Friday, January 21, 2011

Karbala continues to bleed

Millions of Shia Muslims gather around the Hus...Image via WikipediaSunni militants have killed 62 Shiite pilgrims in Karbala, Iraq. The Shia-Sunni rivalry in Islam continues to claim lives 1300-years after the dispute first emerged the very day Prophet Muhammad (SAW) died.

I often wonder why Muslim societies have such poor dispute resolution mechanisms. More Muslims today are killed by other fellow Muslims. The intra-Muslim violence has continued over centuries. The Arab-non-Arab violence and the Shiite-Sunni violence are only two examples of the gory disputes that have made Muslim societies weak and vulnerable.

The relatively prosperous Muslim societies, the ones who do not rely on petro-dollars, are of mostly of non-Arab origins and are located further away from the spiritual heart of Islam in Mecca. Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and even Bangladesh are examples of places where Islamic beliefs and indigenous cultures have meshed together to create non-violent versions of Islam.

However, as one moves closer towards Mecca, the clash between faith and indigenous cultures becomes more pronounced. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran serve as examples of the clash within Muslim societies.

But no other schism in Islam has been more devastating then the one between Shiites and Sunnis. It started the day Prophet Muhammad died and his companions met at Saqeefa-bani-Sa'ada to select Prophet's close friend, Abu-Bakar, as his successor. Prophet's family, comprising his daughter and son-in-law (Ali), disagreed with the choice of the successor. Thus started the dispute that has not been resolved since that fateful night the Prophet died.

Several wars were waged between the two groups, which had different tribal origins as well. The Prophet's family belonged to the minority Bani Hashim clan. Others belonged to the more powerful Omayyad tribe. Despite the differences between the clans, their ancestors descended from the same great, great, great grand father, Abd-Munaf.

The clashes between Shiites and Sunnis started early, one of which pitted Ali against an army led by Prophet's wife, who was also the daughter of the first caliph, Abu Bakar. In another war, the Omayad Caliph Yazeed killed all but one living males in the Prophet's family, including Prophet's grandson Hussain.

Hussain and 73 of his companions, including his six-moth old son Ali Asghar, were butchered at the banks of Euphrates near Karbala on October 10, 680. It is the same Karbala where Sunni militants killed 62 Shiites the other day.

Karbala continues to bleed.
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