For over a year now I have worked as a senior writer for _Economic Affairs_ with a primary focus on societal homeostasis, healthy governance initiatives and geopolitical Islam. Click on the link for the latest commentary (pp. 24-25) If you visit the Economic Affairs home page you will find the archived articles. I recommend you start with _The Adolphus Complex_ due to what is happening in Iraq. The third analysis, covers Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"Universal Values. Two simple words. The vast application entered his mind. He was stunned by the simplicity and clearness of the command. He must craft a message of universal values. The words would sound secular, adaptable to the Western ear. But the cryptograph would be Qur'anic. Quite satisfied with this thought, he poured himself a cold cup of mint tea. Then he reached across his desk and placed a copy of the Constitution of the United States within his reach. It was time for a paradigm shift. And once the paradigm shifts, the way an individual interprets information changes. As-Sirjani allowed his mind to relax again and envisioned the duck-rabbit ambiguous image. The words of Thomas Kuhn came back to him, a passage he had memorized from "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Closing his eyes he envisioned the printed page in his mind.
The subject of a gestalt demonstration knows that his perception has shifted because he can make it shift back and forth repeatedly while he holds the same book or piece of paper in his hands.
Time is really of no importance at all except to mark the affairs of men. The Sufi does not dwell within the temporal space, the finite timeline of history. There is no past, present or future. There are no cataclysmic events which necessitate a change in plans. God's plans are eternal. Sufism is not experienced. It is tasted. The Sufi eats less, sleeps less, and speaks less than others. There is little need to mingle with others. Ahmad as-Sirjani worked patiently for a month. The season continued to change around him. The days became shorter and the nights longer. The cold crept more steadily into the edges of the rooms of the home. He ate less but drank more tea. When he emerged again to view the world he had lost three kilos."
_ARSENAL_ pp. 103,104
Enter the cryptograph with me.
Everything changed on 9/11. I watched in stunned silence as a woman plummeted to her death to escape the flames at her back. Approximately 200 additional citizens took that jump into the merciless arms of death. Darkness, always makes first appearance with a scream. As I watched the nightmare unfold, I silently renewed my oath of office. Another vow crossed my lips that day. It was taken with deadly calm. I wanted to know not only the twitch of the animal which had attacked my nation but I wanted to recognize the flicker in the eye. We soon learned that the animal had a name: Al-Qaedah.
There is a decade of concern tucked underneath my belt now. It has also been a decade of wonderment as I have researched and networked within a civilization which was invisible to me, prior to 9/11. It is a decade in which I have invested thousands of hours of solitary research. I have carefully read translated copies of primary source documents reflecting the literary wealth of Islam and her civilization. The poetry, literature and art of Islam have been examined. Conferences have been attended and friendships established. Modern constitutional documents and penal codes have been examined. It has indeed been a decade of vibrant and insightful friendship with Muslim scholars, lawyers and top-ranking Muslim military officers. I have moved within the undercurrents of radical geopolitical Islam against intellectually-armored, and highly educated Islamic opponents. My thoughts move slowly and in deliberate manner. My research is based on small droplets of information, somewhat like drops of water on a screen door in West Texas, after a summer storm has passed.
Current research on any given facet of geopolitical Islam takes 18-36 months to move from an active thought life to a written analytical format. Thus it was, that in February of 2009, I released "Rise as One Man: Islam in the 21st Century". I had been tracking the emancipation and self-determination movements which were ripening on the vine in Muslim-majority nations for approximately two years. Less than two years later, the world witnessed the "Arab Spring". My brief was sent out as a sentinel standing her watch and reporting her observations.
Research of the various geopolitical movements has included an examination of the Grand Ayatollah chain of command. Within my files, personal correspondence and reply from one of the moderate Grand Ayatollah. Whilst we focus on Iran, there are approximately twenty living Grand Ayatollah scattered across the globe, and they adjudicate, run their turf wars, maintain their offices, and hire and fire their deputies.
