Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Middle East Oil and Militant Islam
1. About Islam
I am straying somewhat from the energy aspects of my blog. However, my followers need to understand the geopolitical crisis that is becoming more and more serious with each passing day. I think my four decades of involvement with Arab Moslems gives my remarks a pretty good degree of credence. The fact that I remain in close contact with other Arab watchers along with citizens of Moslem countries adds still more credence to my statements and conclusions about the likelihood of an “Arab winter”. I am convinced the “Arab spring” is over! Yes, but I hope I am wrong.
Within the past month, I have made overseas calls to several of my Turkish and Lebanese friends. You may think what I am going to summarize about those conversations is hearsay since I will not name the individuals. Why not name them? I believe naming them could put them in danger. One I spoke with is a longtime personal friend who had just returned from the Middle East on Saturday (Oct. 15th) after a stay of six months. Another friend who is in the public relations department of ARAMCO Services was contacted about the stability of the Saud regime. A Turkish friend of almost 50 years gave me some sound information regarding military situation on the Syrian border. Just yesterday, I talked to an American drilling contractor who operates in the Middle East. Each one reported that al-Qaida and other militant Islamic organizations are expanding throughout the Middle East. Obama’s “The Al-Qaida is defeated” is false. Forget about names, just refer to them as Islamic militant organizations.
With the caveats out of the way, let’s get on with the subject. I have been concerned about the Saud regime in Saudi Arabia for some time, so I spoke with an old friend at ARAMCO Services. He explained that efforts were underway by ARAMCO and the Saud regime in an effort to resolve existing religious/political differences between the Shias in the Eastern province and the Sunnis who make up the larger majority in Saudi Arabia. This effort also includes Bahrain Island, which is Shia. He appeared to have guarded optimism about the outcome.
Westerners do not have an appreciation of today’s Middle East problems. This demands a certain knowledge about the geography and culture that exist in the region. For better understanding, we must include history, politics and religion, otherwise we cannot contemplate the serious implications of the coming “Arab winter”.
We must not forget that the Arab culture existed long before Muhammad arrived on the scene in the 7th century to form the Islamic faith. By the time Muhammad died on June 8, 632 AD after a short illness, he had achieved a great deal. This new religion he brought to the world was grounded in monotheism and its ethical doctrines. Muhammad’s religion rose far above the paganism it replaced. Following the Prophet’s death there was a great awakening of the Arab people on political, social and moral issues. However, even during his lifetime there was a series of false prophets whose activities were in part imitation, but in part parallel to Muhammad’s teachings.
It is important to realize Muhammad’s teachings were the foundation for the Islam that became a world power. The empire reached its zenith in the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries. Moreover, for a few centuries that followed it was the guiding light of a large part of the world. Governing this vast empire created many problems that were far greater than those faced during the Prophet’s life. The Qur’an (Koran) established the word of God which was the authoritative guide to Islamic conduct – they were the practices and utterances of the Prophet. The record of these are preserved as traditions (Hadith in Arabic) and within a few generations after the Prophet’s death, a huge number of Hadith were collected. One would think that a careful enumeration of its authorities would be a reliable source. However, one must remember that the Hadith did not begin until several generations after Muhammad’s death. Obviously, during this period, there were ample opportunities and motives to falsify the record. The fallibility of human memory throws doubt on any evidence that was orally transmitted, especially when the period exceed a hundred years.
As the empire expanded a series of new social, political, legal and religious problems, and concepts found their way into Islamic thought. These problems arose from conquered people, along with fresh ideas and solutions that got projected backwards into the mouth of the Prophet as the Hadith became more and more fabricated. During this period violent internal conflict arose between families, factions, and sects within the Islamic fold. As you can see this has created the divisions and sects within Islam.
So what is Islam? Western prejudice is only one of the difficulties that must be addressed before the Westerner can understand Islam. Generally speaking, the Westerner believes Islam describes a religion of the Koran or the religion of a billion people. Furthermore, some think of it as an opiate developed by exploiters of the common people to keep them in subjugation. However, these explanations are very different from what the devoted Moslem believes. Islam is the true religion with God, and God is Islam. To the Arab, the Moslem religion is a way of life. It is not just a private matter, that only touches the periphery of their lives. It manifests itself both privately and publicly, and permeates the whole fabric of societal consciousness. In short, it is an 'all in one' doctrine – theological dogma, political theory, and a code of conduct. It is all inclusive even to establishing rules for hygiene and etiquette. In a word – Islam means completely surrendering oneself to God, and man’s whole strength lies in resigned submission to God.
Westerners do not accept that Islam attempts to express a vision of the world which is not very different from that of Christianity and Judaism. However, there is a real difference, Islam is a religion of a whole community. Further, it demands that it must be the religion of the community’s political and intellectual leaders. The ordinary Moslem believes there is no point in trying to argue about these differences with Christians. On the other hand, educated Moslems are beginning to feel that Islam and Christianity are on the same side in the spiritual struggles that lie before humanity. Even so, the two religions are very often on opposite sides politically.
Remember, we have not yet discussed the character and role of Islamic militancy in today’s world. Militant Moslems have created a great schism within Islam. Our next blog will try to explain the complexity of Islamic militancy.