T.E. Lawrence on his role with the Arabs

In these pages the history is not of the Arab movement, but of me in it. It is a narrative of daily life, mean happenings, little people. Here are no lessons for the world, no disclosures to shock people. It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake for history the bones from which some day a man may make history, and partly for the pleasure it gave me to recall the fellowship of the revolt. We were fond together, because of the sweep of the open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked. The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us. We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and it was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find that it was a vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did. I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty million of Semites the foundations on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts. So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made them play a generous part in events: but when we won it, it was charged against me that the British petrol royalties in Mesopotamia were become dubious, and French Colonial policy ruined in the Levant.

I am afraid that I hope so. We pay for these things too much in honour and in innocent lives. I went up the Tigris with one hundred Devon Territorials, young clean, delightful fellows, full of the power of happiness and of making women children and glad. By them one saw vividly how great it was to be their kin, and English. And we were casting them by thousands into the fire to the worst of deaths, not to win the war but that corn and rice and oil of Mesopotamia might be ours. The only need was to defeat our enemies (Turkey among them), and this was at last done in the wisdom of Allenby with less than four hundred killed, by turning to our uses the hands of the oppressed in Turkey. I am proudest of my thirty fights in that I did not have any of our own blood shed. All our subject provinces to me were not worth one dead Englishman.

For my work on the Arab front I had determined to accept nothing. The Cabinet raised the Arabs to fight for us by definite promises of self-government afterwards. Arabs believe in persons, not in institutions. They saw in me a free agent of the British Government, and demanded from me an endorsement of its written promises. So I had to join the conspiracy, and, for what my word was worth, assured the men of their reward. In our two years’ partnership under fire they grew accustomed to believing me and to think my Government, like myself, sincere. In this hope they performed some fine things but, of course, instead of being proud of what we did together, I was continually and bitterly ashamed.

It was evident from the beginning that if we won the war these promises would be dead paper, and had I been an honest adviser of the Arabs, I would have advised them to go home and not risk their lives fighting for such stuff: but I solved myself with the hope that, by leading these Arabs madly in the final victory, I would establish them, with arms in their hands, in a position assured (if not dominant) that expediency would counsel to the Great Powers a fair settlement of their claims. In other words, I presumed (seeing no other leader with the will and power) that I would survive the campaigns, and be able to defeat not merely the Turks on the battlefield, but my own country and its allies in the council-chamber. It was an immodest presumption: it is not yet clear if I succeeded: but it is clear that I had no shadow of leave to engage the Arabs, unknowing, in such hazard. I risked the fraud, on my conviction that Arab help was necessary to our cheap and speedy victory in the East, and that better we win and break our word than lose.

The dismal of Sir Henry McMahon confirmed my belief in our essential insincerity: but I could not so explain myself to General Wingate while the war lasted, since I was nominally under his orders, and he did not seem sensible of how false his own standing was. The only thing remaining was to refuse rewards for being a successful trickster and, to prevent this unpleasantness arising, I began in my reports to conceal the true stories of things, and to persuade the few Arabs, who knew to an equal reticence. In this book also, for the last time, I mean to be my own judge of what to say.

By courtesy

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Pakistan: the Geo-Political Context

Pakistan’s sensitive geo-political situation to the east of the Persian Gulf and in close proximity to Russia, China and India has given rise to it being termed a garrison state in which the military role is inevitably over-developed. Critics of militarism have seen the army as turning to its advantage enmity with India and regional Western strategic concerns, firstly derived from the Cold War and latterly the War on Terror to transform Pakistan into a permanent insecurity state. The cost of the army’s positioning and repositioning itself as the state’s predominant institution has been Pakistan’s neo-vassal status.

The fact that Pakistan was carved out of the British Indian Empire has meant that its history has been profoundly influenced by relations with its mighty neighbour Indian attitudes have been coloured by the fact that Pakistan is seen as a secessionist state; while in Pakistan there has been the abiding fear that India will seek to undo the 1947 Partition. This intensified with the breakaway of its eastern wing to form Bangladesh in 1971.

Pakistan had emerged in 1947 with its eastern and western wings divided by over 1,000 miles of Indian territory. While this geographical absurdity by no means condemned it to division, the remoteness of Dhaka from the federal capital, first in Karachi and then later in Islamabad intensified the sense of marginality of the Bengali political elites. I feel a peculiar sensation when I come from Dacca to Karachi, the Bengal Chief Minister Ataur Rahman Khan declared early in 1956; I feel physically, apart from mental feeling, that I am living here in a foreign country. I did not feel as much when I went to Zurich, to Geneva . . . or London as much as I feel here in my own country that I am in a foreign land. This perception was materially based in the different topographies, landholding structures and population densities of the two wings and the fact that over 1 in 5 of East Pakistan’s population was non-Muslim, whereas the figures for West Pakistan were less than 1 in 30. The loss of the eastern wing profoundly transformed Pakistan in terms of its demography. It also encouraged the country to look more to the Middle-East than to South Asia as its neighbourhood region in cultural and economic terms. It was not fully recognised at the time but the federal government’s use of Islamic irregulars (Razakars) drawn from the Urdu-speaking Bihari population in East Pakistan in 1971 encouraged notions of Islamic militants’ value as strategic assets in the enduring rivalry with India. Pakistan was greatly weakened in relation to India by the loss of its eastern wing, but this did not abate their enduring rivalry, which was rooted in the Kashmir issue.

While Pakistan’s territorial dispute with India over Kashmir has symbolised the distrust between the two countries over the past six decades, it also inherited another disputed border with Afghanistan. In July 1949 the Afghan parliament formally renounced the Durand Line border which the British had negotiated with Amir Abdur Rahman Khan in 1893 to demarcate the frontier of the Raj. Kabul laid claim to the territories it had lost to Pakistan. This was a serious threat because of Pakistan’s immediate post-Partition weakness and because it occurred in the context of Afghanistan’s support for ethnic Pakhtun nationalists across the Durand Line in Pakistan, who sought to create their own Pakhtunistan state. The date of 31 August was earmarked in Afghanistan as the official annual celebration of a Greater Pakhtunistan Day. The goal of a Greater Pakhtunistan was designed not only to increase the power of the Afghan state, by absorbing a Pakhtunistan area carved out of Pakistan, but to cement the ethnic dominance of Pakhtuns within it at the expense of the Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks, Kabul’s posture exacerbated Pakistan’s insecurity, which was already fevered by the 1947-8 clash with India over Kashmir. The geo-political imperative for a strong military received further encouragement. Within less than a decade of independence, Pakistan and Afghanistan became part of competing Cold War alliance systems within the region. Pakistan became a member of the US Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Although India and Afghanistan retained the fiction of non-alignment, they received increasing amounts of aid from the USSR. Soviet assistance encouraged closer ties between Kabul and New Delhi, adding a further antagonistic element to Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.

During the Cold War and the post 9/11 War on Terror,  Pakistan has found itself in the front line of an international conflict because of its geo-strategic location. Pakistan’s support was vital in the October 2001 war which removed the Taliban regime from power. It also became an important ally as NATO battled to contain the Taliban-led insurgency from 2006 onwards. By 2010-11, around 40% of all fuel and 80% of all containerised cargo for Western forces was passing through the country.

 Some authors have gone so far as to declare that Pakistan has been a prisoner of its geography. The region’s geo-politics since the 1980s have brought Pakistan economic benefits, but high costs in terms of internal instability arising from the ‘blowback effects’ of weaponization, the influx of Afghan refugees and the support afforded to militant and sectarian expressions of Islam. The US strategy of encouraging jihad in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in the early 1980s did not initiate the Pakistan state’s alliances with Islamic proxies, but it profoundly influenced their development:

  • firstly, by introducing large numbers of foreign fighters into the region;
  • secondly by flooding weapons into the country;
  • thirdly by increasing the power and influence of Pakistan’s ISI and its links with militant groups;
  • fourthly by providing a template which Pakistan was to adopt in its strategic aims to dominate post-Soviet Afghanistan and to wear down India in Kashmir.

Since 9/11 Pakistan has feared encirclement as a result of growing Indian development assistance to Afghanistan, which it had hoped to dominate itself. By the end of 2007, India was second only to the US in the provision of aid. Moreover, non-Pakhtun minorities which have traditionally looked to India for support had gained a measure of power in Hamid Karzai’s regime. The resentment this generated, fuelled the growing Taliban insurgency, for since the foundation of the modern Afghan state in the mid-eighteenth century it has been ruled by Pakhtuns, with the exception of the brief Tajik hold on power during the reign of Habibullah II and the post-Soviet presidency of Burhanuddin Rabbani. Pakistan has seen the Pakhtuns as its natural allies in Afghanistan following the decline of an irredentist Pakhtunistan threat. The policy of securing influence in Afghanistan through the backing of Pakhtun Islamic militants pre-dates the 1979 Soviet invasion, but received major Western and Saudi backing at that juncture. It has persisted to the present day with Islamabad seeing its strategic interests being served through successive Pakhtun groups of Islamist and Deobandi militant clients, ranging from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mullah Omar and the Taliban to the Haqqanis at the time of the post-2005 Taliban insurgency against the government of President Hamid Karzai.

