International Relations

Revisiting the ‘Verticalization’ of Eschatology


MAKATI CITY (3 June) – Exactly eight years ago, while waiting for half a dozen professors constituting the defense panel to finish reading the last draft of my dissertation, I had embarked on the translation into English of a Persian book on the mystical subtleties of supplication (du’a’).

For two straight days, however, I had to set aside the Persian treatise and a couple of Persian-English dictionaries so as to meet the deadline for the submission of full paper for an annual international conference on Mahdism or Messianism.

I wrote a paper on the status of the Holy City of Jerusalem in Islamic Messianism, which I had sent on the last hour via email to the conference secretariat.

As in previous years, this international assembly which was held at OIC Summit Conference Hall in the northern part of Tehran was expectedly flocked by participants of diverse religious affiliations—Buddhists, Shintoists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians of various sects and denominations, and of course, Muslims belonging to different madhahib (schools of thought).

Twenty years ago, while we were sitting in front of a college in MSU-Main Campus, a Seventh-Day Adventist friend of mine from Bukidnon told me, “Everything can serve any purpose. You see, if I position this horizontally (referring to a blue ballpen he was holding), it serves as a bridge, but if I put it this way (that is, vertically), it becomes a wall.”

Accordingly, ‘horizontal’ God is He who is viewed as the Creator and Lord of the universe and all mankind. This Supreme Being becomes ‘vertical’ when He is thought to have certain few ‘favorites’ at the expense of a ‘damned’ majority.

Religions also function as a bridge if the common elements among them such as spirituality, moral principles and a notion of Judgment Day are more emphasized. This function was illustrated by la convivencia (‘coexistence’ or ‘living together’) put into practice in Toledo in particular during the Moorish rule of Spain. As a microcosm of the atmosphere of religious tolerance then prevalent in the city, Jews, Christians and Muslims were working together in the city’s libraries, translating books from Arabic into Castilian Spanish and then into Latin.

On the contrary, there is no more need of embellishing this column with accounts of religions in ‘vertical’ position as human history is drenched enough with innocent blood spilled in their name.

Eschatology is no exception to this horizontal-vertical binary.

Etymologically derived from the Latin eschatos (‘last’ or ‘farthest’), eschatology refers to the branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or the ultimate destiny of mankind. One of its important subjects is the idea of a ‘savior’ to come at the end of time. This awaited savior is known by various names and titles—Saoshyant, Messiah, Christ (in his Second Coming), and Mahdi, among many others.

Neither is Filipino folklore devoid of it. Legend tells us that Bernardo Carpio who is confined in a cave in Mt. Tapusi in Montalban Mountains (or Mt. San Mateo in Rizal) or trapped within two clashing mountains for a long time will one day come out to redeem the Philippines. (Apo Ferdie, as I was told by a Marcos loyalist when I was 12 during the 1985 Snap Election, was the personification of Bernardo! Remember the catchphrase, “This nation can be great again!”)

Sociologically, human society in whatever appearance it takes—race, nation, class or religious order—upholds this concept. As argued by Dr. ‘Ali Shari‘ati, a contemporary Iranian sociologist and historian, all known communities, without exception, display two common characteristics. First, every community holds that in the distant past it had a ‘golden age’ during which there was justice, peace, tranquility, and love, and that this golden age came to an end at some point in time and was followed by corruption, darkness and injustice. Secondly, they believe in a great and liberating upheaval in the future and a return to the golden age—the age of victory of justice, equality and brotherhood.

These beliefs obviously serve as a bridge as they give a sense of hope, determination and common universal vision and purpose for all peoples of diverse cultural currents and religious persuasions.

This is the ‘horizontal’ side of the story.

Its ‘vertical’ side is now spectacularly moving toward its catastrophic climax as suggested by the carnage of civilians perpetrated daily by ‘Islamist puritans’ in Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere. Interestingly enough, certain messianic extremists in Iraq are reportedly as zealous in resisting foreign occupiers as in engaging in intra- and inter-sectarian frenzy of reprisals, executions and vandalism.

