Friday, September 04, 2009

Did Ahmadinejad's Imam really say that?!

Ayatollah and Consultant

The following information will need to be double- and even triple-checked by somebody with better sources than I, but here's a report -- based on allegations by Iranian dissidents -- of statements said to have been made by a leading Shi'ite religious leader in Iran.

Writing for the Israel National News, the journalist Nissan Ratzlav-Katz informs us in his article "Ahmadinejad's Imam: Islam Allows Raping, Torturing Prisoners" that "[a]ccording to Iranian pro-democracy sources," Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi gave his legal opinions on certain delicate questions concerning whether or not the use of "psychological, emotional and physical pressure" to obtain confessions was "valid and considered credible according to Islam." Concerning those queries, the ayatollah allegedly explained:
Getting a confession from any person who is against the Velayat-e Faqih ("Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists", or the regime of Iran's mullahs) is permissible under any condition.
The purported follow-up question to this opinion was likely prompted by the current rumors of rape having been perpetrated on many of the political prisoners arrested during and after the recent demonstrations in Iran over the disputed election:
Can an interrogator rape the prisoner in order to obtain a confession?
The ayatollah then reportedly made the following statement:
The necessary precaution is for the interrogator to perform a ritual washing first and say prayers while raping the prisoner.
This outrageous statement specifying the 'precaution' is then elaborated upon in a way that I'd prefer not to include on this family-safe blog, so go to the website if you really need to know the details. I'll just add this astounding judgement purportedly pronounced by the ayatollah concerning "the rape of virgin female prisoners":
If the judgment for the [female] prisoner is execution, then rape before execution brings the interrogator a spiritual reward equivalent to making the mandated Haj pilgrimage [to Mecca], but if there is no execution decreed, then the reward would be equivalent to making a pilgrimage to [the Shi'ite holy city of] Karbala.
I'd ordinarily dismiss as a false report anything so disgustingly depraved as to be literally incredible, but I've previously seen Islamic legal opinions written by the late Ayatollah Khomeini that rival this still-living ayatollah's legal decisions, so I'm not ruling out of court the possibility that Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi really does hold that rape can be a sacred religious act.

Can anyone supply confirmation . . . and if accurate, the legal reasoning of this Shi'ite cleric?

UPDATE: Regular commenter Erdal informs us about this story:
[Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi] didn't say it. This started as a dirty satire in some corner of the internet, sombody didn't get the joke, spread it as real, and you know the rest. The official party line is of course that rapes don't happen in Iran's prisons, which is as bizarre a statement as this story.
Thanks, Erdal. I've found a link to a site debunking the report.

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At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall reading many years ago news reports about young Bahai women and girls as young as nine being raped before being executed to keep them from going to heaven as virgins.

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see by your reference to Khomeini that you already knew that. I don't think there is any Quranic justification, just a centuries-old legal tradition forbidding the execution of virgins.


At 12:09 PM, Blogger Teacher Leo said...

It's going to be difficult to find confirmation unless the interview is available somewhere else than this newspaper, so I will not commit myself to believing this 100%.
However, given the convoluted ranting that passes for rhetoric among the Muslim fanatics, I would not put this one past them, especially the idea that virgins go to heaven no matter what, so make sure they're not virgins anymore.
It only goes to show that life is indeed 'nasty, brutish and short' for far too many people out there!

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Actually, Sonagi, that particular bit about Khomeini was new to me. I was referring to other legal opinions of his.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

TL, I've sent an email to an Iranian to inquire about this, so perhaps we'll have his opinion.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:31 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

He didn't say it. This started as a dirty satire in some corner of the internet, sombody didn't get the joke, spread it as real, and you know the rest. The official party line is of course that rapes don't happen in iran's prisons, which is as bizarre a statement as this story.
Sonagi: Concerning executing virgins being non-quranic: From a shia point of view it is quranic. The quran you can buy in any bookstore is, fron a shia point of view, falsified (Mohammads's companions, who were actually hypocrites, deleted all of the original and replaced it with a fabrication only 1/3rd the original length). It "doesn't contain a single word" of god's message. This is doctrine! Instead, the quran is re-intuited by, re-inspired through, re-created with, (but not re-revealed to) Ali's successors, the Imams, as they go along. They are also infallible, more so that even the prophets and the angels. Applying the usual sunni concepts to shia islam will just confuse you. It's really an entirely different religion. And I say that as a born but lapsed quasi-shiite (alevi). The central book of the (iranian) shia is the al-kafi al-usul, not the sunni quran.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal, I thought something sounded odd about this story, and I'm glad that I retained some skepticism -- retained in part because the official Iranian line is that the rapes don't take place (though they undoubtedly do take place).