The Tribal Areas which comprise the seven protected agencies of

  • Bajaur,
  • Khyber,
  • Khurram,
  • Mohmand,
  • Orakzai 
  • North Waziristan and
  • South Waziristan,

form a 280 mile wedge of mountainous land along this sensitive western border with Afghanistan. Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have frequently been uneasy in this region. Contemporary Afghanistan presents itself as the victim of repeated cross-border incursions by Islamic militants based in this region, but it has not always been the case of one-way traffic. The Pakistan army for example had to repel major Afghan incursions into Bajaur in 1961.

Pakistan has continued the colonial strategy of regarding the Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan as a buffer zone in which rule was indirect, with stability being provided by the Political Agent working through tribal jirgas. Further legacies were the provision for the imposition of collective punishments under the Frontier Crimes Regulations and the absence of a permanent military presence in the tribal heartland. Another historical inheritance which pre-dated the colonial era was the raising of tribal revolt by charismatic Muslim leaders in the Pakhtun tribal areas abutting Afghanistan. This tradition can be linked as far back as the jihad against the Sikh rule led by Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi (1786-1831). The Hadda Mullah’s jihads against the British in 1893 and 1897 were in response to colonial encroachment into the region. Hadda Mullah and his successors fused religious revivalism with the allegiances arising from the traditional Sufi ties between pirs and their murids.

The unanticipated ramifications of inducting Pakistani troops into the area in pursuit of foreign militants linked with Al-Qaeda will be discussed later in the volume. Suffice it to say here that home-grown militancy directed increasingly not against the Afghanistan state, but Pakistan itself, can be explained in part by the region’s continued isolation from political and socio-economic change elsewhere in the country, the sixth Five Year Plan declared the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to be the least developed area of Pakistan, with an adult literacy rate of just 15%. This has perpetuated extreme social conservatism and a history of sporadic uprisings against state encroachments led by unifying Islamic leaders. Despite a dramatic increase in educational expenditure from 2005, militancy and state counter-insurgency measures, with their attendant population displacement, resulted in the FATA annual school census report for 2009-10 revealing a dropout rate in government primary schools of 63% among boys and 77% among girls.

 Pakistan’s geo-political location provides economic possibilities as well as strategic dangers. Pakistan could form an important hub for trade and energy transmission if regional relations were improved, with the country providing interconnecting links between Iran, Afghanistan and India. New Delhi has pulled out of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project because of US disquiet, which became institutionalised in the June 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Disinvestment Act. It is signed up however to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project which was agreed at Ashgabat in December 2010. This could eventually supply 30 billion cubic metres of gas a year from the Caspian Sea region. The pipeline would have to cross strategically sensitive areas of south-eastern Afghanistan, including Helmand and  Balochistan. It would however not only provide transit route fees of up to $160 million a year, equivalent to half of its national revenue and jobs for Afghanistan, but clean fuel for both Pakistan and India. US state department officials have termed TAPI’s route as a stabilising corridor which would link regional neighbours together in economic growth and prosperity. This has been echoed by an eminent Pakistani expert, who sees TAPI as having the potential for reshaping the security discourse in South Asia’ away from conflicting geo-political rivalries to mutually beneficial ‘geo-economics.

Courtesy of:

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Muawiya the Umayyad, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain

Hasan bent down to kiss his father’s wounded brow. He then went out from the house to announce the death of their Imam to the people of Kufa. It was still Ramadan and so the streets around the great central mosque, and the aisles within, were packed with Muslims listening to the all-night recitations of the Koran that were such a feature of the holy month of fasting. Hasan had been born with a slight speech defect but he had conquered this disability to become a slow but deliberate speaker, whose measured pace was in effective contrast to his quick-tongued and fiery contemporaries. That night he described his father as a man whose acts were unrivalled and would for ever remain so. He reminded the congregation of his father’s bravery and how in battle he had often protected the Prophet with his own life. As his legal legatee, Hasan also formally reported to the people that Ali held no government loans, no treasury hoard of bullion that now needed to be returned, just a purse of 700 dirhams that he had been saving up from his salary in order to be able to acquire a servant. At the memory of the man they had now lost, fit to stand beside Abu Bakr and Omar for the absolute moral rectitude of his administration, the thirty-seven-year old Hasan found himself too moved to continue his speech. The congregation wept for him, and at the end of his father’s elegy, Ubaydallah ibn Abbas stood up and called the people to pledge their loyalty to the grandson of the bringer of good tidings, the son of the warner, the son of the summoner to God (powerful and exalted) and with his permission, the shining lamp. The congregation needed no such prompting, Hasan was adored by all.

He was also, by all accounts, the spitting image of his grandfather, and a charming conversationalist, who never spoke evil of any man. He was also a genuine ascetic, who had already performed the pilgrimage twenty-five times, travelling the whole 250 miles between Medina and Mecca on foot. He was one of the great unsung heroes of Islam, a pacifist, a scholar with a totally independent mind that looked to the true nature of a cause. Typically it was Hasan who had stood guard over Uthman’s door until rendered unconscious by the assaults of the mutineers. For despite his own father’s opposition to Uthman’s last six years of rule, Hasan had always looked beyond the day to day disagreements over policy and appointments. He had appreciated Uthman’s brilliant achievements and also had a personal sympathy for this gentle, clever, scholarly man and could empathise with the personal reticence of his aristocratic and uxorious uncle. Above all, Hasan shared with Uthman an innate understanding that mercy, forgiveness and compassion were at the root of Islam. His Islam was such that he desired neither evil nor harm to anyone and enormously admired Uthman for being prepared to die for his beliefs but not to cause the death of any man. When he preached, he summoned up, out of the teachings of the Koran, not a cause for war but the call for peace. Again and again he stressed that the lesser jihad, the armed struggle, should be just a preparation for the greater jihad which was the lifelong struggle to master oneself. He quoted Sura 2, verse 216, God has prescribed the jihad for you though it is a loathsome duty.

Hasan was ahead of his time in his vision of Islam as religion of peace-perhaps he would still be if he were with us now. The soldiers of the Kufa garrison, the same men who had refused to fight for his father on the fourth day of Siffin and after that tragic day at Nahrawan, now angrily demanded he lead them to war.

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Those two decades of endless victories when the Arab armies had conquered half the known world had introduced a very dangerous imbalance into early Islam. For far too many young Muslims had grown used to the idea that their faith would be reflected in military victory. They erroneously saw glorious triumphs in this world, fame, glory and wealth as proofs of the rightness of Islam. They could no longer understand that Muhammad’s message was entirely about the individual’s relationship to God and was not a charmed banner under which they were destined to conquer the world.

In vain did Hasan preach that like all true Muslims they should aspire to abandon worldly ambition, that shame is better than hellfire and that he sought not a worldly dominion but to seek the favour of God, and to spare the blood of the people. Instead the soldiers began to publicly abuse their prince until they had worked up their passions into a riot. Hasan’s house was looted, his prayer mat was ripped from underneath him and his tunic pulled from his shoulders. Only the protection of the mounted warriors of the Rabi tribe, devoted partisans of Ali and his family, stopped Hasan from being martyred that day. The violence only made Hasan absolutely determined to end the schism within Islam and halt any further bloodshed between Muslims.

Muawiya for his part moved with speed and tact, once he began to fully appreciate that Hasan was not indulging in some per-fight propaganda but was genuinely seeking lasting peace. He led his army out of Syria, but showed a gracious forbearance to his opponents as he advanced ever closer to Kufa and Basra. He responded to Hasan’s pious modesty by dropping all his own claims to imposing titles of power, so that the correspondence between the two over the peace was simply addressed between Hasan ibn Ali and Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan. Another chronicler recorded that Muawiya sent his seal already attached to a completely blank draft of the proposed treaty – so that Hasan could fill in whatever terms he desired. These charming gestures may well have occurred, a public duel in chivalry, even if no one was in any doubt of the true issues at hand. Hasan agreed to relinquish all authority to Muawiya in exchange for an agreement not to harm any of the supporters of Ali, and to govern by the book of God and the example of the Prophet. This he would do by letter and by word, explaining to the congregation in the Kufa mosque that he had ceded his right to rule for the best interest of the community and for the sake of sparing blood. Muawiya acknowledged that the reign would belong to Hasan after him (although this would soon be quietly forgotten) and that to avoid all future strife the next Caliph was to be decided by a formal electoral council. Hasan was assured of an annual salary of a million dirhams, with which he could generously support his companions, all the Beni Hashim and the old clients of his father.

In July 661 Hasan and his younger brother Husain rode out of Kufa and took the road back to Medina, Hasan had ruled for just six months

with the skills of the Arabs in my hand, for they were ready to make war on whomever I declared war, yet I abandoned it, seeking instead the face of God.

His enemies would later attempt to blacken his saintly pacific nature by naming Hasan al-Mitlaq, the great divorcer. Tales of his extravagant wedding parties, his boundless generosity and the hundred wives that he took in Medina, some for no more than a night, read like episodes from The Thousand and One Nights. Though the details of these fantasies are a still relished element of popular culture they must also be recognised as the traces of black propaganda designed to discredit this man of peace. Hasan’s seven marriages and descendants are exceptionally well chronicled, for practically all of the thousands of families of Shareefs that claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad trace their descent through one of Hasan’s two surviving sons, Zayd and Hasan.*

* The families who trace their descent from his brother are customarily known as Sayyid.

