Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 11th, 2008

“Aicha la bien-aime du Prophet” by Genevieve Chauvel, (November 19, 2007)

I decided to review “Aicha, the most beloved to the Prophet” for the chronicles of the active life of the Prophet Mohammad, and the specific circumstances that revealed the messages from Archangel Gabriel.  Aicha lived to be 67 of age and experienced Islam since she was born, and she died as Islam was splitting into schisms.

Aicha was born in 616 in Mecca and she was redheaded like her maternal grandmother.  Her father Abu Bakr, later the first Caliph, spared her life because Khadija, the wife of Mohammad, played a part in this difficult and life threatening birth.

Mohammad ibn Abdullah ibn Hachim was an orphan brought up by his uncle Abi Taled, the father of Ali. The father of Muhammad died before his birth and his mother passed away as Muhammad was only 6 of age.  Ali was to be the fourth Caliph.

(Islam would like us to believe that Mohammad was illiterate to exaggerate his divine message, but I beg to differ. Read link in note #4).   The wealthy trader Khadija hired Mohammad to lead her caravans to Damascus.  Khadija was almost twenty years older than Mohammad when she asked him to marry her; she was widowed twice and Muhammad was 25 year-old.  Khadija gave  him a son Al Qasem, who died at age two, and four daughters.

Khadija was the first person to believe in Mohammad prophesies and for 11 years protected him from the mockeries and sarcasms of the inhabitants of Mecca and cared for him during his fits of epilepsy when Archangel Gabriel used to appear to him. Two of Mohammad’s daughters were repudiated by their husbands because they refused to be married to girls who converted to Islam.  Fatima, the youngest one, married Ali, Mohammad’s nephew, and gave Mohammad two grand boys, Hassan and Hussein and two granddaughters.  Zainab, one of the daughters of Mohammad, was married to Aboul-As whom she loved so much that she preferred to stay with him in Mecca; Aboul-As fought against Mohammad at the battle of Badr and was made prisoner and later decided to convert in order to keep Zainab.

Rukaya was married to Uthman ibn Affan, later the third Caliph, and when she died, Mohammad married his daughter Oum Kulthum to Uthman because he needed his clan on his side.  Uthman ran away during the lost battle of Ohud and had vacated a strategic position held by the archers. Mohammad adopted Zaid ibn Haritha who was Khadija’s slave at the age of twelve and he used him to be his personal messenger to his wives after each battle.  Zaid was very learned and translated and interpreted the Jewish Books to Mohammad and was devoted to his adoptive father.

Mohammad married Sawda (Black) after Khadija died because he needed an experienced woman to run and maintain the household.  Sawda was widowed to a convert who fled to Ethiopia from the Quraichi tribes’ persecution.

After the death of Khadija, Mohammad realized that he won’t be protected anymore from certain death; he fled Mecca to Yathreb in the year 622 after foiling an assassination attempt on his life.  It took him and Abu Bakr almost four months to arrive at Yathreb, a six days travel, to avoid the head hunters of the tribes of Quraich.  Most of the Prophet’s followers had preceded him to Yathreb and welcomed him as a hero.

Mohammad married Aicha in Yathred when she was ten years old.  Abu Bakr was the first adult male to convert to Islam and he was Mohammad’s closest Companion and guide.  Aicha was 8-years old when Mohammad officially asked her hand and married her at age ten. The mother of Aicha, Oum Roumane, almost died when giving birth to Aicha and Khadija was called upon to deliver her and Mohammad saw Gabriel at the same time he was contemplating to commit suicide by throwing himself off a cliff because of the miserable life that Gabriel forced upon him.  After the death of Khadija, Mohammad saw Aicha three times in his dreams, as a baby wrapped in green blanket and the third time it was Gabriel who removed the blanket for Muhammad to recognize the face of baby Aicha, and ordered to obey the request of Gabriel to take her as wife.  Aicha had a vast memory and was educated to read and write and she was the person who transposed the verbal messages into written verses during the revelations.

The Moslem emigrants in Yathreb were suffering from miseries. First, they were not used to the humid climate and the marshes: Many died of the malaria fever.  Aicha almost died as she arrived in Yathreb.  Second, the emigrants could not find suitable employments and had to accept temporary jobs at the Jewish households and farms.  Consequently, the emigrants had to revert to what the tribes did when they were hungry and penniless.  They decided to raid a major caravan coming from Damascus and lead by Abu Suffyan; the caravan was to stop at an oasis called Badr but Abu Sufyan got wind of the raid and diverted its route and sent for troops from Mecca.  The Moslems won the battle of Badr, their first.

Sawda’s father and brother were killed in the battle of Badr fighting against the Moslems.  Sawda was greatly grieved and lambasted the prisoners parked in front her house and told them that they should have fought instead of being taken prisoners. Mohammad repudiated her for a while until she asked forgiveness and she opted not to have intercourse with him as the tradition regulated Mohammad nights among his wives.

Mohammad encircled the fortified castle of the Jewish tribe Banu Qaynoqa because the tribe decided to break the treaty with Mohammad rather than pay the ransom for a murdered emigrant.  The tribe capitulated when it realized the succor from Banu Khazraj was not forthcoming.  Muhammad had set his mind to beheading all the males of the defeated Banu Qaynoqa tribe as the revelation dictated but the chief of the Ansar (supporters) tribe of Khazraj prevented him saying: “I am a man who fears the reversal of circumstances” The Banu Qaynoqa were allowed to leave the city and it settled in the Jewish town of Khaibar, around 20 miles north west of Yathreb.

Mohamamad married Afsa, the widowed daughter of Omar ibn Khattab, the second Caliph because he needed his total loyalty.  She was eighteen. Actually, Omar insisted on Uthman to marry Afsa but he declined the request repeatedly. Muhamad had set his mind to marry his second daughter Um Kulthum to Uthman to secure the Ummaya powerful clan.  Aicha was crest fallen and suffered her first jealousy attacks.

The Moslems lost the battle of Ohud but the forces of Quraich did not pursue their objective to entering Medina and retreated to Mecca.  Muhammad directed his angst against the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadhir that secretly supported Quraich.  He ordered this Jewish tribe to leave Medina; the eye witness accounts related that the citizens in Medina never saw a caravan as opulent, rich and luxurious in their lives.

Mohammad married Zainab, the daughter of the clan leader of Bani Assad, who was widowed and 30 years of age. Zainab died three months after her wedding.

Mohammad married Hind, daughter of Abi Ummayah, a recent widow of Abu Salama who was mortally injured during the battle of Ohud, the first defeat of the Moslems against the tribe of Quraich and their allies outside the walls of Yathreb and now called Medina.  Hind or Um Salama was about thirty of age and had many children and declined to marry Abu Bakr and Omar and even Mohammad.  Muhammad asked her hand a second time and promised to care for her many offspring.

