Why Imam Abu Hanifah (RH) was whipped by Caliph Al-Mansur

Imam Abu Hanifah, founder of the Hanafi madhab was not just a jurisprudent. He was something much more than that. We have read much about his intellect, his debating qualities and his well known gift of logic. What we seem to breeze past is an episode in his life that ultimately may have been responsible for his end. It is such an important religious issue that it allowed him to put his life in the line of fire for it´s sake. Lets take a comparative look at it.

Imam Abu Hanifah was a revolutionary. He revolted against the Umayyads and against the Abbasids. he was an underground Mujahid associated with the Zaydi movement, the supporters of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (ra) through his grandson Imam Zayd. Abbasid Caliph Al-Mansur imprisoned the Imam after bribery had failed to win the Imam over to his side. Basically, the Caliph offered the Imam the position of Chief Justice of the vast Khilafat, a position which would have been second only to the Caliph himself. Imam refused this lucrative post. Abu Hanifah had understood that by accepting a government job he would be transformed into a faithful employee, a beneficiary of the system and therefore any rebellion against his employer would be hypocritical and equal to backstabbing which the Imam will not want to do.

Caliph Mansur was not a man to take no for an answer, and Imam Abu Hanifah was not about to surrender his religious thoughts to the man whom he wanted to overthrow in favor of the Aliítes. Result was jail, torture, whipping, pain and finally death of the Imam in custody. The life of a true scholar ends in his great fight against those who intend to bend the religion to suit their individual or tribal agendas.

How is the story of the Imamal Atham connected to our present day? The Muslim Arab world has been blessed with many things. It is the land of the Ambiyaa Alihi Salam, it is the land of last Nabi Sallillahialihi wa sallam, it is the land of the Arabic language, and it is the land that produced world rulers like Abu Bakr, Umar I, Usman, ALi and Umar II. This blessed land is also the reservoir for the world´s most important commodity, the basic commodity which fuels the infrastructure of the whole world and its civilization – oil. Without oil the industrial world would come to a screeching halt. The Arab world is the provider of the modern west dominated industrial world as we know it.

The importance of oil to the western world is a matter of life and death. To keep uninterrupted the supply of oil through the waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabs must be broken into smaller statelets with ruthless kings under complete and absolute control of western governments. A form of upgraded colonization policy has been in place since the end of WWI, to largely serve the interest of the colonial masters abroad. The land of Palestine was stolen from the Palestinians to be given to European Jews, while the Arabs looked on and still simply look on when Gazzans are mercilessly bombed and killed by the Israeli outfits. Arab Muslims have been broken into nations and races as deemed appropriate for control and domination by colonial masters. the Arabs just wont admit it out of pride. Imperialists and their puppet kings use an army of clergy to legitimize colonization of Muslim lands and resources through religious blanket coverage of all their misdeeds.

Imam Abu Hanifah lived during the time of the mighty Caliphates of the Umayyads and the Abbasids, and yet he had to be whipped to death by the order of the Caliph. On the other hand Muslims have now lost their Caliphate, lost their unity, lost their super power status, have been colonized, humiliated, beaten and disgraced, and yet their modern scholars (so-called) are basking under the fame and glory of their personalities patronized by their ruthless dictators. We Muslims are looking at ourselves through the broken mirror. We are not able to find ourselves from the shattered images of ourselves scattered all over the floor. We are looking at fragments and bits and pieces and we think we are happy at just that little tiny glimpse of fake smiles here and there. In reality we are missing the Big picture. What a really big picture it would be if the mirror was not broken…

Taken from Islamic Encyclopedia:

Born in Kufa, (where 12, 000 Yemenis and 8, 000 of the Nizar received state allowances during `Umar’s time), Abu Hanifah, Nu`man ibn Thabit, a descendant of a notable Persian family, grew in an intellectual, scholarly and religious milieu. It is said that he was taken to `Ali in his childhood who prayed for him. Suyuti believed that the following prediction of the Prophet suited none but Imam Abu Hanifah: “If eiman happens to be in the Pleiades, one of the Persians (or “the Persians”) will acquire it.”

As he grew, four Companions of the Prophet were still alive: Anas ibn Malik (who died in 100H.), `Abdullah ibn abi Awfa, Sahl ibn Sa`d al-Saa`idi and Abu al-Fadl `Amr ibn Wasilah. How many he did actually meet is not clear, though Ibn Hajr counts him as a Tabe`i.

He began his career as a cloth merchant which could well have been a family business. However, once he happened to cross Imam Sha`bi. He told him that he could see intelligence and ability in him, and that he should seek knowledge. Those were the days of ‘Ilm Al-kalam (theological science). Abu Hanifah had all the qualities for it: intelligence, logic, debating ability, and a wide and well-spread knowledge. Basra was then the center of intellectual discussions, polemics and debates. Abu Hanifah often visited it for business, and used the opportunity to debate with the scholars and zealots of all kinds of sects that had mushroomed there. He defeated most of them in debates and his fame began to spread. But soon he saw the futility of any efforts among these sects and philosophical or theological schools, where everyone stuck to his guns, logic or no logic. But encounters with them did sharpen his abilities in logic, analysis and analogy.

Built in his honour some years after his death in 767CE,the Abu HAnifa Mosque is located in the Sunni dominated al-Azamiyyah quarter of Baghdad to the northeast of the city

Built in his honour some years after his death in 767CE,the Abu Hanifa Mosque is located in the Sunni dominated al-Azamiyyah quarter of Baghdad to the northeast of the city

Turning to more profitable sciences – the knowledge that the Salaf excelled in – he soon began to attend the circles of Hammad ibn abi Sulayman. His master was the most prominent student of Anas ibn Malik, and several renowned persons from among the Followers (Tabe`iyyun). Hammad’s was a school of thought by itself, which had its roots in the knowledge and methodology of Ibrahim Nakha`ee, ending with `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud who had been sent by `Umar as the first Qur’anic and Fiqh teacher of Kufa. Soon Abu Hanifah won the front seats with Hammad because of his keen intellect and understanding. After a while, when Hammad had to travel to Basra because of the death of one of his relatives, he appointed Abu Hanifah to hold the classes in his absence, which was a huge commendation for Abu Hanifah seeing that Hammad’s circle was the most renowned. When odd questions came, wherein he had heard no opinion from Hammad, Abu Hanifah used his personal knowledge and analogy to arrive at solutions, but kept a record of the questions and answers. They were some sixty. When Hammad came back, he showed him the list. He gave approval to forty of his answers. Thereafter, Abu Hanifah showed exemplary consistency by remaining in his study circle for a whole decade and gained mastery in `Ilm al-Fiqh.

In parallel, he attended to the science of Hadith, and left no Sheikh in Kufa but had taken lessons from him. Abu al-Muhasin, the Shafe`i scholar, has named 93 Hadith Scholars of Kufa and its suburbs alone, from whom Abu Hanifah obtained Hadith.But specialization required training in Makkah and Madinah which were centers of Hadith. `Ata’ ibn Rabah, and `Ikrimah were leading Traditionists at Makkah while Salim and Sulayman ibn `Abdullah dominated the Madinan scene. Abu Hanifah obtained Hadith from all of these persons. Altogether, Abu al-Muhasin has named 319 scholars from whom Abu Hanifah received lessons. Sha`bi, Salama ibn Kuhayl, Abu Is-haq al-Suba`ee, Muharib ibn Wartha, `Awn ibn `Abdullah, Hisham ibn `Urwah, A`mash, Qatadah, Sho`ba, `Asim ibn Sulayman al-Ahwal, were some of the outstanding scholars of those times spread over Kufa, Basra, Makkah and Madinah whose circles Abu Hanifah attended.