Muawiya entered Kufa as the sole recognised Caliph of the Arab Empire. He promised forgiveness to all those in the Kufa garrison who immediately came forth to pledge allegiance, though he warned that after three days the season for pardon and protection would be at an end. He also promised the assembled soldiers a vast new horizon for their ambitions: an ever-expanding Arab Empire to be forged from their future conquests. Salaries would be paid punctually from now on, wars would always be fought in the territory of the enemy, with campaigning seasons for border raids set a six months, while for more ambitious conquests the Arab warriors should be prepared for a whole year’s absence from their base camps and their families.

The armies of the Caliphate were soon to be on the march again, further extending the frontiers of the empire. Muawiya had always believed that the way to keep an army of Arabs obedient was to keep it well occupied. At the head of these Arab armies stood a man whom Omar had prophetically described as the Caesar of the Arabs. Muawiya was indeed a prince among the Quraysh, tall, tanned and handsome. He also had the common touch of Caesar, the ability to charm, persuade and delegate rather than merely to command. Muawiya had grown up in the political heart of Mecca with an instinctive grasp of Arab political culture: when it was expedient to listen, when it was time to consult and when to be patient. His most consistent military opponent, the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire, got to know the measure of the man through the constant shuffle of ambassadorial diplomacy. It is therefore especially intriguing that the Byzantine historian, Theophanes chose to describe Muawiya as neither the king if the Arabs nor their emperor but as their first counsellor. For as long as Muawiya could lead and direct the Arab armies to victory there was no doubt that they would accept his counsel. As a commander-in-chief, Muawiya was a near-genius, and the range of his strategic vision is astonishing to behold.

On the western front, the battle hardened nephew of Amr, Oqba ibn Nafi was dispatched to complete the conquest of North Africa. In 670, to facilitate this, an advance base would be established some 1500 miles west of Fustat in central Tunisia. This kairouan, a temporary halting place of the Arab cavalry army, was well sighted: it not only dominated the good grazing grounds of the steppe but it allowed Oqba to drive a strategic wedge between his two opponents, the walled Byzantine cities of the coast and the fierce Berber principalities of the mountains. Oqba’s halting place would eventually grow into the holy city of Kairouan. There was a setback, for after the death of his old uncle Amr (in Egypt) Oqba would row with the new governor-general and, like his uncle before him, Oqba would be sacked. But like his uncle, he would also return to take command and exact his revenge. In 681 he would make his exploratory ride across the southern steppe lands of North Africa, stopping only when he reached the end of the road, the shores of the Atlantic – known to the Arabs as the Sea of Obscurity. Here he protested that if there was a ford, he would cross it, in order to find new lands to conquer in the name of God. On his ride back Oqba would be killed by a Berber prince, Kusayla, outside the oasis of Biskra (in southern Algeria) after which the witch-queen of the mountains, the priestess Kahina, would raise the Berber tribes in a widespread revolt against the Arab Muslims. With this extraordinary narrative of events, North African Islam created its own historical mythology.

On the northern frontier, the Arab navy that Muawiya had so patiently created over the past two decades was at last given free rein and let loose on the sea lanes of the southern Aegean. Sicily and Crete were both repeatedly attacked and in 672 Rhodes was occupied. An Arab inscription recently found carved into a church floor in Cnidus (on the Turkish coast opposite Rhodes) may date from these swashbuckling years – in which case it is one of the earliest Arabic inscriptions in existence. An Arab colony was then settled on the island of Rhodes and an enterprising merchant from this vanguard community would make a fortune by smelting down the Colossus of Rhodes, the great brazen statue of Helios that had been toppled by an earthquake some 300 years before.

Using Rhodes as an advanced base, Muawiya launched his most ambitious operation, a marine-based assault on the triple-walled city of Constantinople. The siege, a series of attacks by the sea, would last for ten years, from 668 to 678. The mosque that was established at Eyup, the base camp just outside the land walls of Constantinople, would be rediscovered by Ottoman archaeologists in the fifteenth century and restored in magnificent style to become the oldest Muslim prayer hall in Europe. It was an extraordinary achievement to have kept an army in the field for that length of time so far from their homeland. They were entirely dependent on control of the sea route, so that when an Arab fleet was defeated by a Byzantine squadron, at the battle of Syllaeum in 678, Muawiya wisely called off the siege which had been commanded by his first-born son, Yazid. In the process of this orderly withdrawal, a truce was agreed with Byzantium that woulda last for a whole generation. The Muslim world would have to wait another 800 years before it had a leader who could breach the walls of the city of the Caesars. The Byzantine land frontier, embedded with the dozens of stout castles that guarded all the important passes through the Taurus mountains, had remained firmly in place throughout the ten-year siege. On this frontier Muawiya had raised up one of Khalid’s surviving sons, Abdal Rahman, to become governor of Homs and to lead the summer raids of the Arab armies against the mountain redoubts.

In the troublesome east Muawiya would leave nothing to chance. He chose the most resilient power-politicians of the day to govern the two potential trouble spots: the Iraqi cities of Kufa and Basra. So once again that one-eyed rogue Mughira was promoted to rule over Kufa, while his fellow Taif-born protege Zayyad, watched over Basra. Trusting in no one’s good faith, they established the infrastructure of state power complete with a police force (the dreaded shurta) , law courts, prisons, treasury officials and curfews as well as covert agents to report on the mood on the markets and the gossip at the doors of the mosque. Under these two political bosses the two garrison cities of Iraq were made to concentrate their energies ont the coordinated conquest of the far eastern frontiers of Persia. Muawiya had skilfully bound Zayyad into a position of personal loyalty by settling the delicate matter of his social origins (for he was literally the bastard son of a whore), by officially recognising Zayyad as one of his father’s lost sons. Zayyad was no longer to be referred to by the tongue-in-cheek patronymic ibn Abihi, the son of his father, but as the son of the great warlord of Mecca, Abu Sufyan. Later Muawiya would heap further rewards on this new brother by making Zayyad’s son Ubaydallah the governor of the new 50,000 strong garrison city in Khurasan, while Caliph Uthman’s son Saeed was given command of the newly conquered forward post of Bukhara.

Throughout Muawiya’s nineteen-year reign (AD 661-680) the centre of administrative power was firmly located upon Damascus. No longer did foreign ambassadors, confidential agents, officials and delegations make the long and arduous journey across central Arabia to Medina. Instead they once again made their way to the old commercial capital of Byzantine Syria, now doubly glorious as the new political centre of a worldwide empire. There was, however, no attempt to coordinate the vast conquests into a coherent Arabic -speaking-empire. Each conquered province continued to use its own language, it’ own indigenous class of state officials and units of measurement as well as retaining the exact units and shapes of the traditional coinages, the gold dinar of Byzantium and the silver dirham of Persia. The simplicity of the Prophet’s life and rule had now been totally transformed, so that even one of Muawiya’s deputy governors was now surrounded by the panoply of power consciously modelled on the Byzantine and Sassanid courts, and a visiting foreign ambassador could observe a crowd of silver-sticks and lectors, and at his gate 500 soldiers mounted guard.

At the beginning of his rule as Caliph, Muawiya had made the journey from Damascus to the oasis of Medina in order to accept the oath of allegiance from all the old revered Companions of the Prophet who dwelt there. Few came to the mosque to pledge their obedience, for though they might reluctantly accept the efficiency of his administration and the continued success of his armies, they could manage only a passive tolerance of his usurpation and would not give him their active support or blessing. It is remembered that Muawiya tried to take them to task over this indifference. He asked, How come all the people have come to swear allegiance except those from Medina? To which the laconic reply was, We have no riding camels. Muawiya, knowing full well that all the Companions now possessed sizeable herds, replied in the same offhand spirit, But what became of all those camels you used to use for fetching water? They were lamed when we chased after you and your father after the battle of Badr was the derisive reply. To drive the point home further they proceeded to inform Muawiya that the Prophet had warned them of a state of calamity after his death, to which he commanded us to be resigned. That was to be the extent of the loyalty he could expect from all the chief men of Islam-patient resignation. Others in the oasis remembered that Muhammad had predicted that the succession to his prophethood would last for thirty years, to be followed by a biting kingship. These beliefs were to be codified with the pleasing prospect of eternal damnation for the usurper Caliph, by a poet of Medina who sang at this time:

The Prince of the Faithful, Muawiya, we greet him
In his message from the Prophet’s own city:
We will be resigned till the Day when we meet him,
The last Day of Judgement,the Day without pity.

