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The Necessity For The Ummah To Be Vigilant And To Unite

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The Necessity for the Ummah to be Vigilant and to Unite[using large font size is not allowed]

 

By Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

President — The International Union for Muslim Scholars

 

An important principle is to beware of the Muslim Ummah's enemies' schemes that they use to divide and disunite the Ummah so that it can never share a common goal or work together.We have known our enemies' philosophy since they began to colonize our countries. Their goal and method are clear: divide and rule. They make every effort to disunite us in order to dominate us.

 

It is well known that unity is power. In fact, unity strengthens small numbers and disunity weakens large numbers. The enemies of the Muslim Ummah were able to harm it only when it disintegrated under different banners and its leaders varied and fought each other, which allowed their enemy to penetrate them and sow poison among them so that they would plot against one another. The following verse applies: [And dispute not one with another lest ye falter and your strength depart from you] (Al-Anfal 8:46). So too does the hadith in which the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Do not differ, for the nations before you differed and perished (because of their differences)."

 

What the enemies of this Ummah find most disturbing is its unity, and what they find most pleasing is to see the disintegration and division of this Ummah. If they saw the masses of our Ummah uniting to accomplish one goal, believing in one creed, and living under one leadership, this would annoy them and kindle envy and fury in their hearts, which in turn would drive them to do everything to convert this unity to dissension and this brotherhood to enmity.

 

This is exactly what happened during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). A Jew named Shas ibn Qais saw that the two previously clashing tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, united under the Islamic creed and shared the brotherhood of Islam and forgot their long-standing pre-Islamic wars. When they embraced Islam, Allah gave them peace instead of war, security instead of fear, and fellowship and love instead of animosity.

 

This brotherly scene annoyed the evil Shas, so he took it upon himself to remind them of the pre-Islamic period and the conflicts that it had witnessed. He started reciting the barbarian poetry written by one tribe's poet, so the other tribe responded by reciting what its poet said until the pre-Islamic fanaticism awakened. The men of the Aws shouted, "O people of Aws!" and those of the Khazraj shouted, "O people of Khazraj!" All the men shouted, "The weapons, the weapons!" When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) heard about this, he hurried to them and said, "Are they shouting this call of the period of ignorance, while I am still with you? Stop this (appeal for tribalism), for it is an evil call." Then he reminded them of Allah and recited some verses of the Qur'an. They wept, regretted their deed, and repented. Then, knowing that they had been tempted by Satan, the men of the two tribes embraced one another.

 

Some verses of Surat Aal `Imran were revealed regarding this incident:

 

[O ye who believe! If ye obey a party of those who have received the Scripture they will make you disbelievers after your belief [as the context indicates, they will divide you after you are united and make you transgressors after you are brothers]. How can ye disbelieve [disunite] when Allah's revelations are recited unto you, and His Messenger is in your midst? He who holdeth fast to Allah is indeed guided unto a right path. O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah with right observance, and die not save as those who have surrendered (unto Him). And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate. And remember Allah's favor unto you: how ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace; and (how) ye were upon the brink of an abyss of fire, and He did save you from it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations unto you, that haply ye may be guided.] (Aal `Imran 3:100-103)

 

But Shas ibn Qais, who tried to sow dissension among the Aws and the Khazraj, still exists in other guises. He has the same aim; he and his helpers, his children, and his siblings will continue the task of plotting against our Ummah, stirring up strife, and spreading mutual fear and hatred among Muslims. They use every means and go through every crack to tear this Ummah apart. Sometimes they take advantage of religious differences to disunite Muslims and Christians, as they do in Egypt. Other times they use ethnic differences, such as in Iraq where there are Arabs and Kurds, and in Morocco where there are Arabs and Berbers. They also use doctrinal differences between Muslims, such as in Iraq and Lebanon where there are Sunnis and Shiites, and in Oman where there are Sunnis and Ibadis (a sub group of Kharijites but much more moderate. Ibadism is currently the official sect of Oman)

 

In the war between Iraq and Iran , the national element was prevalent: Arabs vs. Persians. But our enemies want a clear religious war between the Sunnis and the Shiites!

If they do not find anything to divide Muslims about , they use other ideological categorizations such as calling some "nationalists" and others "Islamists," or "rightists" and "leftists," or "revolutionaries" and "liberals," and so on and so forth.

 

But vigilant watchers notice that those sowers of dissension have been stressing for a while on the doctrinal differences between Muslims, for they hope from the bottom of their hearts to kindle tumult that would completely destroy everything between Sunnites and Shiites. In the war between Iraq and Iran , the national element was prevalent: Arabs vs. Persians. But our enemies want a clear religious war between the Sunnis and the Shiites! They want everybody to fight while they happily watch. But Allah Almighty says,[They plot, but Allah (also) plotteth; and Allah is the best of plotters] (Al-Anfal 8:30).

 

Whatever disagreement Muslims might have among themselves should never turn into fighting. This is what the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) warned against most eloquently during Farewell Hajj, when he said, "Do not revert to disbelief after me by striking the necks of one another (that is, killing each other)."

 

The worst calamity that might befall this Ummah is when enmity among its people becomes great, just as Allah described the old condition of the Jews: [Their adversity among themselves is very great. Ye think of them as a whole whereas their hearts are diverse] (Al-Hashr 59:14).

 

One of the divine punishments that can afflict nations is that some of them taste the violence of each other, as Allah Almighty says: [say: "He is able to send punishment upon you from above you or from beneath your feet, or to bewilder you with dissension and make you taste the tyranny one of another"] (Al-An`am 6:65).

 

The Muslim Ummah — with all its communities, schools, doctrines, races, and regions — is called upon to wake up and see the snare prepared for it. The Ummah should stop, think, and reconsider who are its friends and who are its enemies, especially after the war on Iraq, its repercussions, and the appearance of the United States as the sole power that deifies itself on earth. It is asked neither about what it is doing nor about what it wants.

 

It is high time for the weak to unite to confront this tyrannical power. It is time for the believers to unite to face the new pharaoh who is saying to people "I am your lord, the most high."

 

Necessity of Unity in Hardships

 

If it is permissible for some people to divide and disagree in times of well-being and victory, it is absolutely impermissible for them to divide in times of hardship and distress. Calamities are supposed to bring close those who are separated, and misfortunes should unite those who are struck by them.

 

We are suffering nowadays from afflictions and calamities in each and every nation of ours and in our Ummah at large, especially after the September 11 attacks. Since then, the whole Ummah has entered a hard test and a dangerous situation that require all its members, and particularly its scholars, da`iyahs, and reformers, to stand as one organized front in the battle facing Islam and Muslims. In time of battle, all should unite; no dissonant voice should rise to divide the Ummah in the time of danger. Allah Almighty says [Lo! Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure] (As-Saff 61:4).

 

One of the most serious dangers is when the disbelieving enemies of this Ummah unite and support each other, while the people of faith stay apart and fail to unite. This is what the Qur'an warned against in the verse [And those who disbelieve are protectors one of another. If ye do not do so, there will be confusion in the land, and great corruption] (Al-Anfal 8:73).This means that if you fail to be one another's helpers and protectors, as your enemies are, there will be affliction and great corruption, for this indicates the people of falsehood are united and the people of truth are disunited, This is the gravest of all dangers.

 

We have seen non-Muslims united although there are many sources of disagreement among them, some historical and some practical. Such was the case of the European Union: Its countries fought many wars against each other, the last of which were the two world wars with millions of victims, but they put the tragedies behind them and found that their greatest interest is their unity.

 

Before that, we saw different Christian doctrines getting closer, and the same happened between Christianity in general and Judaism, in spite of the historical animosity between them. The Vatican even issued its famous document that acquits the Jews of the blood of Christ!

 

Muslims are the only people who disagree and dispute with each other, although there are many reasons for their unity. It is enough that they all direct themselves towards one qiblah in prayer; that they believe that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger; that they are satisfied with Allah as their Lord, with Islam as their religion, with the Qur'an as their standard, and with Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as their Prophet and Messenger.

 

The Glorious Qur'an relates in the story of Musa (Moses, peace be upon him) an incident that carries wisdom and insight for wise people. It is the incident of Harun (Aaron, peace be upon him) with his people. When Musa went away for 40 nights to talk to his Lord, As-Samiri led his people astray by making them a statue of a calf that made a sound like mooing. He said, "This is your god and the god of Musa." The people obeyed him and worshiped the calf, which could not return them a word for answer, and which had no power either to harm them or to do them good. [And Aaron indeed had told them beforehand: "O my people! Ye are but being seduced therewith, for lo! Your Lord is the Beneficent, so follow me and obey my order." They said: "We shall by no means cease to be its votaries till Moses return unto us"] (Taha 20:90–91).

 

When Musa returned, he was enraged and grieved because of what his people had done in his absence. He threw the tablets of the Torah on the ground out of anger for Allah and the Truth, and seized his brother by the hair of his head and dragged him towards him saying, as the Qur'an states, [He (Moses) said: "O Aaron! What held thee back when thou didst see them gone astray. That thou followedst me not? Hast thou then disobeyed my order?" He said: "O son of my mother! Clutch not my beard nor my head! I feared lest thou shouldst say: 'Thou hast caused division among the Children of israel , and hast not waited for my word'"] (Taha 20:92-94).

 

Musa was satisfied with his brother's answer and the Qur'an acknowledges it. This indicates that what Harun took into consideration has its importance in religion: to be careful to preserve the unity of the community so that it may not disintegrate and to hold one's tongue about a great sin — associating another in worship with Allah, the greatest sin of all — for the sake of the unity of the community. It was certainly a temporary silence until Musa returned from his journey, and the two brothers confered with each other about dealing suitably with the serious situation.

 

No one should say that this was the religion of the nations before us and that it is not binding on us to follow, because the Qur'an relates such accounts in order for us to take lessons and examples from them. Allah says, [in their history verily there is a lesson for men of understanding] (Yusuf 12:111).

 

Moreover, Allah says to His Messenger after mentioning the names of some of His noble messengers, [Those are they whom Allah guideth, so follow their guidance] (Al-An`am 6:90).

 

Uniting the Muslim Ummah is required at all times, and it is even more required during this hard phase of our Ummah's history. The Ummah's unity is a religious obligation and a necessity required by international reality. The Ummah's unity is power and its disunity makes it an easy victim for the enemies.

 

I conclude my research with this verse: [The believers are nothing else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren, and fear Allah that haply ye may obtain mercy] (Al-Hujurat 49:10).

 

I invoke Allah with the same invocation of the followers into faith who came after the Muhajirun and the Ansar: [And those who came (into the faith) after them say: "Our Lord Forgive us and our brethren who were before us in the faith, and place not in our hearts any rancor toward those who believe. Our Lord! Thou art Full of Kindness, Most Merciful"] (Al-Hashr 59:10).

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Principles for the Rapprochement of Muslim Schools of Thought

 

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad, whom Allah sent as a mercy for all human beings.May peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, his family, and his Companions, who honored and supported him and followed the light with which he was sent; they are the successful; may Allah be merciful to whoever follows them until the Day of Judgment.

 

Many people in both the East and the West have called for dialogue between religions, particularly Christianity and Islam,especially afterthe September 11 attacks.Many people have responded positively to this invitation, and Muslims and Christians have met in several meetings and conferences in different countries. I myself have participated in two major conferences. One of them was in Rome through an invitation from thecommunity of Sant'Egidio. Theconference was called the Muslim-Christian Summit attended by prominent Muslim and Christian figures. The second conference, which was held in Cairo, was jointly organized by the International Islamic Council for Da`wahand Relief and the International Forum for Islamic Dialogue. The main focus in the latter conference was on Christians from the Middle East. I have also taken part in other conferences of a lesser level.

