City of Brass

City of Brass

Mousavi is not Husain; Ahmadinejad is not Yazid

I was saddened to hear of the violence in Iran during Ashura, in which Ali Mousavi (the nephew of reform candidate Mir Hosein Mousavi) was among the protestors who were shot and killed by the security forces.

Police denied however that anyone had died in the clashes, which witnesses said came as tens of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Tehran for a second straight day to use rituals of the Shiite Ashura ceremony to stage protests.

Police, according to witnesses, had first used batons and tear gas in the crackdown, which followed stern warnings by the authorities that they would crush attempts to use the Ashura processions as a launch pad for protests.


This is a tragedy indeed. But the fact that the protestors were trying to use the Ashura processions as a vehicle for their political protest disturbs me a great deal as well. The argument I object to is well summarized at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, in an email to him by a reader (and friend of mine):

Ali was a seyyed … of the line of the Imam.

Western analysts do not actually understand the importance of the twin mantles of heredity and scholarship to the Shi’ia. This will start the martyrdom remembrance cycle … with Ali Mousavi as the Shaheed, the martyr. I predict this is the single event that will crush the tyrant regime of Khamenei and ‘Nejad.


Killing a seyyed during Ashura? Gasoline on the fires of revolution. If Qom was not in the Green Wave before this will submerge them.

This is a martyrdom of far greater import than any killings so far….this is an exact parallel to the martyrdom of Imam Ali at the hands of Ummayyads.

Emphasis mine – and no, it is by no means an exact parallel at all, in fact it is the furthest thing from it indeed.

Imam Husain’s AS sacrifice at Karbala was definitely intended as an inspiration to all mankind, and sent a message of defiance to those who would seek to hide Ultimate Truth. This was an act of piety, resisting an enemy who sought not mere political power but the obliteration of the very salvation of humanity itself – the Message of Allah to humankind, as promulgated from the prophets Adam AS, Nuh AS (Noah), Ibrahim AS (Abraham), Musa AS (Moses), Issa AS (Jesus), and Mohammed SAW. Husain AS did not seek political power but rather the simple right to practice and preach the faith whose guardianship he was entrusted with – and the price he paid, willingly, was that of the blood of his entire family, including his six-month old son who died in his arms, thirst unslaked.


The Iranian reformists meanwhile are engaged in a political struggle, with the aim of replacing Ahmadinejad with Moussavi as President of the Iranian regime. It is right that they seek inspiration from Husain’s AS sacrifice, but wrong for them to wrap themselves in Husain’s AS mantle. The day of Ashura is to commemorate Husain’s AS sacrifice and to use that sacred and solemn moment to agitate for ther goals is to place deen above dunya, to value the short term over the eternal. The axis of struggle between Yazid LA and Husain AS was for the future of mankind, for Islam, and for God. not just about which mullah gets promoted to top mullah in some bureaucracy.

Imam Husain AS won his struggle by losing his life. The goal, and the destiny, of Husain AS was always to die at Karbala, and in his own words “meet his Lord while he is right. Thus I do not see death but as happiness, and living with tyrants but as sorrow.” Living under Yazid’s tyrannny was sorrow to Husain AS, not because of mere political repression, but because the Ummaiyads were trying to eradicate Truth, Islam itself, from within. It was by death that Husain AS could change this, and he succeeded, by reminding muslims what Islam really was.


I have long been sympathetic to the reformers’ cause. But for me to sanction how they have usurped Husain AS in the name of their struggle, on the very day devoted to his martyrdom, just because I agree with their cause? That would make me a hypocrite indeed, because I have faulted the likes of bin Laden and Al Qaeda for doing much the same thing. Religion isn’t a took to promote political struggle. Well, I guess it is – but it shouldn’t be.

(welcome, Instapundit readers – you may be interested in my thoughts on packs, herds, and security in the wake of the attempted bombing of Flight 253 to Detroiit as well).

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posted December 30, 2009 at 11:02 am

Perhaps the author would like to explain how the killing of Muslims such a holy-day can not be considered an attack on Islam itself?
How can such murderous leaders who claim to be true believers be considered anything other than hypocrites, and infidels?
How can the police, and army consider themselves true to the faith while carrying out such diabolical orders?

