In recent weeks we have seen resurgence in the followers of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam. Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qaddafi called, in a speech in Niger to Tuareg tribal leaders, for the establishment of a second Shi'ite Fatimid state in North Africa, after the model of the 10th-13th century empire that ruled North Africa, Egypt, and parts of the Fertile Crescent. It is worthwhile to review some of the background and origins of this sect and also to see how it may be impacting current events. The Ismailis are the followers of the seventh caliph Ismail and are know as seveners vs. the followers of the twelfth Imam or twelvers as Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Ismaili Students’ Association operates on many campuses.
Until about 900, the centers of Islamic power remained in the Fertile Crescent, a semicircle of fertile land stretching from the southeastern Mediterranean coast around the Syrian Desert north of the Arabian Peninsula to the Persian Gulf and linked with the Arabian heartland. After the 9th century, however, the most significant political centers moved farther and farther away--to Egypt and India, as well as to what is now Turkey and the Central Asian republics. Intellectual vitality eventually followed political power, and as a result, Islamic civilization was no longer centered in Mecca and Medina in the Hijaz.
Arabia was also the site for some of the conflicts on which the sectarian divisions of Islam are based. The major Islamic sect, the Shia (from Shiat Ali or "party of Ali"), is still represented in Saudi Arabia but forms a larger percentage of the populations in Iraq and Iran. The conflicts in Iraq arise largely from the ongoing hostilities between the Shiites and Sunni populations.
One Shia denomination, known as the Kharijite movement, began in events surrounding the assassination of Uthman, the third caliph, and the transfer of authority to Ali, the fourth caliph. Those who believed Ali should have been the legitimate successor to the Prophet refused to accept the authority of Uthman. Muawiyah in Syria challenged Ali's election as caliph, leading to a war between the two and their supporters. Muawiyah and Ali eventually agreed to an arbitrator, and the fighting stopped. Part of Ali's army, however, objected to the compromise, claiming Muawiyah's family were insincere Muslims. So strong was their protest against compromise that they left Ali's camp (the term khariji literally means "the ones who leave") and fought a battle with their former colleagues the next year.
The more orthodox Shia sect originated in circumstances similar to those of the Kharijite movement. Shia believed that Ali should have led the Muslim community immediately after the Prophet. They were frustrated three times, however, when the larger Muslim community selected first Abu Bakr, next Umar (died in 644), and then Uthman as caliph. When Ali finally became caliph in 656, the Shia refused to accept claims to the caliphate from other Muslim leaders such as Muawiyah.
The killing of Husayn provided the central ethos for the emergence of the Shia as a distinct sect. Eventually, the Shia would split into several separate denominations based on disputes over who of Ali's direct male descendants should be the true spiritual leader. The majority came to recognize a line of twelve leaders, or Imans, beginning with Ali and ending with Muhammad al Muntazar (Muhammad, the awaited one). These Shia, who are often referred to as "Twelvers," claimed that the Twelfth Imam did not die but disappeared in 874. They believe that he will return as the "rightly guided leader," or Mahdi, and usher in a new, more perfect order.
The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's piety is his devotion to the 12th Imam --- the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president's belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.
The Shia minority in Saudi Arabia, like the Shia in southern Iraq, traces its origin to the days of Ali. The Ismailis are a Muslim Shiite sect that holds Ismail, the son of Jafar as-Sadiq, as its imam. On the death of the sixth imam of the Shiites, Jafar as-Sadiq (d. 765), the majority of Shiites accepted Musa al-Kazim, the younger son of Jafar, as seventh imam. Those who remained faithful to Ismail, the eldest son, soon evolved the belief that Ismail was endowed with an infallible gift for interpreting the inner meaning of the revelation. Ismailism developed an understanding of Islam and promoted it through an active missionary system. Although the early history remains obscure, Ismailism incorporated elements of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and Hindu thought to explain its concept of the imam. An offshoot, the Assassins, established a state in NE Iran, which survived until the 13th cent. In 1094 the Ismailis split into Nizaris and Mustalis. Today, though a minority community that is not politically active, the Ismailis are spread in small pockets in parts of the Middle East, central and S Asia, and increasingly North America and Europe. The family of the Aga Khan, the Nizari imam, traces its descent from Ismail. See S. M. Stern, Studies in Early Ismailism (1983); F. Daftary, The Ismailis (1990).
