Israel’s Missile Defense

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

19 November 2023

Conversations about Israeli missile defense, its role in bigger picture of conflict & US assistance in this field resulted in this summary for those interested in the subject.


 Protective Umbrella – Israel’s Missile Defense System

Hamid Hussain

“The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.”
Thomas Crum

Israel has a multi-layered missile defense system to counter rockets, artillery, missiles, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Israel‘s national missile defense program is called Homa (Hebrew for Fortress Wall). Homa is a layered, active defense system. The bottom layer is Iron Dome that intercepts short-range surface-to-surface rockets, middle layer is David’s Sling that intercepts short to medium and medium to long range surface-to-surface missiles and upper layer is Arrow-2 (upper-atmospheric) that intercepts medium to long range missiles and Arrow-3 (exo-atmospheric) that intercepts long-range missiles.  Israel also has 4-6 Patriot batteries (known in Israel by Hebrew name Yahalom meaning diamond), Israel’s Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), established in 1991 is responsible for the development, management and improvement of Israel’s active defense systems including radars, command and control systems, network connectivity, launchers, and interceptors.

Peace treaties with neighboring Egypt and Jordan improved Israel’s defense. Initial threat perception consisted of medium and long-range missiles from hostile states especially Iraq, Iran, and Syria. In 1998, the first Arrow-2 system was transferred to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to counter this threat. In 2000s, use of small range rockets by Hezbollah and Hamas created a new challenge as long-range Arrow-2 system was not effective against these small projectiles. After the 2006, Israel-Hezbollah war, research, and development to counter this new challenge resulted in development of Iron Dome system with intercept range of 2.5 to 43 miles. Iron Dome became operational in March 2011 and within few days intercepted a Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Iron Dome system has three components. The Multi Mission Radar (MMR) detects the rocket’s routes and sends the information to the command-and-control center that analyzes the trajectory of rockets and their estimated landing area. If the landing area of the rocket is uninhabited, no action is taken. If the landing area is a military structure or civilian inhabited area, then command and control unit send the order to launcher to fire interceptor missile that explodes close to the rocket to disintegrate it and avoid damage from large debris. Currently, Israel has ten Iron Dome batteries deployed throughout the country, and each battery is designed to defend a sixty square mile populated area. Each battery has three to four launchers loaded with up to 20 Tamir interceptors per launcher for a total of 60-80 interceptors per battery. Each Iron Dome battery costs about $100 million and the cost of each Tamir interceptor missile is $40’000. Continue reading Israel’s Missile Defense

The Day After (the Gaza war).. From Dr Hamid Hussain

This piece is based on my presentation to a private group looking beyond the kinetic operations of current Middle East crisis.

The Day After

Hamid Hussain

“As a rule, there are no military solutions to political problems. Solutions are always combined. The use of military force is both part of policy and a pursuance of policy.”  

Major General Yoav Har-Evan; Head of Israel Defense Forces Operations Directorate

On 07 October 2023, Hamas launched a devastating attack on Israeli towns close to Gaza border killing over fourteen hundred Israeli soldiers and civilians including women and children.  Israelis were shocked at the stunning intelligence and military failure as well as the unprecedented carnage.  It was a forgone conclusion that Israel will react with the unprecedented vengeance. Hamas was surprised by poor response of Israeli security forces and went on a killing spree and even brought back over two hundred Israelis as hostages. This unexpected success may prove to be the end of Hamas as an organized political and military entity. Jury is still out on whether this incident will jump start a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process or prove to be a fatal blow to two state solution.

Israel unleashed its fire power without any restraints and after two weeks of bombing, Gaza looks like a post-apocalyptic zombie land.  Of the nine thousand dead, half are children and that is a new blood-soaked record for the Middel East that is used to carnage. Israel started ground operation from the north while at the same time cutting off Gaza into half by surrounding Gaza City.  The first step is to gain control of the above ground battlefield and then think about what to do with the underground battlefield.  It looks that their goal is to finish Hamas fighters in northern half and blowing up underground tunnels before launching similar exercise in the south with the goal of completing high velocity kinetic operations in six to eight weeks. There is no intention of going in the tunnels to fight Hamas fighters as it entails high casualties. For Hamas fighters there are only two options.  One is to drop weapon and mingle in the civilian population and live to fight another day or fight to death with no quarter given or asked. Presence of Israeli hostages in the tunnels poses another challenge as using smoke, chemicals, or water to flood the tunnels means certain death of hostages along with Hamas fighters.

The free pass given to Israel by United States and European Union (EU) has an expiration date as large-scale civilian carnage cannot be ignored. Large scale protests in United States and European cities are putting pressure on the governments to allow humanitarian pauses if not a ceasefire.  This also unleashed anti-Jewish sentiments and violent acts against Jews all over the world. Modern conflict is not limited only to the battlefield but beamed in real time to the living rooms of a global audience and public opinion becomes an extension of the conflict. Israel cannot ignore public relations disaster despite a united nation at home and support from US and western governments.

Gaza is a densely populated area where 2.3 million Gazans live in a territory that is about thirty miles long and ten miles wide.  Out of 1.1 million Gazans living north of Gaza City, 800’000 have moved to south after incursion of Israeli troops.  Israel will allow several hours windows for civilian evacuation route along the main north-south Gaza highway from north to south and then reverse it when operations start in south. However, the small geographic size and very high population density puts limits to such exercise, and more than a half million Gazans will be in the middle of the inferno at any given time.  Israel will also allow intermittent humanitarian convoys into Gaza from Egypt and coordinate with Jordan for even airdrop of humanitarian supplies.  These measures are essential for public relations. Civilian casualties have probably peaked in the first phase, and it is estimated that it will be markedly reduced in the second phase. However, large scale damage is already done with a new generation of Palestinians filled with anger and hatred that will unleash the next round.

