According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Sunni-Shiite Divide Explained With Extremely Useful Maps And Timelines, Part 1

In the currency of global discussion and dialogue it is always appropriate that one attempts to understand nationalities and heritages foreign to our own Westernized cultures here in America. Part of that discussion must include an appreciation and respect for the Islamic culture around the world in this day-and-age of pluralistic, cross-cultural communications of religions, languages, tribal relationships, and racial ethnicities. Without a bare minimum of knowledge in these venues it would be hopeless to assume any rational discussions with one another as responsible/responsive global citizens to an increasingly smaller world laced with technology, economic, ecologic, and civil concerns.

Huffington Post recently published a brief history between the Sunni and Shiite Muslim populations that may help connect current events within the larger palette of civil wars, global terrorism, tension, and turmoil. In hopes of providing more concrete discussion these few historical vignettes are here repeated to help enlarge the scope of world events and their connectedness to the past, present, and future relations with the Western World's plethora of democracies and capitalistic activities of commercialism.

As we well know, the present will always challenge our ideas of the past and future. That nothing stays the same for long. And that the past can never be returned to. What the present demands of us is that we become willing, and capable, observers of our present times while learning to use practical common sense, a large dose of goodwill, and an even larger dose of learning to listen better to one another. What we think we have heard or understand may not necessarily be the full embodiment of the ideas presented to us. That doubting our position and ideas might will help towards cementing better accord with religious groups far different from our own sense of God, faith, worship, and conduct.

In essence, we are to be peacemakers in a world going mad. Humble servants to one another where only brutality and oppression exist. Thoughtful providers of life-giving streams that might better defeat ignorance, corruption, greed, and ignoble pride. Looking back on world history these pleas seem hopelessly misplaced when trying to imagine a world greater than itself. And yet, if one doesn't dream or imagine peace and goodwill, respect and grace, than the world cannot continue under the domain of humanity. Its end result will be annihilation and destruction as befitting its senseless species and foolish pride.


R.E. Slater
July 28, 2014

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Mark 9:50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

Romans 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

James 3:18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

continue to -

CFR map link

CFR link

The Sunni-Shiite Divide Explained With Extremely Useful Maps And Timelines

The Huffington Post | By Yasmine Hafiz
Posted: 07/27/2014 9:18 am EDT Updated: 07/27/2014 9:59 am EDT

"If we want to understand the Middle East, if we want to understand why conflicts are happening the way they are, and how these conflicts may be resolved, we cannot take our eyes of the Shiite-Sunni conflict, says Vali R. Nasr, Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in a video from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

The Sunni-Shia Divide

The video is part of an interactive infoguide produced by CFR, that is an in-depth look at the roots of a divide which is at the heart of many of the violent conflicts currently engulfing the Middle East.

"The Shiite-Sunni divide is a political and religious divide around who was the rightful heir after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad in early Islam. Yes, it's remote history, going back to the seventh century, but for millions of Muslims around the world, it's what defines them- sectarianism," says Ed Husain, adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR, in the overview.

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Take a look back at the origins of the schism with this interactive timeline...

The Battle of Karbala

The Battle of Karbala

Timeline: Origins of the Sunni-Shia Schism

Early Muslims split into two camps following the death of the Prophet Mohammed. This chronology explains how the sects evolved from 632 until the late twentieth century. (Photo: Abbas Al-Musavi/Brooklyn Museum).

632 AD
Combat between Ali ibn Abi Talib and Amr Ben Wad near Medina in Arabia.
(Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection/Brown Library)

The Death of Mohammed

Early followers of Islam are divided over the succession of the Prophet Mohammed, who founded the religion in Arabia. Prominent members of the community in Mecca elect Abu Bakr, a companion of Mohammed, with objections from those who favor Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law. Ali eventually becomes caliph, or ruler of the Islamic community, in 656, and is assassinated in 661 after a power struggle with the governor of Damascus, Mu’awiya. Mu’awiya claims the caliphate and founds the Umayyad dynasty, which rules the Muslim empire from Damascus until 750.