Meanwhile, televangelists and other ‘new armies of God’ are passionate enough in freeing the genie of apocalyptic prophecies (e.g. Daniel 9, Ezekiel 38, Revelation 16:14-16) out of the bottle and wish for their governments to unleash trigger-happy dogs of war in the Middle East, thereby heralding the ‘coming of the Lord’.

An equally smart version of ‘vertical’ eschatology is the espousal of God’s alleged consignment of a piece of land to His selected ‘darlings’ to the detriment of the ‘outcasts’ and ‘bastards’.

In this critical moment when eschatology is extensively fielded via satellite and in the cyberspace as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), a universal campaign to stop its ‘verticalization’ is an indubitable recipe for planetary survival.

The annual worldwide gathering on Messianism/Mahdism is a seminal stride, though a limited one, in a long gradual process of forging a ‘Non-Proliferation Treaty’ specifically covering this more devastating type of WMD.

Categories: Current Events, International Relations, Middle East | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘Amman Message’: A Primer

The Amman Message

MAKATI CITY (3 June) – Immediately after the first round of Pakighinabi (Conversation) Series on the significance of the ‘Amman Message’ in interfaith and intra-faith dialogues ( at the Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, on April 22, 2015, and another presentation (The Role of Religious Organizations in the Promotion of Mutual Understanding and Harmony: The Case of ‘Amman Message’) at an international interreligious conference on the approach of Islam and Christianity towards religious extremism and violence ( held at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, on April 29-30, 2015, the need for an introductory reading material on the said document was expressed by some attendants to both forums. This primer is a personal response to the said request.

Q: What is the ‘Amman Message’?

A: The ‘Amman Message’ started as a detailed statement released on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 by H.M. King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Q: What does the ‘Amman Message’ significantly contain?

A: The ‘Amman Message’ significantly contains three (3) questions posed to 24 of the most senior Muslim scholars from around the world (including Shaykh al-Azhar of Egypt, Ayatullah Sistani of Iran and Shaykh Qaradawi of Qatar): (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? (3) Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?

Q: What relevant event happened subsequent to the issuance of the detailed statement?

A: In order to cement further the religious-legal authority of the answers to the said three fundamental questions, King Abdullah II convened in July 2005 an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world’s leading Muslim scholars (‘ulama) from 50 countries.

Q: What were the points highlighted in the said conference?

A: Three (3) points were highlighted in the said conference, namely: (1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (madhahib) of Muslim jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali), the two Shi‘ah schools of Muslim jurisprudence (Ja‘fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Muslim jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Muslim jurisprudence, is a Muslim. (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Muslim jurisprudence than there is difference between them. (3) Acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas.

Q: In short, what is the significance of the ‘Amman Message’ in intra-faith dialogue or the relationship among Muslims?

A: The said document is reportedly the largest contemporary ijma (consensus) in the Muslim world. From July 2005 to July 2006, it had already earned 552 endorsements from 84 countries including those of the late King Abdullah al-Saud and 14 other personalities from Saudi Arabia, Al-Azhar University Rector (mufti) Sheikh Tantawi of Egypt, Sheikh Qaradawi of Qatar, Ayatullah Sistani of Iraq, and Imam Khamene’i of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As of June 1, 2015, there are 68,975 online endorsements since March 1, 2007.

Q: What are other efforts along this line of the ‘Amman Message’?

A: In contemporary time, there have been many intra-faith efforts by Muslim scholars, some of which are the correspondences (al-muraja‘at) between Sheikh Salim Bisri of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Sharafuddin Musawi of Lebanon; the exchanges between Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut of Al-Azhar University, Egypt, and Sayyid Husayn Burujerdi of Iran; the opening of Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib fi’l-Islam (Forum for Proximity of the Schools of Thought in Islam) in Egypt; re-opening of Dar al-Taqrib bayn al-Madhahib fi’l-Islam in Tehran; the declaration of 12th to 17th of the Islamic lunar month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal as International Islamic Unity Week; and the annual International Islamic Unity Conference every month of Rabi‘ al-Awwal, among others.  

Q: In short, what is the significance of ‘Amman Message’ in interfaith dialogue or the relationship of Muslims with followers of other religions?