Mohammad married Zainab bint Jahsh, a cousin thirty of years of age and of great beauty.  Zainab was the wife of his adoptive son Zaid ibn Haritha who separated from her when she welcomed Mohammad almost nude to entice him and throw trouble in his heart.  She roamed after Mohammad reminding him that she separated because of him.  The Koran was very strict on the number of only four wives for the believers but Mohammad received a message from Gabriel telling him that Zainab is an offer from God that cannot be rejected.  The aggrieved Aicha interjected that God has a tendency to accord his Messenger all his desires.

Mohammad repulsed a fresh attack by Quraich on Medina by following the suggestion of Salame the Persian; Salame supervised the digging of a large and deep trench around Madina that the cavalry could not jump over.  A violent wind followed by a torrential rain convinced the Quraichi’s armies to retreat.  Then, Mohammad surrounded the hold up of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah for 25 days because they were tacitly allied to Quraich.  The Prophet beheaded 700 of the male captives and dumped their bodies in a large hole and ordered Ali and Zobayr (the husband of Aicha’s sister Asmat) to perform the executions.

Mohammad asked the hand of Rihana, a Jewish captive girl, to marry him but she declined. After she converted, Mohammad asked her hand again and she preferred to remain slave than marry someone with several wives but she became his concubine. Since this mass cruel beheading, troops of Mohammad had easier tasks convincing the neighboring tribes to join Islam and plundering the caravans arriving from Damascus or Alexandria.

Mohammad married Juwayriah, the daughter of the chief clan of Harith, which his last raid brought her as captive.  The Harith tribe and their allies convert to Islam.  Aicha joined that raid and lost her favorite collar that the Prophet had offered her during their wedding; Mohammad had to receive a message allowing ablution with sand when water is not available: the fighters were utterly upset for wasting precious time searching for the collar and the time for prayer was close and they were far from the nearest oasis.  This revelation allowed the Moslem armies to expand its raids in the desert.

A turning point was reached when Aicha lost her favorite collar that her mother Em Rumana gave her for her wedding.  The story goes that Muhammad took Aicha on an expedition.  Aicha lost her collar as the troop were heading to the next water well and the caravan was very short on water for the ablution before prayer.  Aicha insisted on finding the collar and a verse was handed down that sand can be used for purification in dire moments.  On the way back from the expedition, Aicha stepped away from the troop for bodily relief.  As she reached the caravan, she realized that she dropped this loose collar again.  Aicha went back to search for the collar and the troop started without her.  Aicha would recount that she was so light that the attendants didn’t realize that she was not in the cabin that was raised over the camel.  Aicha lay down.  Safwan, a young and handsome convert, found on the second, confident that the troops will retrace their path searching for her as they reached the camp.  Safwan, a young and handsome convert, a little behind the caravan, found Aicha and mounted her on his horse.

Later, rumors spread that, while the sixty years old prophet is resuming his mania of marrying far more than the four allowed by the Koran, his younger wives are cheating on him.  Aicha fell dangerously sick and was moved to her folks’ domicile and Mohammad didn’t pay her a visit for 28 days because he started to believe the rumors.

When Mohammad finally arrived to see Aicha, the Angel Gabriel showed up and revealed to the Prophet that Aicha was innocent. Um Roumana told Aicha to come foward and thank the Prophet.  Aicha retorted: “By God I will not!  I will praise but God who finally decided to declare me innocent”  Seventeen revelations were dedicated to these awful circumstances; calumny was revealed as a crime as dangerous as adultery and specific penalties prescribed.  Mistah, a cousin of Aicha, Hassan ibn Thabit, the poet of Islam, and Hannah bint Jahsh, the sister of one of the Prophet’s wives, were flogged 100 times for their crimes of calumny without having four witnesses for their accusations.  Aicha regained her position as the most favored “Um al Mu’mineen”.

Mohammad had a dream while sleeping with Aicha that he shaved his head and performed the pilgrimage to Al Kaaba in Mecca.  Aicha encouraged him and Muhammad left Medina with 700 unarmed men to Mecca.  The favorite camel of Muhammad named Qaswa parked in Hudaybiya, close to Mecca, and would not move.  By the way, Qaswa was the camel that selected the location for the Prophet house and the Mosque in Yathreb.

The Quraichi’s tribes sent delegations and they reached a ten-year non-belligerence treaty and promised Muhammad that they would be permitted pilgrimage starting next year.  Although Muhammad was not allowed to enter Mecca, he wanted to perform the rites in Hudaybiya but the Companions refused. Um Salama encouraged Muhammad to perform the sacred rituals and shaved Muhammad’s head and then his slaughtered his sacrificial camel and the believers hurried to follow suit; the party returned to Medina sanctified.

Mohammad married Safiya, a Jewish beauty and of high grace from Khaibar who was married to a brute of a husband that died during the battle of Khaibar. Mohammad had just conquered the fortified Jewish town of Khibar, North West of Madina in the year 630.  The lands were turned over to Mohammad and his closest Companions and the Jews agreed to cultivate the land as serfs for 50% return for their subsistence and relinquished their treasures.

Um Salama escorted the Prophet in this raid and recounted to the harem that a Jewish girl roasted a lamb for Mohammad and then he realized it was poisoned; when asked why she poisoned the lamb she replied: “You killed my father, brother and husband. If you are a King then good riddance; if you are a Prophet then you must discover the plot.”  The girl was not punished for the rational that she will spread her conviction that Mohammad is indeed a prophet.  Un Salama added that Mohammad liked his new wife very much: he didn’t wait the customary 40 days grievance and married her on the way back to Medina and spent four whole days and nights with Safiya.  With virgins, the husbands spend 7 whole days and nights!  Aicha thought that Um Salama could have spared her added anxieties.

Mohammad married Um Habiba, the daughter of Abu Suffyan, his arch enemy of Quraich.  Um Habiba was a recent widow and 40-year old and living in Ethiopia with her husband who converted to Christianity; she was one of the first converts to flee to Ethiopia after the Quraich persecutions.

The governor of Coptic Egypt sent Muhammad gold and fine gifts and two Christian girls as slaves, Maria and Sirine.  Maria became immediately the concubine of the Prophet until she converts to Islam and he spent most of his time with Maria, raising a revolt within his harem.

Aicha took a definite advantage over the remaining wives. Individuals who wanted to offer the Prophet gifts learned that the best moments were when he is with Aicha.  Aicha thus enjoyed the best fabrics and gifts and the other wives revolted again wanting fair distribution of the gifts.  Mohammad told Um Salama that his revelations descend when he is with Aicha, but the revolt went on and the Prophet decided to retreat from his harem for a whole month, sending fear and frustration in the community of the believers.  After a month, Mohammad revealed a message placing men as superior to women and admonishing wives to obey their husband, and permitting husbands to punish their wives if they disobeyed.  Mohammad reconquered his authority in the harem and wives had to pay the price of this revolt for centuries after.

In 630 or the 8th year of Mohammad emigration to Yathreb Prophet assembled ten thousand fighters for his pilgrimage to the Kaaba and entered Mecca and destroyed the pagan Gods and became the uncontested leader of all the tribes in the Arabia peninsula; his arch enemy Abu Suffian converted to Islam before the troops of the Moslems entered Mecca.  The wife of Abu Sufian, Hind, converted to Islam also.  Hind is the famous woman who opened the chest of Hamza in the Battle of Ohud and ate his liver in order to avenge her father in the battle of Badr; Hamza had killed Hind’s father in a singular fight before the battle of Bard.

Mohammad married Maymouna, a relative of both tribes of Abi Taleb and Hashim to the fainting and shock of the harem.  A revelation descended that the messenger is allowed all the women he desires.  Besides his nine wives, Muhammad had two concubines, Maria and Rihana, and uncounted numbers of women who wanted to offer themselves to him to gain Paradise.  Once, Fatima told the harem that her husband Ali wanted to take another wife and she intervened with the Prophet; Aicha was beside herself to learn that this plain woman and not as educated could enjoy one husband and generate four offspring, two of them males.  Aicha realized that she could not get pregnant even after her expertise led to many successful full coital with Muhammad.

Rihana died shortly after as well as Mohammad’s eldest daughter Zainab.  Maria gave Mohammad a male son called Ibrahim and thus, Maria was released from bondage.  The blood family of the Prophet consisted of Ali, Fatima, his two grandsons, his two grand daughters and Ibrahim; his adoptive son Zaid died during a battle in the north against the Byzantium Empire.

Mohammad organized an army of 30,000 fighters in the year 631, recruited from all over Arabia and marched to Tabuk, a city within the Syrian borders, to avenge the death of his adoptive son Zaid; he took Aicha with him on this campaign.  The Governor of Syria didn’t deign to challenge the Prophet and Mohammad returned to Medina after securing many treaties with the neighboring tribes and oasis in Syria.  The whole of Arabia was converting to Islam.

Ibrahim, the son of Mohammad, aged 18 months, dies.  The Prophet cried and lamented, a behavior which was not the custom of the male believers.

The Prophet went on pilgrimage to Mecca the next year with 30,000 pilgrims and the entire harem went this time.  Mohammad gave a speech alluding that it might be his last pilgrimage. Shortly after his return to Medina Muhammad suffered from terrible headaches for a month; he asked Abu Bakr to preach in his place when he was bed ridden.  The Prophet dies on June 8, 632; he was 63 years old.

Omar would not believe that the Prophet could die and threatened anyone who says so; then Abu Bakr told the congregation “Moslems, those among you who adore Mohammad, Mohammad is dead.  Those who adore God, God is living”.

Ali was to wash the body and arrange for the funeral. The Companions elected Abu Bakr Caliph in the absence of Ali who was the closest member in the prophet’s “House”. Abu Bakr reminded the Moslems what the Prophet told him once: “All prophets were buried at the place of their death”; and thus Mohammad was buried in Aicha’s bedroom.  Aicha replaced the bed on top of the burying ground and continued sleeping there.

Abu Bakr would not distribute the Prophet’s inheritance to anyone of his wives or family members because Mohammad has told him that prophets’ belonging went to charities.  Fatima died 6 months later as Mohammad has predicted, aggrieved and desperate.

Under Abu Bakr, Aicha, aided by Zayd ibn Thabit, got the huge responsibility of gathering and collecting all the parchments and written verses and the early oral verses of the Koran and then sorting them, verifying their authenticity, correcting and compiling them. Aichi was not twenty years old.  Abu Bakr died within two years and was also buried in Aicha’s bedroom next to the Prophet.  At the time of his death, Khaled ibn Al Walid had vanquished the Byzantine Emperor at Yarmuk and was advancing toward Damascus.

Omar was selected by Abu Bakr to be the next Caliph. Omar extended Islam to Persia by a victory in Qadissiya and toward Egypt.  Omar was assassinated by a Christian slave while praying in the Mosque in Medina; Omar also asked permission of Aicha to be buried in her bedroom.  By then, Aicha was the ultimate interpreter of the Koran and had issued 2,210 Hadiths and was the expert in women’s legal right or “Fiqh Al Nissa2”.

Omar appointed a Council of five Companions from the tribes of Quraich to elect the next Caliph.  Uthman ibn Affan was selected and Aicha had misgivings on how he might manipulate the masses of documents collected on the verses of Islam.  Omar left the documents with his daughter Afsa to hand over to the next Caliph.

Uthman ended up exercising nepotism and appointing relatives as governors and civil servants in high offices and he built a palace and lived luxuriously with 500 serfs maintaining the palace and organizing the feasts.  The new Caliph destroyed the documents related to the Koran that he didn’t like and Aicha came out of her house carrying the sandals and shirts and hair of the prophet and shouted at the caliph: “The Prophet’s belongings had not had time to deteriorate and you started to turn your back on his teachings”. Aicha had a copy of all the documents and she rewrote her version of the Koran. A large dissatisfied mob of Moslems, who were manipulated by extremists in Basra (Iraq), marched on Medina. Aicha had premonition that the arriving mob is bad news and got permission from Uthman to leave for pilgrimage with the harem.  The mob entered the palace of Uthman burned it asunder and stabbed and beat the Caliph to death.

Ali was elected Caliph but refrained to give the revenge for the murder of the Caliph Uthman as priority; this lukewarm behavior prompted Aicha to action and she started delivering speeches in Meca to the effect that the punishment of the leaders of assassins should be carried out first thing first.  Her brother-in-law Zobair and another Companion Talhat excited Aicha to leading a contingent of 3,000 fighters to Basra.

Ali was on his way to Damascus to fight Moawiya, the governor of Syria, and stopped at Kufa to recruit more fighters and had to challenge Aicha before resuming his campaign.  Aicha, Zobair and Talhat managed to recruit an army of 30,000 men against 20,000 with Ali.  The battle of the “Camel”, the first among the Moslems, left 15,000 victims and injured among the Moslem fighters which affected Aicha for the remainder of her life. Talhat and Zobair died in the battle. Aicha was riding hidden in a palanquin and exhorting her army to fight. Ali ordered his officer to cut the hand of the camel guide so that the camel could be moved from the center of the battle field; guides took the relay and 72 camel guides left theirs hands on the rope before the camel’s hamstrings were cut and was brought down and the symbol of “The Mother of the Believer” finally relinquishing its effect on the troops. Ali permitted Aicha to return to her home in Medina and she was escorted as a Queen. One of Moawiya’s delegates told Aicha that they wished she died in the battle so that the allies of Moawiya would have had an excellent excuse to fight Ali.

Aicha spent the remaining of her life in her house, receiving scholars and students who regarded her as the main resource for correct interpretations of the religious verses and taking notes of her experiences. Aicha was the only virgin in the harem and whatever she knew of love making was the invention and initiation of Muhammad.  A specific revelation forbade Muhammad’s wives to remarry and to remain in their homes and to be covered completely and wear the “nikab” on their face when stepping outside their doors or meeting males.

The effects of the assassination of Uthman didn’t end up there.  Muawiya raised the same reason of avenging Uthman to engage Ali in a terrible battle at Seffine in Syria: the bloodied shirt of Uthman hanging in the Mosque of Madina demanded retribution and the Arabs coined the dictum “the Shirt of Uthman” to convey the meaning that the reason offered is but an excuse for the power struggle.   There were no victors in this battle and a large contingent of Ali’s army dissented because Ali agreed to arbitrage; these dissenters were labeled Al Khawarej and were led by Abdulah ibn Wahab (the actual Saudi Monarchy is Wahabi in affiliation); they went on assassination rampage against the leading followers of both Ali and Muawiya.

The Khawarej failed to assassinate Muawiya but killed Ali in Kufa.  Ali refused to name anyone to succeed him as Caliph and said to his followers that he would not disagree with anyone they select; Aicha was to say “this is typical Ali’s ambiguity” as she forecasted the worst to the unity of the “Umma” or Nation of Islam.

Muawiya was elected Caliph and the power became hereditary and the period is known as the Omayyad (the most powerful tribe of Quraich) reign in Damascus, which lasted for a century before the Abbaseed (The house of Abbass, the Uncle of Muhammad) succeeded in taking power in Baghdad for two centuries.  The Central Asian converted Sunni tribes were to dominate the political and religious landscape for over ten centuries.  Muawiya sent assassins to achieve any potential leaders related to the Prophet and Aicha lived to experience the death of many of her male family members.  Hassan, the son of Ali, was assassinated by his wife wearing a poisoned dress.  Moawiya then slaughtered Hassan’s wife to hide his schemes with her.

Notes:

  1. 1)The Prophet had two sons who died before the age of two.  Ali, his nephew who married his youngest daughter Fatima, was the only male in his “House”.  Muhammad appointed Ali to read the religious messages in meetings where the Prophet could not be present.  Ali and Abu Bakr were the most learned males, among the early Companions, on Islam but Aicha was the best and she was present during many revelations of Archangel Gabriel in her house.
  2. 2)Ali was the most qualified to be the Imam of Islam but since there was yet no separation between the political and religious functions then Ali had to seek power as Caliph.  Ali lacked the political acumen and the qualities of a government leader because he was constantly plagued with ambiguities as a result of his vast religious knowledge and his apprehension to err in his decisions. Schism developed during his short five years reign and the Shi’aa sect (the followers of Ali’s second son Hussein) emerged as a counterpart to the Sunni sect representing the legitimate Moslems.
  3. 3)Muhammad was mortally sick for at least a month and he knew his days were counted because Gabriel gave him a choice between this world and the Other World and the Prophet opted for the Other World.  Muhammad had time to think about the succession of power and the appropriate processes but no revelations were forthcoming.  The tribal spirit was to dominate the political landscape, the same spirit that Muhammad intended to re-direct toward a Unique God and unite the “Umma”.  The Arab and Moslem World were tribal in structure and ended up with a caste system when the Central Asian tribes overpowered the Quraichi tribal rights for leadership.
  4. The Prophet Muhammad was highly literate https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/the-parson-and-the-prophet-book-review/

November 13, 2007

Note: A lot of political turnaround happened since 2007 but the sword is still held high over world stability since the carrot is not offered seriously to Iran.  It could still happen if the crash of Wall Street is stabilized and the inner circle of the next President of the USA does not believe in serious political alternatives.

Will the USA attack Iran?  Yes, the duo Bush Jr-Cheney would have!

            The question is no longer if the USA will attack but when.  Why the USA administration wants to attack Iran?  It is not necessarily because Iran has acquired nuclear facilities thanks to the USA aid that delivered that technology to the Shah of Iran and would have gladly supplied him with nuclear arsenals if he were not deposed.  Pakistan has nuclear capabilities with large virulent Moslem extremists.  India has nuclear capabilities with millions of Moslem extremists (India has the highest number of Moslems of around 200 millions).  Israel has nuclear capabilities with large virulent Jewish extremists. 

The USA has tried every conceivable kinds of arm of mass destruction on live populations just to validate their effectiveness; it is a fact that it dropped two atomic bombs on Japan even after the Emperor of Japan had actually surrendered a week prior to the testing of these bombs.

            Why the current US administration needs to attack Iran militarily? It is not because Iran is a threat to the survival of Israel as the efficient US watchdog in the region: Hezbollah, a local Lebanese resistance movement, was enough to check any further expansionist goals of Israel toward south Lebanon.  The Palestinian Hamas faction in Gaza is already a handful to the persistent Israeli and Western schemes to thwart, destabilize, and neutralize any democratic transfer of power that does not match their perspectives.

The hard fact is that the USA has been waging an uncomfortable low-level war in Iraq for four years and is stuck in this quagmire and not able to retreat without losing face as a superpower capable of re-shaping the World, single-handedly, according to its geo-political strategies.

The Bush administration has been draining the US Treasury of $1,600 billions, so far, and showing nothing in return: the reconstruction of Iraq never started, the Iraqi police force is turning militia; Iraq is even lacking oil, and 120,000 civilians died within 18 months after the fall of Saddam, and the largest US Embassy is a dud, a shell, since the members of the civil service personnel have to live in the Embassy as prisoners for safety and security reasons, and the private security companies are in the limelight for disorderly conduct and brutality and acting lawlessly.

  The Bush administration is consistently losing credibility on all fronts. Its ideology of pre-emptive wars against concentrations of “Moslem terrorists” has generated the reverse effects: the Taliban in Afghanistan is recovering lost grounds, the infusion of billions of dollars by Saudi Arabia to transplant the US military bases on its soil to Iraq or elsewhere, in order to remove excuses of the supporters of Ben Ladens to recruiting heavily among the Wahabi caste of the Saudi Arabia theocratic Monarchy, has failed; the Janjaweed in Sudan’s Darfur are ever more active; Pakistan is experiencing a resurgence of Moslem extremism; and even Lebanon witnessed a war of attrition in a Palestinian camp run by fundamentalist Sunni Fatah Al-Islam extremists.

The proclaimed “crusade” to saw the seeds of democracy in the Greater Middle East has resulted in the strengthening of the dictatorial regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria; it has empowered the oligarchic theocratic Monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Jordan to act as moderate States and permitted further re-destabilization of Algeria, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and Yemen.

            The Bush administration has experienced the disintegration of its coalition in Iraq and the UN is unable to fill the void and replace the lost partners.  The repeated denials by the Bush administration that the war in Iraq was not for control of strategic oil fields is falling on deaf ears; it didn’t even benefit of any material success in controlling the oil fields, their production, or the taming of the oil price dramatic increases.  In fact, China has been investing heavily in oil fields in many parts of Africa and taking advantage of the US disarray for expanding its economic hegemony in the Far East.

            The US citizens gave the Bush administration a low-grade for achievement and the Democratic Congress is tightening the squeeze on the military budget, and the military is experiencing a low-level of recruitment for its war in Iraq.  Consequently, what other alternatives does this administration has in its sleeves to get out of this predicament?

