Archive for the ‘History’ category

Alp Arslan from Nizam al-Mulk Tusi by S. Rizwan Ali Rizvi

July 21, 2007

Alp Arslan after the capture of Romanus IV, reached the Oxus, and there the prisoner Yusuf Barzami OR Narzame or al-Khwarazmi, mortally wounded him with a dagger. Alp Arslan lingered on for a day or two after he had received his fatal wound and gave his dying instruction to his faithful minister, Nizam al-Mulk about his brother and sons. He chose his son Malik Shah to succeed him. Alp Arsaln was a devout Muslim and this, in great measure, must have been due to Nizam al-Mulik’s influence on him. His dying words according to Ibn al-Athir are

    “Never”, said he, ” did I advance on a country or march against a foe without asking help of God in mine adventure, but yesterday when a stood on a hill, and the earth shock beneath me from the greatness of my army and the host of my soldiers, I said to myself, ‘I am the King of the world and none can prevail against me’ ; wherefore God Almighty hath brought me low by one of the weakest of his creatures. I ask pardon of him and repent of this my thought”. He died with utmost resignation and was buried at Merv with the following epitaph quoted by Sir Percy Sykes, History of Persia, Vol. II, op. cit., p.33

Thou has seen Alp Arslan’s head in pride exalted to the sky;

come to Merv, and see how lowly in the dust that head doth lie


Dodging the Homeschool Stereotype

May 8, 2007

I’m not a militia-supporting separatist or a seven-day creationist. The reality is a lot more complex

By Susan Wise Bauer

This defensive reaction doesn’t do justice to my own reasons for homeschooling. The truth is, I am teaching my sons at home for religious reasons; I find most classrooms to be toxic social environments, where children are taught to gang up on the weakest to survive. As a Christian, I want my own sons to turn away from violence, to learn humility, compassion, and patience. This, to me, is proper socialization. It isn’t going to take place if my three boys are surrounded for most of each day by a crowd of peers who thrive on aggression and a steady diet of multimedia bloodshed.But my religious convictions can’t be separated from my academic goals for my children. Classical education–my mother’s method of teaching, and the method I now use to teach my own children–views teacher and student as bound together in discipleship, in which a respected elder leads a receptive learner toward knowledge and wisdom. Shaikh Hamza on Heedlessness

July 27, 2006

Great soul of power

By Noam Chomsky

07/26/06 “Information Clearing House” — — IT IS a challenging task to select a few themes from the remarkable range of the work and life of Edward Said. I will keep to two: the culture of empire, and the responsibility of intellectuals — or those whom we call “intellectuals” if they have the privilege and resources to enter the public arena.

The phrase “responsibility of intellectuals” conceals a crucial ambiguity: It blurs the distinction between “ought” and “is.” In terms of “ought,” their responsibility should be exactly the same as that of any decent human being, though greater: Privilege confers opportunity, and opportunity confers moral responsibility.

We rightly condemn the obedient intellectuals of brutal and violent states for their “conformist subservience to those in power.” I am borrowing the phrase from Hans Morgenthau, a founder of international relations theory.

Morgenthau was referring, however, not to the commissar class of the totalitarian enemy, but to Western intellectuals, whose crime is far greater, because they cannot plead fear but only cowardice and subordination to power. He was describing what “is,” not what “ought” to be.

The history of intellectuals is written by intellectuals, so not surprisingly, they are portrayed as defenders of right and justice, upholding the highest values and confronting power and evil with admirable courage and integrity. The record reveals a rather different picture.

The pattern of “conformist subservience” goes back to the earliest recorded history. It was the man who “corrupted the youth of Athens” with “false gods” who drank the hemlock, not those who worshipped the true gods of the doctrinal system.

A large part of the Bible is devoted to people who condemned the crimes of state and immoral practices. They are called “prophets,” a dubious translation of an obscure word. In contemporary terms, they were “dissident intellectuals.” There is no need to review how they were treated: miserably, the norm for dissidents.

There were also intellectuals who were greatly respected in the era of the prophets: the flatterers at the court. The Gospels warn of “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them.”

