There seems to be a widely-held belief in our society that the factional (or sectarian) conflict in Pakistan is merely a proxy-war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This view holds that if only Iran and Saudi Arabia would reconcile their differences and make peace, then all sectarian violence in Pakistan would come to an end.
In this post, I will argue that this view is not quite correct. I will try to show that the increasing sectarian violence has its roots in a much earlier set of hasty decisions taken by the British Empire for the sake of temporary political expediency in the 1910-1920s.
If you are so sensitive about differing ideas that even the smallest vibration shatters your faith and leads to a complete collapse of your personality, I would recommend that you stop
reading at this point and move on to another thread. After all, it is a huge forum and there is plenty of space where even crystal-personalities can feel completely safe from being "offended". If you do choose do continue reading despite this warning, then, please, I request you not to go on a rampage killing people and burning buildings just because you read something that you did not like. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In the dying days of the Ottoman/Usman Empire, what is now "Saudi" Arabia had three major powers operating more-or-less as vassals under the overall suzerainty of the Usmaniyya Khalifa in Istanbul:
(1) Kingdom of Hejaz on the West-coast (Red Sea),
(2) Kingdom of Najd (Central Desert), and,
(3) The Imamate of Al-Hasa on the East-Coast (Persian Gulf).
The House of Saud was the ruling family of the Central Desert Kingdom of Najd. Under the opportunistic deal reached between the House of Saud (plus Salafi Ulema) and the British Empire, the Kingdom of Najd agreed to support the British in their war against the crumbling Khilafah of the Usman Empire.
In return, the British Empire agreed to let the Saud-ruled Kingdom of Najd conquer and/or annex the Kingdom of Hejaz to the West and the Shia Imamate of Al-Hasa to the East.
To pacify the ruling personages ("Hashemite") of the Kingdom of Hejaz, the British carved up the territories of the Usman Empire into Iraq, Syria & Jordan and crowned the members of the Hashemite family as independent kings of these newly formed countries. So the first post-Usmaniyya kings of Syria, Iraq & Jordan were all related and came from the erstwhile-Kingdom of Hejaz under the British Scheme. Of course, Syria and Iraq had Ba'athist revolutions which got rid of their kings and created Republics, but (Trans)-Jordan still has its king and is therefore called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to this day.
This might just seem like typical stupid-politics of empires at first, but closer examination reveals that it has a horrendous
religious significance. The British Empire may not have understood this religious significance at that time, but it still continues to haunt the Muslim World to this day.
Here is the religious significance:
(1) The Kingdom of Najd practiced an Isolationist Radical-reform Salafi/Wahabi form of Islam, with very weak ties to any other Islamic Seminaries of the various Schools in the outside (Non-central-Arabian-Desert) world.
(2) The Kingdom of Hejaz practiced a Cosmopolitan Traditionalist Sufi/Shriner form of Islam, with deep ties to the Barelvi-style Seminaries in British India.
(3) The Al-Hasa Imamate on the Persian Gulf coast, which is where 80% of "Saudi" oil lies, practiced a form of Shia Islam, with deep ties to the Seminaries in the State of Awadh in British India (and also to Seminaries in Persia).
Here is a map where you can see Najd (isolated central desert), Hejaz (cosmopolitan trading west-coast) and Al Hasa (cosmopolitan trading east-coast). Also note the location of Bahrain, which used to be affiliated to Al Hasa, thus explaining the Shia majority there today:
One more map that shows the locations of major Saudi Arabian Oil & Gas reserves on the Eastern (Persian Gulf) Coast and the Demograhics in those eastern regions. Also of interest are the indicated central-desert strongholds of Salafism without much oil & gas:
The British-assisted conquest, subjugation and annexation by the Desert Kingdom of Najd of (i) the West-coast Kingdom of Hejaz and (ii) the east-coast Imamate of Al-Hasa immediately led to the destruction, persecution, suppression and wiping out of all Sufi/Traditionalist/Barelvi & Shia/Awadhi/Lakhnawi ideas and traditions in what is now "Saudi" Arabia. This manifested itself in the destruction of Mazars, Ibadatgahs, Dargahs, Shrines, Khanqahs and other holy places of great importance to the Traditionalists of various hues as well as to the Shia: Wikipedia -- Destruction of Islamic heritage sites
This is not a trivial point. This has worldwide religious significance. This was merely the first shot fired by Salafis of Najd in the ideological war against the rest of the Muslim world. Their aim is not merely to "cleanse" the Arabian Peninsula of they believe to be "Shirk", but to also "cleanse" the whole Muslim World of what they consider "Kufr, Shirk & Bidah".
