Thursday, March 15, 2007

Memorable quotes on the Iraqi people

(By publishing these historical quotes, I am in no way agreeing with their content or endorsing them. I just thought they would be interesting to translate and share. Some of them are often cited by Iraqis and Arabs to show that Iraqis are ungovernable or unfit for self-rule. That is not my intention here.)

“The people of Iraq have exhausted me. There is not one strategy I use against them that they have not already beaten me to. I cannot conquer them, and I have no other choice but to kill them to the last man.” – Alexander the Great, in a purported letter to his tutor Aristotle.

“May ugliness and grief befall you. You have become objects. You are invaded, but you do not invade. You are plundered, but you do not plunder. Allah is disobeyed, yet you are content. If I order you to deploy against them during the days of heat, you say, ‘This is the worst of the heat. Give us time until it is over.’ And if I order you to deploy against them in the winter, you say, ‘This is the season of bitter cold. Give us time until the cold has been shed.’ All of this to flee from heat and cold. If you flee from heat and cold, then, by Allah, you will flee even more from the sword. O’ you semblance of men - not men - with the intelligence of children and the wits of anklet bearers, I wish I had not seen you nor known you. By Allah, knowing you has brought about shame and resulted in repentance. May Allah fight you. You have filled my heart with pus and loaded my chest with rage. You have made me drink one mouthful of grief after another. You have corrupted my counsel with your disobedience and abandonment.” – Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, and founder of Shi’ite Islam, addressing Iraqis.

“O’ people of Iraq, I have hated you and you have hated me. I have loathed you and you have loathed me. May Allah give me a better people, and may He give you a worst ruler.” – Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, addressing Iraqis.

“I have won, by the God of the Kaaba!” – Ali bin Abi Talib, when he was stabbed to death in the Kufa Mosque, Iraq.

“Their hearts are with you, but their swords are against you.” – Al-Farazdaq, an Arab poet, warning Imam Hussein bin Ali when he was on his way to Karbala, Iraq, to join his supporters against the Ummayid Caliphate.

“O’ people of Iraq, How quick you are to commit atrocities and then ask about absurdities. You kill the son of the Prophet’s daughter, and then you wonder about mosquito blood?” – Abdullah bin Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet, when he was asked by an Iraqi if mosquito blood spoils one’s prayers.

“O’ people of Iraq, O’ people of blasphemies after debaucheries, treacheries after betrayals, and whims after whims. If we send you to the frontlines you flee and betray. When you are frightened, you are hypocrites. When you are safe, you are defiant. You are ungrateful for blessings and unthankful for favours. Was there ever an errant or tempter or a disobedient seeking your deliverance, or an oppressor needing your support, or an outlaw asking for your aid that you have not accepted his invitation, answered his cry, and flocked to him in groups, light-armed and heavy-armed, horseman and infantry? O’ people of Iraq, Was there ever a troublemaker, rioter, croaker or rebel that you have not followed or supported? O’ people of Iraq, Have you not benefited from sermons? Have you not been suppressed by incidents? Has Allah not intensified His burden on you? Has He not given you a taste of His searing sword and His painful wrath?” – Al-Hajjaj bin Yousif Al-Thaqafi, Governor of Iraq under the Ummayid Caliphate.

“O’ people of Iraq, I see heads that have ripened, and now is the time to reap them. And I will be that reaper. By Allah, I can almost see the blood between the beards and turbans. Now, the Prince of Believers – May Allah grant him longevity – has scattered his quiver and examined his arrows. He found me the strongest and bitterest of them all, so he threw me at you, because you have long wallowed in discord and lain on the beds of perversion. By Allah, I will strip you like trees are stripped of their bark, and I will bind you together like wood for a fire, and I will hit you like stray camels, and I will strike you with each other like Marwa stones. By Allah, I keep my promises. O’ people of Iraq, you are like ‘a township that dwelt secure and well content, its provision coming to it in abundance from every side, but it disbelieved in Allah's favours, so Allah made it experience the garb of dearth and fear because of what they used to do.’ The Prince of Believers has directed me to give you your salaries and to deploy you against your enemy with Al-Muhhalab bin Sufra. I swear by Allah, if one of you stays behind three days after taking his salary, I will smite his neck.”

“Read the Prince of Believer’s message, boy,” Hajjaj ordered. The boy read, “In the name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful. From the Prince of Believers Abdul Malik bin Marwan to the Muslims and believers from the people of Iraq. Salamu Aleikum (Peace be upon you) …”

“Stop reading, boy!” Hajjaj yelled. He then turned to the people in the mosque. “O’ people of disunity, hypocrisy and bad manners, the Prince of Believers greets you and you do no return his greeting? Are these the manners that you were taught? By Allah, if I stay here, I will teach you your manners, and you will straighten up or I will leave a handicap in the bodies of each of you. Read the message again, boy!”

The boy read the message again, and when he reached the greeting part, everyone in the mosque shouted back, “And peace and the mercy of Allah be upon the Prince of Believers.”

“Iraqis are a people of deliberation and piercing insight. But insight brings prospecting and research. And with prospecting and research come defiance and libel, giving preponderance to men over others, distinction between leaders, and showing the defects of princes. Iraqis have always been described as disobedient and rebellious against their leaders.” – Abu Uthman Al-Jahidh, al-Bayyan wa al-Tabyeen.

“The land of Iraq is where the horn of the devil appears, and it is where sedition outbreaks, and estrangement is also in the East.” – Ibn Al-Jawzi, The Merits of Baghdad.

“In the light of the events of the last two months there's no getting out of the conclusion that we have made an immense failure here. The system must have been far more at fault than anything that I or anyone else suspected. It will have to be fundamentally changed and what that may mean exactly I don't know. I suppose we have underestimated the fact that this country is really an inchoate mass of tribes which can't as yet be reduced to any system. The Turks didn't govern and we have tried to govern - and failed. I personally thought we tried to govern too much, but I hoped that things would hold out till Sir Percy came back and that the transition from British to native rule might be made peacefully, in which case much of what we have done might have been made use of. Now I fear that that will be impossible.” – Lady Gertrude Bell, 1920, The Letters of Gertrude Bell.

“We as outsiders can't differentiate between Sunni and Shi'ah, but leave it to them and they'll get over the difficulty by some kind of hanky panky, just as the Turks did, and for the present it's the only way of getting over it. I don't for a moment doubt that the final authority must be in the hands of the Sunnis, in spite of their numerical inferiority; otherwise you will have a mujtahid-run, theocratic state, which is the very devil.” – Lady Gertrude Bell, 1920, The Letters of Gertrude Bell.

“I’m afraid the people of Iraq will slaughter him, like they slaughtered his grandfather Al-Hussein.” – Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the Hashemite ruler of Mecca, when an Iraqi delegation asked him to appoint one of his sons as monarch of Iraq in 1920.

"Regrettably, I can say there is no Iraqi people yet, but only deluded human groups void of any national idea. Iraqis are not only disunited but evil-motivated, anarchy prone and always ready to prey on their government." – King Faisal I, writing in his memoirs shortly before he died in 1933.

“There are only two political parties in Iraq: the Sunni party and the Shia party.” – Tawfiq Al-Suwaidi, Iraqi Prime Minister, 1929, 1930, 1946, 1950.