The dogmas that uphold the nobility of state power are nearly unassailable, despite the occasional errors and failures that critics allow themselves to condemn.

A prevailing truth was expressed by US President John Adams two centuries ago: “Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak.” That is the deep root of the combination of savagery and self-righteousness that infects the imperial mentality — and in some measure, every structure of authority and domination.

We can add that reverence for that great soul is the normal stance of intellectual elites, who regularly add that they should hold the levers of control, or at least be close by.

ONE common expression of this prevailing view is that there are two categories of intellectuals: the “technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals” — responsible, sober, constructive — and the “value-oriented intellectuals,” a sinister grouping who pose a threat to democracy as they “devote themselves to the derogation of leadership, the challenging of authority, and the unmasking of established institutions.”

I am quoting from a 1975 study by the Trilateral Commission — liberal internationalists from the US, Europe and Japan. They were reflecting on the “crisis of democracy” that developed in the 1960s, when normally passive and apathetic sectors of the population, called “the special interests,” sought to enter the political arena to advance their concerns.

Those improper initiatives created what the study called a “crisis of democracy,” in which the proper functioning of the state was threatened by “excessive democracy.” To overcome this crisis, the special interests must be restored to their proper function as passive observers, so that the “technocratic and value-oriented intellectuals” can do their constructive work.

The disruptive special interests are women, the young, the elderly, workers, farmers, minorities, and majorities — in short, the population. Only one specific interest is not mentioned in the study: the corporate sector. But that makes sense. The corporate sector represents the “national interest,” and naturally there can be no question that state power protects the national interest.

The reactions to this dangerous civilising and democratising trend have set their stamp on the contemporary era.

For those who want to understand what is likely to lie ahead, it is of prime importance to look closely at the long-standing principles that animate the decisions and actions of the powerful — in today’s world, primarily the United States.

Though only one of three major power centres in economic and most other dimensions, it surpasses any power in history in its military dominance, which is rapidly expanding, and it can generally rely on the support of the second superpower, Europe, and Japan, the second largest industrial economy.

There is a clear doctrine on the general contours of US foreign policy. It reigns in Western journalism and almost all scholarship, even among critics of policies. The major theme is “American exceptionalism”: the thesis that the US is unlike other great powers, past and present, because it has a “transcendent purpose”: “the establishment of equality in freedom in America,” and indeed throughout the world, since “the arena within which the US must defend and promote its purpose has become worldwide.”

The version of the thesis I have just quoted is particularly interesting because of its source: Hans Morgenthau. But this quote is from the Kennedy years, before the Vietnam war erupted in full savagery. The previous quote was from 1970, when he had shifted to a more critical phase in his thinking.

Figures of the highest intelligence and moral integrity have championed the stance of “exceptionalism.” Consider John Stuart Mill’s classic essay, “A Few Words on Non-Intervention.”

Mill raised the question whether England should intervene in the ugly world or keep to its own business and let the barbarians carry out their savagery. His conclusion, nuanced and complex, was that England should intervene, even though by doing so, it will endure the “obloquy” and abuse of Europeans, who will “seek base motives” because they cannot comprehend that England is “novelty in the world,” an angelic power that seeks nothing for itself and acts only for the benefit of others. Though England selflessly bears the cost of intervention, it shares the benefits of its labours with others equally.

Exceptionalism seems to be close to universal. I suspect if we had records from Genghis Khan, we might find the same thing.

The operative principle is illustrated copiously throughout history: Policy conforms to expressed ideals only if it also conforms to interests. The term “interests” does not refer to the interests of the US population, but to the “national interest” — the interests of the concentrations of power that dominate the society.

In the article “Who Influences US Foreign Policy?,” published last year in the American Political Science Review, the authors find, unsurprisingly, that the major influence is “internationally oriented business corporations,” though there is also a secondary effect of “experts,” who, they point out, “may themselves be influenced by business.” Public opinion, in contrast, has “little or no significant effect on government officials.”

