Who Am I?
In our society, women change rapidly. The tyranny of our times and the influences of institutions take her from `what she is'. All her traditional characteristics and values are taken away from her until they make her into a creature `they want', `they build', and we see that `they have built'! This is why the most important and relevant question for the awakened woman at this time is, `Who am 1?', knowing full well that she cannot remain what she is. Actually, she does not want to accept modern masks to replace the traditional ones. She wants to decide for herself. Her contemporaries choose for themselves. They consciously decorate their personalities with awareness and independence. They thoroughly ornament themselves. They manifest a design. They reflect a sketch, but, they do not know how. They do not know the design of the real human aspect of their personality which is neither a reflection of their heritage nor their artificially imposed imitative masks. Which of these do they identify with?
The second question which arises from amidst this, stems from the following reasoning. We are Moslems, women of a society who wish to make decisions through reason and choice and relate them to a history, culture, religion and society which received its spirit and origins from Islam. A woman who is in this society wants to be herself. She wants to build herself, `herself'. She wants to be reborn. In this re‑birth, she wants to be her own midwife.
She neither wants to be a product of her heritage nor have a superficial facade. She cannot remain heedless of Islam and she cannot remain indifferent to it.
Thus, it is natural that this question should arise for the Moslem woman. Our people continue to speak about Fatima. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Moslems cry for her. There are hundreds of thousands of gatherings, prayer meetings, festivals and mourning ceremonies in her memory. There are ceremonies of praise, joy, honor and majesty for her where her generosity is expressed through unusual customs. They hold rituals of lamentation where they re‑create her sorrows and speak ill of and damn those who offended her. In spite of all of this, her real personality is not known. The only things, unfortunately, that our people know of this great, sacred person are these few items as follows:
'Fatima was the beloved daughter of the Prophet and detested by Aiesha [the wife of the Prophet after Khadijah's death and the daughter of Abu Bakr, the first of the Orthodox Caliphs]. After the death of the Prophet, Abu Bakr took her grazing land in Fadak. Omar attacked her home with a group of his men. They struck her in her side and she, six months pregnant, aborted her son, Mohsin. From then on her days passed with the taking of her children's hands and walking outside of the city to a place called 'House of Sorrows'. There she would sit and cry. She would speak ill of the usurpers of Ali's rights. She would cry and lament for hours. She spent her short life crying and cursing her fate until she died. She requested in her will that she be buried at night so that those who thought ill of her would not follow her funeral and they would not know where she was buried.'
This is the extent of the information about this great person that exists in the memories of our people. Yet, in spite of the little they know about her, the people accept her majesty and power with their whole hearts. They offer her their hearts with all the spiritual strength, faith and will that a people could have or a human community could build.
The greatest honor, in my opinion, which has been bestowed upon our Iranian society is bestowed when it chooses Imam Ali, in spite of the sorrow, depression and difficulties which it suffers because of this choice. Our people show us discernment and deep thought; they show us how to oppose oppression and deceit. They open the fists of powerful men, treacherous, dominating people who take away the rights of human beings. They rebel against force and oppression. They come to know deceit, lies and traitors. They oppose oppressive regimes. They do not allow themselves to become attached to or influenced by advertisements and religious leaders who had attached themselves to the institutions of the Caliphate: They discover unknown truths. They seek out the strange, the weak, hidden behind useless curtains. They find strong currents. They are the cause of this society withstanding all it does. They choose Ali (‘a).
It is true that our people came to Islam through the various Caliphates, but we must recognize their insurrections against both the Caliphs and their institutions including those of the Omayyad’s, Abbasids, the Khans, Turkish Khaghanis, Tazis and Mongols. We must distinguish between the people and the Iranians who are attached to their institutions under the name of 'Islam', 'Qur’anic Government', 'Prophetic Traditions', 'The Front of Truth' and 'The Truth of Religion'.
