Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alawite women lack souls?

Michael J. Totten's Outlook on Life
Or maybe it's a lookout?
(Image from Michael J. Totten)

I'm typing this on a not-so-early Sunday morning following a long Saturday working as a TESOL interviewer at Ewha Womans University, and since my family is down in Daegu this weekend, leaving me responsible only for myself, I'm not heading off to church this morning but am instead staying home to recuperate from yesterday and from what had already been a hard week.

But I'm not totally without religion this morning, for I read a short article by Michael J. Totten, "Killing a Crocodile," which he has published online in the magazine Commentary, and I picked up some a couple of things that I didn't know about the Alawites:
Syria's ruling Baath Party is a secular nationalist regime made up overwhelmingly of minority Alawites, whom the likes of Al Qaeda would like to see murdered en masse. Alawites are one of the Middle East's relatively obscure religious minorities -- like the Arabic Druze and the Kurdish Yezidis -- who exist well outside the theological mainstream of the region. They're a secretive and heretical offshoot of Twelver Shiism, and their beliefs are fused with Christian and pagan elements. Some of their rituals resemble those of the indigenous and ancient Phoenicians. They drink wine in a rite that resembles communion. They believe women do not have souls. Unlike Christians and Muslims, Alawites do not proselytize. Outsiders are not even allowed to convert. They make up around ten percent of Syria's population, and can only rule the country through the brute force of an oppressive police state.
I knew some of this already, for when I lived in Germany, I was friends with a Kurdish man who belonged to the Alawite religion, and he told me some things, but I didn't learn from him that the Alawites believe that women lack souls! In fact, I recall him telling me that his father had made some remark about women in the afterlife, which leads me to wonder if the Alawites have various opinions on this point.

And on that note, I retire for today.

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At 3:05 AM, Anonymous Azate said...

Alawite women lack soul in so far as they are not reincarnated but go straight to the starlight or to the deamons. Men are first reborn seven times, either as humans or animals, depending on conduct. (Rudolf Fischer: Religiöse Vielfalt im vorderen Orient. Oberdorf (CH), 1988)

Never heard that one before...

At 3:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Azate. I guess that this means that men have seven opportunities for improving their chances of reaching a celestial home, but women merely one opportunity.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

بصراحة انا علوي وهذه اول مرة بسمع الكلام الجحف بحقنا بأننا لا نحترم المرأة هذه لمعلومتكم واذا بتحبو تسألو أي شي انا حاضر

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Unfortunately, I don't read Arabic. I tried Google Translate and got this:

"Alawi and frankly, I was the first time Bsama Aljehv speak that we do not respect the right of women to these Malhumickm Ptahbu Tsolo and if anything I'm ready."

Obviously, Google's 'translation' is garbled . . . but I take it that you disagree?

Thanks for visiting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Dianna said...

The translation of that comment is that this anonymous person is alawi and has never heard of such things before in that alawites dont respect their women. This person also states that he/she is ready to answer any question you may have.
As an alawi woman myself, i definitely discard such views and I can tell you that women in the alawi community are well respected and regarded among the men and others. we're proud muslims who carry out islamic traditions and religious duties just like any other islamic sect although our views on certain issues may vary however the significant role that a woman plays in islam has always been well regarded. Try reading up on Fatimah al zahra (peace be upon her) hope that clarifies things for you.


At 6:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dianna, thank you for the translation, explanations, and other remarks. Even though I had an Alawite Kurdish friend when I lived in Tuebingen, Germany, I never learned much about Alawite beliefs.

Thanks for the visit.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Dianna said...

No worries, Jeffery :)
Its just that as an alawi- muslim, I find it important to clarify what my religion represents and to eliminate any misunderstanding about our believes.

more than happy to help :)


At 4:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dianna, thanks again.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note that Diana never said Allawi don't have such views but that she discards them and she feels she is treated well. I happen to be a non observant Allawi. Allawis don't believe women have souls but you have to put it in context. Even the meaning of soul is a bit different since our religion is really part ancient Phoenician/Semitic and part Islam and part early Christian.

It may seem sexist and patriarchal but that doesn't mean we mistreat women or treat them unequally any more or less than others in the region. That may not say much though. That is something we are working on.

The Shiah sect of Islam, which itself varies greatly from the Iranian promoted version of the Safavid Empire, from 1500-1800's, varies from what was really seen before as just one of the 5 major legal schools of Islam. Allawi were not unlike the Druze more syncretic and thus outside of the mainstream, Both are in ways are micro- ethnoreligions though most of us Allawi are Arabs and strongly support Arab nationalism.

Without getting into a discussion about Kurdish identity I don't accept that it is really a separate identity any more than Chaldeans, etc. It is to me just like with these Semitic religions continuum on a spectrum with all sorts of cross pollination.

The Assad family invited both Sunni and Shiah scholars to help legitimize Allawi practices for political reasons. Musa Sadr was one of those and he "blessed" us as legitimate Shiah though in the mind of most Shiah (especially those who follow Iranian state clerics) we are not Shiah.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for your explanation. The Alawites always seemed more liberal to me than did Muslims, whether Sunni or Shia, and I could see that they weren't really Muslim, a fact leaving them endangered, given the part of the world where they live.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Book-The Nuṣayrī-ʻAlawīs an introduction to the religion, history, and identity of the leading minority in Syria
great book with lots of info

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


Jeffery Hodges

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