Posted on February 13, 2021
In the year 632 AD, the Prophet Muhammad died and a conflict ensued related to who should succeed him as the spiritual head of Islam, or Caliph. Battles ensued during which one of the proposed Caliphs, Ali, was killed. The supporters of the alternative, Abu Baker, and killers of Ali, won the day in the end, so to speak, and so began a centuries long divide within Islam which continues to the present day. The followers of Ali formed their own sect called Shia, and the victors became the Sunni sect, which is far more numerous. Approximately 85% of Muslims today are Sunni and 15% are Shia.
It’s not always or fully appreaciated in the western world just how much the Sunni/Shia divide impacts relations, and conflicts, in the present day Arab/Muslim world, and how it provides a large degree of explanation for many of the regional protests and conflicts. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon are each impacted by the divide, or schism (as it’s known), to a greater or lesser degree.
During the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland (1968 to 1998 approx), inter-religious, or ‘mixed’ marriages between Catholics (who generally wanted reunion with the Republic of Ireland to the south) and Protestants (who generally wanted to remain British) were as rare as hens teeth. Families and communities were unaccepting of such unions and the young couples had generally two choices – call it off, or emigrate to London or elsewhere, get married without informing families, inform them later and then suffer the emotional consequences.
Religious polarisation exists today throughout the Middle East, even when there is no actual military conflict at play. Whilst many from the Sunni and Shia sides of the ‘religious’ road will have many friends and work coleagues who are members of the opposite sect, the matter of mixed marriages will invariable lead to difficulties, as families react along religious and cultural lines.
Take marriage contracts for example. They are an obligatory part of all Muslim marriages, with Sunni and Shia contracts each having differences, but can contan practically anything that either party may wish to include, including amendments to the standard clauses. Many wifes insert clauses giving them automatice right to divorce if the husband takes a second wife. The standard Shia marriage contract, for example, will not allow a wife to have a divorce under any circumstances unless she receives the permission of her husband. But by inserting a simple amendment into the standard contract, a wife’s unrestricted right to divorce is guaranteed. So one might think that the insertion of various amendments can solve all thorny issues that might exist, and they do to a large degree.
However, the matter of future grandkids can raise the thorny to extremely thorny. If the marriage takes place using a Sunni marriage contract, then it automatically follows that the children will be Sunni. And vise verse for a Shia marriage contract. Culturally and religiously, older generations find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept that their children may produce grandchildren who will be from the opposite sect. And as the culture of the region also means that children, regardless of their age, will want to take parental permission before getting married, then the possibility of parents refusing to sanction a mixed marriage can cause huge distress to the child and their potential future partner. Failure to take such approval will often lead to a break-up of the relationship, and in all probability, a new search begins for each from amongst their own community sect. The ‘Northern Ireland’ option is one that is regionally taboo and rarely, if ever, used.
A non-religious civil marriage provides a possible solution. Civil marriages are mostly unrecognised within the various countries but are recognised if they took place in a foreign country. However, elderly parents again will often reject this non-religious option, due to the mere absence of religion, and as the grandchildren would be considered non-muslim if the parents were to die prematurely. And so the distress of the young couple goes on, event with this alternative possibility.
The subject matter of this post is close to the heart of MB at present. He numbers a young, modern-minded, educated, mixed Muslim couple amongst his Arab friends. They now find themselves in the dilemma described above. The coming months will see Shia boy attempt to extract some workable comprimise from his (possible) future Sunni father-in-law, who may or may not be willing to do so. Equally, his own Shia family may not agree to the marriage under the civil option, which is the preference of both boy and girl. With the refusals of the families, if that’s how the dice rolls, then that may be the end of love.
Happy St Valentine’s Day to all.
Posted on August 18, 2018
The Islamic feast of Eid al Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) takes place next week. In the week leading up, Muslim families will travel to the animal markets to select their particular sheep or goat (normally). So maybe not an ‘everyday moment’ throughout the entire year, but the buying and selling of animals is an everyday moment for that particular week in the Middle East and throughout the Islamic world, for many hundreds of years past.
