Taking no Sides, a Lesson from the Edhi Foundation
- by karlsie
- Posted on 25 May, 2014
By Karla Fetrow Our Limited Perspective
Politics are complex and become more so when you begin adding the differences in cultural perspectives, religious affiliations, ideologies and the demographics of location. We have become accustomed as a people, to comparing the politics in different regions to our own, deciding for foreign entities the most favorable way to govern their countries, whether or not we know the first thing about them or their problems. Somehow, we seem to believe it’s our responsibility to install the democratic vote and persuade developing countries to adopt the commercial ventures of Western enterprise.
For too many countries, our intervention has seemed more like an invasion into life styles that had once been peaceful, into value systems that have suddenly disappeared in value, into evolving social system that have been interrupted in its progress than like a call for liberation. Instead of stability, they are thrown into restlessness and confusion. Among the countries torn apart with inner turmoil and riddled with border disputes, is Pakistan.
Pakistan rarely makes the headlines. General knowledge is that its northern presence separates India from Afghanistan. Its population is primarily Muslim and it has been known to shelter the Taliban. It’s not particularly feared. Even though it is engaged in both internal and external border conflicts, it hasn’t posed a direct threat to Western countries. In fact, it’s considered an ally, even though it is bombed by US drones on a daily basis.
Less understood are certain features of Pakistan’s history. With the “Independence of India Act” of 1947, the British Empire split the northern area of India into modern day Pakistan, leaving two independent countries; the largely Hindu population of India, and Muslim dominant Pakistan. Over two million people migrated between the two borders with the separation and over one hundred thousand died during the inter-religious upheavals between the two countries. A Time for Kindness
It’s within the heat of turmoil, as the two newly independent countries struggled to establish their governments, their leaders, and proceeded to engage in a mutual ethnic cleansing that rivaled the horrors of Nazi Germany, that our story begins. It’s not a story that tries to make sense out of the violent upheaval or take sides with any particular warring faction, just one that illustrates courage, faith and kindness against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Abdul Sattar Edhi was born in 1928, in what is now known as Gujarat, west India. His exposure to human suffering came early. His mother was in poor health. By the time Edhi was eleven, she was feeling the ravaging effects of diabetes, as well as a paralysis that left her completely handicapped. The young boy devoted his waking hours caring for her, but her condition did not improve. Despite her debilitating health, she had a strong determination to teach her son compassion for the less fortunate. According to the stories concerning Edhi’s early childhood, each day she gave the boy two paisas, one for himself and one for someone less fortunate. In a country torn apart by religious and political turmoil, resulting in millions of refugees, it wasn’t hard for him to find someone less fortunate.
However, what had begun as a simple practical decision to create two separate countries with two separate religious bases became an inexorable machinery uprooting and weeding out all those who did not comply to the majority of that region. By the time he was nineteen, the young Muslim was also forced to flee the country and settle in Pakistan.
The conditions in Pakistan were by no means better than those he had left behind. Infants were abandoned by the road sides and corpses were left out in the open, their decomposition unheeded and apparently unnoticed. Jobs in the city of Karachi, where his family settled, were scarce. Abdul Sattar Edhi spent his first few years earning a livelihood as a street vendor, selling pencils and match boxes. The desire to be of service to others, however, had not left him.
Although he had received no formal education, Edhi was highly intelligent and perceptive. He realized a crucial need for more medical assistance to the district, and began saving money to open a charitable clinic. His medical education was entirely voluntary, and perhaps augmented by the skills he had learned in nursing his mother. He became friends with a medical doctor, learned to assist him in his practice, and spent his nights on the concrete floor outside the clinic, making himself available to anyone who needed his help at any time.
In 1951, he opened a tiny dispensary in one of Karachi’s poorer districts, Mithador. His main priority was to help the poor and the needy. When in 1957, a major flu epidemic broke out in the city of Karachi, it was Abdul Sattar Edhi who took control over the crisis. Setting up tents on the outskirts of the town, he began distributing free immunizations. Public support for his efforts was enormous. As funds began pouring in, his charitable practice grew from one tiny corner of a complex, to owning the entire building. Here he established the Edhi Foundation, which continues to serve people in need and is completely supported by public donations.
One of Edhi’s first achievements was an ambulance service. It was not an ambulance detail in the ordinary sense of the word. His service didn’t just transport patients in need of emergency medical care, it bravely arrived in times of conflict, picking up the dead and wounded during enemy fire. It was also used for picking up runaway or destitute children and giving them safe housing. It is now a fleet of four hundred and it is considered one of the largest and best organized ambulance services in the world.
He needed the whole building and more for the size of his dream. He set up a free maternity center and a nursing school. When he began expanding the number of clinics, he included mental health facilities and homes for the physically handicapped.
What he has accomplished in the sixty plus years since he first hit the streets selling match boxes has been amazing. The Edhi foundation is now the largest charitable institution in Pakistan. It runs over 300 clinics, 2000 ambulances throughout the country, eight hospitals in Karachi alone, mobile clinics and a cancer hospital. His foundation contains a legal aid department and free services and doctor visits for inmates. He is responsible for the building of orphanages, adoption centers, blood banks, maternity centers and shelters for children and battered women.
How he has done this is astounding. His giant network of care services is completely public funded. He receives no government grants, no gifts from political or religious organizations. He insists that the foundation remain completely independent, assessing the needs of the individual based solely on the immediate distress. Edhi not only concerns himself with the protection of women, but their potential to generate independent income. He recognizes their abilities as capable workers, providing education and training in a number of professional positions, as well as providing shelter and counseling for abuse victims.
Portrait of the Man
“I had accepted at the onset that charity was distorted and completely unrelated to its original concept. Reverting to the ideal was like diverting an ocean of wild waters. Another major obstacle in the promotion of welfare was exposed… the disgust of man toward mankind. There was only one expression, one reaction from everyone… cringing. We could not reduce suffering unless we rise above our own senses… cringing was the first and greatest obstacle that blocked our way, the most brutal, but the most understandable”.
