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127)  The egalitarianism of the Quranic message was attractive to many who sought social refuge from the caste system and other forms of subordination. (Eaton, 1992, pp. 117)

The Caliphate’s medieval conquests, which occurred after the Prophet Muhammad, are the main source of agitation among those suspicious of Muslims. It should be noted that `Ali b. Abi Talib, who is considered the rightful successor to Muhammad by Shia Muslims, refrained from taking part in these conquests, despite being renowned as a great warrior. There should be no doubt that there were incidents that occurred during early expansion that are not in line with the teachings of the Prophet, especially during the ridda wars and the Battle of `Ulays. The Shia Imams consistently held the Caliphate accountable during mistrials and in moments of nepotism; and they struggled to establish social and economic justice in the Muslim world. But, the frame that the Islamic conquests were wholly or mostly negative is a Eurocentric view that does not account for other pieces of the puzzle.

            Many ancient texts document extensive Judeo-Christian support for the Muslim conquests of Byzantium and Persia. Jews in the Levant had expected a redeemer who would deliver them from the Roman occupiers. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3-6) The Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple in 134 CE, outlawed Jews from living within ten miles of Jerusalem, disbanded the Jewish high court, taxed the Jews heavily, and persecuted them for siding with the Persians. This torment ignited a messianic fervour among medieval Jews, leading to a widespread anticipation of a saviour. One of the earliest non-Muslim references to the rise of Islam is the Doctrina Jacobi, a Greek Christian anti-Jewish polemical text written in 634 CE, just two years after the passing of Prophet Muhammad. The text describes “overjoyed” Jews celebrating the Muslim arrival in Byzantium. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3) Moreover, The Secrets of Simon ben Yohai, a Jewish apocalyptic text written between the seventh and eighth centuries CE, tells of the emergence of an Ishmaelite “prophet according to God’s will” who would save the Jewish people from their oppressors. (Crone, 1977, pp. 4-5)

The Islamic conquest of the Levant would restore Jewish access to Jerusalem and establish a polity that would include Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. The Pact of Umar II, a writ of protection extended by `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz in the seventh century, promised safety and the right to worship to Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians in exchange for the payment of the poll tax (jizya). (Berger, 2006, pp. 88) While some orientalists have criticized the Pact’s prohibition on riding horses, Muslim clothing and building high structures, these stipulations may have been placed to prevent insurrections against Muslim garrisons, rather than to humiliate or subordinate non-Muslims.

            The Muslim treatment of non-Muslims was similarly commended by Near Eastern Christians. John bar Penkaye, an East Syriac Nestorian writer of the late seventh century, praised the Muslim overthrow of the Sassanid dynasty. In his Summary of World History, he writes, “We should not think of the advent [of the children of Hagar] as something ordinary, but as due to divine working. Before calling them, [God] had prepared them beforehand to hold Christians in honour, thus they also had a special commandment from God concerning our monastic station, that they should hold it in honour … God put victory in their hands.” (Pearse) This early Christian account documents the just conduct of Muslim rulers, likening it to divine intervention. Furthermore, after the Byzantines had seized control of Egypt and put the Coptic Patriarch Benjamin I of Alexandria into exile, the Muslim conquerors restored Benjamin I’s authority and brought order to the affairs of the Coptic Church.

Many cultures were drawn to Islam’s magnetic social appeal. Indonesia, which is the country with the highest population of Muslims, encountered Arab merchants in the thirteenth century. Along with the arrival of Muslim commercialism, Islamic stories and symbols were introduced to the population through traditional wayang puppet shows. (Hamish, 2011, pp. 46-51) In the Indian subcontinent, Islam provided social mobility to lower castes, giving people equal rights and freeing them from total subservience to the Brahmans. The transformative power of Sufism was also attractive to many Hindus who sought ascetic, mystical brotherhoods. (Lapidus, 1988, pp. 363) Sufi and Shia saints continue to be revered by Hindu and Sikh poets in India.

