July 10, 2010

"HE WHO BENEFITS THE PEOPLE":

A Talk with Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr (Ma'ad Fayad, 7/10/10, Asharq Alawasat)

Not only is the great religious reference Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr different from other religious references in Iraq because he is open to all faiths and sects but he is also open to the media and intellectuals, both Iraqis and others. He is also different because he is open to all that is contemporary and beneficial around the world.

Sayyid Hussein al-Sadr, who communicates with others through the Internet, owns a satellite channel called "Peace" [Al-Salam]. He also owns centers around the world in the name of "humanitarian dialogue," in addition to periodicals and regular publications. More importantly his institutions oversee dozens of centers and private education institutions mainly for girls and secondly for boys where they learn computer skills, drawing, the art of delivering speeches, and science. This is in addition to the health centers, orphanages, colleges, and centers to protect women and the disabled, which extend from Baghdad to Al-Anbar. Al-Sadr sees the Iraqis as equal in their rights and that there is no difference between a Muslim and a non Muslim, between a Sunni and a Shiite, or between and Arab and non Arab.

In Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat visited some centers and institutions belonging to Sayyid Hussein Ismail al-Sadr before he went to his office in the city of Al-Kazimiyyah where there were a number of visitors including a percentage of women and non Muslim men. Asharq Al-Awsat conducted an extensive interview that touched on most aspects of the current Iraqi situation. [...]

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it better that a country be governed by people who separate religion from politics?

[Al-Sadr] We often reiterate in the media that he who is in charge must have three characteristics: first and foremost is patriotism and faith in the homeland; second is competence and professionalism; and third is fairness and honesty. I constantly stress that religion must be separate from the practical side of politics. I distinguish between politics and patriotism because politics today means the art of possibility; and second, politics, at least in the understanding of Iraqi politicians is sectarian, personal, patriotic, and party gains. Religion is above all this. Therefore, in my opinion he who carried this heavenly message cannot become politicized. There is nothing wrong in a politician being religious but this does not mean he can politicize his faith. If a politician prays and fasts then I believe he is more capable of carrying his message and performing his duties. If he is aware in the way he worships God and his relationship with God opens him for serving people and works in accordance with the Hadith "The best of people is he who benefits people" and interprets every Koranic verse that says 'for the sake of God' to mean for the sake of mankind and for the service of mankind. This is what we constantly stress when we interpret religious texts that whenever there is a mention of 'for the sake of God' it means in order to serve the people because God is not in any need, is strong, and does not need the service of people. Therefore we serve God in his project of existence and God's existence project is humanity. Human beings are the most important and dearest possessions of God on earth since He created the heavens and earth for him and therefore it is incumbent on us to serve man.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There is a problem that we in Iraq did not know before and that is the so-called sectarianism, and separating the Sunnis from the Shittes, and creating divisions between them. However, we are aware of your great efforts to fight this issue and trying to bring Muslims together.

[Al-Sadr] We constantly stress that there is no sectarian issue among the people of Iraq. The problem is, however, between the Iraqi politicians and with some politicians who do not have a strong popular base. Those politicians try to make sectarian division a way for them to gain benefits and to create a popular base. Therefore, the problem is not one between the Iraqi people. There has never been a sectarian problem between the Iraqi people. This is why during the most difficult period between the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 we met and received all spectrums of Iraqi society from all faiths: Christians, Sabeans, Azidis and all Islamic schools. During the conferences, seminars, and meetings we discussed and consolidated the issue of the unity of the Iraqi people. There was no problem whatsoever. The problem is that some politicians tried to create problems through specials benefits for themselves such as gaining certain positions. Regarding these attempts, which we see as lowly attempts to plant the seeds of the sectarian culture by those who carry this culture whether or not they are politicians. Then, we convened many conferences and meetings that underlined the ties of faith, Iraqi nationalism, and humanitarianism. Praise be to God the results were felt on the Iraqi scene even though the Iraqi scene is suffering from many problems.

A few moments ago I spoke about the health issue and how it is neglected. There is also the educational issue that is no less important than the health issue. Iraq was, and will continue to be, a beacon of knowledge and civilization with its achievements and symbols; however, today it is the second most illiterate country in the world. In all honesty, this means the death of Iraq. This is all because of the lack of attention by Iraqi politicians and them not paying attention to the most important point in the life of Iraqi people and that is education, culture, and awareness. A person cannot be cultured and aware if he is not educated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 10, 2010 11:19 AM
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