The radical Salafis took over Makkah & Madinah and wiped out the Cosmopolitan Traditionalist/Sufi forms of Islam that existed in the Kingdom of Hejaz in Usmaniyya times. They just brushed aside the views of the religious ulema of the vast majority of Sunni Muslims all over the world who were following the same forms of Sufi/Traditional Islam seen in Makkah & Madinah at that time. Under their control, Makkah & Madinah have now been culturally changed beyond recognition. In the Usmaniyya period, many women in the Hejaz did not wear burkas and looked somewhat like the tribal women in India's Rajasthan today, and rare photos of those times are still on display in British Libraries & Museums. The radical-reform Salafis have since declared war on the Sufis/Traditionalists all over the world
in the belief that since they now control Makkah & Madinah, theirs is the only
True form of Islam.
The same violence and fanaticism was also seen against the Shias in the Eastern Imamate of Al Hasa. Public displays of Shia Islam are now seldom to be seen in Eastern "Saudi" Arabia, despite the fact that more than 75% of the population in those eastern coastal regions is Shia. The Salafis have since declared war against the Shia all over the world
and will not stop until their True-form
of Islam prevails over every other False-form
I won't list proof of this rejectionist, exclusivist ideology here, as the reader can easily find it posted by others elsewhere in this very forum: Internal Forum Link to Proofs Provided Elsewhere
This is not just a petty skirmish that will soon be forgotten. This is a well-thought out radical plan. The Salafis do not consider Shia/Sufi/Barelvi/Traditionalist etcetera as denominations of Islam. They consider them to be "other religions" and not a part of the Muslim Ummah. They fully intend to use the power of their State & its huge oil reserves to convert all the non-Salafis (read non-Muslim) into Salafis (read Muslim). They will not stop at anything. They will use force if they have to. They truly do not understand the meaning of the word "no".
All the people in Pakistan whose ancestors thought they had converted to Islam will now be forcibly converted to Salafism as the One True form of Pure Uncorrupted Islam. An Islam most Pakistanis cannot even comprehend is about to come upon us with a sword in hand. As a matter of ideology, the Saudi/Salafi conquest of the West-Coast Sufi Hejaz and East-Coat Shia Ah-Hasa is still considered incomplete, and for "takmeel-e-Salafa" they plan to wipe out all Sufi, Traditionalist/Barelvi & Shia forms of Islam from the face of the earth.
Note that Iran has nothing to do with this anymore, except as a defensive party under ideological attack. So even if Iran were to be moved to some other planet, the sectarian violence in Pakistan would still continue because its true seeds lie in the Najd-Hejaz-Al Hasa conflict. Iran is merely a victim of history and no longer plays any real part in the inspiration or escalation of this violence, although it may occasionally fund "retaliatory" violence as a means of defending Shia rights worldwide. After all, the Shia Regime in Iran has no intention of converting the whole Muslim World to Shi'ism. Therefore, Iranian Shi'sm is no longer expanionist. The dangerous expansionist-ideology today comes from the Najdi-salafi system in Saudi Arabia, which most definitely, most fervently and most zealously wants to convert the whole Muslim World to Salafism.
It light of all this, it becomes clear that the stage has now been set for decades of conflict. Ground zero for these conflicts will be Islamic countries with weak Governments
and in which there is a mix of denominations
. Top examples are Iraq
(65% Shia, 20% Traditionalist/Sufi, 10% Salafi, 5% Other) and Pakistan
(60% Barelvi/Sufi, 16% Shia, 16% Deobandi, 5% Salafi, 3% Other). The bloodshed in these Salafi-inspired conflicts is going to horrendous for at least another generation, and maybe more.
Here is an interesting map that shows not just the Shia in Iraq, Pakistan, Deccan & Awadh, but also the Shia (Hidden, no public displays of Shi'ism is allowed) on the east-coast of Saudi Arabia who are left over from the Al-Hasa Imamates that I mentioned earlier. (Note that Zaidis have not been counted as Shia in this map)
I also note here that much of Pakistani Islam could be divided into two main parts:
(1) Traditionalist/Sufi/Barelvi styles of Islam that were to be found in the cosmopolitan Kingdom of Hejaz on the West Coast in the Usmaniyya period (i.e. before the Saudi-Salafis took over), and,
(2) Shia-styles of Islam that were to be found in the Persia-linked cosmopolitan Imamate of Al Hasa on the East Coast in the Usmaniyya period (i.e. before the Saudi-Salafis took over).
Conventional Pakistani Islam has never had any real connection to the insular, absolutist, non-cosmopolitan Islam of the central-desert Kingdom of Nejd. So when the cosmopolitan forms Pakistani Islam encounter this isolated-desert form of Najdi Islam, the mutual reactions are as follows:
(1) The Salafi Muslims: "Hey! This is just like the Shirk & Kufr Bidah we wiped out in Hejaz & Al Hasa years ago"
(2) The Pakistani Muslims: "Huh? What's this? I can see the bhaturay, but where is the cholay?"