Kinetic operations are the easy part and will be completed in few weeks with less than few dozen dozen fatal Israeli casualties. In view of unprecedented carnage of Israel citizens, society is willing to absorb military casualties as high as about a thousand. War is a business of uncertainty and unexpected events not even initiated by the adversary can change the course. In 1997, midair collision of two Israeli transport helicopters killed 73 soldiers. This national trauma generated a groundswell of anti-war sentiment in Israeli society that resulted in Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

Heavy work will be required when kinetic operations are completed as there is no clear path ahead. In view of un-precedented Israeli carnage, Israel entered the conflict without serious debate about exit strategy.  Kinetic operations had to be initiated quickly mainly to restore morale of Israeli public.  All other considerations took the back seat. Continue reading The Day After (the Gaza war).. From Dr Hamid Hussain

Iran and Hezbollah; Likely Options (from Dr Hamid Hussain)

a few days old, but looks like his assessment was correct:

09 November 2023

Previous piece about the day after of current crisis generated many questions and one question was asked about potential widening of theatre especially Iran/Hezbollah role.

My response below;

I short and medium term, Hezbollah, Iran, Israel & USA have no interest in expanding the conflict. Operationally, Israel can not conduct a northern front large scale operation at this stage. Major factor is that Israel has used large stocks of Tamir missiles of Iron Dome interceptors and major threat from Hezbollah is its expanded rockets arsenal. To give an example of cost ratio, average cost of long-range rocket used by Hamas and Hezbollah is $300-400 while each Tamir interceptor missile of Iron Dome costs $40’000. Of 500’000 mobilized troops, 60% on Southern front in Gaza and 40% in West Bank and Israeli cities with large Arab population to keep lid on restive Palestinians. Expanded northern front will require mobilization of additional reserves putting more strain on already stretched economy. In addition, over 200’000 Israelis are displaced from southern and northern border areas. All this points to Israel’s preference to focus on south and keep all other fronts quiet. This does not mean that Israel’s hands are completely tied. Hamas rocket threats are markedly reduced by ground operation in Gaza, ten Israeli Iron Dome batteries with two batteries from US currently in transit although whole inventory of Tamir interceptor missiles in US inventory have reached Israel that can tackle Hezbollah rocket threat although interception rate may not be over 98% in view of heavy barrage. (US army has no role for Iron Dome as it cannot be integrated into American anti-missile system. They never requested it but Congress as a favor to Israel approved $373 and told Pentagon to buy it. Pentagon complied but parked it at Joint Air Force Base in Washington as it had no use of the system ). Air Force though not a perfect instrument to tackle rocket threat can be used to keep heads of Hezbollah down in Lebanon. In my view, northern front will remain quiet unless a major unintentional mishap occurs on either side.

US armada is a signal only for Iran/Hezbollah (you don’t need a nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier for action against Hamas fighters in a tunnel) and Hezbollah and Iran have no wish to commit suicide. Small rockets from Lebanon to keep area warm but no action to start a fire. Iran is very happy with this situation and ayatollahs are savoring the return on their investment.

US and Iran in back room negotiations to keep things limited to Hamas. Iran promising to keep Hezbollah and other proxies in Iraq and Yemen on a tight leash and promise of getting some hostages especially with US and European passports get released in return for US not doing anything about the $ 6 billion in escrow account in Qatar that was put there recently after last round of prisoner swap deal between Tehran and Washington.

I’m working on a piece about role of regional players. It is all Byzantine deals and nothing about peace or morality. I’m aware of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan quietly supporting the effort to completely demolish the spoiler Hamas this time ( they expected the same in 2006 that Israel will demolish Hezbollah). Their only condition is to keep casualties low and allow pauses for humanitarian efforts (Jordan airdrop, UAE planning a field hospital in Gaza) so that their angry streets don’t cause domestic problems.

Iran’s general strategy is to keep small fires in the ring around Israel so that it cannot concentrate efforts to directly threaten Iran especially attack on nuclear facilities.  Hamas is one piece of the puzzle and other two are Hezbollah and some activity on Syrian front where Israeli air force busy in interdicting weapon shipments and attack storage facilities in Syria.

Tehran was already diversifying the portfolio by increasing support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza and some towns of West Bank (PIJ head Ziad Nakhle is parked in Damascus). Hamas has served their purpose to keep Israel busy enough so that they do not fully concentrate on a major action against Tehran. October 7 crossed a certain threshold as far as Israel is concerned. In long term, it depends how Israeli strategic community comes out of this crisis. It is a game changer and much bigger than Yom Kippur trauma of 1973. In October 1973, Israeli strategic calculation changed to making peace with Egypt. October 2023 may do the same to make peace with Palestinians but I don’t have hope for that outcome. More likely strategic decision will be that Iran is the root cause of Israel pain and historian may record this conflict as first Israeli-Iranian war. The project will be to bring down the very regime of ayatollahs and Iranian response will be to shift to West Bank and possibly Arab citizens of Israel to start the fire in Israel’s backyard that is ripe for such efforts. Israel’s efforts will mirror image that of Iran and concentrated in Iraqi Kurdistan and Azerbaijan that already serve as major bases for Israeli operations against Iran.

“History tells us that it gets worse before it gets better”.        Iraqi Shia seminary student



The Israeli Defense Forces (by Dr Hamid Hussain)

Dr Hamid Hussain, a well known and well respected military historian happened to be working on a piece about the IDF when Oct 7 happened. Here is his updated piece.

23 October 2023

Last few months, I have been working on different facets of Israeli & Palestinian societies.  I had just completed a piece about transformation of IDF but 07 October events necessitated addition of this seismic event; the aftershocks of which will be felt for a while. Despite horrific violence, unfortunately for students of history and conflict, it is just continuation of human activity since killing of Abel by Cain. Nothing is inevitable in history.  It is our actions that shape the history.