Although the Muslim empires had a tumultuous relationship with European Christians over the centuries, sizable Christian and Jewish communities with ancient origins continued to thrive in the Muslim world. Moorish and Ottoman confrontations with Christendom have propelled the misconception that Islam was spread by the sword. The fact is, however, that the conversion of the Near East to Islam occurred very gradually. By 800 CE, only 18% of Iraq’s population was Muslim. (Brown, 2016) Furthermore, Egypt, Spain, and the Levant did not attain a Muslim majority until the eleventh century. (Brown 2016) This means that the Muslims were a minority in the heartlands of their own civilization for hundreds of years. While poll taxes and other social pressures certainly promoted conversion to Islam, ancient churches, synagogues, temples, and other relics were maintained. Judeo-Christian populations even had rights to printing presses and European books in the Ottoman Empire – a privilege rarely granted to Muslims. (Brown, 2016) 14% of the Middle East remained Christian by 1910, with significant populations in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. (Brown, 2016)

On the other hand, Christendom had a relatively poor record with minorities. Although Iberia was mostly Muslim in the fifteenth century, all Muslims were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity in 1526. (Brown, 2016) In 1609, 3-4% of Spain’s population consisted of Christian descendants of Muslims, who were also expelled under King Philip the Third. Anti-Jewish pogroms were also common in pre and post-Enlightenment European history. While there are many ancient Christian communities in the Muslim world, there are practically no ancient Muslim communities in the Christian world, despite Islam’s long history in Spain, Portugal, Sicily, and Eastern Europe.

            In recent decades, the Muslim world’s relationship with its non-Muslim minority communities has suffered. Colonialism, neo-imperialism, military dictatorships, and poor economies have sometimes caused the alienation and scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities in the Muslim world. In June 2014, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rose out of the destabilization of Iraq and Syria, routed Christians out of Mosul. This genocide marked the end of over a thousand years of continuous Muslim-Christian coexistence in the region. While ISIL’s actions are a black mark on modern Islamic history, ISIL’s main military and ideological opponents are other Muslims in the region and around the world. This paper demonstrates that normative Islam seeks unity under common ethical principles. It is vital for Muslims to revive an equitable, pluralistic and tolerant worldview, not just because diversity is strength, but because it is the ethos of our civilization.           

 

Bibliography

Berger, Julia Phillips., and Sue Parker. Gerson. Teaching Jewish History. Springfield, NJ: A.R.E. Pub., 2006. Print.

Pearse, John Bar Penkaye, Summary of World History (Rish Melle) (2010). N.p., n.d. Web. 9 July 2016.

Crone, Patricia, and Michael Cook. Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977. Print.

Http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4L23Z_agh1qeV_odQfV6Vg. "Dr. Jonathan AC Brown - The Message of Peace Spread by the Sword - UMaine IAW 2016." YouTube. YouTube, 2016. Web. 9 July 2016.

Eaton, Richard Maxwell. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Berkeley: U of California, 1993. Print.

Gil, Moshe, and David Strassler. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Print.

Harnish, David D., and Anne K. Rasmussen. Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.

Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print

Lewis, Bernard. The Arabs in History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993. Print.

Morrow, John A. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Ratliff, Brandie, and Helen C. Evans. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th-9th Century. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. Print.

ʻInāyat, Ḥamīd. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin: U of Texas, 1982. Print.

21 Comments


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First of all there is proof that Imam Ali helped with those expanisions, namely the conquest of Persia. Shaykh Al-Korani has talked about this.

Secondly, in our Fiqh there is something called offensive Jihad. Whether that is the exclusive right of the infallible Imam or another person can call it is a different issue, the point is not every war in Islam is defensive. Some are expansionist and offensive. 

Sayyed Subah Shubbar nails it:

 

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  • Advanced Member

@E.L King can you tell me why Imam Ali a.s. Got involved in those offensive wars? It's very common for Shia scholars and speakers that I've heard to say that Imam Ali a.s. didn't participate in these wars, and was only a judge, or took care of administrative side of things. Thanks.

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8 hours ago, YAli said:

@E.L King can you tell me why Imam Ali a.s. Got involved in those offensive wars? It's very common for Shia scholars and speakers that I've heard to say that Imam Ali a.s. didn't participate in these wars, and was only a judge, or took care of administrative side of things. Thanks.

He wasn't actually fighting, Shaykh Al-Korani makes the case that however he was organising the Muslims' Army

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  • Veteran Member
On 3/8/2017 at 3:32 PM, E.L King said:

He wasn't actually fighting, Shaykh Al-Korani makes the case that however he was organising the Muslims' Army

If war on offensive is not justified by Allah SWT, why Imam Ali a.s. involve in organising 'the Muslim Army' ?

If war on offensive is justified by Allah SWT, why Imam Ali a.s. only involve in organising 'the Muslim Army' ?

