New Age Islam
Tue Dec 06 2022, 04:59 PM

Islam and Spiritualism ( 13 March 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Stress-busting Sufi songs, Meditation, Yoga

‘Inserting Allah into your song does not make it Sufi’ by Amrita Chaudhary

Stressed Gazans turn to meditation after war

The great Apostle of Allah by Muhammad Embeay

Beat recession with meditation & yoga By M P Bhattathiri

Arabic Thought in the Illiberal Age by Christopher Parker

Allah is my God. Who is yours?  By Endy M. Bayuni


URL :,-meditation,-yoga----/d/1245




Stressed Gazans turn to meditation after war




GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Deeply conservative Gaza isn't exactly fertile ground for New Age practices. But women in head scarves and men in suits flapped their arms with gusto while breathing in rhythm in what looked like a yogic chicken dance.


The recent scene in a hotel ballroom broke several cultural taboos, such as not letting loose in public, particularly in mixed company. But the dozens of counsellors and social workers, stressed and overworked since the recent Gaza war, eagerly cast convention aside to learn about relaxation techniques.


"We are teaching very simple tools of self-care," said Dr. James S. Gordon, a psychiatrist who runs The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., and offers a parallel trauma program in Israel.


Since 2005, he's taught 90 Gaza health professionals who have reached thousands of patients with meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback and support groups in which participants express their feelings in words, drawings and dance.


"My house became like an asylum after the war," said Naima Rawagh, who works with abused women and said she was flooded with requests for help after the Israeli offensive. She and other counselors are finding ways to connect with the conservative Muslim society.


Ibrahim Younis said he uses passages from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, to illustrate key points such as the need for exercise and proper eating.


Rawagh said she switches to tapes of chirping birds if patients complain that moving to music is "haram," or forbidden by Islam.


But mostly, Gazans appear open to what may seem like strange ideas. Many are eager to gain a sense of control after 21 months of border closures after the militant Hamas group seized Gaza and after Israel's three-week offensive that ended in January.


"We are here now because the demand has increased exponentially ever since the blockade on Gaza," said Gordon, who has run similar workshops in postwar Kosovo and for homeless teens in the United States.


Some 140 counselors and health workers participated in this week's sessions in Gaza City. In a second round, several months from now, they'll learn yoga and other techniques.


On Monday, they heard a lecture about deep breathing, with women sitting on the left side of the ballroom and men on the right. They were asked to close their eyes and take deep breaths for guided meditation. Some just folded their arms.


Then the Gaza chief of the program, Jamil Abdel Atti, asked them to stand and flap their arms while breathing vigorously, with eyes closed. Some giggled, made halfhearted attempts or even sneaked out, but most made a serious effort.


Fatima Suboh, a 48-year-old university teacher, beamed afterward. "I feel high energy, I feel that my blood is working," she said, acknowledging she felt a little self-conscious at first.


Social worker Ghada Assad, 33, said she'll take home what she is learning and use it with her children and clients "so we can laugh and we can have some relaxation for our muscles and some energy for our bodies."


Throughout the workshop, participants shared war stories.


Participants in one group, led by a woman in her 20s with a beaming smile, sat in a circle on the carpet. They started by "checking in," or telling the group how they felt — breaking another cultural taboo against being too forthcoming with strangers.


Younis and Rawagh say it's an effective way of easing trauma in a short time.


After the war, Younis paid visits to victims' homes and started arranging support groups by category, such as new widows.


"The demand is huge," said Gordon, who during breaks gave acupuncture treatments to those who ask.


In a remarkable scene for Gaza, a woman in a black robe and face veil walked up to him in the lobby and asked if he could work on her.


Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



Beat recession with meditation & yoga

By M PBhattathiri March 11 2009


In the storm of life we struggle through myriads of stimuli of pressure, stress, and multi-problems that seek for a solution and answer. We are so suppressed by the routine of this every life style that most of us seem helpless.

However, if we look closely to ancient techniques we shall discover the magnificent way to understand and realize the ones around us and mostly ourselves. If only we could stop for a moment and allow this to happen…

Let me bow to Indian Maharishi Patanjali with folded hands that helped in removing the impurities of the mind through his writings on Yoga, impurities of speech through his writings on grammar, and impurities of body through his writings on Ayurveda.

The American justice Dept. has recently approved the power of yoga and meditations vide a recent judgement in the American court.” Man Who Slapped Wife Sentenced to Yoga, its Anger Management, Says Judge." First there was house arrest. Now there's yoga. A judge ordered a man convicted of slapping his wife to take a yoga class as part of his one-year probation. "It's part of anger management," County Criminal Court at Law Judge Larry Standley said of the ancient Hindu philosophy of exercise and well-being. "For people who are into it, it really calms them down."

Standley, a former prosecutor, said the case of James Lee Cross was unique. Cross, a 53-year-old car salesman from Tomball, explained that his wife was struggling with a substance abuse problem and that he struck her on New Year's Eve during an argument about her drinking.

"He was trying to get a hold of her because she has a problem," Standley said after the court hearing. "I thought this would help him realize that he only has control over himself." The sentence came as a surprise to Cross, which was told to enrol in a class and report back to Standley on his progress.

"I'm not very familiar with it," Cross said of yoga. "From what I understand, it may help in a couple ways, not only as far as mentally settling, but maybe a little weight loss." Darla Magee, an instructor at Yoga Body Houston in River Oaks, said she would recommend that Cross take a basic yoga class emphasizing breathing and including a variety of postures -- forward bends, back bends and twists.