            Basically, there are two drastic options; either Bush decides to withdraw abruptly from Iraq and repeating the Vietnam fiasco or starting a mini Third World War.  How this scenario can unfold?  The US will attack a few installations in Iran hoping to generate a violent reaction from the mullahs; for example destroying a major US naval unit or sending a few missiles at an American base in the Arabian Gulf or Iraq.  Bush will be able to recall Pearl Harbor of an unjustified sneaky attack on the US then, declare war on Iran and whoever supports Iran, re-institute the military draft service, force Congress to open its purse without limit, and start another wave of blackmailing partners to side with the democratic forces against the Evil terrorist forces of Islam. Japan will have no choice but to reconsider its openness policy toward China; disgruntled Europe of its virulent Islamic immigrants will join wholeheartedly; Russia might opt for a neutral stand, and India will side against “terrorism”.  The persistent and inevitable nibbling of China hegemony on the US dominion will be slowed for a while in order for the US to hold on its World domination strategy and exhaust its financial resources. 

The administration of crazy George Bush Junior is capable of every Machiavelli evil.  For one thing, Iran is completely encircled: the USA has installed military bases in almost every Central Asian Republics. This fact points to long-term planning targeting the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Furthermore, the US might be endeavoring to catch in its nets the Ben Laden’s recruits  who are recruiting heavily in the Central Asian Republics.

The scariest part of this scenario is that this Administration has proven not to analyze properly the aftermath of its drastic decisions.  Most probably, there would not be any land incursions because even the sparsely populated Afghanistan has shown stark evidences to the exorbitantly expensive and fruitless land attacks.  Instead, the US war would revert to a systematic destruction of this vast Persian Nation to give a vivid image to the Pakistani President Musharraf what Bush meant by bringing his country to the Middle Ages if he refused to cooperate against the Moslem extremists.

One thing is certain; oil prices will shoot to the roof and most Nations will suffer immeasurably for a long time and famine will devastate the least prepared nations, except the USA for the initial phase of the war.  The end result is that this pre-emptive war policy fill fail again and China will resume its inevitable ascent at the detriment of the emerging superpowers, economically and militarily.

The Western civilizations didn’t yet grasp the fundamental problem of the Moslem societies; it is not so much Islam the major factors in the inability of the Moslem World to unshackle the freedom of its population but the caste structure that has been firmly consolidated by the Central Asian Moslem tribes who dominated the Middle East for ten centuries and expanded to India, Turkey, and even China.  These Central Asian Empires whose tribes converted to the Sunni Islam adopted the code of living but didn’t care about the spiritual content of Islam and decreed that any one who attempts to interpret the Koran will be prosecuted as heretic.

Our closed religious sect system with autonomous Personal Status Laws is the main cause for our population failing to interact internally and communicate freely their opinions.  The proof is that the first three centuries of Islam’s expansion was beneficial to World civilization in all matters of philosophy, medicine, sciences, translations of classical Greek works, and active rational interpretations of the Koran.

What is needed is a long-term patient diplomatic and political pressures by the West to transforming our political systems to alternatives that permit the citizens to feeling encouraged to communicate freely and oppose the system with a fair chance for success within the internationally recognized codes of human rights.

Note one: Why the USA is investing so much time and effort on destabilizing tiny Lebanon?  Most likely, it is because the USA wants Hezbollah to get immersed in a civil war and then the US will contract out Israel to keeping a low-level war in south Lebanon so that Iran becomes completely isolated and unable to rely on any military support to burden the US rear troops and supply lines.  It is within this strategy that the US is putting the squeeze on Syria, its covert ally, to start distancing its policies from Iran.

Note two:  Recently, Bush has allowed the CIA to publish its report saying that Iran has stopped its military nuclear program in 1993.  This comes in conjunction with the lower level of terrorist attacks in Iraq due to Iranian cooperation.  The US is managing the European disinclination to an open war against Iran but is winning on all fronts now: Iraq is more manageable for the time being, the economic pressures on Iran are still applicable and the Iranian regime might feel more lax in expecting an US attack.  However, the war scenario is still on the back burner and might be executed at any moment.

Rainbow over the Levant (fiction novel)

Note: I have divided this long chapter 10 into three parts under the title “An army from the people and for the people”

Chapter 10: A concept for a unified nation

            In this period of unstable centralized powers, the further away from Cairo the weaker the power of the Mamluk monarchy, along with the ever-present ghost of a recurrence of the Tatar threat, Antoun decided that the new political reality entitled him to give his State a name and a political recognition. All the chiefs of villages and towns throughout the newly expanded Nation were convoked in mid May to a conclave that would last a week if necessary.

The chiefs brought along their families and assistants, while makeshift tents were erected in the Capital Mtein instead of Baldat El Mir to honor the anniversary of the new regime and remind the citizens of the real center of popular power.  The agenda for this gathering was first, to devise a legislature House of Representatives with its responsibilities and the processes for implementing this proposal; second to elect the first leader of this self-administered nation, and third to discuss the proposal of taxing donations in money and lands to monasteries and other religious domains so that no strata in society would enjoy undue privileges.

A confessional group under the implicit backing of Latifa and the Christian clergy was outspoken and canvassed diligently to secure a much higher share in representative members than their proportion entitled them, under the rationale that the core partisans for the victorious insurrection were Christians and that it was the only nation with a sizable Christian denomination and surrounded by Moslem Empires.  This group also held firm on excluding Jews from the House because they were the persecutors of Jesus and they crucified him between two convicted criminals.

Antoun understood the ancient apprehension of his compatriots and their quest for a stable political framework, which may secure confidence and animate the enterprising spirit in Mount Lebanon to open up to wider markets.  He worked out a tacit verbal agreement with the Moslems’ counterparts to accept a temporary tradeoff until the next election to allay the Christians’ fears of this novel form of participation.

This agreement was laden with many restrictions from both parties toward any form of female representation and excluding them from military obligations.  Antoun reluctantly had to bend to the power of tradition until more women prove themselves able to manage in the administration and learn to associate among themselves and voice their concerns politically.  However, he vehemently insisted on a limited female representations in municipality councils, appointing female and Jewish counselors and female civil servants in the government administrations, and on keeping the female military formations already in service. Under this tacit agreement, the Christians would be represented by 65% of the House versus 35% for the Moslems.

On the last day of the assembly, Antoun was elected to a ten-year term as First Emir of the Levant Emirate with no restrictions to a potential renewal for leadership.  The First Emir was tempted to call himself Sultan of the Levant, as traditions of the time required, but he realized that this title would generate more trouble from the dissenting neighboring Emirs and open the eyes of larger kingdoms to his future schemes of expansion.

Initial Parliamentary election

There was a need for a representative body of all the regions based on an electoral system.  No unanimous electoral system could be agreed upon that was satisfactory and thus a transitory and consensual one for the first election was enacted. This first electoral system was flawed in many respects of religious proportion, gender discrimination and status levels of the representatives.

