The infallibility of mortals

People would be excused for thinking that Isa Qassim, leader of the Ulama (Clerics) Council, has lost his way when they hear that he compared “true clerics” – himself included – to Allah, the Prophet and his apostles. So much so that he plainly affirmed that whoever defies said clerics has recanted against Islam and God.

In one fell swoop, the respected gentleman has positioned himself and other men of the cloth – at least those he brands as “true” – not only as intermediaries between man and Creator, but by association, infallible. They must be unquestioningly obeyed and whoever dares to question them is deemed apostate.

Islam, we thought, is one religion that does not require priests for God to accept our supplications.

Isa Qassim pictured in Sitra, Bahrain

Stranger still, is that Duraz, the seat of his power, seem to be completely under his influence. There is not a street nor alleyway in that decrepit village not decorated with his oversized pictures. The walls which could barely support their own weight and showing their age, groan further under the weight of banners and placards extolling his and other clerics’ virtues.

Their stature is further reinforced by idle idol worshippers; a cabal who are ready to pound those who object to this newest level of grandiosity as counter to the very Islam they claim to serve and represent.

In politics it is more worrying still. By Qassim’s instructions, Al-Wefaq was elected by riding on his affirmation that they are indeed the “party of believers”, the party of God. Hence, excluding all others from an already questionable field and allowing them to be swept into parliament. Their saving grace – in his book – is not their individual expertise nor experience or even perceived potential; rather, it is their piety and blind and exclusive obedience to him. A fact confirmed by his political branch’s leader – Ali Salman – who categorically confirmed that Qassim’s opinions will always take precedence.

How might one criticise, given that now these clerics are no longer simple mortals? How are we to outline faults in their logic or even person if they are presumed infallible? Or, on a practical level, how is one to point out even one of their simple mistakes or dare to have a differing opinion if the reward is a blackened eye or a burnt house?

Our community, I am sorry to say, will simply continue to elevate clerics to a much higher level than they actually deserve and will continue to acquiesce to their every request. They will continue to abrogate their responsibility in uncovering flaws due to a tired premise that even if a cleric errs, he is still promised some bountiful reward. It is, they believe, on the cleric’s shoulders that their sins are discharged and as such they will rise pure to the hereafter. If questioned, the inevitable and encouraged response is that they were simply following orders.

What’s the way out of this quagmire? I have no quick answer.

We have been wrestling with this particular issue in one way or another since time immemorium; yet we realise that this worship of personalities is corrosive and unproductive. It is no wonder that we find ourselves adrift in a highly turbulent sea. Instead of these personalities recognising the fact that it is their responsibility to encourage their adherents to the creation of solid institutions and promote good governance or even self improvement – all of which require solid, constructive, harsh and sometimes plain ugly criticism, we find them competing with each other on superficial pursuits; appear bigger and grander than each other, in all probability using collected alms, to engender and propagate their personality into inviolate cults.

It is no wonder; therefore, that I hear a new phrase being bandied about in Duraz these days: Shaikh Isa Qassim, the Nasrallah of Bahrain!

46 thoughts on “The infallibility of mortals”

  1. What a timely and eloquent post.

    It is bracing and yet disheartening too to hear your views on the path you think Bahrain is taking.

    I think you see storm clouds gathering….

  2. One opinion is that, an improved educational system would help balance out this rhetoric by highlighting to students the importance of a stable political climate and a strong and growing economy. Religion is of paramount importance but so is Bahrain’s stability. With time, a proper educational system would give birth to a new geneartion of Bahrainis concerned with quality of their MPs. When this time comes, our new democratic process will start forming its first grass roots.

  3. Disturbing pronouncement indeed, yet not entirely unexpected. Claiming infallibility was the next logical step after 2005 declaration by Ali Salman that Isa Qassim is the leader of the umma (I assume the Bahraini umma!). Significantly, Salman added that Qassim’s word should outweigh any contradictory statement by anyone else including Ali Salman himself.

    This and his Qassim’s impressive success in mobilising ‘the believing masses’ against codifying women’s rights (the Personal Status controversy) may have contributed to what we see presently. This recent megalomaniac statement fits squarely within the course of Qassim’s political activity since his return from Qum in 2001. (To this, I must add, king Hamad has contributed immensely through making Qassim his sole interlocutor on Taifa related political issues).