A: A relevant point highlighted in ‘Amman Message’ is that acknowledgement of the schools of Muslim jurisprudence (madhahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas. In other words, only a high-ranking Muslim scholar worth his title has the authority to issue religious edict, which oftentimes targets the lives of both Muslims and non-Muslims. As such, not any Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman or ‘Ali is religiously qualified to do so.

Amman Message’ website further elaborates, thus: “The safeguarding of the legal methodologies of Islam (the madhahib) necessarily means inherently preserving traditional Islam’s internal ‘checks and balances’. It thus assures balanced Islamic solutions for essential issues like human rights; women’s rights; freedom of religion; legitimate jihad; good citizenship of Muslims in non-Muslim countries, and just and democratic government. It also exposes the illegitimate opinions of radical fundamentalists and terrorists from the point of view of true Islam.”

Q: Given this intra-faith and interfaith significance of the ‘Amman Message,’ how can one endorse the document?

A: It is very easy. The endorsement can be done online. Just visit ‘Amman Message’ website at

Q: How long will online endorsement take?

A: It will only take one to three minutes to fill up the following information: full name; email (required); country (required); date of birth (required); title; position; organization; whether Muslim or not; whether Muslim scholar (‘alim) or not; and gender.

Q: May a non-Muslim endorse the ‘Amman Message’?

A: The fact that one of the pieces of information asked in the online endorsement box is whether the endorser is a Muslim or not logically follows that a non-Muslim may endorse the ‘Amman Message’ considering its practical importance and benefits to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Q: How can one invite a friend to join the online endorsement?

A: The website provides a Tell a Friend Script ( which will only take a minute to fill up.

Q: How many and who are the prominent Muslim entities from the Philippines that have already endorsed the ‘Amman Message’?

A: Based on the information provided in the ‘Amman Message’ website ( as of June 1, 2015, there is no prominent Muslim entity yet from the Philippines that has endorsed the ‘Amman Message’.


Categories: Current Events, International Relations, Middle East | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Tehran Diary


The present book is a collection of 11 short essays on various subjects I had written when I was still a postgraduate student of International Relations at the University of Tehran. Three of these essays – “Remembering Hafiz,” “He Whose Crime was Justice” and “Who is Papanok?” – were published in, an online news magazine based in Davao City, Philippines. In the eleventh essay entitled “Tale of a Long Tunnel,” I gave a brief account of my experiences while pursuing my graduate and postgraduate studies. It was penned soon after my dissertation defense and I was then about to return back home (Philippines).

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Remembering Hafiz
Chapter 2 – He Whose Crime was Justice
Chapter 3 – Shall the Cyberpower of Quds Day Whither Away?
Chapter 4 – Who is Papanok?
Chapter 5 – On the ‘Verticalization’ of Eschatology
Chapter 6 – The Politics of Hermeneutics or the Hermeneutics of Politics?
Chapter 7 – What Autumn Means to Me
Chapter 8 – Right to Have a Good Name
Chapter 9 – Personally Experiencing Existentialism 1
Chapter 10 – Personally Experiencing Existentialism 2
Chapter 11 – Tale of a Long Tunnel
About the Author
Other Books by Mansoor Limba
Connect with Mansoor Limba

Author: Mansoor Limba
Published: 2015
Words: 10,670
Language: English
ISBN: 9781310878060
Available formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt, html, and Kindle
Price: US$2.99


Categories: Current Events, Education, International Relations, Middle East, Throwback | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Barry Barnes’ Theory of Power in the Context of Tim Jordan’s ‘Cyberpower’

Barnes               TimJordan

It is said that the communications revolution signals “the death of distance[1] as it has allowed activists to gain more influence as new communications and information technologies are beginning to enable advances in e-government, e-democracy and e-participation. On the other hand, they also empower NGOs, social movements and activists, among others.[2]

Michael Ayers and Martha McCaughey document and critique in their edited Cyberactivism the growing importance of activism taking place through the Internet by showing that it can be used for protest as well as in supporting real-life protests.[3] It is shown in a similar volume that given its transnational, many-to-many communication facility, the internet offers revolutionary potential for social movements to speak directly to the citizens of the world. Moreover, electronic mail, mailing lists, websites, electronic forums and other online applications provide powerful tools for coordinating activity.[4]