The consequence of ambitious interest, keen intellect, studentship of renowned scholars, training in the application of reason, logic and analogy, with no financial restraints for traveling around, which exposed him to different milieus and cultures, was that Imam Abu Hanifah emerged as a matchless Faqeeh that ever appeared in the Islamic world. Once, someone visited Imam Malik. He received him with great respect. When he was gone, he asked his students, “Do you know who this was? It was Abu Hanifah. By Allah, if he wished, he could prove that this pillar is made of gold.”

He was forty when Hammad died. He was the last of the great scholars of the previous generation. The Kufans knew that only Abu Hanifah could take his place. They pressed on him and he accepted to deliver lectures. Soon he attracted the most talented to his circles because none could match his, in excellence from every angle. Indeed, several of the other circles of Kufa closed down because the entire attendance moved to Abu Hanifah’s circle. More, some of his former teachers began to attend his classes. His students represented the whole Islamic world. They were from Makkah, Madinah, Dimashq, Busra, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Isfahan, Tabaristan, Nishapur, Sarkhas, Bukhara, Samarqand, Tirmiz, Herat, and almost every town north of Iraq, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Abu Hanifah was not merely a “Mujitahid” but a maker of “Mujitahids.”

After a couple of years, when he had trained men like Abu Yusuf, Muhammad ibn Hasan, Zufar, Hasan ibn Ziyad, who all achieved the status of Mujitahidin with expertise in Law, apart from many others who excelled in other disciplines such as `Abdullah ibn Mubarak, Yahya ibn Sa`eed, Da’ud al-Ta`ee, and many others, he converted his sessions into an academy. He was not merely a mujtahid but a maker of Mujitahideen. In this new academy, a first experience in the Islamic world, newly arising issues were discussed, sometimes for as long as a month, among the jurists and would-be jurists numbering anything between a few dozens to a hundred, a consensus arrived at, and finally, the solution documented. Thousands of difficult problems were solved.

Caliph Mansur was insisting that Abu Hanifah should accept the post of Chief Justice, while he was refusing on grounds that he was not fit for the job. Mansur said, “Of course, you are! You are lying.” Abu Hanifah replied, “If I am lying, then I am disqualified for judiciary.”

Jurisprudence was Abu Hanifah’s main contribution, its codification the first in Islamic History. He did not take up narration of Hadith, there were plenty of Hadith narrators around. For every single expert in Fiqh, there were dozens of Hadith narrators and collectors. Indeed, to be fair, Hadith narration was, and has remained, simpler than achieving mastery over Fiqh. Hadith collection or narration does not require the compiler or narrator to master any discipline. Memory plays an important part, especially, the remembrance of tens of thousands of narrators, along with all of their personal details. But Fiqh requires, apart from a good knowledge of Hadith, a good understanding also of those ahadith, their contexts, a thorough knowledge of the Qur’an, its interpretations, a good grasp of the practices of the Companions, mastery in Arabic language, a good hold on logic, the ability to analyze, analogize, and arrive at conclusions that no other Mujitahid could challenge.

Imam Abu Haneefa gave a ruling in an assembly of A`mash. A`mash was amazed at the answer. He asked, “How did you arrive at this conclusion?” The Imam said, “From a Hadith, which in fact you had narrated to us.” A`mash admitted: “You jurisconsults (fuqaha’) are like doctors, while we, the collectors of Hadith are like pharmacists. We specialize in the texts and transmitters of the Hadith, but you understand their meanings.”

Tarikh Baghdad has quite a few allegations against Abu Hanifah made by his adversaries. A few of them are ridiculous. Some people level the criticism that the Imam did not quote many ahadith, and, draw the conclusion that he was weak in Hadith. This can only come from people who do not know Fiqh, its principles and their application. No Mujitahid can issue any ruling without a thorough understanding of the Hadith. Once Imam Abu Haneefa gave a ruling in an assembly of A`mash. A`mash was amazed at the answer. He asked, “How did you arrive at this conclusion?” The Imam said, “From a Hadith, which in fact you had narrated to us.” A`mash admitted: “You jurisconsults (fuqaha’) are like doctors, while we, the collectors of Hadith are like pharmacists. We specialize in the texts and transmitters of the Hadith, but you understand their meanings.” It is also freely alleged that Imam Abu Hanifah used weak ahadith. They do not know that the narrators that are now being judged by remarks of the scholars about them long in the past, Imam Abu Hanifah and scholars of his time knew them in person. The standards of judgment of the narrators were set much later and the dependence is on others’ written remarks about them. But the early scholars knew the narrators personally. They were their contemporaries, and hence evaluated them differently. Further, in great many cases, Hadith plays a secondary role in Abu Hanifah’s rulings, judgments and conclusions: the Qur’an comes first; a point often missed by his adversaries.

No scholar, no matter how popular, has escaped persecution. Abu Hanifah was no exception. First, the Governor of Iraq ordered Abu Hanifah to accept judgeship of Kufa. He refused and, was subjected to 110 lashes of the whip starting with ten a day, and ten added for every refusal. But when he saw that Abu Hanifah was showing no sign of weakness, he gave up. Abu Hanifah was afraid that the authorities would interfere with court proceedings, and get fatwas issued for political purposes. This was perhaps when he was 42.

Later in 146H, when Ibrahim ibn Hasan (a descendant of `Ali) rebelled against the Abbasids, Imam Abu Hanifah supported his cause and helped him with a big sum. Earlier, when Zayd, the son of Zayn al-`Aabideen rose against the Umayyad’s, Abu Hanifah had helped him too. He believed that the `Alawiyyun deserved Khilafah more than the Umayyads or `Abbasids. When Mansur, the `Abbasid Caliph, came to know of his inclination towards the progeny of `Ali, he invited him to settle down in Baghdad and take up the post of Chief Justice. Abu Hanifah refused. Several meetings took place to persuade Abu Hanifah. On one occasion, Mansur said, “By Allah, you will have to accept the job” The Imam replied, “By Allah, I will not.” Mansur was boiling with anger. He said, “Do you swear upon my oath?” He replied, “Yes, because it is easy for you to break your oath and offer expiation than me.” At one point Abu Hanifah told him that he did not think he was fit for the job Mansur said, “Of course, you are! You are lying.” Abu Hanifah said, “If I am lying, then I am disqualified for the judiciary.” Ultimately, he got him imprisoned. The Imam kept conducting classes from the prison. Mansur did not feel safe from him and his powerful political influence, even when behind the bars. So, one report says he got him poisoned, another, that he died of whip lashes in 150H

Abu Hatim Razi’s son heard his father say that he kept count of the distance he covered on foot during his knowledge journey. It crossed a thousand farsakh (one farsakh = 5 km) in the first seven years, after which he stopped counting. There were innumerable times when he walked between Kufa and Baghdad and between Makkah and Madina. Once he walked from Morocco to Egypt and then continued walking visiting many cities in Palestine, then to Damascus, and then to Antioch in Turkey. He returned walking to Hims in Syria to obtain oneHadith narrated by Abu al-Yaman before boarding a boat in the Euphrates River to return to Baghdad. This was Al-Razi’s first journey when he was 20 years old. He left al-Ray (in Persia) in the year 213H to return in 221H, after seven years of walking. The second journey was undertaken at the age of 47 which lasted 3 years from 242 to 245H. (Safahat min Sabr al-`Ulama, `Abdul Fattah, Abu Ghuddah).