Towards the end of his reign Muawiya would once again try to win over the chief men of Islam to his rule. The empire had been ceaselessly expanded in every direction, their annual stipends had been paid with relentless punctuality and efficiency, but when the leading Muslims of the second generation of Islam heard that Caliph Muawiya was coming again to Medina they voted with their feet. Husain ibn Ali, Abdur Rahman ibn Abu Bakr, Abdullah ibn Zubayr and Abdullah ibn Omar waited until the old ruler was within a few days ride of the oasis before they saddled their camels and rode out of town. They feared that he had come to force them into accepting his son Yazid as a suitable candidate for the Caliphate. It was not just that Yazid was debauched and addicted to hunting that horrified them, for like his father he was also an experienced administrator and a proven army commander as well as being a poet and a patron of learning. What was even more insulting to them was that Yazid was being imposed upon them like a crown prince who had first been hailed by Muawiya’s generals and governors at the sycophantic court of Damascus. The shura, the Council of Companions at Medina, had been brushed aside and with it all their claims to an honoured place in the new society. All the first four Rightly Guided Caliphs had first been acclaimed by the people of Medina but this right and duty had now been brushed aside in favour of the courtiers at Damascus. Muawiya had also broken his solemn pledge to hold a shura, which had been part of the peace agreement with Hasan. None of the previous Caliphs had thought to impose their own sons on the community, and had looked beyond the narrow loyalties of a family towards their brothers in faith. Muawiya was turning a community of believers into a hereditary kingdom to be based on the military power of distant Syria. Rather than accept this ultimate degradation, these young men, the heirs of all the chief Companions of Muhammad and the first four Rightly Guided Caliphs, would each in his own way be prepared to die. This would form the last bitter act in the long-drawn-out tragedy of the Heirs of the Prophet.

In 680 the seventy-seven-year old Muawiya was buried, his body decorated with a carefully hoarded treasury of relics, for the nail clippings and hairs from Muhammad’s head and beard had already acquired a totem-like reverence that would have appalled the Prophet.*

*Though this treasury would be destroyed eighty years later by his dynastic rivals, his tomb can still be found in Damascus’s old cemetery.

In Damascus Yazid was acclaimed as the successor to the Prophet of God by all his father’s loyal placemen, that court of governors, generals, police chiefs and treasury officials that Muawiya had commanded for half a lifetime.

In Medina the mosque was filled with groans and silent tears at the decisive emergence of a dynastic monarchy triumphing over the religion of God. From Kufa streamed a series of messengers, calling upon Husain in Medina to ride north and lead them against the usurpation of the Islamic world by the thirty-seven-year old Yazid and to reclaim his rightful place at the head of the community. Husain, urged on by the chief men of Medina decided to respond and follow in his father’s footsteps by riding out of the oasis to assume the leadership of the true armies of Islam. Having summoned the last grandson of the Prophet to lead them out of slavery, they now failed to honour their own appointment. Watched over by the police and the secret agents of their implacable governor, not a man, not a youth left the teeming garrison city to join Husain on the desert trail. Instead Husain’s young cousin, Muslim, who had secretly journeyed up to Kufa and gone to ground in a safe house to await Husain, was betrayed. He was arrested with his host Hani by the shurta and led away to his death.
The governor Ubaydallah (who had succeeded his father Zayyad to both Basra and Kufa) now felt secure enough to order his own army out into the desert. Husain and his small body of devoted followers and family, numbering around thirty horsemen and forty warriors on foot, would not be deterred from their mission. The Bedouin tribes, through whose territory he rode, looked longingly at their potential young Caliph, though none of the chiefs (having heard of the silence at Kufa) would commit to rallying their men to the true cause. A fervent supporter, the poet, Farazdaq, rode out to warn Husain of the treachery of Kufa,

for though the heart of the City is with thee, its sword is against thee.

Still Husain rode on.

A detachment of cavalrymen under the command of Hurr from the Kufa garrison now emerged to bar the direct path to Kufa but also to stop Husain’s small caravan from turning back to Mecca. Then a few weeks later, a much larger force of 4000 cavalrymen issued out from Kufa to surround Husain and his men. They were now forced to make camp at Kerbala,* just above the bank of the Euphrates about 25 miles from Kufa.

* also spelled Karbala.

The commander of this new cavalry force was Amr, one of the sons of Saad ibn Abu Waqqas, the victor of al-Qadisiya. He had been ordered by Ubaydallah to deprive Husain and his supporters of any access to water until they had pledged unconditional submission. Husain for his part asked only to be allowed to meet Yazid face to face; or if that was impossible to be allowed to join the jihad on some forgotten frontier against the enemies of Islam. Despite the crippling thirst imposed upon his young family and his few faithful followers, Husain refused to submit to the unconditional pledge demanded of him. The dignity with which he conducted himself had by now so impressed Amr ibn Saad that he began to waiver in his mission. However, the arrival of Shamir, a confidential agent of Ubaydallah who demanded to take over the command if Amr proved himself incapable of acting, stiffened the resolve of the army. That evening Husain’s little camp at Kerbala, a cluster of tents reinforced by a small fence formed out of brushwood and thorns, was placed under close siege.

Husain now feared the worst, and on the evening of the 9th of the month of Muharram (9 October 680) he ordered his close kinsmen and young family to leave the camp and seek refuge with the enemy. This they would not do, even though Husain’s young son Ali now lay delirious with fever and there was no longer so much as a drop of water with which to relieve the parched lips of the Prophet’s infant great-grandson. That night the muffled cries of the children mingled with the sobs of the women and the soft screech of the whetstone as the small band of desiccated warriors carefully sharpened their swords and their lances for their last battle. In the morning they drew up their battle line, 70 men ranged against over 4000, and again Husain proudly offered his terms. As the small band advanced they were cut down by the massed ranks of archers, who fired shower upon pitiless shower, so that the arrows fell like a hailstorm upon them. Neither Husain’s ten year old nephew Kasim, nor even his infant son, was spared, as one by one the family of Muhammad fell writhing to the ground. Then the members of this mortally wounded clan were trampled into the dust by a cavalry charge, after which their heads were hacked off by swordsmen. Before dusk had settled over the fields of Kerbala, seventy heads had been rolled out from bloodied leather sacks on to the palace floor of the governor of Kufa. As Ubaydallah carefully turned these grim relics over with his staff, the better to make a positive identification, one of the old judges attached to his court cried out, Gently, it is the Prophet’s grandson and by God I have seen those very lips kissed by the blessed Apostle himself.

It is the memory of this fearful day* that unleashes the annual passion of regret and self-recrimination which is the Ashura (the tenth) on the 10th day of Muharram. Acknowledged by both Shia and Sunni as a day of mourning, the passionate commemoration of Ashura is perceived to be one of the distinctive signs of a Shiite community.

*The only survivor among the men was Husain’s son Ali Zayn al-Abidin, who lay transfixed by fever in his tent but would later recover his health.

The news of Kerbala sent a ripple of horror around the entire Islamic world. In Medina and Mecca, Abdallah ibn Zubayr now openly led defiance against those officials of Muawiya who sought to enforce the rule of his son Yazid. To complete the mortal tragedy perpetuated at Kerbala, there was now to be a physical defilement of the Holy Cities. Three years after Kerbala, in 688, an army sent out from Damascus, bolstered by regiments of Christians from Syria, first slaughtered the defenders of Medina in a battle fought out in the volcanic landscape of the Harran hills and then sacked, looted and raped its way through the capital of Islam for three days. Then holy Mecca itself was besieged. Two months into this offensive, the Kaaba was burned down to the ground when it was accidentally hit by the naptha-treated arrows launched by the besiegers. The sacred black stone that had been set into the Kaaba wall during the manhood of the Prophet Muhammad was fractured into three pieces by the heat of the blaze, like the torn bosoms of mourning women. This stone believed to be the altar of Abraham would henceforth be held together only by rivets of silver. At about the same time, the forty-year old Caliph who had ordered this conflict expired in his isolated hunting palace in the Syrian desert. A creative Persian poet commemorated his death with the immortal lines

the dead body of Yazid
lying in his pleasure palace at Hawwarin
with a cup next to his pillow
and a wineskin whose nose was still bleeding

When the news was brought to his army, they halted the siege and prepared to return to Damascus.

It was just fifty years since the death of Muhammad. A vast empire had been conquered from out of which poured an annual tribute of millions upon millions of gold and silver coins, which first filed into the coffers of the Caliph’s treasury in Damascus and from there flowed out to support a salaried ruling class. A hundred thousand Arab warriors now dwelt in half a dozen garrison cities, housed in comfort, equipped with the finest weapons, armour and horses cared for by the labour of slaves in a manner beyond the wildest dreams of their grandfathers. In Mecca the house of God was a burned-out ruin and in a neglected field at Kerbala the headless corpses of the murdered family of the Prophet of God lay buried. It was as if the things of this earth had been won but in the process the kingdom of heaven had been forgotten.

All Muslims feel the horror of this transformation, the gradual corruption of the moral rule of God as established by the Prophet Muhammad to a mere temporal empire ruled over by Muawiya’s heirs, the Umayyad dynasty. This forbidding example helps explain the political fatalism that is so often encountered among Muslim communities. If it was just fifty years after they had buried the Prophet of God that the godly rule of the saintly Companions was so decisively overthrown, what hope have we in this even more corrupt and less religious age? Did not the Prophet himself declare, No time cometh upon you but is followed by a worse and that The best of my people are my generation; then they that come after them; then they that come after them? Is it not true that this world is for the likes of Muawiya, Mughira, Amr and Zayyad rather than the saints?