Posted on November 26, 2017
On Friday last, over 300 Sufi Muslim worshipers were killed during prayer time at a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. Many more were injured. MB read in some reports that the attack on the Mosque was unexpected. This is not true. The mosque was in a remote out-of-city location and was a prime target for the fascist DAISH/ISIS murderers who consider the very spiritual Sufis to be heretics who must be killed whenever the chance arises. Similar to their views on Shia Muslims, other Muslim sects or any others who do not fit into their extremist fascist Sunni Islamic view of the world. Any imbecile would have known that the mosque was a target. Target – with a capital ‘T’.
MB has a fondness for the Sufis since he encountered them on his trip to Sudan three years back when he wrote a post about his encounter and including many photos. The following is MB’s final paragraph of that post:
The Sufis consider themselves the original Muslims from the time of the Prophet (PBOH). All spirituality, chanting to Allah, playing drums and enjoying the celebration. And at same time putting on a real spectacle for the many non-Sufi observers who attend just to observe and enjoy. The more extreme Salafi & Wahabi schools of Islam would consider the Sufis to be heretics or some such and would not have kind words for them. In fact, many on the extreme wing of Islam (like ISIS) would have all the Sufis killed if they could. MB prefers the Sufis, with their dreadlock hairstyles and their music and drum playing, and the happy smiles on their faces. Smiling is not a strong point with their Islamic opponents.
Long live the Sufis!
Sudani Sufi (he’s the one in the middle!) at the graveyard in Khartoum, with 2 European teachers who were on a short UN programme teaching female teachers from Yemen. It was unsafe to carry out the programme in Yemen. August 2014.
Posted on August 4, 2017
Many will be aware of the terrible destruction wrought by the ISIS/DAISH group throughout their areas of occupation in the Middle East. Destruction of statues at the world heritage site of Palmyra, amongst others, received huge international attention. The acts of destruction have their basis in certain teachings of Sunni Islam, from whom ISIS has spawned. Those teaching state that the recreation of the human form is prohibited, albeit the principle is not included in the Quran. That such thinking can lead to the destruction of antiquities of world importance is obviously unfathomable for most reasonable people.
MB was explaining to a Sunni Muslim colleague in recent weeks that if ever he will travel to Ireland, he will see religious statues along public roads as he explores the country. Many of those statues date from 1954, which was a year dedicated by the Vatican authorities to the honouring of the virgin Mary – the Marian Year.
MB caught these shots on his May 2017 trip to his homeland. They are not atypical of what one will find in numerous Irish locations.
Posted on March 15, 2017
For 900 years, since the middle of the 6th century approx, the Hagia Sophia Greek Orthodox Bassicila in Istanbul (known as the Ayasofia in Turkish) was the largest cathedral in the Christian world – atop the pile, so to speak. It then became a Mosque for 500 years, until it was converted into a museum in 1935 by a secular Turkish government. Its dome roof is still studied by architectural and engineering students worldwide, and it was a groundbreaking structure in its day, and even beyond.
If you follow Turkish politics in more recent times, then you will be aware that the Hagie Sophia has become one of the meats (there are many) in the internal Turkish conflict sandwich. There is much demand from Islamists that it reconverts to a Mosque, and in recent months a Muslim performed Islamic prayer on the floor of the building. There are also some other smaller buildings with the same name, but in different towns in Turkey, which are also the similar targets of the Islamic brothers. To the best of MB’s knowledge, some have already fallen.
Prime Minister Erdogan is a master fox in the overall political scheme of things, playing and relying very much on the less educated strands of society, who are also more prone to the urgings of the Muslim Imams. Turkish politics are in a huge state of flux at present, and it remains to be seen which way Erdogan will eventually go on this Hagia Sophia matter. If he wins the constitutional election next month, he will become an all-powerful President, and may very well not bother too much with this issue thereafter. Inshallah.