"Yoga can help us to get rid of many emotional issues we might have," she said. "It's a spiritual cleanse." Prosecutor Lincoln Goodwin agreed to a sentence of probation without jail time because Cross had no significant criminal history

Yoga which is one of the greatest Indian contributions to the world has got vast potential in all fields. In Tihar jail India Yoga is experimented among the inmates and found successful. Their criminal mentality is changed. This study aimed at investigating the effect of Vipassana Meditation (VM) on Quality of Life (QOL), Subjective Well-Being (SWB), and Criminal Propensity (CP) among inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi.

To this effect the following hypotheses were formulated.

1. There will be a significant positive effect of VM on the QOL of inmates of Tihar jail. 2. VM will have a positive and significant effect on SWB of inmates. 3. Criminal propensity (CP) of inmates will decrease significantly after attending the VM course. 4. There will be significant difference in SWB and CP of experimental (Vipassana) group and control (non-Vipassana) group. 5. Male and female inmates will differ significantly in SWB and CP, as a result of VM.

In the famous "Time" magazine the importance meditation and yoga, an ancient Indian system, is high-lighted that the ancient mind- and spirit-enhancing art is becoming increasingly popular and gaining medical legitimacy. It is a multi billion dollar business in US. In many Universities it is accepted as subject and included in the Syllabus.

In the latest famous book "Inspire! What Great Leaders Do" written by Mr.Lance Secretan recently published by John Wiley and sons, the benefit of meditation is elaborately described for good corporate governance. By practicing transcendental meditation, or TM, many people have got relief from back pain, neck pain, and depression.

The mind calms and quiets,. What thoughts you have during meditation become clearer, more focused. Anger, anxiety and worries give way to a peace. In the world exorbitant medical expenses one can definitely make use of meditation. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Ravi Sankar are popularising this. The Iyengar Yoga institute in US is famous.

In Bhagavad-Gita Gita Lord Krishna has inspired Arjuna to rise from his depression by preaching Gita in the battlefield and to rise from the depression to do his duties. In Holy Gita we can see, being hidden by the cosmic overview of any institution beset with myriad problems, not the least of which is its lack of moral probity, there is a groundswell of educated people seeking answers to deeply personal but universally asked questions.

Chief Executives taking lessons from yoga, meditation and learning how to deal with human resources equations in an enlightened manner. Individuals from every walk of life can get ideas of how to be better human beings, more balanced and less stressed out.

Medical studies continue to show regular meditation working magic in reducing blood pressure and stress-related illnesses, including heart disease.

Brain images show that regular meditation helps calm the most active sensory-assaulted parts of the brain. The ancient Hindu sage

Patanjali who had mastered the secrets of the human mind has written a book "Yogasutra".In this book we can see how super powers can be achieved by meditation. It has both cosmic relevance and cosmic resonance. In spite of its universal appeal, for most people total control of mind remains an elusive goal and daunting task.

From time immemorial, there have been many attempts throughout the world to unlock the mysteries of the mind and to achieve total control over it through a variety of techniques. One of the most powerful of these techniques is meditation. Many spiritual leaders, sages, saints, and holy people such asSri. Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Madam Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda have practiced this. One of the ways to control physiological reactions to psychological stimuli is meditation, Yoga, Zen Buddhism etc. The scientists take Transcendental Meditation (TM) as the uniform technique, and base their observations on the study of the subjects engaged in this form of meditation. In summing up the results the scientists have come to conclusion that the effect of meditation is a "wakeful, hypo-metabolic state".


They have found that: 1) Yogis could slow both heart rate and rate of respiration; 2) Yogis could slow the rate of metabolism as confirmed by decreased oxygen consumption and carbon-die-oxide output. 3) Electro-Encephala-Gram (EEG - recording of brain activity) in Yogis showed changes of calmness in the form of "alpha rhythm" during both eyes closed and eyes open recordings. 4) Their skin resistance to electric stimulation was increased (indicating increased tolerance to external stimuli). Our usual 'defence-alarm' reaction to emotional and physical stress is in the form of "fright, flight, and fight" mediated through over-secretion of certain neuron-transmitters and neuron-modulators, namely adrenaline and dopamine by way of stimulation of sympathetic nervous system. Under the influence of these chemicals and hormones, we reflexively become panicky or aggressive, our blood pressure rises.

Thus stress and anxiety is the end result if we allow our natural age-old sympathetic reactions to act and to come to surface. We try to run away, become fearful, or fight the situation. But today these 'defence-alarm' reactions have no place in our lives. Rather, they should be replaced by more calm and serene reactions of equanimity and fearlessness. The need is to just 'face the brute, and it will go away'. Such desirable reactions of non-aggression and peaceful attitude are generated by Y ga and meditation.

EEG Studies on Yogis and The Zen Meditations: Yogis practicing Raja-Yoga claim that during the state of Samadhi they are oblivious to the internal and external stimuli, and they enjoy a calm ecstasy during that state. A study was undertaken to record the electrical activity of their brain during this state by means of a regular and useful test known as electroencephalography EEG. Physiological and experimental studies have demonstrated that the basis of conscious state of brain, among other things, is due to activation of "reticular system" in the brain-stem in response to internal and external stimuli.

These stimuli bring about various changes during sleeping and wakeful states of the organism and these can be studied by EEG. The study was carried out on four subjects during the state of concentration and meditation. Effects of external stimuli, like a loud gong, strong light, thermal simulation, and vibrations were studied. The results were compiled and analyzed. It was observed that two Yogis could keep their hands immersed in extremely cold water for about 50 minutes (raised pain threshold).

During the state of meditation, all of them showed persistent "alpha activity" in their EEG with increased amplitude wave pattern, both during 'eyes closed' and 'eyes open' recording. It was observed that these alpha activities could not be blocked by various sensory stimuli during meditation. It was also observed that those, who had well-marked "alpha activity" in their resting EEG showed greater aptitude and zeal for maintaining the practice of Yoga.

