måndag 16 april 2012

The Origins of the Shia-Sunni Split


It's not known precisely how many of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are Shia. The Shia are a minority, comprising between 10 percent and 15 percent of the Muslim population — certainly fewer than 200 million, all told.

The Shia are concentrated in Iran, southern Iraq and southern Lebanon. But there are significant Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia and Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well.

Although the origins of the Sunni-Shia split were violent, over thecenturies Shia and Sunnis lived peacefully together for long periods of time.

But that appears to be giving way to a new period of spreading conflict in the Middle East between Shia and Sunni.

"There is definitely an emerging struggle between Sunni and Shia to define not only the pattern of local politics, but also the relationship between the Islamic world and the West," says Daniel Brumberg of Georgetown University, author of Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran.

That struggle is most violent and dangerous now in Iraq, but it is a struggle that could spread to many Arab nations in the Middle East and to Iran, which is Persian.

One other factor about the Shia bears mentioning. "Shiites constitute 80 percent of the native population of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region," notes Yitzhak Nakash, author of The Shi'is of Iraq.

Shia predominate where there is oil in Iran, in Iraq and in the oil-rich areas of eastern Saudi Arabia as well.

The Partisans of Ali

The original split between Sunnis and Shia occurred soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in the year 632.

"There was a dispute in the community of Muslims in present-day Saudi Arabia over the question of succession," says Augustus Norton, author ofHezbollah: A Short History. "That is to say, who is the rightful successor to the Prophet?"

Most of the Prophet Muhammad's followers wanted the community of Muslims to determine who would succeed him. A smaller group thought that someone from his family should take up his mantle. They favored Ali, who was married to Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah.

"Shia believed that leadership should stay within the family of the Prophet," notes Gregory Gause, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Vermont. "And thus they were the partisans of Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. Sunnis believed that leadership should fall to the person who was deemed by the elite of the community to be best able to lead the community. And it was fundamentally that political division that began the Sunni-Shia split."

The Sunnis prevailed and chose a successor to be the first caliph.

Eventually, Ali was chosen as the fourth caliph, but not before violent conflict broke out. Two of the earliest caliphs were murdered. War erupted when Ali became caliph, and he too was killed in fighting in the year 661 near the town of Kufa, now in present-day Iraq.

The violence and war split the small community of Muslims into two branches that would never reunite.

The war continued with Ali's son, Hussein, leading the Shia. "Hussein rejected the rule of the caliph at the time," says Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival. "He stood up to the caliph's very large army on the battlefield. He and 72 members of his family and companions fought against a very large Arab army of the caliph. They were all massacred."

Hussein was decapitated and his head was carried in tribute to the Sunni caliph in Damascus. His body was left on the battlefield at Karbala. Later it was buried there.

It is the symbolism of Hussein's death that holds so much spiritual power for Shia.

"An innocent spiritual figure is in many ways martyred by a far more powerful, unjust force," Nasr says. "He becomes the crystallizing force around which a faith takes form and takes inspiration."

The Twelfth Imam

The Shia called their leaders imam, Ali being the first, Hussein the third. They commemorate Hussein's death every year in a public ritual of self-flagellation and mourning known as Ashura.

The significance of the imams is one of the fundamental differences that separate the two branches of Islam. The imams have taken on a spiritual significance that no clerics in Sunni Islam enjoy.

"Some of the Sunnis believe that some of the Shia are actually attributing almost divine qualities to the imams, and this is a great sin," Gause says, "because it is associating human beings with the divinity. And if there is one thing that's central to Islamic teaching, it is the oneness of God."

This difference is especially powerful when it comes to the story of the Twelfth Imam, known as the Hidden Imam.

"In the 10th century," says Vali Nasr, "the 12th Shiite Imam went into occultation. Shiites believe God took him into hiding, and he will come back at the end of time. He is known as the Mahdi or the messiah. So in many ways the Shiites, much like Jews or Christians, are looking for the coming of the Messiah."

Those who believe in the Hidden Imam are known as Twelver Shia. They comprise the majority of Shia in the world today.

"Twelver Shiism is itself a kind of messianic faith," Brumberg says. It is based "on a creed that the full word and meaning of the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad's message will only be made manifest, or real and just, upon the return of the Twelfth Imam, this messianic figure."

Political Power Fuels Religious Split

Over the next centuries, Islam clashed with the European Crusaders, with the Mongol conquerors from Central Asia, and was spread further by the Ottoman Turks.