If what Imam Ali a.s. was doing ( organising 'the Muslim Army') is justified/not justified by Allah SWT, :

a. what is the proof of Allah SWT's justification

b. is Imam Ali a.s.'s power of faith to Allah SWT is lower/higher than the power of the will of the Muslim Army ?

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  • Advanced Member

@E.L King

@myouvial has a point, even organising the army would mean Imam Ali a.s. is involved in this 'unjust' war. It's still involvement, whether on the front-lines, or the "back office" to use today's business world language. 

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Whilst it's 'possible' that Islam is the fastest growing religion (though there is no empirical evidence of it; Indian Hindus are converting to Christianity in droves to escape the cast system), Atheism/Agnosticism, if they were considered a 'religion', would most likely account for a larger shift in individual beliefs.

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"Many cultures were drawn to Islam’s magnetic social appeal. Indonesia, which is the country with the highest population of Muslims, encountered Arab merchants in the thirteenth century. Along with the arrival of Muslim commercialism, Islamic stories and symbols were introduced to the population through traditional wayang puppet shows. (Hamish, 2011, pp. 46-51) In the Indian subcontinent, Islam provided social mobility to lower castes, giving people equal rights and freeing them from total subservience to the Brahmans. The transformative power of Sufism was also attractive to many Hindus who sought ascetic, mystical brotherhoods. (Lapidus, 1988, pp. 363) Sufi and Shia saints continue to be revered by Hindu and Sikh poets in India."

====

I do not have authentic reference, everything i know i keep in my mind.

I read from internet :

Mu'awiyah or his rezime send the mercenary to Sriwijaya Kingdom in South of Sumatera and they refer the Kingdom as the country of elephant (as there are a lot elephant at that era.)

Many tomb with the Islamic name (or may even Ahlul Bayt a.s.'s name such as Fatimah etc).

A lot of culture and the clue of Ahlul Bayt a.s. such as one of the son of Imam Ja'far Shadiq a.s. moved to Indonesia/Nusantara area.

So the introduction of Islam to Indonesia is far before 13th century. And the introduction is through culture adaptation (amal ma'ruf nahi munkar) not by sword. Eventhough there is Wahhabi movement in the beginning of 19 century in West/North Sumatera, but i guess i see how Allah SWT has His own Will/Destiny, and i hope the movement is getting loose foundation by the teaching of Ahlul Bayt a.s.

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On 3/6/2017 at 0:41 AM, E.L King said:

Secondly, in our Fiqh there is something called offensive Jihad. Whether that is the exclusive right of the infallible Imam or another person can call it is a different issue, the point is not every war in Islam is defensive. Some are expansionist and offensive. 

Sayyed Subah Shubbar nails it:

 

But when offensive jihad could happen exactly ?

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  • Veteran Member
On 3/14/2017 at 6:17 AM, baqar said:

So, i just read this/your news today.

It seems Australia is worried about the existence of Saudi Arabia (at least from the opinion of the author).

"In the face of the Saudis' relentless, pernicious proselytising, what has Australia done? Cut its aid funding for Indonesian schools and more than halved the number of scholarships it offers to Indonesians to study in Australia."

Well, farewell human. Whatever wil be, it will be. Probably, slaughtering may happen in Indonesia again ?

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  • Veteran Member

The basic of Indonesian politic is "bebas aktif" (maybe translated into 'free active') into achieving world peace as the "penjajahan" (or 'occupation') is against human right.

However, the application of "bebas aktif" can overlimit into tolerancy to what ever other countries do in abusing human right. This dangerous politic may achieve the upper limit into deadly (to the country itself) poisonous thinking.  

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On 3/10/2017 at 5:43 PM, Ya Aba 3abdillah said:

Whilst it's 'possible' that Islam is the fastest growing religion (though there is no empirical evidence of it; Indian Hindus are converting to Christianity in droves to escape the cast system), Atheism/Agnosticism, if they were considered a 'religion', would most likely account for a larger shift in individual beliefs.

Brother this is not accurate. Islam is the fastest growing religion by birth for which there is an abundance of evidence because virtually every country keeps records of its birth rates and a rough estimate of its religious demographics which are mostly accurate. This is something for which the empirical evidence is overwhelming. Just look at the rise in population in Muslim majority countries over the last 50 years, it's unbelievable. Islam is definitely growing, alhamdulillah.