To make a safe haven of the brief period of the true Islam on earth, the majority of Muslims continue to look back upon the rule of the first four Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali, 632-661) as the Eden of good government before the fall from grace. This is the Sunni position. Others see even this period as a flawed and corrupted version of true Islam, and instead like to imagine the shape of a Muslim state if the true spiritual heroes, Ali and his sons, had been the leaders of this community of faith. That is the difference between how the Sunni and the Shia regard the story of the Heirs of the Prophet. From this small but passionately important detail, two distinct paths of Islam would develop, each with its own history of who is the true heir of the Prophet. There is no group within the vast body of Muslims, either now or back in the seventh century, who see the triumph of Muawiya and his brilliant team of political operators, Mughira, Amr and Zayyad, as other than a profound tragedy.

Those who have been born outside the Muslim heritage of faith are free to honour both pathways and to remember that two rival narratives can yet become one. For while the Sunni version tells of how the Prophet Muhammad died on the lap of Aisha, and while the Shia tell of how the Prophet Muhammad died leaning on the shoulder of Ali, we know that both versions may be literally as well as figuratively true.

Ten days before he had died the Prophet Muhammad had prayed over the tombs of the dead, Peace be upon you, O people of the graves. Rejoice in your state, how much better is it than the state of men now living. Dissensions come like waves of darkest night, the one following hard upon the other, each worse than the last.
It is a dispiriting testimony from a brilliantly successful leader at what is otherwise considered to have been the triumphant conclusion of his life. But then the future leadership and political organisation of mankind was never his purpose. As the Koran so clearly states (Sura 42:15), God is our Lord and your Lord. We have our words and you have yours. There is no argument between us and you. God will bring us together, for the journey is to him.

If one looks to find a true Heir to the Prophet Muhammad, look not for thrones, or through dynastic lists of kings, look not to the triumphant progress of a great conqueror or at the beaming smiles and promises of a popular politician. Look out for on who journeys towards God.

By courtesy

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KEY DATES IN POLITICAL AND MILITARY HISTORY FOR THE FIFTY YEARS AFTER THE DEATH OF THE PROPHET, MUHAMMAD, AD 632-83

Please note that the dates of all the key battles of the conquest cannot be definitive and may vary by as much as four years

632

  • Death of the Prophet, Muhammad, as an army under the command of Zayd’s young son, Usama, is mustered for a raid to avenge the defeat at Mutah in Syria in 629.
  • Accession as Caliph of Abu Bakr, who decides that the paying of the charitable tithe will remain the defining test of which tribes have accepted Islam; widespread opposition.
  • Death of Fatimah, leaving Ali to care for their two children, Hasan and Husain.

633

  • The Ridda Wars – the so-called War against Apostasy.
  • Abu Bakr appoints Khalid, army commander, who wins three victories:
    a. Battle of Buzakha-defeat of Ghatafan tribe and allies.
    b. Battle of Aqraba, day of the garden of death-defeat of Beni Hanifa tribe and death of their prophet Musaylama.
    c. Battle of Ullais, ‘river of blood’ (against Arab tribes loyal to Persian Empire).

634

  • Invasion of the Holy Land by four Arab armies, three advancing from Medina, one from the Iraq front under the command of Khalid. Three military victories in Palestine, Wadi al-Arabah, Ajnadayn and Dattin, and one in Syria, Marj al-Suffar.
  • Death of Abu Bakr in August; accession of Omar to Caliphate.
  • On Iraq front, Persian army defeats Muslim force at battle of al-Jisr just outside Hira.

635

  • Muslim armies occupy chief cities of Syria and Palestine.
  • On Iraq frontier, ibn Harith manages to repel Persian counterattack at battle of Buwayb.

636

  • Arab armies evacuate all their territorial gains in Syria and Palestine as full force of Byzantine Empire sent into battle.
  • In mid-August, Khalid destroys the Byzantine field army at the decisive battle of Yarmuk and speedily reoccupies all of the Near East.

637

  • Counter-offensive by imperial army of Sassanid Persia. Yazdegird’s (last Sassanian emperor) experienced commander Rustam drawn into four-day of al-Qadsiya.
  • In the aftermath of victory, Muslims occupy all of Iraq, while Sassanian forces withdraw into Persian mountains.
  • Surrender of Jerusalem by Patriarch Sophronius to Caliph Omar.

638

  • Muslim Arab armies push into northern Iraq and advance into Persia and northern Syria.

639

  • Year of plague and famine

640

  • Caliph Omar presides over conference of army commanders at Jabiyah.
  • Amr ibn al-As leads raid into Byzantine Egypt while bulk of Muslim forces engaged in advance on Anatolia and Persia.
  • Victory against Byzantine army in Egypt at battle of Heliopolis.
  • Amr advances north into Nile Delta, fights battle of Nikiou and attempts siege of Alexandria.

641

  • Emperor Heraclius dies in February.
  • Byzantine counterattack into Syria and rebellion among Arab tribes of Syrian desert.

642

  • Surrender of Alexandria to Amr by Cyril. Amr establishes Fustat as new garrison/administrative centre for Egypt.
  • Muslim victory at battle of Nehawand in Persia.

644

  • Assassination of Omar by Abu Lulu Firoz, a disgruntled prisoner of war/slave.
  • Election of Uthman by council of six leading Companions.
  • Amr and his nephew Oqba ibn Nafi return in triumph to Fustat having raided and conquered parts of Libya and the Sahara.

645

  • Widespread revolts against the Muslim Empire throughout Persia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and in Egypt, aided by the arrival of the Byzantine navy. General Manuel reoccupies the Nile Delta.

646

  • Amr (briefly appointed as commander) leads reconquest of Egypt with second battle of Nikiou and siege and sack of Alexandria.

647

  • Uthman’s governor of Egypt leads a 40,000 strong army out of Egypt into the west, defeating army of Byzantine governor of Tunisia at battle of Sbeitla.

648

  • Arab fleet skirmishes successfully with Byzantine fleet found off Alexandria.

649

  • Muslim occupation of Cyprus in combined operation organized by the Arab garrisons in Egypt and Syria.

650

  • Definitive edition of the Koran completed in Medina.

651

  • Uthman loses the seal of the Prophet.

652

  • Death of Yazdegird.

653

  • After renewed threat from Byzantine fleet, Cyprus is reconquered in second invasion the same year that an Arab army secures Armenia.

654

  • Rhodes raided by Arab fleet.

655

  • Battle of the Masts: Arab fleet wins command of the Aegean in naval battle fought off the coast of Lycia.

656

  • Assassination of Uthman in Medina by dissidents from army garrisons in Fustat, Kufa and Basra.
  • Ali acclaimed fourth Caliph in Medina.
  • Aisha plots rebellion in Mecca backed by Talha and Zubayr. Aisha and her confederates seize control of army garrison in Basra. Ali’s son, Hasan, takes command of garrison at Kufa.
  • Battle of the Camel outside Basra. Talha and Zubayr are killed and Aisha is returned to Medina having recognized Ali as Caliph.

657

  • Ali’s candidate, Muhammad ibn Bakr, becomes governor of Egypt.
  • Ali marches on Syria to depose Muawiya from the governorship of Syria.
  • Four day battle of Siffin culminates in a surprise decision to seek arbitration.
  • Schism as Kharijites attempt to secede from Ali’s Caliphate in fury at the decision to arbitrate.

658

  • Farcical chicanery at arbitration conference in Jordan as Amr outwits Abu Musa.
  • Muawiya is proclaimed Caliph by his supporters in Damascus.
  • Ali forced to fight militant Kharijites at battle of Nahrawan.

659

  • Amr, supported by Muawiya, takes command of Egypt for the third time in his life.
  • Death of Muhammad Ibn Abu Bakr.

660

  • Muawiya renews assault on Byzantine Empire.

661

  • Ali is assassinated in Kufa.
  • Ali’s son, Hasan acclaimed as Caliph but in order to halt bloodshed surrenders his title in Muawiya’s favour.

662

  • Zayyad and Mughira rule over Basra and Kufa as tough-minded governors of Muawiya.

663

  • First Arab raid on Sicily.

669

  • Muslim siege of Constantinople supported by command of the sea route.

670

  • Foundation of Kairouan as the advance base for the conquest of North Africa by Amr’s nephew, Oqba ibn Nafi.
  • Merv established as the new advance base for the conquest of Central Asia and Khorassan by drafts from Basra and Kufa.
  • Hasan dies at Medina.

671

  • Kharijite revolt suppressed by Zayyad.

678

  • Defeat of Arab fleet at battle of Syllaeum requires that the Arab siege of Constantinople be lifted.
  • Thirty-year peace is made between the two empires.

680

  • Muawiya dies and is succeeded to the Caliphate by his son Yazid.
  • Husain responds to calls of soldiers of Kufa garrison to lead them in revolt against this new hereditary monarchy. Abandoned by those whom he had come to aid, he and his band of followers are killed at Kerbala.
  • In Medina and Mecca, Abdallah, son of Zubayr leads revolt against Yazid.