The current (49th) Imam, The Āgā Khān IV, or His Highness Prince Karīm al-Hussaynī Āgā Khān IV, who is active in international humanitarian efforts, is a direct descendant of Ali. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through the Prophet's daughter, Fātima, and her husband, `Alī ibn Abī Tālib, the first Shī`a Imam.
The Aga Khan Foundation is a non-denominational, international development agency established in 1967 by His Highness the Aga Khan. Its mission is to develop and promote creative solutions to problems that impede social development, primarily in Asia and East Africa. Created as a private, non-profit foundation under Swiss law, it has branches and independent affiliates in 15 countries. It is a modern vehicle for traditional philanthropy in the Ismaili Muslim community under the leadership of the Aga Khan.
So there were two faces of Arabia. To the west was the Hijaz, which derived a cosmopolitan quality from the foreign traffic that moved continually through it. In the east was Najd, which remained relatively isolated. During the eighteenth century, Wahhabi ideas, vital to the rise of the Al Saud, would originate in Najd.
Apparently, on the morning of April 17, an express mail package was sent to NBC containing a rambling note and videos about Cho Seung-Hui. According to posting on the Michael Savage website <http://www.savage-productions.com/cho_envelope.html> showing a sender address as A. Ismail. It is well known that when people convert to Islam they often take on new Islamic/Arabic names. Example include: Malcolm X born Malcolm Little. Malcolm X was also known as also known as El-Hajj (Referring to the Pilgrimage to Mecca.) Malik (A word meaning “king” in Arabic.) El-Shabazz, was a Black Muslim Minister and National Spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Cat Stevens - Yusuf Islam a prominent convert to Islam. Stevens retired from the music world soon after accepting the faith of Islam. He subsequently married, had five children, auctioned off his possessions, and founded a Muslim school in London. A vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, Yusuf Islam is on a U.S. government security watch list and is barred from entering the United States. Although this is not a Qur’anic requirement, many do change their names to reflect conversion to Islam. Many men select Islamic related names such as Ali, or Ahmid…etc.
There are many theories being proposed as to the meaning of the words -- ISMAIL AX found written in red ink on the inside of one of Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old senior’s arms, the gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead. See: VA. TECH KILLER REVEALED
In his "multimedia manifesto" he spewed anti-Christian rhetoric.
I would propose for consideration that the ISMAIL AX or A. Ismail on the letter may have reference is to Ismaili - a member of a branch of Shiism that follows a living imam and is noted for esoteric philosophy. It may take a while before the motives are known and if there is any relation between Cho and the Islmaili sect of Shiism. Others have proposed that it is the reference to Ismail the son of Muhammad. Ismail is a common name including that of the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and prominent Azerbaijani poet and statesman Shah Ismail Khatayi.
On April 15, 2007, Chuck Neubauer and Robin Fields writing in the Los Angeles Times article, Campaign donor's cash arrived with real baggage.
"On a sun-dappled October afternoon, Ray Jinnah stood beside his Bel Air swimming pool to address 60 guests gathered for his latest fundraiser, a 2004 affair for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton."
"Jinnah belonged to Los Angeles’ small Ismaili community, Shiite Muslims whose spiritual leader is the Aga Khan. Other Ismailis said he used political connections to raise his status, inviting them to his events.”
Then-Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn was there, along with then-City Council President Alex Padilla. Both had received backing from Jinnah, a Pakistani businessman positioning himself as a player in Democratic fundraising and organizer of support for Pakistan on Capitol Hill."