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posted December 30, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Very interesting. I never knew about the extreme similarity of religious doctrine that Shia hold concerning the death of Husain compared to what Christians believe about the death of Jesus. Remarkably similar to doctrine I grew up with in a Christian household: sacrifice in furtherance of the ultimate battle of good versus evil.
I suspect that the historical reality is that killings of both Husain and Jesus were very much politically motivated, and bear real similarities to what is taking place today in Iran. It is a struggle that merges earthly politics with a fierce struggle among religious people and their leaders to determine which leader carries the authentic banner of God, and thus the right to rule the nation. This is not about Amahdinijad. It is about Khamenei.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Politics is not theology, got it. I do wish you’d done a more artful piece, something along the lines of balancing the current analogy with Khomeni’s use of this exact analogy with himself in the role of Ali and the Shah in the role of Yazid. This would have been even handed. The current article is not. It therefore smacks of the islamic equivalent of anti-anti-communism and you should be prepared for criticism because of it. The ideological/theological circumstances are utterly different, of course. The mechanics bear an uncanny resemblance though.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 12:33 pm

When will Muslims disavow the negative exhortations of Mohammed regarding kafirs? When will Muslims become tolerant and accept the idea that all humans should be FREE to practice their religions without FEAR of DEATH from Muslims?
When will Muslims disavow jihad as War and destructions to kafirs? Until that time there will be no peace.

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Aziz Poonawalla

posted December 30, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Jason: there is indeed similarity but Husain AS did not sacrifice himself for our sins, he sacrificed himself to keep the message of Allah alive. Thats a key theological difference that we should not paper over, even though I agree that the similarities are worth exploring. The bottom line is that these Persons chose to sacrifice themselves explicitly for our benefit; it is incumbent upon us that we honor that sacrifice not in the abstract, but with deeds.

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Aziz Poonawalla

posted December 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm

TML, I accept your critique. A blog post is not a thesis or an academic manuscript, its just an organic expression of what I am trying to convey. If I tried to be rigorous as you expect in this regard the post would have taken me hours to write instead of minutes, and I just don’t have that kind of time. I am doing the best I can, but I am grateful to you for your comment that adds a dimension I neglected. I hope the reader can use that as a sufficient starting point for their own investigation if they so chose.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm

i have to say that almost in every country in the world goverment has opposition and those people are free to speak their mind. that what happened to protestors in iran is terrible violence and to be its a crime against human rights.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I disagree with this post, especially the tone of it. I don’t think the reformers are so much expropriating the Ashura holy days as they are using the weapons of a corrupt theocracy against that corrupt theocracy, and pointing to the hypocrisy and contradictory nature of the regime. Of course, I don’t believe that anyone can ever govern in the name of God.
Human nature being what it is, men will always wrap themselves in the mantle of Godliness as an excuse for their own desire for power. Men can’t be trusted to govern under a theocracy, and there is something especially poisonous about men pretending they are doing God’s will when they are actually doing their own will. It’s the ultimate of ungodly cynicism. I don’t really know who Yazid was, but he couldn’t possibly be worse than the dictator Ahamdinejad.

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Your Name

posted December 30, 2009 at 4:04 pm

The Iranian reformists meanwhile are engaged in a political struggle, with the aim of replacing Ahmadinejad with Moussavi as President of the Iranian regime. It is right that they seek inspiration from Husain’s AS sacrifice, but wrong for them to wrap themselves in Husain’s AS mantle.
Who knows what they want? Some may want to replace Ahmadinejad, others may want much more. At this stage, they seem more unified by anger than goals.
And anyway, since when is using Ashura for political purposes such a big deal? Khomeini did it in the 1950s and 70s in exactly the same way. Not that Khomeini’s doing it justifies anything, but it does seem to be a fairly standard political ploy in the Shiite world.

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posted December 31, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Maybe Shittes do this because they have always been oppressed. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W) and his pious family lived their life oppressed. This oppression began moreso after the Prophet’s death when Imam Ali (A.S) was denied the Caliphi. It doesnt make sense, Prophet Mohamed on many occassions stated that Imam Ali was to be the leader of Muslims after his death but this never eventuated instead Abu Bakir was given the Caliphi. There was no need for an election because if the Prophet hadnt stated who was to lead Islam he wouldnt have completed his prophethood and everyone knows that he did.

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posted December 31, 2009 at 6:16 pm

niice Aziz……let me hit you upside the head with a cluebat…..if the JAFIs and the King of the Retards (reynolds) dig your post, u are way past wrong.
Dude, ‘Nejad isnt Yazid….. Mojtaba is!
Look, I know Ashura has deep resonance for you.
But may I suggest it has even deeper resonance for the families of Ali Mousavi, Neda Agha Sultan, and all the families of the prisoners in Evin and those who have been tortured and killed because they stood for the truth of Allah’s law and against unjust rule by tyrants?
Where is there a hairs breadth of difference between you and Captain Stupid?
“Neda, a young woman who demonstrated for a return to modernity and human rights in Iran, got shot by a cowardly Basiji thug acting on behalf of the ruling mullahs.”
The Green Wave is about restoring Islamic LAW in an Islamic REPUBLIC.
Quit pandering to WEC morons and read your Qur’an.

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