Makkenijad on Gaza and the Mulims

3377291578 Even though there is no central authority that speaks for Islam, there are times and places when  an authoritative Doctor of Religious Sciences (of Islam) speaks for Islam; i.e. his legal opinion becomes the de facto position of Muslims everywhere.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement of 12/28/2008 is one such case.  You can find the text @  His statement characterizes the  Israel-Hamas War as the analogue of the wars of the Prophet against the idol-worshippers of Mecca.  With a few words, Mr. Khamenei has shaped the Muslim view of the Israel-Hamas War for years, if not decades, to come.

No Muslim political leader can challenge his statement , for doing so now will be tantamount to going against Islam.  No religious leader – Shia or Sunni – will dispute his statement.   

Here is Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia (a moderate according to the common US-EU usage of that term) in a speech at the opening of the 6-th (Persian) Gulf Forum on January 6th, “The Bush administration has left you (with) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza…Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza.”

In my opinion, Israel has now blundered into an implicit war with Islam.  Mr. Khamenei’s statement has closed the door to any peace plan along the lines of Oslo, Taba, the Quartet, Tony Blair, etc.  All that is now even theoretically possible is a Hudna – a long cease-fire.  A separate Syria-Israel peace track is no longer possible since the Alawite Elders will not go against the rest of Islam by having Syria conclude a separate peace treaty with Israel.

Which brings me to my final opinion: even a Hudna will presently require the formation of a Concert of Middle East or some such.

Babak Makkenijad

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18 Responses to Makkenijad on Gaza and the Mulims

  1. Fred says:

    I read this translation as “I ask…” and the ending ” … and I call on the government officials to fulfill their duties with regard to this tragic event. ”
    Fulfill thier duties, which is a term that is certainly open to interpretation. If memory serves I believe prior postings here indicated that a Hudna was all that could be expected from Hamas (or Hezbollah).

  2. FB Ali says:

    I think Babak Makkinejad greatly overstates his case. Ayatullah Khamenei is the premier religious authority in Iran, but he does not hold sway even over all Shias; there are other ayatollahs (Khomeni of Iraq, for example), and they have their own followers. Khamenei’s pronouncements carry no religious authority in the Sunni world. Of course, since what he says generally represents the feelings of Muslims everywhere, his words will meet with approval among all of them.
    Babak is also exaggerating considerably when he says, “With a few words, Mr. Khamenei has shaped the Muslim view of the Israel-Hamas War for years, if not decades, to come”. Muslims throughout the world have always empathized with the Palestinians in their troubles, as fellow-Muslims being subjected to gross injustice and suffering at the hands of the Israelis. They do not think of this as some epic religious conflict between Islam and Judaism, in spite of religious preachers everywhere regularly trying to frame the conflict in such terms in their sermons and ‘fatwas’. Khamenei’s is only the most recent prominent attempt.
    It is only a small minority in the Muslim world that believes that the struggle of Muslims everywhere for justice and ‘a place in the sun’ (including the struggle against their own ruling elites) is a religious struggle, a ‘jihad’. That is why the vast majority of Muslims, while agreeing with many of the goals of the ‘jihadis’, do not approve of and support many of their tactics (whose bloody and indiscriminate nature the ‘jihadis’ seek to justify on religious grounds).
    As for Prince Turki al-Faisal’s speech, I would not attach too much significance to it. Members of the ruling elites throughout the Muslim world are all saying the same sort of thing, while not lifting a finger to help the Palestinians. These people, and especially the Saudis, are masters at such hypocrisy.

  3. mo says:

    FB is right. Babak is certainly overstating the importance of the speech. While what he says is the feeling of the majority of the Muslim, especialy Arab Muslim, world, nothing he says will make it the de facto position of most Sunnis. Furthermore, if the Sunni leaders were really bothered they would get some of the crony sheikhs to issue statements opposed to Khamenei’s which would then make that the de facto position for those countries. Any Sunni leader or Sheikh can do it.
    It is odd that Babak should state that Israel has now blundered into an implicit war with Islam. I remember arguing with him on this very point on this blog. His pov if I remember correctly was that the Arab-Israeli war was already a religious one, a point I vehemently disagreed with.
    Has he closed any doors with his speech? I don’t think he’s even gotten near the door. The lackeys and craven excuses of humanity that the lead the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq will keep that door wide open.
    More pertinently though, Israel has not blundered into a war with Islam now. Technically, it did that in 82 when it created Hizballah. And it is Islam that is the only thing that is standing between Israel and its longed for surrender, excuse me peace treaty, vis-a-vis the Palestinians and the Arabs. Long after they killed off Arab nationalism they now have to contend with Islamic parties. It is no coincidence that the it is Hamas, Hizballah, the Brotherhood and Iran that are the most demonised in the West. It is also no coincidence that they are the most successful.
    And all that was ever possible was a hudna (I believe I said that on my first ever post). And if the Israelis were clever they would take it – But they are not. They will always follow the philosophy of oderint dum metuant.
    As for Turki, I think FB is slightly off. He tried to get the Bush administration to talk to Iran but was ousted from his position in the royal court by Bandar. When the Saudi king came to power, the Arab world expected a lot as he was a vocal Arab nationalist. But when Abdulah turned westward, Turki didn’t follow and paid the price.