Would you happen to have a link to a source? I can put it into an update.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Erdal, for the important clarification on the Sunni versus Shia interpretation of the Quran. I did not know that. Do all Muslims read the same Quran or are there different versions? Can you direct me to a couple good resources for explaining this difference more in detail? I always like to learn something new.

At 1:04 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

Sonagi: "Do all Muslims read the same Quran or are there different versions?"

Two points:
a) The sunni qurans are all alike, since they were standardized in 1921 (Cairo version). Before, there were many differences (tens of thousands), mostly in vocalization, which did sometimes (only several dozen cases) yield differences in meaning. That is because written vocalization was introduced into the written arabcic language late. The order of some verses differed, too. The unified Cairo version retains and allows many instances (hundreds) of different readings.

The 12er shia version includes some extra text (maybe 10 sentences or so) which mostly deal with Ali, and how he was supposed to be Mohammed's sucessor.

b) The quran isn't actually a much-read book, because the language is very often incomprhensible to the layman. The level of difficulty is comparable to an educated Englishman reading the original Beowulf: Beowulf is min nama. Wille ic asecgan sunu Healfdenes, mærum þeodne, min ærende,aldre þinum, gif he us geunnan wile þæt we hine swa godne gretan oton. Sounds very familiar, but unless you are guided through it, it's tedious. It's rote-learned and recited instead. Translations are not used, even forbidden in learning and teaching, except in Turkey and Kazakhstan).

There is of course also a farsi (persian) translation of the quran, but since shia theology maintains that the text as we have it is mostly fabricated and missing 2/3rd of it's contents anyway, nobody reads that either. When you hear a shiite referring to the quran, he usually speaks about the book that is with God, not the one you buy in bookshops. That quran is as tangential to shia islam as, say, Maria's husband Joseph is to christianity. The central persons in shia isla are Hussein (Mohammed's grandson - a Christ-like figure), Ali (1st Imam, husband to Mohammed's daughter Fatima), Mohammed al-Mahdi (the 12th, currently hidden, last Imam), the other 9 Imams, then the prophet Mohammed, then Fatima, then the local saints of your choice. The central texts are the quran (the one which is with God, exact wording unknown), then al-kafi; but not the (earthly, for-sale quran). is a good place to start, but keep in mind that sunni muslim wiki-writers like to downplay shiite religious differences (out of sunni supremalism) almost as much as shia writers do ("deception is nine tenths of religion", famous shiite, find out who!).

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Jay Kactuz said...

Erdal, I take issue with your statement that "The quran you can buy in any bookstore is, from a shia point of view, falsified." With minor veriations, shia and sunni qurans are pretty much the same. What is very different are the traditions and theology.

Even so, as you say, the quran mostly plays a less than central role in both sunni and shia beliefs... in fact, both groups follow ahadith that contradict the quran. The guiding force of islam is what I call the "Myth of Islam" rather than any specific texts.

As to the reported rapes, usually the Middle East Institute is a reliable source (ie, the Israeli government), but I have not researched this case.

I would not describe Hussein as Christ-like. We was a warrior and died fighting. He was outsmarted by Yazid. It seems to be a family weakness because Ali did not have the same political and leadership gifts that Mohammad, Abu Bakr and Omar had. To me both Ali and his sons are sympathetic but ill-fated, tragic figures.

Not being a fan of islam, I find the fact that in less than 50 years after Mohammad's death Muslim armies were already slaughtering each other by the tens of thousands (not to mention carrying the head of Mohammad's grandson and infant greatgrandson in bags to show the Caliph) tells me all I need to know about that religion.

Even so, the history of early islam is fascinating. The events at Karbala and the sunni-shia split have very serious implications for us today, and are central to power politics in the middle east.


PS: I once took a few days to figure out the family relationships between the so-called "rightly guided caliphs". Crazy, man, Crazy!(that is 1960's talk!). Want me to post it? Omar was his own grandfather!

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jay, I think that what Erdal meant was that the Shia believe that the Qur'an has been tampered with and that much of it has been excised and that what remains has been corrupted. I've heard this before, though I never knew that the Shia view was quite so radical.

As for the statement that Hussein was 'Christ-like', I took that in the context of Shia views on redemption through suffering -- namely, Hussein's suffering. In my opinion, Shia Islam does have some parallels with Christianity in its theology.

But Erdal is his own man, of course, and can speak for himself better than I can articulate what I take to be his meaning.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:22 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

Being a non-native english speaker, I find that being called "my own man" is at the same time hilarious and uplifting. I've never seen the phrase before.