The news of his death spread like wild fire. Hasan ibn `Ammarah, the Judge, washed his body muttering, “By Allah, you were the best of the jurists, best in piety and most devoted to rituals.” There were fifty thousand people at the funeral. But streams of people kept arriving and the funeral Prayers had to be conducted six times. For weeks people kept arriving at his grave to offer funeral Prayers. The Imam had willed that he should be buried in Khayzuran because he thought that that was a piece of land that had not been wrongly confiscated.

When Ibn Mubarak visited his grave, he remarked, weeping, “Abu Hanifah, when Ibrahim ibn Nakha`ee died, he left someone to inherit his position. When Hammad died he left someone to take his position. But when you have died, there is no one to take your place.” He also said, “I never saw anyone more fearful of Allah than Abu Hanifah, whether on trial under the whips or when tried with wealth and property.” Sufyan Thawri said, “In comparison with Abu Hanifah, we were like sparrows against a falcon.” `Ali ibn `Asim said, “If Abu Hanifa’s knowledge was measured against the knowledge of the rest of the scholars contemporary to him, his knowledge would overweigh the rest.” Bishr al-Hafi stated: “No one criticizes Abu Hanifah except an envier or an ignoramus.”

It is narrated that Muhammad al-Baqir told Abu Hanifah during their first meeting in Madinah, “You have altered the religion of my ancestor (Prophet Muhammad) and (the meaning of) his traditions through (the application of) analogy.” Abu Hanifah said, “Allah’s refuge.” Muhammad said, “For sure, you did it.” So Abu Hanifah said, “Sit down in your place, as it deserves you, so that I can sit as it deserves of me to sit, for, you deserved from me as honored position as your ancestor – Allah’s peace be on him – as it was during his life over his Companions.” So he sat down. Abu Hanifah genuflected before him and said, “I’ll place before you three points, reply to me: Is man weaker or woman?” Al-Baqir replied, “Woman.” Abu Hanifah said, “What is a woman’s share (in inheritance).” He said, “To a man two, while to a woman one.” Abu Hanifah said, “This is the saying of your ancestor (Prophet Muhammad). Now, had I altered his religion, then analogy should have ruled that a man should have one share while a woman two, since a woman is weaker than man.” Then he asked, “Is Prayer superior or fasts?” He said, “Prayer is superior.” He said, “This is the saying of your ancestor. Had I altered your ancestor’s rulings, analogy would have said that when a woman comes out of her menstrual cycle, I should rule that she repeats the Prayers but not the fasts.” Then he asked, “Which is more unclean? Urine or sperm?” He (al-Baqir) said, “Urine is more unclean.” Abu Hanifah said, “Had I altered the religion of your ancestor through analogy, I should have ruled that (when dirtied by) urine (one may) wash himself but make ablution (when dirtied by the emission of) the sperm. But, Allah’s refuge that I should alter the religion of your ancestor through analogy.” Muhammad stood up, hugged him, kissed his face, and paid him homage.

No scholar, no matter how popular, has escaped persecution. Abu Hanifah was no exception. The Governor of Iraq ordered Abu Hanifah to accept judgeship of Kufa. He refused and, was subjected to 110 lashes of the whip starting with ten a day, and ten added for every refusal

A brief introduction to Abu Hanifah’s contribution to the most important subject in Islam, the discipline that has saved the Ummah from disintegration, will be offered with the revision of this work, Allah willing. At this point we end with a few anecdotes from a man considered the most intelligent, an extremely pious, a vastly learned, yet a witty person of his time.

Ibn abi Layla, Kufa’s Qadi used to hold the court in the same Mosque in which Abu Hanifah held his classes. Once, as the Qadi was on his way after his session, he came across a woman who said to a man, “Oh you, the son of two adulterers.” He returned with the instruction that the woman was to be brought to him. When she came, he ordered that she be whipped twice: one set of whips for each of the victim’s parents and instructed that she be lashed then and there. When Abu Hanifah came to know, he said the Qadi committed six mistakes:

1. He returned to hear and judge the case while a Judge should not return after he has closed a session and left the place.

2. Scourging (delivery of Hadd) should not take place inside a Mosque, since the Prophet (asws) has prohibited it.

3. He getting her whipped in a standing position, whereas a woman should only be whipped in a sitting position, well-covered.

4. He got her whipped twice, whereas a slanderer should be punished once, no matter how many he or she slanders.

5. Even if someone deserves two sets of lashing, only one should be conducted at a time, the next whipping should await recovery from the first whipping.

6. He took up the case of the woman despite the fact that no one had sued her.

Of course, Ibn abi Layla was upset. He complained to the Governor saying that a young man was interfering in his business. The Governor banned Abu Hanifah from issuing any fatwa. But after some time, he had some difficult problems at hand, needing juridical views, but none could give satisfactory answers. Ultimately, they appealed to Abu Hanifah, and the ban was removed.

A Khariji called Dahhak ibn Qays and a few others rushed into the Mosque in Kufa and threateningly said to Abu Hanifah, “Repent, or we’ll kill you.” Abu Hanifah asked, “Repent for what?” He said, “For having ruled that arbitration is permissible.” (He was referring to `Ali having accepted arbitration during his differences with Mu`awiyyah). Abu Hanifah asked, “Do you want to straightaway kill me, or debate with me?” He said, “OK, I’ll debate.” Abu Hanifah asked, “But, we are bound to disagree, so who would you name to decide if we fail to agree?” He said, “Choose your man.” Abu Hanifah pointed to one of his companions and said, “Will you accept this man to decide between us?” When the Khariji said yes, Abu Hanifah said, “You have accepted arbitration.”

An extremist used to call `Uthman B Affan a Jew. He had a daughter for whom he was having difficulty finding a match. Abu Hanifah asked him whether he could help him out. He said he would be grateful. After some time, he told him that he had found a good match: the candidate was good-looking, smart, well-off, well-connected, etc. The man said, “What could be better than that?” Abu Hanifah told him that everything was alright except that the man was a Jew. He protested, “But how can I give away my daughter to a Jew?” He replied, “Why not, when, according to you our Prophet gave his two daughters to a Jew?” The man repented.

An extremist Shi`ah used to call `Uthman a Jew. He had a daughter for whom he was having difficulty finding a match. Abu Hanifah asked him whether he could help him out. He said he would be grateful. After some time, he told him that he had found a good match: the candidate was good-looking, smart, well-off, well-connected, etc. The man said, “What could be better than that?” Abu Hanifah told him that everything was alright with the man except that he was a Jew. The man protested, “But how can I give away my daughter to a Jew?” He replied, “Why not, when, according to you our Prophet gave his two daughters to a Jew?” The man repented.

A case was brought to him of a cranky man who said to his wife who was on a ladder, “If you went up further, you are divorced three times, and if you came down, you are divorced three times.” Then he felt sorry. Abu Hanifah was approached, he gave the solution, “Let some people physically bring her down from the ladder and place her on the ground.”

Someone gifted him something. Imam Abu Hanifah responded by gifting him something much more expensive. The man said, “If I knew this is how you will respond, I would not have sent you the gift.” Abu Hanifah replied, magnanimously and correctly, “The credit goes to the initiator.”

For ten long years he supported Abu Yusuf financially in order to free him for studies. When Abu Yusuf appreciated his help by saying, “I haven’t come across a man more generous than you,” he would say, “You haven’t seen my teacher Hammad. Had you, you would not say this.” He had reserved a part of his profits for the Muhadditheen contemporary to him. He distributed it among them after every deal resulted in profits, leaving none who was engaged in the study of Hadith.