661 AD
Painting of Ali being designated as the Prophet Mohammed’s successor.
(University of Edinburgh)

The Early Shias

The partisans of Ali, or shi’atu Ali, grow discontented after the murder of their leader in 661. They reject the authority of the caliphs during the Umayyad dynasty, which rules over an expanding empire stretching from Pakistan through northern Africa to Spain. Shias argue that the legitimate leaders of Islam must be the sons of Ali and Fatima, Mohammed’s daughter. Husayn, one of Ali’s sons, eventually leads a revolt from Kufa, in modern-day Iraq.

661 - 1258 AD
Map of the Ummayad Caliphate in 750. (Courtesy University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin)

Umayyad and Abbasid Dynasties Target Shias

Umayyads, and later Abbasids, who replace the Umayyads and rule from Baghdad after 750, oppress and kill the successors of Husayn, known as Imams, who pose a political threat to Sunni caliphs. The sixth Shia Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq, orders his followers to hide their true beliefs for the survival of the faith. Shia branches such as Ismaili and Zaydi emerge from different interpretations of succession for Imams. The Sunni caliphate becomes hereditary.

680 AD
Painting commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn. (Abbas Al-Musavi/Brooklyn Museum)

The Battle of Karbala

Yazid, the Umayyad ruler, dispatches an army to crush the Kufa revolt. A battle in Karbala, north of Kufa, ends with the massacre of Husayn and many of his companions. Husayn's martyrdom and its moral lessons help shape Shia identity, and the sect grows despite the murder of its leaders. Husayn’s death is commemorated by Shias during the annual ritual of Ashura, which includes practices, such as self-flagellation, that are distinct from Sunni Islam.

939 AD
Shia pilgrims gather at a shrine in Kerbala, Iraq.
(Mushtaq Muhammed/Courtesy Reuters)

Occultation of the Mahdi

Most Shias today are Twelvers. They believe that the line of Imams continued to the twelfth Imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, or the guided one, who entered a state of occultation, or hiddenness, in 939. Shias expect the Mahdi to return at the end of time. Sunni Islam becomes a broad umbrella term for non-Shia Muslims who are united on the importance of the Quran and practices of Mohammed, though they may differ in legal opinion.

969 AD
Visitors at a shrine in Cairo believed to hold Husayn’s head.
(Mohammed Aly Sergie)

Fatimids: The First Shia Dynasty

Ismailis, who break off from the Twelver line after the sixth Imam, take control of Egypt and large parts of North Africa and expand to western Arabia and Syria, creating the Fatimid dynasty. The Fatimids, who assume the titles of both imam and caliph, establish al-Azhar Mosque, which centuries later becomes the intellectual center of Sunni Islam. The Shia Fatimid caliphate fades in the twelfth century, and the Ismaili community spreads to Yemen, Syria, Iran, and western India.

1268 AD
The Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus (Wikipedia link)

Ibn Taymiyya in Damascus

By the ninth century, Sunnis adhere to four schools of Islamic jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, and Hanbali. Ibn Taymiyya, a religious scholar, moves to Damascus in 1268 and studies the Hanbali school, which condemns Shias as rafidha, or rejecters of the faith. He preaches a return to the purity of Islam in its early days. Ibn Taymiyya opposes celebrating Mohammed’s birthday and other practices that resemble Christian and pagan rituals. His ideas help shape Wahhabi and Salafi thought centuries later.

1501 AD
Painting of an early battle in the Safavid Dynasty by Mu'in Musavvir.
(Freer and Sackler, Smithsonian Institution)

Safavid Dynasty and the Rise of Shias in Persia

Ismail, leader of the Safavid dynasty, defeats the Mongols and brings the territories of former Persian empires under central authority, including modern-day Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. Shi’ism becomes the official religion of the Safavids and is often spread through force. As the Safavid dynasty declines in the eighteenth century, the power of Shia clergy in civil affairs grows in Iran.

1639 AD
Murad IV, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1623 to 1640. (Public Domain/Wiki Commons)

Ottomans Conquer Iraq

Safavids briefly gain control of Iraq, an Arab territory, but lose it in 1639 to the Ottomans, who claim the title of the Sunni caliphate in Turkey. The Ottoman–Safavid wars eventually establish the modern contours of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Shia Islam dominates Iran, and Shia Muslims in Turkey are killed or displaced, shifting the demography in favor of Sunnis, a development that makes both these countries far more homogenous than their neighbors.

