In the Name of God بسم الله
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By Last Chance in Poems for the Ahlul BaytAn orphan is the name of a child who lost his mother,
But what is the name of a mother who loses a child?
Crushed between the door and the wall along with the souls of Hassanain,
Robbed of her child, her right, her husband's, she fights through the pain.
Her name is Fatima. The one whose essence mankind will never reach,
For God Himself has shielded her with a protection that none can breach,
Mistress of my soul and the women of the worlds,
With her name and her hand the secret of this life unfurls,
The strength of my heart and the strength of Haidar,
The strength of the lion who conquered Khaybar,
For who else can converse with such beauty and power,
Fight the usurpers after the loss of Mohsen, the wilted flower?
Her name is az-Zahra, the radiant light, illuminating a path,
For those who want to see and be away from God's wrath,
For he who angers az-Zahra has evoked the Messenger's displeasure,
And no doubt, God's own wrath which follows is that beyond any measure,
For who is so aligned with the will of her Creator,
Which woman did He create, that other than her there is no greater?
Her name is al-Batool, unsurpassed in every way,
Be it the chastity, the virtue, or the worship she did display,
No man equalled her strength the day she fought her right,
Look around you now- see the destruction of Fatima's might.
For which woman could have such eloquence and knowledge of the Book?
Fadak was hers then and now, no matter what they took.
Quoting the verses to them that were revealed to her very door,
Every lie, every plot of theirs and tactic, into shreds she tore.
For she is as-Siddiqa, the truthful, no matter who calls himself this too,
A name is just a name but the truth lies in what we do,
Ali is with the truth, truly this is no lie,
And the truth is with Ali, but she will shortly die,
Leaving behind a house that is both so full and bare,
Full of Ali's grief, but of a mother's warmth, left bare,
A homely nest no more, for its mother is no longer,
A house that used to buzz with life, now remains mourning and sombre.
Hassan holds her feet and Hussain cries on her chest,
An imagine after which the heart of Ali will never find rest,
Zainab and Kulthum sob as they await the darkness of night,
One final farewell they crave before facing a new plight.
And Ali...? A broken man, half a human, dealt his biggest blow,
He sits with his head in his hands, and tears of anguish now freely flow.
The lion, the warrior, the hero that roared with such might,
Now quietly sobs for her pain and her loss, a flame of grief now alight.
Two souls intertwined...now world's apart,
A long journey of loneliness Ali has to start,
Her orphans, her prayer mat, the memories of her days,
With these he will survive, and he now says...
'A flower, nipped in the bud. From paradise it came, and to paradise it went, but has left its fragrance in my mind'.
By Ali in ShiaChat.com Blog[This will be a series of blog entries on the history of ShiaChat.com; how it was founded, major ups and down, politics and issues behind running such a site and of course, the drama! I will also provide some feedback on development efforts, new features and future goals and objectives]
Part 1 - The IRC (#Shia) Days!
Sit children, gather around and let me speak to you of tales of times before there was ever high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi, YouTube or Facebook; a time when the Internet was a much different place and 15 yearold me was still trying to make sense of it all.
In the 90s, the Internet was a very different place; no social media, no video streaming and downloading an image used to take anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on how fast your 14.4k monster-sized dial-up modem was. Of course you also had to be lucky enough for your mom to have the common courtesy not to disconnect you when you’re in the middle of a session; that is if you were privileged enough to have Internet at home and not have to spend hours at school or libraries, or looking for AOL discs with 30 hour free trials..(Breathe... breathe... breathe) - I digress.
Back in 1998 when Google was still a little computer sitting in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s basement, I was engaged in endless debates with our Sunni brothers on an IRC channel called #Shia. (Ok, a side note here for all you little pups. This is not read as Hashtag Shia, the correct way of reading this is “Channel Shia”. The “Hashtag” was a much cooler thing back in the day than the way you young’uns use it today).
For those of you who don’t know what IRC was (or is... as it still exists), it stands for Internet Relay Chat, which are servers available that you could host chat rooms in and connect through a client. It was like the Wild West where anyone can go and “found” their own channel (chat room), become an operator and reign down their god-like dictator powers upon the minions that were to join as a member of their chat room. Luckily, #Shia had already been established for a few years before by a couple of brothers I met from Toronto, Canada (Hussain A. and Mohammed H.). Young and eager, I quickly rose up the ranks to become a moderator (@Ali) and the chatroom quickly became an important part of my adolescent years. I learned everything I knew from that channel and met some of the most incredible people. Needless to say, I spent hours and dedicated a good portion of my life on the chatroom; of course, the alternate was school and work but that was just boring to a 15-year-old.