Something else: Mr. Hodges, I enjoy your blog very much, and have taken to early english literature because of it. Presently, I'm wrestling with The Faerie Queene and have in the past read into things you mentioned. Thank you very much. Long live the Internet! Long live Jeffery Hodgesand his family!

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Why, thank you, Erdal. That's very kind of you. If I do live a long, lengthy life, I'll try to live up to your high praise.

And if I don't live a long, lengthy life . . . well, I won't know until the end, will I, but I'm told that virtue is its own reward.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:09 PM, Blogger Teacher Leo said...

Well, I must say it is nice to hear what is happening, what was really said, and what interpretation Muslims of various stripes put on it.
That's one thing about your blog - it brings about such interesting responses!

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I am fortunate to have such excellent commentors to keep me on my toes.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi All,
I am astounded and frightened at the amount of ignorance and lack of independent and impartial research exhibited on this thread. I am a Shia Muslim and I can tell you that the allegation by "dissidents" is fabrictaed, like 95% of Iran related news. Research should always be thorough rather than based on "benefit of the doubt". Furthermore, there is no such thing as a "Shia Quran". They are all the same; I have copy from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran and every word is the same.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, you'll need to discuss the "Shia Quran" with Erdal, who was raised as a Shia (of sorts), but I have also heard that the Shia accuse the Sunni of having deleted at least one sura from the Qur'an, a sura concerning Ali.

As for your being "astounded and frightened," you're surely overreacting, especially since the comments established that the report about Ahmadinejad's Imam was proven to be satire.

Thanks for visiting, but a name other than 'anonymous' would be useful.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Observer said...

I don’t know who Erdal is or whether he really was a Shia or not. He did mention being an Alevi, which is a fringe Shia group predominantly based in South Turkey and North Syria. In this case his strange reading of Shi’ism is understandable. However, as far as Twelver Shia’s and Sunni’s are concerned, the Quran of today is identical to the Qur’an of past.

The renowned scholar of the Quran, Allamah Muhammad Hussein Tabatabai, a jurist, philosopher and mystic, wrote in his very famous exegesis (Tafseer-ul-Meezan) 12th edition, page 109, Published Iran: The Quran, which Almighty Allah descended on Prophet Muhammad (S), is protected from any change. This precludes any possibility that the Qur’an has been changed as far as Muslim scholars are concerned. On this issue all Muslims are unanimous. The disinformation spread by Erdal et al had its roots with the Nasibis who are a fringe extremist minority that sought to demonise and excommunicate Shia Muslims.

At any rate, you are an academic and it befits an intelligent person to adopt an agnostic and analytical approach in this regard. Mere rumour and talk does not qualify fact. My advice is what Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib [as] has encouraged in Sermon 140:

"There is nothing between truth and falsehood except four fingers." He was asked the meaning of this whereupon he closed his fingers together and put them between his ear and eye and said: It is falsehood when you say, "I have heard so," while it is truth when you say, "have seen."

If you are curious about the beliefs of Shia Muslims I advise you to bypass third parties and research reliable sources of information directly:


At 10:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Observer, thanks for your courteous and detailed comment.

I actually go by "Jeffery."

Erdal has commented here over the years, and I've always found him to be a reasonable individual, as you also seem to be. I have no way of contacting him, though I think that the two of you would need to discuss the issues over which you disagree.

As for the issues discussed on this blog, they do vary. Sometimes, we do discuss rumors, which is what I considered the report about Ahmadinejad's Imam to be, but my intent was to get to the bottom of things, and Erdal was quite helpful on that point.

Seeing is believing -- or so I have heard. In fact, seeing is not always quite so simple, and when we discuss the past, we talk of things that we have merely heard. I have also heard that God can protect his words from distortion, but Muslims say that the Christians and Jews have distorted God's words, and some Islamic sources refer to verses lost from the Qur'an, such as the verse on stoning for adultery (if I am not mistaken). Perhaps God does not always exert his providential power to protect his word from error.

Anyway, thank you again for visiting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:57 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

As for the "Nasibi" thing, 'Observer' may actually be half right: What I know about Shia Islam may be clouded by two things -- Alevi deviations from the rest of Shiism and Turkish-Sunni mainstream education, which certainly (but not officially acknowledged, of course) includes anti-alevi propaganda. This has not Salafist but nationalist reasons, but the result may be comparable.

All this was long ago for me. These days I rely on my CD of the Encyclopedia of Islam in questions of detail. I trust this to be a better source than

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal. You've always seemed knowledgeable to me.

Jeffery Hodges

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