1703 AD
The renovated mosque of Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab in Riyadh.Mohammad Nowfal Areekode

Wahhabi Islam Emerges in Arabia

Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab establishes a religious movement on the Arabian peninsula in the eighteenth century steeped in the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam. Wahhabis, as his followers are known, preach a puritanical faith that puts them in conflict with other Sunnis as well as Shias. Wahhabi fighters desecrate the shrine of Husayn in Karbala and destroy Mohammed’s tombstone in Medina. They join Mohammed bin Saud to found the first Saudi kingdom, which is defeated by Ottoman forces in the early nineteenth century.

1916 AD
The Sykes-Picot Agreement. (The National Archives, United Kingdom)
Wikipedia link

Sykes–Picot and the End of the Caliphate

The secret Sykes-Picot agreement is reached between France and the United Kingdom to divide the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, which has been in decline and weakens further during World War I. Colonial rulers elevate minorities to powerful positions in Iraq and Syria, a policy which later contributes to sectarian tensions in these countries. Tempering these tensions are new ideas of secularism and nationalism that sweep through the Turkish and Arab province of the former Ottoman Empire. The newly founded secular Republic of Turkey abolishes the caliphate in 1924. In the Arab world, identity politics stressing pan-Arabism and a unity among Muslims helps mute sectarianism, especially during the fight for independence against the European powers.

1932 AD
King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud (seated) with his son, crown prince Saud.

Saud Dynasty Establishes a Kingdom

Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud and his army of Wahhabi warriors consolidate control of the Arabian peninsula and form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. During the founding battles, fighters attack fellow Sunnis in western Arabia and Shias in eastern Arabia and southern Iraq. Wahhabi preachers go on to dominate the kingdom’s judiciary and education system, and their teachings are spread first in Saudi Arabia and then internationally as the country grows wealthy from its large oil resources. The rise of Wahhabi and the related Salafi branches of Islam fuels Sunni-Shia tensions today.

1947 AD
Mohammad Ali Jinnah
(Getty Images/Time & Life Pictures/Margaret Bourke-White)

The Birth of Pakistan

India’s struggle for independence includes an Islamic awakening, resulting in the creation of Pakistan in the partition of India at the end of British rule. The Sunni-majority country is founded by a Shia, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who emphasizes the need for a secular Pakistan where all citizens are equal irrespective of "religion or caste or creed." Pakistanis elect prime ministers from both sects. But the Islamization of the state, promoted by Saudi Wahhabi clerics, accelerates after army chief General Zia ul-Haq, a Sunni, seizes power in 1978. Sectarian violence escalates after the 1980s.

1959 AD
Al-Azhar Mosque in the old Islamic area of Cairo.

Al-Azhar Mosque in the old Islamic area of Cairo.

Sectarian Harmony: The Azhar Fatwa

Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltut, the rector of Cairo's al-Azhar Mosque, which Sunnis view as the preeminent religious institution, issues a religious ruling, or fatwa, that recognizes Shia law as the fifth school of Islamic jurisprudence. After decades of colonialism and then secular nationalism, many Sunni and Shia religious authorities throughout the Muslim world unite to confront these common threats. This harmony is tarnished as secular states weaken.

1963 AD
Syrian president Hafez al-Assad in 1973. (Getty)

Ba’ath Rule Begins in Syria

Syria’s first years of independence are riddled with coups until Ba’athists in the military seize power in 1963. The Ba’ath Party, popular in Iraq and Syria, promotes a secular, pan-Arab, socialist ideology and is hostile to Islamists. Hafez al-Assad, a Ba’ath leader and member of the heterodox Shia sect known as Alawis, takes power in 1970 and rules until his death in 2000, after more than a thousand years of Sunni dominance in Syria. His son Bashar continues to rule the country amid civil war in 2014.

1976-1989 AD

Lebanese Civil War

Lebanon experiences a sectarian civil war that (with important exceptions at various times) pits the Christian minority that has held political power since independence in 1943 against the Muslim majority. Syria intervenes in the fighting in 1976 and Israel intervenes in 1982. After the Israeli intervention, Iran sponsors the establishment of a Shia Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, which over time becomes the most powerful force in Lebanese politics. Under pressure from Hezbollah, Israel withdraws its last forces from Lebanon in 2000.

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