Monday, March 29, 2010

My Guest Piece on Prof. Juan Cole's "Informed Comment" Blog: Islamic State of Iraq, "The Continuing Decline of a Self-styled Jihadi State"

"Islamic State of Iraq: Hope of the Ummah [Muslim nation] and its Coming Glory...(the) Portal to Liberation for the Land of Palestine..."

I'm excited to write that today I have a guest editorial on Informed Comment, the widely-read blog of Prof. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan's Department of History, who is a noted expert on the modern Middle East and South Asia, with a specialty in Shi'i Islam. The short essay is entitled, "The Islamic State of Iraq’s Positions on Iraqi National Elections: The Continuing Decline of a Self-styled Jihadi State":

The Continuing Decline of a Self-styled Jihadi State

Christopher Anzalone writes in a guest editorial for Informed Comment entitled, "The Islamic State of Iraq’s Positions on Iraqi National Elections: The Continuing Decline of a Self-styled Jihadi State:"

On February 12, the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) released an audio message from its shadowy amir (leader), Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi, lambasting the country’s then yet-to-be-held national elections. Al-Baghdadi, who has never appeared on film, has released numerous audio messages via the ISI’s media outlet, the Al-Furqan Media Foundation. The ISI is an umbrella organization for several of the most violent jihadi-takfiri insurgent groups operating in the country, the largest of them being Al-Qa ‘ida in the Land of the Two Rivers/Iraq (AQI), which was founded by the late Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi. Founded in October 2006 as the successor to the Mujahideen Shura Council, the ISI has seen its fortunes decline since late 2007, following the United States military’s “surge” and the emergence of the so-called “Awakening Councils” from among many of Iraq’s Sunni Arab tribes. The ISI’s response to the recently-held Iraqi national elections is a further sign of its decline since the “golden age” of the Iraqi insurgency from 2003 to 2007. .............READ THE REST AT INFORMED COMMENT.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jalaluddin Haqqani: A Legend in the History of the Afghanistan Jihad? (Part I)

UPDATE (April 16): Read Part II of the translation in a new post HERE.

Embedded below is an English translation (by cyber jihadi ابو حطين, with proofreading by cyber jihadi Abu Fatima) of an interesting article on Jalaluddin Haqqani, a major Afghan insurgent-jihadi leader, from the February 2010 issue of the Afghanistan Taliban's Internet magazine, Al-Samood, which I mentioned in a previous post.

Jalal Al-Din Haqqani, A Legend in the History of the Afghanistan Jihad

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Grand Ayatullahs of al-Najaf Address Iraq's 2010 National Elections

The four grand ayatullahs (ayatollahs) of the southern Iraqi Twelver Shi'i (hereafter "Shi'i") shrine city of al-Najaf al-Ashraf wield a great deal of influence over their millions of lay followers, both inside and outside of Iraq. Grand Ayatullahs al-Sayyid 'Ali Husayni Sistani, al-Shaykh Muhammad Ishaq Fayyad, al-Shakyh Bashir Husayn Najafi, and al-Sayyid Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim have spent their lives immersed in the rich tradition of education, in both the religious sciences and secular subjects such as logic and literature, of the Shi'i seminary institutions (Hawza 'Ilmiyya).

Shi'i practice, as it has developed, requires the laity (non-scholars/'ulama) to follow the rulings and example of a qualified jurist-scholar (mujtahid) who has spent many years (often decades) advancing their education in one of the Shi'i seminaries, generally in one of the major ones in southern Iraq or the Kadhimiyya area of Baghdad, near the shrine of Sayyida Zaynab bint 'Ali in Damascus, or in the shrine cities of Qum (Qom) or Mashhad in Iran. Smaller seminaries also exist in Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bahrayn, and other countries with Shi'i populations, though students who seek to proceed to the final stage of seminary education (bahth al-kharij) usually need to do so in one of the major seminaries in Iraq or Iran. The mujtahids followed are generally one of the maraji' al-taqlid (singular: marja' al-taqlid), the "reference points of emulation," or the grand ayatullahs (Ayatullah al-Uzma, using the International Journal of Middle East Studies transliteration system). Because of this requirement of lay Shi'is, the grand ayatullahs have tremendous influence, at least in theory. Collectively, they form the Marja'iyya, the informal "council" of Iraq's senior Shi'i religious scholars and jurists.