    The huge billboard with his image at Duraz entrance proclaiming “the order is yours” الأمر لك may have been another sign that this cleric has finally lost touch with reality and started his self-destructive journey. AbuRasool

  4. Well spoken. After reading this post, I’m starting to believe that you DON’T have a hidden agenda, and actually DO care about the common good of ALL people living on this good land. One thing I would advise, in general, is to cut down on the paranoid conspiracy theory rhetoric in some of your posts. Does you a real disservice in my humble opinion.

  5. للعلم فقط

    الشيخ عيسى قاسم كان يتكلم عن نظرية متجذرة في فكر المذهب الشيعي والتي يتفق عليها جميع (أكرر جميع) أفراد الشيعة وعلمائهم على اختلاف مشاربهم وهي نظرية اتباع الامام المعصوم ومن ينوبه

    ولم يأت بشيء جديد أو ابتدع نظرية حديثة في هذا المجال. والطائفة الشيعية كلها تسلم بهذه النظرية

    وبما أن هذا الزمن يعرف بعصر الغيبة لدى الشيعة لتغيب الامام فأن في الاعتقاد الشيعي أنه يجب على الشيعة الرجوع للعلماء الفقهاء لتغيب الامام بحسب الروايات المعتمدة للطائفة الشيعية

    هذا موضوع الشيخ باختصار وذلك لا يعني ادعاء العصمة أنما هذا موضوع يتعلق بقيادة الأمة وهو ما اتفق عليه الشيعة كلهم

    فالشيخ لم يطرح شيئاً جديداً من عنده ولن تجدون شيعي إلا ويؤمن بهذه النظرية

    وللعلم أيضاً أن هذه النظرية ذاتها موجودة عند أهل السنة بمسمى اتباع ولاة الأمر وهو ما قد يفسر بالحكام أو السلاطين عند السنة وليس كحالة الشيعة بالفقهاء… فهل يعني أن السنة يؤمنون بعصمة الحاكم؟ بالطبع لا

    فانتقادك هذا هو لطائفة بأكملها وليس لشخص عيسى قاسم فقط

    وللمعلومية أيضاً بحسب التسلسل في الحوزة الفقهية فأن الشيخ عيسى قاسم أرفع منزلة من السيد حسن نصر الله لذلك فالشيخ ليس بحاجة لمقارنته بالسيد نصر الله

    كفوا عن هذه المزايدات وهذا التهويل

  6. Qasim haven’t said anything new, maybe a new version of what have been said by all turbans and beards, it is now more dangerous due to its direct effect on politics and where this country is going.

    the people need to see beyond this and realise that they are being driven like sheep, and not the where god is, it just where the turban or the beard want then to go and I don’t think our educational system can fix it, our educational system needs fixing as it is.

  7. If it is any comfort, Christianity is also infested with “infallible” priests. Arrogance seems to go with the job.

  8. And yet again, we have sunk to another low :???:

    With insane proclomations such as this, people still want to follow this man and hold him in such lofty regard??

    Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I never heard or read anywhere that Syed Nasrallah – with all his achievements and contributions to his people- ever gave himself such high ordinance!

    Pathetic! :roll:

  9. Ali – Agreed! interesting considering Nasrarallah gave Israel a bloody nose and Qassim did,…..erm, I don’t know, what did he do?

    To add to what Eyad said – Churchill supposedly said : ” It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

    The connotations of the above quote aside, democracy has many pre-requisites. Can it be said that Bahrain (or any other arab government) has met them ?

  10. …met them?…..thats funny :razz:

    I find it interesting that the Quran hints at a democracy being the best form of govt…and yet not even one arab state comes close to that ideal…and yet they all still call themselves Islamic govts ruled by Sharia Law.

    That imam mentioned above should be tried for shirk as basically he is telling his people to worship him and to believe and follow whatever he tells them to…and his people….

    People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought…which they seldom use. Soren Kierkegaard.