Similar observations and results were obtained when EEGs were recorded in persons adept in Zen Meditative technique. Can we say that only those persons who exhibit such recording of "alpha wave rhythm" in their EEG are fit for Yoga? And be designated as right candidates for meditation and Yoga practices? (Such experiments are indeed very few and the number of yogis examined is also very small. Therefore, scientifically and statistically these observations have only a tentative importance.

Further research is definitely called for, albeit it will have its own limitations.) It is said that in the unknown period of Lord Jesus Christ, He was under meditation.

M P Bhattathiri is a retired Chief Technical Examiner to the government of Kerala.


‘Inserting Allah into your song does not make it Sufi’


Amrita Chaudhary Mar 13, 2009

Ludhiana: Associating Sufism with any one religion is against the very basic tenets of Sufism. Underlining this basic fact, renowned Sufi singers Idrim Khan and Shakur Khan said, “Sufism goes beyond religion, caste, creed and border. For us, Bulle Shah, Nanak, Kabir, Sajjan Shah are all Sufis, as we all sing in the praise of the Almighty.”

The Khans, who belong to the Mangniar tradition of Rajasthan, will perform at Punjabi Bhawan on Friday evening along with well-known singer Barkat Sidhu.

The musical performance will be the culmination of a seminar on “Traditional Indian Sufism — literature and music”, presided over by historian Dr J S Grewal.

Dr Namwar Singh, Dr Madan Gopal Singh and Khalid Hussain will be key speakers at the seminar and will touch upon Sufism of various genres.

Speaking of the Mangniar tradition, Shakoor Khan said, “This tradition is similar to the Mirasi tradition of Punjab. Our sakis and songs are the same, though the language might be slightly different.”

“Sufi music runs in our family for generations. This tradition is now being passed on to our children as well,” he added.

Mangniar tradition is found mainly in Jaisalmer and Barember areas of Rajasthan. Owing to its geographical proximity with Pakistan, the tradition has found its way across the border as well.

Idrim Khan added, “Musical instruments like kamchal are very specific to the Mangniars.”

The singers, however, rue the fact that “there are no new Sufi kalams now”.

Remarked Shakoor Khan, “We sing what had been written decades ago. These kafis and songs are our path to God. The sad part is that young singers nowadays use the term ‘Sufi’ a bit too freely. Inserting an “Allah” into your song does not make it “Sufi”. It is the singer who is Sufi; whatever he or she sings reaches God. His or her singing touches the heart of listeners and the heart is where God resides.”



Arabic Thought in the Illiberal Age

By Christopher Parker

    Sometimes -- when read against the backdrop of a particular time and place -- a book resonates beyond the immediate concerns of its author.  As I picked up Peter Wien's Iraqi Arab Nationalism, the periodic and rather predictable discussion as to whether Islam was compatible with the norms of contemporary European society was once again heating up in the Dutch-language Belgian media.  This time around, however, the stakes had been raised.  It was not just another debate about the headscarf.  At issue was whether Muslims might be characterized as the agents of an intrinsically fascistic and totalitarian worldview.  If so, argued those who instigated the debate, then the very foundations of multiculturalism -- both as ideology and social reality -- must be called into question.  Disturbingly, a discourse once considered the territory of the far Right was now being taken over by a group of self-proclaimed liberal intellectuals who positioned themselves as defenders of the social and political freedoms for which they had fought only a generation ago.  And, drawing on the wider polemic of Islamo-fascism, they were invoking a history of secular collaboration between Nazi Germany and Arab political and religious leaders to make their case.

1 But just how historically grounded are the narratives to which this polemic refers?  And what might an examination of these narratives reveal about contemporary politics in places as diverse as Iraq and Flanders?  Wien promises straightforward answers to the first question.  The second takes us beyond the immediate scope of his engagement.  Nevertheless, there are few places in the world where ideologies of modernity and development, empirical articulations of state power, and state theory (i.e., the conventions through which the state's power is represented) have intertwined so violently as in twentieth-century Iraq.  As such, Wien's well-contextualized coverage of ideological debates in 1930s Iraq provides a rare opportunity to explore the "practical illusions" that underpin the practice and theory of liberal statecraft, and to think about how these illusions continue to inform our understanding of Iraq's political history as well as its current predicament. 2 These are, I think, crucial issues that deserve to be brought to the surface of Wien's study -- hence, the length and detail of what follows.

In his acknowledgments, Wien notes that the book arose out of his participation in a project on "Arab encounters with national socialism" hosted by the Centre of Modern Middle East Studies in Berlin.  Work continued during a yearlong fellowship at St. Antony's College Oxford.  Beyond an exhaustive review of the relevant secondary literature, Wien bases his account on extensive archival research in Britain, Syria, Israel, and Germany, and on the memoirs, diaries, and articles of actors who participated in the major events and movements of the period under study.  Although the resulting book is short on context and somewhat narrow in both its empirical and analytical focus, one nevertheless gets a sense that Wien has a command of both his sources and the context of their production.  He also engages critically with existing scholarship.