All the expressions of the beliefs and the new founded wisdom of Islam come from the Caliph's institutions: their words from the pulpits and minarets, their books and commentaries upon the traditions, their orations, advertisements, philosophies, men of letters, poets, historians, warriors and even companions and associates of the Companions of the Prophet. Every single one of these groups were extensions of the Caliph or Sultan's institutions.
Loud speakers, transistor radios, films, television, magazines, newspapers, advertisers and theoreticians are extensions of the rulers' class. Those in power who form the times and who are the relatives of the official leaders. relatives of the Prophet and the Imams who are legally appointed in the name of Divine Rule and Traditions are all extensions of the Caliph or Sultan.
These amazing people of ours, under the bombardment of publicity, without having any sort of security, behind the thick, black clouds of the accepted sciences, architecture, theology, government, religion, culture, history, interpretations, jurisprudence and traditions which incidentally happen to coincide with the ruling Caliphate, and confirmed the governing institutions, without even knowing the official language of Islam, cleverly enough know, however, that these are all lies. They know that the Truth is not attached to these eye catching forms.
Rather, the Truth belongs to a man who is alone, who has his home in a corner near the Prophet's mosque and who is surrounded by the ignorance of his tribe. He lives amidst the great political sacrifices of the friends of the Prophet and the great thinkers of Islam.
Beyond the green palace of Damascus and the hanging noose of the fairy tale Caliph of 1001 Nights of Baghdad, Iranians find the abandoned, mud built house of Ali and Fatima and discern that Islam is in ‑this sorrowful, abandoned, silent abode.
The Iranian people who enter and become acquainted with Islam through the sword of the Caliph, see this truth and know it to be a truth even in the midst of invitations from the religious leaders belonging to the official Islamic Caliphate, whereas the people of Medina and the contemporary Arabs and the Companions of the Prophet do not see or do not want to see it. The great schools and universities of Damascus and Baghdad are also ignorant of this truth.
This is a most difficult and wonderful choice on the part of our people. It manifests the birth of a thought and an awareness which is contrary to any customs they had had. It reflects the greatness and firmness of their spirit. It shows their worship of the Truth. It reveals the spiritual courage of these people who rebel against history and the worldly government of the Caliphate.
The Caliphate, more than any other previous historical political system, governs their institutions. It is always the Caliphate which possesses the powerful military and political forces. It holds the strings to the huge religious capital of thoughts and the unlimited wealth of culture, literature and endowed knowledge.
Our people negate the Caliphate in the midst of all of the confusion of war and jihad (inner and outer spiritual struggle). They never lose their fervor, in spite of the disputes which arise from conquests, the defeats they suffer, the destruction which takes place, the constant building and clamor, knowledge and thought, culture and civilization, revolution and distractions full of cries of religion and the world. They deafen the ear of history and cause the earth to tremble under their feet. These strangers, far away and unknown, hear and know the cries of a lonely man, a man who is a 'stranger in his own town', Ali!
Ali speaks to himself far from the eyes of the town and the ears of the people of the town, in the depths of the night, in the date palm gardens of Bani Najjar, outside of Medina. He tells himself of the pain he feels seeing the destruction of all which he had helped to make. He is afraid when he remembers the lies, luxury and plunder. He knows the force and deceit which have been imprinted upon the familiar faces of the disgraced and condemned Caliphs and Caesars. They are talking of building a new society, covering over religion.
For centuries more, God's creatures will continue to remain deluded. What dirt must be eaten. What efforts must be made so that the Truth be known once again. Truth has been hidden behind those pseudo sacred new clothes and newly created beauties. You see that the first sacrifice of this bleeding and weakening of the weak by the strong in Islam are the `people' and `the fate of the people'. The symbol of both of these is the sacrifice of 'he himself' and before him, `his wife' and with tomorrow's generations of Islam, `his family' and generation after generation, 'his children'.
