Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kalar becomes a save haven for Kurdish Shiites

Shiite Kurds found sanctuaries in Sunni dominated towns

By Ako Muhammed 

The Kurdish Globe

Most Kurdish Shiites live in Khanaqin province, south east of Sulaimanyah and in Baghdad. Shiite Kurds, or the Faylis, were oppressed as part of the campaign launched against the Kurds in the '80s. But as Globe's Ako Muhammad reports, many Fayli families have moved to Kalar permanently and built their praying places. 

Traditional restrictions did not stop Sartip Dawood converting to become a Shiite when he found himself fond of the Imams at the early stages of his youth. The story of his new religion began when he was an intermediate school student. He shared deep beliefs with his radical Sunni followers and Dawood, now 34 years old, explained that they had read lots of religious resources. But this brought him more doubts and pushed him toward resources to the Shiite sect identity of Islam. "I have no doubt any more. Thanks to God for guiding me to find the way," said Dawood enthusiastically while arranging books on shelves of the library of Hassan al-Mujtaba Husseinia, a Shiite Mosque in Kalar town. 

The library where Dawood works voluntarily every afternoon contained six shelves of books all about Shiite doctrines, inside a room close to the main prayer hall of the Mosque. With tables and chairs in the middle for reading, the library walls were decorated with picture of Iraqi Shiites reverends and Shiite leaders of Iran. 

While Sartip Dawood was busy arranging books, a young man came in and asked for a book to read. The man received his book and sat to read as Dawood continued to explain his love of the Shiite Imams. He bunched 21 volumes of al-Tabatabaee's al-Mizan and added, "Look here, all of them prove that Imam Ali should have become the successor." 

Shiites believe that the ruling successor after Prophet Muhammad should have been taken by the "innocent" Ahel al-Bait (or the household family) who are Ali Ben Abi Talib and his sons who are grandsons of the Prophet. The underlining differences which split Muslims to Sunni and Shia have deepened till the present day, but the Shia followers in Kurdistan, despite their small population, practice their ceremonies in peace. 

"The Muslims are brothers respecting each other. And they practice their religious rituals freely. Though the Shiites here are a minority, no gap ever happened that caused problems between the religious sects," said Sheikh Abu Haider al-Kubaisi, preacher of al-Mujtaba Husseinia. 

Since he came to the town in 1997, al-Kubaisi, an Iraqi Arab Shiite cleric, could play a key role in gathering Kalar's Shiite population, where it estimated to contain more than 1000 families. He preaches Shiites rituals that he has revised indoors. For the celebration of the annual condolence known as Ashura, the death of the anniversary of Imam Hussein Ben Ali, they were gathering at an outdoor yard in the city center. 

In 2000, al-Kubaisi's determined attempts facilitated in the building of the first Shiite Mosque in the town funded by donations from public, after inheriting a land of 3500 square meters obtained with the help of an order from the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani. This came two years after Talabani inaugurated al-Hakeem Husseinia in Suleimaniya. 

The Husseinia in Kalar was exposed to a couple of minor terrorist attacks in the first two years after it was built. However, the threats did not emanate from the Sunni populations of the town, but from elements sent by the Iraqi government at the time, al-Kubaisi explained. 

"These (incidents) were not because of sectarian problems. They (the Sunnis) are cooperating with us and they attend our ceremonies," remarked the preacher who wants the Mosque to remain a safe and permanent establishment to serve the Shiite Imams and its principles. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

‘Mother of religions’ remains personal

Freedoms not adequate for Kakayees to have their own temple and identity

By Ako Muhammed

Kakayee a small Kurdish religion has been kept secret due to expansions of other religions during history though it claims to have roots to the early beginning of human’s worshiping God. With thousands of families living in different parts of Kurdistan, the believers in this religion who could be recognized through their long moustaches want to celebrate their religion at houses, not in a public temple and also to have identities like Muslims rather than being described as ‘Kakayee’.

Like other religions such as Ismaeli, Baktash, Yazidi and others, Kakayee is an inner religion that deals with spirit and keeps its ceremonies private. These religions differ with Christianity and Islam which are outer religion and go for public.

For knowing about the secret norms of this small religion, The Globe paid a visit to Khanaqin for an exclusive interview with Sayd Khalil Sayd Aghababa, a well-known figure of this religion, who explained about privacies hardly ever been told.

Sacred norms
Beside the familiar habit of leaving long moustaches, Kakayees pray, fast and celebrate sacred ceremonies. But the essential sacred norm of the Kakayee is its privacy for it is the cause of saving the religion. This reflects on all the worshipping norms in this religion.

But when Aghababa was asked about their prayer, he preserved saying, “hmm… we have our own prayer, but not like the one you know in Islam. You may call it Prayer, I called it something else.” They don’t have certain times for praying but they usually hold sessions at the Sayd houses for their prayers and often on Thursdays.

Believers in this religion fast eating or drinking nothing from down to sunset three days in the mid winter. After the fasting, they gather to celebrate Shahi feast at their houses.

Kakayees regard music is as sacred means for comforting spirit. According their beliefs, Adam when first was created from clay, his spirit was unhappy and unfitting with the clay; later it was comforted with music. The Kakayee used Tambur instrument during the prayer sessions, said Aghababa while pointing to his elder son, Sayd Saman, sitting by, “he is a very good Tambur player.”

Kakayee’s religious language is Hawrami which is one of the Kurdish language dialects.