 

At this point, many voices have risen in the Muslim world asking, "Why don't Muslims hold dialogue with each other? Shouldn't it be one of their priorities?" Doesn't the Prophetic hadith say, "Start with yourself, and then with whom you are in charge"? Are the differences among us Muslims greater than the differences between us and other religions? Why don't we hold dialogue to reach a mutual understanding and rapprochement?

 

Undoubtedly the logics of religion, science, and reality affirm that dialogue between Muslims is a priority that should be considered by intellectuals in the Muslim Ummah. We Muslims are ordered by Allah to hold dialogue with people of other religions, as Allah Almighty says:[Reason with them in the better way](An-Nahl16:125). So could not we then hold dialogue with those with whom we share the same creed, pray towards the same qiblah(direction of the Ka'bah) and make the same testimony of faith (Shahadah)?

 

That is why I think that our concern for Muslim–Christian dialogue should not be emphasized more than our concern for Muslim–Muslim dialogue, especially between Sunnis and Shiites. The purpose of such dialogue should be to bring the two groups closer with sincerity, not falsehood.

 

Meeting each other, engaging in dialogue and exchanging ideas help people reach a mutual understanding and eliminate the feeling of aversion, replacing it with friendliness. This further clears away obscurity and suspicions, provided there are: sincere intentions, faithful objectives, firm wills, that intellect should overcome prejudice and moderation should overcome extremism.

 

Still, there is an important factor that urges the whole Muslim Ummah, with all its schools and communities, to converge and unite. This factor is represented in the sweeping danger that threatens the whole Ummah, namely the commonalities that bring together some adherents of Judaism, Christianity, and other world religions. In spite of their differences, they have united to fight their common enemy — Islam. AllahAlmighty says:[And lo! As for the wrongdoers, some of them are friends of other](Al-Jathiyah45:19).

 

If we theoretically assume that the Muslim Ummah could afford to dispute in easy times (which in reality not permissible under any conditions) ,dispute is not allowed in days of hardship and affliction. In times of difficulty, people should unite, and those disputing should put aside all their differences and come together in the face of afflictions. May God bless the soul of the late Egyptian poet Ahmad Shawqias he said: "Verily, afflictions unite those afflicted."

 

With this objective in mind, I have written this group of articles that constitute a file on the issue of Sunni-Shi'ah dialogue in the hope that they sparkle the candle that lights the road for Muslims to come closer together in these difficult times when the Muslim Ummah is facing all kinds of invasions: religious, cultural, economic, political, and military. The Muslim Ummah is in fact going through a critical time in which it needs, more than any other time, unity, adherence to the Qur'an and avoidance of internal differences. It is the duty of Muslim scholars to draw attention to this important objective in order to encourage the Muslim Ummah to survive and be better able to resist all forms of animosity.

 

Following are the main pillars of this study:

 

*Knowing the Others from their Own Sources

*Searching for the Common Ground

*Intelligent Discussion Without Provocation

*Avoiding Excessiveness

*The Necessity for the Ummah to be Vigilant and to Unite

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Knowing the Others from their Own Sources

 

The first principle upon which Muslim-Muslim dialogue should be built is good understanding. There is no doubt that good understanding is required before one starts to do anything, so that one may proceed with a clear vision, which is essential for the correctness of action and behavior. That is why in Islam knowledge precedes action, as explained by Imam Al-Bukhari in his Sahih, and for which he quotes the verse [so know (O Muhammad) that there is no god save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women](Muhammad 47:19). In this verse, Allah's command to know precedes His command to ask forgiveness.

 

In the same manner, the first Qur'anic verse revealed was that which starts with the word "read," and the second group of verses revealed said [O thou enveloped in thy cloak. Arise and warn! Thy Lord magnify. Thy raiment purify](Al-Muddaththir 74:1-4). Reading is the key to knowledge and understanding, so it serves as an introduction to the demand for action.

 

By "good understanding" we mean becoming well acquainted with the true position of the other side by taking the information from the other side's authentic sources or from known trustworthy scholars ; not from the public, rumors, or the lives of people, which can sometimes be against the Shari`ah. In this regard, it is very important to distinguish between fundamental and secondary issues, the obligatory and the supererogatory, agreed-upon issues and disagreed-upon ones, rumors and facts.

 

Distortion of the Qur'an

 

Take for example the issue of the distortion of the Qur'an. Some Shiite scholars claimed that the Qur'an was distorted, which means that it is incomplete. They even wrote books about this and introduced evidence to support it by quoting some accounts from Al-Kafi as well as from other respected books of theirs. This opinion, however, is not agreed upon; some of their scholars refuted it and disproved the evidence. We should take up this opinion, not the former, for the following reasons:

 

1. All Shiites agree that everything in a mushaf (a copy of the Qur'an) is Allah's protected and preserved words.

 

2. The mushaf of Shiites today all over the world is the same as that of Sunnis; the printed mushaf in Iran is the same as that in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, and all other countries in the Muslim world.

 

3. The Qur'an, which some claim to have been distorted, is the same one that Shiites have interpreted in the past and today. They have never interpreted any other Qur'an. It is the same one whose eloquence and inimitability they talk about until this day.

 

4. This is the Qur'an that they use to prove their beliefs in their creedal books and their judgments in their jurisprudential books.

 

5. This is the Qur'an that they teach their children in religious and governmental schools, as well as in the media.

 

That is why we have to stress the necessity of differentiating between agreed-upon issues and disagreed-upon ones. Agreed-upon issues are those about which we should be concerned and abide by.

 

Prostrating on a Stone Tablet

 

Another example is the issue of the Shiite custom of prostrating with their head placed on a stone tablet. (Most Shiites place a round stone or clay tablet in front of them when they pray. When they prostrate, they place their forehead on the tablet.) Sunnis commonly think that Shiites use the tablet and sanctify it because it is from Karbala or represents and symbolizes the soil of Karbala , where Al-Hussein (may Allah be pleased with him) was beheaded and buried.

 

At first, I used to think so myself, until Imam Musa As-Sadr, a renowned Shiite leader in Lebanon and chairman of the Shiite council there, visited us in Doha, Qatar in the 1960s. We discussed several matters and the issue of the stone tablet was mentioned. I learned from him that Ja`fari Shiites make it a condition that prostration be on the earth itself; so they consider prostrating on carpets, clothes, or the like to be an invalid way to pray.

 

Because most Masjids are covered with carpets and other stuff that do not come from earth which would invalidate prayer according to the Ja`fari school, Shiites try to provide a clay or stone tablet from the earth for each person to prostrate on during prayers. It is not necessary that it should be from the soil of Karbala or anywhere else. It can be taken from anywhere. I verified this by reading and studying texts, that I own, written by scholars of the Ja`fari school, from Al-Mukhtasar An-Nafi` (The Useful Summary) to Jawahir Al-Kalam (The Jewels of Speech

 

When I visited Iran in 1998, I confirmed what I had learned about this issue. Many scholars visited me in my hotel room and when they prayed, they didn't have a clay or stone tablet with them. I observed that they took tissue paper to use instead of a tablet as they regarded that the fabric of the tissue paper was part of the natural soil of the earth. It is not a textile like a carpet. The important thing that I would like to emphasize here is that the idea of the "sacred soil" has disappeared because Instead of believing rumors spread among lay people, I only found out the truth behind the significance of the clay tablets used by Shiites by asking trustworthy scholars and reading reliable references.

 

In his book Al-Insaf fi Masa'il Dam fiha Al-Khilaf (Impartiality in long disagreed upon issues) Ayatollah Ja`far As-Sabhani wrote the following:

 

According to Shiites, it is desirable to use good, clean soil, and one must be sure of its purity whatever earth it is taken from, and whatever place of the world it came from, all soil is equally clean (As-Sabhani 264:V1)

 

I advise Sunnis to follow the principle of good understanding, and I also give the same advice to Shiites regarding their standpoint towards Sunnis. It is also necessary for them (the Shiites) to distinguish between fundamental and secondary issues, essential and marginal matters, agreed-upon and disagreed-upon issues, rumors and facts proven by trustworthy scholars.

 

Thinking Well of the Other

 

The second principle required in Muslim- Muslim dialogue -after well understanding- is mutual trust. It is very important to bring different doctrines closer together. Islam establishes relationships among its followers based on trust. This means that Muslims should think well of their fellow Muslim's speech or behavior, even if it has another unfavorable meaning or implication.

 

Allah Almighty says: [O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion, for lo! Some suspicion is a sin](Al-Hujurat 49:12). This evil suspicion means thinking ill of others. In his Tafseer, Ibn Kathir wrote the following about this verse:

 

Allah Almighty forbids His believing servants from holding too much suspicion, which means accusing and mistrusting family, relatives, and other people wrongfully, because some of this suspicion may be pure sin, so much of it should be avoided as a precaution. Commander of the Faithful `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) said, "Never should you think ill of a word that has come out of your fellow believer's mouth; you should always find a good interpretation for it.(Ibn Kathir 212-213: V 4)

 

IbnKathir also mentioned a hadith, narrated by Ibn Majah, in which `Abdullah ibn `Amr said the following:

 

I saw Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) circumambulating the Ka`bah and saying, "How pure you areand how pure your fragrance is! How great you are and how great is your sanctity! By He in Whose hands lies the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of a believer, his property, his blood, and thinking well of him are greater to Allah Almighty than your sanctity. (Ibn Majah Hadith no 3932)

 

Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Beware of suspicion (about others), as suspicion is the falsest talk; do not spy upon each other, do not listen to the evil talk of the people about others' affairs, and do not have enmity and enviousness with one another, but be brothers"(Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

 

We are obliged to always think well of other Muslims unless we have evidence of otherwise. In regard to the famous event of slander that involved Al Sayyidah Ai'shah, Allah Almighty says: [Why did not the believers, men and women, when ye heard it, think good of their own folk; and say: It is a manifest untruth?](An-Nur 24:12).[b/] The Almighty also says about the hypocrites:[Nay, but ye deemed that the Messenger and the believers would never return to their own folk, and that was made fair seeming in your hearts, and ye did think an evil thought, and ye were worthless folk](Al-Fath 48:12). When we think ill of people, we accuse them and look at them through dark glasses that hide their good qualities. It is as if we look at their faults through a microscope that magnifies them even more.

 

Some of the pious predecessors said, "I look for excuses for my brother, until I exhaust seventy excuses, and then I say, "Perhaps he may have another excuse that I am not aware of."

In my book As-Sahwah Al-Islamiyyah bayna Al-Juhud wa At-Tatarruf (Islamic Awakening between Rejection an d Extremism), I mentioned the signs of extremism and features of excessiveness thinking ill of people. I wrote the following:

 

One would find that extremists are always rushing into thinking ill of and accusing others for the most trivial reasons. They never look for excuses, but rather search for faults, collect errors, and spread them out. With this, they end up considering errors as sins, and sins as disbelief!

 

If there is a word or a deed that can be interpreted in two ways — a good one and an evil one — they (the extremists) would incline toward the evil one, which disagrees with the teachings of scholars of the Muslim Ummah who say that the original state of a Muslim is rightness and one should try to correct his sayings and doings as much as possible (Al Qaradawi 54,57).

 

Some of the pious predecessors said, "I look for excuses for my brother, until I exhaust seventy excuses, and then I say, "Perhaps he may have another excuse that I am not aware of." As for some extremists of today whoever disagrees with them in opinion or behavior by adopting a point of view that he deems more sound , would be considered by them a disobeyer, an innovator in religion, a despiser of Sunnah, or whatever charges their suspicion makes them believe.

 

Furthermore, the suspicions of those extremists are not limited to the public but extend to the elite of scholars. There are few Muslim scholars, or intellectuals who have not been burned by the flames of those people's accusations. Whenever a jurist issues a fatwa that would ease the life of people and mitigate their difficulties, they accuse him of being lax in religion. If a da`iyah makes a presentation that suits the taste of the age, using contemporary language in presenting Islam, he would be charged with being psychologically defeated before the West and the Western civilization.