-Abdul Sattar Edhi
You would not know he was a great man if you simply passed him in the street. In fact, if you belonged to a paranoid Christian community, you might suspect him of being in league with terrorists. In 2006, he was detained in Toronto for sixteen hours. He was met by officials at the John F. Kennedy airport in 2008, where he was interrogated for eight hours, during which time his documents and passport were seized. In 2009, he was refused entry into Gaza by the Egyptian authorities. When asked what he believed the reason might be for his frequent border detentions, he answered it could be his beard and clothes.
Abdul Sattar Edhi keeps only two sets of clothing. He dresses in traditional Muslim attire. His long beard has turned gray over the years. He travels and lives humbly, refusing a salary and spending only what it takes to survive. Your key to his greatness might only come if you sat down for a meal with him, or drew him into conversation. He is considered the greatest humanitarian that nobody knows; except in the areas where his principles have had a direct effect on the social well-being of the community.
The community has not been limited to Pakistan. The Edhi Foundation provided aid to New Orleans following the hurricane of 2005, and has run relief operations in Africa, the Mid East, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus region; a mountainous area located between Europe and Asia. He was awarded the prestigious Magasay award by the Philippines in 1986, the Balzan peace award by Italy in 2000 and a peace prize by Russia for services during the 1988 Armenian earthquake disaster. He was recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 by the Pakistan Government.
A moving documentary titled, “This Bird Walks” carries you through one of the aspects of Edhi’s social services; the life of the ambulance driver and the shelter for run-away and lost children. It focuses primarily on one young boy who struggles with his own evolving maturity, seeks to answer moral questions and discover where he truly belongs. It takes a candid view of the boy’s interactions and his deeply spiritual nature.
It also follows the rounds of the ambulance driver as he divides his time between picking up the dead and reuniting children with their families. The ambulance creeps through crowded thorough-fares, alive with bicycles, pedestrians and street side stalls to tiny apartments huddled close together, to sometimes joyful reunions with families, to reproofs and recriminations. It travels through dark, empty streets, the wastes of living flapping by the sides of the road, ruins of concrete buildings crumbling into the dust. It reveals a Pakistan that is despairing yet hopeful, a culture ruled by gentleness under the rumbling layers of discontent.
Under the highly critical eye of global affairs, we have a tendency to focus on the government of a country instead of the society. We judge its spiritual growth by our own religious standards. We measure morality based on our own perceptions. We view the differences in ethnicity, cultural identification and life styles as obstacles in understanding the individual. As human beings, we’re all wired to the same basic human needs. Beyond food, water, and shelter, there is the broken fabric of good health to be mended. There are also broken hearts waiting for someone to pick up the pieces. We need the strength of others to overcome our fears, communications to drive away loneliness, consolation for our grief. Suffering is Universal. It recognizes no borders, no age, no social status, no gender.
Pakistan is a beautiful country, with some of the highest mountains in the world, forests, lakes, rivers, sweeping plateau’s and deserts. It has a rich diversity of indigenous plant and wildlife. It’s abundant in natural resources. It also has a population in excess of 160 million people and the eighth largest standing army in the world in terms of full-time service.
It is the second largest Muslim country, after Indonesia, and the only Muslim county to be declared a nuclear power. After years of internal and external conflict, Pakistan struggles with terrorism, poverty, illiteracy and corruption. It continues to clash with India, yet its message is progressive.
While fiercely stating its independence, its policies have been of pursuing mutual beneficial interests, the sovereign equality of states and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. It has been a leader in scientific breakthroughs with significant contributions to the medical field and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for its discovery of Electroweak Interaction. Although it’s a nuclear power, only three percent of its energy comes from nuclear power plants. Its most dominant energy resources are hydroelectric and thermal energy.
It has an active space research program and is one of only a small handful of countries with an active research center in Antarctica. In recent years, the tourist industry has viewed Pakistan favorably, voting it one of the least racist country in the world. It has an extremely rich and ancient history, with civilizations dating back to three thousand years BCE. It joined the rise of the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, and a succession of several other cultural changes before the incorporation of the last great empire, the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 -1857. The Mulghal empire left behind a legacy of highly developed Persian literature and culture.
While the Western world gazes nervously at the conflicts that rise through the Mideast, Asia and Africa, wondering what its role should be and how to resolve differences, perhaps it should take some lessons from the Edhi Foundation. Don’t worry about the manner in which a country shall govern itself or the religion it chooses to follow. Just care about the integral needs of the people; shelter them from violence, feed them when they’re hungry, give them hope that somebody is concerned for their well-being. It’s the voices of people like Abdul Sattar Edhi that should be heard; voices that say, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe. What matters is, are you in pain? Do you need assistance? It’s voices like this that will create a bridge of understanding between all countries and political divisions.
Karla Fetrow: The Edhi Foundation presents an enlightened view of charity; one without boundaries, religious or political agendas, only the promotion of the common welfare for all.
I hate to be the perpetual pessimist, and the bearer of bad news all the time, but things have taken quite a whopping turn for the worse out here. I don’t know if this Edhi fellow, or another couple thousand others like him for that matter, is going to be enough to make even a slight difference for the better.
The people in the west and in the east are too far away to feel the effects of the crisis here just yet, but let me just say that the manufactured image of a bloodthirsty and heavily-armed Islamist terrorist organization which the western media has been perpetuating since the Arab-Israeli conflict began, has transcended from a mere image into reality. Right now, there is a marauding band of ruthless warriors, equipped with all the best guns that the US military-industrial complex has to offer, and they just acquired something like 1 billion dollars worth of cash and assets in the past few days. They’ve captured a massive city, and another oil-producing city, and they’re on quite a streak as far as taking territory is concerned.
Right now, countless people in Iraq have fled their homes, while their towns and cities are the site of endless gun-fights, rocket fire, and total devastation. The exact pattern that happened in Syria. And Syria is now for all intents and purposes completely destroyed, all of its economic infrastructure gone, hundreds of thousands of its people dead, millions displaced. In no time at all, Iraq will be in a position to suffer the same fate.