  11. Referring to Comment # 5, and his evaluation which I to some degree agree with. On the same token, I also agree with Mahmood on some points. However, in my humble opinion I don’t know Isa Qassim personally, nor am I affiliated to him in any way, i.e. following him as a Marjaa’.
    One thing I do notice though.. Muslims in general do not read, or educate themselves in the do’s/don’ts of Islam, we tend to depend solely on the opinion and referral of the turbaned ones. This has created a platform where the know ledged and non-know ledged got automatically elevated to a degree where it has become difficult to get them off the ledge that they cling on.
    Even the simplest of issues, which we should know by default or have the ability to read and research on the internet to obtain a multitude of opinions we fail to achieve. More recently it has been renowned that a person can study for 2-3 years in a Hawzaa’ and become qualified to preach on a pulpit, this has created a great number of Sheikhs and Mulla’s to which we seem to obey and follow in every detail (due to our humbleness), without even thinking for ourselves; i.e. putting our little brain to work.
    Don’t get me wrong, some of them are genuine, open-minded and can relate to the problems of today and have the ability to come up with logical answers all within the concept of Islam, Quaran and the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH & Family). Typical examples of such are the deceased Sh./Dr. Ahmed Al-Waeli, Sh./Dr. Fazel Al-Malaky, Ayatollah Fazel Al-Milani, and many others of great caliber, who cater for unity of the Muslims, respect of opinion and last but not least respect of oneself which ultimately gives you the respect of the Allah. Some of these young turbaned wanna-be’s expect respect from everybody, but have little or no respect for others.
    Unfortunately in Bahrain, you could be politically educated, have a power base, a great election program, be driven to change, be genuine, honest, without the slightest doubt of any form of incompetence… yet without the endorsement of the turbaned ones, you literally have no chance in hell to get elected.
    I truly believe that the next elections will not see Al-Wefaq in such great numbers in parliament. Listening and speaking to people on the street, all you hear is their discontent of their achievements (so far) and the lost opportunities that they had to make change. I hope the next elections brings in the likes of Waad, and independents to whom my vote goes to. At least we could expect change that would effect us all as a nation, rather than sectarian which is what is happening right now.

  12. Well Mahmood, guess you are already prepared for any reaction his followers will take, so on with what I have to say.
    I think that this is a very very dangerous thing indeed. I am sorry, but if we stop and think for a second, and cleric, sheikh or alem is a man. Made by god. Thus, is not perfect. Any person who claims to be THE refernce is automatically wrong by that principle alone.
    I understand that in the Sunni way (BTW, this is an example only, please no one drag this into a secular thing) no one has absolute power, and a muslim can basically pick and match opinions of proper clerics in a way that makes sense to that Muslim. But saying that one is right and each and every one else is wrong DESPITE being muslim, is a bit much. And saying that one POLITICAL party is right and the others wrong is not only much and impossible, but should raise flags of warning as to why this was said.
    The problem you see, is getting people to buy in that “everything I say is GOD’S intention” thing. Once they do, it is just way to easy to control masses, as no force of resistance will exist internally no more.

  13. Reap and ye shall sow. In the absence of a sound education system, and a generally educate, informed, and vigilant population – thanks to poor educational policy and investment for generations – we have a populace that is exposed to the vanities of demagogues and charlatans.

    Only sheep need to be led (n.b. rabbi=shepherd, so now we are creating our own rabbis here!). Free people ought to be able to make up their own mind.

    Fortunately, ridicule and the cold shoulder should do the trick with imbeciles like the blessed Shepherd of Duraz
    :razz:

  14. much ado about nothing…massive misunderstanding, you cannot simply translate a speech regarding religion to english and expect people to comprehend it, and by the way I do not care about the person concerned, I’m only worried about this country…try to distance yourself from AlSaeedi’s remarks

  15. I really feel sorry for you because regardless of what you are; being leftest, communist, or liberal. And regardless of what you say; logically or not, people of Bahrain would always follow the Olama’. A painful fact to you but that’s the reality!

    It’s funny though that you’ve reached the same conclusion with Alsaeedi’s!!