  4. Lysander says:

    I think Babak makes a valid point. The Muslim masses now see as clear as the summer sun who is a collaborator and who is a resistor. Hamas, a Sunni organization representing a Primarily Sunni nation of people is under deep threat and the Only ones speaking up for them are Shiite Iran and Shiite Hizbullah, along with (Allawite) Syria.
    Even before Gaza, the sense in Egypt and eleswhere was that the job of Mubarak and his ilk is to keep the masses in line. They work for the west not for their nations and their only goal is to keep themselves feeding at the trough. And they do not care who is slaughtered.
    Khamenei has stated clearly to the masses “I am one of you. We are on your side. Your own governments, are with them.”
    Now the masses in Saudi Arabia may be too anti Shiite to hear the message, but let me assure you that the Sunni masses in Egypt are hearing Khamenei and they like what he is saying. And they see he is backing up his word. He is standing up to the west re: his nuclear program, through his support for Hizbullah and through his material support for Palestine and Hamas.
    The contrast between himself and Mubarak couldn’t be more clear, and with time the people will side with him.

  5. Jose says:

    I’ll keep my imaginative speculation from an early post, that perhaps the true goal here is greater than Gaza or the West Bank.
    Egypt was once rules by Shi’ite and perhaps will so in the future.
    The Mubarak push to Westernized has yield little, if any returns the Egyptian mass.
    The process has started in Syria:
    Hopefully, someone with more experience than myself, can explain if it is working or not.

  6. jr786 says:

    Al wala wa’l bara.
    If the cause of Palestine could become an issue for Muslims then a lot more could be done. To help Gazans, all Palestinians, must be wajiib for all Muslims as Muslims – not as Arabs, or Iranians, or Pakistanis.
    From what I hear and see Saudi citizens have always been strong supporters of Palestine. Their support is independent of Turki’s real or imagined hypocrisy.
    My mosque has already raised lot of money for Palestine since this began. Privately people ask money for other people and no one is denied. The actions of the munafiqun who ‘lead’ the Arabs are obvious to all.

  7. YT says:

    I cannot claim expertise on this region’s affairs. But I do suggest “The Clash of Fundamentalisms”, by Tariq Ali. (Verso Books)

  8. jr786 says:

    Not long ago there was some talk of a nascent movement of ‘conversion’ to Shia, however absurd the idea may seem in the religous sense of the word. Politically it makes sense because of the complicity of the Arab leadership in what is essentially a crime against Muslims. So I hope the Shia continue to lead the struggle against the zionists.
    The Prophet spoke repeatedly against ‘asabiyah, yet it is the Arabs who continually refer to the Muslims of Palestine as Gazans or Palestinians. Which is why we must force the consciousness that they are Muslims to the forefront of the discussion, in my opinion.
    there are clear guidelines at what is going on and what is at stake here. I really don’t think that average Muslims are much interested in what their nominal political leaders have to say anymore.

  9. Ken Roberts says:

    Just a small question … at the end of para 5 of Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement, he cites an obligation (in quotes in the English translation), viz, “saying what is right to the oppressive leader”.
    Is that an injunction from the Quran or another authoritative source?

  10. mo says:

    I have to disagree. i don’t think Khameneis statement has closed any doors for Syria. It has merely delayed things and anything Assad was intending will be back on after a due period of time. He did after all start negotiations barely 2 years after the Lebanon war. He will only stop out of political consideration for Iran, not religious. And if he does continue talks, Im willing to bet that it will impact the Alawite community not one bit.
    In respect to the Arab-Israeli war being an Islamic-Judaeo one we differ on slightly more than dates. Your argument is that Islam is the main motivation behind Arab opposition to Israel. My point was that it is mainly the religious parties carrying the Palestinian torch now but that being opposed to coloniolism is not exclusive to the religious. For example, before Hizballah, the most effective party to fight the Israelis in lebanon was the Communists. Furthermore, the notion of this becoming a war between Judaism and Islam is something Zionist propogandists having been pushing for a long time (Not that I am accusing you of being one). It is a notion that forces Jews outside of Israel to feel that Zionism is as much their fight as Israels. You will find that even the supposed fundamentalists have a pretty clear distinction between Jewish and Zionist.

