Dislodgment of Shia Muslims through history
By:Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi
Muslims and especially Shia Muslims have been the victims of tyrannical sectarian policies ever since the death of Prophet Mohammad, and extortion of the Caliphate from Imam Ali, who was the rightful appointed successor. Imprisonment, torture, intimidation, expropriation, marginalisation and coercive dislodgement has been the policy of any regime that was hostile to Shia Muslims and their leaders. However, the most brutal and effective method of eliminating the presence of Shia Muslims was dislodgement, which enabled tyrants to minimize the presence of Shias to its maximum. Dislodgement and forcing Shia Muslims out of their homes and town was more effective, since none of the other arbitrary policies were eliminating the entire presence of Shias. Therefore, this policy was adopted by the Umayyad, Abbasids, Ottomans and other post-colonial era regimes in the Middle East.
However, this forceful migration, whether it was forced upon Shia Muslims by regimes or voluntarily to evade persecution, has been mentioned in the Quran as a deed for the sake of Allah and his path. The 196th verse of Quran’s 3rd chapter states: “so those who emigrated or were evicted from their homes or harmed in my cause or fought or were killed, I will surely remove from them their misdeeds, and I will surely admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow as reward from Allah”. Therefore, although those Shia Muslims were harmed and forced to leave their homes and face an unknown path, they chose patience and confidence in the almighty, so they can hold on to their faith. In addition, Shia Muslims chose consolation to the memoir of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household, as they were forced out of their home and towns as well, as the 21st verse of Quran’s 33rd chapter states: “there has certainly been for you in the messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the last day, and who remembers Allah often”.
However, this arbitrary dislodgement has resulted in some catastrophic consequences for some Shia Muslims, as some of them, who fled to remote places were unable to receive further education and information about their religion and belief. In addition, other groups that were forced out of their homes and towns, migrated to places, where they were a small minority, which forced them to practice (Taqiya) dissimulation to protect their lives. Therefore, the first groups, who were unable to have interaction with their religious leaders lost the essence of their belief and gradually became sub-sects of Shia Islam, like the Allawis, Druze, Shabak and other small sects. The second groups, who were not able to practice their belief and rituals even at home, fearing for their lives faced a similar end, as the second or third generations were converting to other religions or beliefs.
Umayyad Dynasty & Shia Diaspora
The history of this tyrannical dynasty and dislodging Shia Muslims is certified in various historical sources, as they forced thousands of Shias out of their homes and towns. The first case of dislodging a Muslims and a follower of Imam Ali dates back to the time of the third Caliph Othman Ibn Affan, who ordered Abu Thar Al-Ghefari to be expelled from Medina to a remote and unlivable place called ‘Al-Rabadha’. Due to his constant criticism toward the regime of that time and the favoring policies of Othman toward his own tribe (the Umayyad), Abu Thar was dislodged and kicked out of Medina. It is narrated that upon his forceful departure, Marwan (Othman’s son in law) abused, humiliated and kicked Abu Thar, and they only people, who came out for farewell, were Imam Ali and his sons Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein. Abu Thar’s entire family, except a little girl died in that desert, and he was buried there as well. The little girl was taken back to Medina by a passing by caravan and placed in the house of Imam Ali.
During the time of Muawiya, who later became the Caliph of Muslims, he ordered his governor in Kufa to force the Shia families out of Iraq and send them to Khorasan province in Persia (Current Iran). This decision was taken by that regime to ensure that Shia Muslims of Iraq are distant from the political center and they are scattered as much as possible. Therefore, they would never be able to organize and mobilize against the state and cause any threat. Unfortunately, these groups were later the core members of Abu Muslim Al-Khorasani’s army against the Umayyad dynasty, which overthrew them and toppled that dynasty and placed the Abbasids in power.
Another case of dislodgement against the Shia Muslims, is the events that led to the martyrdom of Imam Al-Hussein in Karbala, in what is known as Battle of Ashura or Battle of Karbala. Imam Al-Hussein, who was asked to give allegiance to the successor of Muawiya, Yazid Ibn Muawiya, was subjected to an assassination attempt in Medina. Therefore, he left Medina with his entire family to Mecca, and in Mecca, when we realized that Yazid would hesitate in demolishing the Ka’aba if necessary in order to kill Imam Al-Hussein left Mecca and aimed for Kufa. Although Imam Al-Hussein voluntarily left his home town of Medina, but his migration was for the sake of Allah and his martyrdom sealed his ultimate victory against tyranny and oppression of the Umayyad dynasty.
In addition, numerous cases of forceful dislodgement against the Shias of Imam Ali took place during the era of Umayyad dynasty. Yemen, under the rule of its governor Besr Ibn Arta’a witnessed once of the most vicious attacks against Shia Muslims and their forceful migration. During the era of Hajjaj Al-Thaqafi, the Shias of Iraq faced other series of dislodgement and persecution in various forms and types, as many Shia Muslims, including some of their leaders were forced to leave their homes and hide in deserts and caves to evade the Umayyad forces.
