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 October 4, 2019
Posted on March 29, 2019
Approximately two years back, with the permission of parents E&R, MB started to chronicle the life of baby Sofia. Post Nr 1 was on the occasion of her Christian baptism. The idea was, and is, to record her life and its bigger moments, against the backdrop of the political situation in the Middle East. Two more posts followed subsequently. Read More
Posted on January 10, 2019
Posted on November 22, 2018
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar – The Life of Pie
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the most recognisable buildings in Doha and a must-visit destination for tourists to the country. The building has featured in previous HX posts, but MB took some new pics when out walking earlier this week which he gives you below. Check out the MIA website if you want to learn some more. Read More
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 May 4, 2018
Soon after Sofia’s birth over one year back, MB agreed with Lebanese parents R&E that he would chronicle Sofia’s life in the years ahead. She is the firstborn to R&E, and to date is not joined by additional siblings. On 10 February 2018, she was one year old. Already Sofia has been the subject of three of MB’s past blog posts, the most recent being a post on her Christian baptism.
R&E, continue to work in peaceful and prosperous Doha, Qatar, and are building a new house back in their Koura/north Lebanon home region where they and Sofia will one day return. The shell of the house is now complete and the more expensive internal finishings will soon start. Architect mom R will spend her 2-week August vacation painting arty pictures on the internal walls, as she informed MB in recent days.
The Middle East continues to provide a crazy backdrop to Sofia’s early life. Syria and Yemen remain in war-ravaged chaos. Neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan struggle financially and socially under the weight of displaced Syrian war refugees. Lower level extremist violence continues in Iraq and elsewhere. Qatar, where MB & R&E abide, remains under a non-sensical travel and economic blockade by (unneighbourly) neighbours UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt. There is no end in sight to that particular saga. Recent comments from a senior Saudi politician maintained the high temperature, commenting that if the US closed its Qatar air base, Qatar would not last long, implying a Saudi-led invasion. The US, UK & France bombed Syrian government installations only a few weeks back in response to an alleged gas attack by the Syrian government on a rebel-controlled Damascus suburb. MB says ‘alleged’ on account of the fact that there is no actual proof, and international inspectors have not yet released their findings. An Independent newspaper article by reporter Robert Fisk makes for interesting reading in that regard.
Sofia remains oblivious to all the regional nonsense that goes on about her. At 13 months, she started to walk, cocking a snook of sorts to all the madness. A few weeks back, she travelled back home with mom R to visit happy grandparents and extended family. MB’s first below photo was provided by mom R from that trip. The second is from her recent birthday party.
Belated 1st birthday wishes to Miss Sofia from MB!
Posted on August 20, 2017
Posted on April 12, 2017
MB is playing catch-up with last weeks photo challenge!
There is security in numbers, it is said. This applies to camels as much as humans, a fact proven by numerous studies throughout the Middle East. There is, for example, no known incident of a male lion attacking a large pack of camels. True!
The below photo, demonstrates the typical herd shape adopted by a camel pack. The roadsign on the left warns the public that a pack of camels is likely to cross at any time. True!
Posted on March 31, 2017
MB is departing the money laundering capital of planet earth (Switzerland) in the coming hours and will arrive in the Doha (Qatar), the ‘richest locals’ capital of planet earth, in the early morning hours.
In case MB’s recent camel pics have given followers the impression that Doha is some quaint one-camel sand-blown dusty outback desert town, it’s not.
This MB phone-shot is from the ‘West Bay’ area of Doha, where many Westies like to live.
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 December 18, 2016
Today, 18 December, is National Day in Qatar and it’s a public holiday. We can describe it, for the benefit and explanation of HX non-Arab followers, as a sort of Islamic/Arab St Patrick’s Day. 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 April 10, 2016
MB has stacks of pics in his photo library. So for next few months MB will scatter some of those pics around his blog posts. Time doesn’t permit much story writing at the moment so the pics will just have to do until circumstances permit otherwise.
The is a large bird market area in age Souq Waif in Doha, Qatar. Whatever about the rights and wrongs of such a place, it’s a very interesting part of the souq.
Posted on December 17, 2015
Qatar National Day is tomorrow, 18 December 2015.
The flags are out. The purple & white. And many photos of the ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and the former ruler until June 2013, his dad Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
Took a few shots at the Souq Waqif in Doha last weekend.
Mabruk al yaum Qatar!