In times of extreme pain on each side and anger, frustration and outright hatred of partisans and onlookers is not conducive for a meaningful conversation.  That will probably occur later. It is a sterile review of military dimension devoid of any emotional or moral judgements.

“Only the dead have seen the end of war”.  Plato


Change Before You Have to – Transformation of Israeli Defense Forces

Hamid Hussain

“History doesn’t stop. By the time we build capabilities from our vision against terror armies, we will be facing a new challenge because the enemy adapts.”

Israeli army Brigadier General Eran Ortal, February 2023

Continue reading The Israeli Defense Forces (by Dr Hamid Hussain)

Browncast: Professor C Christine Fair on Lashkar, Khalistan, Palestine, etc


Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode Mukunda and I talk to Professor Christine Fair, Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. We talked about her upcoming book “Literature of the Lashkar e Tayyaba” , jihadist propaganda in general, and whatever else comes up. We also touch on Khalistan and Canada and even spend a few minutes on the Israel-Palestine conflict to round things off.

C. Christine Fair

Browncast: Prof Vamsee Juluri on Hindus and Hindophobia

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode Mukunda and I talk to Prof Vamsee Juluri, professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco and the author of several books, including “rearming Hinduism“. We asked him how he defines Hinduism, what is Hinduphobia and why (and how) Hindus should “re-arm” (or not).

Professor Juluri tweets on twitter as @vamseejuluri

This was a joint podcast with Mukunda Raghavan of Meru Media, so for a change we have video (a fact I did not realize when we started recording, so the light and the face are less than ideal 🙂 )

A Light Goes Out in Lahore

Posted on  by  Reposting today because that old post got lost and I recovered this via the wayback machine. 

A light goes out in Lahore

Professor Syed Ali Haider, professor and chairman of ophthalmology at Lahore General Hospital and renowned vitreo-retinal surgeon got up on Monday morning (Feb 18 2013) to take his son to school. His son Murtaza Haider was 11 years old. In front of Forman-Christian college, literally yards from the house of the deputy prime minister of Pakistan, gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on them. Dr Ali Haider and his 11 year old son were shot dead, both with gunshots to the head. There are “no witnesses”. No one took down a description of the killers, much less the make and model of their motorbike. Nobody has been caught. It may be that nobody will be caught. Or it may be that someone will be caught, and as in hundreds of previous cases, will be released. (Killers were later caught in an unrelated case, they were indeed Shiaphobes from the Sipah e Sahaba/lashkar e jhangvi). It is even possible that the government of Punjab will for a few years pay a stipend to the killer’s family just in case they have to lock him up. They have done that in the past. The quality of mercy is not strained in Punjab.

But there is no great mystery about why Professor Ali Haider and his 11 year old innocent child were shot in the head. They were shot because they were Shias and a small but powerful faction of Pakistan’s Sunni majority has declared them “kafir” (infidel). They were also shot because he was a prominent, highly educated, highly esteemed member of the community. What use is a message if it is not heard? The killers wanted to be heard, loud and clear. It will not be a stretch to imagine that they are also proud of their act; satisfied that their op went off without a hitch. At their post-murder celebration they may have told stories and laughed; perhaps some of the laughs and stories were about the boy and how his eyes looked just before he died. It was right in front of the deputy PM sahib’s house, so they probably did not have the time to make a video. But they do that too. They make videos, and then post them on youtube with songs in the background. They are not ashamed. They are looking forward to doing it


So who did they manage to kill this time? Syed Ali Haider was born in Multan, the son of Dr Syed Zafar Haider and Dr Tahira Bokhari. Dr Zafar Haider had then recently returned after more than ten years of training and working in England and was a junior professor of surgery at Nisthar Medical College in Multan. His son went to school at Burn Hall school in Multan. He graduated from Government college Multan and joined King Edward Medical College Lahore in 1981. A shy and unassuming young man, he was serious and studious; he stayed out of the limelight even as his father taught at the same college as an almost legendary professor of surgery (and the country’s most famous specialist in the surgical problems of the thyroid and parathyroid glands), and his mother took over as professor and then head of the department of anatomy at the same institution. After graduation he went to UK and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, home of countless famous surgeons and physicians. He then did a fellowship in vitreo-retinal disorders at Oxford university before returning to Lahore and joining the medical school there. He not only returned to work and teach in Lahore, he tried to convince many others to do the same.

In a very short time he became the head of the ophtalmology department at Lahore General Hospital and transformed it from a backwater into the country’s premier center of retinal disorders. When MNA Jamshed Dasti’s men injured Dr Meher Iqbal in the eye in Muzzafargargh, it was Professor Ali Haider who operated on Dr Iqbal’s injured eye. Hundreds of patients, rich and poor, literally owe their sight to Professor Ali Haider. Each year he went to his village near Pakpattan and set up a free eye camp where he donated his services and one million rupees worth of free medicines, lenses and implants. He also worked at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and operated on retinal tumors, mostly on patients who could not afford to pay him a penny for his services. It is customary to say good things about the recently deceased, but I challenge anyone to find anyone in Lahore (or anywhere else) who does not regard Professor Haider as something of a saint. Dhoondo gey agar mulkon mulkon, milney key nahin nayab hain hum.. (you may search across the globe, you will not find another, he was unique).

And no one was prouder of Ali Haider than his father, professor Syed Zafar Haider. A few months ago a friend asked the legendary professor how his son was doing. With obvious pride Dr Zafar Haider replied “Dr Sahib, hum ney tau sari umar kuch nikala hai..sainkRon thyroid or parathyroid nikaley; per Ali tau aagey nikal gaya. Uss ko dekhiey, woh to sainkRon ko beenaee day raha hai”. (Doctor sahib, we just used to take things out…took out hundreds of thyroids and parathyroids, but Ali has gone beyond us. He has given sight to hundreds”). The hardest heart must shatter when it imagines the feelings of Dr Zafar Haider today.