The Abbasid Dynasty & Shia Diaspora
There is a line of poetry about the oppression of Abbasids against the Shia Muslims and their leaders, which compares them to the Umayyad dynasty:
Swear by Allah, sons of Umaya did not do to them
Tenth of what was done by the sons of Al-Abbas
The tyranny of this dynasty and their hostility toward Shia Muslims reached a new level, as Shia Muslims were not naming their sons and daughters a name that would raise suspicion about them being Shia Muslims. Thousands of Shias were imprisoned in dark holes beneath the earth, with no food or water, and they were killed in the presence of the Caliph and his officials for their amusement. The Imams of Shia Muslims were poisoned and jailed for many years, like in the case of Imam Al-Kadhem, he was imprisoned for 17 years, and finally poisoned in the prion of Sindi Ibn Shahik during the era of Harun.
However, the dislodgement of Shia Muslims and their leaders during this time reached its max, as thousands of Shia Muslims were forced to leave their homes and towns and flee to other places to save their lives. Many of the sons and family members of the Imams were followed and threatened by the regime, which led them to flee to places like North Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, India and other places. This is why, a traveller might witness many shrines and tombs of a son, a grandson or even a granddaughter of an Imam in Iran. In the city of Tehran for example, one of the decedents of the holy household of Prophet Mohammad is buried on a mountain, which shows the amount of danger this individual faced which forced him to hide in a mountain.
Ottoman Empire & Shia Diaspora
The Ottoman Empire as well hold a substantial share of hostility toward Shia Muslims and persecuting them based on their belief, and dislodging them was a standard policy of this dynasty. Many of the newer sects, as mentioned earlier in this article were formed during the diaspora of Shia Muslims and their hiding in remote places.
The Shias of Levant (Syria & Lebanon) during the Ottoman Empire were the primary victims of this dislodgement, as many of them, who were forced to hide in mountains and remote places during the time of the Ayoubis, were still fearing for their lives during the Ottoman era. Various groups of Shia Muslims that were hiding in small villages and mountains, were taken as captives and forced to serve in the military and fight the wars of that empire in its conquests. In addition, their distance from Shia centers and scholars, exposed them to ideological infiltration, which led to some of them converting to Sunnism, Christianity or forming new sects based on the little information they had about their original belief.
Ba’ath Party of Iraq & Shia Diaspora
The post-colonial era in the Middle East, was another catastrophe for the region, as it brought some of the most vicious and barbaric regimes to power, which used the resources and wealth of their nations for their own interests and desires. However, in the case of Iraq and its Shia majority, the case was not different as well, as the Shias of this country were subjected to sever marginalisation and persecution. During the era of the Ba’ath party and their rule in Iraq, the Shia Muslims were placed under short leash and tremendous pressure, as they were sought as an instability recipe for the regime of Ba’ath Party and later on Saddam Hussein.
However, the forceful migration of dislodgement of the Shias in this country, marks the most contemporary diaspora in the modern age of the Middle East region. Hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims were driven out of their homes and towns during the time of Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein’s rule, under the allegation of them being from Iranian descends. Entire families were forced to leave their home and town and take nothing with them, were placed on the Iranian borders among mine fields to cross to Iran. The Ba’ath regime of Iraq, claimed that those families were not original Iraqi citizens and their roots is linked to Iran and they are originally Persians and there is no place for them in Iraq.
Although, some of those Shia families were actually from Iranian descends, but they had been living in Iraq for centuries and generations, and some of them did not even know how to speak Persian. In addition, a large portion of those families were Arabs and pure Iraqis but due to a simple technicality during the Ottoman era to evade the oppression of that dynasty, they adopted the Iranian citizenship.
During the Ottoman rule, Iraq was a province of the Ottoman Empire, and the holy cities of Shia Muslims in Iraq (Najaf, Karbala, Kadhemayn, and Samara) were subjected to a mutual agreement between the Ottoman and Persian Empires. According to that agreement, those cities witnessed the presence of the Iranian Empire, and Iranian consulates and representative offices were opened there as well. Therefore, many of the Iraqi Shia families were registering themselves as Iranian citizens to save their children from being drafted in the military, and having to fight in the Ottoman wars in the Balkans and other places. The Iranians were very generous in granting their citizenship as well, to maintain a stronger momentum in Iraq, and as a result these families were giving up what was referred to as ‘The Ottoman Certificate’.
However, later on during the era of the Ba’ath Party, the Ottoman certificate was used as a mean of asserting Iraqi citizenship, and under this rouge justification over one million Shia Muslims were expelled to Iran. During this arbitrary decision, the entire assets and estate of these families were confiscated, and they were placed on the Iranian border with their cloths only, to face a possible deadly future. According to witnesses and people, who were part of this diaspora, many children, women and elders lost their lives in the mine fields or severe and cold weather.
In addition, many Iraqi Shias were forced to flee their country to places like Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and other places to evade the vengeance of the Ba’ath party and their hostility toward Shia Muslims.
These arbitrary policies have placed millions of people in desperation and urgent needs for help, not to mention the social implications of such a policy on the future generations of these victims. Many of these families were not able to prove their citizenship in the countries they migrated to, which left their children in a state of disparity and loss, since they were always considered as second and third class subjects, with no rights and entitlements. Therefore, many of them were not able to get higher education, buy estate, work freely or even get married legally, which formed a compiled sense of grievance and vengeance toward the societies they were living in or their original home countries.