It is important not to exaggerate the influence of the maraji', however. Even the most widely-followed grand ayatullah, al-Sayyid (descendant of the Prophet Muhammad) 'Ali Husayni Sistani was unable to halt the bloody mid-scale civil war between Iraqi Sunni and Shi'i militias and their political party patrons in 2005-2007, despite the fact that he issued fatawa (legal opinions) calling for a halt in inter-communal violence and societal strife. Sistani's views were largely ignored by the participants, including the Iraqi Shi'i groups that claimed to recognize him as their marja', such as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), previously the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a name betraying its Khumaynist roots.

In Iraq's last national elections, held in December 2005, the four grand ayatullahs residing in al-Najaf, location of a shrine said to house the body of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shi'i Imam and the fourth Rashidun (Rightly-guided caliph/successor of Muhammad), backed the United Iraqi Alliance slate of candidates, a list that was dominated by Iraqi Shi'i Islamist parties, including the SIIC and Hizb al-Da'wa al-Islamiyya (Party of Islamic Call), the party of the current Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki. However, they were unhappy with the UIA's performance and have not backed any political list for the national elections scheduled for this weekend.

Al-Sayyid 'Ammar al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council

The four grand ayatullahs of al-Najaf occupy a space between political quietism and the revolutionary political activism, led by certain religious scholars ('ulama) who adhere to the religio-political ideology espoused by the late Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhullah Musavi Khumayni (Khomeini), who with his acolytes was able to seize control over a broad-based revolution in Iran in 1978-79 and oversee its Islamization in accordance with his theory of wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurisconsult). Sistani, Fayyad, al-Hakim, and Najafi do not support the Khumaynist theory of cleric-led governance (and then only by a certain segment of the 'ulama), nor are they political quietists. They have sought and continue to seek to guide Iraqi politics and social life, particularly with regard to their own constituent community, Iraqi Shi'is, who form an estimated 60-65% of the country's population. As part of this, the grand ayatullahs of al-Najaf have tried to ensure that the post-Saddam Husayn/Iraqi Ba'th constitution and legal codes are in accordance, or at least do not contradict, Islamic social and juridical norms, generally speaking. To view them as secular democrats is not entirely accurate, though Sistani and his colleagues have backed the democratic process, even against the former United States viceroy of the U.S.-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer.

The four grand ayatullahs are more in line with the theory of governance espoused by the late Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, wilayat al-ummah (authority of the nation/community), in which the 'ulama would serve as society's moral guides as opposed to its political rulers. Al-Sadr was murdered with his sister, Amina bint Haydar al-Sadr, also known as Bint al-Huda, in April 1980 by Saddam Husayn's regime.

Giant mural of the late Grand Ayatullahs al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (right) and his cousin al-Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (left), with the latter's son, al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, who currently heads a large socio-political Iraqi Shi'i movement, Tayyar al-Sadr (Sadr Movement).

All four grand ayatullahs have issued juridical opinions and advice to their lay followers and their students and aides in the Hawza 'Ilmiyya with regard to how they should approach the upcoming Iraqi national elections. Sistani, Fayyad, Najafi, and al-Hakim are, generally, in agreement on the major points, declining to back any political coalition or list and advising their followers to cast votes for the most qualified and morally and ethically sound candidates. Previously, they had also backed open lists of candidates as opposed to "blind" or closed lists. All four have also said that the participation of eligible voters is an imperative because of their vital importance to the betterment of the country and all of its communities. The fatawa on the 2010 Iraqi national elections from the four are linked-to at the bottom of the post, via my Scribd account.

Muqtada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Modarresi have also urged their followers to enthusiastically participate in the elections.

Fayyad issued a second fatwa aimed at seminary students, reiterating the Marja'iyya's position on the elections. He warns them against endorsing any candidate or political list, as well as against selling their votes, which is a betrayal of the country's interests. Fayyad writes that voters should not cast their votes carelessly and should carefully consider who to vote for. Their votes should be given to the most qualified candidates who seek to improve the country, not enrich themselves.

Grand Ayatullah al-Shaykh Muhammad Ishaq Fayyad (Short biography, HERE), an ethnic Hazara Afghan

In the second half of his second fatwa, Fayyad condemns the political corruption that has been rampant among Iraq's ruling class since the fall of the Iraqi Ba'th Party, and calls for measures to ensure that those elected do not continue to pilfer the funds meant for the benefit of the country's citizens.