    And for AbuRasool’s comment final paragraph, if it what you say is going to comfort yourself and distance you from the failure then fine. Unfortunatly, it’ll be for a short period as you will see once again how people of Bahrain would deal with it, and who’s really seld-destructing himself!

    Keep banging your head to the wall, and people of Bahrain will keep their choices far away from you!

  16. And regardless of what you say; logically or not, people of Bahrain would always follow the Olama’.

    Case closed!

  17. no matter how ‘religious’ our people pretend to be, most don’t have much real tangible religious knowledge, or attach it to any sort of common sense, for that matter. the new mulla’s and shaikh’s are the new gods, and they follow their advice word for word.

    again, these people claim to be ‘the word of god’, and anyone not with them is against god, so to speak. they play with the human mind, with psychology, with ideology so well, that they’ve managed to get the masses follow them step for step. if only they put their skills to real use and apply to the marketing departments of something like Pepsi or Nike

  18. This is a sensitive subject, and rushing to conclusions is not the solution. Words can be mean one thing but in reality mean another. In no way should a Marjaa think or believe that he is in infallable, and neither should the followers, he can only recommend and make decisons based on hadith, and the Quran. Matters which have not been covered; are normally based on Ijtihad (personal effort) which requires endorsement by a majlis of experts in the field.
    I believe the whole idea of the Marjaa is nothing more than a consultant in the field of religion, the concept of accepting on the assumption of the blame lies on the Marjaa is valid, but at the same time the human brain should be able to differ between logic and no-logic.

  19. This is simply ignorance! and lack of the RIGHT EDUCATION about islam. I mean come on its like 5ala9 the compleatly depend on this guy to be their savior and yet for get allaah sub7anaah who created them…Soon after he dies you will see things getting exagurated and people may even start worshiping his grave.

    This is haram by the way.
    The sad part is people will not listen to logic.
    Did u hear about the guy who was punched in the eye for what he said? I’m still waiting for them to pin it on the cops. (Maybe the only reason they didnt pin it on the cops is because he lived to tell what really happened)

  20. Astonishment of those who made comments on the subject does not have to know about
    Qasim, who talked about the subject of ideological heart of the Shiite doctrine
    No different in or around any reference to the Shiites Literature
    Therefore, I hope the dear books that refer to Shiite beliefs so that they can comment on the matter impartially

  21. Desert Bloom: you use “them” far too much. You sound a bit like a sectarian-minded person, which I hope you are not.

    The “beef”, if I may, should be with the idea rather than a whole sect?

  22. No one has a monopoly on “the truth” contrary to what the wilayat al-faqihists believe.

    For a reminder of a a more beautiful Islam, see this….

    sultanulawliya.blogspot.com/

    It is not all darkness in dar al Islam.

  23. Isa Qassim and Hasan Nasr Allah.. hahaha!

    When Isa Qassim was asked to sign on the petition in 1994 to restore a parliment in Bahrain, he politely apologized and made an excuse that he wants to go study in Iran. The coward packed his bags the same night and ran away rather than be taken in like real men (Jamri, abdulwahab.. etc.) When he came back he was received like a hero :shock:

    Even recently, when riots broke out last december he ran away to Al Madina.

    I just want to understand, if these youths want a religious fanatic to praise like the hindus praise cows, what do they see in this coward? Isn’t there another looney in town to praise?

  24. One more thing I forgot to mention.. I bet you that he will do anything he can possibly can to avoid signing the petition asking the PM to resign. Be it studying Fiqh in Iran or studying modeling in Milan.

  25. Yo! Bandary ‘No Need’.. Do you know what you are really saying? You are calling the majority of bahrainis stupid by choosing to follow a coward! They must be real stupid if your allegations are true, which are far away from it. Eat your heart Banadary, I hate to disappoint you by saying that the majority of Bahrainis will remain his followers regardless of your point of view.. and if you want to see our magnitude, see our gatherings. Likewise, ask one of your leaders to call for a rally and count the numbers of his followers. No need for a calculator, hand fingers will do fine!

  26. Hussain2 don’t be such an imbecile. You can’t win an argument by shouting, but you might if you choose to improve your argument, which you have not.