These guys, the one’s who are torching the Mideast one square foot at a time, they are not the old al-qaeda, the CIA’s obedient and well-trained dogs. These guys are the real deal. They are Saudi/Israeli created warriors from hell. Their mission is to take down Tehran by any means necessary.
Syria is currently in such an extreme state of chaos and disorder, that anyone with a gun can pretty much go around doing whatever they want. It’s a free-for-all, and the borders of the country are open on all sides. Saudis, Mossad Zionists, CIA agitators, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, you name it, they’re all coming and going in and out of Syria as they please. It was under such conditions that a group like “ISIS” came to be, and they wasted no time moving into Iraq next door. If Iraq falls and descends into the same kind of chaos and madness as Syria, it’s only natural that these crazed Islamist fanatics move into Iran.
Apparently, another branch of these Sunni lunatics is on standby in Pakistan, waiting for the signal to move into Iran from the east, as their friends attack from the west. Pretty soon, these guys will be in a position to launch attacks on the USA. Another 9/11, except this time for real, not some fake CIA/Mossad-coordinated controlled nuclear detonated demolition.
Meanwhile, the USA is claiming to want stability in Iraq, and even going so far as to state that they’d be willing to work together with Iran to bring about such stability. My ass. If the USA wanted stability in Iraq, they wouldn’t have attacked in 2003, or pulled back _all_ of their troops a couple years back, or installed a corrupt and weak government backed by an equally (if not more so) corrupt and weak military force. Seriously, either the Americans are total morons, or their plan has been to destabilize Iraq (for the benefit of their Israeli overlords) all along.
This is so deranged, it’s absurd. The Mideast was a stable region, a peaceful region, before 2001. There were no drones bombing Pakistani shepherds, no US troops blowing up Afghan weddings, no terrorist-rebels demolishing Syrian elementary schools (while the kids are in them), no insane barbarians roaming the Iraqi countryside looting and raping as they please.
So, here’s to Edhi, and all the others like him, who are working so hard, so tirelessly, and oh so fruitfully to bring about a better world for everyone.
Peter, your comment would have made a good article in itself. I am heart sick over the terrible march into madness. The Internet, which should have been, could have been, a means to create a greater understanding, has become nothing more than a device of the self-absorbed. It has become a play thing, with more interest taken in celebrity gossip than in creating a platform for justice, compassion and equality.
The world has become callous. Twenty years ago, exposure of such corruption, such horrible deeds would have produced a public outcry. Forty years ago, this infamous war would have occupied the headlines of newspapers and magazines everywhere. This is the zombie apocalypse. We are alive, but dead inside. We have appetite, but only for what will find our absorption in self. There is so little left that is human, and so I search for small glimmers of humanity in others, hoping that somehow they would create an anti-virus against this virus of vicious stupidity.
Creating a better world will not be easy. I suppose the virus must run its course. I suppose we will not be able to stop the destruction, the viciousness that has become the norm. I suppose… and yet I have to believe that people like Edhi will ultimately be the ones who pick up the pieces and return the souls to a soulless society.
Please don’t let my dark mood bring you down. All around me there’s extremely menacing vibrations right now, to quote Hunter S. Thompson.
But the thing is, the group that’s taken control of parts of Syria and Iraq have denounced Shiism as polytheism and heretical. Among other things, they are calling for Sunni ‘true’ Muslims to come to Iraq from all over to fight the Shia blasphemy, and they’ve declared a half-assed sort of jihad on the epicenter of the world’s Shia population, which is the country of Iran. This anti-shia, anti-Iran stance is the trademark of “ISIS” aka the self-proclaimed Islamic ‘caliph.’ Caliph literally means the successor to the line of Mohamad
If Mohamed were alive today, he would no doubt renounce and reject the new Islamic caliphate. Quite frankly, he would have rejected a lot of the previous ones too. The issue at stake here is that Islam is all about brotherhood (and sisterhood) and all Muslims are part of the ‘umma’ which is the abstract family of the prophet. All Muslims are expected to treat each other as brothers and sisters, all part of the same giant family, regardless of their race or color. According to Islamic Sharia, which is like a law that transcends nationalities, languages and ethnicities among Muslims, it is illegal for one Muslim group to go to war against another. It is directly opposed to the sense of brotherhood that united the early Muslims. Contrary to common belief, not very many Muslims were ever converted at gunpoint. Not a fraction of the number that were Christianized. Islam was accepted and welcomed by people from countless different tribes and races, because its message was clear. “If we stand together, all of us, there won’t be anyone left to stop us.”
I suspect that these terrorist-warriors have been trained from a very young age, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that their training takes place in Saudi Arabia, the most oppressive, backwoods place in the world today. The only place in the world where women aren’t ‘allowed’ to drive cars, or bicycles. I think these fellows have been led to believe that Shiism is blasphemy and against true Islam, and that they must fight against the heretics because that’s what God wants, etc. etc. I think, certain Western/Israeli groups are almost certainly the ones orchestrating the brainwashing-training operation on the ignorant Arabs. Saudi Arabia is in a lot of ways still in the year 700AD, as far as manipulating people’s heads is concerned. And Saudi Arabia is on excellent, very friendly terms with both the USA and Israel. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Saudi Arabia is just a front for Israel.
In any case, the people’s reaction to the horrible economic situation in Iran has been greatly buffered by the sentiment, currently shared by all here, that it’s always better to be living in a stable and peaceful country, that to be living in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Egypt, etc. (Have you heard? They are executing the democratically-elected president and his entire political party in Egypt.) So, it’s like, everyone’s just counting their blessings right now. It’s like “well, those Ayatollahs sure aren’t perfect, but they’ve managed to maintain a stable and quiet nation in a region of total chaos…so, they must be doing something right.”
