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April 23rd, 2008

Talking Shit like a Shiite…

I generally make the (often incorrect) assumption that most people have at least a cursory (if not skewed) understanding of Islam. This assumption is made based on two reasons. The first reason is that I spent a few years of my military career as a chaplain’s assistant where I was exposed to the basic tenets of most of the world’s major monotheistic belief systems. The rest of my military career was spent working with large groups of soldiers who studied the Arabic language and culture. It is almost impossible to study the language without picking up at least a small understanding of the religion.

 The second reason is due to the war. A large amount of time, effort, and money has been spent on “educating” us through the media sources about the “danger” of “Militant Islamists” (AKA “Terrorists”). Now, I’m not saying that all muslims are terrorists, I’m just saying that’s what the news would have us believe. During the past decade, the media has done a good job of documenting and propagating misconceptions and generalizations about the “noble faith” of Islam in a way that is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Still, as slanted as western media portrays Islam, there are still many educated and knowledgeable people in our society who do have a basic grasp of some of the interesting quirks about Islam.

Most people who received their Islamic Jurisprudence degree from CNN can tell you that muslims generally frown upon translating the Qur’an. In fact, one of the first things that a muslim will point out to a christian is that they only have one “book” while christians have multiple “versions” of the gospel. This claim by muslims is actually true. There is only one Arabic version of the Qur’an. There are multiple translations, but none of them are considered “the word of Allah”…that is reserved for the Arabic version. How convenient for the muslims that Allah spoke Arabic, else the prophet (peace be upon him) may not have known what Allah was saying. I have often wondered if the fact that Jesus and the Hebrew prophets didn’t understand Arabic may have led to the “corruption” of their religions?

I digress, back to the Bar Room Religious scholars…….most of them can describe to you in vague detail the idea behind “جهاد” or “Jihad” (most of them will be wrong), or they can tell you what “الله اكبر” or “Allahu Akbar” means. The “Pillars of Islam” are generally well understood, especially the about visting Mecca at least once in your life. Others might even make a note that muslims revere and admire Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the other “minor” prophets. They even call Christians and Jews “اهل الكتاب” or “Family of the Book”. Which of you “Headline News” educated readers doesn’t know about the 70 virgins? This is obviously something that is unique to muslim heaven, because Christian kids can’t seem to stay virgins past the age of 16…let alone until they get to heaven.

Finally, even the most ignorant of western muslim-haters can tell you that Islam comes in two flavors…Sunni and Shiite. Now, I could have not wasted the last four paragraphs with bullshit and instead could have explained to you the difference, but would you have really cared? I doubt it. So, I will simply put it in the most basic terms I can (believe me, it’s a heck of lot more involved than this). Basically, it all began as a debate regarding the succession of the leadership of the faithful after the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed away.

According to the Shiites, the mantle of leadership fell upon ‘Ali Ibn-Abu-Talib. He was the nephew and son-in-law of the prophet (peace be upon him). However, the Sunnis disagree. There was a schism early on, and there were three Caliphs placed before ‘Ali. Those three Caliphs were Abu-Bakr, ‘Umar Ibn-al-Khattab, and ‘Uthman Ibn-Affan. Then, according to Sunnis, ‘Ali fell in line after ‘Uthman.

Apparently, there was enough strife in the time between Abu-Bakr and ‘Ali to separate the sects forever. (Believe me, Shi’a and Sunni Islam are very different). In fact, the one group that Sunnis might actually hate more than Westerners and Jews is the Shi’a (OK, maybe not more than the Jews…Sunnis REALLY don’t like God’s Chosen people). Likewise, there is no great love for the Sunnis by the Shi’a. (On a side note: I actually saw a demonstration in front of the White House last year where a group of Shiites were holding signs claiming that Sunnis were the original terrorists in the world, but it actually began over 1400 years ago when they “terrorized” the Shiites.

So, anyway…the whole point of this long ass blog is to post this video. Here, a Kuwaiti cleric (a Shiite) goes out on a pretty long limb (especially considering that there aren’t may trees in Kuwait) and says, ” ‘Abu-Bakr and ‘Umar Ibn-al-Khattab ain’t shit, yo!”

Trust me…you’ve got to see this!

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