 

What is more, these suspicions are not limited to the living people; they have even reached the dead, who cannot defend themselves. They have not excluded any of the prominent figures from their accusations, saying that so and so is a Mason and so and so is a Mu`tazilite. Even the great imams of the schools of jurisprudence are not safe from the tongues and suspicions of such extremists.

 

Moreover, a group of them have blasted the whole history of the Muslim Ummah with all the knowledge, culture, and civilization it contains. They see it as a history of seditions and struggles for power; another group sees it as a history of ignorance and disbelief; and a third group even claims that the whole Muslim Ummah returned to disbelief after the fourth Hijri century

 

A predecessor of such people said to Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), referring to a division of the booty the Prophet had made, "This is a division in which something other than the pleasure of Allah is sought! O Muhammad! Be fair, for you have not been fair!" On another occasion, someone told him "O Muhammad! Fear Allah"

 

Such people are fond of destruction, not construction, and of criticizing others while praising themselves. However, Allah says:[so ascribe not purity unto yourselves. He knows best him who fears Allah](An-Najm 53:32). What is quintessentially wrong about these people is the distrust that is deeply rooted in their souls. If only they would refer to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, they would find teachings that implant in the soul the importance of trusting other Muslims. If the Muslim finds a fault in his fellow Muslim, he should keep it a secret so that Allah may keep him in this world and in the Hereafter. And if he finds a good trait in his brother, he should reveal and spread it. A Muslim should not let a bad trait he saw in his fellow Muslim make him forget his other good traits, which he knows or does not know.

 

Yes Islam warns us strongly against two big sins : mistrusting Allah and mistrusting people. The origin of this mistrust is self-conceit and despising others, which led to the first disobedience to Allah in this world — that of Satan, who said:[i am better than him (Adam). Thou created me of fire while him Thou didst create of mud](Al-A`raf 7:12).

 

Enough for a warning is to mention the authentic hadith in which Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said "If you hear a man saying 'People have become ruined,' He would be the reason of their ruin." This means that through his haughtiness, mistrust, and making them despair of the mercy of Allah Almighty, he becomes the very reason for their ruin. In another narration of the hadith, the Prophet is reported to have said "He is the nearest one to ruin," which means that he is the one who would suffer the severest and quickest ruin because of his haughtiness, self-conceit, and accusation of others.

 

Self-conceit is one of the moral destroyers that Muslim scholars call "the acts of heart's disobediences," against which Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) warned us. He said "There are three destroyers, namely stinginess, following one's whims, and self-conceit."

 

Muslims should never be proud about adeed they do, but rather, they should be afraid that it might contain a flaw that would result in it being rejected. The Qur'an describes the believers who race in doing good deeds:[And those who give that which they give with hearts afraid because they are sure to return unto their Lord](Al-Mu'minun 23:60). Hadiths that explain this verse mention that it was revealed in regard to people who do good deeds and are afraid that Allah would not accept them.

 

In the same connection, Ibn `Ata' Allahu Al-Sakandari in his famous collection of wisdom, wrote the following:

 

Allah may open to you the door of obedience, yet keep the door of acceptance closed. He may also predestine a sin for you, yet it becomes a reason to get closer to Him. An act of disobedience that triggers humiliation and submission to Allah is better than an act of obedience that triggers pride and haughtiness.

 

The origin of this wisdom is an aphorism of Imam `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him):

 

A bad deed that saddens you is better in Allah's sight than a good deed that you admire (and makes you admire yourself).

 

In addition, Ibn Mas`ud said the following:

 

Destruction lies in two things: self-admiration and despair. Happiness is attained only through effort, and a self-admirer never makes an effort because he feels he has already achieved his aims.And a desperate person never makes an effort because he thinks that it is of no use.

 

Therefore, I believe that the first thing that should be removed from our way in order to draw the Muslim Ummah closer together is thinking ill of others as thinking well of others is the condition of the people of faith.

 

I once told a religious extremist person about some Shiites in whom I saw honesty, straightforwardness, moderation, and sincerity. But this person said, "They have behaved like this as a way of taqiyyah (a Shiite doctrine that permits one to behave in a certain way that is different from what one believes in order to avoid persecution by an enemy)," and said that taqiyyah is a part of the Shiite religious structure.

 

I mentioned to another man that when I visited scholars in Iran, they requested that Ilead them in prayer. He said, "This is a type of taqiyyah!" I replied, "What is the need for this taqiyyah? I am not one of those who are feared. I did not ask to be the imam, nor did I expect it." Taqiyyah is only practiced by a weak person. And after the success of the Islamic revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Shiites have become powerful and do not need to practice taqiyyah.

 

Indeed, interpreting every good act done by Shiites as being an act of taqiyyah is a kind of mistrust that is unjustifiable and unnecessary.

 

References

 

As –Sabhani, Ja'far. Al-Insaf fi Masa'il Dam fiha Al-Khilaf(Impartiality in long disagreed upon issues),Qum, Iran : Imam Al Sadeq Institute.

 

Ibn Kathir. Tafseer. 4vols. Syria: Al Halabi Print House.

 

Ibn, Majah. Sunnan. Kitab Al Fitan

 

Qaradawi, Youssef. Islamic Awakening between Rejection and Extremism. USA, Virginia: International Institute of Islamic Thought

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Searching for the Common Ground

 

Among the important principles of Muslim-Muslim dialogue is to concentrate on areas of agreement rather than those of disagreement, especially in light of the fact that most of the areas of agreement are in the principles on which our religion is based. As for the areas of disagreement and difference, most of them are in the subsidiary matters of religion.

 

Areas of Agreement

 

A- All Muslims agree on the belief in Allah Almighty, in the Last Day, in Prophet Muhammad's message, and in his being the Seal of the Prophets who came to perfect and complete all the divine messages. Muslims also agree on the belief in all with which Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent, such as believing in all the Scriptures Allah Almighty revealed to His messengers and in all the messengers He sent to humanity.

 

[The Messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) the believers. Each one believeth in Allah, His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. The believers say " we make no distinction between any of His messengers" and they say, "We hear, and we obey; (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the return (of all)."](Al-Baqarah 2:285).

 

In this verse, we can perceive the pillars of belief on which we all agree.

 

B-All Muslims agree on the belief in the Qur'an and that it is all clear Allah Almighty's book, the wise reminder and the straight pass.The Almighty says, referring to the Qur'an, [(This is) a Scripture the revelations whereof are perfected and then expounded. (It cometh) from One (Allah) Who is All-Wise andWell-Acquainted](Hud 11:1). Allah also states that the Qur'an is protected by Allah and is not liable to distortion or change: [Verily,it is We Who have sent down theReminder (the Qur'an), and surely, We will guard it (from corruption)](Al-Hijr 15:9). It is needless to say that no Muslim, whether Sunni or Shiite, objects to the fact that what is between the two covers of the Qur'an is from Allah.

 

It is well known that debaters use the words of the Qur'an in their theological debates, as do jurists in deriving jurisprudential rulings and the same applies to educators in different fields. All refer to the Qur'an and make use of it, regardless of their different backgrounds.

 

As regard some of the Shiite's' claims that there is an additional part to this Qur'an, this is a matter that we do not have to discuss, for it is a digression. What we have agreed upon is exactly what we need and is what we should abide by, act upon, and never neglect.

 

Allah Almighty says:

 

[so judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires, but beware of them lest they turn you far away from some of that which Allah hath revealed unto thee. And if they turn away, then know that Allah's will is to smite them for some sin of theirs. And truly, many of mankind lead evil lives. Is it a judgment of the time of (pagan) ignorance that they are seeking? Who is better than Allah for judgment to a people who have certainty (in their belief)?](Al-Ma'idah 5:49-50)

 

We observe that Qur'an here warns the Prophet Muhammad from following the whims of some of the peoples of the book and their likes. It also warns him (PBUH) not to be turned away by them from [from some of that which Allah hath revealed unto thee] The warning stated in these verses indicates that whatever Allah revealed has to be followed.

 

C-Other areas of agreement between the Sunnis and Shiites include abidance by the practical pillars of Islam, which are : the Shahadah (the two testimonies of faith testifying that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah), performing Prayer, paying zakah, fasting Ramadan, and performing Hajj. Both Sunnis and Shiites practice these pillars and obligations, though there can be some differences in some rulings, but the same happens among the Sunni schools (Madhahib) anyways.

 

When one studies the schools ofjurisprudence (madhhabs), one would find so many differences between the Hanbali and the Maliki Schools for example. There are also many cases in which the Hanbali School adopted an opinion different from all the opinions adopted by other schools. Those cases were known as mufradat al-madhhab (opinions that are exclusive to the followers of a certain madhhab, which are neither shared nor agreed upon by other madhhabs). Those opinions and cases were even gathered in a well-known didactic poem by a Hanbali scholar.

 

When one reads a classical book that deals with differences of opinion between different schools of jurisprudence such as the book Nail Al-Awtar by Ash-Shawkani, one will find no significant differences among the opinions of Sunni and Shiite scholars of jurisprudence. This appears in Ash-Shawkani's book in which he states the opinions of Sunni scholars along with Shiite ones, whom he calls jurists of the "Prophet's household," such as Al-Baqir, As-Sadiq, An-Nasir, and Al-Hadi. The reader will hardly be able to notice more differences between Sunni and Shiite schools than between Sunni schools themselves. If such conclusion is clear in the jurisprudence of worships ('Ibadat), then it will even be more valid and clear in the jurisprudence of transactions ( Mu'amalat).

 

Despite that , Shiite scholars do not recognize the Sunni reference books of Hadith, such as Malik's Muwatta', Ahmad's Musnad, Al-Bukhari's Sahih, Muslim's Sahih, Abu Dawud's Sunan, At-Tirmidhi's Sunan, Ibn Majah's Sunan, Ad-Darimi's Sunan, and many other books of Hadith, most of the hadiths stated in Sunni books of Hadith and Sunnah are narrated in the Shiite books through their own chains of narrators, reporting either from Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) or from their imams, whom they consider to be infallible.

 

What is really important to stress in this regard, is that both the Sunni and Shiite branches of jurisprudence are largely similar, because the source is the same — the divine revelation in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. In addition, the objective of religion according to both parties is the same — establishing Allah's justice and mercy among His servants.

 

After thorough research , we will find that many of their opinions that we regard as odd, are in fact adopted by some Sunni scholars. Take for example, the most famous jurisprudential issue that sparked dispute between the two schools, that is, the issue of mut`ah marriage (a form of temporary marriage that expires after an agreed-upon period of time ). Mut`ah marriage was deemed permissible by one of the greatest scholars of this Ummah, namely `Abdullah ibn `Abbas. Though it is said he had retracted his opinion, some of his students in Makkah and Yemen remained of that opinion, such as `Ata', Sa`id ibn Jubair, and Tawus (may Allah be pleased with them all).

 

Dialogue on Controversial Issues

 

The prominent Muslim scholar Muhammad Rashid Rida, founder of Al-Manar journal and author of the well- known tafseer (exegesis) of the Qur'an Al-Manar, established a rule for dealing with issues debated among Muslim parties and sects. He called it "the golden rule" and it is "We cooperate on the issues we agree upon, and excuse one another in the issues we differ on." This golden rule was adopted by all wise and moderate reformists on top of whom Imam Hassan Al-Banna. Al- Banna repeated this rule in some of his papers and lectures so that many of his followers thought it his own. However, many of our brothers from the Salafi trend objected to the second part of the rule, saying, "How could we find excuses for those differing with us when they disagree with legal texts?" I replied to those in the second volume of my book Fatawa Mu`asarah, stating that some texts are definitive in both narration and denotation. There is no excuse for anyone to disagree with such kind of legal- texts, which are, in fact, very few.