He left one son, Hammad, who was his equal in piety. He avoided any contacts with the courts. However, his grandson Isma`il, son of Hammad, achieved great fame as a Judge at Basra, appointed by Haroon al-Rasheed. He left behind him thousands of students who learnt from him all that could be learnt. He did not need to, nor perhaps had the time or inclination for writing books, what his students were writing down anyway, not to speak of the compilation of Fiqh rulings of the academy. Yet, we hear from scholars of the past of a few books left by him, though none seems to have survived intact.

Morsi Smiles at Sisi and his Zionist Friends

Egypt’s former president, Mohammed Morsi, along with 105 co-defendants, has been sentenced to death for a prison break during the upheavals of the 2011 revolution. On the ethical level, this trial is a travesty because Morsi did not enjoy due process in a highly politicised trial which Amnesty International described as “grossly unfair” and “a charade based on null and void procedures”.

While I wanted to know if this sentence will be any good for Misr, my blogger friend wrote these words which threw me off guard, `Sisi´s hands are blood stained. Morsis not. We are now the laughing stock of the civilized world´. How true and how deep these words from an average man is ringing loud bells in the ears of other men who are silently watching a nasty as well as a cruel joke unfold before them in the very birthplace of civilization. What could be more ironic I was thinking until I realized that this fanatic race to punish anyone un-secular in the Muslim world is not unique to any particular country, it actually flows through almost all the Muslim countries like a river of contaminated water from a mountain of corruption. I mean no disrespect for any of my Muslim friends, but I do want to call a spade a spade, and the Muslim spade is currently drenching with the blood of injustice, intolerance, corruption, greed and everything else that comes with these lofty value systems managed at the top of the pyramid.

The pyramid structure in the Arab world is lot more complex than in other areas. The injustices committed by those at the top trickle down to the last brick. The image of Misir is now one of dictatorship, brutal military stronghold, authoritarian single eyed regime of a man upon whose orders hundreds of innocent protesters were mercilessly gunned down.

We now see Misir is an example of intolerance. Muslim Brotherhood was pulled down from power because they were leading the country away from the secular block to the Islamic block. Muslim Brotherhood enjoyed 70% popularity, allowing them to amend the constitution based on peoples´demands. Since the vast majority of their voters were rural poor who wanted Islamic shareeah, the Muslim Brotherhood turned out to be the single most significant threat for the secular loyalists whose lifeline depended on generous business concessions from their like-minded commercial partners. I fail to see how a faulty trial can bring any good news for the general people.

Sisi is a typical military dictator, as men like him have surprisingly short memories. The general has forgotten how the Muslim Brotherhood grew to be the single largest political party of the country. Nasserists fail to point out that it was them secular Baathists who elevated the status of the Brotherhood in the country after the killing of Hassan Al Bannah and the unjust and highly controversial hanging of Syed Qutub, former was the founder and the latter was the spiritual-intellectual guide of Muslim Brotherhood. El Sisi is close to adding a third name to the list. The death sentence on Morsi on the one hand will cement the dictator´s grip on power while on the other hand it would create another martyr for the cause especially for the youth who like to rebel against authority.

Will the Egyptian Army really benefit from this sentence? The armed forces were suffering from humiliation from the very day Tahrir Square became a successful revolution. Former president Mubarak and his sons were quickly dispatched to the prisons. This was a blow since Mubarak was considered to be a pride for the forces going back to the 1973 Ramadan War against Israel when Egypt defeated Israel regaining its prestige in the world specially in the Arab and Muslim world. The army was a staunch Mubarak loyalist. With Mubarak in jail the old guard must have been waiting to strike back. This was not limited to the forces only, all other branches of government administration after nearly five decades of Mubarak could not easily accept the whirlwind change of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. It was just too difficult and much too insecure for the Mubarak guard to make friends with the new rulers from the Islamic block.

It could be understood for the defence and administration, but why would this sentence be of any good for the common people who gave support to Tahrir Square revolution? Common people wanted democracy, and they probably still want to live under a democratic government, which does not reconcile with the undemocratic overthrow of the voters´ choice. People lost their right to select the president they deem fit for their republic. The voters were the only authorized persons to decide whether Mursi was good for them or not. It was not a decision that was given to the authorities by the voters. The republic may have taken a wrong turn at the cross roads making the destination confusing for the voters once again. As one Egyptian commented, we are back to square one.

The single greatest beneficiary from the overthrow and the subsequent death sentence of Mursi should be Israel. It has a policy of promoting Arabs and Muslims in general as unfit for democracy and liberalism. May be they are right, or maybe they have lost their minds, but they have been successful in portraying the Arabs, especially Egypt and Syria as countries which need an iron man at the center, no democracy, no liberalism, no social justice is doable for the two. The fact that the rest of the Arab world is´nt much different from this sad portrayal helps the Zionist cause immensely, yet it is basically the closes neighbors of Israel which deserve special praise for dictatorship by its most important military threat.

It copuld be well understood what is bad for Arabs is good for the Zionists, but what is puzzling is why conservative, traditionalist, dynastic monarchy of Arabia is happy at the overthrow of the Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Its also strange that the dynasties of Arabia should have similar desires and targets for the Arab world as like the Israelis. What is the common bond between Israel and the Arab dynasties? It makes heads roll and twist in search for facts on the ground. The recent attack on the Houthi population in Yemen by the GCC led by Saudi Arabia points to a regional geo-political struggle for supremacy in the Arab world strategy. The proxy war between two regional heavy weights may themselves be proxies for two global super heavy weights also running in the race for supremacy over strategic points across the world.

Muslim World 2014 – Between Agony and Revivalism

From Cairo to Gaza to Peshawar – Muslims are desperately searching for a way out. The insanity, the madness, the killings, bombings, bloodshed and the heart-wrenching sights of mothers wailing at the coffins of little children has become a regular phenomenon. Oppression has its limits written only in the pages of books, but not in the reality Muslim lives. This situation is unique only in the Muslim world; the target of attacks is the Muslim community, the victims are Muslims and the perpetrators are also Muslims. In this issue we look at the critical areas gearing for Muslim revivalism.



While the rest of the Muslim got together with their families to eat Iftar, Gazans were bombed mercilessly by the Israeli war planes. Shelling the Gazans continued while the powers of the civilized world looked on. Some cruel-hearted Zionists climbed a hilltop to watch and celebrate when the Palestinians were succumbing to Israeli attacks. The massacre of Palestinians in Gaza was no war. It was genocide in the 21st century. The UN failed to do anything about it. The US, the EU, NAM, NATO and other alliances in the world failed to stop the slaughter of innocent people day after day.


Gaza´s genocide has brought the reality of the Arab and the greater Muslim world to the open. First, the government of al-Sisi in Egypt refused to come to the rescue of Palestinians in Gaza. The only state which defeated Israel militarily is Egypt and its soldiers are highly respected amongst the Arabs for their valor and courage. But al-Sisi chose to look the other way this time. He closed the border with Gaza, stopped all supplies to them and destroyed the famous tunnels used by Gazans to bring in essential supplies and weapons for resistance. Historically, Egypt was given the responsibility for administering Gaza while West Bank administration went to Jordan. Both Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan have found themselves in the net of the Zionists. Their grip on power depends on their ability and success to keep the pro-Israeli lobby happy.




Few cowards belonging to Tehrike Taliban Pakistan (TTP) shattered the concept of humanity when they broke into Peshawar´s Army Public School, opened fire on students and killed 141 children all aged below 14. TTP declared in its website the attack was revenge for the Pak Army´s infamous operation called Zarb-e-Azb, which conducted combing operations in North Waziristan allegedly killing many men, women and children. TTP claims that it did not kill any children, it was the Pakistani soldiers who killed the children after they went in to rescue them.