In dealing with “cyberpower” – defined as the power that structures culture, politics and economics of cyberspace and the Internet – Tim Jordan discusses in length three theories of power as the theoretical toolbox of his book. First, he touches on power as a possession and its three elements that are accordingly ought to be identified. First, according to him, power is intentional as someone wills something to be done and it is done. Second, power understood as a possession needs resistance to manifest itself and unless power manifests itself there is no idea that it exists. Third, if power, says Jordan, concerns the ability to overcome resistance then stable patterns of power can be equated with forms of domination, or simply put, systems of domination occur when there are patterned relations of power. He identifies this theory of power with Max Weber, quoting him to have said: “In general, we understand by ‘power’ the chance of a man or of a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action.”

Having discussed this “common sense conception of power”, Jordan points out some questions that in his view are remained unanswered: What is it that enforces obedience to the powerful will? What is it that ensures compliance? What overcomes resistance? In attempting to address these questions, Jordan also looks in turn with other understandings of power that begin from just such a criticism of power understood as a possession: power understood as strategies that situate subjects as dominated or dominator and power understood as the result of interactions between knowledgeable individuals.[5]

Jordan associates Michel Foucault with the conception of power as domination whose principles are that power is a force that generates structures of inequality between people; that a form of power both intends to produce certain effects but is not driven by any one’s will, implying that different elements move in a way that fulfills an overall purpose and which is served by a number of tactics common to different micro-parts of the army; that domination implies both dominated and dominator and power as a relation implies both powerful and powerless; that power is manifested in great strategies of inequality; and that attempting to define power in the abstract is not necessary; instead, a methodology for studying power is needed and only then can specific forms of power that exist in particular times and places be analyzed.[6]

While elucidating his theory of power as social order, the British sociologist, Barry Barnes, explicates:

In a stable normative order knowledge that an action is normal and routinely done encourages the performance of the actions, so that the general dissemination of the knowledge suffices to validate it in practice… Any specific distribution of knowledge confers a generalized capacity for action upon those individuals who carry and constitute it, and that capacity for action is their social power, the power of the society they constitute by bearing and sharing the knowledge in question.[7]

In order to make his argument clearer, Barnes cites the classic example of traffic light. Why do cars stop at red light? Why the pedestrians do not cross the street at red light? For both the drivers and the pedestrians, two off-putting things can be pointed out. First, in the case of the drivers, they are afraid that fatal car accident involving them might occur as the drivers of cars in the adjacent street are most likely to go by following the green light which means, “Go!” As for the pedestrians, they are afraid to be hit most likely by the running cars as it is green light for them. Second, the drivers know that even if by chance no car mishap happened as there are no nearby cars in the adjacent street, they might not escape the wrath of the traffic policemen who will definitely penalize them for violation of traffic rules.

Similarly, the pedestrians know that even though the running cars are still far away from the pedestrian lane, their crossing the street at red light is tantamount to being legally charged with jay-walking. In other words, both the drivers and the pedestrians are taking into account two kinds of sanction for their action: physical (accident) and legal (penalty). This established social norm for the drivers and pedestrians will be more embedded within them if they regularly observe more people, i.e. more drivers and pedestrians following the same social norm – drivers stopping at red light and pedestrians not crossing the street at red light. There will be the same effect if they see more people penalized by either or both the physical and legal sanctions – cars bumping on other cars from the adjacent street or drivers whose license are confiscated by the traffic officers for violation, and pedestrians hit by running cars or penalized for jay-walking.[8]

On the contrary, should the people start to witness that more cars are not stopping at red light and are neither having accident nor incurring penalty for doing so, and similarly, more pedestrians are crossing the streets at red light and yet they are not hit by running cars or incurring penalty for jay-walking, they will also tend to gradually remove in their minds the two restraining physical and legal sanctions. The social norm of the red light will die out. The red light’s ‘power’ of stopping cars and preventing the pedestrians from crossing the street will cease to exist as the people believe it so.[9]

In a recent work, Barnes states:

Suppose we think of so many responsible agents, acting and interacting together as members on the basis of their shared knowledge. Now concentrate on that part of their shared knowledge which is knowledge of their own social and institutional order, made of statuses and the associate rights, powers, responsibilities, and so forth. This is knowledge of things that are what they are because they are counted as being what they are, that is, because they are known to be what they are.[10]