681

  • Oqba ibn Nafi reaches the Atlantic coast of Morocco at the end of his legendary ride across North Africa

683

  • An Umayyad army marches from Damascus to Medina. It wins the battle of Harran, sacks Medina, then advances and places Mecca under siege. The city’s Kaaba is accidentally burned to the ground.
  • Yazid dies

By courtesy

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Haqqani and Abbottabad; Haqqani’s Article Revives Tale of OBL Raid; Ready to Give Statement to Commission, says Hussain Haqqani

WHATEVER we may think or say about Husain Haqqani — and his role, statements and explanations — he was not primarily responsible for the US assault in Abbottabad on the night of May 1 and 2, 2011. The final decisions about the fateful incident were not his to make. Whatever he did or did not do,  he claims he did not exceed his authorization and instructions. He denies he had anything to do with the planning and execution of the assault, and despite widely held and deep-rooted reservations about his conduct as ambassador in Washington (which may or may not be justified), nothing has surfaced that contradicts his denials.

However, his recent statements do raise questions. In a recent article in the Washington Post Haqqani states

“the relationships I forged with members of Obama’s campaign team … eventually enabled the US to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamic militants”.

This language, without explicitly saying so, strongly suggests, whether intentionally or not, an active and purposeful interaction with US security officials which enabled the discovery and elimination of OBL

“without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military”.

This interpretation of Haqqani’s own statement is neither far-fetched nor unreasonable. But equally Haqqani’s article is not a confession. He goes on to say in the article that

“friends I made from the Obama campaign were able to ask, three years later, as National Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan. I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved”…

and these locally stationed Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to carry out the operation without notifying Pakistan. Once again, while not explicitly saying so, there is here an even stronger suggestion of an active role and a sense of pride in achieving a shared objective.

Our leaders are focusing on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. So?

Pakistan was under an international obligation to cooperate in the apprehension of OBL. An elected government apparently decided to act upon this obligation. The leaders of this government instructed their ambassador in Washington accordingly. They also sent specific instructions to enable the ambassador to facilitate the rapid issue of necessary visas to US Special Operations and intelligence personnel — who obviously disguised their real identities in their visa applications — and who proved “invaluable” when the time for action came. What is wrong or illegal about this? And if there was anything, who should be held responsible: the subordinate and active ambassador or the elected leaders who gave him instructions while allegedly keeping the military and intelligence out of the loop?

But, then, why not stand up and say so — publicly as well as in testimony to the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission? In fact, the president, the prime minister and the COAS declined to meet with the Commission. Haqqani who did meet with the commission has always publicly criticized the US attack on Abbottabad and has similarly denied all prior knowledge of or involvement with the attack. Despite some possible misstatements to the commission regarding the issue of visas there has been no proof of his involvement until the suggestions he has himself made in his recent article. Why is he simultaneously denying any purposeful involvement with the US assault on Pakistan and strongly suggesting the contrary in his recent article in the Washington Post?

Whatever conclusions one may draw about the consistency and purpose of his statements and the credibility of his behaviour as Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, they do not add up to treachery. He was, at most, a willing instrument of his political superiors. Unfortunately, that is what politically appointed ambassadors are now expected to be. Nevertheless, in embellishing his personal role — for reasons one can only speculate about — while distancing himself from any responsibility for what occurred, Haqqani has effectively pointed a finger towards his civilian leaders at the time. No wonder, they are denouncing him and calling for another commission of inquiry!

Our media and political leaders, however, are concentrating on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. This is a measure of their immaturity and irresponsibility which ensure their continuing irrelevance for the suffering people of Pakistan.

In 2013, PILDAT (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) noted a leaked interim draft of the Abbottabad Commission, and concluded that the Abbottabad assault was the

result of inadequate threat assessments, narrow scenario planning and insufficient consideration of available policy options. If the institutions and whole system of governance were ‘dysfunctional’ they were so because of irresponsible governance over a sustained period, including incorrect priorities and acts of commission and omission by individuals who had de jure or de facto policymaking powers”.

PILDAT further noted that according to the draft report the

“government’s response before, during and after May 2 appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility, and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside government. Institutions either failed to discharge responsibilities that legally were theirs or they assumed responsibility for tasks that legally were not part of their duties, and for which they were not trained. This reflected the course of civil-military relations and the power balance between them.”

The leaked draft also observed the ISI had

“become more political and less professional”.

Because of a lack of consensus in the Abbottabad Commission,  the final report submitted to the then prime minister,  comprised a main report, and a dissenting report.

Very irresponsibly, the government has not presented the full report to parliament or made it public despite a unanimous resolution of the Senate and National Assembly.

The Commission of Inquiry Act of 1956, moreover, is expected to be replaced by a new act which will require the government to make such reports public within 30 days of submission. The prime minister, accordingly, should now release the main and dissenting report without further delay. This matter, and not hounding Haqqani, should be our urgent priority.

Author: Ashraf Jehangir Qazi; the writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan. He was a member of the Abbottabad Commission; ashrafjqazi@gmail.com; Website: ashrafjqazi.com

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017

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Haqqani’s Article Revives Tale of OBL Raid

WASHINGTON: Some people in Pakistan did help US officials in getting to Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, says Husain Haqqani, the country’s former ambassador to US, as does renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Talking to Dawn on the strong reaction to his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Mr. Haqqani said:

“Some people helped, but they did so independently. Yes, there’s some truth in Seymour Hersh’s story.”

In the Post article, Mr. Haqqani indicated that the contacts he made with the Obama team during the 2008 election campaign ultimately led to Osama bin Laden’s elimination in May 2011

“Of course, I was right. I believe it even more now, as I know more than I did when I wrote the piece,”

said Mr. Hersh when Dawn asked him if he still believed the article he wrote in May 2015 for the London Review of Books was right. The article was later included in his book, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, published last year. Mr. Haqqani said the May 2, 2011 US raid that killed Osama in a compound in Abbottabad was

“a bleeding wound”  for most Pakistanis “who still want to know why it happened and how.”

Although Pakistan formed a commission to probe the US raid, its findings were never made public, leaving the space open for rumours and speculations.

Mr. Hersh recalled how

a retired Pakistani military officer tipped the US embassy in Islamabad about Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, received $20 million as reward, was relocated to the United States and was now living in a Washington suburb with his new wife.

Former diplomat says he’s surprised over reaction to his write-up as he has made no disclosure in it.

“Your government knows who he is. [Former US president Barack] Obama should not have talked about it right after it happened. He was to be shown in the Hindukush, not Abbottabad. That was the arrangement,”

Mr Hersh said. He said that he mentioned the name of the then CIA station manager in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, in the article because he knew he would never deny it. “He is an honourable man. That’s why he did not deny it.”All the CIA had to do was to produce Bank and have him deny it, but he did not, so they produced another retired CIA official,” Mr. Hersh said.

However, Mr. Hersh heavily relied on a single unnamed “retired senior intelligence official” in the article that contradicts the Obama administration’s account. Mr. Hersh also claimed that Bin Laden had been in Pakistan’s custody since 2005. He reported that his housing and care were being paid for by the Saudis; and that once Bin Laden’s location was revealed to the US,

Pakistanis agreed to let US special forces raid his compound with the explicit understanding that Bin Laden was to be assassinated.

Americans were also supposed to delay announcing that Bin Laden had been killed for a few weeks and claim that he died in a firefight on the Afghan side of the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border. Mr. Hersh claimed that Obama administration officials were so eager to cash in politically that they reneged on their pledge and disclosed the true location of the raid almost immediately.

Reviewing Mr. Hersh’s book for The Los Angeles Times in April 2016, Zach Dorfman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, wrote that there exists “a plausible historical pattern, which lends credence — if not absolute credibility — to his account”.

Mr. Dorfman noted that two senior US investigative journalists, Carlotta Gall and Steve Coll, also said that their own reporting corroborated, to various degrees, Mr. Hersh’s account. Mr. Dorfman pointed to the decades-old relationship among the American, Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies and noted that the Obama administration did little to probe OBL’s presence in Abbottabad, although their reaction would have been completely different had Bin Laden been found in a Tehran neighbourhood.

Mr. Haqqani, in his conversation with Dawn, appeared more interested in the reaction to his Washington Post article than in how and why Bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.“The reaction in Pakistan surprises me. I said nothing new,” he said.

He said what he wrote about his close diplomatic ties established during the 2008 Obama campaign was also already in the public domain.

“So, there’s no admission or confession in my article. Seems that some people read into things what they want to read.”

He noted that relations established during the 2008 campaign advanced to a relationship with the United States, which helped them to find OBL. This, he said, was being misinterpreted in Pakistan as him having enabled the operation against OBL, which he said was not what he wrote.

Mr. Haqqani said Americans stationed lot of people in Pakistan during that period who helped in the OBL raid.

“Again, I made no statement to the effect that anybody in the embassy helped that. The article clearly says that Pakistan was not taken in the loop about the raid.”

Mr. Haqqani said he gave no unauthorized visa to any US citizen.

“It is sad that in Pakistan, to this day, no effort has been made to find out more about OBL being in Pakistan, and how Americans were able to find him when our own agencies could not.”

Responding to a question about some Pakistanis helping Americans in catching OBL, he said:

“I wish Pakistanis would be happy to take some credit for eliminating the most wanted terrorist in the world instead of abusing me for re-stating known facts.”

Meanwhile, the PPP, which appointed him Pakistan’s 24th ambassador to Washington in April 2008, has disowned him. During a parliamentary debate on Monday, PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah said Mr. Haqqani’s Post article was

“an act of treason”.

SEYMOUR Hersh is an investigative journalist and author of The Killing of Osama Bin Laden and The Dark Side of Camelot among other books.