MB is now thinking back to a conversation he had a few short years back with a young Istanbul tourist guide who had taken part in the mass demonstrations in Taksim Square/Gezi Park of 2013. There were multiple groups involved in the protests and many seemed to have different agendas. MB’s young Turkish friend explained that all the groups, albeit from different strands of society, had one common bond. They did not want any further Islamisation of Turkey.
MB recently discussed this point with a Turkish friend in Qatar. He was of the opinion, given recent history and particularly the fact that Erdogan has used the recent military coup attempt to castrate the more secular opposition to his government, it will only be a few short years before Turkey becomes akin to Saudi Arabia in many Islamic respects. MB spent two years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (2012 to 2014) and has visited Istanbul multiple times so he can speak with a little authority on the subject. Suffice it to say, that many, if not the majority, in Saudi Arabia wish they could have what Turkey presently enjoys in terms of social life and culture. It’s sad, to put it mildly, that Erdogan should be taking his people in the opposite direction.
OK! MB knows this is just a Weekly Photo Challenge post, but he recently thought of posting something on the current Turkish situation. Today’s theme just opened the door, and MB decided to walk right in!
Posted on December 20, 2016
Unknown to most in MB’s homeland is the fact that in the majority land area of the Middle East, music is forbidden. In the local lingo, it’s haram. Allegedly, according to those of such beliefs, it’s not God’s will that people should sing or play or listen to music. Read More
Posted on July 5, 2016
Today is the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid Al-Fitr (the festival of the breaking of the fast) three-day holiday. The new lunar month of ‘Shawwal’ starts with the new crescent moon tonight, which is the 1oth month of the Islamic calendar.
The new lunar month of ‘Shawwal’ starts with the new crescent moon tonight, which is the 10th month of the Islamic calendar. Shawwal means to ‘lift’ or ‘carry’, as MB has just discovered on researching it, so named because a female camel would normally be carrying a fetus at this time of year.
‘Eid Mubarak’ is the common greeting to colleagues and friends out these parts leading up to and during the festival, meaning ‘Blessed’ or ‘Holy’ Eid.
So to any and all concerned, especially to friends & colleagues of MB out these parts – Eid Mubarak to all.
Posted on May 6, 2016
MB is very often a first port of call when life’s winds are howling. And so it came to pass again in recent days, when MB received the following email from a young Saudi friend:
Posted on April 14, 2016
The Middle East (ME) gets lots of nasty press around the world, for many obvious and sad reasons. But MB can assure you, given his many years there, that it’s full of characters who would be right at home in any Irish pub on any given night – Muslim of not! – telling tales and spinning yarns over a beer or three. Read More
Posted on September 24, 2015
Eid mubarak to all lads.
It’s the 2015 Islamic Eid holiday. The Feast of the Sacrifice. MB went to Doha animal market (Qatar) earlier today. Read More
Posted on August 17, 2015
The Islamic religious holiday of Eid Al Adha is the nearest thing that Muslims have to a Christmas. It’s a great family occasion and a big meal is consumed. It is a religious duty of all Muslims to sacrifice an animal at this time, normally a sheep or a goat. Cows, cattle, camels and others are also used when groups or extended families may pool together for the purchase of larger animals. The sacrifice is to honour the story from the holy book when Abraham gave thanks to God for sparing his son, after God had earlier tested Abraham by asking him to kill him. Abraham then killed a sheep as a sacrifice in thanksgiving. The same story appears in the Christian Bible, albeit both books state different sons names (Ishmael in the Quran and Isaac in the Bible). Read More
Posted on July 1, 2015
Posted on January 25, 2015
Posted on October 19, 2014
Posted on October 11, 2014
09 October 2012. Swat Valley, Pakistan. Mid afternoon.
A member of the Pakistani Taliban boards a bus and shouts ‘Who is Malala?‘ On identifying the 12 year old girl, he fires three shots from a hand gun. One of the bullets enters her forehead, travels the length of her head, and lodges in her shoulder. Fate, providence, luck, or God, if you believe in a God, decides she will live. If God has intervened, then it isn’t the God of the Taliban. Someone else’s God. Maybe Malala’s God. Or your God. Or mine. Read More