Pak Army has started operations in Waziristan to capture (and kill) members of TTP. Two TTP convicts have been hanged so far. 27 TTP militants were killed in air raids. Army chief general Raheel Sharif in his tweet requested prime Nawaz Sharif for permission to hang 3,000 militants in 48 hours. The people of the civilized world join the people of Pakistan in their shock and outrage over this atrocious act by a terrorist group using Islam as its shield.





ISIL opened the game with a big bang. They captured large swathes of territory in northern Iraq, exposing the inexperience and inability of the Iraqi army put together by US-friendly Iraqi regimes. ISIL quickly moved close to the Syrian border to do the only thing which carried immense strategic sense; it erased the Sykes Picot border between Iraq and Syria.


Much of the Muslim world looks at Abu Bakr al Baghdadi with suspicion. Some believe he is a Zionist spy trained by Mossad. This is according to Wikileaks and the famous US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Without the atrocities of ISIL it would have been impossible for the US forcesto re-enter Iraq. Since this is the beginning of another ghost war, another hunt for bogey men, the production floors of weapons industries will keep working full time.


While the world was furious about the genocide in Gaza, ISIL entered the scene with its famous poster boy, Jihadi John, executing innocent western charity workers. The anger of the world against Israel shifted to these desert executioners. The request to US legislators to authorize action against ISIL passed like a breeze. The game was on again. The war on terror continues under a different banner, war on IS.



Syria is another flash point in the Muslim world. The butcher remains supreme in Damascus, thanks to the help he keeps receiving from Moscow and Teheran. The success of ISIL did not translate into the fall of Assad. Cynics believe that Israel would like to see both Assad and Abu Bakr keep fighting each other until the time comes for it to occupy both to form Greater Israel according to its alleged master plan.



Lebanon is swinging between being Paris of the Middle East to being the center of Hezbollah, which is the only non-state entity to have defeated Israel in a battle. Lebanon as a state had to pay for the actions of Hassan Nasrallah (head of Hezbollah). Lebanon may not be a large country but its location and intellectual capital makes it a strategic nerve center of Muslim desire for a revival.



Arab Awakening

Four years after Arab awakening movements swept many long-entrenched dictators from power in the Middle East, it appears the old order is back with a vengeance. The uprisings were also referred to as the “Arab Spring” or “People’s movements” depending on the political orientations and preferences of those describing it.

Of all places, Egypt’s situation has been the most heart-wrenching because it has the potential to be on the cutting edge of the Islamic movement. Its loss to the military and by extension to the imperialist-Zionist duopoly is a major loss to the global Muslim Ummah. In the countries that experienced upheavals — Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen— only a few faces at the top were replaced, while the systems have remained largely intact. It could be argued that Tunisia has made a successful transition from the dictatorship of Ben Ali to a “democratic” dispensation. After Ben Ali’s overthrow, primarily because the military refused to come to his rescue, al-Nahda Party won the election but it was thrown out of office in the recent elections (end of October 2014). Ben Ali’s party is back in power. The problems that had led to the upheaval have not been addressed: unemployment remains high; corruption is rampant and the military is all supreme.

In Egypt, the situation is even worse. The military did not even wait for the political process to take its course as in Tunisia. Within one year of the election of Mohamed Mursi as president, the military returned with a sledgehammer. It not only ousted Mursi from power but also slaughtered thousands of innocent people, including women and children. People were not spared even when they sought refuge in mosques where they were ruthlessly gunned down.

Tens of thousands have been thrown in Egypt’s notorious dungeons while hundreds have been sentenced to death after kangaroo trials presided over by judges beholden to the brutes in uniform. What is even worse, many people have been terrorized into supporting the military’s brutal crackdown.

When the Ikhwan organized peaceful sit-ins in Egypt’s Rabia al-‘Adawiya Square and in Giza, these were allowed to continue for a few weeks before the military and other security forces struck with extreme brutality. On August 14 and 16, 2013, thousands of Ikhwan supporters, many of them women and children, were mercilessly killed. Even funeral processions were attacked. Worse, many Egyptians applauded the massacres claiming that Egypt had been “saved.” One wonders from what and for whom?

It appears that the west was not keen to have the Egyptian military strike so soon. Washington had already secured agreement from Mursi and the Ikhwan to advance its agenda. Mursi did not repudiate the humiliating treaty with the Zionist regime; he did not cut off gas supplies to Israel nor did Mursi do anything meaningful for the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip. While the US may have been agreeable to Mursi remaining in power for a little while longer, the Saudis were not.

They viewed Mursi — and more broadly, the Ikhwan — as a threat to their claim to being the leaders of “Sunni” Muslims. While few Muslims outside the narrow circle of their paid agents accept their leadership claim, the Saudis continued to delude themselves. The Saudi regime was the first to congratulate the Egyptian military for its great “feat.”

The triangle of terror represented by the Saudis, Egyptian generals and the Zionist war criminals was complete. Since the coup, the Egyptian military has been busy destroying tunnels through which the besieged Palestinians used to smuggle much needed goods — food, medicines and household items — for mere survival. This was unacceptable to the Zionists and, therefore, to the Egyptian generals. The destruction of this triangle of terror is a pre-requisite for the Muslim liberation movement to have any chance of success.



The year 2014 is a milestone year for the Afghan freedom fighters. In this year foreign troops left the country after 13 years of occupation. The Afghans have been left to wonder what did 13 years achieve for them. Although it may be too early to state conclusively, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the official name for Afghan Taliban) is already making plans for celebration. For them, this is a great victory, perhaps more significant than the joy of defeating the Soviets. Beating America and its combined help from NATO will most likely place the chief of the Afghan Taliban as the undisputed leader of the Muslim community in and around Afghanistan.

The new Afghan army of 200,000 recruits will probably be no match for the battle-hardened warriors of Mullah Omar. The west has also been preparing for such eventuality. In Qatar, Afghan Talibans opened a foreign office for holding talks with international players. It is a sign of the things to come in the near future. That near future may be knocking on our doors already.


Struggle – the Sacred Duty

Muslims are not living in freedom. From the North African coasts to the Indo-China islands, from Russia to Yemen, dark clouds of dictatorship, tyranny and persecution hangs over our heads. We cant speak our minds anywhere, not the least in the so called centers of the Muslim world in the Arabian peninsula. How strange!! The lands of Islam have forbidden its Muslim citizens to talk and to learn the real Islam practiced by the Noble Prophet (sallillahi alihi wa alihi wa sallam) and his companions (radiAllahuanhum). As a Muslim I would like to tell my reader, I don’t see Islam anywhere in the world. What we see are rituals and ceremonies being copied from the Islamic past, but Islam as a way of life is not anywhere in sight. In this article I will focus on the one concept which lies at the heart of Islamic resurgence and revival. I am talking about the Islamic concept of Jihad Fi Sabilillah.

It is Jihad which gives life and it is its very absence which will dim the light. Western media is controlled either financially or intellectually by the post WWII neo rulers of the world, the Zionist secularists. Their agenda has never wavered and it was only after WWII that they openly unleashed their immoral and unjust filth upon the hard working masses all over the world. True, many of us work for their usurious banking systems, and their large network of multi national companies and we feel we are dependent on jobs from these companies to feed our families and pay our bills. Back breaking burdens from debt and credit cards has nearly enslaved our souls to big corporations that gives us pay checks every month. We get paid big bucks for doing silly things like charging interest on mortgages or we get a fat commission for selling shares to wealthy doctors. We know that our earnings are never in line with the actual amount of work we do so we tend to remain loyal to the employer for ensuring uninterrupted flow of large cash every month. People no longer value work, they only value brands. A workers pride used to be the quality of his output, not the thickness of his check. His tools of production were very dear to him and he took pride in what he did. Honor now seems to have been downgraded to annual bonuses and perks.