Unbeknowst to the Iranian public, the Iranian government is currently engaged in negotiations with the west over the terms of selling Iran to western corporations. Iran is the world’s largest untapped market, as far as western business is concerned. Iran’s economy is worth half a trillion dollars, but it is estimated that with an influx of foreign investment, this figure could double or even triple in only a few years. If the negotiations bear fruit, Iran will lift its 34 year embargo and sanctions against western countries. That is to say, Iran will start allowing western groups to work in Iran. Much to the horror of Israel, the chaos in the Middleeast has actually helped Iran’s bargaining position. We are currently at peak oil. With Iraq on such shaky foundations, the industrial world cannot afford to not buy oil from Iran. Especially since Iran holds something like 9% of the world’s oil reserves. So, you know, they’re gonna have to lift the sanctions against Iranian oil sooner or later anyway, and the Iranians know this.
Right now, there’s 80 million Iranians clamoring for western consumer-culture. They want western products, because they see them on satellite tv. They want McDonalds, and Starbucks, and Walmart. They even want Haliburton, Enron, and Dick Cheney. And there’s like tens of millions of them unemployed, all under the age of 30, and these guys want jobs. They are ready and eager to be the guys who work at Wendy’s for minimum wage. In fact, their eagerness for it is reminiscent of Mexicans in Southern California. Since we’re using fast food places as an example, lets say that McDonalds has a team of people who are in charge of locating all the spots on earth where a McDonald’s restaurant could make a profit. Now, let’s say that McDonald’s has expanded to the point where there are no more spots on earth where they could establish a new colony, except Iran. From Greenland to the Amazon Rainforest, from the International Space Station to Easter Island, there’s a McDonalds. And this pattern holds true for practically all western business in Iran, in other words, there is none. There are very few western companies making a penny in all of Iran.
Western corporate interest groups are pushing the USA to make a deal with Iran, no matter what. What I mean is that, there is no other option left open to the US government. They must make a deal with Iran. The western media is portraying these negotiations as Iran begging for its nuclear program in front of a high-handed 5+1. This is total balony. The US, NATO, and Israel all combined can’t do a damn thing about Iran’s nuclear program. If they could, they would have already.
Israel makes a lot of noise, but it cannot go to war against Iran. The economic infrastructure and the current stability in Iran is what makes it a valuable market for western business. It is ready to go, plug-and-play, you know? Everything is in place, all waiting for western investment, for foreign capital. A million dollars is equal to 30 billion Rials in Iran. A million dollars is worth much more in Iran than it is in the USA, in terms of the return on your investment. Just a few years ago, the Rial was much more valuable than it is today, and US dollars weren’t worth half as much as they are in Iran today.
Anyway, it’s all a big mess. And nobody really can tell how it will all end up.
The more I think I understand, the more befuddled I become. We need more articles on the principles of the Muslim religion as these principles are in direct conflict with what Western countries are told. These principles, in their own way, help to clarify the issues.
The corporate’s are rapidly transferring their interests into the BRIC countries as economically, they are on their way up, while the Western countries, particularly the US are crashing. In order to ensure this crash, Americans are being industrially dummied down to become good little slave laborers and automated soldiers. Do you know, they now call our military force “warriors”? That makes me choke. Soldiers get paid, warriors do not. They are a voluntary defense of their homeland. How large, how strong do you think our military would be if they our soldiers did not get paid? As it is, the main reason we have enlisted men and women is for the stable paycheck, not for any particular belief they are working toward the common good.
To me it appears these new terrorists are playing right into corporate hands. Destabilized countries are ideal countries for invasive tactics and land seizures. Or maybe they are the hand of corporate entities. Spin doctors are quite skilled at taking any issue and turning it into a practical advantage. For instance, a big issue here, that should be a non-issue after so many years is birth control. All at once, it’s a religious choice among businesses not to hire women who wish to exercise their right not to bear children. Why? Because our death rate has over-taken our birth rate. Fewer births mean fewer baby products, fewer educational needs, fewer movies and other forms of entertainment made for children; less profit for the industries targeting populations under the age of twelve. Keep those baby machines pumping out consumers! And of course, a smaller population will eventually mean fewer soldiers and less slave labor.
I find the entire issue over oil curious. Alaska is an oil rich state and is actually receiving less per barrel on its oil than many of the oil-rich Mideastern countries, yet the oil producers are not satisfied with our terms. Our oil production has slowed down to a trickle, with a vast number of undeveloped oil fields that apparently are not going to get developed unless we practically give our oil away. We have slipped from number one of the oil producing states to number four and our legislators are pushing the panic button, bending over and kissing ass to entice more investors. And of course, the truth is, we don’t really need oil for energy. We have fantastic resources in wind, geo-thermal, hydro-electric and surface natural gas that does not have to be fracked to acquire. The idiocy goes on and on and it’s really all about creating a legacy of puppet consumers. At some point, we all need to wake up and take a good hard look at the destruction we’re causing to each other by being plain ignorant.
I haven’t been to every single Muslim community in the world, but I think I can safely say that the original wave of Islamic thought and culture subsided and rolled back long ago. Islam is derived from the root taslim, which means surrender. The original meaning of this ‘surrender’ has been lost, as far as I’m concerned.
The first “Muslims” (literally, the ones who surrendered to the spirit) were the hippy commune par excellence. I imagine they were like what the 1960s San Francisco hippies would have become had their movement not been meddled with by a trillion dollar armed Establishment. The early Muslims were a bunch of guys who went around preaching about love, friendship and brotherhood, and sharing and flower power. One of the basic tenets of Islam is: if your neighbor is hungry or in need and you sleep soundly at night, you’re not a Muslim. Another fundamental idea of early Islam was the degeneracy of materialism, which they outlined as such: Matter is finite, ephermal and transitory. The spirit is infinite, eternal, and unchanged. Clinging to the world of matter was believed to be a symptom of alienation from the spirit, and also the source of all suffering. As such, Muslims were encouraged to seek the spirit, and avoid seeking solace in materialism.
The early Muslims, who rose from the outskirts of Babylon (the mother of materialism and prostitution on earth) saw the idea of surrendering to the spirit as a direct opposition to the culture of Babylon, which was upheld by Rome and Persia at the time. This culture entailed a total fixation on the self and satiation of the self’s wants and desires. People were encouraged to indulge in every kind of pleasure the world had to offer. They were led to believe that satisfying and pleasing the self, and seeking immediate gratification were the highest achievements of mankind. (Not to derail the conversation, but for a creature that has only recently summoned and acquired awareness of ‘self’, the self being such a novelty of immense proportions, ie. a walking talking thinking life-companion, and since these selves were the ones running the show, it’s only natural that primitive people should have devoted themselves entirely to the worship of the self.)