  11. ear Babak what you have written is simply wrong. If Arab leaders cannot oppose Khamenei’s comments publicly it is for solely political reasons i.e. the Arab street would go crazy and such leaders would be stripped of all credibility in the eyes of their own publics, since they would be perceived as American and Israeli stooges – an image they are always endeavoring to shed.
    First of all, Khamenei’s religious credentials are a total joke – the senior Shi’a clergy have little to no respect for him – one only has to look at the criticisms of Khamenei made by Ayatollahs Sanei, Azari-Qom, Shirazi and Montazeri to see that he has little credibility at a purely religious level – or what in the Shia world is called marja’yyat. The concept of an Ayatollah al-Uzma, or an religious scholar who is primus inter pares was itself a 18th century creation and Ayatollah Boroujerdi was the last individual to be regarded as such and he died in 1961. Even Khomeini wasn’t regarded as such and he was in fact criticized at the peak of his powers by figures such as Ayatollahs Shariatmadari and Taleqani.
    The Association of Seminary Teachers in Qom only recognized Khamenei as an Ayatollah in the early nineties because the Revolutionary Guards surrounded their offices and threatened to storm them if they refused to relent. As I’m sure you know Khamenei was a Hojjat-el Islam and “promoted” to the rank of Ayatollah in 1989 after Montazeri was pushed aside for criticizing the 1988 prison massacres of MEK members.
    Second, the notion of a Faqih and especially velayat-e faqih is very particular to Khomeini and certain authoritarian strands of Shi’a thought. No living marja’ al-taqlid accepts the doctrine of velayat-e faqih i.e. the declarations of an Islamic Jurist are equivalent to divine edicts here on earth – in fact Khomeini said that the edicts of the Faqih even override the Sacred Law i.e. Sharia, if it is in the interests of the state – evidence of Khomeini’s cognizance of Realpolitik – putting reason d’etat ahead of religious law. Finally, the very notion of a clerical hierarchy that issues edicts to be obeyed by a populace over which they rule is a unique situation and particular to Iran’s Islamic revolution and Khomeinist doctrine, but can also be said to have had its precursors in 19th century Qajar Iran e.g. the Tobacco boycott of 1891-92 etc…
    The more non-political version, where a Shia can choose to abide by the edicts if he so chooses of a noted mujtahid refers predominantly to one’s ethical and practical conduct (but also issues of worship) – which again is a completely Shia notion without any power to bind even the followers of the particular mujtahid, let alone Shia who follow another mujtahid (e.g. Sistani, whose religious credentials dwarf Khamenei’s) let alone non-Shias. Sunni thought and religious organization really have no equivalent in terms of a hierarchically structured clerical class who can (contentiously) claim a right to wield worldly power on religious grounds (i.e. as the best equipped to interpret religious law), as in the Shia case in the absence of the Mahdi, the 12th and final Imam who remains in ‘occultation’ until the end times. This is why almost all Sunni radical groups have been mobilized and initiated by laymen – from Qubt to al-Zawahiri.

  12. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Good to “see” you again.
    Thanks for jumping into the fray and debating your points.
    And a thank-you to everyone debating Babak.

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Ken Roberts:
    Please go to and select Surah Al-Tawba (number 9 on the left hand side), and use the Abdulallah Yusuf Ali’s English translation and click the “Display” button. The ayah 71 is what Mr. Khamenei is alluding to.

  14. alia says:

    Ken Roberts
    The reference is rather to a Prophetic narration (Hadith):
    A man asked: “What kind of jihad is best” The Prophet (pbuh) replied: “A word of truth spoken in front of an oppressive ruler.” (From the collection of Al-Nasa’i #4209)

  15. Ken Roberts says:

    Thank you to Alia and Babak.
    I appreciate the explanation of the Haddith, and also the excellent Quran website.

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am unaware of a similar statement from the past issued by the same type of authority, i.e. by a Muslim statesman who embodies both Spiritual & Political Authority.
    I mentioned Prince Turki’s comment as an example of the anger that is there among Muslims. He is generally considered by US & EU crowd as moderate Muslim.
    I also think that the previous such statements – if indeed there were any -had not had as receptive an audience as they do at the present time – after the demise all non-Islamic anchors: Arab Nationalism, Socialism, Seularism, etc. and the carnage in Gaza.

  17. If or is this “WAR” one of or by proxy? Perhaps but that is not likley to play out to anyone’s advantage. If the Palestinians by virtue of religion are the spearhead of Islam I wonder if they chose that role with “eyes wide open.” Cleary the ratching up in significance of this outbreak between Israel and Palestinians is so far just a ratching up in intensity one rung at a time. Personally that is a trend that does not bode well for long-term or short-term peace. By the way who speaks for the Jews with respect to Israeli military policy, by that I mean those not in Israel? No one? If religious war does it require two or only one to tango?

  18. FB Ali says:

    You are missing nothing. Every single one of the questions you asked is a valid one. And the answer to each one of them is: None whatsoever! Nothing that has been said (by Khamenei or any other Muslim leader, political or religious) makes any difference to the situation, as it exists now, as it has existed for 60 years.
    It seems that it comforts Babak to believe that the Muslim world was awaiting some clarion call to unity and arms and, now that Ayatullah Khamenei has provided it, all is changed. I have no desire to take this away from him, but it makes me uncomfortable to see you misled in this direction. There have been such clarion calls for decades, and they have meant as little in practical terms as Khamenei’s (or Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Jan 6 call to wage jihad against Israel). To read about a whole lot of other such recent calls, see
    Stick with your scepticism. It is much closer to reality than some of these flights of fancy.

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