In this context, he cites how banks work as social institutions. Banks are external to us, he says, because we all know them to be so and the important knowledge we have is the knowledge of what we all do in relation to banks. That some deposit money in the bank which lends it out to others and making itself formally bankrupt at all times is overcome by the shared knowledge of individual depositor that others are not about to withdraw their money. In short, a bank’s objectivity hinges on the knowledge all its depositors on the likely actions of other depositors. This will be exposed when there is a run on a bank and the shared knowledge of depositors changes into “Most other depositors are going to withdraw their money and I have to do the same”. Accordingly, the outcome of such a shift in collective knowledge is the eventual bankruptcy and collapse of even a competently run bank.[11]

In the above explanation there are two crucial elements that constitute a social order: routine and knowledge. Along this line, Tim Jordan argues that social objects and structures exist on the basis of persisting routines of behavior of individuals and these persisting routines are based on common, collective knowledge of those routines. Societies and communities are nothing more or less than the knowledge that members of those communities hold about their societies, he states.[12] He explains:

In short, while social structures appear external and objective to the individuals who constitute them, such structures are wholly internal to the collective or group. Social structures can change but only through concerted collective action. The structures that constitute a society can now be understood as the result of the knowledge individuals have of those structures and of the consequences actions will probably have. This knowledge is self-referring; it is knowledge about what others do, and it is self-validating – the more knowledge is used the more valid it becomes.[13]

Put in a diagram for clarity sake, we have the following:


            Therefore, the proposition here is that the persistent routines of a certain behavior create a common, collective knowledge of those routines. At the same time, the commonly and collectively held knowledge of those routines by the people reinforces their continuous observance of the same routines of behavior. The constant interaction between the routine and knowledge establishes social order. Once the routine-knowledge interaction is not sustained, the resultant social order will consequently fade away.



[1] Frances Cairncross, The Death of Distance 2.0: How Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives (London and New York: Texere, 2001), p. viii.

[2] Jonathan D. Aronson, “Causes and Consequences of the Communications and Internet Revolution,” in The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 3rd edition, ed. John Baylis and Steve Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 630-633.

[3] Michael D. Ayers and Martha McCaughery, “Introduction,” in Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice, ed. Michael D. Ayers and Martha McCaughery (London and New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 5-14.

[4] Wim van de Donk et al., “Introduction: Social Movements and ICTs,” in Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens and Social Movements, ed. Wim van De Donk et al. (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 1-9.

[5] Tim Jordan, Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 9-10.

[6] Ibid., pp. 15-19.

[7] Barnes, The Nature of Power, pp. 56-57. Quoted in Jordan, p. 14.

[8] Ibid., p. 56.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Barry Barnes, Understanding Agency: Social Theory and Responsible Action (London: Sage, 2000), p. 149.

[11] Tim Jordan, “Social Movement and Social Change,” Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) Working Paper Series No. 7, September 2005, p. 7.

[12] Jordan, p. 12.

[13] Ibid., pp. 12-13.

(Images courtesy of and

Cyberpower(Excerpt from Mansoor Limba, THE POWER OF INTERNATIONAL QUDS DAY IN THE CYBERSPACE (Manila: Cultural Section of IRI Embassy, 2012), pp. 39-44.)

Categories: Information Technology, International Relations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Politics of Hermeneutics or the Hermeneutics of Politics?


When I was translating into English a book on the untold story of freedom a decade ago, I encountered for the first time a hermeneutically enigmatic couplet of the great Persian poet-mystic Jalaluddin al-Rumi whose 800th birth anniversary was commemorated by UNESCO on September 2007 and whose magnun opus, Mathnawi-ye Ma‘nawi (Spiritual Couplets) was first translated into English in full by Reynold A. Nicholson in 1925-40.

Rumi sings, thus:

That one is ‘shir’ [milk, or lion] in the ‘badiyeh’ [cup, or jungle]. And the other one is ‘shir’ in the ‘badiyeh’. That one is ‘shir’, which devours human (or, which human eats). And the other one is ‘shir’, which devours human (or, which human drinks). 