Author: Anwar Iqbal; Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2017

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Ready to Give Statement to Commission, says Hussain Haqqani

Dawn.com, Updated March 16, 2017

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday evening that he was ready to record his statement with a parliamentary commission if an investigation into recent claims he made in an op-ed published by the Washington Post is pushed forward.

Journalist Mehar Bukhari, who hosts the ‘NewsEye’ show on DawnNews, had asked Haqqani if he would appear before a commission — if one was set up — to which the former ambassador responded in the affirmative.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had earlier on the same day called for a commission to probe Haqqani’s claims that his ‘connections’ with the Obama administration enabled the US to target and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

“Many commissions have been set up and a report also released, but until today the Supreme Court has not taken action on this report,” Haqqani claimed.

“Someone sitting outside the country can stay there and give a statement. If a commission wants a statement from me, they should ask in writing… I will give a statement via video link,”

he said. However, he maintained that

“nothing new has been said that must be denied.”

In his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Haqqani had defended the Trump team’s contacts with Russia during and after the 2016 US presidential elections, saying he had also established similar relations with members of the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections.

Those contacts “led to closer cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in fighting terrorism over the 3 1/2 years I served as ambassador” and “eventually enabled the United States to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants,” the op-ed said.

Haqqani on Wednesday added that

“the Americans took advantage of the ties that we facilitated and conducted an operation … I also wrote that in this operation, we were not taken into confidence. This includes the army and the civilian government.”
“The problem arose when the discussion took place about the increasing number of Americans in Pakistan, because they’d given us a very large aid package — $7 billion. When they increased their numbers, some of our people said if we’re taking their aid, we should let them come here too.”
“A spy does not inform you that he is a spy before he visits … Many Americans came in larger numbers; surely there were spies present among them,”

he said.

“I wrote that this is what happened, but I did not say that anyone intended this on purpose,”

he added.

“The point is that Central Intelligence Agency operatives who notified and came to Pakistan, they all notified the Inter-Services Intelligence. They didn’t phone me and say I’m a CIA man, I’m travelling, please give me a visa,”

he alleged.

“Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan not because someone was issued a visa, but because he was in Pakistan,”

Haqqani added.

 

The False Mahdi

Early in the morning of November 20th 1979,  an event occurred which would transfix the whole Muslim world and shake the Saudi royal family to its very foundations. It was the first day of the Muslim year 1400. The Grand Mosque in Mecca was crowded with worshipers for the dawn prayer. Many of them had slept in the mosque overnight huddled up on the floor, some of them accompanying coffins bearing the bodies of relatives upon whom they hoped the imam would bestow a blessing of the kind that could only be obtained in such a sacred place. Just as the imam completed the dawn prayer with the sacred call for the blessing of peace, shots suddenly rang out from within the crowd. As the people turned around in amazement and fear – to fire a weapon within the precincts of Islam’s holiest site was a grave sin – gunmen brandishing automatic weapons and clad in the simple white robes of pilgrims, began to emerge from the edges of the crowd. More and more of them, all converging on the sacred Ka’aba. Members of sacred mosque’s own police force, who were armed only with sticks, rushed forward to intervene but were unceremoniously gunned down. Turning in panic towards the mosque’s gates to flee, the tens of thousands of worshipers found that all the gates were barred, each one chained shut with groups of wild-haired, ruffian looking, gun wielding fanatics guarding them. Meanwhile yet more wild-eyed ragged-haired, bearded men were unloading yet more guns from some of the coffins– coffins which they had carried into the mosque the night before under the pretense of being mourners.

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Juhayman Ataiba shortly after capture by Saudi Security Forces

Now a slender man with dark burning eyes, flowing black hair and a beard, his head bare and wearing the simple white robe of a pilgrim appeared from deep among the shadows of the mosque. With an obvious air of authority and purpose he strode through the crowd, across the open marble-floored courtyard to the Ka’aba. He was Juhayman Ataiba, the son of the former Ikhwan warrior who had fought alongside Ibn Bijad at the battle of Sibilla in 1929, the one – time student who had attended lectures given by bin Baz. Over the intervening years, Juhayman had turned into a fiery Islamic preacher and founded a small, militant, fundamentalist reform movement-The Movement of Muslim Revolutionaries of the Arabian Peninsula. Snatching a microphone from the elderly imam who had been conducting the dawn prayers, Juhayman barked a set of military orders to his followers, instructing them to immediately shoot down any government soldier or policeman who attempted to intervene. Then, with his voice booming over the Grand Mosque’s loudspeakers into every corner of the building and out from the loudspeakers at the top of the almost three – hundred – feet- tall minarets over the surrounding city of Mecca, Juhayman began to address the crowd. ‘Mecca, Medina and Jeddah are all now in our hands’, he told them. He and his fellow rebels had come to cleanse the Kingdom of materialism and corruption, to end the rule of the sinful and unjust Al Saud, and to terminate the country’s relations with ‘infidel powers‘. Then Juhayman handed the microphone to one of his fellow rebels. Addressing the crowd with obvious authority and in the cadences and tones of the classical Arabic of a learned Muslim scholar, this new speaker told them that the wicked ways of the House of Saud were a clear sign to all true believers that the world was coming to an end and that, in accordance with prophecy, Islam’s final triumph over unbelief was at hand. The preacher listed a whole catalogue of sins and corruptions for which the Saudi state was responsible: the debauchery of many of those who ruled over them-the governor of Mecca, a brother of the present King, was singled out for special opprobrium; the corruption fuelled  by television, the pollution of minds brought by infidel Westerners to the very cradle of Islam, the desecration of the moral  purity of women caused by their employment, the pagan scourge of the newly introduced game of soccer, the fact that the royal family had become mere pawns of infidel foreign powers.

All these things and many more rendered the Al Sauds no longer worthy to rule over true Muslims in the birthplace of Islam, the land of the Prophet Muhammad Himself. The people’s oaths of allegiance to the Saudis were therefore no longer valid. They were null and void. But, he was too proud to tell them, relief was now at hand! Citing relevant Hadith, and other prophecies dating back to the centuries immediately after the Prophet Muhammad’s death, the rebel preacher announced that the Mahdi had arrived and was here in the Grand Mosque with them. At that moment the gunmen started pushing back the crowd of worshippers to open a corridor through them to the Ka’aba. Then from within the deep shadows of the mosque’s encircling arches there emerged a tall, pale, fair-haired young man, his head loosely covered in a red chequered headcloth and carrying a sub-machine gun. With no outward show of emotion ‘the Mahdi’ approached the Ka’aba, the crowd gasping at his youth. Having reached the Ka’aba, he turned and stood impassively as one after another the gunmen knelt before him and in turn kissed his hand, pledging their allegiance in the same words with which the first Muslims are reported to have pledged their allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad: “We will obey you in weal and woe, in ease and hardship and evil circumstances . . . except in what would disobey God.” The ‘Mahdi‘ then launched into an hour-long sermon denouncing the House of Saud and the corruptions, sins and deviations from the true path of Islam of the Kingdom they had created.

The figure of the Mahdi ( literally ‘the Guided One’) is common to all branches of Islam but also controversial, especially among Sunnis. He is not mentioned in the Qur’an although he does appear in one Hadith and later prophecies and learned Muslim texts. He is prophesied to be going to appear at the end of time, just prior to the Day of Judgement. He will bear the name Muhammad and, in a time of strife, when ‘the princes have corrupted the earth’, he will be sent to ‘bring back justice’. Throughout history there have been people who have claimed to be the Mahdi, perhaps the best known being the ‘false’ Mahdi who led an uprising against the British during the 1880s which resulted in the humiliation of a British and Egyptian army and the death of the charismatic General Gordon-Gordon of Khartoum

The ‘Mahdi’ that Juhayman Ataiba and his fellow rebels presented to the crowd in the Grand Mosque in Mecca on the morning of November 20th 1979 was Muhammad Abdullah al-Qahtani. Young Qahtani came from Asir, the poor region in the south west of the country. He had met Juhayman a few years earlier while he had been studying Islamic law at the Islamic university of Riyadh where the writings and sermons which Juhayman had begun to deliver had started to attract a considerable following amongst the most ardently Islamic students. It was Juhayman and his followers who first convinced the rather dreamy and impressionable young Qahtani that he was the Mahdi who, as promised in the Hadith, would come to cleanse Islam and redeem all true Muslims. As Juhayman pointed out to the worshippers in the Grand Mosque on that November morning, young Abdullah al-Qahtani  fulfilled the specific prophecies made about the coming of the Mahdi: after all the wars and revolutions that had wracked the Muslim world in recent decades he did indeed come ‘in time of great discord’, at the start of a new Muslim century, at a moment when the princes were ‘corrupting the earth’ and Muslims had been drifting away from the faith; he bore the first name Muhammad and had features similar to those attributed in the Hadith to the Mahdi–he was tall, had a fair complexion, a large birthmark on his cheek, and claimed descent from the family of the Prophet Muhammad. He came now, Juhayman and his fellow rebels assured the crowd in the mosque, to fulfil the prophecy, to lead the true Muslims in a cataclysmic encounter with the forces of evil, to overcome those forces of evil and to ‘fill the Earth with peace and justice as it will have been filled with injustice and tyranny before then’.