 

However, most legal texts-from the Qur'an and Sunnah - are of the following three types: either definitive in narration and speculative in understanding, or subjective in narration and definitive in understanding , or subjective in narration and speculative in understating . This ambiguity (speculation and subjectivity) with regard to legal texts and their interpretations leaves room for scholars to practice ijtihad (personal reasoning) and difference in opinions; in this case, a disagreeing opinion is excusable.

 

You may have a hadith supporting your opinion in a particular case, but I can differ with you because the hadith you have, which you deem definitive in narration is not according to me. There are actually innumerable examples of such cases. Also, there may be a hadith that is definitive in narration to both of us, but we differ in our understanding of it and in the ruling or the deduction we derive from it. In this case, I am not disagreeing with the hadith itself, but rather with your understanding of it. In short, the hadith is a kind of divine revelation, but our understanding of it is not.

 

This golden rule was slightly modified by one of our contemporary Egyptian Muslim thinkers, Abdul-Halim Mohamed Abu Shuqqah, author of the well-known encyclopedic work Tahrir Al-Mar'ah fi `Asr Ar-Risalah (The Liberation of Women in the Age of the Prophetic Message). He (may Allah have mercy on him) modified the rule as follows: "We cooperate on the issues we agree on and engage in dialogue on those issues we differ on." According to Abu Shuqqah, every disputable issue can be discussed if the intention behind such a discussion is sincere in seeking the truth and far from bigotry and narrow-mindedness. He also believed that through dialogue, many benefits can be attained, such as enriching ideas, interacting opinions, clarifying vague points, coming closer together, and having a common interpretation accepted by both parties.

 

I believe that we should first focus on the practical aspects and postpone the theoretical and abstract aspects because at most of the time, debate on such theoretical aspects as (the sight of God on the day of judgment) will only lead to nowhere. The disputes about such topics by the Sunnah, Mu'tazalites, Al Zaydis, Al Ja'faris and the Ibadis….etc are so old and profound. The dispute on these matters will lead to nothing because each part strongly and obstinately hold on to its stand and opinion.

 

In his book (Al Basa'ir wa Al Zakhai'r) Abu Hyan Al Tawhidi quoted his teacher Abu Hamid Al Marwrwzi, a prominent Shafe'I, who commented when ever he saw debating theologians disputing with no avail by some poetry saying : They keep wondering in a wide desert searching for evidence until they become pale . Then they remain where they are as if they never went a step forward.

 

By practical aspects, which I said would be of use in our dialogue, I mean two things:

 

First, our political, economic, social, and cultural stands and conditions. That is to unite for one goal, to form a unified stance, and to face the enemy's tactics with one strategy. In some cases, Islamic institutions, such as Al-Azhar, Muslim World League, and the Islamic Republic of Iran stood unified like what happened in the summer of 1994 in Cairo in theInternational Conference on Population and Development. They also stood unified with the representatives of the Catholic Church and Vatican in that same conference. . All these fronts where in the same front against advocates of licentiousness, abortion in all cases, indecent clothing, absolute sexual freedom, and the removal of families' authority over the sexual education of their children. Common interest and a shared intellectual position necessitated that representatives of Islam and Christianity stand united, so how can Sunnis and Shiites not stand united if the enemy is one?

 

Second, matters related to practical jurisprudential judgments are easier to talk about than matters of creed and theology. Discussing transactions and economic jurisprudence may be easier than discussing acts of worship, rituals, and religious pillars. There is no objection however to discussing acts of worship with a view to finding solutions for existing problems, and not with closed-minded fanaticism, which does not open the door to understanding.

 

An example of the issues that may be discussed is that of combining two prayers (Zhuhr and Asr prayers, or Maghrib and`Isha’ prayers). Do Shiites combine prayers as a license to make things easy or an obligation, as we see nowadays?,or is it only to be different from the Sunnis? (For Shiites combining two prayers without legitimate excuse is permissible , unlike Sunni who could not combine between two prayers for no legitimate excuse) What I have read in the Shiite doctrine by Sheikh As-Sabhani in his book Al-Insaf:

 

Imamiyyah Shiite scholars agree that it is permissible to combine two prayers while in residence(not excused by travel), although performing them separately is preferable. (See Al-Insaf fi Masa'il Dama fiha Al-Khilaf, vol. 1, p. 285.)

 

Another example is the third testimony of faith that the Shiites use in the Adhan, which states "I testify that `Ali is Allah's devotee." Have the jurists settled on this additional testimony and deemed it obligatory? In what age did that happen? Or was it added by common people and scholars were silent about it for fear of the people's protest? I think the latter is the most plausible reason. Such dialogue on practical, everyday jurisprudence can be fruitful if both parties concerned commit themselves to earnestness, brotherliness, and tolerance, without any antagonism or accusations.

 

References

 

As –Sabhani, Ja'far. Al-Insaf fi Masa'il Dam fiha Al-Khilaf. (Impartiality in long disagreed upon issues)Iran, Qum : Imam Al Sadeq Institute.

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Intelligent Discussion Without Provocation

 

One fundamental principle of holding Muslim-Muslim dialogue and bridging the gap between sects is to avoid blatant provocations between parties. In order to establish constructive dialogue and argue gently, each party, when addressing the other, should avoid provocative words that might aggravate the other and implant hatred and enmity. Instead, each party must choose words that might bring about harmony not divergence; love, not hatred; and unity, not dissension.

 

Thus nicknames that either party does not like should be avoided. For example, Shiites should not be labeled as "Ar-Rafidah," nor Sunnis as "An-Nasibah." Rather, each sect should address the other with the name it likes, in accordance with Allah's saying [neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames] (Al-Hujurat 49:11). Islamic morality states that Muslims should address their fellow Muslims by the names they most love. Arabs used to call others by their kunyah (the title of "Abu [father of] so-and-so" or "Umm [mother of] so and so") as a form of politeness and respect.

 

It is also helpful for each party to avoid sensitive issues such as, for example, Sunnis abusing members of the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or Shiites abusing his Companions. True, it is very rare, if not impossible, to find a Sunni offering the slightest insult to any member of the Prophet's family. On the contrary, Sunnis bear great love and respect for each member of the Prophet's family. In the sight of Sunnis, the Prophet's family has respect and dignity that make it beloved not only to Sunnis, but to everyone. Then how could a Sunni not like `Ali, the Commander of the Faithful? How could a Sunni not like Fatimah, the Prophet's most beloved daughter? And how could a Sunni not like Al-Hasan and Al-Hussayn, the grandsons of the Prophet and masters of youth in Paradise?

 

The trouble remains with Shiites who go on insulting the Prophet's Companions, especially those great ones with whom Allah's Messenger was pleased until he died, such as the Rightly Guided Caliphs Abu Bakr, `Umar, and `Uthman; and the 10 to whom Allah promised Paradise, such as Talhah and Az-Zubayr. All those mentioned are among the early Muslims who had the virtue of believing in the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when others disbelieved him. This is why Allah praises them highly in His Book.

 

Other Companions insulted by Shiites are `A'ishah, whose innocence is proved by Allah Himself in the Qur'an, and others who had the virtue of living with Allah's Messenger even though they do not hold the same rank as those mentioned earlier. Allah Almighty states, [Those who spent and fought before the Conquest (of Makkah) are not upon a level (with the rest of you). Such are greater in rank than those who spent and fought afterwards. Unto each has Allah promised good. And Allah is Informed of what ye do](Al-Hadid 57:10).

 

This insult of the Companions is actually the most sensitive point between us and our Shiite brothers and sisters. How can we agree and have a mutual understanding when we say "Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him" and they say "Abu Bakr, may Allah curse him"? Indeed, there is a world of difference between invoking Allah's pleasure upon someone and cursing him or her!

 

On my part, I talked to some wise Shiite scholars and told them that this issue was the first obstacle in bridging the gap between us. I further stated that it was a must for intellectuals among them to remove this barrier or at least to limit its effects. If this matter is left to the whims of the masses, it can completely destroy this Ummah, and thus wise and knowledgeable people will miss all chance for unity.

 

I must here testify that some wise scholars, such as Ayatollah Muhammad `Ali At-Taskhiri, Ayatollah Wa`iz Zadah, and others, have completely approved of my opinion. They have also stressed that a tendency to avoid insulting the Prophet's family and Companions is gradually spreading among Shiites. Thus the new school curricula in Iran have begun to include books that praise Abu Bakr and `Umar by highlighting some of their remarkable historical stances.

 

Additionally, I told these scholars that governmental education institutions had to adopt this matter. Also parents should pay special attention to t his principle when raising their children, for Shiite folklore often contains false tales and exaggerated ideas that cannot withstand academic criticism. Yet the masses hold these tales and ideas as facts and beliefs that control their behaviors.

 

In fact, this serious issue of cursing the Prophet's Companions needs to be considered honestly and frankly, so as to explain it or at least to take a positive, wise attitude to it. Below are a few points that I would like to show my Shiite brothers and sisters. By doing so, I intend only to unify this Muslim Ummah, serve this religion, and thus attain Allah's pleasure.

 

First, all the differences and the dissensions that the Prophet's Companions had are just history now, even though such differences are exaggerated by those who hold grudges against Islam. Allah is the only One Who will hold the Prophet's Companions to account and reward them according to their intentions and deeds. So it is more appropriate for us to leave the whole matter with Allah, instead of judging them or their deeds. Allah, Exalted be He, states: [Those are people who have passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned, and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do] (Al-Baqarah 2:134).

 

This is why the Caliph `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz, often called the fifth rightly guided caliph, used to say the following when asked about the dissensions:

 

This is blood that Allah kept us from being involved in by our hands, so we do not have to be engaged in them by our tongues.

 

One rule of religious tolerance between those of different beliefs is that Allah — not we — is the only One entitled to hold to account disbelievers and those who stray from His path. And the next life, not this one, will be the time of Judgment, as Allah states: [Lo! Those who believe (this Revelation), and those who are Jews, and the Sabaeans and the Christians and the Magi and the idolaters, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Lo! Allah is Witness over all things](Al-Hajj 21:17). If this is the case with those of different beliefs, then how should it be with those of the same belief who hold different views?

 

It is more appropriate for us to say that those Companions who disagreed will be judged according to their intentions.

 

Even if we assume that those Companions were wrong, yet their companionship of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and their struggle with him are enough to intercede for them with Allah on the Day of Judgment. Take for example the story of Hatib ibn Abi Balta`ah, one of the Prophet's Companions who witnessed the Battle of Badr. Shortly before the conquest of Makkah, he was found spying on the Muslims for the Quraish. `Umar considered this an act of hypocrisy and asked the Prophet's permission to kill Hatib. However, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to `Umar, "Do not do that, `Umar! Do you know, Allah may have looked at all those fighting in Badr and said to them, 'Do whatever you like, for I have forgiven you.'"

 

In his tafseer of the Qur'an entitled Al-Jami` li Ahkam Al-Qur'an, Imam Al-Qurtubi wrote:

 

It is not permissible to ascribe fault to any of the Prophet's Companions, as they sought only Allah's pleasure through all their deeds. All of the Prophet's Companions are our leaders. It is an act of worship to refrain from judging them and to tell about them only that which is praiseworthy. In doing so, we consider the following:

 

They were the Prophet's Companions; the Prophet prohibited abusing them; and Allah forgave their sins and said He was pleased with them. In addition, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was quoted as stating, "Talhah is a martyr walking on earth." If Talhah's engaging in the war was seen as disobedience to Allah, then he would not have been judged as a martyr. The conclusion would also be the same if his engagement was seen as a wrong deed or negligence of his duties to Islam. That is because martyrdom means being killed in Allah's cause. So the differences between the Prophet's Companions should be understood in the way we have shown.