The word “shir” means “milk,” as well as “lion”. “Badiyeh” also denotes two meanings: the first one is “desert” and the other is “cup” or “vessel”. In this couplet, it is not exactly clear which one is “lion” and which one is “milk”. Badiyeh is equally not clear which one means “desert” and which one means “vessel” or “cup”.

This Rumian style is inherited by Maguindanaons, though in a simpler but somehow blunt fashion.

When a curious child would ask about the identity of something an adult Maguindanaon is holding, it is not uncommon for the latter to say, “Ut_n na midsa.”  Usually, the former would demand clarification, “What is midsa?” but receive only one-word reply, “midsa.” So, he would suppose that midsa is a kind of animal, but years later, he will realize that midsa means ‘one who asks’ and therefore referring to himself!

In interfaith circles, ‘dialogue’ could mean different things. In mid-1980s Durban-based Ahmed Deedat took issue with the Holy See for evincing his willingness to have ‘dialogue’ with Muslims when, accordingly, he meant something else, and therefore, challenged him to a ‘dialogue’ in St. Peter’s Basilica without realizing perhaps his own use of the same word (dialogue) that also means something else, i.e. ‘debate’—and possibly an acrimonious one. In 2000 two medical doctors, Dr. William Campbell and Dr. Zakir Naik, engaged in a religious ‘dialogue’ which every neophyte member of a university debating team can easily identify as actually a debate.

During the Cold War era, the ‘subversive’ or even ‘activist’ (read ‘communist’) was the favorite villain in the ‘free world’. Shortly after the dismemberment of the strongest bastion of communism in the world, the ‘subversive’ or ‘activist’ was soon replaced by the ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ or ‘extremist’.

After the 9/11, it is the time for hunting down ‘terrorists’. It is interesting to note that Jason Burke dedicated his informative book on Al-Qa‘ida—his first written book—on the victims of both ‘terror’ and the ‘war on terror’.

Since the occupation of the war-rampaged Iraq in 2003, this politics of hermeneutics or hermeneutics of politics—depending on one’s reading—has its own version: the hermeneutics of rafidah with the aim of throwing two birds with a single stone.

Literally means ‘one who rejects’, rafidah (plural rawafid) is translated as ‘heretic’ and its derivative modifier rafidi as ‘sectarian’. For centuries and especially more recently, it is increasingly used as a pejorative designation for a Muslim sectarian group demographically the majority in Iraq since its British-midwifed birth in 1920. Until the fall of the Ba‘ath regime in 2003, however, this majority had been persecuted and politically disenfranchised.

How to convey a sectarian message totally comprehensible to adherents and at the same time capable of fending off outsiders’ accusation of the message’s advocacy of sectarian-based civil war and division of the ummah?

The solution lies in playing with the ambiguity of the word rafidah.

Vitriolic verdicts on the urgency of killing rawafid channeled through audiotapes distributed within the flock of votaries and downloadable at insurgent websites are coupled with everyday carnage of civilians in public places such as markets and houses of worship.

Condemnation of these mass murders is immediately deflected by claiming that the targets are only the “collaborators working with the Crusaders”. Granting that police stations, military outposts and political figures are legitimate targets, why market-goers and worshippers are daily victims?

If ever pounded with this question, rafidah-manipulators argue that voters are responsible for the actions of leaders they elected: “[T]hey are not ordinary people… for they have become the soldiers of the infidel occupier… Did not al-Ja‘fari, al-Hakim and others come to power through their votes?”

Given this line of argument, one may wonder how and at which voting precinct the dome and two minarets in Samarra cast their votes for which they were condemned to destruction for two counts.

Hence, the use of such word is truly a powerful bomb that must be detonated. In postmodernist parlance, this textual interplay at work requires either deconstruction or double reading, or both.

For Derrida and Foucault wannabes, this is a golden opportunity to test the validity of these twin tools. I just hope they would not discover and thereafter conclude that ‘deconstruction’ and ‘double reading’ themselves also require deconstruction and double reading.

Categories: Current Events, International Relations, Jargons and Terminologies, Middle East, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from the Tunnel’s Tale


Exactly two days after posting “Retelling Tale of a Long Tunnel,” an FB friend sent me this private message: “Thanks for this post. It’s actually a wakeup call for me. J I’m still stuck up with my research proposal. With all these office works, I doubt if I could finish my master’s. Any piece of advice?”