Street theatre Illustration:
As the sectarian violence increases, Pakistan will find the Sword of Salafism (i.e. Saif-ul-Salafa) hanging over its head. Pakistan will be given two choices: Convert to Salafism or Die. Pakistan will whine, "but Islam in Pakistan was spread by the Sufis with the message of Love & Peace". The Salafis will respond, "yes, but that was a false, corrupted Islam full of Bidah, Shirk & Kufr. What we have is the One and Only, True, Uncorrupted and Pure form of Islam". As Pakistan cowers and trembles in fear with the sword at its neck, the Salafis will then ask in a stern voice that reflects the authority that comes with their absolute certainty
in their belief, "well, what is your choice?”. At this critical juncture, and as usual, Pakistan will turn in desperation towards the Paanwala for guidance & advice on Islamic Theology. But the Paanwala will reply in a shy voice, "Sahib, main tau Ahmadi
hoon. Main Islam kay barey may kuch nahin Janta. Hamarey Mirza sahib nay tau bas yahi sikhaya kay Jis Fasal ko Boya tha, Usi Fasal ko ab Katna hay
In light of all this, I request readers to think about how our civil society, our press/media and our government could work together to build an intellectual "defensive-wall" that can protect ordinary Pakistanis from the powerful & destructive storm of absolutism that is now headed our way. This could be a good discussion to have and could be made constructive by the sharing of ideas on what can be done to prevent absolutist, uncompromising Salafi ideas from destroying the very fabric of the diverse Pakistani society in which we live today.
1) Is this post just an exaggeration, or do you think that Pakistan is really in danger?
2) If Pakistan is indeed in danger, how serious do you think this danger is?
3) If the danger is serious, how much time do you think we have to prepare for this conflict?
4) Can we compromise with Salafism? Or would that be just as pointless as appeasing Hitler?
5) Do you think Pakistan needs a Chamberlain or a Churchill in this context?
6) Do you think that our Civil Society is even aware of this? (Except Ms. Jahangir, whom I know)
7) Do you think our Pakistani-Islam Maulvis are educated/honest enough resist what is coming?
8) How Islamized is our Army and what "brand" of Islam do you think has infiltrated there?
9) Do you think that Zaid Hamid can crush the enemies of Pakistan with his little finger?
10) Why do you think Zardari is still playing polo with Shehrzada Bilal in England?
Post-Script Notes of Interest:
(1) This strong Anglo-Saud Anti-Khilafah alliance that was instrumental in the formation of "Saudi" Arabia is the reason why the House of Saud is so close to the Anglo-Saxon Powers even today (British first, then transferred to America after WW-II).
(2) This Anglo-Saud alliance against the Kingdom of Hejaz (Sharifs of Makkah) explains why Barelvi-Sufi Ulema in India sometimes refer to the Salafis as "Angrezon key Awlad" even today.
(3) The house of Saud, the Salafis and the Ikhwan rebelled against the recognized Khalifa of the Usmaniyya Empire saying that they did not recognize either his authority or his profession of Islam. They claimed that their form of Islam was the true one. This is why the Traditionalist-school Ulema from the Upper & lower Euphrates-Tigris regions sometimes refer to the Salafis as "Khawarij" even today.
(4) The Najdi-Salafis drove-away or killed the top Shia-Imams of the Imamate of Al Hasa after the take-over, saying that the Shia were "Rawafid". This, coupled with the destruction of Shrines in Makkah and Madinah is very close to the actions of the Khalifa Yazid-I in which he had Imam Hussain killed and waged wars against Makkan and Madinah. This historical parallel is why the Shia Imams (in Iran and elsewhere) sometimes refer to the Salafis as "Yazidi" even today.
(5) The Saudi-Salafi combine had tried to do a take-over ~200 years ago, but at that time the Usman Empire was strong enough to send troops to the Hejaz (Makkah-Madina) and throw the Saudi-Salafis back into their central desert home. So the take-over ~100 years ago was a "second-attempt" and was successful this time only because the Usman Empire was already collapsing and was under attack by the British & French Empires. This is why some Turkish history-buffs sometimes refer to the House of Saud as "British-Agents" even today.
I could be wrong. I do not claim to have heard the sacred voice of the angels instructing me to propound this theory. This is just my human understanding of the History of the conflicts in "Al Jazeera Al Arabiya" and of the uncompromising, unyielding, and sometimes merciless Salafi creed that seems to emanate from there. It is my conjecture that this Salafi creed is being propelled and propagated by the vast sums of foreign-exchange that derive from the huge trade-surpluses that now accrue to "Saudi" Arabia by virtue of Oil being at ~100$ a barrel.
If someone feels I have got something historically wrong or missed something of importance analytically, I would be grateful for comments. If there are any readers from the Arabic-speaking countries of West Asia or any Parsi-speaking readers from Iran, we would especially welcome your views and comments. My request to Indian readers is that they refrain from trumpeting about the "Eternal Cosmic Glory of Indian Secularism & Democracy", as that would not be relevant to this thread.