Without a doubt, this decision, this discernment by our people is the most difficult, dreadful and frightening moment in history. It has not been easy for us to grasp. All these generations of heroes show intelligence, alertness, persistence of character, personal courage and love of virtues. They indicate how to become familiar with and understand the beauty of mankind and the greatness and majesty of the spirit. They come to know the best values; they learn to descend into the depths and to rise upon waves. They continue to seek the Truth amidst thunderstorms of oppression and terror. All of these generations of angelic heroes live and move against the judgment of history. They themselves create another law. They respond to all the minarets, pulpits and mihrabs. Facing all the great Companions, theologians, judges and traditional religious saints, they rebel. Against the cries of the swords for blood in order to break their strength, in both the East and the West, day and night, all one hundred percent say, `Yes. Say nol'
When intelligence and thought are added to their faith, they become addicted to blood. They seek after sacrifice and the victory of Truth. They acquire a sense of abundant generosity and courage. They have to suffer sorrow and they have to have the ability to survive punishment, whippings, insults and the pain and terror of imprisonment, wretchedness and loneliness. They require a special kind of sincerity. They need a keen sense of vision to bear treachery, the force of power and fanaticism and yet, remain patient. They sacrifice self worship and fanaticism and games people play with the Caliphate, and the desire to have both God and His fruit. They put aside fear, pious fraud (dissimulation), pretentious sacredness and ostentatious open mindedness...and many other things.
These are a few of the principal elements of Shi'ite experiences ‑ Alavite Shi'ism, not Safavid Shi'ism, that is, not the Shi’ism of the Safavid Shah Abbas, not the Shi’ism which trembles in history when opposed by force and oppression, not that which supports oppression and force, but the religion of justice and innocent government. We are not referring to the Shi’ism which supported the repressed historic collection of ideas or the tribal hatred or verbal love and grudges full of suggestions (not intelligent and practical); Safavid Shi’ism refers only to the Caliph and not to the Caliphate; it pertains to the past and not the present; it relates to that which is beneficial after death and not before death.
It is the purpose of the sanctity of the Alavis to free the Shiites from injustice, governments of force and ignorant leaders. The Alavis give freedom, not the sanctity of the Sufis which is mixed with doubt and is neither useful to God nor to the people of God.
Shi’ism is nothing other than Islam ‑ not that which they tell us: `Islam in addition, to other things'. No! Shi'ism means pure Islam, Islam minus the Caliphate, pseudo Arabness and those who live in luxury. Shi'ism does not take the two principles of justice and imamate (religious leadership) and add them to Islam ‑ Islam without justice and Imamate is the same as the religion of Islam minus Islam. The same is true for Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Vedantism, Buddhism and Taoism.
It is this `new ignorance' which adds 'government', `race' and `classes' to Islam. The wars between the Shi'ites and Sunnis which took place in the past (not in the present where it has become a war of words, history and tribes) are wars for the ideas of imamate and justice against despotism and oppression. The differences in faith and historic, philosophic and religious interpretations all develop from the same front.
Ali has not been added to Muhammad(‘s). We have taken Ali in order not to lose Muhammad. The descendants of the historical Caesars, Kings, Pharaohs all spoke from Muhammad, yet there is a difference in what they stood for.
We do not replace the Traditions (sunnah) of the Prophet with the family of Ali, nor do we add to them. Very simply and straight forwardly, this is his family. We seek to know, through the Traditions, what he said, what he did and what he wanted but with the help and guidance of his family.
Contrary to what both enemies and lovers today think, Shi'ism is the most traditional sect of Islam. The major difference stems principally from whether or not Ali and the real Shiites tried consciously and correctly, from the beginning, in opposition to innovations and heresy, to remain traditional and retain the traditions.
We see how everything has been mixed with everything else. We see that during the black centuries, filled with blood, while the world is awe‑struck by the power of the government of an oppressive Islam and the Caliphate, the Islam of justice and imamate is drowned in the blood of .martyrdom. Shiites accept martyrdom and there. by negate the Caliph's power. This most difficult choice does not come easily!