    Not all Bahraini Shi’a follow Isa Qassim, in fact I would say that none actually do as he is no marji’. And as he is just a human being who is exercising his political opinions, he should be treated and criticised as a politician.

    If he (or you or anyone else for that matter) have a problem with that, then please do convey the message to the right honourable gentleman to not dabble in it and concern himself specifically with religious matters.

  27. Hussain2, four points I want to bring to your attention, if any.

    1. Yes, that is my exact point; the majority of bahrainis are stupid because they follow a coward. What was hard to decode from my comment?

    2. How can I be a Bandary if I’m criticizing him of not signing the petition to end the Prime Minister’s term, and criticize him for not signing the “3areethat al nukhba” to restore parlimentary life back? If I was a “bandary” I will be glad, wouldn’t I? The world is not just black and white, son. There are different opinions.

    3. I don’t have a leader to call me to come out. That is the difference between me and you. Thats why I have the liberty to make an independent opinion. If you’re implying that my leaders are Salafi’s, you might be surprised to know that they are the stupidest thing I have ever seen. Even stupider than Qassim.

    4. And finally, if you want to prove me wrong lets have a bet. I bet you that Isa Qassim will only speak against the PM until he is sure that the king and the CP will relieve him of his duties. Until then he will avoid Haq’s petition like an ex wife. If that does happen, I want you to come back here and be honest to yourself and say that he is just a scare crow. If he does have the balls and speaks about the PM before its news in the making, I will come back to this post and apologize for what I said. How does that sound?

  28. Here we go again, someone translates a speech into English, gives it a splash of bias and spin and then does a bad job of analyzing it.

    Then people who know absolutely nothing about Bahrain, the context or what have you try to pump their egos by adding to the irrational generalizations whose groundwork was laid by the oversized whale.

    No wonder bloggers are being killed and imprisoned the world over.

  29. Yo! Bandary ‘No Need’.. Do you know what you are really saying? You are calling the majority of bahrainis stupid by choosing to follow a coward! They must be real stupid if your allegations are true, which are far away from it. Eat your heart Banadary, I hate to disappoint you by saying that the majority of Bahrainis will remain his followers regardless of your point of view.. and if you want to see our magnitude, see our gatherings. Likewise, ask one of your leaders to call for a rally and count the numbers of his followers. No need for a calculator, hand fingers will do fine!

    Are you saying that their great number makes their viewpoint more valid, Hussain2? Crowds are not normally intelligent, you know, especially crowds of rioters. And as for all your talk of “leaders”, maybe No Need doesn’t need one so badly. Did you think of that?

    The real job of a real leader is to maintain the number of real individuals. Too few real individuals, and a people will simply degenerate into a mob. We’ve seen enough of this already, don’t you think?

  30. No wonder bloggers are being killed and imprisoned the world over.

    So whose side are you on?

  31. mahmood i am not a sectarian-minded person il 7imdelah and by them i meant the people ily em3a’6meena zeyadaa 3an il lezoom and I am 100% sure that not all shi3as are like that. Do u have a word u prefer i use other then “them”?

  32. A more specific adjective or better choice of words would have been better.

    Reading your blog I feel that you’re not sectarian, but you appeared to be one in the comment you posted. I would put that to emotive generalisation, I guess, rather than intentionally being sectarian.

  33. Can anyone clearly and simply outline the reasons for getting rid of a very seasoned and experienced senior political figure??

  34. Who’s the seasoned and experienced senior political figure? That prick? When he was in 1973 parliment the only two laws he proposed were shrinking the holidays to only 2 eids like Saudi Arabia because anything else is unislamic, and banning girls from going to school, which he still supports by the way.

  35. The best way to get rid of these old jokers and beards is to give then responsibility and hold them accountable….they’ll soon make a hash of things. Look at the mess in Iran: honest scholars are under house arrest while the others have spent the last 25yrs looting the country and mismanaging the economy. No wonder they have so many social problems there.

    As for the Wahabis…God help them.

  36. I find this very interesting, Mahmood.

    Islam, we thought, is one religion that does not require priests for God to accept our supplications.

    The Christian’s Bible also does not require priests interceding for God to accept our supplications. Yet the Pope has declared otherwise and has also declared himself infallible. Look at his following! Indeed look how many world leaders not only attended Pope John Paul’s funeral, but actually bowed down to his dead body.