Dr Zafar Haider’s father, Syed Mohammed Shah, was a lawyer in Pakpattan. Hailing from the nearby village of Chak Haiderabad (named after the same illustrious family), he was a successful lawyer who made sure his younger brothers and his three sons recieved the best education Pakistan had to offer. Abbas Haider became a dentist, Zafar Haider a doctor and Afzal Haider a lawyer. Dr Zafar Haider went to UK to do his FRCS and then stayed on to specialize in the surgery of the thyroid gland. On his return he became a professor of surgery at Nishtar Medical College in Multan and then at King Edward Medical College in Lahore. Professor Zafar Haider was a man of great learning, highly cultured, erudite and witty. He did not suffer fools gladly and could be intimidating to his students and juniors, but anyone who managed to hang around became his devotee for life. He was our teacher in medical school and I had the honor to spend a few months as a house surgeon in his unit. A few anecdotes may help to bring his multifaceted character into better focus.

One day, when he was still a young professor, Dr Zafar was delivering a lecture when the ringing of a bell was heard in the hallway outside. An irritated and obviously angry Dr Zafar Haider opened the door sharply to reprimand the perpetrator only to see a junior lab attendant merrily riding his bicycle down the hall on his way out of the building. Softening immediately, Dr Zafar stepped back in with a smile and quoted the verse “Har zara apni jagah aftab hai” (even the tiniest atom is a sun in its own place). He had an endless supply of urdu verses for every occasion and could more than hold his own in “bait bazi” (matching verse to verse in competition). He was a stickler for form and expected to be treated like a god in his unit, but unlike many fake divinities who filled the halls in medical school, he was the real article. He could stop at the bedside of a patient and suddenly launch into lecture on some arcane surgical topic, complete with its history and anecdotes about famous luminaries in that field. One day we were making rounds and had walked by ten patients in ten minutes when we came to a patient with a foot injury and for some reason Dr Zafar stopped and started talking about amputations. For the next 30 minutes, without any preparation or planning, we were treated to a history of amputations, from ancient times to the 20th century, complete with anecdotes including one that has somehow stuck in my mind about Symes performing his new amputation and promising the patient that he will walk to London on this foot. Dr Zafar taught generations of doctors and treated generations of patients, thousands of them operated upon for free in Nishtar hospital and Mayo hospital. And yesterday he buried his only son in the same town.

An extremely honest and hardworking man, he was briefly appointed medical superintendent of Mayo Hospital Lahore. Almost overnight, the hospital was transformed in appearance as well as function. Dozens of tiny well tended gardens bloomed where there had only been patches of brown scrub. Medicines magically appeared in the wards and poor patients were getting life saving medicines from the hospital store; the same hospital store that had never seemed to have most medications in stock. Just to make sure he also had a sign put up in the country’s busiest emergency department saying “Please do not bring medicines from outside; the hospital will supply all essential medicines”. One day the child of the chief secretary punjab suffered a minor burn on his hand and Professor Zafar Haider admitted him to the ward. People wondered why he had been admitted for such a minor injury. Professor sahib said “you have one night, order burn medicines we can never get, the Punjab government will deliver instantly; keep them safe, some poor people will get saved in the days to come”. The day he was replaced he personally ordered the staff to carry hundreds of intravenous bags to the children’s ward so that they would have life-saving drips on hand when children with diarrhea came in. He was afraid that after he left charge, the store would no longer supply the said drips. He said “Dr sahib, hum Hussein key ghulam hain, paani kaisey rok saktey hain”. (“Dr sahib, we are followers/slaves of Hussain, how can we refuse water to someone?”)  Sadly that slavery cost him his son and his grandson last Monday. What an awful tragedy. What a crying shame.



Continue reading A Light Goes Out in Lahore

The Tribes of Israel

From Dr Hamid Hussain

16 September 2023

I’m doing a series of risk analysis reports about Israeli state and society in the context of Abraham Accord. My own view is that people to people interactions at various forums will create the firm foundation for a long-term sustained effort for social and economic normalcy in the region despite differences.

This is second of the series of about half a dozen reports.


New Tribes of Israel

Hamid Hussain

“Our future does not depend on what the gentiles will say but on what the Jews will do.”           David ben Gurion; Israel’s founding father.

Israel is a diverse society and individual identities include religion, ethnicity, ideological and political views. Despite this diversity, Israel born amid existential security threat emerged as a strong country built on a firm democratic foundation.  State accommodated different perspectives and allowed autonomy in personal and religious spheres.  Crisis of governance and starkly contrasting positions not only on political but also many public policy questions, including marriage, divorce, religious conversion, military conscription, and gender segregation is polarizing Israeli society. Continue reading The Tribes of Israel

Review: Anarchy -A Highly skilled jester playing to the gallery- Dalrymple’s Jaundiced Revisionism about British East India Company

The following review is from Major Amin. Formatting issues remain, but I think readers will find it interesting. (By the way, Major sahib did not say it outright, but I personally think Dalrymple has found the secret sauce of what sells in anglicized “South Asians” (i.e. blame the Brits, bless the Mughals (this is supposed to indicate how great India was before the evil company), pretend all would have been great if “a commercial company” had not ruined India) and his books massage that segment (and since the Anglo elite, no longer running a colony, itself finds this attitude very congenial, the books also do well in the Metropolitan market)

From Major Agha Humayun Amin: 

Dalyrymple is a man who cannot be taken seriously because he writes to please the gallery. For example, Dalrymple totally misses the fact that Nadir Shah of Persia had agreed to spare Delhi , and accept a ransom amount , but was persuaded to sack and plunder Delhi , by Saadat Ali Khan the Mughal governor of Avadh. How serious historians can evade and omit such basic facts is mind boggling. Dalyrmple totally misses the greatest betrayal in Indian history at Karnal where Nadir Shah of Persia on prompting of Nawab of Avadh Saadat Khan decided to pillage and plunder Delhi after an initial agreement to return to Persia after being paid a relatively small fine.

