There are only 47 Ayatollahs in the world and 17 of them are assigned to 8 Muslim countries outside Iran. The title Ayatollah is from Arabic: آية
الله, āyatu allah “Sign of Allah,” and is the highest ranking title given to Usuli Twelver Shī’ah clerics after the Grand Ayatollah and are considered experts in Islamic jurisprudence, ethics, and philosophy. Last October, Saudi Arabia’s Special Criminal Court sentenced Ayatollah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, the Ayatollah appointed in Saudi Arabia to represent the Shiites, to death and the Arabic BBC today reported that based on FARS News Agency and other Middle Eastern media, that the execution will be carried out next week on the 14th of May, 2015.
The best way to relate this story to the western mindset is perhaps to compare the feud between the English and the Scottish, where William Wallace had become the hated enemy of King Edward I, who eventually had Wallace beheaded. Nimr, according to the Saudi Kingdom was a cause of much controversy for leading a Shiite uprising within the Sunni kingdom.
As it was in Wallace’s mock trial, Nimr’s trial was no ordinary criminal trial, since the prosecutor sought to convict al-Nimr of “waging war on Allah” and was ultimately convicted of “disobeying” the king; waging violence against the state; inviting “foreign meddling” in the kingdom; inciting vandalism and sectarian violence; and insulting the Prophet Muhammad’s relatives, a thing that all Shiites are accused by Sunnis because of their theological convictions. It is tantamount to Catholics executing Protestants for not believing in icons and vice versa. The prosecutor requested the court to have the Ayatollah to be publicly executed by “beheading crucifixion” (just as they did to William Wallace), a rare method of execution that entails beheading the individual before publicly displaying his decapitated body on a crucifix.
Ayatullah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, the Ayatullah appointed in Saudi Arabia to represent the Shiites.
Since the October 15 ruling, Iran was up-in-arms and the international human rights organizations have sought to pressure Saudi Arabia into sparing al-Nimr’s life while demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen and the United Kingdom, even including Bashar Al-Assad of Syria and Hezbollah. Many experts doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities will actually carry out the execution, but Tehran believes they will next week and Rasd Saudi Arabia published the date. One very popular tweeter, “Jamal Bean,” who titles himself as “prince of the Princess Movement For Freedom” and is suspected of being a prince (since he is very well known for leaking significant cases coming out of the Kingdom), tweeted this leak and it was then posted on Alahennews. The tweet stated that “Ben Nayef informed [the King] Salman that he intends to execute Nimr on the same date of the memory of the death of his father Nayef. [King] Salman reserved the date and kept it private fearing revenge.”
Bin Nayef is Muhammad Bin Nayef Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the crown prince and first deputy prime minister and the minister of interior of Saudi Arabia. He is heir apparent by King Salman. As crown prince, he is first in line to the throne of Saudi Arabia. His father’s death was on June 16th, 2012. Keep in mind, Muslims follow the Hijra Calendar which means the execution will be on May 14th, 2015.
This news is being tweeted by many jubilant Saudis with comments like “soon we will see Nimr’s head fly.” Shiites demanding his release on social media were met with mocking responses like “soon his head will be released.”
If the execution commences on the 14th, it will most likely cause an outcry from Bahrain to Syria and even within Saudi Arabia where Shiites constitute 15 percent of the Kingdom’s population.
The cyber rattling between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia stems from ancient wounds that will never be resolved, with Saudi Arabia having destroyed Shiite holy places and Iran making countless claims of persecution. Iran has recently forbidden its citizens from traveling to Mecca to practice the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. Iran’s prohibition on traveling to Islam’s holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, confirms that Iran will even eventually abandon Mecca altogether. As it seems, the Sunni-Shiite divide reveals a major schism between two Muslim holy cities, Mecca on the one hand and Karbala (holiest site for Shiites in Iraq) on the other.