The problem for the next generations will be defending it from the religion of secular humanism, which has in fact gripped the minds of Muslims to varying degrees and turned their mental conception of the world into one of kufr. The problem is that the ulema of the 60's recognized the kufr of communism because it declared open atheism, and they militantly opposed it. Although they recognize the philosophical problems of "the West" generally, there really has not been this militant and overt opposition to SECULAR HUMANISM which IS the religion of the modern world. The failure to name the phenomenon is, I think, in part why there has been such a lax response to what is easily a far bigger than anything else facing the ummah today. And it is coming in through soft power (cinema, news, etc.)

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On 08/03/2017 at 3:32 AM, E.L King said:

He wasn't actually fighting, Shaykh Al-Korani makes the case that however he was organising the Muslims' Army

Brother @Qa'im, could you shed some light on this? I'm confused now. If Imam Ali was involved in organising the Muslims' army, this is basically like him being a part of an offensive war. 

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      When I found Islam, my ultimate destiny, and when I found God I felt so ecstatic and intense, I felt this deep power and enlightenment, It was entirely uplifting, deeply emotional and pleasurable, I felt a deep joy that finally my existence made sense, that God gave me a purpose to live for to strive for and to fight for, to reach the highest level of existence. He chose me out of all these people who are lost, I had met more than 2,000 people and he just gave me this special gift, showed me the door to his secrets, Our(Shias) status To God is special, this is why we should fight this world and fight ourselves and desires and never give up, to be worthy of this privilege that God gave us. When I personally realized this it was time for the hard work. When we understand the power laying behind us we would never have to fear anything ever again in our entire life. 
      I was so afraid to jump into this transition, my faith was weak and I had doubts at some moments. I had to give up my friends, my activities, habits, shut off my desires, change my morals, my rules, my lifestyle, my priorities, my social life, my behavior… I was shifting my core belief which is something very hard for a human to change. I was trapped and afraid at some point; I didn’t know how to do it. I was never home, I was never alone, I was lazy, I never respected my parents, I didn’t prioritize anything except my plans, I’d quite jobs because my work schedule didn’t match my entertaining plans...This is how much I was messed up and attached to the world.
      I seeked happiness and the more you feel happiness the more you want it, it’s like a drug, so you indulge more in dunya activities until you are completely lost. Happiness wasn’t created to feel here, happiness is for the next world, we should never waste time here getting attached to this world because we will do eventually whatever we want in the afterlife. We are born to pass this test and to return to our original home where Prophet Adam was created. It took me time to realize this.
      My friends were atheists, mushrikin, infidels, and almost all my activities were sinning, I quite them all and now I don’t befriend no one but the lovers of Ahlul Bayt(عليه السلام). It was very hard and I suffered deeply at some point, washing away your sins purifying yourself from them is EXTREMELY hard, it’s like you’re pulling forward and the devil is pulling you back all the time. But God didn’t let me feel I’m alone, he rewarded me, gave me a steady job where I can be fully committed in, gave me this feeling of security and self-satisfaction, gave me Many privileges that I didn’t possess before. This entire process made me someone else; I became very mentally strong and different. Islam isn’t for sissies; Islam needs strengths, stability, mental toughness, brave hearted individuals who take sacrifices for God, who are ready to face the evil and the challenges of this world.
      The equation is simple, as much as you give God as much as He gives you in return. After I was guided I tested myself, tried doing some things that I did in the past to see if this was a phase in my life, but I felt disgusted ashamed weak and I became afraid of death. Now if I touch a man by mistake or if I eat something from a table that has alcohol on it without paying attention I would think about it for 3 days feeling guilty because I disappointed God. I do not fear punishment as much I fear to fail God, because I love Him, that is the true worshiping. Each time I do something to get closer to God I feel my soul elevating I feel that I’m gaining spiritual power and my perspective towards the world changes… Everyone told me it's just a phase but as each day is passing I'm falling more in love with this religion and with Ahlul Bayt(عليه السلام). I still have hard time committing to my religion as my parents don't know(or kinda in denial), so I practice everything in secrecy.
      To conclude I want to tell you something, brothers and sisters, this world is evil, you shouldn’t love it nor seek to have fun in it, you should hate it and never ever be dependent on something related to it, even though I know the truth behind my past life how it’s all evil empty and worthless, it still tempts me sometimes till this very day, the love of this world isn’t easy so don’t get yourself trapped because once you’re in it’s so difficult to get out. Don’t go to hell to enjoy life here; don’t sell your soul to the devil.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         1
      Introduction
      The institute is a Saudi attempt to exercise soft power. It presents 'research' designed to undermine the IRI. The people behind this organisation know the value of appearing to be independent and great care has been taken to present the image of a western 'thinktank'. Indeed you almost get the impression that the people behind an American think tank came up with this one.
      But as with any articificial exercise there are holes and I'll examine one of them.
      About us
      Nowadays it's a requirement (in the interests of transparency) to have something titled 'about us', so visitors can know who it is that is running or even sponsoring an organisation. Below is an extract of their About Us page.