An Indian author (Page-v- AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL ALBUM THE EAJAS AND TAALUQDAES OE OUDH- Daroghah Haji Abbas Ali-Printed by Northwestern Provinces and Oudh Government Press- Allahabad-1880.) had thus defined it as the greatest treachery in Indian Muslim history , which this most intellectually dishonest man omitted as below:–

Saadat Khan eventually, by paying two crores of rupees, obtained the appointment he had all along quietly coveted, viz., that of Amir-ul-issa, Vizier of Delhi. But the attainment of his ambition brought out his worst qualities, though fortunately for his former reputation and for those brought under his influence, his career of oppression and cruelty did not last long. His treasonable advice to Nadir Shah mainly led to Nadir’s disgraceful work of spoliation at Delhi” All the treasure and jewels of the Imperial Court were taken, and everyone who did not make a clean breast of his wealth was tortured most unmercifully.”

Another eminent Indian author (Page-21-THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE NAWABS OF LUCKNOW- Ravi Bhatt- Published by Rupa Publication -New Delhi-2006)

described Indian Muslim treachery of Saadat Ali Khan as below:–

He tempted Nadir Shah with a promise to extort about Rupees 20 crores from Delhi. Nadir Shah decided to take a chance. He appointed Saadat Khan as the vakil-i-mutlaq and asked him to take the charge of Delhi. Later on, Delhi was completely destroyed by Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah had gone with his army to Delhi to collect money. In Delhi, a rumour suddenly spread that Nadir Shah had died, so a mob attacked one of his troops of 3,000 people. A bullet narrowly missed Nadir Shah himself when he was going to the mosque to pray. Nadir Shah retaliated by ordering a general massacre in which several thousands of innocent people were killed and large-scale proper-ties were destroyed. Nadir Shah also sent his men to Awadh to bring Sadat Khan’s money. Humiliated by Nadir Shah, Saadat Khan committed suicide on 20 March 1739.” 2

Dalrymple is master in spinning exaggerated yarns about British treachery but has no time for Indian Muslim treachery which far exceeded British treachery!

Strangely Dalrymple misses even inserting a biographical note on Nawab Saadat Ali Khan , whose treachery and low character far outmatched any British actor , including Clive.

Dalrymple spents great energy on famine of Bengal of 1770 and vilifying the company but fails to reconcile the fact that a far greater famine broke out in Bengal under the British crown. His treatment of events reeks with extreme polemics and subjectivism.

On page 12 there is a small typing error placing third Mysore war victory of Cornwallis in 1782 rather than 1792.

In describing Aurangzeb on page 13 Dalrymple misses the most essential fact that it was the Hindu Mahratta Insurgency that laid foundations of decline and fall of Mughal Empire. In this regard Rajputs etc. were mickey mouse players and the real hero of Hindu resurgence was Sivaji.

Degradingly describes Mohammad Shah but fails to note that under his tenure Mughals defeated Ahmad Shah Abdali at Sirhind in 1748

Battle of Buxar took place in 1764 and not in 1765 as Mr Dalrymple states on page-16.

Dalrymple is addicted to false fantasies. Thus he projects the Mughals as the height of civilization while these so called civilized Mughals in 1719 publicly tortured Banda Sahibs five year old son, gouging out his heart while the child was alive and shoving it in his fathers mouth !

Nadir Shah did not invade Afghanistan in 1739 but in 1738 via Helmand as it was a long way from Delhi but our brilliant and careless writer states he did so in 1739; worst is his treatment of military events like in describing First Anglo Mysore war he glorifies Hyder Ali but fails to note that he lost in various pitched battles to Colonel Smith and won only because of lack of cavalry by the company as well as extreme corruption of company’s officials.

Dalrymple’s treatment of military history is atrocious. Like in discussing Second Anglo-Mysore War he only discusses one battle Pollilore. whereas totally ignores the fact that Hyder Ali was repeatedly defeated at Porto Novo , Sholingur etc by Sir Eyre Coote. Dalrymple totally forgets the fact that while the company lost one battle in 1780 the war continued till 1784 and was inconclusive.

Dalyrmple’s use of historical facts is one sided and extremely biased.

Ahmad Shah Abdali never went to Delhi in 1762 so Dalrymples claim that he ousted Imad ul Mulk in 1762 is incorrect (page- 259 ).

By and large the book is a repetition of well known facts of British Indian history. However Dalrymple has wasted a book in vain as it brings out nothing new. His whole conclusion about the company and the title of the book “Anarchy” is extremely questionable and debatable. Firstly English East India Company did not cause anarchy in India as Dalrymple repeatedly tries to prove. India was in complete anarchy when the British company became a serious player. Delhi was sacked more than 40 times between 1737 and 1800 by non British but Dalrymple is blind to this hard fact. All the bad things he sees are only to be found in English East India Company.

His military knowledge is myopic and he constantly distorts military history and uses bits and pieces to prove or disprove as he wills at whim.

As a matter of fact the company restored order in India .First three universities in Indian history were founded at Calcutta ,Madras and Bombay in 1856-57. Outmoded customs like widow burning , infanticide etc were abolished by the company. A hereditary class of feudal was created by Lord Cornwallis in 1792 as a result of which political stability was introduced and strengthened in India.