What has been the result of this cultural change? In 2008, the global financial system nearly crashed, thanks to the work habits of the Zionist controlled usurious banking system. It is a world wide network of very greedy people whose only target in life to go from 6 figures to 7 figures and then beyond if possible. They don’t care what happens to anyone anywhere in the world so long as they can meet their bonus criteria. While the small time depositors of Northern Rock qued up outside the branches to withdraw their deposits the banks´CEO was busy calculating his bonus stipulated in his contract. Well, that is how all this works, in the Zionist financial world, make money, and move on. The greedy brokers were trading bad assets which they like to call toxic assets, well hell, its bad assets and that’s it, they were sitting on a pile of bad loans which they thought they could trade with each other just long enough to make bonus and take off for some nice island down south. That is exactly what these guys did. They played with depositors and tax payers money. They blew it on bad assets. When the system crashed, the same depositors and tax payers were forced to bail them out on the pretext those large Zionist companies were too big to fail. First they screw the people and then they make them pay for it.

The explosion of the Zionist controlled usurious economic system has dwarfed the mushroom cloud that struck in Japan. Ordinary people are without any choice in this matter. They must agree to the world order and serve it like a soldier serves his unit. In return they will allow to live a life according to the picture of a dream created by the Zionist controlled media, where sensual pleasure and wealth are equated directly with happiness.

This same Zionist media has been misleading millions of people about the noble and honorable concept of Jihad. Islam is a complete way of living that includes religious belief, universal laws, civil laws, family laws, economic policy, international war and peace, jurisprudence and many other laws and policies related to social and individual matters that it makes Islam one of the few sources of civilization. To be just, you have to compare Islam with other civilizations, nations or empires, but you cant compare Islam with any religion alone without being unfair, unjust and unintelligent.

A civilization survives the greatest test by defending its values. Trojans defended themselves against Greeks, yet the Trojan values were flawed although it was based on protecting love from the evil of greedy empire builders. Trojans were still wrong for accepting the first wrong committed by Paris, for which the entire nation had to pay in blood.

Jihad is a noble concept that forms a part of the Islamic faith. A muslim MUST stand up to injustice anywhere in the world. There can be no faith, and no Islam, when Muslims turn away from crimes and aggressions. Today the Muslim world is crying for some relief from the Zionist genocide in Palestine, brutal state terrorism in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen  and other places in China and Russia. Mind it, Muslim countries are currently ruled by hypocrites and Zionist lackeys whose actions should be viewed as anti Islamic although hired scholars conveniently endorse the crimes committed by dictators. Essentially, Muslims are living under political slavery, from Tunisia to Bangladesh. To stand up to the dictators exposing their lies and corrupt rule is Jihad fi Sabilillah. The Fitnah (corruption, violence, terrorism) of so called Muslim governments should be resisted by any freedom loving human being. Remaining blind to Fitnah is a step back in to Jahiliyah (days of Ignornace) which will affect this generation and futures ones as well. We are told to resist Fitnah in the Majestic Quraan, And Fight them until there is no more Fitnah and the religion, all of it, is only for Allah.

Media controlled by Zionists, secularists and mushriks (idolators) should be taken to task for falsely equating Jihad with terrorism. The greatest Jihad in Islamic history was the Battle of Badr and the commander in chief of the first Mujahideen army was the beloved Prophet (sallillahu alihi wa alihi wa sallam). This is a struggle between good and evil, Muslims are commanded to enjoin good and forbid evil, and thus Jihad is a sacred duty based on struggle for a greater cause, it is the holy spirit motivating believers to reach the highest ranks amongst entire mankind. Zionist and Mushrikeen media intentionally distorted the meaning of Jihad. Why? Because they have the history of Jihad with them. Never have these two groups been able to resist the warriors of truth and justice in Jihad.

How Colonization Changed Islamic Societies into Nation States

There are today more than fifty Muslim states, extending from the Atlas Mountains in the West to the Malay Archipelago in the East, and from Sub-Saharan Africa to the steppes of Central Asia. They include some of the most populous countries in the world, such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as some of the smallest, such as the Maldives and the Comoros. Some are strong states with effective government institutions; others, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, enjoy only a precarious existence. Some, like Mali and Bangladesh, are poor; others, like Libya, Brunei, Turkmenistan, and Saudi Arabia, are endowed with great natural wealth; still others, like Malaysia—the world’s seventh most exporting country in 1997—owe their wealth to successful industrialization. Some Muslim states are ethnically uniform; others include sizable ethnic, linguistic, or religious minorities. Nearly the entire spectrum of social, economic, ideological, institutional, and political expressions are represented in these states. From the Islamic Republic of Iran to secular republics in the Arab world or Indonesia, from monarchies in the Arab world, Malaysia, Nigeria (where monarchies rule over provinces), and Brunei, to democracies in Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, Muslim states include great diversity in politics and the workings of governments.

Despite this diversity, a common thread also exists in the politics of Muslim states. The most obvious is Islam, not only as a faith but also as a source of identity and an important factor in social relations and politics. Islam has long been important to Muslim politics. It has played a role in the struggles for liberation from colonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. In various stages of the colonial era, Islamic forces, thinkers, and political leaders have played an important part in shaping Muslim politics. Liberation from colonialism was elaborated as an Islamic movement, from Sayyid Ahmad Shahid’s (1786–1831) uprising in India in 1826 to the anti-imperialist undertakings of Iran’s Mirza Hasan Shirazi (1815–94) and Shaykh Fadlullah Nuri (1843–1909) or Central Asia’s Imam Shamil (1796–1871), Algeria’s Amir Abd al-Qadir (1808–83), Somaliland’s Muhammad ibn Abdille Hasan (1864–1920), Sudan’s Mahdi (d. 1885), Iran’s Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838–87), or the Tijani jihads (holy wars) in West Africa between the 1780s and the 1880s (the Sokoto caliphate of Uthman dan Fodio [c. 1754–1817] and the revolt of al-Hajj Umar Tal of Futa Toro [c. 1794–1864]). Other “Islamic” movements have included Malaya’s Hizbul Islam (Islamic Party), India’s Jamiat-i Ulama-i Hind (Party of Ulama), Iran’s Shiite ulama in the 1920s, Libya’s Sanusiyyah (led by Umar Mukhtar, 1858–1931), or Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim leaders of various intellectual endeavors during the colonial period have included Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), Abul-Kalam Azad (1888–1958), and India’s Mawlana Husain Ahmad Madani (1879–1957) and Mawlana Abul-Ala Mawdudi (1903–79), later of Pakistan. These movements and thinkers were among the first to organize an indiginous anticolonial movement. They articulated anticolonialism in the language of the jihad, relating struggles for liberation to Islam—a powerful paradigm that continues today to be relevant to Muslim struggles against imperialism, most lately in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and Chechnya’s war of liberation against Russia in 1996. In this the Islamic movements were the precursors to the later nationalist uprisings. In Indonesia the efforts of Masjumi (Majlis Sjuro Muslimin Indonesia, the consultative council of Indonesian Muslims) would play an important role in nationalist anticolonialism efforts and early state formation in Indonesia.