By the year 1500, Persia was a seat of Sunni Islamic learning, but all that was about to change with the arrival of Azeri conquerors. They established the Safavid dynasty in Persia — modern-day Iran — and made it Shiite.

"That dynasty actually came out of what's now eastern Turkey," says Gregory Gause. "They were a Turkic dynasty, one of the leftovers of the Mongol invasions that had disrupted the Middle East for a couple of centuries. The Safavid dynasty made it its political project to convert Iran into a Shia country."

Shiism gradually became the glue that held Persia together and distinguished it from the Ottoman Empire to its west, which was Sunni, and the Mughal Muslims to the east in India, also Sunni.

This was the geography of Shiite Islam, and it would prevail into the 20th century.

There were periods of conflict and periods of peace. But the split remained and would, in the second half of the 20th century, turn out to be one of the most important factors in the upheavals that have ravaged the Middle East.

"Why has there been such a long and protracted disagreement and tension between these two sects?" asks Ray Takeyh, author of Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic. "It has to do with political power."

In the 20th century, that meant a complex political dynamic involving Sunni and Shia, Arabs and Persians, colonizers and colonized, oil, and the involvement of the superpowers.

tisdag 1 december 2009

Weight Loss Diet Plan

In Phase 1 of The Lose Weight Diet, you learned how to lose weight. You learned that the key to weight loss is being in a calorie deficit, which means you are burning more calories than you are consuming. You learned that to do this, you just need be about 500 calories below your calorie maintenance level. You also learned that while this was the most important part of weight loss, making sure these calories are coming from the right food sources is also pretty important.

Now, in Phase 2, you're going to learn how to put this information to use and create your own weight loss diet plan. The very first thing you're going to need to do is figure out what your calorie maintenance level is...

Calculate your daily calorie maintenance level.

Your daily calorie maintenance level is the key number in creating your weight loss diet plan. It is based on many factors and is specific to each person. For example, you and your friend might be the same height and weight, but you might have maintenance levels that are hundreds of calories apart. Since the effectiveness of your weight loss diet plan depends a lot on this number, it is important that you figure it out as accurately as possible.

For the most part there are really only 2 methods of figuring out this "magic" number. The first is pretty close to accurate, and the second is as accurate as can be.

1. Here's the method for getting the "pretty close estimate" of your calorie maintenance level. It requires putting your gender, weight, height, age and activity level through a 6th grade level math formula. However, I have assumed that no one actually wants to sit around doing 6th grade math. I was right, wasn't I? So, I've included a calculator for it instead. All you need to do now is just fill out the quick form below and hit "Calculate!" and you will instantly get your estimated calorie maintenance level. Go ahead and try it...

click here for more details...............................

How to lose wait- Phase 1

Welcome to Phase 1 of The Lose Weight Diet. For anyone just starting here, let me quickly mention that this weight loss diet plan is completely free. Yes, really. There will be nothing to pay for or sign up for at any time. It's all free. I swear. Now, on to Phase 1.

The purpose of Phase 1 is going to make a ton of sense. You see, in order to successfully reach your weight loss goals, you're going to first need to understand how to lose weight. (I told you it would make sense.) That's what Phase 1 is. A complete, yet easy to understand explanation of exactly what is required for weight loss to take place. How it happens, why it happens, and most important of all... what you need to do in order to make it happen. You can not skip ahead. You will need to know this in order to create your weight loss diet plan in Phase 2.

So, to sum up, by the end of this page you're going to know how to lose weight. Sound good? Great. Let's get to it...


You know when you eat food and drink drinks? Well, every one of those foods and every one of those drinks contain calories. Say it with me... calories. The reason I'm mentioning calories to you as though you are 5 years old is because the answer to the almighty "how to lose weight" question all revolves around calories. Not only does everything you eat and drink contain calories, but everything you do burns calories. Literally every step you take and every move you make burns calories. In fact, your body actually burns hundreds and even thousands of calories each day on its own just functioning. You could sit still all day and your body would still burn calories.

So now you may be wondering, if everything you eat contains calories, and everything you do burns calories, shouldn't they just cancel each other out? Yes, they should... and they do. If you consume the exact same number of calories that your body burns each day, your weight would stay exactly the same. If your body naturally burns 3000 calories a day, and you happen to eat 3000 calories a day, your weight would not change. In this example, 3000 calories is what's known as a calorie maintenance level. It's the number of calories required for the body to maintain it's current weight.

I should probably have you repeat "calorie maintenance level" with me, because if there's one thing more important than calories when it comes to losing weight... it's your calorie maintenance level.