Fayyad...2010 Elections to Hawza Students, V. 2
Grand Ayatullah Fayyad's fatwa on the elections directed to students of Iraq's Shi'i seminaries




-Grand Ayatullah Muhammad Sa'id al-Hakim's fatwa
(shown with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, a major Kurdish political leader (left); Al-Hakim's green scarf denotes his descent from the line of the Prophet Muhammad's family recognized by Twelver Shi'is; the scarf is similar to ones worn in Yemen by descendants of the Prophet's family from multiple lines)

Iraq's Grand Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi al-Modarresi Endorses National Elections, Calls for Vigorous Participation & Condemns Corruption

Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Modarressi, another one of Iraq's maraji' al-taqlid (Twelver Shi'i jurists & mujtahids who are followed by lay Shi'is and lesser scholars; literally "reference points for emulation"), has called for widespread and enthusiastic participation in tomorrow's Iraqi national elections. Like his colleagues in the southern Iraqi shrine city of al-Najaf (see HERE) led by Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid 'Ali Husayni Sistani, al-Modarressi has advised his followers to vote for the most qualified candidates, candidates who seek to improve the country as opposed to enrich themselves. He also condemns political corruption. [As a sayyid, al-Modarresi is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.]

Al-Modarresi is a prolific writer and has been involved in Iraqi Shi'i political activism for many decades. I recently acquired a number of the books and pamphlets he penned in the early 1980s on a wide variety of topics, from traditional theological and juridical issues according to Twelver Shi'i fiqh (jurisprudence) to political activism in Iraq and Lebanon.

Muqtada al-Sadr has also called for participation in the elections, which he describes as "political resistance."

Grand Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Al-Modarresi...2010 Elections
Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Modarresi

Muqtada al-Sadr Urges "Political Resistance" through Participation in Iraq's National Elections

Al-Sayyid (descendant of the Prophet Muhammad) Muqtada al-Sadr has urged his followers to participate in tomorrow's national elections, joining the country's resident grand ayatullahs (see HERE and HERE). Unlike them, he has endorsed the elections as a means of "political resistance" against the continued occupation of the country by the United States, albeit one with Iraqi government acquiescence. Muqtada is the son of the revered martyred Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (assassinated in 1999 by Iraqi Ba'th agents) and nephew of the martyred Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr (executed on Saddam Husayn's orders in April 1980). Muqtada heads one of Iraq's largest Shi'i socio-political movements, Tayyar al-Sadr (Sadr Movement), which represents many of the Iraqi Shi'i poor (the vast majority of the country's Shi'is).

Muqtada Al-Sadr...2010 Elections (Fatwa)
Muqtada al-Sadr

Anti-Election Artwork, Produced by Iraqi Nationalist-Religious Insurgent Groups

"A number of (political) lists, one parent....Iranians to the Bone"

"Do not elect Iran"

"(Ahmad) Chalabi...'Spreader of Crime'...First Engineer of Iraq's Destruction", with an Iranian flag at the bottom

"No (to) Iraqi Elections because....."

"Yes to the election boycott...We will not give legitimacy to the racist foundation/system"

The 1920 Revolution Brigades, an Iraqi religious-nationalist insurgent group, condemns Baha al-'Araji, a member of Tayyar al-Sadr's (Sadr Movement) parliamentary bloc, who said that Sunni Muslims had been plotting against Shi'i Muslims in Iraq from the days of the first Rashidun (Rightly-guided) caliph/successor to the Prophet Muhammad, as recognized by Sunnis, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq to the days of Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr, one of the leaders of Iraq's 1968 coup by the Iraqi Ba'th Party. Abu Bakr is revered by Sunnis and reviled and sometimes cursed by Shi'is. The poster reiterates the 1920 Revolution Brigades' support for the four Rashidun caliphs: Abu Bakr, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, and 'Ali ibn Abi Talib.

"Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend," the United States and Iran in partnership

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Newly Released Video Interview with Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan's Amir, Hakimullah Mehsud

"The Amir, Hakimullah Mehsud, may God protect him, Taliban Amir in Pakistan," in front of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's contested Old City.

Embedded below via my BlipTV account, which I've found to be incredibly useful for blogging, is the first part of a video interview with the amir (leader) of Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan; TTP), Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud). The video was released by TTP's media outlet, 'Umar Studio, a couple of days ago in order to "prove" that Hakimullah was not killed, as has been reported, in a United States drone strike. The video release is entitled, "Operation Rah-e-Nijat and the Actual Facts."

Hakimullah (center) with Wali al-Rahman (Waliur) Rahman Mehsud, commander of "Mehsud tribal forces" (left).

'Umar Studio recently released the full video of Hakimullah's message alongside Dr. Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian kamikaze who killed seven U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operatives and a senior Jordanian intelligence officer in late December 2009 on a U.S. military base in Khost, Afghanistan. Al-Balawi, whose name means "gallant" or "heroic," was a jihadi-takfiri essayist who wrote under the pseudonym Abu Dunajah al-Khurasani (Khorasani), "one from Khurasan," an area which includes modern day Afghanistan.