Women not only were forbidden to be candidates but also single women were not allowed to vote. The clergy of all religious sects were not to register as candidates but could cast their ballot. Anyone who did not own a house or a sizable piece of land could not be a candidate. However, it was decided that the fairness of the application of the system was to be strictly monitored and the lists of voters and candidates printed out in advance.

The clergy of various religious sects was surprised to learn that the chiefs of villages agreed to tax some of their riches and also that they were cast out from representation.  These news shed a shadow of realization that changes in society were in the offing and proclamations to boycott the election were announced in churches and mosques. The government decided not to rescind the donation tax law but agreed to proceed with negotiations.

Mustafa’s position was that it was fair that the clergy should have the same rights as any citizen especially that they were the most learned section in society.  For example, he said, “we certainly would have a hard time implementing any election if the clergy decided to boycott and refrain from helping the citizens in reading the procedures and writing petitions concerning discrepancies and unfair dealings during elections”.

Gergis declared: “The clergy has already adopted a kind of democratic election within their hierarchy and has experience in running legislative conventions and would be an asset in enhancing the learning process of the next House of Representatives”.

A satisfactory deal was struck with the clergy where first, the rate of taxation on donations was reduced to 10% for the first two years and then increased to 15% subsequently and second, that the clergy of all denominations were called upon to select two representatives for each sect to the next House of Representatives but would be prohibited to cast a vote for the lay candidates and were urged to support the election process and monitor its fairness and accuracy.

Yasmine dies

In that year, Yasmine died of birth complications and Antoun’s grief was devastating: Yasmine had been lately feeling happier in her new castle, so close to Beirut with mild weather throughout the year.  Most importantly, she had been heading the hectic furnishing and interior design task force with renewed enthusiasm for life.

The First Emir was the father of two boys Adal and Asaad and a baby girl Wujdan.  Adal was only seven years old and Wujdan barely two years and their bereavement was unbearable.  Only Noura could take matters in her expert hands, and Antoun ordered her to relocate her quarters to his castle and raise his children as her own.

For two weeks, Antoun kept roaming the galleries where Yasmine’s aquarelle were displayed.  This behavior sent pangs of sadness in Noura’s heart, until Antoun started copying Yasmine’s original aquarelle.  Noura understood then that her defeat was inevitable and her nights lost the shimmer of hope.

Yes, Noura would not have minded that Antoun took up carpentry and imitated the wooden mechanical toys because they were imported products and did not represent the soul of Yasmine.

Very soon, the officials realized that Noura was firmly holding the real power and was considered the sole person with access to the ears and mind of the First Emir. She invested her energy with a vengeance and reigned unchallenged for 14 months, the time for Antoun to recover from his shock and exhibit a renewed zest for life.

Noura achievements

In the fourteen months of her administrative power, Noura managed great feats in the consolidation of the State and kept chaos from the neighboring States at bay.  She restructured the yearly budget to allocate more fund to her ministry of Health and Social Affairs at the expense of the ministry of Defense, passed new programs and expanded the scope of established programs.

The ministry of Foreign Affairs under Gergis Al Ustaz took on new missions and its budget was increased accordingly.  New economic and diplomatic missions were dispatched to Andalusia in Southern Spain which was still under Arabic and Moorish hands, to Venice and Florence in Italy, to Cyprus in Crusaders hands, to Morocco and France.  Consulates were opened in Venice and Florence and diplomatic interchanges were routinely undertaken.

Since society was organized on sectarian foundation and the whole structure in political administration and power sharing was basically related to religion, Noura understood that any drastic changes in that structure will destabilize society and allow chaos to spread. The first cultural task was to expose the myths among the various sects toward the other sects, which were unfounded but originating in a society isolated and ignorant due to lack of appropriate schools and communication and difficulty of traveling.

The problem was not simply negative myths but plainly unfounded and erroneous knowledge that exposed the country to dislocation at the first malicious rumors.  In order to remedy the power of obscurantism and attempt to unify the kingdom on firmer grounds Noura and her counselors laid out a two-phase plan.

The first edict was to reconstruct and rehabilitate the two Roman amphitheaters in Tyr and Baalbek and then, to build 3 new amphitheaters, one in the Capital Mtein, one in the port of Beirut and the third in the coastal port of Byblos.  These public gatherings were to encourage the population to meet, mingle, exercise, and attend plays; public bathing facilities were constructed adjacent to the amphitheaters.

The regular communication among the people, regardless of their social status or religious affiliations, was a political act that attracted the population and provided a legitimate environment for discussing social matters and entertaining healthy business deals and encouraging dialogue.

The previous isolated social structure that prevented strong interconnections among the various strata was replaced by free expression and easy communication that prepared the ground for open dialogue of what Noura expressed as, “who we are and what we need for the generations to come”.

Sport and cultural teams from the four corners of the kingdom were welcomed to compete in sports and artistic achievements in the amphitheaters.  The population began to set aside leisure time to travel and encourage their local teams and discover new locations and the opportunities available in bigger cities and towns.

The positive side effect of having two main events that extended for two weeks in the spring and fall greatly encouraged tourism from the neighboring kingdoms including as far as Egypt, Iraq and Turkey.  The ministry of Education was assigned the new essential responsibility of propagating, disseminating, and communicating the new political and social system.  Leaflets that contained the program of the events were extended with additional pages that provided news and edicts; these were highly targeted and at a reduced price.  The tourism activities offered opportunities to hire skilled personnel from other countries and a variety of industries were created to cater to the demands of this new business.

In addition to the larger gathering grounds, the government enacted plans to establish local gathering spaces to cater to the traveling troops of actresses and actors, to wedding ceremonies and to get together festivities and attractions.  Some of these gathering spaces were extensions of the church and mosque squares but many were not directly linked to any religious affiliation.

Orientalists, those European scholars and adventurers who wanted to pay a visit to the Levant, were clandestinely entering Lebanon with the knowledge and help of the Levant government.  Temporary passes were issued to them as traders and merchants and they were closely monitored in their travels:  the government was taking a calculated risk because the Mamluks viewed these European foreigners as a threat to the stability of their regime.

The Mamluks’ apprehension was understandable because the last Crusaders’ waves of invasion to the Levant in the previous century were still fresh in the society’s psyches.  However, the short-term memory of the Levant’s Christian population of the atrocities they suffered from the Crusaders was wiped out after the fresher tyrannical restrictions imposed by the Mamluks on Mount Lebanon.

Consequently, the mercantile mentality of the government of the Levant was not as squeamish as the Moslem’s Mamluks in welcoming the rich Europeans.  The embittered German, French and English were not that nostalgic to returning to the Levant any time soon, but the Italian and Spanish who did not participate heavily in the Crusaders’ campaigns needed to validate first hand the various tales they had overheard from the returning Crusaders.  It could be conjectured that the Italian and Spanish scholars and adventurers who had accumulated some riches from a period of peace were experiencing the dawn of a Renaissance and a new-found vigor.