One will search in vain for evidence of the superior understanding and abilities of those who have the major influence on policy, apart from protecting their own interests.

THE great soul of power extends far beyond states, to every domain of life, from families to international affairs. And throughout, every form of authority and domination bears a severe burden of proof. It is not self-legitimising.

And when it cannot bear the burden, as is commonly the case, it should be dismantled. That has been the guiding theme of the anarchist movements from their modern origins, adopting many of the principles of classical liberalism.

One of the healthiest recent developments in Europe, I think, along with the federal arrangements and increased fluidity that the European Union has brought, is the devolution of state power, with revival of traditional cultures and languages and a degree of regional autonomy. These developments lead some to envision a future Europe of the regions, with state authority decentralised.

To strike a proper balance between citizenship and common purpose on the one hand, and communal autonomy and cultural variety on the other, is no simple matter, and questions of democratic control of institutions extend to other spheres of life as well.

Such questions should be high on the agenda of people who do not worship at the shrine of the great soul of power, people who seek to save the world from the destructive forces that now literally threaten survival and who believe that a more civilised society can be envisioned and even brought into existence.

Noam Chomsky, the author, most recently, of Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Imam Siraj Wahhaj

May 25, 2006

Over twenty five years ago, a dynamic generation of African-American Azhar graduates came back home all ready to inspire the Muslims in North America with the richness of knowledge that they had gained. They were the first Americans to go overseas in pursuit of sacred knowledge, and the last echelon to have had the unique privilege to study with the late, eminent scholar of our era, Dr. Suleiman Dunya (1407/1987). When they returned home, and as direly as the community needed them, the masses did not have the lexicon to understand their noble message—nearly two decades before any American pontiff started talking about a “sacred tradition.” However, none could have had any success without fifteen years of Imam Siraj Wahhaj going around the MYNA camps, igniting the imagination of young people, creating a yearning in their hearts for something more, preparing the soil for the seeds of blessed scholarship that would change their lives.
        Long before “traditional” sacred sciences captured the imagination of a generation, imam Siraj was inspiring people to know themselves through the profound simplicity of Islam.

        Few—(if any)—servants of sacred knowledge have the right to be called 'imam' in our day. Siraj Wahhaj is an imam in charity; an imam of bridge building between people; an imam in the way that he is a visionary; in the way that. FROM SAKEENA

Marmaduke Pickthall

May 9, 2006

 The translation duly appeared, in 1930, and was hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as ‘a great literary achievement.’ Avoiding both the Jacobean archaisms of Sale, and the baroque flourishes and expansions of Yusuf Ali (whose translation Pickthall regarded as too free), it was recognised as the best translation ever of the Book, and, indeed, as a monument in the history of translation. Unusually for a translation, it was further translated into several other languages, including Tagalog, Turkish and Portuguese.
In 1935 Pickthall left Hyderabad.

In 1935 Pickthall left Hyderabad. His school was flourishing, and he had forever to deny that he was the Fielding of E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India. (He knew Forster well, and the charge may not be without foundation.) He handed over Islamic Culture to the new editor, the Galician convert Muhammad Asad. He then returned to England, where he set up a new society for Islamic work, and delivered a series of lectures.
Despite this new activity, however, his health was failing, and he must have felt as Winstanley felt:

‘And here I end, having put my arm as far as my strength will go to advance righteousness.  I have writ, I have acted, I have peace: and now I must wait to see the Spirit do his own work in the hearts of others and whether England shall be the first land, or some other, wherein truth shall sit down in triumph.’ (Gerrard Winstanley, A New Year’s Gift for the Parliament and Army, 1650.)

He died in a cottage in the West Country on May 19 1936, of coronary thrombosis, and was laid to rest in the Muslim cemetery at Brookwood. After his death, his wife cleared his desk, where he had been revising his Madras lectures the night before he died, and she found that the last lines he had written were from the Qur’an:

‘Whosoever surrendereth his purpose to Allah, while doing good, his reward is with his Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.’

Marmaduke Pickthall; a brief biography, by Abd al Hakim Murad