      https://rasanah-iiis.org/english/about-us/
      All this verbiage about vision, mission and values. It's straight out of Harvard Business School. Obviously I am using that as a surrogate to stand-in for contemporary western ideas about how you shape the scope and direction of an organisation. Whoever put this together either attended a western institution or was told to copy the relevant sections from another website. The key thing is the importance of 'emulation', the people running the site are in the taqlid of a foreign ideology and doing their best to ape it.
      But they fall down.
      Form vs. function
      The problem with copying someone else is that you pay attention to the form of something but not necessarily its content. You use the right headings, but not necessarily the right meanings. The words are in the right order but they don't mean very much. If you are running a grocery shop and you attended a two day seminar on management so that you could write a business plan this is not necessarily a problem.
      If you are running a thinktank, it is. You are in the business of creating and presenting ideas. If you can't get the basics right, you're in the wrong business.
      The problem in a nutshell - Values
      By the time they got to values they ran out of ideas. Quite funny really, in a pathetic kind of way. Values is where you write what your organisation stands for. Again if you are running a think tank you do obviously have values. To give you an example here is something from the American Enterprise Institute:
      https://www.aei.org/about/
      I have used them because just as I don't agree with the Saudi outfit that is the focus of this post, I also don't agree with the AEI, but they are at least transparent. And they set out their values clearly. They believe that free enterprise (as opposed to State control) is a good thing in and of itself. Their having declared this tells you in advance that studies they publish are likely to show free enterprise in a positive light.
      Values in a bit more detail
      The great thing about values is that the concept allows for the fact that people have different values. Going back to the AEI example, clearly other people around the world have different values, they believe that e.g. State control of all the means of production is a good thing and there are people somewhere along the middle of this continuum, who believe that some mixture of free enterprise and State control is to be preferred.
      When I talk with Chinese audiences I use the concept of filial piety as representing a set of values. What follows below is a set of statements (measuring filial piety) with which you can either strongly agree or disagree or be somewhere in the middle.
      In Asian societies, for example, you will tend to find that people will be more likely to strongly agree with many of these statements. In some western ones disagreement is more likely - because of their greater focus on personal independence.
      Are some values better or worse than others? Are some values right and other ones wrong?
      You may have a belief system that does indeed tell you what values are right or wrong, indeed adherence to some is more likely to send you to heaven or hell. For example I believe that Islam tends more towards filial piety than personal independence, at least in some measures of filial piety. I am not sure our religion advocates trying our best to achieve parents' unachieved goals, but I do think the imperative to always being polite to parents applies. 

      Terry Y. S. Lum1, Elsie C. W. Yan, Andy H. Y. Ho, Michelle H. Y. Shum1, Gloria H. Y. Wong1, Mandy M. Y. Lau1, and Junfang Wang (2015) Measuring Filial Piety in the 21st Century: Development, Factor Structure, and Reliability of the 10-Item Contemporary Filial Piety Scale. Journal of Applied Gerontology 13
       
      So why do I have a problem with the IIIS's values
      The values that they set out contrast vividly with those of the AEI. The AEI sets out those values that it believes will make the world a better place.
      The IIIS sets out the importance they attach to answering emails on time and doing whatever it is they do well.
      That's ridiculous and leaves us with one of three possibilities:
      The values section is for internal Saudi consumption They don't understand what a values section is about and simply copied and pasted the idea from somewhere else and made some amendments They're too embarrassed to state their values Lets look at each of the above in turn.
      It's for internal Saudi consumption
      Running a professional organisation as these values state is pretty much a sine qua non, something you'd take for granted. Actually on reflection, it's a sine qua non in cultures where doing things properly is the norm. In Saudi, given the general lack of professionalism, overall levels of incompetence and laziness, perhaps it is a mark of recognition that you do what you should be doing.
      So perhaps there is a rational explanation for what they have done - but it does not reflect well on Saudi, if this is the case.
      They don't understand what a values section is about
      If the people putting together the site knew they needed one, but could not get the sign off from those higher up as to what the values statement should be, they just defaulted to something inane - which defats the purpose of the exercise, especially for people claiming to run a think tank.
      They're too embarrassed to state their values
      We are still left with the unanswered question as to what the Institute stands for. If their values posit that Saudi influence in the region is a good thing they should say so. If they believe that Iran is a malign power and the world would be a better place if people knew this, they should say so. But are they embarrassed to state the obvious? Are they really trying to run with the fiction that theirs is a neutral and independent organisation?
       