 

Al-Qurtubi added:

 

It is well-known that `Ali said thAli was at the murderer of Safiyyah's son (Az-Zubayr ) would be in Hellfire. `also frequently reported to have heard the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) say "Give the murderer of Ibn Safiyyah the bad tidings that he will reside in Hellfire." Accordingly, Talhah and Az-Zubayr are not disobedient or sinful; otherwise, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would not have told that Talhah is a martyr and that the murderer of Az-Zubayr would be admitted to Hellfire.

 

Similarly, no fault can be found with the Companions who refused to engage in this war and chose to remain neutral. Rather, they behaved according to what Allah showed them as true. There is no excuse for cursing them, accusing them of disobedience, or ignoring their virtue and struggle in Allah's cause, whatever course of action they took. May Allah be pleased with them all.

 

He continued:

 

When one scholar was asked about the bloodshed caused by the Prophet's Companions' dissensions, he quoted Allah's saying [Those are people who have passed away. They shall receive the reward of what they earned, and you of what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do] (Al-Baqarah 2:134). Another scholar answered the same question saying, "This is blood that Allah kept us from being involved in by our hands, so we do not have to be engaged in it by our tongues," meaning to beware of sinning by misjudging them.

 

Al-Qurtubi quoted Ibn Furak as saying:

 

Some of our fellows [in the Shafi`i School] said, "The dissensions and disputes that took place between the Prophet's Companions are the same as what the brothers of Yusuf [Joseph] had with Prophet Yusuf. That is to say, as the conflict of Yusuf's brothers does not take them out of prophethood (with regard to Joseph) and devotion to Allah (with regard to his brother), so too the conflicts between Prophet's Companions."

 

Al-Qurtubi added quoting Al-Muhasibi:

 

As far as bloodshed caused by dissensions of the Companions is concerned, it is difficult to judge it because of the different opinions the Prophet's Companions showed. When Al-Hasan Al-Basri was asked about the fighting of the Prophet's Companions, he said, "The Prophet's Companions witnessed this fighting when we were not there; they had knowledge while we do not; when they agree, we are to follow; and when they differ, we are to stop." So we should say as Al-Hasan said. We admit that the Prophet's Companions were more knowledgeable about that matter than we are. So we are to follow what they have agreed upon and stop at what they differed over. It is not our right to innovate an opinion about the matter. We admit also that each Companion took the opinion that he thought would attain Allah's pleasure, as they all were of sound religion. And we ask Allah to grant us success.

 

Also, it is more appropriate for us to be preoccupied with the present rather than the past. Indeed, our present is full of difficulties that hinder the efforts of reformers and that need work and effort.

 

Once I witnessed a man arguing with our great Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali about the disputes between the Companions by raising an insignificant question of who was more entitled to the caliphate, Abu Bakr or `Ali? To this Al-Ghazali replied:

 

Abu Bakr and `Ali passed away, and so did the caliphate, the rightly guided caliphs, and the Umayyad, `Abbasid, and Ottoman caliphates. The Islamic caliphate no longer exists in Muslim countries. What is more, we have become controlled by foreign countries. So how long will we continue to make these meaningless comparisons?

 

Second, according to Islam, it is shameful to curse people. One trait of the Muslim character is not to curse or swear. The Qur'an even forbade Muslims to curse idols worshiped by polytheists lest this act should lead the polytheists to curse Allah in defense of their idols. This is shown in Allah's statement [Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah out of ignorance](Al-An`am 6:108).

 

In addition, the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has many hadiths that forbid cursing others. In the book entitled Sahih Al-Jami` As-Saghir, we can find a few hadiths that forbid cursing, specifically hadiths 7309 through 7322. Following are some of them:

 

Do not curse my Companions. By the One in Whose hand my soul rests, even if one of you comes to spend (in charity) gold as great as Mount Uhud, he will not attain a little part of the rank of any of them, or even less than that.

 

Do not curse the dead because they have attained that which they had forwarded (i.e., their deeds, good or bad).

 

Do not curse time, as Allah is the (One Who manages) time.

 

Do not swear at ####s, as they help awake for prayer.

 

Do not curse wind, as it is a blessing from Allah.

 

Do not curse fever, as it wipes out the son of Adam's sins.

 

The most wonderful of such hadiths is "Do not curse Satan. Instead, seek refuge with Allah from His evil." Even the accursed Satan we are ordered not to curse. Rather, we should seek refuge with Allah from his evil. That is because cursing Satan is a passive action while seeking refuge from his evil is a positive one.

 

There is a saying in the West "Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle." Cursing the darkness cannot change the reality; it is better to take an action that might bring you light even if this action is so small as to light a candle.

 

Further, it is not a sin to avoid cursing, nor is it a religious duty to curse evil people and disbelievers such that Muslims are legally blamed if they do not do so. One scholar explains this:

 

If a person comes to lead a long life and then never curses Pharaoh, Abu Jahl, or Satan throughout his life, Allah will not hold him to account for his avoidance of cursing such people. However, if he curses a person who does not deserve to be cursed, indeed Allah will ask him on the Day of Judgment why he cursed him.

 

Thus, Imam Al-Ghazali said

 

Cursing is not a trait of the believing character. So it is not permissible to invoke curses on anyone except the one who dies while disbelieving in Allah. Another exception is to invoke general curses on certain categories without giving specific names of persons. It is even better to be preoccupied with supplicating Allah; otherwise, be silent, as the silent mouth is melodious.

 

Makki ibn Ibrahim stated

 

One day, we were sitting with Ibn `Awn. Then attendants mentioned Bilal ibn Abi Burdah (the governor) and went on invoking curses upon him. Ibn `Awn was the only one who kept silent. At this they wondered at his silence and said, "Ibn `Awn, we curse him only for the wrongdoing he has done to you." Ibn `Awn replied, "On the Day of Judgment, two words are to come out of my record of deeds, namely 'there is no deity but Allah' and 'may Allah curse so and so.' On my part, it is more beloved to me to have 'there is no deity but Allah' in my record than to have 'may Allah curse so and so.'"

 

And Ibn `Umar said

 

The most hateful person in Allah's sight is he who is used to slandering others and invoking curses on them.

 

After all, it is not appropriate for a Muslim to invoke curses on the Prophet's Companions, especially because of their relation with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is they who had the virtue of accompanying Allah's Messenger. They were the closest people to him and the ones who most adhered to his Sunnah. They were the ones who had the honor of receiving his teachings and witnessing the revelation of the Qur'an and the early history of Islam. Thus, it is no wonder that they were the most knowledgeable of the Prophet's message. In fact, those who curse the student closest to the teacher are held as if they curse the teacher.

 

This is why the Tabi`un (the Companions' righteous successors) come immediately after the Prophet's Companions in virtue. That is because the Successors studied under and received knowledge from them. After the generation of the Successors passed away, the light of prophethood faded. And the farther we go from the Prophet's age, the fainter the light of prophethood will become.

 

Moreover, the Qur'an includes many surahs that praise the Prophet's Companions highly, such as At-Tawbah, Al-Anfal, Al-Fath, Al-Hadid, and Al-Hashr. In another surah, Allah praises those who will follow the Prophet's Companions in righteousness:

 

[And the first to lead the way, of the Muhajirun and the Ansar, and those who followed them in righteousness — Allah is well pleased with them and they are well-pleased with Him and He has prepared for them Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the supreme success] (At-Tawbah 9:100).

 

In addition, the Sunnah contains so many authentic hadiths that reach the degree of tawatur (a hadith narrated by more than one credible source simultaneousely), in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) praises his Companions generally and specifically. Apart from the Qur'an and Sunnah, history testifies to the virtue of the Prophet's Companions. They kept the Qur'an from distortion and change, and transmitted it to us. They also transmitted to us what Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) stated, acted, and approved. At their hands, the Muslim state expanded and Islam spread far and wide. If it were not for them, we might not be Muslims. It is they who taught Islam to other nations after they had learned it from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).

 

Advice to the Two Parties

 

I would like to advise Sunnis and Shiites to spread statements that will bring them together rather than make them diverge, and that will implant love rather than grudge and hatred. Indeed, grudge and hatred are tools that destroy religion.

 

Take, for example, what the Indian scholar Sheikh Rahmatullah cited in his valuable book Izhar Al-Haqq (Declaring the Truth), in which he refuted the claims of Christianizers:

 

I am going to narrate five statements from members of the family of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

 

1. In the well-known book Nahj Al-Balaghah (The Path of Eloquence) — a reliable book for Shiites ascribed to Imam `Ali — `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) says, "How honorable is so and so! He (1) amended what is broken; (2) governed justly; (3) established the Sunnah; (4) ended innovation in religion; (5) passed away with a pure character (6) with so few errors; (7) attained what is good in this life; (8) avoided what which is evil; (9) was obedient to Allah; and (10) feared Allah as He should be feared. After his death, people went astray in different ways so that the one going astray cannot be guided nor can the guided one have certitude."

 

According to the majority of interpreters, including Al-Bahrani, Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) is the one referred to with "so and so" above, and he is the one intended by these characteristics. According to others, `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) is the one referred to. `Ali mentions here ten characteristics of Abu Bakr or `Umar, which proves that both figures actually possessed them. `Ali proved these characteristics for Abu Bakr or `Umar after their death. So there is no doubt about the legitimacy of the caliphate of either.

 

2. In his book Kashf Al-Ghummah (Revealing Distress), `Ali ibn `Isa Al-Ardabili Al-Ithna `Ashri, who is one of the most reliable characters of the Imamiyyah sect, says, "Once, Imam Ja`far (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about the legal ruling with regard to ornamenting one's sword. Imam Ja`far replied, 'It is permissible to have it, as Abu Bakr As-Siddiq [As-Siddiq means the very truthful person], used to do so. Hereupon, the questioner wondered, 'Are you saying the very truthful!' No sooner had Ja`far heard the wondering of the man than he leapt up from his place and said, 'Yes, he is As-Siddiq (repeating that thrice). And whoever says otherwise, Allah will not accept his saying neither in this life nor in the Hereafter.'"

 

Imam Ja`far's statement proves that Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) is actually the very truthful one, and whoever denies this fact is held as a liar in this life and the Hereafter.

 

3. According to the interpreters of Nahj Al-Balaghah, `Ali was reported to have written about Abu Bakr and `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them), "Indeed, they are of a great standing in Islam and their death was a great calamity. May Allah have mercy on them and reward them according to the best of their deeds."

 

4. The author of Al-Fusul, who is a great scholar of the Imamiyyah, narrated in his book that one day Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir saw a group of people speaking in an improper way about Abu Bakr, `Umar, and `Uthman. At that, Imam Al-Baqir said to them, "Tell me, are you from among those immigrants who were expelled from their homes and deprived of their property and who left all their belongings seeking Allah's pleasure and favor, and supporting Him and His Messenger?" The people replied in the negative. Then Imam Al-Baqir asked them, "Are you from among those who were in Madinah and embraced Islam before those immigrants and loved whoever immigrated to their land?" The people replied again in the negative. Imam Al-Baqir said, "As far as you are concerned, you do not belong to either of the parties mentioned, and I witness that you do not belong to the third party about whom Allah states [And those who came (into the faith) after them say: Our Lord forgive us and our brethren who were before us in the faith, and place not in our hearts any rancor toward those who believe. Our Lord! Thou art full of Kindness, Most Merciful] (Al-Hashr 59:10).

 

Accordingly, whoever speaks improperly about Abu Bakr, `Umar, or `Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them all) does not belong to any of the three parties whom Allah praised in His Book, as stated by Imam Al-Baqir (may Allah be pleased with him).

 

5. Imam Al-Hasan Al-`Askari (may Allah be pleased with him) said in the tafseer of the Qur'an attributed to him, "Allah revealed to Adam that He would confer on those who loved Muhammad, his family, and his Companions so great a mercy that if it is distributed among all creations from Adam to the end of this world including disbelievers, then it would be enough to lead all of those to faith by which they would deserve Paradise. Put differently, whoever hates Muhammad's family or any of his Companions, Allah will give him a punishment so great that if it is distributed among all creations of Allah, it will be enough to annihilate them all."

 

By these words, Al-`Askari shows that love is to be equally paid to both Muhammad's family and his Companions, not just to one group. He adds that hating even one of Muhammad's family or Companions is enough to lead one to total destruction. We ask Allah to keep us from thinking of the Prophet's family or Companions in an ill way and to make us hold them in great love and respect until death. It is because there are many Qur'anic verses and authentic hadiths in this regard that the sincere scholars have agreed that it is obligatory to hold the Prophet's Companions in high esteem and respect.

 

Be Frank but Wisely

 

Another fundamental principle of Muslim-Muslim dialogue is to have a frank exchange of views about existing problems, unsettled issues, and real hinders, and to overcome them wisely through the cooperation that Allah orders Muslims to have with each other.

 

It is not wiser to conceal something, to be silent about a controversial issue, or to defer making a decision about it. Similarly, it will not provide a solution or even bring differing parties together if we remain fearful of bringing these issues to the table.

 

So, when I visited some Shiite brothers in Iran, I said to them

 

It is paramountly important to consider the issues of stabilization and priority when dealing with each other. Some may think of propagating Shiite thought in purely Sunni countries, such as Egypt and Sudan. In my opinion, the harm of such an action would exceed its benefit, as it may lead to more dissensions in a community that used to be Sunni and give rise to hatred and enmity against Shiites. Second, the gain of Shiites will be only a few new followers, whom the Shiites do not need. Then which is heavier in the balance of public interest: moving an entire community against the Shiite school or gaining a few more followers?

 

I remember that once I discussed this issue in the presence of Sheikh At-Taskhiri, who said to me

 

By Allah, you are right. To prove this, here is a real experience we underwent before: We had such good relationships with the Revolution in Sudan that we opened a regional office there. What happened was that the head of our office came to distribute some hundreds of copies of a book entitled Thumma Ihtadayt (Then I Was Guided). This book was written by a Sunni who converted to Shiism. The result was that our brothers in Khartoum had to close the office and its head was expelled.

 

I am saying that Shiites should avoid propagating the Shiite school in entirely Sunni countries. Similarly, Sunnis should not propagate the Sunni thought in entirely Shiite countries. This way, good relations between the two parties will be kept, and thus there will be no room for dissension.

 

Once, I spoke frankly with brothers in Iran about the importance of considering the rights of the Sunni minority that lives with the Shiite majority and vice versa. I said to them

 

Because Egypt has a Coptic minority, each government should include at least two or three Coptic ministers.

 

However, Iran has a great minority of Sunnis, including Arabs, Kurds, and Balusch However, this minority is not represented at all in the government, and it is even governed by Shiite governors. I was told that this minority is represented in the Shura Council. I replied, "It is represented by a small percentage. Moreover, the Shura Council is different from the Cabinet."

 

I also said to them, "Sunnis in Iran are about two million or more. For years, they have sought to get the permission of authorities to establish a Masjid for them where they could gather for the Jumu`ah Prayer along with Arab and Muslim ambassadors. Unfortunately, the authorities did not respond to their request."

 

Upon this, a sheikh said to me, "Why don't Sunnis pray with Shiites in their Masjids?" I replied, "According to Shiites, the Jumu`ah Prayer is not obligatory since the (Twelfth) Imam is absent, which is not the case with Sunnis. So, the Jumu`ah prayer is established in only one Masjid, namely the Masjid of the university in Tehran."

 

This is not to mention that each sect has the right to pray in the Masjid that meets its needs, and no sect has the right to impose its beliefs and thoughts on another.

 

In Egypt, for example, Al-Jam`iyyah Ash-Shar`iyyah is a religious association founded by Sheikh Mahmoud Khattab As-Subki. This association is noted for its Masjids that used to be established on a special model: Generally these Masjids have no minarets and their pulpits have only three steps. Additionally, prayers in these Masjids are longer than their likes in other Masjids. However, no Egyptians, be they scholars or others, have denied the right of this association to establish such Masjids and perform prayer in them in the way its members are pleased with.

 

The situation in Iraq — especially after the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the Baathist regime — requires the repair of the relation between Shiites and Sunnis through frank exchange of views and fair distribution of ministries between the two parties. Indeed, Sunnis in Iraq are complaining that their Shiite brothers want to inherit the whole estate leaving nothing but morsels for Sunnis. Shiites even took over Masjids in Sunni districts, such as Saddam Al-Kabir Masjid, which is established where there is not a single Shiite.

 

Shiites argue that Saddam was a Sunni and used to be partial to Sunnis. This argument is not true and Shiite intellectuals know this well. In fact, Saddam was neither Shiite nor Sunni. His relation to Islamists, including Shiites and Sunnis, civilians and soldiers, was a bloody one. Accordingly, it is unfair to consider Saddam a Sunni and thus punish all Sunnis for his wrongdoing. That is because Saddam used to oppress all Iraqi people including Arabs, Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis.

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Avoiding Excessiveness

 

One principle to follow in Muslim-Muslim dialogue is for both sides to avoid the excessiveness of extremists who instigate or intensify sectarian strife when they speak or write.We rely upon wise moderates who see the matter from all points of view, who are never satisfied with looking superficially but rather try to delve into matters, who do not look only at effects today, but try to foresee the future. Those are the people who have a broad understanding of the objectives of Islam, who foresee consequences, and who weigh between interests and harms.

 

In the light of this comprehensive understanding and broad vision, the interest of Islam is in uniting Muslims to face major antagonistic powers waiting to attack them. It is enough that Muslims unite on the minimum, which is what makes a person Muslim: the testimony that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger. In other words, the followers of "la ilahaillaAllah" (there is no God but Allah), or the people who face one qiblah in prayer should unite in one way or another.

 

The Muslim Ummah cannot face its enemies, reach its goals, develop its potentials, and establish itself in our world of scientific revolutions while the Ummah is disintegrated. The least Muslims can do, which is passive, is put aside animosity. Muslims should not show enmity toward or abandon each other, not to mention plot against or fight with each other.

 

Muslims Have to End Resort to Takfir

 

One of the major marks of excessiveness that Muslims have to end is the fall into the abyss of takfir, that is, accusing people of disbelief. Takfir is extremely dangerous because of its grievous consequences, for accusing someone of disbelief means depriving that person of affiliation to his or her nation and family. Even if this person is not punished for apostasy, he or she is dead morally. The severest punishment that a Muslim can receive is to be condemned as a disbeliever. It is a door that must not be opened for someone to accuse anyone else of disbelief without any criterion or rule.

 

The rule is that whoever has embraced Islam with certainty must not be taken out of it except with equal or stronger certainty. An agreed-upon rule states that certainty is not removed by suspicion,and Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) warned against accusing others of disbelief: "If anyone says to his (Muslim) brother 'O disbeliever!' Then surely, one of them is such."So if a Muslim accuses another Muslim of disbelief without being certain, the accusation of disbelief returns to the accuser, which is a grave danger.

 

The Muslim Ummah suffered from the disease of takfir a long time ago. Some even accused some of the Prophet's Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) of disbelief. In fact, some accused `Ali ibnAbiTalib(may Allah be pleased with him) — the knight of Islam, the first boy to embrace Islam, the husband of honorable Fatimah, and the cousin of the Messenger — who was like an unsheathed sword. Some deemed his blood lawful to shed and murdered him.

 

Those ancient accusers of disbelief have new heirs; some are called "takfir groups," and some do not belong to those groups but have the same spirit and thinking. They broadly accuse people of disbelief, excluding almost none unless they enter their groups and follow in their footsteps.

 

Those people accuse rulers and subjects, scholars and illiterates, and build on this condemnation its consequences of proscription and confiscation. So the blood and property of whomever they accuse become unprotected, and this contradicts authentic hadiths such as the one in which the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) stated, "I have been ordered to fight the people until they say 'There is no God but Allah.' And if they say so, then their blood and property will be protected and we will not interfere with them except if they violate a legitimate restriction and their reckoning will be with Allah."

 

In the same context, there is the famous hadith of Usamah ibn Zaydin which he narrated that he killed a man during one of the battles after the man had declared "there is no God but Allah." Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said to him, "O Usamah! Did you kill him after he had said 'there is no God but Allah'?"He replied, "But he said so only to save himself from the sword." The Prophet said,"Did you open his heart?"The Prophet kept on repeating to Usamah, "Did you kill him after he had said 'there is no God but Allah'?" so many times that Usamah said, "I wished I had not embraced Islam before that day."

 

About the same issue, Al-Miqdadibn Al-Aswad narrated that he said to Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) once,"O Allah's Messenger! If I meet an unbeliever and we fight, and he strikes my hand with the sword and cuts it off, then takes refuge from me behind a tree and says 'I have surrendered to Allah [that is, embraced Islam],' may I kill him after he has said so?" The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, "Do not kill him." Al-Miqdad said, "O Messenger of Allah! He chopped off one of my hands. May I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Do not kill him, for if you kill him, he would be in the position in which you had been before you kill him, and you would be in the position in which he was before he said the sentence."

 

Embracing Islam wipes out previous disbelief and its acts. In the above situations, a man embraced Islam by saying the statement of monotheism. Killing the man after he has embraced Islam annuls all the killer's good deeds.

 

If there are some Muslims today specialized in accusing all other Muslims of disbelief — Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and non-Arabs, living and dead —, there is a group among them that particularly accuses the Shiites of disbelief, and maybe some other Muslim sects.

 

This group claims —

 

1. That the Shiites believe that the Qur'an was altered and that it is incomplete. They say that this belief is enough to accuse them of disbelief because they deny a basic tenet of the religion.

2. That the Shiites deny the Sunnahas a second source of Islamic legislation; they do not acknowledge the famous Sunnahbooks such as Al-Bukhariand Muslim. That is why the Shiites deny that we will see Allah in the hereafter, which is proven according to plain texts of the Sunnah. Such a matter, this group says, is enough to accuse Shiites of disbelief.

3. That the Shiites abuse the Companions, especially the two caliphs Abu Bakrand `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them), and even consider them disbelievers, which contradicts the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the consensus of scholars.

4. That the Shiites claim their imams are infallible, while Sunnis attribute infallibility only to Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). Shiites even allege that their imams are better than the prophets and that they know the unseen.

5. That the Shiites do not know tawheedal-uluhiyyah (the oneness of Allah's divinity), and that is why they invoke their imams and righteous people at times of calamities, seek refuge with them from distress, and give votive offerings to them. Whenever they visit their imams' tombs, they crawl on their hands and knees and prostrate. All these are features of polytheism that contradict the monotheism with which all prophets were sent, and that correspond with the conditions of the pagan Arabs who said about their gods and idols [These are our intercessors with Allah] (Yunus10:18) and [We worship them only that they may bring us near unto Allah](Az-Zumar39:3).

 

We can refute all the above accusations, which do not lead to disbelief that drives one out of Islam.

 

1. I have explained elsewhere that all the Shiites believe that what is between the two covers of the mushafis Allah's preserved miraculous speech that is binding on the whole Ummah. That is why Shiites learn this Qur'an by heart, worship Allah by reciting it, and seek its evidence in matters of creed and judgment. This is the unanimous opinion of their scholars. I have not found any mushaf with them that differs from ours. The mushaf printed in Iran is the same as that printed in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

 

As for the claim that there are missing parts of the Qur'an, their scholars do not agree on this claim, which is refuted by their well-versed scholars and researchers. Also those allegedly missing additions do not include any practical matter that may have legal implications.

 

2. As regards the Sunnah, the Shiites believe it is the second original source for deducing Islamic rulings. However, they accept hadiths only from Shiite chains of transmission. This does not mean that they deserve to be accused of disbelief that would drive them out of the fold of Islam. Their acceptance of only their hadiths might lead to a ruling that they have made innovations in religion but not that they have disbelieved.