Two short introductory chapters ("Introduction" and "The Historical Framework") position Wien's study within wider efforts to ground the historiography of Arab nationalism on a "New Narrative."  The "Old Narrative," Wien writes, "uncritically stated that European thought had a common impact" on the formation of Arab nationalist thought.  By contrast, the "New Narrative" holds that the Iraqi perception of Nazi Germany reflected "the complex socio-political framework of groups from diverse social origins" (p. 4).  Wien's concern is thus not so much with the perspective of leading theorists and political elites, but with a second tier of polemicists and political activists who were more immediately engaged in articulating the urban public sphere within which nationalist ideas were diffused, debated, and contested.  While the biographies of his protagonists make clear that this was indeed a space open to participation by individuals of diverse ethnic, social, and regional backgrounds, Wien is careful to note that this public sphere was limited in scope.  He makes no claims about the influence of these debates on Iraqi society as a whole.  Their relevance, he argues, is that they were constitutive of Iraqi state institutions.  This claim is both reasonable and consistent with the disciplined focus of his argument.  Nevertheless, it gets clouded by Wien's tendency to use "the state" to refer to different things.  At times it encompasses society, while at others it is used more narrowly to refer to statist institutions (and the particular forces contained and represented within them) that appear in opposition to the pluralist and centrifugal forces of Iraqi society.  Wien also fails to elaborate on his understanding of public sphere theory and its relevance to the production of a "New Narrative."  Similarly, his efforts to define "totalitarianism" and "authoritarianism" are confined to a brief paragraph on page 3, after which he notes that the terms did not appear in the Iraqi debate as such.


Ultimately, however, Wien's focus is not the formation of this limited public sphere.  Nor does he demonstrate its impact on the subsequent formation of authoritarian or totalitarian regime institutions (or the legacy of these institutions within society).  Rather, his primary task is to evaluate claims about the affinity of Iraqi Arab nationalism in the 1930s to fascism in general, and German national socialism in particular.  Wien argues persuasively that British observers of the 1930s and 1940s too easily interpreted events in Iraq against the backdrop of developments in Europe.  Accordingly, they failed to "differentiate between several strains of pro-German sentiment as if all of them were only a prelude to the short-lived German-Iraqi alliance" of May 1941, and the Farhud that followed its collapse (p. 2).  Wien's main thesis is that the conflation of these different strains masks an underlying generational conflict between the officer-based Sherifian elite installed by the British in 1920-21, and Young Effendiyya who came of age and into political power in the 1930s.  It was the stakes and particular circumstances of this conflict, he argues, that "produced an inclination to authoritarian, totalitarian, and even fascist models of society organization [sic] among the intellectuals who belonged to the Young Effendiyya" (p. 11).  In short, Wien argues that the radicalism of the Effendiyya did not result from an encounter with European fascism.  Rather, it arose out of political debates that extended back into the late Ottoman period, and in disappointment over the performance, and continued British domination, of the governing institutions inherited with independence.

The central thesis of chapter 3 ("Generational Conflict") is that the Young Effendiyya represented a "generational unit" (a term Wien borrows from Karl Mannheim) distinct from that of the Sherifian elite.  In other words, they shared a "space of experience" and "horizon of expectation" distinct from that of the founding generation (p. 15).  To be sure, the radicalism of the Effendiyya stood in marked contrast to the Germanophilia of the Sherifians.  Drawing on the memoirs of Ali Jaudat, Naji Shaukat, and Ja'afar al-Askari, Wien shows that the latter retained an affinity for the values and worldview of the German officers who had been mentors and colleagues during their time in Ottoman service.  Influenced by German thought, the Sherifians saw themselves as Arab nationalists, an identity that had been moulded through participation in the secret societies that flourished during the last years of the empire, and -- not least -- through their participation in the Arab Revolt itself.  They also shared a sense that the Iraqi military might bring forth "the Prussians of the Arabs" (p. 24).  But their appreciation for Germany did not extend so far as to lead to serious questioning of their own strategic alliance with the British.  In sum, they were conservative modernists: for them, nationalism represented an "enlightened movement" that, while pedagogical in tone, was not linked to a project of rapid social transformation (p. 19).


The nationalism of the Young Effendiyya, by contrast, arose as a call to order.  It was a response to the corruption and ineffectiveness that the Effendiyya saw as resulting from the founding generation's entanglement with and subservience to, British interests.  For the Effendiyya, already inclined toward radicalisation by experience, Germany was but one of several countries that could be held up as a model of national mobilization and recovery.  Indeed -- contrary to the impression provided by British sources -- Wien's research suggests that Germany was far from the most important source of inspiration.  Turkey, Iran, and even Japan were explicitly preferred to Germany and Italy as models of modernization from above.  Fascist imagery, as manifested in the presence of a strong leader capable of capturing the imagination of the masses (particularly the youth) and mobilizing their energies, was more salient than any real commitment to fascist ideology, Wien argues.  Furthermore, apart from suggesting an antidote to the weak and corrupted state institutions inherited from the Mandate, Germany appeared as the only state capable of providing a challenge to the stifling hegemony of British imperialism on the world stage.


Wien introduces readers to the Effendiyya through a series of brief, encyclopedia-like biographical entries.  The protagonists include Mahmud al-Durra, 'Abd-al-Amir 'Alawi, Muhammad Mahdi Kubba, 'Ali Mahmud al-Shaikh 'Ali, Talib Mushtaq, and Rufa'il Butti.  Wien briefly outlines the sources and events that shaped their generational worldview, and then shows how -- through their participation in the press, political organizations, and debating societies -- they went on to play a generative role in the emergence of an urban public sphere.  Wien presents their sympathies for European fascist projects as complex and conditional.  He writes that for Yunus Sab'awi -- typically considered one of the more clear-cut Nazi sympathizers among the Effendiyya -- Adolf "Hitler's Nazism was about individual leadership and modernism, about personal courage and adventure.  Sab'awi wanted Iraq to belong to the 'advanced peoples,' as he called them. . . .  The racist and expansionist implications of [Hitler's] ideology were apparently of little concern as far as we can conclude from the material at our hands" (p. 40).  Similarly, Wien relates an exchange between Mushtaq and Alec Kirkbride (drawn from Mushtaq's memoirs) to suggest that the British were mistaken to conflate "resistance to the allies with Iraqi sympathy for Nazism."  According to Mushtaq, "'the colonial powers overstated these tendencies in order to cover up the history of their own broken promises'" (p. 42).