            Along with the Portuguese, Italians, and Spaniards the Gypsies tagged along with their ambulatory circuses which were unfamiliar to the Levantine for a century.  The artisans got busy fabricating big top of tents, wooden terraces and typical trailers for the family circus companies.  The big tops did not expand more than fourteen meters in diameter but since it was not necessary to invest in chairs there was allowed plenty of space and besides they were so brightly colorful!  Soon after, the couple of circuses expanded their programs to include wild animals that terrified the Levantine; the few lions and brown bears that still existed in the higher altitudes were captured to be trained and to entertain the populace while even elephants made their way through seas from India.

The itineraries of the circuses were confined to the sea-coast chiefly because the access to the mountains was not feasible for the carriages hauling large animals but eventually a few rudimental programs of clowning and Italian burlesque shows were making their appearances in remote towns.

Many Levantine had new opportunities to learn various skills, talents and trades; old feats demonstrating raw strength and agility were channeled and reshaped on different instruments and maneuvers. The Gypsy trade was closely monitored because the First Emir had good understanding of their behavior during his contraband period, and the circuses emplacement and activities were somewhat controlled.

            One Sunday, Mariam and her adoptive daughter Samar attended a matinée of one of the circuses in Beirut; by the end of the program they were both awestruck and conquered.  Samar kept harassing her mother that she wanted to accompany the circus, reverberating the same longing in Mariam; both of them never slept a wink that night and by morning Gergis received the visit of Mariam asking for suggestions on the process of purchasing and maintaining a circus.

Gergis arranged  a deal with a minor circus owned by three brothers and two sisters of the Italian family Gambali which was not burdened by wild animals in its programs;  Mariam was to be part associate as a sixth owner along with the family with a say in setting new programs and directly collecting her share from the daily receipts.  Within two years Mariam, with the judicious financial acumen of Gergis, managed to buy out 50% of the business every time plans for expansion were contemplated.  The circus traveled the mountain regions for six months from early March to the end of October with Samar as a paid helper, actor, and translator which allowed her to learn the skills of the trade.

Gradually, Mariam won over the two Gambali sisters and the younger brother to her new ingenious program; it included dramatic stories acted in serial parts to be continued for two or three days according to the population density of the emplacements.  Ladies who attended the first part would tell and spread the first part of the story and the whole village would flock the next day to listen to the end of the story. Disgusted and shocked by this drastic change in the tradition of circus programming and the treachery within the family, the two elder Gambadi brothers sold their share to Mariam and hastily left Lebanon, never to return.

The flocking of the European orientalist inspired Noura to initiate the construction of a scientific center in Baldat El Mir in response to the demands from the enlightened Italian Princes for translated Arabic manuscripts.  Many Arabs from Andalusia and Egypt, who were bilingual in Latin or Spanish in addition to Arabic, were attracted and contracted out to settle a few years in the Levant. Arabic mathematical manuscripts in the fields of algebra, algorithms and geometry and scientific manuscripts in physics, chemistry, optics, medicine and astronomy were translated to Spanish and Latin and sold at premium prices.

Later on, maritime sciences and the fabrication of navigation equipment and instruments took priority for investment when the Levantine navy asserted its utility in trade and commerce.  The Levantine artists and merchants discovered a huge demand by the European tourists for sketches and paintings of the Levant’s landscapes and social customs and soon the souks were flooded with products satisfying the avidity of select buyers.

An army from the people and for the people

            The other part of the plan to eliminate or reduce the masses of unfounded myths among religious sects was the use of the army as an educational forum to allow the population to mingle and befriend with one another.  In these times there were no centrally organized armies.  In war-time, the warlords and prince of the provinces joined the army with their quota of men, arms and supplies. Since all drafting policies had proven to fail miserably, the government started instituting voluntary contracts for two years. The terms of the contract were to pay directly the family of the soldier two-thirds of his wages and a guarantee to train the soldier in technical skills for some job and teach him reading and writing in his mother language. Strict adherence to the contract by the army encouraged many families to enlist many of their boys in the army.

            There was one hitch to that plan:  Many well to do families and religious sects with specific doctrines that prohibited armed confrontations refrained to participate in this national army.  After five years of the voluntary enlistment policy a systematic national draft program was instituted with minor revolts or resentment.   A voluntary contract for enlistment of girls and women was promoted with good success since many single women had no viable alternatives for livelihood.  The regiments for women, after their basic army training, had specific and very specialized tasks in the war efforts:  mainly for espionage assignments in and outside the kingdom, administering the supply, tending to the military camp hospitals and the rehabilitation of the injured.

Noura’s Exile

By this time, Noura was three months pregnant from Antoun out-of-wedlock and the political maneuvering to displace Noura from the center of power increased.  The main argument of the detractors was that the First Emir should now seek a politically beneficial marriage to a powerful Emir that would offer higher recognition to the new kingdom and stronger legitimacy.  At first, the First Emir barely paid any attention to these innuendoes but with converging circumstances and regained zest to holding on to power the repeated suggestions for remarrying reached a critical appeal to the First Emir.

Gergis agreed to handle this diplomatic mission on condition that the First Emir, his longtime friend, would acknowledge publicly Noura’s child as his own. A diplomatic search for a wife was in full activity and trying to circumventing Noura’s intelligence sources as much as possible.  Eventually, no secret could be kept for long in this intricate and small community.

Noura loved Antoun since she knew him in his youth in Beirut but discovered that this love was not returned in the same strength and dedication. She was a fighter and would have done what ever was necessary but realized that her lover would never be content with what his power had already brought him.

Salvaging the remaining of her pride Noura faced Antoun with an ultimatum: either he wed her legitimately or she would rather go into exile away from the Levant.  Gergis realized that his endeavor would be much facilitated if he could receive Noura’s backing in his searching task.  For the benefit of the stability of the Nation they struck an agreement that all dealings would be shared with her in secrecy, a condition that at least satisfied her pride for virtually sharing in the search selection.  In the meantime, she staunchly canvassed to have her initiated programs funded for the next yearly budget.

Three criteria for the search of a wife were set by Antoun:  that the Emir’s province be rich, that his military preparedness be inferior to his kingdom and that the two States share no common borders. Basmat, the daughter of the Emir of Aleppo from one of his Christian concubines, was at the top of the contenders. The province of the Emir Aziz of Aleppo stretched from the port of Lattakieh to the region of Jazyra eastward and the area of Diar Bakr in the North.  It shared a long border South with the Viceroy of Damascus who got very perturbed and immediately arranged for his son to marry one of Aziz’s other daughters.

Noura ended up in Florence, Italy, and never married for the duration of her exile.  Noura gave birth to a son named Jacob after her father’s and toured all the States of Italy for four years, from Naples to Milan to Venice. Gergis was frequently in contact with her and used to assign her to difficult trade missions. There came a time when Noura needed the action and motivation that she was used to having and requested a formal diplomatic appointment from Gergis who secured the duties of Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Levant to the European courts.  Noura opened a linguistic center in Florence to train the immigrant Levantines and enjoyed her job greatly and kept traveling to France, Spain and Holland, supporting the consuls and Lebanese merchants in their trades and commerce.

