Reflections of a
Concerned Muslim on the
Dr. Ali Shariati
If I confide in you personally, it is because I want to share a personal experience with you. It concerns me because it relates to my class, community, country and history.
I am familiar with the thoughts of educated people. My predecessors, of the remote past where they disappeared in the flow of history, were poverty stricken people. I, personally, am related to the nobles but not to those whose nobility is the product of silver and gold.
I am deeply interested in human heritage and civilization. My primary interest has always been to reflect on the works of people who inhabited the earth before us.
In Greece, I saw the temple of Delphi which thrilled me because of its artistic beauty and skill. In Rome, I visited the museum of arts and architecture of temples and great palaces. In the Far East, in China and Vietnam, there are mountains which were shaped by human hands and brains into temples for the gods and their representatives on earth (the religious clergymen). These human legacies are precious to me!
Last summer during my visit to Africa, I decided to see the three Pyramids in Egypt. Because of its vast surroundings, this great monument of civilization occupied my thoughts. I hastened to see one of the seven wonders of the past the Pyramids.
Wholeheartedly, I began to listen to the guide's explanations about the structure. We learned that slaves had to bring eight hundred million blocks of stones from Aswan to Cairo in order to construct six large and three small Pyramids. Eight-hundred million blocks of stones were brought to Cairo from a place which was nine hundred and eighty miles away to construct a building wherein the mummified bodies of the Pharaohs were to be preserved. Inside, the graves are made of five blocks of marble. Four of the blocks are used for the walls and one is used for the ceiling. To imagine the diameter of the weight of the marble blocks used for the ceiling of the grave, it is sufficient to visualize that on this block, millions of blocks of stones were piled on top of each other until the top of the Pyramid was completed. Since five thousand years ago, the ceiling has been supporting this load.
I was amazed by this wonderful work. At a distance of three to four-hundred years, I saw some scattered blocks of stones. "What are they?" I asked the guide. He said, "Nothing. Only a few blocks of stones." Of the thirty thousand slaves who brought the heavy blocks of stones from hundreds of miles away, on a daily basis, hundreds of them were crushed under the heavy loads. The place I inquired about is where they were buried. So unimportant were they in the system of slavery, that hundreds of them were buried collectively in one ditch. Those who survived had to carry the heavy loads. I told the guide that I would like to see the slaves who were crushed into dust. The guide exclaimed, "There is nothing to see!" He pointed to the graves of the slaves who were buried near the Pyramids by order of the Pharaohs; this was done so their souls could be employed as slaves just as their bodies were.
I requested that the guide leave me alone. I then went to those graves and sat down, feeling very close to the people buried in those ditches. It was as if we were of the same race. It is true that each of us came from different geographical areas but these differences are inconsequential when viewed as a basis for dividing mankind. For out of this phenomenon arose the concepts of strangers and relatives. I was not involved in this system of classification and racial division; therefore, I had nothing but warm feelings and sympathy toward these oppressed souls. I looked back to the Pyramids and realized that despite their magnificence, they were so strange to and distant from me! In other words, I felt so much hatred towards the great monuments of civilization which throughout history were raised upon the bones of my predecessors! My predecessors also built the great walls of China. Those who could not carry the loads were crushed under the heavy stones and put into the walls with the stones. This was how all the great monuments of civilization were constructed at the expense of the flesh and blood of my predecessors!
I viewed civilization as a curse. I felt a burning hatred for the thousands of years of oppression against my predecessors. I realized that the feelings of all those people buried together in the ditches were once the same as mine. I returned from my visit and wrote one of them a letter describing what had transpired in the past five thousand years. He was not living in those thousands of years, but slavery existed in one form or another!
I sat down and wrote him:
My friend, you have left this world, but we are carrying the loads for the great civilization, clear victories, and heroic works. They came to our homes at the farms and forced us, as beasts, to build their graves. If we could not carry the stones or complete the task, we were also put into the walls with the stones! Others took the pride and credit for the work that we did. No mention had ever been made of our contributions.
They pushed us forward to fight people whom we did not even know nor did they know us. We were compelled to kill people whom we did not despise. Some were of our own class, race and destiny. For a long time, our old and helpless parents kept looking for a way to contact us, but their searching eyes never got an answer. According to one thinker, these fights were like wars between two parties who did not know each other but were fighting on behalf of those who knew each other well!! They forced us to fight, to massacre, and to be massacred. Our fathers and mothers as well as their ruined farms suffered the loss. If victory was achieved, it was others who enjoyed its bounties, not us .
My friend, after you died a great change occurred. The Pharaohs and big powers of history altered their views. This made us happy. Previously, they believed that their souls were eternal; therefore, they believed that if the body was preserved, the soul could maintain a relationship with the body. This was why they made us construct those great yet cruel buildings. However, now they have become wiser. They no longer think about death. We have great news! They have given up those old beliefs. We are spared from transporting eight-hundred million blocks of stones from hundreds of miles away to build graves.
My friend, unfortunately, this "good news" proved to be short-lived! After you passed away, they again stepped into our countries to capture us as laborers. Once again, we have to carry loads but not for their graves; they no longer care about them. This time, it is for their palaces great palaces, besides which our generation is buried!
We lived in despair, but once again a flash of hope for survival appeared. Great prophets came forth. There was Zoroaster, Buddha the great and Confucius the philosopher. A gate toward salvation was opened. The "gods" sent their messengers to save us from disgrace of slavery; worship replaced cruelty. Unfortunately, we had bad luck. The prophets, who left their prophetic homes behind and disregarded us, proceeded to the palaces.
We had strong faith in Confucius, the philosopher, because he addressed himself to the question of man and the community. However, he also became a friend of the princes. Buddha, who was a prince, also deserted us. He turned within himself to reach the state of "Nirvana," but we do not know where this state is. Buddha developed many great and ascetic rules. As for Zoroaster, he began his mission from Azerbaijan, Iran.
Disregarding our mourning and scars from the lashes inflicted on our bodies by the masters, he continued to Balkh and then to court of Kashtasib, who was king at that time.
My friend, you were sacrificed for the graves while we were sacrificed for the palaces! Suddenly, besides the Pharaohs and others who employed us as their slaves, there appeared those who claimed to be successors of the prophets and professional spiritual teachers.
From Palestine to Iran, from Egypt to China and throughout all parts of the earth where there was civilization, we had to carry the loads of stones to construct temples, palaces, and graves. Again in the name of charity, the representatives of the "gods" and the successors of the prophets began to loot us. again, in the name of holy war, we were pushed into the battlefields. We had to sacrifice our innocent children for the "gods," temples, and idols!
My friend, for thousands of years, our destiny became worse than
yours. Three-fifths of the wealth in Iran went to the Moubedans (old
Persian clergymen) in the name of the gods. We became their servants and
slaves. Four-fifths of the wealth in France was taken from us by the
clergymen of God. The Pharaoh clergymen and spiritual teachers of
religions have always been successful....