By: Tim Urban
On the morning of Saturday, August 2nd, I got in a taxi in Erbil, the regional capital of Kurdish Iraq, and asked the driver to take me to the Khazir refugee camp.
This was a scary-ish thing to do.
The “scary” part is a result of the fact that the Khazir camp is outside of the borders of the somewhat autonomous Kurdish region, one of the only secure parts of the country.
The “ish” part comes from the fact that the Khazir camp, though outside of Kurdish borders, is still in an area currently controlled by the Peshmerga—the Kurdish army.
Iraq has been a scary place for a while now, for a number of reasons, but it’s currently scary in italics because of the terrorist group we’ve all gotten to know about in the past three months—ISIS.
Zuhr is the second of the five daily prayers (salat, known to be one of the most important pillars.) The Islamic day begins at Maghrib which is the fourth prayer. The five daily prayers collectively are one of the Five Pillars of Islam in Sunni Islam, and one of the ten Practices of the Religion (furūʿ ad-dīn) (فروع الدين) according to Shia Islam. The Holy Qur’an has reiterated its importance, “Attend constantly to prayers and to the middle prayer and stand up truly obedient to Allah”.
One of the most significant transformations that occurred in Islamic history, the legacy of which is apparent even in our own day, was undoubtedly the conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shi‘ism during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Although there have been other instances throughout Islamic history to bring about religious uniformity for political reasons—the Almohads in Iberia and North Africa being prime examples—the case of the Safavids in Iran is perhaps the only example where such a conversion of territory was both successful, in terms of both the scale of the project and its permanence. The end result was that an entire region of the Islamic world was placed under the exclusive dominion of a single sect, Twelver Shi‘ism, at the expense of others (Sunnism and Zaydi Shi‘ism).