       
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         0
      Summary
      When you are in a weak position, all the choices you have are bad ones.
      Introduction
      I've always thought that since British Mandate the Palestinians have been in a no win position. If they accepted the offers the Israelis gave them there would have been an incentive for the Israelis to take more land (if the Pals don't mind yielding some they might not mind yielding more) and if the Pals had resisted that would also have given the Israelis a pretext to take more land (for defensive purposes), the latter has proven to be the case.
      In short whatever the Pals decided did not matter, the Israelis' dominant position ensured that they could respond in a manner that was advantageous to them. The same applies to Native American Indians in the 18th and 19th centuries, whether their response to European settlers was to fight make treaties the outcome would always be the same, their lands would be taken. In both cases there was such an asymmetry between the two parties that there was nothing the colonised could do that would change the outcome.
      In the examples that follow I look at some contemporary examples that illustrate a different dynamic. In these instances non-Western powers have presented the West with situations where however the West responds will lead to an outcome for the West that it does not want.
      Huawei - China
      Turning now to a totally different situation, the following piece in the FT neatly summarises how I feel about the situation between the U.S. government and Huawei. In the 21st century, it is beginning to look as if the Chinese have the best cards. for example Huawei makes good and cost-effective telecoms infrastructure.
      Western countries may have security concerns, but if they ban Huawei, they could end up with a poorer solution. Other countries that have no such qualms could benefit from the cost advantages that Huawei equipment offers. But if Western countries accept Huawei they risk entrenching the advantages that the Chinese have, as well as the claimed security risks.
      Sanctions have been a preferred Western method of taking action against countries that have fallen out of favour. But this tool only works where you have something the other person wants, when the situation is reversed - you can end up damaging yourself.
      https://www.ft.com/content/8fc63610-88fe-11e9-b861-54ee436f9768
      SWIFT - Russia
      This example arose during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022. The West wanted to sanction Russia by imposing economic sanctions including barring Russian entities from access to western financial systems. But this was not straightforward:
      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/feb/24/what-is-swift-international-payments-network-russia-sanction
      Sic transit gloria mundi (so passes worldly glory)
      In a previous FT story about the same subject I posted a comment that this situation is similar to the British attempts to stop Indian technological development by banning the Indians from making their own steam engines, at the start of the 20th century. The British may have delayed Indian development by some decades, but that's all they were able to do. Whether the British took no action to stop Indian technological development or whether they proactively tried to hinder it, ultimately they would lose. 
      There are now far too many Indians with every increasing levels of capability to stop the juggernaut.
      The status quo
      In mid-2022 following a visit to Taiwan by Senator Pelosi the FT noted this about the Chinese response to the visit:
      https://www.ft.com/content/5462a57a-bd13-4313-b26b-9645b48a70ee 
      In my opinion it was Pelosi who altered the status quo, this was the most high ranking visit in 25 years. Based on the theme of this blog post, given the dominant position of the Chinese, the American position should be to maintain the status quo. As soon as they seek to alter it, the Chinese have an excuse to try and establish a new status quo that is more favourable to them.
      Conclusion
      In the context of China, I think the U.S. government feels a threat to its economic/technological dominance. And the sanctions are its attempt to fight back. But whether the U.S. decides to fight or not, I think in the longer term that dominance will have to be compromised. Huawei and the Chinese are now too far along the technological path of development and they are far further ahead than the India of the early 20th century. 
      The U.S. is now in a similar technological position that the Palestinians have been in terms of geography. Whatever option the US chooses, it will ultimately 'lose'. Loss in this context is not necessarily ceding technological leadership to the Chinese, but it may well involve acknowledging their superiority in certain areas. Other countries like Russia also may be able to work their way around sanctions for example, so western attempts to control their behaviour will have limited success.
      In the context of Russia it seems that there is too much at stake economically for sanctions to be effective, the sanctioners stand to lose as much as the sanctioned.
       