 

3. As for cursing Companions, although it is a serious matter, they may have a way out that saves them from total disbelief by certain interpretation. This doubt removes them from total disbelief, but they may be regarded as defiantly disobedient, not disbelievers. This idea – cursing the companions of Allah-could also be classified as sinful interpretation

 

4. Their claim that the imams are infallible is wrong, but I do not see clear disbelief in it. What is reported as being said by those imams is either prophetic hadiths or jurisprudential opinions like those reported as being said by the seven prominent scholars of Madinah and the renowned scholars of Hijaz, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, etc., and what is reported from the four imams and from others. The fruit of all these hadiths and opinions was the Ja`fari jurisprudence with all its deductions and differences, which, as a whole, differs from Sunni jurisprudence just as the Sunni schools differ from each other.

 

5. As regards the issue of monotheism and polytheism, the polytheistic acts the Shiites may commit are very similar to what most Sunni Sufi orders commit. The Shiites may invoke and seek refuge with their imams, and the same is done by some Sunnis who invoke pious people close to them. Some of those invoked are of the Prophet's household — like Al-Husaynand Zainab— and some are not.

 

Anyone who has seen what some common Sunni people do at the tombs of famous pious people such as `Abdul-QadirAl-Jilani, Ahmad Al-Badawi, Ahmad Ar-Rifa`i, IbrahimAd-Dusuqiand many others, knows that the illness is common to the Shiites and the Sunnis, though sometimes it may differ in degree.

 

However, the Sunnis have an advantage over the Shiites on this matter. Many of the Sunni scholars renounce these innovations and call people to pure monotheism, but we do not find this clear on the Shiite side.

 

For our Muslim–Muslim dialogue to succeed in bringing the children of this Muslim Ummah closer, we should make the sayings of the moderates from both sides known, and disregard the sayings of extremists who want to add fuel to the fire.

 

Some Sayings of Moderate Shiites

 

I cite here what the prominent scholar Sheikh RahmatullahAl-Hindi Al-Kiranwimentioned about the opinion of the Shiite sect known as Al-Imamiyyahal-Ithna`Ashriyyah(Twelvers) about the Qur'an's perfect protection from distortion and alteration. He mentioned it to falsify the sayings of the Christian missionaries who raised doubts about the Qur'an, using the claim that the Shiites say it is incomplete and altered.

 

Al-Kiranwi(may Allah be merciful to him) said

 

According to the majority of the Al-Imamiyyah Shiitescholars, the Qur'an is protected against alteration. The claim of any Shiite scholar who alleges thatthe Qur'an is incomplete, is refused by them.

 

In his study of creed, Abu Ja`farMuhamadibn`Ali ibnBabawih, a trustworthy sheikh who is one of the greatest scholars of the Imamiyyah, said

 

We believe that the Qur'an revealed by Allah to His Prophet is that which is between the two covers (of the mushaf);it is the Qur'an in Sunnis' hands and no more. According to Sunnis, it includes one hundred and fourteen surahs, while we consider SuratAd-Duhaand SuratAl Inshrahas one surah, and SuratQuraishand SuratAl-Filas one surah. Whoever imputes to us [shiites] any saying more than this is a liar.

 

In Majma` Al-Bayan, a respected Shiite tafseerof the Qur'an, the honorable scholar Abul-Qasim`Ali ibnAl-HusaynAl-Musawi said

 

The Qur'an was in its same state of compilation in the lifetime of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) as it is today.

 

To prove this, he said

 

All of the Qur'an was studied and memorized at that time, and some of the Companions, such as `Abdullah ibnMas`udand UbaiibnKa`b, completed reciting the whole Qur'an before the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) a number of times. This obviously proves that the Qur'an was collected and organized, not spread or scattered. … The opinion of anyone who disagrees with the Imamiyyah and the Hashawiyyah sects should be disregarded because the disagreement is attributed to some of the hadith transmitters who reported weak hadiths that they thought authentic, and these hadiths should not be a reason to disbelieve in what is agreed upon as being decidedly authentic.

 

Abul-Qasim`AliibnAl-HusaynAl-Musawi also said

 

Acknowledging the authenticity of the Qur'an is just like acknowledging the authenticity of places, major and famous events, and well-known Arab poetry.Care for its safety and transmission were even greater than for any of the things we have mentioned, because the Qur'an is the miracle of prophethood and the source of legal knowledge and religious rulings. Muslim scholars reached the highest level of protection and preservation of the Qur'an; they knew everything in it: its parsing, the proper way of reciting it, its dialects, and its verses. So how could the Qur'an be distorted, changed, or be considered incomplete after such true protection and utmost accuracy?

 

Judge Nurullah Ashustari, a renowned Shiite scholar, said in his book Masa'ibAn-Nawasib

 

It has been said that the Imamiyyah Shiites believe that the Qur'an was altered, but this is not what the majority of the Imamiyah scholars believe. A very few number of them claimed this, but whose opinion is not taken into consideration among the rest of their scholars.

 

Al-MullaSadiqsaid in his explanation of Al-Kullayni'sbook, Al Kafi

 

When the Twelfth Imam appears, the Qur'an will be in the same arrangement that exists today.

 

Thus, the above quotations prove that the confirmed belief of the Imamiyyah sect is that the Qur'an that Allah revealed to His Prophet is the text found between the two covers of the mushaf, which people have, and not more. The Imamiyyah sect also believe that the Qur'an was collected in the lifetime of Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him); that thousands of Companions memorized and transmitted it; that a group of them completed reciting the whole Qur'an before the Prophet; and that the Qur'an will exist with its same arrangement at the appearance of their Twelfth Imam.

 

As for the very few scholars who claimed that the Qur'an was altered, their claim is rejected, and their opinion is not considered by the majority of their scholars.Some of the weak hadiths reported in their school are not a reason to disbelieve in what is agreed upon as being decidedly authentic. This is true because if a ruling is based on a khabarahad (a solitary hadith, one reported by only one person) and there is no conclusive evidence to verify the ruling, it must be rejected.

 

According to what IbnAl-Mutahhar Al-Hillistated in his book Mabadi' Al-Wusulila`IlmAl-Usul,and to TafseerAs-SiratAl-Mustaqim, which is a respected book of interpretation among the Shiites, the verse in which Allah says[Verily,We: It is We Who have sent down the Reminder (the Qur'an), and surely,We will guard it (from corruption)](Al-Hijr15:9) means that Allah is the Protector of the Qur'an against alteration, increase, or decrease.

 

Some Sayings of Moderate Sunnis

 

Just as I have preferred to quote moderate Shiite scholars, I have to prefer to quote moderate Sunni scholars because this will help ease the tension and bring the two sides close.

 

From these moderate opinions, I choose what Ibn`Abdin, the most prominent of the late Hanafischolars, said in his famous commentary known as RaddAl-Muhtar` Ala Ad-DurrAl-Mukhtar. Regarding the issue of Abu Bakrand `Umar'sabusers, whom some say are disbelievers with no hope for repentance even if they want to repent, Ibn`Abidin said

 

Citing from Al-Jawharah, one of the Hanafibooks, Al-Haskafimentioned in his book Ad-DurrAl-MukhtarSharhTanwirAl-Absar, "whoever abuses the two caliphs Abu Bakrand `Umaror slanders them has disbelieved and his repentance is not accepted. This is also the opinion of Ad-Dabusiand Abu Al-Laythand it is our chosen opinion for fatwa." IbnNujaimasserted the same opinion in his book Al-AshbahwaAn-Naza'ir. So did Shams Ad-Din At-Timirtashithe author of TanwirAl-Absarwho said about it, "This asserts the opinion that the repentance made by an abuser of Allah's Messenger is not accepted, and it is the opinion that should be relied on when issuing fatwasand judging, which is a way of respecting the status of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).'"

 

Al-Haskafi added:

 

"Although the opinion stated above is in the book An-Nahr, it has no origin in the book Al-Jawharah. It is only found in the margins of some editions, so it was annexed to the original edition, even though it is not connected to what is before it."

 

Ibn`Abidin commented on this last statement:

 

`Umar ibn Nujaim'sbrother issued a fatwa to the same effect, and asked Ibn Nujaimto write it down, but he did not find any empty place except in the margin of the book Al-Jawharah. But supposing that this fatwa exists in all the editions of Al-Jawharah, there is no evidence to prove it is valid. We have introduced evidence that the repentance done by an abuser of the two caliphs (namely Abu Bakr and Umar) is accepted. Moreover, it is not proven that anyone of the imams said that the abuser's repentance is not accepted, as far as I know.

 

The same opinion was cited by As-Sayyid Abu As-Su`ud Al Azhariin Hashiyat Al-Ashbah. It was cited in Al-Bazaziyyah quoted from Al-Khulasah that "the Rafidite who abuses and curses the two caliphs is a disbeliever. And if he prefers `Ali to them, he is an innovator." This does not mean the repentance is not accepted. However, deeming the abuser a disbeliever is problematic because it is stated in the book Al-Ikhtiyar that "the imams unanimously agree that all innovators in religion have strayed and are wrong. Abusing and disliking any of the Companions does not incur disbelief, but misguidance."

 

In the same context, the author of FathAl-Qadir said, "The Kharijites who deem the blood and property of Muslims as lawful to be shed and confiscated, and who accuse the Companions of disbelief are considered transgressors by the majority of jurists and Hadith scholars. Some Hadith scholars say they are apostates." Ibn Al-Mundhir, however, said, "I do not know of any jurist who agreed with Hadith scholars that they are disbelievers, so it is necessary to report the consensus of jurists."

 

Furthermore, Ibn Al-Mundhirthe author of Al-Muhit,, said, "Some scholars do not accuse any of the innovators of disbelief, while other scholars accuse some of them of disbelief ; particularly those who have contradicted with their innovation in religion a definitive proof; and then ascribed this opinion to most of the Sunnis. However, the former citation is stronger because ,the author of Al-Muhitis more knowledgeable about reporting the opinion of mujtahids (those who make ijtihador independent judgments). It is true that there is much condemnation of disbelief in the speech of the Hanafi scholars, but not in the speech of the mujtahid jurists. No speech should be taken into account except for that of the jurists, and what is reported from the speech of the mujtahids is what we have mentioned above.

 

Ibn`Abidin added

 

What they stated in the texts and the explanations of their books clarified the matter: "No testimony should be accepted from the one who abuses pious predecessors publicly, but the testimony of the people belonging to straying sects is accepted except for those of Al-Khitabiyyahsect. "Ibn Malak mentioned in his explanation of Al-Majma`"The testimony of the person who abuses pious predecessors publicly is rejected because he is defiantly disobedient. It is accepted from people belonging to straying sects such as Al-Jabriyyah, Al-Qadariyyah, Ar-Rafidah, Al-Mushabbihah, and Al-Mu`attilah. "Az-Zaila`i said, "Pious predecessors are the Companions and the Successors. Abusing those people indicates incompetence and lack of honor. Whoever is not deterred from doing something like this (publicly) is usually not deterred from lying, unlike the one who abuses them secretly."

 

Ibn Abidin continued

 

None of these scholars accounted for not accepting their testimony because of their disbelief. Yet these scholars excluded Al-Khitabiyyah sect because they deem lawful the false testimony in favor of the members of their sect and lying under oath. The same opinion was stated by the scholars of Hadith regarding accepting the testimony of the members of straying sects. This is the correct judgment regarding the person who abuses the Companions and accuses them of disbelief on the basis of a corrupt interpretation. Therefore, what is mentioned in Al-Khulasah about the abuser's disbelief is a weak opinion that disagrees with referential texts and explanations. It even contradicts the consensus of jurists as I have heard.