However, the privacy also brought the Kakayees many problems. Aghababa complained to a number of writers like Abbas Azawi who wrote about Kakayees in the 1940s.

“Without known anything about the religion, they published baseless accusations to the Kakayees,” said Aghababa who declined Azawi’s accusation which says that Kakayees gather at a house to have mixed sexual relations.

“We have kept silent to those accusations because of our safety and not to be exposed to violence, ideological violence,” said Sayd Aghababa and also complained to the countries laws which are still unable to protect them from accusations of that Kakayees are infidels or unbelievers.

Kakayee in Iraq are identified as Muslims in their identities and public documents. “Even now and unfortunately most of our people don’t want to change identities to their own religion and this is because of safety,” said Aghababa and added that they haven’t yet any demand to the authority for repairing their identities. This case is different for their fellows in Iran who are recognized with their religion officially.

There is not any temple for this religious minority. On whether they want to demand for building temples, Aghababa explained that they must not public their ceremonies and they would rather the privacy.

Although the modern Kakayee first spread from Hawraman and Sharazoor areas in south east of Suleimaniya, they now are found scattered in different places mainly in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and in the Kurdish areas in Iran and also in some other neighboring countries with smaller population.

Hawar and Darishwish are Kakayee populated villages in Hawraman which stayed alive. But most of the Kakayees in Iraq now settle in Kirkuk province. Around 1000 to 1500 families of them live in Khanaqin town and its surrounding villages. A number of them live in Mandali in south of Khanaqin and also in Safya Wardak (or Baynan), a village in west of Erbil.

In Iran, the Kakayee who there are called ‘Ahle Haq’ are founded in different parts of Kirmanshah, Kurdistan and Hamadan provinces.

Origins of Kakayee
“According to the reliable Kakayee resources, the history of this religion starts with the beginning of believing in and worshipping God,” Sayd Khalil Aghababa, a well-known figure of this religion in Khanaqin town, told the Globe. He declined information which parallels the launch of Kakayee to the beginning of Islam. According to him, their religion not only is older than Islam, Christianity and Judaism but it has been existed since Adam era.

“According to the Kakayee philosophy, every religion came to birth was with the help of Kakayee referents who had spiritual relations with God. This means, Kakayee is a part of every religion and yet it has kept it self protected and private,” said Aghababa who is from a sayd household, reverend in the religion.

Not necessarily the Kakayee went on with this name during the religions history but it divides its existence to historical rounds such the Adam round, Noah round, the Madina round which is meant by the Islam era and then modern round which is popular now. According to Aghababa, the current round of the Kakayee had started 700 to 750 years ago.

Kakayee, linguistically, is a Kurdish word rooted from ‘kaka’ which means ‘Mister’ or ‘Sir’ and even now it is pretty much used for calling a man higher in rank and to show respect.

As a proof, Aghababa told a legend. More than seven centuries ago, a Sunni Muslim clergy who had inner beliefs in Kakayee basics was renovating their mosque in Barzinja, near Halabja town in southeast of Suleimaniya, with the help of his father. The man named Sultan Ishaq used wood timbers for the mosque ceiling. They found one of the timbers short. This didn’t stop the work of a holy man. “Stretch is Kaka,” Sultan Ishaq asked his father; and the wood became longer enough to fit the building. Since then, the believers of this religion are called Kakayee.

It is not known with what name the region was before this legend as there is no much written history in the area and because of the privacy of the religion itself.

“Apparently, Sultan Ishaq was son of Shiekh Issa Barzinji but according to our beliefs, the God had been embodied in him, the same as Jesus,” Aghababa explained.

Essential beliefs
The holy characters in Kakayee are divided into groups called ‘Haftan’ and ‘Haftawan’; both words mean ‘seven’ indicating the members of each group. The Haftan consist of seven angles carrying functions in the heaven and in cosmos. The first of the Haftan is Binyamin who is in charge of delivering God’s messages like Gabriel in Islam. Second is Dawood (or David) who delivers people’s pleads to God. Third is Razbar who is the holder and the look-after God’s throne. Kaka Mustafa, Pir Musé, Ewat (or Evat) and Zardawban are the rest of the angles for them Aghababa wouldn’t like to give details about.

The Haftwan consists of seven heavenly characters on earth for guiding people; they are founders of every religion even the paganism, according to the Kakayee beliefs. They act like the 13 scholars of Jesus.

“The Islam, Christianity and Judaism and even the Buddhism and confochism do not go beyond these seven but they may go with different names in every religion,” Aghababa explained his beliefs about Haftawan.

The big brother and the chairman of Haftawan is called ‘Sayd Muhammad’. “He is Adam himself, the Muhammad of Islam and the Sultan Ishaq who founded the modern Kakayee 700 years ago,” said Aghababa and noted on this holy character as a proof that their religion exists at early beginning of believing in God and as that their beliefs are basics for each religion.

The second of Haftawan is Sayd Abdul-Wafa. He embodied in Hamza, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad, in the Madina round of Kakayee. He embodied in other figures before as well. The rest are Sayd Ahmed Meer, Sayd Mustafa, Sayd Shahabadin, Sayd Habib Shah, Sayd Haji Bawaisé (or Issé).

The Kakayees have religious ranks and on top of them are Sayds (or Sadat) who are successors of Sultan Ishaq. Mam, Bawa and Khalifa are also other ranks. The ranked Kakayees are well respected among the Kakayees and they are guides for their community.

The report is published on the Kurdish Globe