The company had many reformers, philanthropists and utilitarians but Dalrymple in his irrational hatred is blind to all these people. To Dalrymple all that British East India Company did was bad and he has an extremely jaundiced and twisted vision. Dalrymple gives no weightage to the fact that British parliament and system prosecuted Clive and Warren Hastings and tried to regulate India. Above all Dalrymple forgets that without the driving spirit of corporate enterprise of the company the British would never have conquered India.

While personal interest has constantly dominated human conduct in history,  whether it was a company or a state , Dalrymple wears colored glasses and his perception is cloudy as well as confused.

Lastly my most serious issue with Dalrymple is his overly simplistic sweeping judgements. Mughals were as big opportunists as the company. They were a small group kicked out of central Asia and captured India or north India just like the British company because of superior military tactics. If you look at Mughal contributions you find only Taj Mahal or Shalimar Bagh in Lahore ! Whereas the British company gave India , irrigation , universities, a sound military system , a system of governance and social classes like feudal who made the system more stable.

Another point that Dalrymple totally misses is that the company saved the Indian Muslims from total political extinction . The Muslims were nobodies by 1800. Delhi was Mahratta ruled, Badshahi mosque of Lahore was a horse stable and a powder magazine! The Mahrattas and Sikhs totally dominated north India! But a knight in shining armor comes and saves the Indian Muslims. Lake saves Delhi Muslims ! Hugh Goughs saves Lahore and Peshawar Muslims ! But Dalrymple misses out all these things.

Dalrymples most serious failure is that greed and avarice is not a British company failing but a human failing and all Indian rulers were guilty of this .


Dalrymple fails to appreciate that Indians gladly fought against Indians under the company because the company paid salaries in time !

Dalyrmple fails to note that British company’s triumphs were triumphs of organization where Lieutenant Flint repeatedly defeated Tipu Sultan with a 100 % Indian force at Wandewash. Dalrymple fails to appreciate that India was conquered by an organizationally superior company using 80 % Indian manpower ! Why Indians followed them if they were so evil as Dalrymple believes or wants us to believe !

Today what we are seeing in Pakistan is far worst than what any British company could have done to this region. No one is safe in Pakistan, anyone who dares to speak the truth can be abducted by state security agencies. This scribe who retired as a major is getting less than 100 USD per month pension , which is good only for starvation and death.

But intellectually dishonest characters like Dalrymple can exaggerate and paint false pictures , just to sell his books ! And lastly Dalrymple fails to relate to what happened after the British left. Pakistan where I live is the most corrupt state in the world. Pakistan’s tax officials of the so called FBR are 1 billion times more corrupt than English East India Company could be in their wildest dreams. Parochialism is such that in todays Pakistan entire establishment consists of few districts and few castes of North Punjab and small parts of Sindh !

Characters like Dalrymple thrive on emotional manipulation which is why Dalrymple needs to be questioned and refuted !

Abrahamic Mysticism

from Dr Hamid Hussain

29 July 2023

This piece is about a whole different genre that may come as surprise to many as my work has been mainly on military history and current conflicts.  I have never written about it, as it was a personal journey.  Although for over a decade I have been engaged in conversations about the subject with a wide variety of individuals when I stumbled upon it while studying Judaism. I was more focused on the history of the Jews and religio-legal (halachic) traditions and works but introduction to Jewish spiritual traditions (kabbalah) opened another door. This is an introduction to the subject. A bit long therefore for only interested in the subject.



Shared Heritage – Jewish, Christian and Islamic Mysticism

Hamid Hussain

“Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.”
                                                                        Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

Every religion has two aspects; one deals with outward rituals and legal codes while the other with mystical aspect of contemplation and self-improvement. Mysticism tries to bridge the gap of understanding between an eternal divine entity and a finite universe and mortal human. The influence of mysticism within monotheistic religions has been a complex and multifaceted phenomenon throughout history. Each monotheistic religion – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – has its own distinct mystical traditions, but there have been instances of mutual influence among them. All three religions share the foundation of extensive list of prophets and their life stories described in Hebrew and Christian Bibles and Quran. Greek metaphysical ideas deeply influenced mystical trends of all three religions.

“Only through Kabbalah will we forever eliminate war, destruction, and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.”                                                Rabbi Avraham Azulai (1570-1643)

The earliest Jewish mystic was a second century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai “Rashbi.” His teachings are considered the main source of 13th century seminal mystical work called the Zohar (Radiance), which is one of the foundational works of Kabbalah. There is lot of controversy about the authorship of Zohar, and some consider it as the work of multiple medieval authors. Essenes were a small group of Jewish mystics who lived a communal life of poverty and ascetism in the holy land during Second Temple period (200 BCE – 100 CE). In Talmudic period, esoteric interpretations such as Ma’aseh Bereshit (works of creation) and Ma’aseh Merkabah (works of the divine throne) were restricted to only select students and widespread teaching of mystical tracts was discouraged.

Jewish Mysticism particularly the Kabbalah (Hebrew word meaning reception) emerged in the Middle Ages and focuses on the mystical interpretation of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). Kabbalistic teachings explore the nature of God, creation, and the soul’s journey towards union with the divine. Key concepts include the sefirot (divine emanations), mystical symbolism, meditation techniques, and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. Kabbalah draws its legitimacy from the sacred scripture of Torah (written) and Talmud (oral) traditions by offering esoteric explanations.

In western Ashkenazi Jewry, Juda Lowe ben Bezalel (1525-1609) of Prague, Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746) of Italy, Elijah (1720-1797) of Lithuania, Yisrael ben Eliezer “Baal Shem Tov” (1698-1760) of Ukraine, Rabbi Nachman (1772-1810) of Poland were pioneers of Hasidism. Their teachings emphasized the pursuit of joyous prayer, and personal connection with God.