The cruel punishments enacted by the families of the Omayyad’s, the Abbasids, Saladin the Turk and the Mongols bear witness to the fact that the great theologians, the champions of liberty, the seekers of death, and the majority of the worshippers of truth and the desirers of justice and the lovers of virtue have committed themselves to this way and to freedom. The way passes through the Caliphates of Damascus and Baghdad into the land of fire, blood, prison and punishment. It is attached to that small house of Ali which is as large as all of humanity. What things do they not do? Which ones of them do they not kill?
To speak about Ali and Fatima in the history of Islam has not been easy. Poets who have defended this family say, 'I have been carrying the rope of my execution on my back for 50 years.'
This is the fate of all the men and women who have written the history of Shi'ism, a history where each line, each word, has been written with the blood of a martyr.
These courageous front runners of Shi'ism are not familiar with the new philosophy which has been created for us :'Wait. Be in a state of anticipation, awaiting the hidden Imam. He will come himself and make everything right. He must come himself and restore the religion of his ancestors. The only thing is for us to use 'pious fraud' and have patience.'[The author is referring to a particular way of thought used by the Caliphate institutions to keep people subdued. The idea is to wait for the end of the world and the return of the 12th Imam, marking the time when all the world will be ruled by justice] .
lbn Sakit was a great man of letters; he was not among the warriors or champions of justice, but a literary man and an expert in language. His hidden sympathies were with Shi'ism. The Caliph, Mutawakil Abbasi chose him to teach his children. Little by little, Mutawakil's children began. to side with Ali and his family. 'Perhaps,' he thought to himself. 'this is the work of their teacher.' One day the Caliph visited the classroom. He sat down and began complementing Ibn Sakit and praising him. He told him how pleased he was with the progress of his children. Then, in the same tone, he asked, 'How do you see my children?' lbn Sakit, in answering, praised them very highly. Then Mutawakil suddenly asked, 'Ibn Sakit, in your opinion are my children better or Hassan and Husayn, the children of Ali?'
Ibn Sakit had to make a choice. The use of 'pious fraud' here would be weakness and treason. In Alavite Shi'ism, pious fraud is a tactic in order to preserve faith and not as it is used today to preserve the believer.
He did not pause. In his normal voice, in the same tone in which Mutawakil had asked, he answered, 'Qambar, the servant of Ali, is worth more than both you and your children.' Mutawakil ordered that the tongue of Ibn Sakit be cut out. It is these tongues which come back to scourge the tyrants of history.
If the Shi'ites are not conquered, they are tried, Their desire for justice and freedom never dies in their hearts, nor their need for equality, awareness and revolutionary leadership against the enemies who are attached to the institutions of oppression, wealth and hypocrisy. They never forget. They do not let this sacred fire die out. It is not forgotten in the conscience of the people.
Two groups carry this heavy responsibility on their shoulders. These two groups hold the rope of death in their hands for centuries. One is the great, conscious
Shiites who know imamate to be a continuation of prophethood, and wisdom, the continuation of imamate. The second group are the pure, faithful people of ours. They express widespread silence. They suffer punishment at the hands of the Arab Caliphate's household and the Turkish Sultans. Behind their bloodied and peaceful faces is a strength and virility which makes their executioners ashamed. In the midst of government whip lashes, these people are like hard rocks of patience and they say they do not sense any anguish.
Each religion, school of thought, movement or revolution is made up of two elements: wisdom and love. One is light and the other is motion. One gives common sense and understanding, the other, strength, enthusiasm and motion. In the words of .Alexis Carrel, 'Wisdom is like the lights of a car which show the way. Love is like the motor which makes it move.' Each is nothing without the other. A motor, without lights, is blind love, dangerous, tragic and infers death.
In a society, a movement of thought or a revolutionary school of thought, men of letters who are clear thinkers, aware and responsible, show, through their works, that there is a way to come to know a school of thought or a religion. They show that there is a way to give awareness to the people. The responsibility of the people, on the other hand, is to give their spirits and their strength to a movement. They are responsible for giving the starting push.