Thus, Islam called for moving away from the self, and towards the spirit, an abstract undefined thing-in-itself that cannot be seen or touched or smelled, and yet exists nonetheless. The spirit was believed to be the sustaining force behind the self. It was believed that the spirit was where we came from, before we knew our “selves,” who aren’t really our selves, but actually a kind of beast-demon that has attached itself to our field of awareness. It was stated that the spirit is our true self, which really transcends the idea of an individual, separate self. In the 9th century, the Persian Muslim mystic and philosopher Mansur Hallaj said “I am God” (Ana Al-Hagh) and he was executed by the Caliphate in Baghdad. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mansur_Al-Hallaj ..many people, however, understood what Mr. Hallaj was saying, and he was kind of deified later on.
The goal of Islam is to rise above the self and unite with God, aka the spirit, and flow with it to eternity. Countless Persian mystics are believed to have achieved this over the ages. From Jalal al-din Rumi, Shams Tabrizi, Omar Khayam, Hafez, Sadi, to Hasan al-Sabah even. This is why it did not matter to Mansur Hallaj when they were chopping off his limbs, because he was already gone. His body was all that was left behind, and the Arabs were hacking it to bits in a magnificent display of their ignorance.
The early Muslims, the ones who lived during Mohamad’s time and shortly after, were completely devoted to hippy love and flower power. It is said that their good vibes were so powerful that it overwhelmed and subdued anyone who crossed their path. Especially Mohamad himself, who was the most learned illiterate shepherd anyone had ever seen. But contrary to the hippies, the early Muslims weren’t pansies, and they weren’t delusional either. Where the hippies believed that they would prevail without a fight, the early Muslims came from a warrior background. Where in 1967 a bunch of hippies encircled the pentagon and allegedly exorcised it, the early Muslims would have overrun the whole place, and if you didn’t drop the Muslims’ acid, they would have kicked your ass right out of your high office as Secretary of Defense. Hell, they dethroned one king after another in exactly this manner. The Muslims took over hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Pentagons from Spain to China.
It was like a bunch of wild-eyed hippies storming government buildings, singing and shouting and giving everyone kisses and flowers and decreeing “school’s out forever.” But where the hippies could not overcome the armed defenses of the Establishment, the Muslims were pretty well-armed themselves, and if you got violent with them, they’d go Hells Angels on your ass, chain-whipping the bad vibes right out of your skull.
Islam started with one guy, who went to meditate in a cave on top of a mountain. During Mohamad’s era, the cult of Haoma was still very widespread among the Iranian Magi. (the root of the word Magic comes from ancient Iranian mag, aka “altered state of consciousness”) It is not entirely unlikely, considering how mosques are decorated: https://www.google.com/search?es_sm=93&biw=1366&bih=705&tbm=isch&q=sheikh+lotf+allah+mosque&spell=1&sa=X&ei=7Yi7U9enHY_jsASek4HQAw&ved=0CBsQvwUoAA and https://www.google.com/search?q=nasir+al+mulk+mosque&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=GIm7U7PQCZTMsQSBr4LYCQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAg&biw=1366&bih=705 …to name two, that the early Muslims were also Haoma-drinkers. During the era of the dominion of the Magus, whose power and influence stretched from China to Ireland (Ireland was originally populated by Iranian Scythians, according to some sources: https://www.google.com/search?q=ireland+scythians&oq=ireland+scythians&aqs=chrome..69i57l2j69i60l4.2348j0j7&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8) and for over a thousand years, the Mages who were the wards of the Aryan religion, and whose religious epicenter and kingdom was in Ecbatana and Raya (modern Hamedan and Ray/Tehran in Iran) took the sacrament Haoma as a means of communication with the beyond. That is to say, during the earliest parts of Aryan history, anyone who wanted to commune with the deevs (devils) and paris (fairies) and anyone who wanted to soar through the heavens or descend to the underworld, as a rule, would drink Haoma, in exactly the same spirit as the Amazonian Indians do today. Over time, however, the drinking of Haoma became the exclusive domain of the Magi, and later on the identity of Haoma was shrouded in mystery and secrecy until it was lost altogether.
As I said, Islam was started by one guy. But in order to understand Islam, you need to have a perspective on the context, which includes a view of the Semitic culture from whence Islam rose and the Aryan/Iranian culture which it went on to dominate. The Muslims didn’t take over Iran the same way that the USA took Iraq or Afghanistan, that is, by blowing it up and executing all the intellectuals. Rather, they converted the Iranians to their cause. Islam took the Iranian Empire almost entirely intact and fully-functioning. The Arab invasion didn’t disrupt the life of the Iranian people half as bad as the Mongol hordes did. The Mongols raped any woman they came across, they killed any male capable of carrying arms and they burned every single town and city on their path. The Mongols were after booty and plunder, the Muslims were a totally different breed. They were a bunch of guys who had discovered a secret, the secret to an awesome high, the secret key to infinity, and they were on a mission, to share the secret with everyone, black and white. Whoever came in contact with the early Muslims was immediately influenced by the “contact high”, they were swept right off their feet. Whereas Zarathushtra had been mocked and ridiculed anywhere he went to preach, Mohamad was like Moses engaging in his battle of magic with the Pharaoh. Mohamad was not just a magician, he was a one of a kind military strategist, politician and spiritual leader. The first people to follow him were his wife and his cousin, Ali. Between the three of them, they started a movement that united all of Arabia in just a few years. Later on, in places under Islamic rule, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians were free to worship as they pleased. They were looked upon as distant cousins. And nobody was allowed to forcefully convert a Jew, Christian or a Zoroastrian.