Wien concludes chapter 3 by reviewing the memoirs of three prominent Jewish Iraqis who were active in the political life of the 1930s: Anwar Sha'ul, Meneshi Za'rur, and Abraham Elkabir.  Wien's point here is twofold.  First, he shows that while Jews were concerned with the increasingly radical tone of nationalist discourse through the 1930s, they nevertheless embraced an Arab and Iraqi identity and sought to influence the discourse of Iraqi Arab nationalism from within.  Second, he uses these memoirs to suggest that anti-Jewish suspicions were motivated more by developments in Palestine than by "racism of the Nazi kind" (p. 47).  Although political anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism began to conflate over time, these Jewish Iraqi writers tended to attribute the introduction of anti-Semitic tendencies to Western -- primarily British -- influences.3  This connection to Western influences foreshadows a theme that Wien visits regularly in chapter 4: by making superficial comparisons between the political landscapes in Iraq and Nazi Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s, both the British observers of the day and subsequent scholarly accounts elide the degree to which attitudes and rhetoric that we today associate with fascism were commonplace in liberal Europe and North America during the 1930s.  For example, while the nationalist youth movement al-Futuwa is often compared to the Hitler Youth, Wien shows that it, in fact, arose from the British scouting tradition of Robert Baden-Powell.  Indeed, the British originally encouraged al-Futuwa, viewing it as a "disciplining institution" (pp. 104-105).


Chapter 4 investigates "The Debate of the Iraqi Press." Wien writes that "the newspapers of the 1930s reflect a lively debate on nationalist issues," and that "the press was a genuine local voice, different from colonial records, which echo imperial interests" (pp. 52-53).  As such, they allow Wien to "reconstruct certain discursive structures that bear significance for the questions at stake in this study" (p. 55).  After a brief discussion of the emergence and increasing significance of print media over the 1920s and 1930s, Wien adds a couple more biographies to the cast of protagonists and then begins discussing the formation of these discursive structures against the backdrop of movements and events during the latter decade.


For the most part, this discussion elaborates and adds nuance to the themes introduced in the previous chapters.  Wien's most salient argument is that the authoritarian tendencies of the Effendiyya were grounded in a rejection of the social fragmentation that nationalists saw as both responsible for, and a consequence of, foreign domination and underdevelopment.  This critique was, in turn, based on a plausible, even if somewhat superficial, analysis of the state of liberal democracy around the world in the 1930s.  Writers focused not on attributes of fascism as such, but on the "image of a supposedly modern, state-centred organization of society" (p. 61).  Even ostensibly pro-German newspapers expressed "the unease that Iraqis felt when they learned about the Nazi race laws of 1935" (p. 62).  In short, Wien's review of the press seems to confirm that Iraqi support of Nazi Germany was overwhelmingly pragmatic in character.


In addition to the image of the strong state and leader, Wien explores other salient discursive structures, including masculinity, the reification of a mythical past, and youth.  A casual survey of the world around them suggested to Iraqi polemicists that successful countries were those that found exemplary models of national character and sources of strength in their own national myths; thus, "a reference to Japan was not a reference to an authoritarian and pro-fascist country," writes Wien, "but rather to a successful defence of inherited customs" within a modernizing project (p. 94).  As such, fascist states provided a model of modernity that "allowed for a much more tangible symbolism, for a focused and more concentrated image of the nation, and for an easily imaginable identity linked back to a mythical past.  This code of references was welcome in Iraq: the origin of the Arab nation was dated back to the times of Mohammad, who was reinterpreted as the historical arch-leader of the Arab nation.  Thus, the youth won a clear-cut and masculine model of endurance and devotion: the warriors of the early Islamic conquests" (p. 99).


Wien is also attuned to the ways in which colonial institutions were themselves responsible for advancing particular models of masculinity as both criteria of modernity and symbols of national character.  And these models of masculinity were eventually transformed into models for the assertion of national independence.  "Colonial disciplining institutions," Wien writes, "equipped the colonized to set up anti-colonial institutions.  In Iraq, the Futuwa movement was such an anti-colonial project.  It was not, as has often been assumed, a product of fascist propaganda and influence but rather a result of the wider colonial discourse" (p. 93).  Colonial discourse equated modernity and national character with discipline and technical and military prowess.  These were seen as quintessentially masculine characteristics, and the development of the nation would be achieved through manly pursuits and the cultivation of masculine characteristics: self-discipline, love of sport, an attitude of chivalry, short and straight hair, martial appearance, etc.  The gendered discourse of nationalism also championed the education and modernization of women, but primarily as managers of the modern household and nurturers of a nationalist youth.


Wien concludes chapter 4 by comparing the youth movements of 1930s Iraq -- primarily al-Futuwa -- with their contemporaries in Europe, whereby he finds striking similarities.  In both Iraq and Germany, young people were mobilized around the conscious rejection of a legacy of social fragmentation.  Not yet socialized into the factionalism and contradictions of the world around them, they could imagine themselves as agents of an alternative political reality, one constructed on the blueprint of a distant, mythical past that transcended the contradictions and infighting of the present and recent past.  And their disciplined vitality and idealistic willingness to sacrifice embodied the masculine virtue of the nation.  The Effendiyya generation had participated in and sought to mobilize the energy and idealism of youth.  However, with the rapid rise and fall of the alliance of May 1941, political leaders began to lose control.  Segments of organized youth broke off into more radical and militarized groupings and took to the streets, stoking tensions that erupted in the Farhud.