Kabbalah thrived among eastern Jewry under Muslim rule. Sephardim (Iberian Peninsula) and Mizrahim (Middle East, North Africa, and Caucus) produced many great Kabbalists. Bahya ibn Paquda (1050-1120), Moshe ben Shem-Tov (1240-1305) and Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (1240-1291) in Spain and Abraham ben Moses Maimonides (1186-1237) in Egypt wrote great Kabbalist tracts. Among Mizrahim, Shalom Sharabi (1720-1777) of Yemen, Chaim Yosef David Azulai “Chida” (1724-1806) of Jerusalem and Ben Ishi Chai (1832-1909) of Baghdad continued the chain of mystics through centuries.

Rise of anti-Jewish sentiments in Middle Ages Christendom that culminated in expulsion of Jews from Iberian Peninsula in fifteenth century caused a national trauma. This gave rise to longing for arrival of long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Trials and tribulations of Jews stimulated an unprecedented vigorous legal, mystic and liturgic activity centered in Safed in northern Galilee region of Israel.

Sixteenth century was the golden period of Kabbalah and many great Jewish mystics made Safed their home. Many Sephardic Jews expelled from Iberian Peninsula made Safed their home. Isaac Luria “the Ari” (1534-1572) developed a profound mystical system known as Lurianic Kabbalah, which had a significant impact on subsequent Kabbalistic thought. His teachings focused on the process of Tikkun (rectification) and the mystical understanding of the creation of the universe. Rabbi Moses Cordovero “Ramak” (1522-1577) was a prominent figure in the development of Kabbalah and is known for his work “Pardes Rimonim” (Orchard of Pomegranates), which presents a comprehensive system of Kabbalistic teachings. He is credited for popularizing Kabbalah for the general audience. Rabbi Yousef Karo (1488-1575) in his mystical tract Maggid Meisharim (Preacher of Righteousness) recorded that a heavenly mentor guided his religious work. This angelic being also spurred him to acts of righteousness and asceticism. Safed of sixteenth century was also a center of Muslim mysticism where followers of great Sufi Ibn Arabi were residing. A great Sufi sage Ahmad al-Asadi (1537–1601) established his zawiya (Sufi lodge) in Safed.

Jewish mysticism has had a profound impact on Christian mysticism. During the Middle Ages, Jewish Kabbalistic ideas spread to Christian Europe, influencing mystical thought in movements such as Christian Cabala. Christian Cabalists interpreted these themes according to Christian theology.

During the medieval period, Islamic scholars were heavily influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy and Sufism. Jewish mystics, particularly in Spain and the Middle East, were exposed to these ideas and incorporated them into their own mystical frameworks. Concepts such as emanation (azilah in Hebrew and fayd in Arabic), the ascent of the soul (ma’alah in Hebrew and qaws al su’ud in Arabic), and the notion of divine love (ahavah in Hebrew and ishq in Arabic) found their way into Jewish mystical thought. Jewish mystics, especially in Spain, were influenced by Islamic philosophy, particularly the works of Islamic mystic philosophers like Shaikh Akbar Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1165-1240). These philosophers explored metaphysical concepts, the nature of God, and the relationship between God and creation, which had an impact on Jewish mystical theology.

Jewish mysticism evolved over time into various trends. This reflects different periods of Jewish history as well as intellectual and cultural influences of the era. Merkabah and Lurianic Kabbalah is theosophical in nature giving Jewish religious practice a mystic metaphysical meaning. Meditative and Ecstatic Kabbalah is inward looking and geared toward subjective experiences. Hekhalot (palaces) relates to vision of spiritual ascents into heavenly palaces and Markabah (chariot) tracts referring to how soul ascends to heavens.

“Seek by reading and you will find by meditating.

Cry in prayer and the door will be opened in contemplation.”

                                                  John of the Cross (1542-1591)

Christian mysticism encompasses a wide range of mystical traditions within Christianity. It emphasizes the direct experience of God and the union of the individual soul with the divine. Christian mystics seek spiritual transformation through contemplative prayer, meditation, and the pursuit of divine love. Major themes include the mystical journey, union with God, and the pursuit of inner transformation.

The Desert Fathers were early Christian monks and hermits who sought solitude and spiritual contemplation in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine during the 3rd and 4th centuries. They played a significant role in shaping the development of Christian asceticism, influencing the monastic movement, and leaving a lasting impact on Christian spirituality.

Christian mysticism has been influenced by various sources, including Jewish mysticism, Greek metaphysical philosophy, and Islamic mysticism after eighth century. The works of Christian mystics like Pseudo-Dionysius (5th & 6th Century) show Neoplatonic and Gnostic influences. Additionally, Christian mystics such as Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and John of the Cross (1542-1591) drew upon Jewish mystical concepts, including the divine longing for union and the significance of the spiritual path. Concepts like the sefirot (divine emanations) and mystical interpretations of the Hebrew Bible influenced Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) and Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522).

During the early centuries of Islamic expansion, encounters between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa facilitated the exchange of ideas and practices. Christian ascetics and mystics had an opportunity to interact with their Muslim counterparts, leading to a mutual influence in terms of ascetic practices, spiritual disciplines, and mystical insights.

Eastern Christendom in the Middle East drew heavily on Islamic mysticism as it came in direct contact with the Muslim world. Western Christendom encountered Islamic mysticism through translation of works of mystics of Muslim Spain.

“Dear Friend, Your Heart is a polished mirror. You must wipe it clean of the veil of dust which has gathered upon it, because it is destined to reflect the light of divine secrets.”
Abd Al-Qadir Jilani (1077-1166)

Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, originated in the early centuries of Islam. Sufis seek to attain a direct and personal experience of God’s presence. They emphasize spiritual purification, inner awakening, and the development of a deep connection with God through practices such as dhikr (remembrance of God meditation), and asceticism. Key themes in Sufism include the concept of tawhid (the unity of God), the love and longing for God, and the path of spiritual realization usually under the guidance of a spiritual teacher (shaykh).