Later, Islam influenced the values and the goals of politics, and in recent years Islamist movements have redefined the nature of politics and laid claim to control of the state. The continued political importance of Islam, its relevance to the struggle against colonialism in particular, has prevented secular nationalism from completely dominating politics in the Muslim world. This has in turn made state formation, and its relation to precolonial and colonial eras, complex and at times problematic. Another feature that Muslim states share is the fact that without exception, they are developing states; namely, for the most part they have emerged during the course of the twentieth century and have been closely tied to the efforts of their societies to advance and industrialize. In so doing, they share in the historical legacy, cultural milieu, and often the political and social problems that confront development in the Third World. Muslim states have responded to the challenges before them differently, just as size, geographic location, and economic endowment have also meant different patterns of development.

The legacy of colonialism is key in explaining both the diversity and the unity of different experiments with state formation in the Muslim world. Just as Islam, ethnic identity, social characteristics, and other indigenous religious and cultural factors can explain the commonalities between Muslim states—and conversely, economics, ideology, and leadership can explain divergences—colonialism too can explain the points of convergence and divergence in experiences with state formation across the Muslim world. Muslim have lived with nearly all the colonial powers. In much of Africa, Asia, and the Arab world, the British and the French ruled over vast Muslim territories. The Dutch ruled over territories that later became Indonesia, and the Germans, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russians held Muslim territories in East Africa, the Philippines, Malaya (what is now known as Malaysia), the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip may be seen as the last and only ongoing colonial relationship in Muslim lands. Although the defining characteristics of colonialism were at work in all of these locales, there were differences in how colonial powers approached their colonial mandates, even differences in how the same colonial powers exerted power and influence in different territories. There are thus fundamental similarities between various Muslim polities as there are particularities, which have their roots in history, and more important, with the experience of each colonial territory.

This chapter identifies colonialism’s legacy for the development of the Muslim states in the twentieth century. It discusses the common legacy that Muslim states share as a result of their experiences with colonialism and explains how colonization also accounts for differing patterns of development by looking at individual experiences with colonialism. The colonial era lasted less than a century, but it forever changed all aspects of geography, the economy, social relations, and politics in the areas that it ruled.

Shaping the Modern Muslim World: Colonialism and State Boundaries

The colonization of Muslim territories began with the rise of European empires, the conquest of India, and the scramble for Africa in the nineteenth century. Its last phase included the division of the Arab territories of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The colonial era ended after World War II, when Britain and then France withdrew from the majority of their colonial territories. Muslim states began to emerge in earnest from 1947 on—although some, such as Iran or Afghanistan, had always remained independent, albeit nominally. The emergence of Muslim states involved negotiated withdrawals of colonial powers, as was the case in Malaya, India, and the Persian Gulf emirates, as well as brutal and bloody wars of independence, as in Algeria. The decolonization also occurred in spurts, as European powers sought to protect their economic interests following their political and military withdrawals in a changing global environment. Iran in 1953 and Egypt in 1956 were examples of the reassertion of colonialism, which nevertheless marked the gradual yet effective end of direct European rule over Muslims.

By the mid-1970s most Muslim territories, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia, had gained independence from colonialism and constituted either independent Muslim states or parts of independent non-Muslim states. Still, the legacy of colonialism continued to shape and reshape their polities, economies, and societies. The impact of colonialism went far beyond the relationships of economic and political imperialism that theorists of the Left have amply elaborated upon. Colonialism also survived in the forms that state ideologies, political visions, and institutions of the new states took. The impact of colonialism was circumspect, but it was nevertheless pervasive. It was a manifestation of the historical continuity between a past from which the new states sought to distance themselves and their independent existences.

The Muslim world today is a collection of nation-states. Although Islamic unity continues to animate politics across the Muslim world and has been a central demand of Islamic movements, the unity of Muslim states does not extend beyond the limited mandate of the Organization of Islamic Conference, an international organization of Muslim states that is modeled after the United Nations. The concept of a territorial state is of relatively recent origin in the Muslim world. In the premodern era Muslims were conscious of ethnic, linguistic, and regional differences among them, but politically they were united under first the caliphate and later empires and sultanates, whose shifting boundaries represented not the borders of nation-states as the term is understood today, but the writ of rulers who ruled in the name of Islam. The idea of a Muslim territorial state, much like the idea of nationalism, is thus an import from the West. The inclusion of the concept of the territorial state into Muslim politics and the actual boundaries of Muslim states are both products of colonialism.

This is not to say that ethnic affiliations and national identities were absent in the Muslim world before the advent of colonialism. Such sentiments were always strong. For instance, Iranians from early on viewed themselves as distinct from Arabs and Turks, and Shiism in Iran in many ways became a mark of its national identity, separating Iranians from the Sunni Turks, Arabs, and Türkmen around it. Similar distinctions between Arabs and Berbers, Arabs and Turks, or Malays and Javanese have also been prominent. Ethnic nationalism and its association with a nation-state, however, is new to the Muslim world and has its origins in the colonial era. It was then that nationalism as a primary form of political identity—one that is not subservient to Islamic identity but supersedes it absolutely and is associated with a territorial state modeled after those in the West—grew roots and became a part of Muslim political consciousness.

For this reason tensions have existed across the Muslim world between conceptions of the nation-state—associated with the relatively more recent nationalist political ideal—and the Islamic ideal of the ummah (holy community), which continues to undergird the Muslim political ideal. The concept of the ummah calls Muslims not only to unite across national boundaries but to place Islam above all other political allegiances in their everyday lives. The scope of tensions between the state and its citizens over this issue has depended on the extent to which the state has been willing to accommodate Islamic consciousness. Whereas Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malaysia have sought to bring about harmony between nationhood and the ideal of the ummah, Turkey, Pahlavi Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, and Indonesia have consciously sought to assert the primacy of the nation-state over the ummah. Also important in this regard is how strong the notion of nationalism is. In states with strong national identities, such as Turkey, Iran, and Egypt, the state has asserted its prerogatives more forcefully, as is also the case where large non-Muslim minorities reside, such as Malaysia or Nigeria. Conversely, in places such as Pakistan, where national identity is weak, the ideal of the ummah holds greater sway.

Muslim states gained independence in territories that were delineated by the colonial powers. They largely accepted the shapes in which they were born as well as the fact that states would be bound by international borders into distinct sovereign entities. Expansionism did occur, however: Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara, Indonesia’s to East Timor, Turkey’s to northern Cyprus, Iran’s to Bahrain until the mid-1970s, Syria’s to Lebanon, and Iraq’s to Kuwait. These claims were put forward in the name of nationalism and on behalf of a nation-state, as defined and legitimated by international norms. Muslim states, by and large, have not challenged the division of the territories of the Islamic empires, and by implication, the Islamic world by colonial powers or the criteria used by those powers in determining new borders. Muslim states have not sought to reconstruct the ummah but only to expand the boundaries of nation-states. The reality of those borders have been accepted, although where they lie has on occasion been contested.

The only exceptions to this general rule have been the ideologies of Arab nationalism and Islamism. Arab nationalism, which was a widely popular political ideal in the 1960s and has been a general political and cultural thrust since then, has in principle questioned the division of the Arab world into twenty-two states. Even in this case, though, the rhetoric of unity, beyond yielding a number of symbolic unification pacts—most notably the United Arab Republic, consisting of Egypt and Syria between 1958 and 1961 and the Arab League—never effectively undermined the division of Arab lands by colonialism. Only North and South Yemen successfully united and then not in the name of Islam or Arab nationalism but of Yemeni nationalism. Even Jordan, a state that was created arbitrarily by England when Amir Abdullah, its first king, was given a fixed stipend and six months to see if the idea worked, has stood the test of time. Furthermore, Arab nationalism was not an Islamic ideology, and in that sense it did not seek to reverse the division of Muslim lands so much as it did the division of Arab ones. Islamist movements too have argued for the unity of all Muslims above and beyond their national identities and to accept the reality of the ummah in lieu of nation-states. In practice, however, Islamist movements have conducted their politics in accordance with the territorial reality of the Muslim world. The Islamic Party (Jamaat-i Islami) organizations of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are thus independent of one another, as are the Muslim Brotherhood organizations from Nigeria and Senegal to Sudan, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.