A movement is like a living body. It thinks with the brain of scholars and gives love through the hearts of its people. If faith, sincerity, love and sacrifice are at a minimum in a society, people are responsible. But where correct understanding of a school of thought is at a minimum, where vision, awareness, logical consciousness, deep familiarity with the goals of a school of thought are lacking, where the meaning, purpose and truths of a school of thought are missing, the scholars are responsible. Religion, in particular, needs both since religion is a type of lover’s consciousness or love of consciousness.
In religion, knowledge and feelings are not treated as separate entities because they are transformed into understanding and faith by means of common sense and the coming to know something.
This is Islam. More than any other religion, it is a religion of the recitation of the book, a religion of jihad, a religion of thought and love. In the Qur’an, one cannot find the boundaries between love and faith. The Qur’an considers martyrdom to be eternal life. It swears one to the pen and writing.
This is particularly true in Shi'ism as its history and culture has shown. Shi'ism is a place from which love, enthusiasm, blood and martyrdom emanate. Shi`ism is a center of the inflamed. Feelings boil. At the same time, it includes meditation and wisdom. It embodies cultural and intellectual sciences. It is a distinguishable movement of revolutionary thought. It is an accident in the fate of man. It is knowledge, love and truth in the name and nature of Ali. The worship of truth is such that truth, without worship, is philosophy and knowledge, and worship without truth is idol worship and lust.
Shi`ism is thus historically born and continues to exist. Its thinkers and scholars, who are manifestations of those religious warriors, seek profundity and logic. They guard the spirit and the Truth. It is they who give the correct orientation to the beginnings of the true Islam. They are to find the inner meaning of things. They come to know endurance. They complete the meaning of faithfulness. They protect the truths of Islam.
Then, in the dizzying arena of life, they lose their way when they begin to write in the name of philosophy, Sufism, science, literature and false asceticism. Public thoughts are stricken by Greek and pseudo Eastern inclinations.
All of the Shiite people are a manifestation of the truth to which they remain loyal. They follow sincerity, love, common sense and sacrifice. It is they who give up their lives in the way of Ali. They follow the way of Ali during the times when force, punishment and public murders are running the whole of the government. They continue even though lips which are opened in his name are closed and blood which is heated by his light is spilt. Speaking about the family of the Prophet in the supposed `Caliphate of the Prophet' is answered by being skinned alive and burned.
But today the mass of people still give so much love. They are still so loyal to this house. After the passing of many centuries, full of changes, the birth and death of faith, love and thought, people do not go to the door of the palaces of Baghdad. They do not orient themselves to another direction. We see that they still find their way to the walls of Fatima's house, and cry in pain. Each drop of these tears is a word which our cordial and loyal people use to express their never ending love of the members of this household. This is the language of the common man. Is there a language more simple, more pure, more lacking in hypocrisy than tears, the language without words and without lines? Each element of it is a painful cry, the cry of a desiring lover.
Isn't it true that the eyes express the truth more than the tongue? Aren't tears the most beautiful of poems and the least twisted of loves? Don't they reflect the most consuming of faiths, the warmest of desires and the most fevered of feelings? Aren't they the purest form of speaking and the most subtle form of love? These are mixed all in one heart of love. They mix together, fuse and form a warm drop. This they name a tear.
We see then that our people still 'speak', they speak their thoughts well. Don't be surprised that sometimes I defend crying and other times, I criticize the programs of lamentation in prayer meetings.
Yes! These words of mine are not in opposition. The crying that I praise is something more than 'a program for crying' or 'something to do' or 'a duty' or 'a means to reach a goal' or 'a principle' or 'a rule'. It is something else. Crying is the natural emanation of a feeling. It is a compulsory and instinctive response to love, anguish, desire or sorrow.
As Regi De Bre, the famous French revolutionary, said, 'A person who never cries and who does not know how to cry, lacks the feelings of humanness. He is a stone, a wild, dry spirit.'