Let me start off by telling you a little bit about our history, that is, Aryan history. In recent times there has been a conspiracy against all things Aryan. The word Aryan is taboo, and the whole field of investigation into Aryan history is also taboo, and no academic in their right mind is going to do research in this field. With the rise of social studies, and its replacing history, such research isn’t even welcome or accepted anymore. But the word Aryan is not taboo in Iran, and unlike most Europeans (and especially Germans) Iranians are proud of their Aryan heritage, the same way an Arab or a Jew would be proud of his Semitic heritage, and a Mexican indian of his Toltec heritage.
Around the year 1000BC, the Aryan Magi recorded the history of their people. They traced back their lineage to a figure named Fereydoun. Fereydoun was a descendent of Jamshyd. Jamshyd was the son of Tahmures. Tahmures the son of Hushang. Hushang son of Siamak. And Siamak son of Kiumars, the first king of the Aryans. The Epic of Kings, called the Shahnameh in Iran, a masterpiece of literary work compiled around the year 1000AD, begins thus: “Kiumars first sat upon the throne of Iran (ie. the land of the Aryans) and was master of the world. He took up his abode in the mountains, and clad himself and his people in tiger-skins, and from him sprang all kindly nurture and the arts of clothing, till then unknown. Men and beasts from all parts of the earth came to do him homage and receive laws at his hands, and his glory was like to the sun.” (quoted from an English translation of the Shahnameh; the part in brackets is mine.)
The Shahnameh is composed of 30,000 rhyming couplets. It is a magnificent work of poetry, rivalling those of Rumi and Sadi. It is a compilation of stories that were originally recorded by the magus priests who wrote the Avesta. It derives from all the sources of Iranian history that were available to the court of the Shah in the year ~1000AD. So, from this first quote one can gather that Kiumars lived in a very distant time. He was a caveman who dressed in leopard skins. The next paragraph states: “Then Ahriman the Evil, when he saw how the Shah’s honour was increased, waxed envious, and sought to usurp the diadem of the world. So he bade his son, a mighty Deev, gather together an army to go out against Kiumars and his beloved son Siamak and destroy them utterly.”
This is how the story begins. I’m going to stop quoting now and tell the rest of the tale, as it pertains to our discussion here, myself. The story relates that Siamak, son of Kiumars, went to war against an army of Deevs and was defeated and killed. Siamak’s son, Hushang, ruled for forty years and was a righteous man. He discovered fire, and taught other people how to draw it out of stone. Hushang is also credited with having diverted the first rivers and streams in order to irrigate the land. He taught people how to till, sow and reap. Again, these are clues about the antiquity of Hushang’s reign. Hushang’s son, Tahmures, discovered the art of spinning and weaving linen, and he was a mighty warrior whom the Deev’s were very envious towards. Tahmures is called Deevband, aka the one who captured and ensnared the devils. It is said that the Deevs begged for mercy and offered to teach Tahmures the art of writing if he spared their life. And thus from the evil Deevs came a boon to mankind. At this point, I should note that according to ancient Iranian writings, there was a time when another species of intelligent lifeforms (the Deevs) lived on earth with mankind. Some people, like the Hindus, worshipped the Deevs (called daevas in India) as gods, while others like the Iranians were at constant war with the Deevs.
The story goes on to relate how Tahmures ruled for thirty years, then passed away. But his works endured. And his son, Jamshyd, whose heart was filled with the wise councils of his father, became king of the Aryans. The story-teller quickly notes that Jamshyd ruled over the land for seven hundred years, with girt and might. Birds, Deevs and Paris all obeyed him. During his reign, the whole world was happy, and disease and sorrow were unknown among men. Jamshyd is credited with having divided men into classes; priests, warriors, craftsmen and husbandmen. He is also the one who divided the year into twelve months. And with some help from the Deevs he raised mighty stoneworks, such as Persepolis, that to this day is called Takht-e-Jamshyd, which means the throne of Jamshyd. Men flocked from all over the earth to pay him homage and respect, and to pour gifts at his feet. And Jamshyd prepared a feast, and called it Neurooz, which means New Day and coincides with the Spring Equinox, and the people of Iran keep it to this hour.
At some point, it seems Jamshyd became proud. And he forgot the spirit, Ahura Mazda, who was the source of his power and blessings. He proclaimed himself God and had people worship him as such. Meanwhile, Ahriman was seducing a young prince who lived somewhere in modern Arabia. Zahak, or Azhi Dahaka, was his name. Zahak was an evil tyrant who ruled Iran for a thousand years. Through the sorcery of Ahriman, Zahak had two snakes coming out of his shoulders, and the snakes had to be fed human brains every day. Jamshyd was forced to flee and Zahak ruled the world from his throne in the area which is today called Jerusalem. At one point, Zahak had ordered everyone to come forth and sign a document which stated that Zahak is a righteous king, fair to his people and loved by all. One day a blacksmith named Kaveh entered the king’s court. He cried that he had had seventeen sons, sixteen of which were killed and fed to the king’s serpents. He begged the king to spare the life of his last remaining son. Zahak agreed, and since he was being so kind and generous, he asked that Kaveh sign the document declaring Zahak a wise and just king. Kaveh took the piece of paper, tore it up and threw it in Zahak’s face. Before the king could recover from his shock, Kaveh had exited the palace and was invoking a riot in the market. Meanwhile, there had been rumors and prophecies about a great warrior, a noble king who would rise from among the descendents of Jamshyd, who would slay Zahak and return peace and prosperity to the world. His name was Fereydoun.
Fereydoun’s mother, who was Jamshyd’s daughter, knew that Zahak’s men were looking for her son everywhere. They were searching as far as China. So, she took her infant son to an enchanted forest, where there lived a magical cow Pormayeh. She entrusted Fereydoun to Pormayeh and the cow fed and raised the child in the forest. At some point, word reached Zahak and his men about a youth living in a forest, but before they could get to him, his mother returned and told him about his grandfather Jamshyd and his heritage. They fled just in the nick of time. Zahak’s men arrived, killed Pormayeh and burned the forest to ashes. Fereydoun was a teenager, and he wanted nothing more than to slay Zahak and take back his grandfather’s throne, to restore Iran to its former glory. But his mother would not hear of it. She insisted that they stay in hiding and keep a low profile.
