Friday, August 25, 2006

From a Politicized Religion to Forging Islamic Documents

Hossein Bastani, Rooz Online:
On August 6, 2006, while the headlines of Keyhan, the leading newspaper of Iran’s fundamentalists were devoted to the events in Lebanon, the newspaper published an unusual story in its column reserved for Islam’s prophet Mohammad called Ba Payambar Azeem, in which a quote is attributed to him. Here is the article. READ MORE

This time, the quote that we provide from the messenger of God (Peace Be Upon Him) is not from the days of the rule of the Prophet. The word of the Prophet is about current events. Page 283 of volume 9 of Baharol-Anvar, says that even Ibn Asaker who is a reliable Sunni source quotes this Hadith [Hadith are traditions relating to the words and actions of the Muslim Prophet]. The piece Hadith goes like this: A man was battling at the gates of Qods [Jerusalem], he held deep knowledge and was insightful, and so God defeated the enemy through his hands. He is from me, and I am from him. His name was Nasr [which in Arabic means victory]. His name was Nasr because God had promised him victory. So Nasr-Allah means the ‘divine promise of victory’.”

Using this ‘episode’ (and the similarity of Nasr with the name of the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Nassrollah) Keyhan continues:

Is the astounding resistance of Lebanese Hezbollah under the leadership of seyed Hassan Nassrollah and their battle against the fourth best equipped army in the world, while the force is merely a resistance lacking a classical army, an air-force, a navy and, advanced and modern weapons not the same ‘divine promise of victory’ that is supporting and directing Nassrollah? The leader of the Muslim world whose hands the valiant Lebanese Emir [i.e. Hezbollah’s Nassrollah] had kissed, had promised a few months ago that the Larger Middle East is taking shape, but its center is Islamic Iran, and not the US. Is the dawn of victory not close?”

Even thought I am not an expert on Islamic Hadith, but even with my knowledge of the Baharol-Anvar, the quote initially appeared suspicious. Especially so as the book is not the place where such predictions are made. Furthermore, had it been true, the quote would have been famous and quoted and referenced by many, which is not the case. It is strange that Keyhan, of all sources, would be ‘discovering’ and popularizing it.

So using my friends, I launched a search to get a copy of the book. In my search however, I came a cross a brief note in Keyhan itself which was reveling. The short piece in Keyhan went like this:

On Thursday August 6, 2006, Keyhan’s Ba Payambar Azim column a Hadith quoted the Prophet, and referenced words from volume 9 of the Baharol-Anvar that says, ‘A man was battling at the gates of Qods [Jerusalem], he held deep knowledge and was insightful, and so God defeated the enemy through his hands. He is from me, and I am from him. His name was Nasr …’. Following the publication of this news, a number of ulema and clerics have contacted Keyhan and said that they did not find the quoted reference in the mentioned book. They doubt its validity and some call it fundamentally incorrect. We at Keyhan hope this explanation makes up for the mistake.”

As simple as that! A newspaper that is published with public money in an Islamic country, publishes a report that incidentally is in line with the leading headline of the newspaper that day [Keyhan’s leading headline of the day was, “Seyed Hassan Nassrollah frustrates Israel”] and attributes words to the prophet of Islam from page 283 of a Shiite religious book. Later when Shii clerics contact this fundamentalist newspaper and protest this forged Hadith, Keyhan publishes a short note in a corner of the paper and does not even bother to apologize or its express regret for the issue. And everything ends well.

Last week, Rooz Online wrote on the consequences of channeling information and provided some examples from Iranian authorities. But now it appears that the issue is more serious than that and includes “forged political religious Hadith.”

In all honesty, if a Western newspaper attributed a forged Hadith to the Prophet with a political purpose, would Iranian conservatives not have called for the religious obligation of killing those responsible?

Hossein Bastani is the former secretary general of the Association of Iranian Journalists now living in exile.