"As captured on a DVD he distributed to guests, Jinnah introduced Clinton, whose political action committee would take in $45,000 through his efforts."
"By 2004, Jinnah had cemented his party ties. He and his family, who had moved to Bel-Air, personally contributed $122,000 to Democratic candidates and causes that year alone."
"I'm just recalling how close I've been with the Clinton family and those nights, movies, dinners, lunches in the White House," he said in unsteady English.
"At about the same time, the Justice Department began investigating allegations that Jinnah’s fundraising on behalf of Clinton and others was illegal. He would later be charged with violating federal law by reimbursing employees and associates for contributions made in their names to Clinton’s HillPac and the Friends of Barbara Boxer campaign. Today, having fled the country, Jinnah is on the FBI’s 'featured fugitives' list."
Bernard Lewis in his book "The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam" tackles and persuasively debunks most of the popular legends about the Assassins, such as the claim that their Grand Master secured the fanatical loyalty of his young followers by drugging them with narcotics and then conveying them for short periods to an artificial "paradise" of his own creation that was staffed by sensuous and accommodating young women. Lewis instead finds that a more straightforward (and plausible) explanation for the willingness of the Assassins' fida' is to offer themselves up for suicidal missions: religious passion and commitment to the Nizari community.
Lewis's elegant account will thus introduce you to an intriguing period of medieval Islamic history, one populated by a collection of memorable figures - the brilliant and ascetic Assassin leader Hassan i-Sabah, the real founder of the Order; the "Old Man of the Mountain," Sinan, who commanded the Order's Syrian branch during the most critical years of the Crusades; Saladin, who was at different times both a target and an ally of the Assassins; Hulegu, the grandson of Genghis Khan, who finally succeeded where the Seljuks had failed, rooting out the Order from its mountaintop fortresses and then ordering mass exterminations of its communicants; and last but not least, Marco Polo, to whose vivid tales can be ascribed much of the lingering fascination that continues to surround the Assassins
On March 30, 2007, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said that it was a mistake to believe that Christianity was a universal faith alongside Islam according to the Reuters correspondent Salah Sarrar writing from AGADEZ, Niger. See: Gaddafi says only Islam a universal religion.
It should be added that on April 19, 2007 "Turkey's tiny Christian minority is under attack. In the latest spate of violence, persons unknown tied up three people at a publishing house that distributes Bibles in Turkey then slit their throats on the same day that the so-called "multimedia manifesto" of Virginia Tech mass murderer Cho Seung Hui was televised with the 23-year-old Virginia student staring into the camera and spewing anti-Christian rhetoric." See: Article by Judi McLeod on Canada Free Press -- Christians slaughtered in Muslim-dominated Turkey.
Quoting Gaddafi: "There are serious mistakes -- among them the one saying that Jesus came as a messenger for other people other than the sons of Israel," he told a mass prayer meeting in Niger."
"Christianity is not a faith for people in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Other people who are not sons of Israel have nothing to do with that religion," he said at the prayer meeting, held to mark the birth of the prophet Mohammed.
Gaddafi, who is seeking to expand his influence in Africa, said his arguments came from the Qur’an. He led similar prayers last year in Mali.
On March 31, 2007, Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qaddafi called, in a speech in Niger to Tuareg tribal leaders, for the establishment of a second Shi'ite Fatimid state in North Africa, after the model of the 10th-13th century empire that ruled North Africa, Egypt, and parts of the Fertile Crescent. In his speech, Qaddafi denounced the division of Muslims into Sunni and Shi'ite as a colonialist plot, and rebuked the Arab League members for "hating Iran" according to the article In Overture to Iran, Qaddafi Declares North Africa Shi'ite and Calls for Establishment of New Fatimid State by MEMRI Special Dispatch Series – No 1535 of April 6, 2007.