We are now at the one-year anniversary date of the raid on the Osama bin Ladin compound. What has changed? What remains the same?
This is "Swofford Commentary". I will provide a crisp product. Expect analysis which is insightful and geared toward solution-based dialogue.
"unlike the Bible, which name-checks any number of conveniently datable rulers - from Cyrus to Augustus- the Quran betrays what is, to any historian, a most regrettable lack of interest in geopolitics. Those who are named in its pages tend to be angels, demons or prophets.... The focus of the Quran is fixed implacably, not on the personal but on the divine." Tom Holland
"A Startling Thesis on Islam's Origins" Book Review of "In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire" WSJ May12-13,
Please do not include me in author Tom Holland's broad and sweeping pronouncement of "any historian". I am not that individual. I disagree with his assessment.
There is not a regrettable lack of interest in geopolitics within the Qur'an. The individual ayat provide an undercurrent of geopolitical meaning, a distinct tension, which is not recognized by a casual reading of the primary anchoring document of Islam. My grasp, comes from residing within the ranks of Islamic scholars. I owe - a debt of gratitude.
The Qur'an is a highly personal account, through the filter of the Divine mandate. For those of us involved in immersion studies of Qur'anic literature, it is the unidentified and that which appears invisible to the naked eye, which give the Qur'an its meaning.
For Muslims, the Qur'an is the active voice of God. Prophet Muhammad delivered a message. But this message was (in many instances) delivered in context to the events and geopolitical upheaval involved in establishing a nascent Islamic state. Albeit having text regarding angels and demons, the document is about governance and a code of conduct.
Enter the cryptograph with me!
What is considered a Makki revelation, the first words of Allah revealed in the Qur'an, explode out of the mouth of Prophet Muhammad. It is an indictment against an arch-enemy who sought to take his life. The words spoken are against a man who spent his adult life engaged in political intrigue and opposition to Prophet Muhammad. These words can be found in Surah 'Al-Alaq, considered the first revelatory words of the Qur'an.
Al-Alaq 9-19 is all about Abu Jahl. There are additional references to him in the Qur'an.
The Qur'an has seven layers of meaning. It must be read like the manner in which a chef peels the layers of an onion. So let's peel back another geopolitical scenario.
Qur'an 36:9 refers to the story of Prophet Muhammad escaping a band of assassins at night. After escaping with the help of Abu Bakr, shelter was taken in 'Thaur cave. The men then took their sturdy camels on a back-tracking trek to Madinah.
Let's peel back the layer of another story.
Qur'an 9:107 is reference to a conspiracy mounted by a Christian monk against the Muslims. After fleeing to Syria he mounted a campaign which ended in the razing of a mosque in Madinah which was used to hatch plots against the rising leader of the Muslims.
The WSJ book review also has this statement:
"Mr. Holland finds that much of the Qur'anic imagery associated with Muhammad's Qurayshite opponents - generally referred to as idolators - does not tally with the Qurans supposedly Arabian provenance. For example, the idolators are condemned for slitting the ears of their livestock or exempting certain cattle from having to carry a load...."
I am unsure in what manner Mr. Holland addresses the pre-Islamic history of slitting livestock ears and exempting cattle from load-bearing activities. Let me merely note that these decisions are based on the decimal system.
Mr. Holland has undoubtedly written a very readable book. I wish him well, and may he enjoy the fruit of his labor. I merely agree to disagree, with his statement that the Qur'an has a regrettable lack of geopolitical tension. The document is embedded with references (ayat) from geopolitical scenarios which played out with dramatic flair, intrigue, and grand design.
*Editors note: I write the word "Prophet" as noting rank, not allegiance, when writing about Muhammad. As someone who understands rank, I am comfortable residing within a rank structure, honoring title and rank.
I am and will remain - a Christian. My "solid ground" is found within the pages of another book which is precious and beautifully written.