Wien's concise concluding chapter effectively summarizes his main arguments.  He suggests that while his protagonists were "flirting with fascist imagery," they were not engaged in the conscious, "direct adaptation of fascist thought" (p. 115).  Yet, though Wien's study provides a corrective to widely held assumptions regarding fascist inclinations within Iraqi Arab nationalism, I cannot help but think that this conclusion is reached too easily.  Wien's reading of the sources suggests that the Effendiyya rejected the racial beliefs and military expansionism of the Nazi project.  However, it seems clear that -- in spite of significant Shi'ite, Christian, and even some Jewish participation -- Wien's main characters had little problem imagining the violent repression of non-assimilating minorities.  And while Wien is almost certainly right to suggest that Turkey provided a more immediate model for most Iraqi Arab nationalists of the 1930s than did Nazi Germany, he fails to acknowledge the degree to which notions of Turkish ethnic superiority increasingly took hold within the ruling institutions of the Turkish state during the 1930s.4  He too easily conflates fascism with anti-Semitism (ignoring, for example, the extent to which the founders of revisionist Zionism themselves openly embraced the fascism in the 1920s and early 1930s).5  There are also significant gaps in Wien's narrative: the Shi'ite intellectuals of Najaf -- at least one of whom participated in the 1931 Jerusalem Pan-Islamic Congress organized by Hajj Amin al-Husseini -- are left completely out of the narrative, as is the politically active class in Basra, which had been quite active in debates about nationalism as early as the 1910s.


Ultimately, it is Wien's failure to engage his protagonists' responses to the suppression of the Assyrian uprising and tribal revolts of the mid-1930s that is most striking. 6 Indeed, his study remains strangely uneventful until it arrives at the Farhud.  By limiting the scope of inquiry to the question of Iraqi Arab nationalism's affinity for German fascism, Wien avoids difficult but potentially more productive questions about the violence that has played such a salient role in Iraq's political history.  The real issue, it seems to me, is a much deeper one than that of Nazi influence on Iraqi Arab nationalism in the 1930s.  It regards what this particular chapter in Iraq's history -- tucked as it is between, inter alia, the gassing of Kurdish villages by the British in 1921 and the 2003 Anglo-American invasion and ongoing occupation -- reveals about the authoritarian underbelly of liberal modernity itself.  Rather than trying to contextualise and add nuance to the nationalist polemic produced in 1930s Iraq, we might do better to explore the violence of Iraq's political history as evidence of an enduring tension between the demands of sovereignty and the biopolitical production of the objects of state power.  Just like the self-styled, progressive European liberals mentioned above, the radical nationalists of 1930s Iraq insisted on particularistic modalities of performance in the name of supposedly universal principles.  Both reduce (i.e., essentialise) and totalise their experiences of modernity in single, sweeping rhetorical movements.  Here, ideology reveals itself as a discursive symptom of an underlying incongruity between the liberal theory of the state, on the one hand, and actual state practices, on the other.  Ideology internalises the exceptions that justify and naturalize the violence deployed in the making and maintenance of a political order.  It does not cause that violence.7


As such, the appearance of fascistic tendencies in Iraq's political life during the 1930s should not be read as an episode presaging the eventual rise of an omnipotent, totalitarian Iraqi state, but rather as the symptom of an equally terrifying weakness.  And this insight -- clouded by the enduring tendency to read Iraq's political history in comparison to European fascism (with its corresponding image of an all-pervasive state) -- could usefully serve as the basis for rethinking Iraq's present as well as its past.  Wien's focused and compelling account hints at a similar intuition.  But his analysis ultimately wanders into a bottomless casuistry of comparison with Nazi Germany.  He leaves us with a relatively banal distinction between fascist and fascistic tendencies, as if the latter characterization is somehow easier to excuse.  A more eventful account -- one that explored the wider topology of violence to reveal both the sources of the state's agency and its limits -- might have enabled Wien to make connections beyond the narrow timeframe of his case, and provide insight into Iraq's current predicament.


1  The Flemish debate was sparked by an editorial entitled "Message to politically correct leftists" ("Bericht aan weldenkend links," De Standaard, February 2, 2008), in which journalist Benno Barnard and novelist Geert van Istendael wrote, "contemporary Islamism is profoundly conditioned by Nazism, not least via the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a movement directly influenced by Mein Kampf."  The piece suggested that while Anglo-European liberalism (and, by extension, "Judeo-Christian civilization") had triumphed over Nazism, Muslims had yet to confront the legacy of their own encounter with fascism, a failure reflected in a pathological rejection of Israel and post-1968 European social mores.

2  The phrase "practical illusions" comes from Karl Marx, who wrote that the "etatist formation constitutes itself into an actual power and becomes its own material content, it is [thus] obvious that the 'bureaucracy' is a web of practical illusions, or the illusions of the state. . . .  Since bureaucracy everywhere converts its formal purposes into its content, it everywhere comes into conflict with real purposes."  "The Kreuznach Manuscripts: Critique of Hegel's Theory of Right," in The Portable Karl Marx, ed. Eugene Kaminka (New York: Penguin, 1982), 90-91.

3 Supporting this conclusion is the fact that it was the pro-British Nuri al-Said who stripped Jews of their Iraqi nationality, which was restored by 'Abd al-Karim al-Qassem after the revolution of 1958.