When Qahtani finished speaking some hundreds among the thousand-strong crowd were convinced. Falling to their knees, they hailed him as the Mahdi and volunteered to join the rebels in the fight. The rebels then opened more coffins and handed out yet more guns to these new followers. The rebels then allowed most of the able-bodied worshippers who had not volunteered to join them to begin making their escape through the mosque’s narrow windows, while keeping back a few hostages.

In the streets around the mosque, as word of what had happened spread, people started to flee. When a police car approached the mosque to investigate, it was riddled with well-aimed fire by rebel gunmen stationed in the Grand Mosque’s minarets and most of the policemen in the car were killed. Throughout the rest of that day other armed policemen or soldiers who approached the mosque were also summarily gunned down.

As news of what had happened reached Riyadh, members of the royal family came together in anxious huddled conference. What should they do? Crown Prince Fahd, responsible for day-to-day rule in the Kingdom, was not even in the country. He was in Tunis attending a conference of Arab leaders. Prince Abdullah, the Head of the National Guard, was holidaying in the south of France and the prince who headed the security service was with Fahd in Tunis. A total blackout of information was ordered on broadcasting stations and all lines of communication out of the country were disconnected.
It was the following day before Crown Prince Fahd discovered the details of what had happened. Meanwhile the rebels continued broadcasting their demands out over the city of Mecca from the Grand Mosque’s loudspeakers, while on the streets of the country’s major towns leaflets mysteriously began to appear detailing the rebel’s accusations and demands. The rebels demanded the dismissal of named corrupt high-ranking princes, the end of sales of Saudi oil to Western countries, a return to the true canons of Islam and the expulsion of all foreign military advisers from the Kingdom.

Back in Riyadh King Khalid and the senior princes had decided that they could not negotiate with the rebels: their demands were wholly unacceptable. The rebels had to be overpowered and control of the Grand Mosque wrested back. By seizing Islam’s holiest site and issuing their demands and accusations, the rebels were challenging the very foundations of the Al Saud’s claim to the right to rule. The rebels posed the most serious threat to the Al Sauds that they had faced since Ibn Saud had put down the Ikhwan rebellion fifty years earlier.

But dare the Saudis order their forces to attack the Grand Mosque? The rebels had already committed one of the gravest of sins by shedding blood in it. So dare the Al Sauds, who claimed to be the true guardians of Islam’s Holy Places, now desecrate the holiest site of all by risking damaging it with gunfire and killing perhaps many hundreds of worshippers? Not even a bird was allowed to be killed inside the precincts of the Grand Mosque, nor a plant uprooted. Khalid issued an urgent summons to bin Baz and the Kingdom’s other senior ulema.

It took until the next day to assemble the ulema, many from the farthest corners of the Kingdom. But once they were gathered they concluded, after careful consideration of all the known facts about the rebels and their actions, that not all the preconditions set forth in the prophecies about the coming of the Mahdi had been met. Al-Qahtani, the young man being hailed by the rebels as the Mahdi, could therefore not be the true Mahdi. So he must be another impostor, like all the previous impostors who down the centuries had claimed to be the Mahdi. King Khalid asked the ulema to issue a fatwa against the impostor, officially declaring him not to be the Mahdi, condemning the rebels and sanctioning the retaking of the Grand Mosque by force. Without such a fatwa the call by the rebels for the ending of corruption in the state and a return to the full rigours of the Islamic moral code might prove very attractive to many Saudis disillusioned with the behaviour of some of the royal princes and what they saw as the growing moral anxiety that was sweeping the Kingdom.

Bin Baz was quite happy to issue a fatwa denouncing the Qahtani’s claim to be the Mahdi and condemning the rebel’s action in seizing the Grand Mosque and shedding blood. However, the rebel’s call for an end to corruption and return to the true path of Islam was very attractive to him and his fellow ulema. The rebels were in many ways true Wahhabis and their movement was one which bin Baz and his fellow conservative clerics had done much to help to inspire. So bin Baz and the ulema drove a hard bargain. They would give the King what he wanted. They would permit the King and his forces to drive the rebels from the Grand Mosque, would issue a fatwa proclaiming that al-Qahtani was not the true Mahdi and reaffirm the regime’s Muslim legitimacy, but in return they required the King and the state to live up to its Islamic obligations. The policies of liberalization must be halted and where possible rolled back. There must be an end to licentiousness and the drinking of alcohol, to women appearing on TV and gaining employment, and to the screening of ‘lewd’ western films. And a greater part of the billions of dollars of oil money flowing into the country must be put to shoring up Wahhabism in the Kingdom and spreading the faith around the world. As some of the royal princes who were present at the negotiation put it, it amounted to the ulema demanding that King Khalid adopt Juhayman’s agenda in return for their help in getting rid of him.

But even after the ulema had issued their fatwa and their condemnation of the rebels as ‘renegades‘ and ‘deviationists from Islam’ had been broadcast across the country on Riyadh Radio, the regime’s forces were still faced with the serious practical problem of how to retake the mosque and overcome the rebels. They could not just go in ‘all guns blazing’, smashing up the Grand Mosque and killing hundreds of people in the process. It was clear that the rebels were well prepared and skilled in using firearms. In fact, many of the rebels were disillusioned former National Guardsmen from the Bedouin tribes which, like Juhayman’s own tribe, had been involved in the Ikhwan rebellion on 1929. There were somewhere between two and three hundred of these rebels well-embedded in good positions throughout the mosque. They had been joined by some hundreds of volunteers from among the original worshippers, making a total opposition force of perhaps one thousand. The regime’s forces were therefore going to have to attempt to retake the mosque by unconventional means, a fact which became more obvious when their first attacks were easily repulsed by the rebels.

Although they deeply disapproved of Shi’ism and the teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini, the rebels had concluded that if Khomeini and the Iranian students could overthrow a regime as powerful as that of the Shah, they could achieve a similar revolution in Saudi Arabia. Days passed and the rebels repeatedly beat off ineffective sorties by Khalid’s forces. But the rebels suffered one major disappointment. Although there were some scattered risings against the regime elsewhere in the country and a more serious uprising and rioting by Shia in the oil producing Eastern Province, there was no widespread general revolt such as had occurred in Iran. The Saudi rulers, for all their faults, were not as unpopular as the Shah, nor were they as brutal.

After days of unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the rebels, the Saudi authorities realized that their troops simply did not have the necessary know-how and specialized equipment to dislodge the rebels from the Grand Mosque on their own. However, they could not simply call in foreigners to do it for them. To do so would not only amount to a very humiliating public admission that the Saudi regime and their armed forces were not up to dislodging a few hundred fanatics from Islam’s holiest site, but to allow non-Muslims to enter the Holy City of Mecca, the Grand Mosque and even approach the sacred Ka’aba itself, would be totally haram–strictly forbidden under the most sacred laws of Islam. So a top-secret channel was opened between the highest levels of the French Government and one of the senior Saudi princes. As a result three French specialist commando officers with a great deal of experience of dealing with terrorist attacks and hostage crises were flown in the utmost secrecy to Saudi Arabia, together with a large amount of specially selected equipment and munitions, to devise a strategy, train one hundred and fifty of Saudi Arabia’s best and most fearless troops and supervise the operation.

The final assault on the mosque, exactly two weeks after the rebels had seized it, was fought mainly in the maze of cellars below the mosque. After almost twenty- hours of close-quarters fighting, in which large quantities of gas and chemicals were used as well as guns, the last of the rebels were either killed or captured. Qahtani was killed early in the operation, but Juhayman was captured alive. Asked by his captors, pointing to the desecrated shrine, “How could you do this?” Juhayman is reported to have replied, “It was God’s will.”

The official casualty figures were 12 Saudi officers killed, 115 other ranks, and 450 seriously  injured, 117 rebels killed, 26 worshippers killed and 110 wounded, many of them foreign nationals. The real figures were almost certainly a lot higher than this–American government sources suggested around 1,000. On January 9th 1980, Juhayman was executed in Mecca, while those of his fellow conspirators who had been captured were executed at the same time in Saudi Arabia’s other eight most important cities. The Saudi authorities were determined to leave Saudis across the Kingdom in no doubt about who ruled.

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Fatwa: an opinion or judgement given by a suitably qualified Muslim legal expert, a mufti, on legal or personal matters.

Hadith: accounts of the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad compiled by scholars as an authoitative guide as to how individual Muslims and Muslim communities should live and act.

Ikhwan: literally ‘brothers’ or ‘brethren’, the name adopted by members of a radical Wahhabi religious and social movement which became a powerful fighting force.

Ka’aba: the cube at the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in the side of which is the black stone, said to be part of what came down from heaven to provide light for Adam and Eve and which was subsequently rededicated to the worship of God by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Muslims perambulate around the Ka’aba during the Hajj and ritually touch or kiss it.

Ulema: learned men, authorities and guardians of legal and religious traditions of Islam.

Wahhabism: uncomprisingly pure and strict form of Sunni Islam, inspired by a mid-eighteenth-century Sunni preacher, Muhammad al-Wahhab, who formed an alliance with the Al Sauds. The dominant form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia.

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With courtesy of : Ibn Saud by Michael Darlow & Barbara Bray, first published in the UK by Quartet in 2010