Back in the marketplace in Jerusalem (or possibly Jericho) Kaveh the blacksmith took off his blacksmith’s apron and attached it to the tip of his spear. This would become the banner of the rebellion, and Kaveh its leader. A huge mob followed Kaveh, and wherever they went looking for Fereydoun, more people would join their cause. Thousands left their homes and jobs to become part of Kaveh’s crew. And one day, as Fereydoun and his mother were going about their daily routine, an army arrived at their home, bearing the banner of the blacksmith. Kaveh and his son got off their horses and kneeled at Fereydoun’s feet, proclaiming him king. Kaveh’s apron was embroidered with gold and silk, and a mace was crafted for Fereydoun bearing Pormayeh the cow’s face on its head. And so, the army departed for Jerusalem. None could stand in their way, and when they reached the city gates and discovered that Zahak was off looking for Fereydoun, they simply stormed the gate and took the city. Fereydoun sat on Zahak’s throne, waiting for the tyrant to return. When the deposed sorcerer-king returned, he was no match for Fereydoun and Kaveh. He was taken alive, and just as Fereydoun was about to bash his head in, the Pari named Soroosh appeared. The one who is the protector and guide of mankind. Soroosh told Fereydoun not to kill Zahak but to take him and chain him to a rock on a ledge high up on Mount Damavand, where he would be swallowed by the earth, only to reappear on Judgement Day. Three quarters up from the base of the mountain, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet, the ledge and the rock where Zahak was bound is still called “the binding place of Zahak” in Iran today.
Now, you might be asking yourself why I told you this story, which is obviously a local Iranian myth. Here’s why. Fereydoun had three sons. They were Iraj, Tur and Salm. Fereydoun ruled over the earth for 500 years, at which point he divided the lands between his sons. Iran was given to Iraj. The lands to the east and northeast of ancient Iran were given to Tur, and the lands to the west-northwest (Europe) were given to Salm. Iraj was the youngest brother, and Tur and Salm were not happy about how the kingdom was divided. So, they decided to wage war against Iraj and take half of Iran each. In the year 1000BC, when these stories were being recorded, there was fierce and constant war between Iran and Turan. The river Oxus which feeds into lake Aral was the ancient boundary between the two countries. Three thousand years ago, Iraj and Tur were long gone, but the people of Iran considered themselves the descendents and followers of Iraj, while the people of Turan (the Central Asian steppes all the way into Northern Russia) were devout followers of Tur. Now, here’s the good part. In the year 1000AD, the last of the Old Norse pagans recorded their historical and mythological beginnings as such: Freya and Odin (Fereydoun) were the parents of Thor (Tur.)
The pagan Norse were not in the habit of recording their history before the Christian era, if they were, they would have known that their people traced their roots back to a single common ancestor with the people of ancient Iran. And according to the Shahnameh and the Avesta, for hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of years, the two people were engaged in constant fighting. The people of Turan can be roughly equated with the Scythians (the Saka) in a broad sense, in my opinion. But when the Saka (the people whom modern academics equate with Scythians) enter the historical scene (900BC) they had already been defeated and subdued countless times by the Iranians. While the Achaemenid Empire was building roads connecting Egypt to China, the Scythians were merely barbarian tribes of horse-riding warriors and herdsmen, like the Massageta. It is believed that the Neurian wolfmen who lived to the north, and the Melanchlaeni Goths who lived around the Pripyet swamplands and who dressed in black robes, and the Androphagi cannibals who lived somewhere around the Urals, were all offshoots of the race of Tur/Thor. The Scythians, like the Norsemen who entered the historical arena much later, were long-haired, bearded, tattooed fellows given to drug-frenzies and berserker-rages and deeply associated with the Aryan warrior mentality.
By the year 1000AD, the original Turanians had been largely displaced to the west by invading Turkic-Mongoloid peoples who came from the east. At that time, the ancient enemies of Iran, the people of Turan were long gone from the region immediately surrounding Iran. And except for sporadic Viking raids and incursions into the Caspian Sea region, the now-Muslim Iranians didn’t have much contact with the true Turanians at all. But when hordes of barbarian herdsmen suddenly appeared again in the ancient land of Turan, the Iranians decided to call them Turks, even though they were hardly related to the descendents of Tur.
Consider this a short preface to our discussion about Islam. Hopefully I can add a little bit about the Semitic background also.
Islam has numerous basic pillars. One of these is ‘salat’, or ‘namaz’ in Persian, which entails meditating (ie. silencing the mind) while chanting certain prayers/incantations and performing certain specific body movements. This must be done five times a day. It is recommended that Muslims engage in salat al-jama’at, which means “praying” (if that’s what you want to call it) as a group, or congregation.
When the pagan people of Iran converted to Islam, they constructed mosques on top of their sacred places, or turned their existing temples to mosques. Then, as a rule, every Muslim would show up for namaz al-jama’at regularly. At these meetings, those present would perform their chanting and their yoga, and also socialize. The last “movement” or pass (for lack of a better term) of the Islamic group prayer is shaking hands with the guy on your left and the guy on your right. A lot of people just opt to shake hands with everyone in their vicinity. Then there is the Friday Prayers, where all the Muslims in one area would get together, find themselves a mullah to lead the prayers, then all pray together. Afterwards, everyone present would naturally talk about what’s on their mind, and in a spirit of friendship and brotherhood, they would all try to solve eachother’s problems. As Sadi put it:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain!
The Farsi version is much more beautiful and elegant, mind you. Anyway, people would just help eachother out, you understand? And if someone didn’t show up to these Friday meetings, which were essentially like town council meetings but also much more than that, then they’d be excluding themselves from the Muslim umma. Nowadays, very few people perform the prayers at all in Iran, let alone go to the “namaz jama’at”, which would be a joke coming from almost any young person. The Friday prayers in Tehran and other Iranian cities are simply the sermons of idiot ayatollahs who are for some reason pretending to be Christian priests.