4 Consider the case of Mahmut Esat Bozkurt -- the Swiss-educated father of Turkey's justice system and long-time minister of justice -- who declared in 1930 that "The Turk is the only (unique) owner, master of this country.  Those who are not from pure Turkish ancestry (blood), have only one right: the right to be a servant, the right to be a slave" (Milliyet, September 19, 1930).  This was by most accounts a rather extreme statement in Turkey at the time, but it -- taken together with other trends in Turkey of the 1930s -- casts doubt on Wien's implicit claim that Turkey provided a clearly no racialist (and hence non-fascist) model of nationalist mobilization for Iraqis.  I would like to thank Ahmet Akkaya and Mesut Yegen for answering my questions about trends in Turkish nationalism during the 1930s.

5 Vladimir Jabotinski, Menachem Begin, and Abba Achimeir -- the founding fathers of revisionist Zionism -- were open admirers of Benito Mussolini.  Achimeir even had a regular newspaper column entitled "Diary of a Fascist."

6 This elision becomes all the more puzzling when one considers that the coup of 1936 brought Bakr al-Sidqi (an Iraqist-nationalist Kurd) and Hikmet Sulaiman (a Turkoman) into the positions of president and prime minister respectively.  Consistent with his Iraqist nationalist bent, al-Sidqi had played a prominent role in suppressing the revolts of the 1930s.

7 Put differently, this means exploring the tensions between efforts to localize state power, on the one hand, and efforts to order the political world in ways that facilitate and naturalize its exercise, on the other.  Hanna Arendt wrote that "events, by definition, are occurrences that interrupt routine processes and routine procedures" (On Violence [Orlando: Harcourt, 1970], 7).  Building on a similar intuition regarding the imperative of developing an eventful understanding of the political world, Giorgio Agamben argues that if we want to get at the underpinnings of bio-political modernity, it is necessary to examine the eventful moments in space and time at which the link between localization and ordering breaks down.  The rule, he argues, cannot be deduced from the apparently normal functioning of a political order, but from moments of exception.  It is here where one might recognize the "relations of exception" through which "the sovereign 'creates and guarantees the situation' that the law needs for its own validity."  The exception -- Muslims in Europe, Saddamist Iraq, and the Gaza Strip -- is thus constituent of political order as a whole.  See Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 17-18.



Allah is my God. Who is yours?

By Endy M. Bayuni

What is the correct translation of the Islamic expression la ilaaha illallaah, a verse Muslims around the world recite over and over again every single day in their prayers, instilling in themselves the concept of tauhid, or the one-ness of God?


In English and I suspect in most other major languages, the verse translates to "There is no god but God". But the widely accepted Indonesian (and Malay) translation, for some reasons, becomes Tiada tuhan selain Allah (There is no god but Allah).

What's the difference? It's apparently much more than semantics as it goes deep into the understanding of tauhid among Muslims, or in the case of Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia, into their misunderstanding of the concept.

"There is no god but God" means that there is only one God. We all pray before the same Deity, but we pray differently. This is particularly true with the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths, all followers of the Abrahamic scriptures.

"There is no god but Allah", on the other hand, could mean that there are many gods, and that they come in different names and shapes, but only Allah is the only right one. We pray before different deities, but Allah is the most supreme of all.

The real message of tauhid is apparently lost in the Indonesian and Malaysian translation.

This seems to be at the heart of the ongoing debate in Malaysia over the use of the word Allah. The Malaysian government, backed by the Supreme Court, recently ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah. Allah is exclusively Islamic, as if the word had been patented or copyrighted.

Other religions, when referring to their god, must use another word. But they'd better watch it because in Islam, Allah has 99 other names.

A Catholic publication in Malaysia has recently been banned because it used the word Allah. This is in spite of the fact that, for decades, many Christian Bibles in Malay and Indonesian have freely used the word Allah, who in Christianity also has different names, including the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, but which are all still one and the same.

The move to ban the use of Allah in Malaysia is apparently founded upon fears among Muslim leaders that it is being used to proselytise, to convert Muslims. This fear is grossly unfounded since conversion from Islam is not permitted under the country's law anyway (though conversion into Islam is).

With the recent ban, Bibles in Malaysia will likely have to be revised with all references to Allah edited out. For Christians in Malaysia, this is a minor irritation that they can easily comply with. Christianity will not suffer as a result of the ban.

The biggest losers are Muslims in Malaysia, and Indonesia too if the Indonesian Ulema Council issues its own similar fatwa, as it usually does.

Muslims in this part of the world will continue to live with their own mistaken notion of tauhid. This latest claim of Allah's exclusivity only perpetuates that ignorance.

This is not the first incident in this part of the world where Muslims have exclusively claimed matters of faith, going against the grain of Islam, which preaches inclusion.

Some years ago, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) came out with a fatwa that said Muslims must not respond to the greeting assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) when expressed by non-Muslims. The MUI claimed that the expression is holy, sacred and specifically Islamic, and therefore could only be uttered by Muslims.

Although non-binding, many Muslims in Indonesia have heeded the fatwa.

At a recent neighbourhood gathering where I live, the chief of the neighbouring community, a Christian, opened his remarks with assalamualaikum in respect of the majority Muslim audience. Few people in the room responded. It was not a chorus that one would have heard if a Muslim had said it.

Strangely, many in the MUI and other religious leaders who have lived and studied in the Middle East should know better that non-Muslims in that part of the world freely use the word Allah and expressions like assalamualaikum and insya Allah (God willing) in their daily conversations. There are no objections made by Muslims there.

Indonesia's mostly secular founding fathers had a much better understanding of tauhid than today's contemporary Islamic leaders when they made "Believe in One God", monotheism, the first of the five principles in the state ideology, Pancasila.