 

The prominent scholar Mulla`Ali Al-Qari' wrote a study to disprove Al-Khulasah. In this way, we know for certain that what was attributed to ­Al-Jawharah — that is, that disbelief is condemned and that repentance of the abuser of the Companions is not accepted — is false; that is, if it exists in Al-Jawharahat all. We said before that if a matter is disagreed upon, even if according to a weak narration, the mufti has to be inclined toward not accusing one of disbelief. So how could he be inclined toward making an accusation of disbelief that disagrees with the consensus of scholars, not to mention the mufti's prefering to have him [the accused] killed even if he repents? It has also been mentioned that the repentance of the abuser of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) is the ruling adopted in the school ,so why not the abuser of the two caliphs?

 

Ibn`Abidin concluded,

 

It is surprising how Ibn Nujaim, the author of Al-Bahr, issued a fatwa to kill him so easily, while he had said, "I have bound myself not to issue a fatwa that includes any of the words accusing others of disbelief that are mentioned in the books of fatwa. There is no doubt about the disbelief of whoever slandered `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), denied the companionship ofAbu Bakr, divined `Ali ,said that Jibreel made a mistake in revelation, and similar statements of clear disbelief that disagree with the Qur'an. But if such a person repents, his repentance is accepted.

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The Necessity for the Ummah to be Vigilant and to Unite[using large font size is not allowed]

 

By Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

President — The International Union for Muslim Scholars

 

An important principle is to beware of the Muslim Ummah's enemies' schemes that they use to divide and disunite the Ummah so that it can never share a common goal or work together.We have known our enemies' philosophy since they began to colonize our countries. Their goal and method are clear: divide and rule. They make every effort to disunite us in order to dominate us.

 

It is well known that unity is power. In fact, unity strengthens small numbers and disunity weakens large numbers. The enemies of the Muslim Ummah were able to harm it only when it disintegrated under different banners and its leaders varied and fought each other, which allowed their enemy to penetrate them and sow poison among them so that they would plot against one another. The following verse applies: [And dispute not one with another lest ye falter and your strength depart from you] (Al-Anfal 8:46). So too does the hadith in which the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Do not differ, for the nations before you differed and perished (because of their differences)."

 

What the enemies of this Ummah find most disturbing is its unity, and what they find most pleasing is to see the disintegration and division of this Ummah. If they saw the masses of our Ummah uniting to accomplish one goal, believing in one creed, and living under one leadership, this would annoy them and kindle envy and fury in their hearts, which in turn would drive them to do everything to convert this unity to dissension and this brotherhood to enmity.

 

This is exactly what happened during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). A Jew named Shas ibn Qais saw that the two previously clashing tribes, the Aws and the Khazraj, united under the Islamic creed and shared the brotherhood of Islam and forgot their long-standing pre-Islamic wars. When they embraced Islam, Allah gave them peace instead of war, security instead of fear, and fellowship and love instead of animosity.

 

This brotherly scene annoyed the evil Shas, so he took it upon himself to remind them of the pre-Islamic period and the conflicts that it had witnessed. He started reciting the barbarian poetry written by one tribe's poet, so the other tribe responded by reciting what its poet said until the pre-Islamic fanaticism awakened. The men of the Aws shouted, "O people of Aws!" and those of the Khazraj shouted, "O people of Khazraj!" All the men shouted, "The weapons, the weapons!" When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) heard about this, he hurried to them and said, "Are they shouting this call of the period of ignorance, while I am still with you? Stop this (appeal for tribalism), for it is an evil call." Then he reminded them of Allah and recited some verses of the Qur'an. They wept, regretted their deed, and repented. Then, knowing that they had been tempted by Satan, the men of the two tribes embraced one another.

 

Some verses of Surat Aal `Imran were revealed regarding this incident:

 

[O ye who believe! If ye obey a party of those who have received the Scripture they will make you disbelievers after your belief [as the context indicates, they will divide you after you are united and make you transgressors after you are brothers]. How can ye disbelieve [disunite] when Allah's revelations are recited unto you, and His Messenger is in your midst? He who holdeth fast to Allah is indeed guided unto a right path. O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah with right observance, and die not save as those who have surrendered (unto Him). And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate. And remember Allah's favor unto you: how ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace; and (how) ye were upon the brink of an abyss of fire, and He did save you from it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations unto you, that haply ye may be guided.] (Aal `Imran 3:100-103)

 

But Shas ibn Qais, who tried to sow dissension among the Aws and the Khazraj, still exists in other guises. He has the same aim; he and his helpers, his children, and his siblings will continue the task of plotting against our Ummah, stirring up strife, and spreading mutual fear and hatred among Muslims. They use every means and go through every crack to tear this Ummah apart. Sometimes they take advantage of religious differences to disunite Muslims and Christians, as they do in Egypt. Other times they use ethnic differences, such as in Iraq where there are Arabs and Kurds, and in Morocco where there are Arabs and Berbers. They also use doctrinal differences between Muslims, such as in Iraq and Lebanon where there are Sunnis and Shiites, and in Oman where there are Sunnis and Ibadis (a sub group of Kharijites but much more moderate. Ibadism is currently the official sect of Oman)

 

In the war between Iraq and Iran , the national element was prevalent: Arabs vs. Persians. But our enemies want a clear religious war between the Sunnis and the Shiites!

If they do not find anything to divide Muslims about , they use other ideological categorizations such as calling some "nationalists" and others "Islamists," or "rightists" and "leftists," or "revolutionaries" and "liberals," and so on and so forth.

 

But vigilant watchers notice that those sowers of dissension have been stressing for a while on the doctrinal differences between Muslims, for they hope from the bottom of their hearts to kindle tumult that would completely destroy everything between Sunnites and Shiites. In the war between Iraq and Iran , the national element was prevalent: Arabs vs. Persians. But our enemies want a clear religious war between the Sunnis and the Shiites! They want everybody to fight while they happily watch. But Allah Almighty says,[They plot, but Allah (also) plotteth; and Allah is the best of plotters] (Al-Anfal 8:30).

 

Whatever disagreement Muslims might have among themselves should never turn into fighting. This is what the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) warned against most eloquently during Farewell Hajj, when he said, "Do not revert to disbelief after me by striking the necks of one another (that is, killing each other)."

 

The worst calamity that might befall this Ummah is when enmity among its people becomes great, just as Allah described the old condition of the Jews: [Their adversity among themselves is very great. Ye think of them as a whole whereas their hearts are diverse] (Al-Hashr 59:14).

 

One of the divine punishments that can afflict nations is that some of them taste the violence of each other, as Allah Almighty says: [say: "He is able to send punishment upon you from above you or from beneath your feet, or to bewilder you with dissension and make you taste the tyranny one of another"] (Al-An`am 6:65).

 

The Muslim Ummah — with all its communities, schools, doctrines, races, and regions — is called upon to wake up and see the snare prepared for it. The Ummah should stop, think, and reconsider who are its friends and who are its enemies, especially after the war on Iraq, its repercussions, and the appearance of the United States as the sole power that deifies itself on earth. It is asked neither about what it is doing nor about what it wants.

 

It is high time for the weak to unite to confront this tyrannical power. It is time for the believers to unite to face the new pharaoh who is saying to people "I am your lord, the most high."

 

Necessity of Unity in Hardships

 

If it is permissible for some people to divide and disagree in times of well-being and victory, it is absolutely impermissible for them to divide in times of hardship and distress. Calamities are supposed to bring close those who are separated, and misfortunes should unite those who are struck by them.

 

We are suffering nowadays from afflictions and calamities in each and every nation of ours and in our Ummah at large, especially after the September 11 attacks. Since then, the whole Ummah has entered a hard test and a dangerous situation that require all its members, and particularly its scholars, da`iyahs, and reformers, to stand as one organized front in the battle facing Islam and Muslims. In time of battle, all should unite; no dissonant voice should rise to divide the Ummah in the time of danger. Allah Almighty says [Lo! Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure] (As-Saff 61:4).

 

One of the most serious dangers is when the disbelieving enemies of this Ummah unite and support each other, while the people of faith stay apart and fail to unite. This is what the Qur'an warned against in the verse [And those who disbelieve are protectors one of another. If ye do not do so, there will be confusion in the land, and great corruption] (Al-Anfal 8:73).This means that if you fail to be one another's helpers and protectors, as your enemies are, there will be affliction and great corruption, for this indicates the people of falsehood are united and the people of truth are disunited, This is the gravest of all dangers.

 

We have seen non-Muslims united although there are many sources of disagreement among them, some historical and some practical. Such was the case of the European Union: Its countries fought many wars against each other, the last of which were the two world wars with millions of victims, but they put the tragedies behind them and found that their greatest interest is their unity.

 

Before that, we saw different Christian doctrines getting closer, and the same happened between Christianity in general and Judaism, in spite of the historical animosity between them. The Vatican even issued its famous document that acquits the Jews of the blood of Christ!

 

Muslims are the only people who disagree and dispute with each other, although there are many reasons for their unity. It is enough that they all direct themselves towards one qiblah in prayer; that they believe that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger; that they are satisfied with Allah as their Lord, with Islam as their religion, with the Qur'an as their standard, and with Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as their Prophet and Messenger.

 

The Glorious Qur'an relates in the story of Musa (Moses, peace be upon him) an incident that carries wisdom and insight for wise people. It is the incident of Harun (Aaron, peace be upon him) with his people. When Musa went away for 40 nights to talk to his Lord, As-Samiri led his people astray by making them a statue of a calf that made a sound like mooing. He said, "This is your god and the god of Musa." The people obeyed him and worshiped the calf, which could not return them a word for answer, and which had no power either to harm them or to do them good. [And Aaron indeed had told them beforehand: "O my people! Ye are but being seduced therewith, for lo! Your Lord is the Beneficent, so follow me and obey my order." They said: "We shall by no means cease to be its votaries till Moses return unto us"] (Taha 20:90–91).

 

When Musa returned, he was enraged and grieved because of what his people had done in his absence. He threw the tablets of the Torah on the ground out of anger for Allah and the Truth, and seized his brother by the hair of his head and dragged him towards him saying, as the Qur'an states, [He (Moses) said: "O Aaron! What held thee back when thou didst see them gone astray. That thou followedst me not? Hast thou then disobeyed my order?" He said: "O son of my mother! Clutch not my beard nor my head! I feared lest thou shouldst say: 'Thou hast caused division among the Children of israel , and hast not waited for my word'"] (Taha 20:92-94).

 

Musa was satisfied with his brother's answer and the Qur'an acknowledges it. This indicates that what Harun took into consideration has its importance in religion: to be careful to preserve the unity of the community so that it may not disintegrate and to hold one's tongue about a great sin — associating another in worship with Allah, the greatest sin of all — for the sake of the unity of the community. It was certainly a temporary silence until Musa returned from his journey, and the two brothers confered with each other about dealing suitably with the serious situation.

 

No one should say that this was the religion of the nations before us and that it is not binding on us to follow, because the Qur'an relates such accounts in order for us to take lessons and examples from them. Allah says, [in their history verily there is a lesson for men of understanding] (Yusuf 12:111).

 

Moreover, Allah says to His Messenger after mentioning the names of some of His noble messengers, [Those are they whom Allah guideth, so follow their guidance] (Al-An`am 6:90).

 

Uniting the Muslim Ummah is required at all times, and it is even more required during this hard phase of our Ummah's history. The Ummah's unity is a religious obligation and a necessity required by international reality. The Ummah's unity is power and its disunity makes it an easy victim for the enemies.

 

I conclude my research with this verse: [The believers are nothing else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren, and fear Allah that haply ye may obtain mercy] (Al-Hujurat 49:10).

 

I invoke Allah with the same invocation of the followers into faith who came after the Muhajirun and the Ansar: [And those who came (into the faith) after them say: "Our Lord Forgive us and our brethren who were before us in the faith, and place not in our hearts any rancor toward those who believe. Our Lord! Thou art Full of Kindness, Most Merciful"] (Al-Hashr 59:10).

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