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Are The Shia Considered Muslims? A Balanced Answer

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Are the Shia Considered Muslims?


A Balanced Answer



This question–about whether or not the Imami Shia are Muslim–is a very emotional one. The humble
author of this article is not qualified to pass verdicts on such matters;
however, this article will merely serve as a purview of all the various
opinions cited by qualified Sunni scholarship, and to hopefully make sense of
it all in a constructive manner.

The truth of the matter is that the answer to this question cannot
be a simple “yes” or a “no.” Unfortunately, some “conservative” Sunnis will
jump to declare all Shia
to be Kufaar (disbelievers) and engage in Takfeer of all Shia they come in
contact with. On the other hand, some “liberal” Sunnis will reflexively defend
all Shia no matter how odious or deviant their beliefs are, including even
their Ayatollahs and leaders. Indeed, to draw a hasty conclusion is not
appropriate; Imam Ibn Abidin states:

“It is difficult to make a general statement and judge all the
Shia to be disbelievers.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 4/453)

Some Shia are considered Muslims, and some Shia
are considered Kufaar. Various Shia have different beliefs: some have beliefs
which constitute Kufr, whereas others do not. Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam
al-Kawthari says:

According to the classical and the majority of contemporary
scholars, there are two types of Shi’as:

a)Those that hold beliefs that constitute disbelief (kufr)…shi’as
that hold such beliefs are without a doubt out of the fold of Islam.

b)Those who do not hold beliefs that constitute Kufr…Such Shi’as can not be
termed as out of the fold of Islam, rather they are considered to be severely
deviated and transgressors (fisq).

source: Sunni Path, http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=1898&CATE=164

Shaikh Abdul Wahab al-Turayree, a professor of Al-Imam University,

We cannot say that all the Shî`ah are unbelievers. On the other
hand, there are many sects of the Shî`ah who advance claims that are tantamount
to unbelief. Anyone who believes such things would be an unbeliever.

source: IslamToday.com,


Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid of Islam-qa.com says:

What we say about interacting with the Shi’ah depends on the
situation. The innovated beliefs of the Shi’ah vary. If it [their belief] is
something that does not put them beyond the pale of Islam…[it] is rather
regarded [merely] as drifting away from the right path [as opposed to Kufr]…[in
such a case] they are Muslims who have committed acts of innovation and sin
that do not put
them beyond the pale of Islam.

source: Islam-qa.com, http://www.islamqa.com/index.php?ref=48984&ln=eng&txt=shia

Therefore, depending on his beliefs, a Shia person can be Muslim
or Kaafir. What then are the beliefs which constitute Kufr? There are quite a
few beliefs which constitute Kufr that would take one outside the folds of
Islam, but we shall herein only discuss those relevant to the Sunni-Shia

(1) The superiority of the Imams over the Prophets.

This is perhaps the most important issue. It is in fact the crux
of the debate between Sunni and Shia. The doctrine of Imamah (i.e. belief in
twelve Infallible Imams) is what separates the Shia from mainstream Islam. Too
often than not, Sunnis will argue that Shia are disbelievers because they curse
the Sahabah or something else along those lines, but in reality, the focus of
the debate should be around the issue of Imamah.

Shaikh Ahmad Rida Khan quoted by Sunni Path states:

Shi`ah fall into three categories:

1. ghâli (ghulât): they repudiate the necessities of
religion…[They are Kaafir because they] elevate Sayyiduna Ali and other Imams
above the Prophets…[They are Kaafir even] if these Imams are held to be higher
than even ONE prophet….

Those who hold the above and other such statements that amount to
disbelief are Kaafirs by Ijma (consensus). All dealings with them are similar
to those with apostates. It is in fatawa Dharhiriyyah, Fatawa Hindiyyah,
Hadiqatun Nadiyyah: they are to be dealt with as apostates.

Nowadays, most of the Rafidhis (i.e. Shia) fall into this
category. Their scholars and commoners, men and woman–all of them seem to
profess the aforementioned beliefs–except Allâh willing–otherwise.

source: Sunni Path, http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=598&CATE=10

Shaikh Ahmad Rida Khan has hereby stated that–according to
him–most of the Shia alive today possess this belief and are therefore Kufaar.
The author of this article agrees with him, but would like to point out that
this may not be the case in the West: it seems that most Shia commoners living
in North America and Europe have a more “filtered” version of Shi’ism, so
whereas most Shia worldwide may hold such a belief, the Western Shia may differ
in this. In any case, what we have established thus far is the fact that the
belief that any of the Imams are superior to even one Prophet is Kufr.