Tears which flow, 'cries which are cried, weeping which grows little by little in the heart, then suddenly appears in the throat and stops one's breath and by necessity bursts, is the sincere and natural language of desire and grief, pain and love which all exist in one human being.
But we can sense, without doubt, that one who plans a 'program' around crying and knows it to be a 'goal' and a 'rite', a 'tradition', a 'religious duty' or a 'principal job' or a 'means for gathering profit' or a 'means towards warding off losses' or a 'means allowing one to continue to violate' or 'continue to fail', those who know it to be a 'means to a goal' and worthy of 'spiritual reward', deludes us.
People who are lovers, people who are apart from their beloved, or people who are in mourning because the death of a loved one has broken their hearts, cry, and are sad. Whenever their hearts recall their beloved, and their tongues speak, their hearts are set afire and their faces shine; their eyes reflect the same pain. Tears flow and all of these are signs of the subtleness and purity of their deep faith and real love.
There is a person, on the other hand, who can be described in the following terms. He sits in the bazaar, his eager eyes looking after profit or in his office, speaking nonsense. He seeks after hypocrisy, usury and work or looks with flattery towards the boss, enlarges himself in front of subordinates and takes on Pharaoh like qualities towards others. At noon ‑he goes home and sleeps comfortably and peacefully, eats, drinks, sleeps and laughs. In the afternoon, he seeks out his 'health clubs' and the thousand unhealthy ones. When we see him in the late afternoon, according to his calendar, and according to his previous arrangement, he goes to a meeting with a group, from 6:30 to 9:00 P.M., Tuesdays, the first day of the month. They sit down and begin to feel sad. Through much pressure and effort, he manages to make himself cry and if possible, shed tears. After the 'program' and 'crying' and 'mourning' and other things related to them, he drinks coffee and tea and smokes the water pipe. Then, with a lightened spirit and victorious conscience, and with the feeling that he has accomplished an important task and taken a step towards his beliefs and his faith or love, he arises and goes after his work and continues his daily schedule until once again it is time for his 'crying program' and the 'mourning program' according to his plan and design. Would you call such a person who looks so sad, a lover who has seen pain and undergone great difficulties?
Crying which does not contain an obligation, awareness, a knowing of the beloved, an understanding and sensing of faith, is something which is only useful as an eyewash, to cleanse it from the pollution of the air. Don't forget that one of the first people who cried for the great Imam Husayn was Omar Sa'ad [who had ordered his killing] and the first person who forbid and condemned this kind of `crying for Husayn' was the great Zaynab [Imam Husayn's sister].
But our people cry because they are lovers. They cry so that they can bind their hearts deeply to this beloved family. It is a real pantheon, a real Olympia where several lords live who know no language other than tears. People are neither scholars nor philosophers but rather full of feelings. They are prepared to be sacrificed.
No religion, history or nation has a family such as this, a family where the father is Ali and the mother, Fatima and their sons, Hassan and Husayn and their daughter, Zaynab. They all live under one roof at one time and are one family. At the same time, there has never been so much love, sincerity, faith, poetry and blood given to a family by a nation.
Our people gather a culture around the door and roof of Fatima's house. Through this family comes a history, full of excitement, movement, courage and virtues which have continued to the present time. This history is like a pure river, life giving for all the past generations of our people, and now in the depths of their spirit, our conscience continues to flow.
These are the only people in humanity who have remained faithful to the sorrow of their beloved family. They are the only ones who mourn for the freedom of their champions of justice. Their faith extends throughout their history. They have not .forgotten their virtues, crushed under the feet of sorrow. They continue to mourn. Virtues are destroyed. Truths are tried. Governments create tragedies. They commit murders. But the people continue to seek this movement throughout its history. The fate of their heroes has not been forgotten.
But all this love remains barren, like the rain which falls on a salt marsh. Grass does not grow in this desert. All the sacrifices, investments, readiness, assembling, human strengths, powers and precious energy giving opportunities are useless efforts.