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         14
      Summary
      The theory that the pyramids were built or had their construction guided by extraterrestrials is challenged by the existence of mistakes in the construction of some of them.
      But I think the Egyptians were privy to Divine Guidance, which in itself is interesting because the evidence of a Pharoah moving from polytheism to monotheism supports Qur'anic teaching as I understand it.
       
      The bent pyramid at Dahshur
      There is a populist theory that the pyramids must have had an alien inspiration. This is because of the range of innovations that they represent and knowledge across multiple disciplines and their orientation towards certain constellations.
      My problem with this theory is the bent pyramid at Dahshur. It's bent, because they got the maths wrong (see the picture I took a few years ago below). It's weird that aliens who managed to get to this planet but then got their measurements for a stone structure wrong. Seems pretty clear to me that the pyramids we see represent the refinement and development of Egyptian technology, rather than discrete alien intervention. Also supporting my contention is a landscape literally littered with smaller pyramids, these people were learning, developing and increasing the scale of their creations as they grew more confident.
       

       
      https://www.wonders-of-the-world.net/Pyramids-of-Egypt/Evolution-of-the-pyramids-of-Egypt.php
       
      If not aliens then who?
      Humans.
      My understanding of the Qur'anic references to Pharaoh is that they provide an example of a powerful leader, with immense resources, who was nevertheless brought down by divine intervention. The Pharaohs were representatives of a culture with a level of scientific, organisational, military and communications capability unknown at that time and for a long time yet to come.
      Indeed the very existence of mistakes in their work and subsequent improvements demonstrates that they had the capability to learn. Nevertheless the fact that the Pharoah of the time of Moses was brought down by believers in Allah who were weaker in numbers and military strength, is a sign to subsequent rulers around the world about how weak their position can be.

       
       
      And importantly the Qur'an tells us that the evidence of such civilisations is there for us to observe in order for us to better understand the message that is being conveyed to us:
       

       
      A final thought
      Were the ancient Egyptians privy to Divine guidance? I think there is evidence in the Qur'an that they may have been. Here are some references to Allah communicating with other cultures.

       
       

       

       
      And indeed there is material in the historical record that at least one Pharoah (Akhenaten) tried to promulgate a faith that had similarities to monotheism. The initiative did not last very long and in the reign of the next Pharoah (Tutankhamun) the Egyptians reverted to polytheism. I use the phrase similarities to monotheism because although he removed references to the pantheon of deities that the Egyptians previously worshipped, his new religion nevertheless involved worship of the sun.
      The following extract is from a book published within the last few years that addresses head on the issue of monotheism and Akhenaten's rule.
      Hoffmeier, J.K., 2015. Akhenaten and the Origins of Monotheism. Oxford University Press.
      Perhaps Akhenaten was amongst the many Prophets that we believe have been sent by God at different times and places to different cultures? I am speculating here, but perhaps the message was corrupted? Still, I would like to believe that the archaeological evidence of Akhenaten's rule supports the idea that Allah's message was not restricted to just the children of Abraham.
       
      See Also
       
    • By Hameedeh in Think Positive
         17
      Two years ago I became a minimalist. I'm not talking about music, sculpture or painting, but minimalism in my life. I read about creating a minimalist home, but I did not buy the book:
      http://zenhabits.net/a-guide-to-creating-a-minimalist-home/
      So, I am thrifty and I buy very little. Whenever I am shopping and see a dozen things I want to own, I question myself. Do I have storage space for this? Is this really necessary? Will I really love it or is it just something that I never had before and always wanted to have one? Just wanting to possess something is not a good reason to buy it. Could I take a photo of it and just look at it, without spending my money? This must be a good reason to join Pinterest, to have all the things you want to look at, but never need to buy, store or move them. 
      As you have seen, my ShiaChat blog is minimalist by nature. I usually say very little, because if there is one thing that I know, it is that I recognize great writing when I see it, but I am not a good writer. I hope to become a better writer some day, and in the meantime, I invite you to my tumblr. Please, if you can, start at the last page which shows my first post (a prayer for the safety of 12th Imam AJ) and then scroll your way up, and over to previous pages in chronological order, the way my brain was working. 
      http://hameedeh.tumblr.com/page/3
      ♥ May your days be sunny, your nights restful, and your heart satisfied with the blessings that Allah has given you. Think Positive. ♥
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