Late night of the same day, I received another message from a Caribbean friend informing me, thus: “Salam. I’m now in my first semester of PhD. Any tips about writing dissertation?” And then just yesterday, an ‘online’ buddy and an ‘offline’ student at the same time told me as we bumped on each other in a nearby 7-Eleven convenient store: “Sir, we will appreciate if you could share some personal reflections on pursuing graduate studies.”

Let me share to you here three P’s as lessons from my tale of a long tunnel – Procrastination, PR and Perpetual Learning.

(1) Procrastination

Procrastination is better known to us as “mañana” habit or “I-will-do-it tomorrow” attitude. Rumi, the great Persian poet, elegantly castigates this ubiquitous bad habit in his magnum opus “Mathnawi-ye Ma‘nawi” (“Spiritual Couplets”). There was a person who planted a bramble along a public way. The thorny shrub took root, grew and became a nuisance to the wayfarers, so much so that they complained to the ruler. The ruler summoned him and asked him to uproot the bramble. The person promised to do so but kept on procrastinating. In this manner, as the days passed by, the plant became stronger while the person became weaker and older:

“The thornbrush (is) in (process of gaining) strength and (in) ascent;

Its digger (is) in (process of) aging and decline.

The thornbrush every day and every moment is green and fresh;

Its digger is every day more sickly and withered.

It is growing younger, you older:

Be quick and do not waste your time!”

Pursuing graduate studies should start from the end. What does it mean by ‘starting from the end’? That is, as soon as you are admitted to the graduate or post-graduate program, you are supposed to have already the blueprint of your thesis or dissertation. Be like our local traditional carpenter-cum-architect who has already the sketch of the house in his mind before starting his carpentry works. Be like a painter who has already finished his painting – mentally – before actually beginning his painting.

In short, you have to start gathering your data or reading materials for thesis as soon as you are enrolled. Thinking or deciding for your topic at the time of writing your research design or proposal is already too late.

(2) PR (Public Relations)

Chapter 6 (Forming Your Dissertation Committee) of Rita S. Brause’s “Writing Your Doctoral Dissertation: Invisible Rules for Success” has this heading quotation: “I realized that getting along with people was even more important than being academically talented.”

Simply put, thesis writing is indisputably an academic venture, yet a significant percentage of it is relational. It’s pubic relationship (PR). You have to deal with your adviser, and more importantly, your panelists. You have to know the internal dynamics within the department. You have to know the professional rivalries between and among the department faculty members, some of whom will definitely become your adviser and members of your thesis defense panel. Above all, you have to know the nuts and bolts of striking a balance in dealing with these varied, and often competing, players.

(3) Perpetual Learning

After successfully defending your thesis, make no mistake in thinking that graduation is the end of learning. It is supposed to be a continuous process that should commence in the cradle and come to end only in the grave. Learning is a confession. It is a confession of utter ignorance. It is a confession of knowing too little. Learning is an acknowledgment. It is an acknowledgment of insatiability of sipping the nectars of knowledge and wisdom. It is an acknowledgment that there is still a long and winding road ahead.

Most important of all, the two-, three- or four-letter titles (MA, PhD, Dr., Atty., etc.) appended before or after our names should not be allowed to metamorphose into even specks of atom of pride (kibr) in our hearts. One good safety bolt in this regard is this line of supplication in “Du‘a’ Makarim al-Akhlaq” (Supplication on Noble Moral Traits):

“Raise me not a single degree before the people without lowering me its like in myself, and bring about no outward exaltation for me without an inward abasement in myself to the same measure!”

(Picture courtesy of

Categories: Education, Ethics and Mysticism, International Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retelling Tale of a Long Tunnel


This month of March brings a particular mirth and joy as we read in FB posts some friends finishing their graduate and post-graduate studies – not to mention the many graduation photos of FB friends’ elementary and high school kids.

With such feeling, I can’t help but retell my own tale of a long tunnel with the intention of sharing personal reflections and identifying moral lessons that may guide others before experiencing the same; hence, this marginalia…

Exactly within two years, I finished my master’s degree in International Relations at Shahid Beheshti University (formerly known as National University of Iran) located in northern Tehran.