"The Fatimid state arose in the beginning of the 10th century, and it formed an umbrella over North Africa, and under its banner all of the tribal, denominational, political, and ethnic differences fused, and they all became one single Fatimid identity, which lasted 260 years and extended as far as the Arab East.
Islam has a long history of using terror as a political instrument. The most famous of these was the ‘Fort of the Assassins’ of the founder of the Ismaili order.
Terrorism, by which we mean the threat and use of violence against innocents, has a long tradition in Islam going back to Prophet Muhammad himself according to N.S. Rajaram in the article: Grandmasters Of Terror.
The most famous of the Islamic terrorist organizations was the Nizari Ismailiyun, a Shiite politico-religious sect, founded in 1094 by Hasan-e Sabah. He and his followers captured the hill fortress of Almaut in northern Iran, which became their base of operations. Hasan styled himself Grand Master and went on to set up a network of terrorist strongholds in Iran and Iraq. He had trained assassins, most of whom according to Marco Polo were drug addicts. According to Marco Polo, young boys captured by the Grand Master were turned into addicts by giving them progressively large doses of the drug hashish. This way they were totally dependent on him and would do anything in return for hashish. They came to be known as hashishin, from which get the word ‘assassin.’ So the use of narcotics in terrorism is nothing new.
Some historians doubt Polo’s account, but it is difficult to believe that he made up the whole thing. What is not in doubt, however, is the fact that Hasan-e Sabah and his successor Grand Masters commanded an army of assassins who spread terror among the people in Iran and Iraq. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, The Grand Master had “a corps of devoted terrorists, and an unknown number of agents in enemy camps and cities, who claimed many victims among the generals and statesmen of the Abbasid caliphate as well as several caliphs.”
The Nizari Ismaliyun or the Order of the Assassins expanded into Syria after its founder’s death. In the 12th century, Rashid ad-Din as-Sinan, famous as the ‘Old Man of the Mountain,’ set himself up as an independent Grand Master of the Assassin Order in the impregnable castle of Masyaf in Syria. For over a century and a half, from 1094 to 1256, these Grandmasters and their assassins spread terror throughout the Middle East. Their end came at the hands of the Mongol warriors of Haleku Khan—the grandson of Chengis Khan. He captured and destroyed assassin strongholds in Iran one by one, and finally Almaut itself in 1256. Two years later, in February 1258, Haleku’s soldiers sacked Baghdad itself and ended the Caliphate by executing the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustasim and his sons. So, the main result of the activities of the Assassins was the end of the Caliphate.
In more recent times, terror was used to gain political ends by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. In 1946, his call for ‘Direct Action’ in support of his demand for Pakistan led to street riots all across North India. The Congress party, which had won the election by promising that it would not allow India to be divided, capitulated and agreed to the Partition of India.
In all this, there is an almost religious belief that terrorism pays. In the Pakistani official manual The Quranic Concept of War by Brigadier Malik, it is explicitly stated: "Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means; it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved... Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him."
One major point to ponder, when thinking about The Quranic Concept of War, is the title itself. The Quran is presumed to be the revealed word of God as spoken through his chosen prophet, Mohammed. According to Malik, the Quran places war-fighting doctrine and its theory in a much different category than western thinkers are accustomed to, because it is not a theory of war derived by man, but of God. This is God’s war-fighting principles and commandments revealed. Malik’s attempts to distill God’s doctrine for war through the examples of the Prophet. By contrast, the closest that Clausewitz comes to divine presentation is in his discussion of the trinity: the people, the state, and the military. In the Islamic context, the discussion of war is at the level of revealed truth and example, well above theory—God has no need to theorize. Malik notes, "As a complete Code of Life, the Holy Quran gives us a philosophy of war as well. . . . This divine philosophy is an integral part of the total Quranic ideology." From Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly, Winter 2006-07, pp. 108-27.
The authority for this is the Qur’an (Anfal 8:59-60): "And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah's Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly." (Yusufal)
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