SHAFAQNA – Plagued by the poison the Black Flag army has dispensed onto the land, Iraq remains a nation very much at war – fragmented in its lands, torn apart in its ethno-sectarian make-up … occupied still by the powers that be, that and won’t let go, Iraq has not yet spoken its last.
If Iraq does not yet breath peace and unity, it is nevertheless learning to think, and imagine itself the nation-state it always was, and forgot to be – all because one of Shiite Islam most devoted sons held vigil in Najaf.
For those who know their history, and recognize in Najaf both the capital city of Islam’s First Imam, and the resting place of Islam’s greatest martyr – the very soul the last prophet of God raised upon his blessed shoulders so that he, Ali ibn Abutalib would reach to the Heavens, Najaf seems indeed an evident choice.
If Kufa was indeed Imam Ali’s political capital, it is Najaf he chose for his last resting place … after murderous hands dared raised a sword against Islam’s Sword.
A holy city among holy cities, a beacon of hope, salvation and true allegiance, Najaf has always stood an island over the tumult of worldly affairs, a shrine, and a protection against the pettiness of men. There, behind the walls of its mosques, its schools and its libraries, the greatest religious minds of our ages have flourished and shun forth a light, which time only elevated, never to dim.
A jewel of Shia Islam, Najaf sits a beating spiritual light – a symbol of time long gone, a reminder of a leadership lost, a witness to the Words, a custodian still to Ahlulbayt tradition, a keeper of the oath once given.
A city of Islam, Najaf bows to no one but God. A city of Islam, Najaf guards the shrine of Islam’s First Imam, he, who stands the gate to Knowledge itself.
It is there, in Najaf, the city which witnessed the last breath of our Imam, that a teacher would come and forever change the fate of Iraq. Fate would have it, that his own mind was moulded to the teachings of yet another brilliant son of Najaf, Ayatollah Abul Qassim al-Khoei.
In hindsight, it seems only natural … In hindsight it appears evident that just as Najaf towered over the Islamic world under the leadership of Imam Ali, for his faith was true, and bore no equal; that, as hordes descend onto Iraq to swallow Islam whole, Imam Ali’s followers would oppose a resistance, and a might only Najaf could inspire.
From his religious retreat in Najaf, a quiet figure in Iraq’s broken socio-political landscape, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has risen a giant among the people, together a guide and an inspiration for those who still hold Freedom as their God given right.
But how much is actually known of the Grand Ayatollah’s role in inspiring Iraq back to unity? What knowledge do we truly entertain of the cleric, who singlehandedly demonstrated what true Resistance can achieve, when anchored in Islam?
While Ayatollah Sistani’s character differ from that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the forefather of Iran Islamic Revolution, in both those clerics it is Shia Islam purest voice which speaks – it is the teachings of Imam Ali, Imam al-Hasan, and Imam al-Husayn which echo still; each to its own particular light, but all from the same source.
But how could one man imprint so much onto a country? A country at war at that …
For a secular mind such a question remains impenetrable. To those who understand and know Islam for the wisdom it offers, the ethical model it champions, and the Freedom it fiercely guards, and forever strive to promote, Ayatollah Sistani’s role in pulling Iraq out of the precipice it was heading toward, was easily foreseeable.
There is great power in Islam, and much of its source is rooted in the very Resistance which the Prophet Muhammad presented, and which his progeny then lived by, and for.
A man of God whose life purpose has been to serve the divine, and the divine alone, Ayatollah Sistani has inspired generations of men, and women to reach further out from their station, so that they would also find purpose in their submission to God. There lies a concept seculars and liberals fail to grasp.
A Justice onto the world Islam offers Freedom in Submission to God. But there could never be real Freedom without absolute Submission, and only through Submission can one rise truly Free.
Freedom comes at a cost though – just as submission does, since one can only bow to God’s will and find Liberty in the exercise of His Commands. It is from this desire to serve God which resistance was first born.
Resistance in Islam is first enounced in Muslims’ declaration of faith, when testament is made that there is only One God, and that Muhammad is His prophet. Behind those words lies a Truth which suffers no association, no challenge, no contention. In the service of this Truth, and this ideal, Resistance is worship … and worship becomes an act of Resistance.
It is Ayatollah Sistani’s faith, his submission, his devotion, and his strengthen dedication to Islam’s purest tradition which allowed for Resistance to rise a rampart once more against those who seek destruction as their daily bread.
Before the evil of Daesh, before the clamours of those new Kharijites, Ayatollah Sistani offered but the certainty of a life spent in Islam’s light.
It was his call, not that of Baghdad which millions answered as if one.
It is under his impetus, and not that of Iraq political seat of power, that Iraq was pulled from the abyss.
It is his voice, his rallying cry, and the trust he put in all Iraqis which echoed a fierce wind of resistance throughout the scorched nation. If Iraq fell an orphan to the clutch of Wahhabism, it is as a free, united nation it rose against its invaders.
Beyond creeds, ethnicities and political affiliations, Iraq was forged once more before the shrine of its Imam. And while it was Ali’s followers again who answered first the call of their brethren, it is Iraq as a united, yet pluralist body which pledged its allegiance to the flag.
Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s commands it needs to be said, came not by way of force, or obligation – but injunction.
A servant of Shia Islam, it is the Grand Ayatollah’s respect of men’s innate freedom of choice which compelled millions.
A leader at the service of his people … of all people, it is ultimately Ayatollah Sistani’s character which commanded respect, called for loyalty, and inspired true nationalism.
A light today has been awaken in Najaf … a light similar to that which was brought forth to Iran … the same light which has defined, fed, and sustained Islam: Justice.
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna