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Soft Power and the Husseini Pulpit

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Soft Power and the Husseini Pulpit([1])

The Meaning of Soft Power

Over the past few decades, the term “Soft Power” became commonplace in the west. Several books were written about it to explain what it is and its mechanisms and influence. What this means, in short, is the tools and means by which they can influence their enemies, infiltrate them before subjecting them to their agenda without the use of weapons and military force.

When they use this term, the mainly the media , the so-called: Fourth Estate, with all of its influential tools. The fact that this term is relatively recent does not mean that “soft power” was never used before and that it was only recently discovered. From the earliest days of human conflict the warring parties often used misguiding data, the manipulation of facts, and the spread of rumors to break down the morale of the enemy forces, increase their frustration, causing terror and confusion in their midst, upsetting their plans and beliefs before turning the enemy into a compliant tool for their desires.

Soft Power in History:

One of the historical instances of the use of this power is the manner of allusion used by the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and his household) to misguide the enemy. Another is the deception and cunning used by the enemy until the tore down the armies of the Prince of the Faithful and Imam Al-Hassan (Peace upon them) so that the soldiers of the armies ended up not fighting. Another is the false rumor which was spread about the arrival of the Syrian army when Muslim Ibn Aqil with thousands of his supporters surrounded Ubaidullah Ibn Ziad in the Palace of the Emirate. The rumor said that the army arrived and was going to spill the blood and waste the honor of the people of Kufah, so the people of the city left Muslim on his own although in reality only Ubaidullah with a few dozens of his minion([2]). The people of the city then did not react to the rumor properly due to the ignorance, stupidity, and selfishness.

So that We’re not overwhelmed by confusions:

The Holy Quran has pointed out the remedy for this hostile media and the rumors it spreads and how to prevent its implications through investigating the truth and finding out reality, and resorting to the knowing people charged with authority in affairs who are not lost through confusion and who will not fall into those ruses. Allah (Exalted is He) says: “When there comes to them some matter touching (Public) safety or fear, they divulge it. If they had only referred it to the Messenger, or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have Tested it from them (direct). Were it not for the Grace and Mercy of Allah unto you, all but a few of you would have fallen into the clutches of Satan” [Surah of the Women: 83] and also says: “O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done” [Surah of the Inner Chambers: 6]. So, it is improper for us to immediately believe hearsay and build on it and base our positions on it. Rushing into action before making sure all is correct is mere foolishness, it is narrated that the Prince of the Faithful (Peace upon him) said: “It sufficient for one to be a fool to believe all what he hears or all what is said to him”.

One of the Islamic remedies for rumors which would extinguish it at its very source is transparency. Each rumor has a source which makes it plausible, acting as the medium through which the rumor would spread between the people as the saying goes: “There is no smoke without fire”. If you with to stop the spread of smoke you must extinguish the fire. This is done through transparency, clarity and the revelation of truth in the public sphere. It is narrated that once the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and his household) was walking in the streets of Medina, he saw his aunt Safiyyah the daughter of Abd Al-Muttalib, so he greeted her and began to look into her affairs. One of his companions passed by and the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and his household) immediately clarified that it was Safiyyah, his aunt. The companion said: “We do not doubt you, O Messenger of Allah, and we do not accuse you of anything”. Nevertheless, the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and his household) wished to uproot the cause for accusation and conjecture and suspicion from its very roots. For this reason it is reported that the Prince of the Faithful (Peace upon him) said: “He who allows himself to stand at the positions of suspicion must not blame those who think badly of him” ([3]).

Living Examples of Soft War:

A few days ago the rumor spread that terrorists have targeted Baghdad Airport but could not reach it. This spread a state of considerable fear and anxiety about the nearness of the terrorists to the capital, the disruption of the economic situation. Foreign companies began expressing their concern about dealing with Baghdad. Such rumors would not have spread if there was not material which fuels its flames. This fuel had been the statements of the US General Chief of Staff who said ([4])that American Apache helicopters stopped an ISIs attack which was approaching Abu Gharib and the Baghdad Airport. The statement expressed that the pilots subjected themselves to danger as they fought at a low altitude. What the general failed to explain was how did he know about the terrorists’ targets? Did he tap their lines? Did he come across some documents? Was it the statement of some detainees? Nothing of the sort happened, what truly happened was some clashes at a distance of 25 kilometers from Abu Gharib, and thus concluded from the terrorists’ movements that they aim at the airport.

This is the source of the rumor. General Dempsey knows that what he said has no value, so he wanted to send a clear message through his statements so that it would be understood by the Iraqi leadership. We must point out here that soft power includes many tools other than the media, some of which are clear enough to reach public attention, and some of which are not. One of the tools belonging to the former category is art. Art influences of their nation on all levels: culture, attitude, and even belief and politics especially if it becomes the subject of admiration. Countries today are capable of achieving much through the influence of arts on other countries, drawing their enemies to their politics, and convincing them with their agendas in ways which even military occupation fails at, as occupation is usually resented and rejected.

The owners of travel companies point out that the number of tourists to Turkey has doubled after the spread of the dubbed Turkish series despite the corruption, deviation, and crimes they contain. It is also noticeable that the people of the region are influenced by the Islamic Republic of Iran and drawn to it, imitating its people in some of their actions through the works of Drama and history produced by Iran.

Soft War to Enslave the People:

As for the soft powers which no one pays attention to in this world, the powers which did not receive the study and research worthy of it, this is because the ones responsible for such studies in the west are far from it due to their immersion in materialism. Their aim from the usage of soft powers is the achievement of their own ends and interests at the expense of enslaving other peoples and controlling them. They do not pay attention to the positive soft powers which bring goodness and bliss to humanity, reforming the states of the people, creating a good life for them in which they would enjoy freedom and honor.

Soft Powers in Islamic Thought:

One such power is “supplication” which was said to remove affliction, and which may descend on the earth of reality. This is a hidden tool to influence events.

 Another is “Almsgiving” which achieves the same goals. It is narrated that Imam As-Sadiq said: “Heal your sick through almsgiving, and drive away trials through almsgiving, and seek the descent of sustenance through almsgiving” ([5]). Medicine with all of its advanced technology may stand helpless, but Allah (Exalted is He) blesses through healing because of supplication or almsgiving.

 Another soft force which draws others is “good manners”. One of the advices the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and his household) to his uncle Al-Abbas Ibn Abd Al-Muttalib was his saying: “You cannot comprehend all people through your money, so comprehend them through your manner” ([6]). Many people entered into Islam and became believers because they were influenced by the lifestyle and qualities of the Imams of Islam and its leaders and scholars. It is narrated that Imam As-Sadiq (Peace upon him) said: “Call the people without using your tongues. Rather, let them see piety, diligence, prayers and goodness in you. For that itself is a calling” ([7]).

Another soft power is the Husseini pulpit and rituals which proved to be powerful drawing forces influencing people to righteousness as they derive their strength from the strength of Imam Al-Hussein’s noble positions, his great sacrifice, and sublime principles. The influence would be greater if the orators would make the extra effort to be able to take responsibility for being in this noble position.

We, by Allah’s Grace, and the blessings of the Prophet (Prayers of Allah and His Peace upon him and his household) and the infallible members of his household have plenty which can be beneficial to humanity if only we could pay attention to it utilize it. For then, the sensation of inner defeat may Muslims have as they feel dazzled by the west. All this made them heedless of the jewels they have at hand while receiving shallow affairs from the west. Therefore, intellectuals and researchers have to enrich this science through what is mentioned about the infallible ones (Peace upon them) in the affairs of positive soft powers, and let the founding step be what we’ve briefly mentioned here.



([1]) Part of the conversation held by Marja Al-Yaqubi (May his shadow be preserved) with the workers in Al-Amal broadcast station in the province of Misan, Monday, 25 Thu Al-Hijjah, 1425 A.H. (October 20th, 2014).

([2]) Here the Marja (May his shadow be preserved) recommended in his statement that the orators on the Husseini pulpit must rise the station of the sublime pulpit in their rhetoric through renewing it and dealing with crucial affairs which are of importance to the Ummah before linking them to the affair of Al-Hussein (Peace upon him) and his calamity without merely repeating the same historical material. The orator would discuss such an event which expresses the soft force and rumors and their power and negative effects and how to protect society from them before going on to discuss how rumors caused the movement of Muslim Ibn Aqil to fail, discussing the tragedy.

([3]) Bihar Al-Anwar: Vol. 75, Chapter 90, Tradition 4

([4]) The News of October 12th, 2014

([5]) Al-Kafi, Vol. 4, p. 3, Tradition 5

([6])  Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol. 68, page 383. Amali As-Saduq, p. 9

([7]) Wasa’il Ash-Shia: Vol. 15, p. 245, Tradition 13.