One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Picturing Saudi Arabia in Words: Part 1

This quote is ascribed to Napoleon, "A picture is worth of a thousands words", but the problem with pictures are that, they only show skin-deep of reality. To see what is under the skins, we need the assistance of words. This is why books still matter, despite of ease, access, affordability and convenience of taking  and presenting, pictures and videos. The problem with words is that, they are easily manipulated and are open to interpretations. Still, the words can picture things that no camera might ever be able to ... Just for sake of comparison, I like to put two pictures of orientals side by side, one in words, and another with a camera, by legendary British female archaeologist and spy Gertrude Bell from her book, "Syria: The Desert & The Swan (Find it at the  bookshelf's history section)

"The Oriental is like a very old child. He is unacquainted with many branches of knowledge which we have come to regard as of elementary necessity ; frequently, but not always, his mind is little pre- occupied with the need of acquiring them, and he concerns himself scarcely at all with what we call practical utility. He is not practical in our acceptation of the word, any more than a child is practical, and his utility is not ours. On the other hand, his action is guided by traditions of conduct and morality that go back to the beginnings of civilisation...."

The history of South and Central Asia is shaped by great games, cold war between super-powers and now cold wars between regional powers. One of the regional power is Saudi Arabia, and it is important to learn about her, in order to understand, a lot of whys, that might arise from news of the region. As I am not an expert in the subject, I try to present some of the pictures that I get through books. So here are some pictures in words by Robert Lacey from his book, "Inside The Kingdom" (First a picture of the country's geography and history)

1. Why Al-Saud Family Matters?

"Think of central Arabia as being in three parts- the oil fields in the east, the holy cities of Mecca and Madina in the west, and largely barren desert in the middle. At the beginning of the century, and for most of the previous centuries of the Arabian history, those three geographical units were separate countries and, to some degree, cultures. It is the modern achievement of the House of Saud, through skilled and ruthless warfare, a highly refined gift for conciliation, and, most particularly, the potent glue of their Wahhabi mission, to pull those three areas together so that, by the end of twentieth century, the world's largest oil reserves were joined, sea to sea, to the largest center of annual religious pilgrimage in the world- and to their capital in the wahhahi heartland of Riyadh. That is the historical significance of the Saudi camel jockeys. If it were not for Ibn Saud and his sons, the oil fields now called Saudi would probably be another overly affluent, futuristic emirate like Kuwait or Dubai along the Persian Gulf coast, all lagoon estates and Russian hookers.... "

2. Why House of Saud adapted Wahhabism?

"Born in the Islamic, or Hijrah, year of 115 (1703-4 in the Western, Gregorian Calender), Mohammad Abdul Wahhab learned Koran at an early age. Traveling to holy cities of Mecca and Madina as a teenager, he went on to Basra, in Iraq, to continues his religious studies. By the time he came to dry and austere area of Qaseem, north of Riyadh, in A.H 1153 (A.D. 1740), the thirty-seven-year-old preacher had come to feel that the Muslims of his time has gone grievously astray. People gave superstitious reverences to domes and tombs, even to rocks, caves, and trees that were associated with holy men; they dressed luxuriously, smoked tobacco, and indulged in singing and dancing that did not accord with his own austere reading of the Koran.

Ibn Abdul Wahhab condemned these practices as shirk (polytheism). Calling on true Muslims to return to the central message of Islam, "There is no god but God," he led campaigns to stop music and to smash domes and gravestones in the name of God's Oneness. He and his followers liked to call themselves muwahhidoon, monotheists. They did not consider themselves as separate school of islamic thought- they felt they were simply going back to the basics. But their critics derisively called them Wahhabis, and many of Najd's settlements rejected preacher's puritanical attacks on their pleasures.

Then the first Wahhabi encountered Mohammad Ibn Saud, the ambitious ruler of Dariyah, a small oasis town near the even smaller oasis of Riyadh. History was made. In A.H 1157 (A.D 1733) the two Mohammads concluded a pact. Ibn Saud would protect and propagate the stern doctrines of Wahhabi mission, which made Koran the basis of government. In return, Abdul Wahhab would support the ruler, supplying him with "glory and power". Whoever championed his message, he promised, "will, by all means of it, rule lands and men."

So it proved. In the following year the preacher proclaimed Jihad, holy war, to purify Arabia, and after a series of bloodthirsty military campaigns, the Wahhabi armies swept into Mecca in April 1803 (A.H. 1218), extending Saudi authority from Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. For a moment the House of Saud controlled more territory than the fledgling United States".

No comments:

Post a Comment