It should be noted that this concept is not peculiar or particular
to the Shia, but rather to any person in general. If, for example, a Sunni were
to claim that Abu Bakr was equal to or superior to Prophet Musa, then this
would be grounds for Kufr. Muslims believe that the Prophets and Messengers are
the highest in ranks amongst humanity, and that no person can rival them in
this honor, neither can they be superior to them nor can they even equal them
in status. It is, after all, for this reason that the Ahmadis are declared to
be Kufaar, namely because they believe in a person who has a rank equal to or
higher than the Prophets.

It should be noted that all the Shia Maraje’ (top scholars) are
agreed upon the fact that the Imams are superior to the Prophets, aside from
Prophet Muhammad. For an indepth analysis of this Shia belief, please read this
article: Imams
Superior to Prophets.

However, although the Shia scholarship is agreed upon this
doctrine, the laity amongst the Shia (i.e. the masses) may be unaware of this.
In fact, it has been my observation that most Shia lay-persons and commoners in
the West have no idea at all about this belief. Many of them are even shocked
if someone were to claim that the Imams are superior to Prophets. It has
happened on numerous occassions that a Shia lay-person would accuse a Sunni of
lying if the latter were to state that the Shia believe that Imamah is superior
to Prophethood. Indeed, I have no doubt that most Shia lay-persons who read
this article will themselves deny this fact, and therefore I strongly urge them
to read the link above so that they can have the definitive proof of the
beliefs of the Shia scholarship.

In conclusion, the Shia scholars are Kufaar because they believe
that their Imams are superior to the Prophets. This includes their Ayatollahs,
such as Khomeini, Khameini, Sistani, etc. It should be noted that these Shia
scholars base this position on the Shia religious texts, which are very clear
on this matter. The Shia Hadith literature and classical books state–in no
uncertain terms–that their twelve Imams are superior to the Prophets (aside
from Prophet Muhammad).

However, the lay-persons, commoners, and masses of Shia–especially
in the West–may not be aware of these religious texts, nor are they aware of
the position of the scholars whom they supposedly do Taqleed upon. In a way,
this ignorance is understandable. The masses of any faith are oftentimes not in
tune with the actual beliefs written in the religious texts and held by the
classical scholars. This holds true for Sunnis as well. For example, most Sunni
lay-persons are completely unaware of the fact that music is Haram. However,
the Sunni texts are clear on this matter and clearly state that music is Haram,
and this is the view held by the Sunni scholars.

In other words, just because the Sunni masses believe one thing,
this does not mean that this conforms to what the Sunni religious texts say or
what the Sunni scholars believe. Likewise, just because the Shia masses in the
West may not believe that their Imams are superior to the Prophets does not
mean that this is what Shi’ism itself says. Most Muslim lay-persons may say one
thing, but Islam can say another thing. Like I mentioned earlier, most Muslim
lay-persons would say that music is Halal, but Islam actually says that music
is Haram. Similarly, most Shia lay-persons would say that their Imams are not
superior to Prophets, but Shi’ism actually says otherwise.

Any Shia person who understands this belief and adheres to it
(i.e. the superiority of Imams over Prophets) is a Kaafir. It would not be an
over-exaggeration to say that a Shia lay-person could become a Kaafir simply by
reading this article and the one I gave the link to. The reason I make such a
bold claim is that prior to reading these two articles, a Shia person may not
have been aware of the fact that Shi’ism holds that Imams are superior to
Prophets. But now I have shown him that indeed this is what Shi’ism says about
this matter. If such a Shia reader were to now adopt this viewpoint, then
indeed he would become a Kaafir.

In other words, a Shia person’s ignorance of his own faith could
serve as a protection in the sense that such a person is not a Kaafir because
he does not believe in those parts of his religion which constitute Kufr. I
would say that the masses of Shia in the West are unaware of this belief of
theirs, and are therefore considered to be Muslims. It is only those who are
aware of such a belief and adhere to it that would be outside the folds of
Islam. The Shia scholarship are Kufaar but we do not say that the Shia masses

(2) Claiming that a person after Prophet Muhammad received
revelation from Allah like a Prophet.

This is another belief which constitutes Kufr. Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi
was asked what were the agreed upon acts which would constitute exiting the
faith. To this, he stated:

“Claiming that a person after the time of Prophet Muhammad ibn
Abdullah is a real Prophet from Allah…Included in this is claiming that one has
received revelation from Allah like a Prophet.”

source: Guiding Helper, www.guidinghelper.com

The reality is that the Shia believe that their Imams received
revelation from Allah like Prophets. However, they will not readily admit this
fact and will in fact seek out loopholes to defend their beliefs, playing word
games, and such stuff. Hence, I do not find any need to dwell on this matter,
since it is much easier to prove the first belief above. The only reason I am
mentioning this here is that it should be established firmly that it is a
belief of the Muslims that no divinely appointed figure exists after Prophet
Muhammad, and the belief in Imams is in contradiction to this.