    How might one criticise, given that now these clerics are no longer simple mortals? How are we to outline faults in their logic or even person if they are presumed infallible? Or, on a practical level, how is one to point out even one of their simple mistakes or dare to have a differing opinion if the reward is a blackened eye or a burnt house?

    That’s the point, isn’t it? In order for us to question or criticise, we must first be thinkers. By outlawing criticism they are also, indirectly, outlawing thinking.

    A population that does not think is always desirable as it is the easiest to manipulate my dear boy.

  37. Sorry mahmood to say that this article put you unintentionally on a par with the sectarian MP- Jassim Al Saeedi. I am not a defender or a supporter for Isa Qassim, but here you are criticizing one of the main fundamental thoughts of Shia (i.e. following Faqih equivalent to following imams which equivalent to following prophet that all in total is compliance with God’s guidelines). And I, as a Shitte and a fan of your blog, do find this article insulting my thoughts without respecting the privatization of my sect. If you want to criticize people whoever they are, it is fine for me- I have no problem in this. But you have to be careful not to misunderstand whether you are criticizing a generic idea for the whole sect, or a person’s/small group’s thoughts! Otherwise, you will fall in a sectarian quagmire!

    Please consider this as an advice!

  38. Thank you Bu Ali, I shall.

    You’re the second person who brought out the subject of the perceived agreement of my position to that of the Wahabi MP Jassim Al-Saidi. My position may coincide perceivably with Saidi; however, the motive and motivation behind both positions are completely divergent, as you well know.

    Now, as to my criticism of Isa Qassim’s assertion that his word – being a cleric (faqih) of certain standing in knowledge of Islam and the community – is equivalent to that of God, in as much as its authority is concerned, does not make sense to me. Please correct me if you feel that I am wrong. I don’t think that I am.

    To me, mortals whoever they are cannot – by definition – be infallible. They are imperfect human beings given to err, some more than others. That is why the “marji’iah” is central to Shi’a doctrine and any decision given by a marji’ is open to discussion and even contentious debate. If that marji’s followers do not agree with that position or interpretation, then they are more than welcome to change their reference.

    That in itself also confirms several factors: that Islam is an evolutionary religion which is re-interpreted to the time it is in, this allows it to be a “live” religion, and the second thing is the absolute confirmation that we also believe in not just black and white, but also the area in between. Hence, the confirmation again that imperfection is the rule rather than the exception.

    Therefore, Isa Qassim’s words and decision – with all due respect – and all of those of the other respected marji’s are offered as guidance to their interpretation of the religion, rather than be the absolute “truth”.

    As that is the case, then to me personally, it does not make sense to assert that a faqih’s MUST be obeyed as one would Allah and the Prophet.

    I hope I have made my position amply clear. It might be a mistaken position, but to me and my conscience it is logical; hence, is true enough for me.

    There is no way that with these expressed thoughts that I have “attacked” or done any damage to the Shi’a and their beliefs, or even the larger Muslim community.

    I am and will continue to express things as I see them. If I am found at fault, then I am ready to accept reason.

  39. Would we not all be happier if all those religious preachers just leave us alone?

    I think the world will be a safer and a happier place if we all sing along with John Lennon his immortal words and perhpas try to embrace them;

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…

  40. Mahmood

    Please check Alwasatnews today- page 11

    There is an interview with Sheikh Najati about this issue. I think this may remove the misunderstanding.

  41. Excellent article and I think its spirit agrees with what I have written.

    For those who want to read it, click here for the Arabic version and here for Google’s translation.

  42. Nine: “Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace…”

    I’m not convinced that anarchy would be an improvement over the present state of affairs. Lennon seems to be the opposite of Lenin here. Lenin demands the government control all. Lennon demands no government at all.

    I’m opting for the happy middle between Lennon’s Hobbesian state of nature and Lenin’s socialist worker’s paradise.

  43. I can not disagree with you Steve! What I really wanted to say was that for all people to look at each other as fellow human beings regardless of their backgrounds. But I guess I am just another dreamer here!

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