During the oral defense for my thesis, one of my professors and members of the defense panel asked me to compare and contrast the impacts of a Middle Eastern political event, if there are any, upon a specific sociopolitical trend in Malaysia (a Muslim country whose official religion is Islam), Indonesia (a Muslim country without any recognized official religion), Thailand (a non-Muslim Buddhist-dominated country with considerable Muslim population in the capital and in the south), and the Philippines (a non-Muslim Christian-dominated country with considerable Muslim population in the south).

This question of Prof. Haji-Yousefi gave me an idea on what to write in my doctoral dissertation, and I really decided to deal on that topic. In fact, I had practically started gathering pertinent reading materials. After passing my two semesters of doctorate (2001) at Tehran University, however, I doubted if I could get any travel allowance to go to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to collect first-hand materials and conduct field interviews. Travel allowance for such purpose is not part of my scholarship grant, the concerned personnel of the Higher Education Ministry reminded me.

As such, I settled on pursuing a purely or largely library work for my dissertation. My keen interest at that time with post-positivist theories in International Relations seemingly augured well for this decision. The topics of my research papers in different courses illustriously expressed this personal interest in IR theories in general and post-positivist theories in particular: “Alexander Wendt vs. Kenneth Waltz: A Critique of Constructivist Theory’s Critique of Structural Realism;” “Human Rights in International Relations: A Methodological Survey;” “Iran vis-à-vis Other Regional and Non-Regional Players in the Post-Soviet Central Asia and the Transcaucasus: A Study of  Converging and Diverging Interests;” “The Globalizing Impact of Transnational Corporations (TNCs): The Case of Microsoft Corporation;” “Neorealist and Constructivist Accounts of Security Cooperation: A Comparative Analysis;” “Alexander Wendt and Kenneth Waltz on Power: A Comparative Study;” “Robert Gilpin’s Thought on International Political Economy: A Critique;” “Realism, Liberalism and Constructivism on Human Rights Norms: A Comparative Study;” and “The Principle of Self-Determination: Its Conceptual Shift in International Law.”

For the second time, I decided on what topic to deal with for my dissertation. This time I was determined to delve on the ongoing debate between Waltz’s 1979 magnum opus Theory of International Politics and Wendt’s 1999 major work Social Theory of International Politics that respectively represent structural realism and the positivist camp, on one hand, and social constructivism and the post-positivist camp, on the other. After taking up my two required courses in research methodology with an ultra-positivist and empiricist professor, however, I began to anticipate the difficulty for any post-positivist study such as mine to get approval from the septuagenarian professor who approves the methodological aspect of any thesis proposal submitted to the IR department. For this reason, even after taking and passing the required comprehensive examinations, I was hesitant to submit my dissertation proposal to the department.

As in previous years, I was able to buy approximately 100 book titles on various subjects at the 17th Tehran International Book Fair (May 4-14, 2004)—the biggest annual cultural event in Iran. A whole year of savings would make it possible to take this rare opportunity. Among this new collection of books, I first read An Islamic Utopian: A Political Biography of Ali Shari‘ati by a certain Ali Rahnema. Typographical errors of the book simply irritated my eyes which have been used then to proofreading voluminous books as part of my translation works at an international cultural institute. I then picked up Tim Jordan’s Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet (1999). Jordan approaches the discussion by highlighting what he calls “three levels or circuits” of power in the cyberspace, i.e. the power of the individual, the power of the social, and the power of the collective imagination or imaginary. He does so by adopting three concepts of power as his theoretical framework, viz. power as a possession by Max Weber, power as social order by Barry Barnes, and power as domination by Michel Foucault.

I finished reading this introductory book on the politics of the Internet in two days, without knowing then that it would catapult me to a final settlement of my dissertation topic but plunge me into a long dark tunnel of exploring a theory in sociology—and not IR—to account for a macro-phenomenon in the virtual world.

“Barry Barnes’ Theory of Power as Social Order: The Case of International Quds Day in the Cyberspace” is the tunnel.

Congratulations to all the graduates!

Categories: Education, International Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Proudly powered by WordPress Theme: Adventure Journal by Contexture International.