In the 90’s, creating a website was just starting to be cool so I volunteered to create a website for #Shia to advertise our services, who we are, what we do as well as have a list of moderators and administrators that have volunteered to maintain #Shia. As a result, #Shia’s first website was hosted on a friend’s server under the URL http://786-110.co.uk/shia/ - yes, ShiaChat.com as a domain did not exist yet – was too expensive for my taste so we piggybacked on one of our member’s servers and domain name.
The channel quickly became popular, so popular that we sometimes outnumbered our nemesis, #Islam. As a result, our moderator team was growing as well and we needed a website with an application that would help us manage our chatroom in a more efficient style. Being a global channel, it was very hard to do “shift transfers” and knowledge transfers between moderators as the typical nature of a chatroom is the fact that when a word is typed, its posted and its gone after a few seconds – this quickly became a pain point for us trying to maintain a list of offenders to keep an eye out for and have it all maintained in a historical, easily accessible way.
A thought occurred to me. Why not start a “forum” for the moderators to use? The concept of “forums” or discussion boards was new to the Internet – it was the seed of what we call social media today. The concept of having a chat-style discussion be forever hosted online and be available for everyone to view and respond to at any time from anywhere was extremely well welcomed by the Internet users. I don’t recall what software or service I initially used to set that forum up, but I did – with absolutely no knowledge that the forum I just set up was a tiny little acorn that would one day be the oak tree that is ShiaChat.com.
[More to follow, Part 2..]
So who here is still around from the good old #Shia IRC days?
By yasahebalzaman.313 in My Conversion Story; from Roman Catholic - to Agnostic - to Islam ShiaAfter having many people telling me I should write my story and that it will be beneficial for my Shia brothers and sisters, that it would be inspirational for their religious path, I decided to write it.
Humans from the very beginning of time fight for something to believe in, they struggle with reality as they try to make sense of their world. As I grew up I always felt there was an ultimate truth and knowledge hidden from us, I just didn’t know where and how to look or even What to look for. I used to lead a reckless sinful lifestyle, since I was trying to find my place in this world in my own ways so I decided to try everything and live with no boundaries. I always felt this deep Emptiness that was never filled, so I did what I had to do in order to discover what might fill this empty hole. I even experienced the power of love but it was all just temporary, everything in this world is temporary. I loved to try everything, I had neither moral standards nor basics to follow, I used to love life and was living it to its fullest. I felt independent like nothing and no one can stop me because I was free to do whatever I want but in reality I had all these invisible chains around me pulling me back deceiving me to think that I was liberated (that’s one of the tricks of the devil he makes you think you’re free but you’re his prisoner).
I felt the happiness instantly with the moment and later when I’d go home I would feel depressed and sad like I was missing something, I couldn’t sit alone I couldn’t stand home, my soul was always agitated and unsettled.
I studied Christianity before but it was all science fiction. Studying Christianity made me even more lost and drove me to doubt the existence of God, which was worse; I would die just to know what can fill this empty space I always had. I asked myself is that it? We came here to eat sleep party have fun work make a family and die...
One night when I hit rock bottom after I finished this self-discovery journey and I arrived nowhere, I started calling upon God (without even being sure that He existed and listening), I told him God if you were there if you existed please help me find my way, suddenly and out of nowhere there was someone whom I’ve met 4 years ago, he started coming up to my mind which was so weird because I had no interest what so ever to talk to him and see him(because he was a Muslim and I didn’t like Islam just like any other brainwashed Christian middle eastern person) so I contacted him, turns out he was a committed Shia who triggered my path into Islam, and in the same time I met a Christian man who was living in France and he converted the same month as I did, this was God telling me that I’m not alone, this was God giving me a kind of motif, I mean what are the odds?
Whoever wants God, God will answer him, He will not leave him alone, but only few people really want God all they want is this world, they are blinded by it.
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 ContemporaniaIntroduction
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.
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.
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:
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 ContemporaniaSummary
When you are in a weak position, all the choices you have are bad ones.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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 ContemporaniaSummary
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.
If not aliens then who?
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.
By Hameedeh in Think PositiveTwo 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:
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.
♥ 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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