It is hard to predict the future; nay, our projections about the future are just speculations and opinions based upon incomplete evidence. Even our view of history is fragmented and disjointed. Remember, those who wrote the history we read were the conquerors and winners.
It is hard to predict the future; nay, our projections about the future are just speculations and opinions based upon incomplete evidence. Even our view of history is fragmented and disjointed. Remember, those who wrote the history we read were the conquerors and winners. We are never going to read the events of the past from the viewpoint of the vanquished and the oppressed. That being said, we do have broad facts that cannot be denied and are corroborated by both Scripture and consensus. The details remain uncertain; we are going to skip them and stop at the common knowledge that escapes the finagling of emperors and kings, dynasties and classes.
Our focus is on the coming decade or so concerning the Holy Land, the extended territories of al-Quds, and what is called the “Arab-Israeli” conflict. We know that the reader probably is sick and tired of reading about this issue given that what has ben written about it has polluted the public mind with everything but the truth. We will not rehash what the mainstream media passes off as analysis on this sensitive and apocalyptic issue. Here is our understanding of what may be in the making for the coming generation of Muslims who will have to face this issue with the only element left: liberation.
What we do know in a very shallow way is that almost a thousand years ago European armies descended on the Holy Lands in what became known in history as the Crusades. They occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem), Palestine and other parts of Syria proper (not today’s truncated Anglo-French Syria). This combined European military mobilization spanned at least two centuries. During the Crusades there was another area of the world that was unique in its civilizational and cultural achievements: al-Andalus (Iberia, or today’s Spain and Portugal). Here, too, the European gang of nations was skirmishing with the Islamic garden of integration in southwest Europe. The Muslims in al-Andalus, although chaperones to the amalgamation of the best minds and outstanding talents of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, were among themselves divided and feuding.
The political map of the Muslim world thus saw the emergence of Islamic political autonomies centered around Islamic denominations. The Maliki school of thought had certain dynasties claiming it exclusively for themselves. This brought about tension in North Africa and in al-Andalus itself. The Fatimid State that once extended over much of North Africa developed its own friction with the Muslim peoples, extending into Syria itself. Other states in today’s Iraq, Iran, and beyond took hold with a Shi‘i justification for their rule.
The Islamic world was littered with political dynasties that rationalized their rule on the basis of denominations and sects. Let us mention some of those bloodline rulers: the Fatimis were concentrated in Egypt, the Saylahis in Yemen, the Muwahhidis in Morocco and al-Andalus, the Qaramitah in the Arabian Peninsula, the Duruz in Western and Mediterranean Syria, the ‘Alawis in Northern Syria and in Turkey, the Murabitun in Morocco, the Seljuks in Turkey and Central Asia, the Barmaki and Ikhshidi dynasties in Iraq and Iran, etc… Suffice it to say that these ruling dynasties fueled their “legitimacy” by drawing on what we may call sectarian arguments, much the same way that today’s nation-states draw on nationalistic arguments to prove their legitimacy and credentials. So, we had an Islamic political world that was divided along sectarian lines when the European militaries invaded the Holy Lands and occupied them by brute force. The Muslims at the time were challenged to put together a force to free the Holy Land of European occupation.
What happened next is worth thinking about very carefully. The Ayyubi dynasty in Syria managed to unseat the sectarian Fatimi rulers in Egypt and bring about the unity of Syria and Egypt that would finally defeat the combined military might of the Europeans at the Battle of Hittin in Palestine. The benign Islamic counter-sectarianism of the leader Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi made it possible for the mass of people in Southwest Asia and Northeast Africa to come together in a momentous military pincer operation against the allied forces of Europe and defeat them in a definitive and strategic manner. In other words, at that time the liberation of the Holy Land required a brave political movement that took issue with “divisive” politics centered around sectarianism — both Sunni and Shi‘i. And Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi succeeded in focusing the attention of the immediate Muslim population around occupied Palestine on the common enemy: European military occupation of al-Quds, the first qiblah and the third holiest of sanctuaries for Muslims. Thus, a fact of history without any slants is that when Syria and Egypt united, rising above sectarian divisions, they liberated Palestine.
Let’s fast forward to the political world of today; the Muslim world is, like it was a thousand years ago, divided. This time it is not divided along sectarian lines. The political states of our time are divided along nationalist lines. We have dozens of nation-states that proliferate in that geographical area within which we have a new occupation of the Holy Land by the Zionists. Unlike the time when Muslims had the initiative and were in al-Andalus bringing out the best in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim populations, today’s imperialists are in Iraq and Afghanistan bringing out the bloodiest of the three religious populations.
Today, the Muslims who can see through the distortions of the mainstream media have their eyes set on Islamic Iran. The Islamic State in Iran can play the role of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi to liberate the Holy Land. Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi may have played on benign Arab togetherness to undo the sting of sectarianism in Egypt and beyond to galvanize the Muslims into a fireball of liberation that culminated in the decisive Battle of Hittin and the eventual routing of the Crusading European imperialists.
What is required today, and this is going to need delicate psychological surgery, is for the Islamic State in Iran to take the sting out of Arabian nationalism that has polluted some Islamic Movements and has also been the rationale for the mutually antagonistic Arabian nation-states from the Persian Gulf to the Berber Coast. At the heart of Shi‘ism there is no sectarianism; just as at the heart of Arabism there is no nationalism. Both Shi‘ism and Arabism have been victimized by their own adherents. The winning formula is to take the sting of sectarianism out of Shi‘ism and to take the sting of nationalism out of Arabism.
Syria in the days of Salah al-Din joined Egypt when Islam became the clarion call for the liberation of the Holy Land and Egypt no longer adhered to a sectarian ruling class. The question that remains without a conclusive answer is : will the Islamic State in Iran be able to do a “Salah al-Din” in today’s political world? Can the sting of nationalism be taken out of Syria, paving the way for an axis of liberation extending from Tehran to Damascus via Baghdad? What complicates the political map of Syria is that it combines within it both nationalism which is overt and sectarianism which is covert. So the task of the Islamic State in Iran is twofold: to purge the Syrian decision makers of their Arabian hubris and to rid the ‘Alawis of their complex toward the rest of the Muslims around.
When Syria and Egypt joined hands about 900 years ago they liberated al-Quds. Can the Islamic Republic of Iran see through the many layers of this issue and do what has to be done? It appears that it has the tolerance and the experience to deliver on the liberation of Palestine. In the meantime, we will have to keep on eye on the slowly maturing Islamic parties and movements here and there, especially Turkey, as they may very well contribute to this historical breakthrough.If both sectarianism and nationalism are put to rest by a Tehran to Damascus bloc the liberation of Palestine is guaranteed in the coming decade. “And on that day the dedicated Muslims will rejoice with a victory from Allah…”What is required today… is for the Islamic State in Iran to take the sting out of Arabian nationalism that has polluted some Islamic Movements and has also been the rationale for the mutually antagonistic Arabian nation-states from the Persian Gulf to the Berber Coast.