Sufism developed its unique contemplative practices and spiritual language. However, it is not isolated from the influence of other monotheistic traditions. Kabbalistic ideas reached the Muslim world through Jewish and Christian interactions, contributing to the development of Islamic mysticism. During the Islamic Golden Age, Sufi thinkers interacted with Jewish and Christian mystics, exchanging ideas and practices. The concept of divine love found in Sufi poetry, such as the works of Jalal Uddin Rumi (1207-1273), shares similarities with Christian mystical expressions.

Muslims encountered Christian monasticism exemplified by ‘desert fathers’ in the middle east. Early Muslim ascetics drew inspiration from the examples of Christian monks and hermits who practiced rigorous asceticism in the desert. The simplicity of their lifestyle, devotion to prayer, and pursuit of spiritual purity resonated with early Muslim ascetics.

Stories and teachings of Christian mystical figures, such as St. Anthony of Egypt (251-356) and St. Simeon Stylites of Syria (390-459), gained widespread fame and influenced the development of Islamic asceticism. Early ascetics in Islam, embraced a lifestyle of simplicity, self-denial, and contentment with minimal material possessions, mirroring the Christian ascetic ideal.

Muslim Sufi traditions spread with conquest of large swaths of lands. Sufi sages dotted Muslim lands of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Muslim Spain, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and India. Mystic traditions developed in Sunni, Shia, and Ismaili denominations.

“I will soothe you and heal you,
I will bring you roses.
I too have been covered with thorns.”

Rumi (1207-1273)

Despite their distinct traditions, monotheistic mysticisms often explore common themes, such as the yearning for direct experience of the divine, the concept of divine love, and the idea of transcending the self to unite with the divine. These shared themes influenced the contemplative practices, poetic expressions, and philosophical outlooks of mystics across different monotheistic traditions.

Islamic hermeneutical approaches, such as allegorical interpretation and mystical exegesis of the Quran, influenced Jewish mystical interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. Kabbalistic scholars applied symbolic and allegorical readings to biblical texts, seeking mystical and hidden meanings in the sacred scriptures.

One example is understanding of sacred scripture in four diverse ways in Jewish and Muslim traditions. Hebrew Peshat (simple) and Arabic Zahir (clear) or Muhkam (lucid) is direct literal meaning of the text. Hebrew Remez (hint) and Arabic mutashabihat (unspecific) is allegorical meaning. Hebrew Darash (seek) and Arabic maja’az or isti’iara (figurative) is metaphorical explanation of sacred text and Hebrew Sod (secret) and Arabic Tawi’il (to return referring to returning to the hidden meaning) is inner esoteric meaning.

Another example is Hebrew and Arabic classification of souls. Jewish classification of the types of souls includes Nefesh; the animalistic part such as greed and lust that guides toward sinful life. Ruach contains moral virtues and helps to distinguish between good and evil while a higher spiritual plane of Neshamah takes him closer to God. Muslim concept explained in Quran is similar with nafs amm’arah is same as Nefesh that commands a person to do sin, nafs laww’wamah is Ruach that can recognize sin and makes him feel guilty while nafs mutma’innah is Neshamah that makes a person serene and content as he comes close to God.

In Hasidim, the concept of zaddik (pious and righteous man) who sometimes becomes a charismatic leader is same as Sufi concept of zahid (pious and righteous man). Jewish practice of Hitbonenut (being alone) bears similarities to Christian asceticism of desert fathers who sought solitude in deserts and contemplative Hesychasm (quiet) movement and Muslim concept of khalwa (solitude). These practices emphasize detachment from possessions and a focus on spiritual matters. Shem HaMephorash (explicit name) refers to recitation of seventy-two letter name of God in Jewish mystical practice that is like Christian exercise of repeating Christ name with inhalation and acknowledging one’s sin with exhalation and Muslim concept of zhikr (repetition of God’s names).

In 18th and 19th century rise of reason to explain theology resulted in erosion of esoteric and mystical trends of all three religions. Mysticism was viewed as something irrational and backward in the age of reason and modernization. Religious texts were re-interpreted through rational sciences of the time. It was hard for a rational practicing Jew, Christian or Muslim to explain miracles and nature of divine in the age of science. In the 20th century, industrial scale carnage of First and Second World Wars, rise and fall of Communism and unchained capitalism focused on unlimited consumption resulted in social and environmental degradation. This rekindled interest in age old questions of divine existence, purpose of human existence beyond physical realm and search for peace at individual and collective level. Man’s quest about his own existence brought back mysticism in the cultural discourse of all three religions. Its off shoot was ‘new age spiritualism’ that distanced itself from tradition by using secular motifs and even ‘McDonaldization’ of spirituality.

All three mystical traditions share common values, but each express it in its own theological framework with unique symbols and cultural expressions. However, the basic struggle is to explore the mysteries of existence and deepen spiritual connection with the divine. In a globalized world and democratization of access to information, this exchange will increase with time for those interested to embark on this journey.

“We must close our eyes and invoke a new manner of seeing, a wakefulness that is the birthright of us all, though few put it to use.”
Plotinus (204-270)

Acknowledgement: Author thanks a number of ordinary folks belonging to diverse faiths and ethnicities (Arab, Iranian, Central Asian, Kurd, Jew, Christian, Greek, Armenian, Israeli & Palestinian) during his travels to Saudi Arabia and Israel who shared their hopes and dreams in many conversations on the streets of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.

 Hamid Hussain

19 July 2023

Brown Pundits