Religious leaders in Indonesia and Malaysia should be held responsible for keeping Muslims in perpetual ignorance, knowingly or not, for generations. The first thing they have to do now is to go to the basics of tauhid and get the translation right to put the followers back on the right path.

Insya Allah



The great Apostle of Allah

By Muhammad Embeay



As-Salaam Alaikum, Wa-Rahamalullah, Wa-Barakatuhoo May Allah' Peace, Mercy and Blessings be with you I see refuge in Allah against the accursed devil, In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

"Certainly an Apostle has come to you from among yourselves; grievous to him is your distress; in falling into trouble, desirous of your welfare, and exceedingly solicitous is he for you and to the believers-compassionate, merciful." Holy Quran 9:129.

THIS text from Holy Quran, though a short one, embodies five great qualities of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be with him), the cycle of whose birthday anniversary has now turned up once more in our life-time and to all Moslems, big and sincere congratulations.

In the first place, God speaks of Muhammad as an Apostle. In the second place as an Apostle who has been raised from among his own nation. Thirdly, as one for whom it is hard to bear the pain of others.

Fourthly, as one who is supremely anxious for the welfare of human beings.

And in the fifth place, as one who is compassionate and merciful to those who accept his teachings.

The first great excellence of the Prophet Muhammad is that he is an Apostle, one who has been sent and as one who was sent. It means that the Prophet of Allah had no ambition for greatness nor for rising above others and becoming their Leader.

On the other hand, he was modest enough to remain in the background. Even before he announced his claim to being an Apostle of God, he had all the qualities, which made a great individual.

The qualities are truthfulness, fortitude, fellow-feeling, kindness, love, sociability, determination, thoughtfulness and a passion for the advancement of people.

The sentence "an Apostle has come to you..." means that when the Prophet presented to his people, revelations which he had received from the Divine Being, it was not because he was working for his personal gain.

It was because he was fulfilling God's urgent command.

The second great quality is contained in the words "from among yourselves." Taking a cursory general view, the sentence "from among yourselves" might seem a minor attribute, but on reflection it turned out to be an attribute, which served to distinguish Prophet Muhammad from the other teachers to the world.

The purpose, which all teachers have proclaimed of their assent, is that they should lead their people to righteousness and show a good example of moral conduct.

It is obvious then, that for a leader to be a real leader, he must have experienced the urges and the constraints, which all men have to experience and must have surmounted some difficulties to prepare him and make him fit for the huge task of leadership.

The third attribute of Prophet Mohammed, peace be in him, is pointed out in the words "hard for him to bear, is your distress", which means that the Prophet wants to see you raised high up on the moral scale. That is to show how solicitous the Prophet was about the distress of others and how equally solicitous he was also about seeing his people raised to a great moral and spiritual height.

That is why the Messenger of Allah established in the world, a grand conception of humanity. He liberated humanity from all its fundamental iniquities and this is the claim which the Quran has made for the Prophet when it says: "Hard it is for him to bear your distress."

The teaching of Prophet Muhammad provides for the spiritual requirement of all men situated in all conditions of life. This inculcates broad principles that can be suitably adapted to various situations and which are calculated primarily to serve salvation for men.

The fifth great quality of our Prophet is contained in the words; "to the believers compassionate, merciful."

A common human failing is that when a leader lays the world or any particular people under some path for recognition and thankfulness on the part of those indebted to him, he expects acknowledgement and thanks at least.

But the Holy Quran points out that the Messenger of Allah is far above this common human failing. Instead of expecting acknowledgement and thanks from those whom he laid under his debt, the Prophet himself felt grateful and indebted to them and wanted to serve them all the more.

Being good to others he felt as though it was the others who were being good to him. He was thankful to others when others had greater cause to be thankful to him. He cared not for personal greatness as a true messenger of Allah.

Above all, we were told in this text that the Prophet of Allah was "one among ourselves." He was poor among the poor, rich among the rich, among kings he was a king; among subjects, he was a subject, and among the oppressed he was an oppressed one.

In short, he was one among ourselves whatever our conditions or circumstances.

In today's text, God has addressed all mankind and said:

"O my people whatever your calling, rank or position there is one among you whose peculiar conditions have not been reproduced in one form or another, in the life of a great exemplar of the world.

"For whether a king or a subject, whether in Authority over others or of those whose lot it is to be oppressed: whether of those who are married and have to look after the young; whatever your calling or station in life, Allah has most certainly sent to you an apostle from among one and all of you."

"Therefore, let none among you think that the Holy Prophet Mohammad, (peace be upon him) would not know the peculiar difficulties of his station or function.

"Let not a king think that Prophet Muhammad would not know the difficulties and dangers kings have to face, nor do the oppressed think that the messenger of Allah would not know what it is to suffer oppression."

Indeed, one of the greatest reforms of the world has had the experience of all conditions of human life. He has had occasion to know at first hand, the difficulties and the needs of all classes of people, he has had the opportunity to appreciate the innermost feelings of all of them.

Being rich in experience and changes or vicissitudes of life, he offers himself as a guide to you all and in respect of all the conditions that human beings have to live under.

That is why the Holy Quran declares: "Certainly an Apostle has come to you from among yourselves; grievous to him is your distress, exceedingly solicitous is he for you, and to the believers compassionate, merciful."

Surely, the tender heart of the teacher is grieved that any among you his flock should rush headlong to ruin. The Apostle of Allah watches ardently over his flock and whenever any of them shows signs of Faith, his kindness and mercy surround him and he rejoice over him. Allah is Greatest.

Such in the great exemplary Apostle of Allah.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Universe.

Ma Salam. Friday, March 13, 2009