The occupation of Iraq has caused the death of an estimated 654,965 Iraqis, according to a study conducted in 2006 by The Lancet, a British medical journal. The study is now two years old, and the total number of deaths is likely well over a million, with at least another million displaced as refugees in neighboring countries. Five years into the war, we find that working under the occupation has yielded no security, no improvement of quality of life, and no hope for Iraq. Even with the purest of intentions, working under an occupation has been a recipe for disaster. While there are those who make the argument that if Iraqis don't work with the occupying powers then mass slaughter will be in the streets of Iraq, the reality of the matter is that there is already mass slaughter today. A foreign occupation force will always have their own interests to protect and value, which is why the Iraqi people see their national interests have yet to be protected.
As the Holy Qur'an states, "they wish to seek justice from Taghut (illegitimate powers), even though they have been commanded to disbelieve therein." (4:60)
Last month during the Battle of Basra, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki oversaw operations as the Iraqi Army attempted and consequently failed to rid Basra of the Mahdi Army, which is under the control of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr. The fighting raged on for a week, and the Iraqi Army, which carried out its first mission independently of occupying forces, were surprised by the fierce resistance they were met with. 1,300 Iraqi soldiers were dismissed who either deserted or simply refused to fight the Mahdi Army. A truce was finally brokered in Iran, where the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard spearheaded a ceasefire between members of Maliki's party who reportedly travelled to Iran without his knowledge to meet with al-Sadr.
The result of the incursion was the death of 400 people and nearly 600 injured, solidifying the deterioration of relations between Maliki and al-Sadr. Analysts have nearly unanimously agreed that the victors of this battle are al-Sadr and Iran, who showcased their importance politically and militarily in Iraq. Again, whose interests were protected by this fighting between Muslims? This is a question that we should be pondering upon. At one point, Maliki boldly stated that "a decision was taken... that they no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army." This is a hypocritical statement as it goes against democracy, excluding parties from running in an election is outside the bounds of the Prime Ministers authority. Every political party in Iraq has a militia, and this is a consequence of the occupying forces failure in providing security in the region.
An MP for the Sadr bloc, Liqaa Aal Yassin, told the BBC Arabic service that two delegations were sent – to Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani in Najaf and Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Husseini al-Haeri in Iran – to discuss the possible disbanding of the Mahdi Army. It was later announced that the religious authorities did not order the militia to be disbanded. University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, who runs a blog focused on the Middle East (www.juancole.com), states that this is a well-known tactic used by Muqtada to put the decision on the shoulders of the Maraja (religious authorities), who refused to get involved. As a Muslim, I can firmly say this goes against the entire concept of Marjaiyyat, as the teachings of Islam and Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) very clearly lay out guidelines for all situations. Imam Ali mentions in Sermon 3 of Nahjul Balagha that "God, Exalted and Almighty, has exacted from the scholars of Islam a pledge not to sit silent and idle in the face of gluttony and plundering of the oppressors on the one hand, and the hunger and deprivation of the oppressed on the other." How can it be possible that the leading religious authorities would sit silent in such a matter when they are asked for their opinion? Would the Maraja really let the Sadr bloc propagate a vote of confidence on their behalf legitimizing the resistance without releasing a statement distancing themselves from the Sadrists?
As Muslims living in the West, it is only natural to feel helpless and confused about the exact nature of the events taking place in Iraq. Let us not forget that as we sat here idly, the enemies of humanity were successful in perpetuating attacks on the Ahlul Bayt. In Sammara, the Askariyain shrine, the resting place of our 10th and 11th Imams (peace be upon them), was bombed and desecrated right in front of our eyes and unfortunately has been used by the enemies of Islam to ignite sectarian violence in Iraq.
The only thing that we can say for certain regarding the occupation Iraq (aside from the fact that it needs to cease immediately), is that it is impossible for us to fully understand the true dynamics of the situation. In order to formulate a more accurate assessment of the daily chaos, we should first and foremost look to our highest-ranking scholars, who give guidance based on their understanding of the religion and Truth. In addition, we can read from various local and international publications, blogs, and media outlets, so as to remove obvious Western biases towards the situation. Often times, we find Muslims who are staunch supporters of a Marja, yet they do not give the proper attention to their statements and opinions. Every action, statement, and decision is made very carefully, with wisdom, and it would be foolish for us not to very carefully reflect on this fact.
Ayatollah Jannati, secretary of the Guardian Council in the Islamic Republic in Iran, recently offered his advice: "I say to my Iraqi brothers and sisters: Oh brother and sister, resist, stand fast. Eventually, God is with those who are patient. God is behind you. He supports the oppressed. The Shias of Ali support the oppressed. The genuine Muslims support the oppressed. Stand fast. If you are patient and God-fearing, their designs will not harm you at all. This is my recommendation to them. Another thing, set aside the disagreements. They do not like the Kurds, nor the Arabs, the Sunnis, nor the Shiites. They have come to fight the people of Iraq. Basically, they have come to fight Islam. There is no need for wars between the Kurds and Arabs, and the Sunni and Shiites. All of you gather under one flag. When you see that Source of Emulation, Ayatollah Sistani, God save him, standing strong and steadfast, full of the fear of God and wisdom. In any case, he is out there. Others must not stand against him. He must be accepted as a religious source of authority. Anyhow, religion is your savior. Without religion, you will not be saved, you will be massacred, and for no reason."
The lesson we can learn is that disunity can never yield tangible results. Analyze the situation in Iraq, where the Iraqis are splintered along sectarian lines. Even within the Shia community alone, there are many splits between the followers of Ayatollah Sistani, Sayyid al-Hakim, and Sayyid al-Sadr. Compare and contrast this with the 2006 Zionist war against Lebanon. One of the most powerful militaries in the world was unable to win against a unified front of resistance, under the guidance of a leader. If all Iraqis unified on a platform of ending the occupation immediately, they could begin rebuilding their nation soon, and the dismal situation we find today would God-willing come to an end.
Mehdi Jafri is currently studying medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He has kindly agreed to do biweekly analyses of domestic and international affairs for Islamic Insights.