Sunday, July 25, 2010


Mr. Masjed Jamei was the Minister of Guidance during the second term of Khatami's Presidency. He is now a member of the Tehran City Council.  Along with Dr Najafi (also a long time Minister and now Councilor) we were on a visit to a mourning family in Tehran who had lost their son a year ago. The young man had loved Abulfazel Abbas as a role model, his mother sadly recalled.
In their home, Mr. Masjed Jamei spoke about the attractive personality of this loyal brother of Imam Hussein and how he is now revered by people of all walks of life even from different religions. He spoke about a religious group (Heyat) that Armenians in Tehran have to commemorate Abbas, their green flag has only his name on it. Jews residing in Tehran also have ceremonies, he noted, for Imam Hussein and Abbas.
I also remembered how in an international conference " Earth Dialogues",  I was attending in Brisbane Australia, the Director had chosen an Islamic symbol for the conference. The hand of Abbas had been chosen from an artistic exhibition in Morocco.

More interesting was an international  contemporary arts exhibition he had visited in Tehran, wherein an Indian artist had displayed a short skit comprising of a dialog with a pot of water. He was playing the role of Abbas, when he returned from the battle ground of Karbala ( a battle incited by Yazid the Ommayid Khalifa  against the grandson of the Prophet ,Imam Hussein in 61 Hegira), to bring water for the thirsty women and children from the Euphrates . According to the narration, he filled a pot with water but inspite of his thirst , recalling the thirst of his brother and family, he could not drink from that water. Abbas  returned, but was attacked midway and martyred ,while carrying the water back.
Now, 14 centuries later this inspirational event was brought to life by an Indian Hindu who had grasped the message of love and loyalty and resistance in face of oppression from Abbas.

The Arabic month that we are now in, Sha'ban is one of the most festive and joyous months for Muslims. In many narrations it is known as the month of the Final Prophet (Muhammad SA).  The third of Sha'ban is known as the birthday of Imam Hussein and the following days are the birthdays of Abulfazel Abbas his legendary loyal brother and AliAkbar his valiant son. The 15th of Sha'ban is the birthday of the twelfth Imam who is in  occultation  according to Shia tradition. Sunnis also consider the 15th of Sha'ban as a night of Ghadr (value), a unique night when the holy Quran has descended and when a year's destiny takes shape.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


The verdicts of the Shariat, or Islamic jurisprudence come basically from the Holy Quran or from reliable and authentic narratives from the Prophet of Islam (SA) or his descendants. I have heard and read the views of many   knowledgeable  interpreters of the Quran (including Ayatollah Mousavi Bojnordi) who infer that there is no reference to stoning or Rajm in the Quran.The references to Rajm in the context which it is employed in the judicial systems of  Iran and certain Islamic countries in contemporary times are only found in the Torat. Modern  jurists  have indicated that such practices stem from Judaic tradition and have no Islamic backing. Also there are indications in the sayings of Imam Ali  and other religious leaders that providing evidence for adultery is very difficult and probably impossible.

Nevertheless there are Jurists and scholars who believe that the only  forceful response to adultery is stoning. In the Islamic Republic of Iran the verdict of stoning has been given in limited cases,and practiced rarely, while during certain periods internal and external pressures resulted in a moratorium on stoning (in place since 2002). Judicial officials have noted that Imam Khomeini had ordered a halt to this practice in the early years of his leadership.
The recent case of Sakineh Ashtiani, who was indicted on charges of adultery,  found an unprecedented level of coverage and condemnation and has apparently resulted in a review of the verdict by the Iranian judiciary. Having said this I would like to make two points.

The first issue is that according to Islamic tradition and according to modern psychology,the family is the unique cornerstone of human development. To safeguard the family is to protect the rights of the future generation and the society. For the past decades promiscuity, obsession for bodies and looks, the comodification of women and sex has held the upper-hand in Western civilization. Teen pregnancies, single mothers and children with no families are the imminent result of this culture. On the other hand  modesty, protecting the dignity of human beings and the rights of the future generations and the emotional  and moral integrity of the young generation are the concerns that religions follow world wide. These concerns are justified when we see the soaring rates of social and cultural challenges both in industrialized and developing nations prone to western culture and propaganda for the hollow "western lifestyle".

The second point is that the Western media and the neocon  propaganda machine is taking advantage of this matter as well as other obvious weaknesses of the Iranian government to turn their public against Iran and prepare them for an imminent attack or aggression.  This is an unjustified approach that had prevailed in the early years after the Islamic Revolution and today, unfortunately, an incompetent government in Iran is creating pretexts for this unlawful synchronization of public opinion against Iran.
We have to campaign for a revision of the current marital law in which it has been proposed that stoning be deleted. We also have to campaign to restore the authentic image of Islam,which is in many cases,very different from what has been portrayed in Islamic countries.