Article 25, September 11, 2005

“My pet project for undergraduate engineering curriculum”

My aim is to produce hybrid scientists or engineers with Human Factors background in undergraduate curriculum.  Undergraduate university students must enjoy a comprehensive curriculum initiating them to methods applied in both hard and soft sciences.  Basically, students must be knowledgeable in the various ways of designing experiment, which is the common denominator methods, taught implicitly but never satisfactorily because the logic is not that straighforward unless exposed explicitly and trained.

Undergraduate engineering disciplines must require courses in experimental research and statistical analyses training and drawn from multidisciplinary social sciences so that they can be better positioned to handle research involving mathematical modeling of theories in sciences.

I believe that at least 6 courses should be included in any engineering field involved in system design, which are: “Human Factors” in 2 courses, “Design for inferential experiments” and “Structural linear equations modeling applying the statistical analytical package LISREL”, “Human performance”, “Systems risk assessments”,  and “Occupational safety and health”.

It is advisable that engineering departments, architecture and any field involved in designing systems or subsystems, with the avowed mission of reducing errors committed by end users in the application and maintenance of their tasks, need to offer 3 required courses and three elective courses related to the factors that affect the performance of end users.

These courses are meant mainly to designing interfaces between systems and end users, whether the latter are engineers, operators, workers, technicians or consumers, but they are also important for the designers of the systems to be cognizant of the problems related to the capabilities, limitations and behavior of end users who will ultimately break or implement any well-intentioned and best designed systems from textbook standards and processes.

The first required Human Factors course would be an introduction to the basics in designing for people, the physical and cognitive capabilities and limitations of end users, the environmental and organizational factors that may affect performance and the physical/mental applications and methods for designing interfaces between systems and end users.

The second Human Factors course, which could be elective, would initiate designers to actually design an interface with the needed experiments relevant to validating the requirements and guidelines that foresee the compatibility of the system performance with the level of skills and training required by the end users. A designed interface would be accompanied by facilitating aids, procedures and functional booklets to enable end users for ready application.

The third course called “Design of experiments” is to initiate designers on efficient designed experiments that would save time, effort and money with the additional result of accounting for the interactions among all the factors under study and providing designers with facts that they could readily apply in their design endeavors. This course is not meant to dwell heavily on the mathematical basis for the statistical analysis, which requires another follow-up course, but to form scientific minds which can critically analyze research papers and the experimental procedures that encourage designers to start reading research papers and appreciating the materials that would form the basis for their continuing education.

The fourth course called “Systems risk assessments” would initiate designers to the trade-off decisions of the safety and health risks on the users, environment and organizational structures in societies and the financial cost from the adoption of technologically complex alternative designs.

The fifth course called “Occupational safety and health”, in addition to initiating the engineers on the laws and processes for a safe work place, will also encompass the concept of consumer’s product liability and forensic engineering. A designer needs to be familiar with the problems and consequences of his designs to the end users, their idiosyncrasies and cultural differences in using any product or manufacturing process design in an occupational setting.  The knowledge of the standards and applicable laws and guidelines for a safe and healthy manufacturing or processing plant can make a substantial difference among graduating engineers not only in their people communication skills and designing performance but also for later promotions in any administrative or organizational positions.

The sixth course “Human performance” is designed to providing the skills and training necessary to designing and evaluating the performance of interfaces. Examples of these skills include the development of written instructions, designing relevant questionnaires to assess the characteristics and training skills of target users and how well the interface is performing, designing performance aids to helping the short-term memory of operators, formatting instructions and information, input data display formats, output formats, coding design, personnel selection, determining qualifications and any written or verbal technique or method necessary to testing, evaluating and quantifying operators’ performance.

An informed engineering designer, who can define the limitations, skills and needs of the target users for his interface and who is trained early on in his academic years to the consequences of his tasks, may save end users from committing many foreseeable errors, greatly alleviate their physical and mental anguish, suffering, pain and inefficiency and thus save his sponsors time and money for later redesign undertaking.

The afore-mentioned courses, if offered in the first 2 years of the curriculum, might provide the undergraduate students with a different perspective toward the remaining core courses that enhance the seriousness of his responsibilities and the importance of his profession.

I frankly cannot conceive of an engineer pursuing higher graduate studies without being exposed to the fundamental necessity of designing to target users.  Engineering is an applied science for practical human needs and not knowing the needs and behavior of target users then the engineer’s design endeavor might be flawed from the start.

Article #21, April 19, 2005

“Restructuring engineering curriculums to respond to end users demands”

In 1987, Alphonse Chapanis, a renowned Human Factors professional, urged that published Human Factors research papers target the practical design need of the various engineering disciplines so that the research data be readily used by engineers.

Dr. Chapanis was trying to send a clear message that Human Factors main discipline was to design interfaces between systems and end users and thus, research papers have to include sections directing the engineers as to the applicability of the results of the paper to design purposes.

In return, it is appropriate to send the message that all engineering disciplines should include sections in their research papers orienting the engineering practitioners to the applicability of the results of the papers to the end users and how Human Factors professionals can judiciously use the data in their interface designs.

As it was difficult for the Human Factors professional to send the right message to the engineering practitioners, and still has enormous difficulty disseminating the proper purpose and goals, it would be a steep road for the engineers to send the right message that what they design is actually targeting the needs and new trends of the end users.

As long as the engineering curriculums fail to include the Human Factors field as an integral part in their structures it would not be realistic to contemplate any shift in their designs toward the end users.

Systems would become even more complex and testing and evaluation more expensive in order to make end users accept any system and patronize it.  So why not design anything right from the first time by being initiated and exposed to human capabilities and limitations, their safety and health?

Instead of recognizing from the early phases in the design process that reducing human errors and risks to the safety and health of end users are the best marketing criteria for encouraging end users to adopt and apply a system, we see systems are still being designed by different engineers who cannot relate to the end users because their training is not explicitly directed toward them.

What is so incongruous with the engineering curriculums to include courses that target end users?

Why would not these curriculums include courses in occupational safety and health, consumer product liability, engineers as expert witnesses, the capabilities and limitations of human, marketing, psychophysics and experimental design?

Are the needs and desires of end users beneath the objectives of designing systems?

If that was true, why systems are constantly being redesigned, evaluated and tested in order to match the market demands?

Why do companies have to incur heavy expenses in order to rediscover the wheel that the basis of any successful design ultimately relies on the usefulness, acceptability and agreement with the end users desires and dreams?

Why not start from the foundation that any engineering design is meant for human and that designed objects or systems are meant to fit the human behavior and not vice versa?

What seem to be the main problems for implementing changes in the philosophy of engineering curriculums?

Is it the lack to find enough Human Factors, ergonomics and industrial psychologist professionals to teaching these courses?

Is it the need to allow the thousands of psychologists, marketing and business graduates to find outlet “debouches” in the market place for estimating users’ needs, desires, demands and retesting and re-evaluating systems after the damages were done?

May be because the Human factors professionals failed so far to make any significant impact to pressure government to be part and parcel of the engineering practices?


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2008
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