If and when state boundaries have given way, it has not been because of lack of resolve in statehood, but rather because of the ability of a larger expansionist state to overwhelm a smaller neighbor. Kuwait has remained independent owing to outside assistance; others have not been as fortunate. For example, Western Sahara was forcibly united with Morocco, as was East Timor with Indonesia. Iran annexed some small islands in the Persian Gulf that it took from the United Arab Emirates in the 1970s. The emirates continue to demand the return of the islands, and the struggle for independence from Morocco, led by the Polisario movement, has been waged unabated; the chapter on an independent Western Sahara is far from closed.

Consequently, the colonial division of Muslim territories, in principle as well as along the lines that were initially introduced, have been largely accepted by the successor Muslim states and have been instituted into the international system. The legacy of colonialism here has not been free of tensions, however. First, many of the divisions were problematic. Some were carried out arbitrarily to accommodate local colonial officials without regard to their impact on peoples and resources. Other divisions reflected the needs of colonial powers to resolve diplomatic tensions among themselves. In many cases colonies were thus created to satisfy disgruntled European allies or to serve as buffers against expansionist ones. The post-World War I plans for the division of the Ottoman Empire were made to appease France, Italy, and Greece. The need to protect India from Russia meanwhile led to the creation of Afghanistan, as similar concerns about France after 1798 led to British occupation of Egypt, which in turn warranted British control of Palestine after World War I. Strategic decisions and economic interests finally led to the creation of new colonial territories, which more often than not became the bases for future states. British interests in Persian Gulf oil led to the creation of Kuwait and a similar attempt at creating “Arabistan” out of Iran’s Khuzestan province in the early twentieth century. Decades later, similar economic considerations led Britain to encourage Brunei not to join Malaysia. Local political considerations led to further divisions. France created Lebanon out of Syria to fulfill its desire to create a Christian-Arab state; and Britain created Jordan to accommodate Amir Abdullah, who had fought on the side of the British in World War I and whose family felt betrayed by the division of the Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire between European powers.

How colonialism actually worked and what its imprints were have shaped Muslims’ perception of their identities and politics and separated the path that various Muslim states have taken since independence. Early on, through the aspiring new elite that the colonial rulers trained in European languages and ways to create a machinery of government, the division of Muslim territories took shape. As perceptions of whom the elite would control and what the possibilities and limits before them were became entrenched, commitments to borders took form. These commitments built on existing ethnic identities, articulating visions of nationalism that would give greater meaning to those boundaries. A bureaucrat in Kuala Lumpur or Damascus eventually developed a vested interest in “Malaysianness” or “Syrianness,” for example, lest his power remain limited as that of a provincial functionary in a larger Malay or Arab entity. It was such feelings that in later years doomed the Egyptian-Syrian unity pact of 1958–61. Iraqi and Syrian bureaucrats, who under the Ottomans would operate in the same ambient political, social, and literary culture, now developed ties to different European traditions and languages and helped to finalize their “separateness.” The varied administrative and political experiences thus helped to consolidate parochial nationalisms at the cost of more universal ones. The colonial experience, and the arenas of operation that it presented the new elite, ultimately laid the foundations of states where none had existed before.

In the Malay world the same process forced a separation between Malaysian and Indonesian identities and between Muslim Malay and non-Muslim Malay identities as well. Bureaucrats and politicians in British Malay and the Dutch Indies came to view the diverse cultural, linguistic, and religious arena of respective British and Dutch territories as their political and administrative arena, whereas the possibility of a Malay arena including the Malay parts of Indonesia and Malaysia, or a Muslim-Pattani region in Thailand and Mindanao in the Philippines, and excluding the non-Muslim and non-Malay parts of both became an unworkable idea. Boundaries of colonialism and the differences in cultural and historical experiences and developments that it engendered determined the shape of future states and polities. A united Islamic Malaya would not emerge because its peoples were ruled by different colonial authorities. Conversely, Borneo, and briefly Singapore, would become part of Malaysia because all were ruled by the same British colonial administration. Colonialism thus helped to define the borders of states and their realities in contradistinction to other conceptions of independence and statehood.

New states often appropriated existing ethnic identities or semblances thereof, such as “Iraqiness” or “Syrianness,” and at other times contrived nationhood, as in the cases of Jordan or Malaysia, to produce nationalist ideologies that could sustain state formation. The process also entailed sublimating competing ethnic identities and preventing them from developing into nationalisms. Iran, Iraq, and Turkey have sought to prevent Kurdish identity from asserting itself as a nationalism. Iran sought to integrate Kurds into an Iranian nationalist identity, and Turkey depicted them as “Mountain Turks.” The success of experiments with state formation often depended on how successful the development of national consciousness was. That, in turn, depended on the strength of the ethnic identity that formed the basis of nationalism. Over time, ethnic and territorial definitions became the boundaries for national identity formations; they grew roots and developed as a secular and dominant form of political identity in lieu of memories of a united Islamic world in history. Colonial powers had perhaps never meant for the territorial demarcations to have the lasting effects that they had, but in reality these boundaries became embedded in the future states.

Territorial divisions have also been a source of tension between various Muslim states that claim mutually exclusive rights to the same territories. Jordan and Syria, for example, early after independence both set their eyes on reconstituting larger Syria, while Jordan also maintained a claim to Palestine and Morocco to Mauritania and parts of Algeria; Syria and Turkey have contested sovereignty over Alexandretta (Iskenderun); Iran and Iraq over the Shatt al Arab channel; Egypt and Sudan over waters of the Nile; Pakistan and Afghanistan over the Durrand line; Pakistan and India over Kashmir; Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, over borderline oases and oil fields; Libya and Chad over their border regions; and Iran and the United Arab Emirates over the Tunbs and Abu Musa islands. In some cases the very existence of some Muslim states have been challenged by neighbors that view the Muslim states as artificial constructions of colonialism. Syria’s claims to Lebanon, Malaysia’s to Brunei (until recently), Iraq’s to Kuwait, and Morocco’s to Western Sahara are examples. Borders produced the shape of the states but did not guarantee their viability. Colonial authorities drew boundaries but did little to unify the peoples that fell within those boundaries into a national culture. At times they did exactly the opposite; namely, the colonial powers sought to maintain control by encouraging competition between ethnic, linguistic, religious, or tribal groupings. The territorial division of Muslim lands thus remained unchallenged, but it went hand in hand with national confusion and the fracturing of the future national society.

Unresolved tensions between peoples and regions that were included within the same state, but never consolidated into one nation, have resulted in challenges to state boundaries. Confessional tensions in Lebanon; ethnic and religious clashes in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Malaysia; and the Kurdish plight in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey are examples of the many problems inherent in state formation on the basis of colonial territorial demarcation. Still, none of these problems has been a result of attempts to reconstitute “Islamdom.” In fact, the preponderance of nationalism in Muslim political consciousness is so pervasive that Pakistan, which was created in the name of Islam, divided along ethnic lines in 1971 into Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although fraught with problems, the territorial conception and reality of Muslim states continues today in the colonial mold.