The truth is, up until modern times, if they said about you that you’re a muslim, then it automatically would have implied that you are an honest, hardworking, open-minded, trustworthy person whom even a stranger could confide in. And people were in the game of competing over who’s less selfish, less self-involved, more generous, more caring about others, and an all-around better guy. And everyone was happy, and no one was ever needy if they were part of a Muslim community in all of Iran. Today, people compete over who can make more money and buy more status symbols. Today, nobody is a Muslim, and brainwashed as they are by western media (all of them, even the president and the great ayatollah khamenei, who has a facebook page) they all believe that being a muslim is lame, and gay, and outdated, and boring, and stupid. And the people of Iran have become estranged from eachother. What was once the Islamic umma, is now just individual families all living completely apart from eachother, trying to take the food out of the mouths of other families, as if they were unaware that we are all one, and that we must stick together.
Today, Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is a large commercial district stretching over a wide area of downtown where billions worth of merchandise changes hands every year, is just one big competition over who can cheat, lie and steal more efficiently. Nine times out of ten, if someone is doing very well in the Bazaar, they are swindling lots of people. This is anti-Islamic and pretty much exactly the Anglo-Saxon colonialist mentality, ie. do anything, use any means necessary to get rich, even if it means impoverishing your neighbors. This is the capitalist mentality of the USA today, I believe.
Another one of the pillars that upholds Islam is the fast (and abstinence) during the lunar month of Ramadan. It used to be that this month, this Ramadan which is now waxing, was charged with a very special energy. Everyone in the community, even the alcoholics and the heavy smokers, would abstain from ingesting anything (ie. putting into their body) from morning twilight until dusk every day for a whole month. So, every day in the evening, a strange and wonderful mood would overtake the streets and the buildings and the air, and especially the people. Everyone was about to feast. It was customary, that anyone who had the financial potential, would feed “eftar” (the Ramadan feast which takes place at dusk, as opposed to “sahari” which is the pre-dawn feast…these are Persian terms) to as many people as he can afford. Some people used to give free-for-all feasts at dusk every day for the entire duration of the month. A lot of restaurants would serve free food. One restaurant guy might even decide to work for free for an entire Ramadan, feeding everyone just for the hell of it.
The sahari feast is also imbued with an extraordinary mood. Whole families get up hours before dawn to feast. The small children run around excited, and even though they don’t take part in the fasting, they enjoy the novelty of getting up and having a party with all the neighbors before dawn. Then, when you hear the Mua’zzen singing his morning ‘azan’ which marks the arrival of the morning twilight, as observed from the highest point in town, you know that your fast begins anew. Ramadan moves around in the solar year, 11 days or so every year. This year it is in July, whereas fifteen years ago it was in winter. Right now, almost nobody is fasting in Tehran. It used to be that no one would even dream about eating in public during Ramadan. It would have been a very disrespectful and degrading act. Nowadays, everyone eats and smokes in public almost as if they didn’t know about the yearly Ramadan fasting trip.
Another pillar of the faith is the Hajj pilgrimage, which has also been corrupted. Up until modern times, the Hajj pilgrimage entailed that you travel on foot, with a caravan, thousands of miles, from as far away as Algeria and Malaysia, to reach Mecca in the month of Dhu al-Hijja to perform the rites and rituals and start on your way back home once you’re done. Millions of Muslims from all over made this trip on foot every year, before trains and buses and airplanes were invented. Today, Hajj is about getting on a plane, going to Mecca to shop and sight-see and returning with gifts and souveniers for people you know. I’m inclined to believe that traveling across the Sahara on foot, or going from Malaysia to Mecca would be a grand life-changing experience, the rites at the Ka’ba (the Cube) are just the peak of the mountain of the Hajj experience. What kind of mountain climber would I be if I helicoptered on to the peak, had a beer and a sandwich, then helicoptered back home?
The next pillar is zakat, ie. giving away a portion of your yearly income to the needy. And last but not least, in order to be officially sworn in, you have to give the shahada, which is you declaring that “there is no god, only the spirit (that’s what al-lah means: the spirit) — and Mohamad was its messenger (ie. the spirit manifested itself through Mohamad.)”
The Shias have five fundamental concepts that they call the principles of religion. The first one is tohid, which is the idea that “all is one.” The second is adl, which means we all get exactly what we deserve in life, in other words, we reap what we sow. The third is nabowat, which means that there are certain people who can communicate with the spirit directly and convey its message to other people; eg. Mohamad, Jesus, and Moses, and many others. The fourth is imamat, which means that Mohamad had a line of spiritual successors, and these were the Twelve Imams; the first is Ali, Mohamad’s cousin/son-in-law, the next two are Hasan and Hosein, Mohamad’s grandsons, and the rest are all his great grandchildren. The fifth is ma’ad, which means that one _can_ potentially live on in a non-corporeal, non-physical state, after death; not everyone can or will achieve this, but the fifth principle of religion is that one must know this.
None of the aforementioned five principles are articles of faith and belief. They are truths that every Muslim must strive to verify for him or her self. Once you have verified the authenticity of these proposals, you can consider yourself on your way to being a Muslim. Shias also have five secondary principles, which is composed of four of the five pillars of the Muslim faith, ie. salat/the prayers, Ramadhan fasting, Hajj and zakat, but also includes khums, which means that one fifth of your yearly profits must go to the needy (in addition to zakat.) Jihad, which means being a productive person who works. Amr be maruf (farsi) which means furthering the cause of good, by doing good things yourself, helping out others who are doing good things, and encouraging those who are not to do so by promoting the idea. Nahi az munkar (farsi) means forbidding evil; if you witness a bad thing taking place, you must do whatever is in your power to prevent or stop it, this is one’s Islamic duty and responsibility. The final two are tavala and tabara, which means, loving good, and hating evil.
Since we’re comparing the Muslims with the hippies, I think any true 1960s hippy drug person could have very easily understood and empathized with Islamic ideas. Muslims are also encouraged to learn Arabic and read the Quran in its original poetic tongue, as it was spoken by Mohamad. And Shias must know the Twelve Imams, each and every one of them individually, and all of them together as a lineage. A Shia must know their life stories and circumstances, their deeds and decisions, their beginnings and ends.