Calorie Maintenance Level (And the "big secret")

Your calorie maintenance level is pretty useful to know. Think of it like it's your body's weight loss password, and knowing it will get you into your own private weight loss system. Once you're in, you'll be able to control your weight with ease. In fact, for anyone wondering how to lose weight, this is the number at the heart of that answer. The best way I can explain why is by telling you the big secret...

Like I said, every person's body needs a certain number of calories each day in order for them to maintain their current weight. This is your maintenance level. If your diet plan is made up of the SAME number of calories as this maintenance level, your weight will stay the same. However, if your diet is made up of MORE calories than your maintenance level, you will GAIN weight. But... get this... if your diet is made up of LESS calories than your maintenance level... YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT!

Calorie Deficit (Giving your body less calories than it needs)

You just learned the one simple fact that The Lose Weight Diet is based on. Pretty cool huh? I told you, weight loss is all about calories. More specifically, it's about creating a calorie deficit. You need to end up burning more calories than you consume. If your daily calorie maintenance level is 3000 calories, you will lose weight if you started eating 2500 calories a day. You would gain weight if you ate 3500 calories a day. I realize I was only supposed to explain how to lose weight, but you've also just learned how to gain weight.

Did you ever wonder how you gained weight? Now you know. You ate more than your maintenance level. To lose weight, you just need to reverse that. Simple, isn't it? You may have noticed that in the example above I subtracted 500 calories from the maintenance level. Subtracting 500 calories from your maintenance level is the magic weight loss number here. The reason for that is because there are about 3500 calories in 1 pound of fat. So, if you ate 500 less calories each day for 7 days, it would equal the 3500 less calories required to lose 1 pound. (500 x 7 = 3500)

Coincidentally, there are 7 days in a week. So, by eating 500 calories below your daily maintenance level, you would lose about 1 pound per week. Now would be a good time to mention that the healthy, safe, good, smart, and all around right amount of weight to lose for most people is 1 or 2 pounds a week. That is the widely agreed upon correct weight loss speed. I am bringing this up now because some people may be thinking, "If my maintenance level was 3000 calories, why shouldn't I just go straight to eating 1000 calories a day instead of only 2500?" Here's why...

Reducing your calorie intake by so much so fast is wrong, unsafe, unhealthy, bad, unsafe, bad, wrong, unhealthy, stupid, unsafe, wrong, unhealthy, stupid, bad and wrong. Got that? You'd end up losing muscle instead of fat. Your body would go into a state where it actually KEEPS fat. Blah blah blah, blah blah. It would just be the complete opposite of the right thing to do. Remove this idea from your mind.

What about working out?

Here's another thing you may have been thinking. "I know how to lose weight... burn more calories than I consume. I got that. I know I can do this by eating about 500 calories less than my maintenance level. But, instead of eating below my maintenance level, couldn't I just workout more and therefore burn more calories?" The answer is yes. If your maintenance level is 3000 calories a day, and you are eating the full 3000 calories a day, you could lose weight by working out and burning those 500 calories each day. You'd still end up in the same calorie deficit this way just as you would by eating less.

Weight loss is all about being in that calorie deficit. While you can technically accomplish this either way (through diet or workout), for best results and for best all around health, the trick is to do it using a combination of both. A proper diet plan combined with a proper workout is the ideal weight loss scenario. But, I'll talk more about that later. First I need to cover one final Phase 1 question some of you may have.

"While explaining how to lose weight, you have only really mentioned calories. What about protein, carbs and fat? Don't they matter?" The answer is yes.

Protein, Carbs, and Fat

While your total calorie intake is the most important aspect of weight loss, where those calories come from is a close second. As far as calorie choices go, there's really only three; protein, carbs and fat. Despite what the many fad diets and commercial diet plans have scared you into thinking, your weight loss diet NEEDS to contain a good amount of all three. (Exactly how much of each is coming up next.)

So, while you would very likely lose weight just by being below your maintenance level, how much and what types of protein, carbs and fat you eat will indeed play an important role. Don't worry, that will all be explained next.

The end of Phase 1 of The Lose Weight Diet

You have reached the end of Phase 1. Right now you should fully understand how to lose weight. Feels good, doesn't it? I told you this was simple. What you need to do next is use what you just learned to create your own weight loss diet plan. That's what Phase 2 is. In Phase 2 you will learn exactly how to figure out what your calorie maintenance level is and exactly how many calories you should eat each day. You will also learn how much protein, carbs and fat you should be eating along with examples of which foods to get these nutrients from. You ready? Let's go...