(3) The Quran is incomplete.

Publically, the Shia will vehemently deny that they believe that
the Quran is incomplete. The truth of the matter is that many of the Shia
Maraje’ (top scholars) do believe in Tahreef (tampering) of the Quran, but they
hide this fact due to Taqiyyah and Kitman. And there may be many Shia people
who do indeed hold such a belief but they hide this fact. If this is the case,
then we cannot declare them to be Kufaar, as we were not sent to judge what is in
the hearts and only Allah knows what are the true intentions of people. Shaikh
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari says:

It should be remarked here that some members of the Shi’a
community display outwardly not to have believes that constitute Kufr, but keep
these beliefs in their heart, which they call Taqiyya.

The case with such people is that if they did have such beliefs
that constitute Kufr in their heart but outwardly denied them, then even though
according to Allah and in hereafter they will be regarded as non-Muslims, but
we will judge them according to their outward statements and actions.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is
reported to have said:

“I have been ordered to judge people according to their outward

source: Sunni Path, http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=1898&CATE=164

In common discourse, the Shia polemicists will vehemently deny
such a belief, and it is only through a very tiresome process that we prove to
them that Tahreef is a part of their faith. Therefore, once again, I would not
advise bringing up this topic when discussing whether or not Shia are Muslim or
not. Since the vast majority of Shia do not adhere to this belief, discussing
this issue will only cause digression and tangential argumentation.

(4) Cursing the Sahabah.

Many hold the belief that cursing the Sahabah constitutes Kufr.
However, this is an oversimplification of the issue, one which in fact weakens
the position of the Ahlus Sunnah. A Shia propagandist would be very quick to
show that in fact the Sahabah did fight amongst each other and one Sahabah
would sometimes call another by a name, or the Prophet’s wives might do such a
thing, etc. Therefore, we should be clearer and more specific instead of simply
saying that cursing the Sahabah constitutes Kufr.

Mufti Ebrahim Desai’s student says the following:

The issue of abusing the Sahabah (Radhiyallahu anhum) takes on
various forms. Hereunder follows some related points.

1. It is Haraam to abuse the Sahabah (Radhiyallahu anhum)

2. Normally, a person who does so is sinning, but would not be a

3. If, Allah forbid, a person falsely accuses Hadhrat Aaisha
(Radhiyallahu anha) or any of the other Ummahaatul Mu’mineen of Zinaa, he is a

4. If, Allah forbid, a person says that most or all of the Sahabah
(Radhiyallahu anhum) became murtad (renegade) after Rasulullah (Sallallahu
alayhi wa sallam), or become sinners after him, such a person is a Kaafir.

5. If one considers it permissible to abuse the
Sahabah(Radhiyallahu anhum), such a person is Kaafir.

6. If one regards it as a light matter to abuse the Sahabah
(Radhiyallahu anhum), such a person is a kaafir.

We trust this answers your question.

And Allah Ta’ala knows best

Was Salaam

E. Vawda

for Daarul Iftaa

CHECKED & APPROVED: Mufti Ebrahim Desai

source: Ask-Imam, http://www.Islam.tc/ask-imam/view.php?q=14285

Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid of Islam-qa.com says:

Some of the scholars explained in detail what is meant by hating
the Sahaabah. They said: If a person hates some of them for some worldly reason,
then that is not kufr and hypocrisy, but if it is for a religious reason,
because they were the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him), then undoubtedly this is hypocrisy.

Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:

If a person slanders them [i.e. the Sahaabah] in a way that does
not impugn their good character or religious commitment, such as describing one
of them as being stingy or cowardly or lacking in knowledge or not being an
ascetic and so on, then he deserves to be rebuked and disciplined, but we do
not rule him to be a kaafir because of that. This is how the words of those who
were not regarded as kaafirs by the scholars are to be understood.

If a person curses them and slanders them in general terms, this
is an area of scholarly dispute, depending on whether this cursing is motivated
by mere feelings or religious doctrines. If a person goes beyond that and
claims that they apostatized after the death of the Messenger of Allaah (peace
and blessings of Allaah be upon him), apart from a small group of no more than
ten or so individuals, or that most of them rebelled and did evil, then there
is no doubt that such a person is a kaafir, because he has denied what is
stated in more than one place in the Qur’aan, that Allaah was pleased with them
and praised them. Indeed whoever doubts that such a person is a kaafir is
himself a kaafir, because this implies that those who transmitted the Qur’aan
and Sunnah were kaafirs or evildoers and that the best of this ummah which is
described in the verse “You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:110 – interpretation of the meaning] – the first generation –
were mostly kaafirs and hypocrites. It implies that this ummah is the worst of
nations, and that the first generations of this ummah are the most evil. No
doubt this is blatant kufr, the evidence for which is quite clear.

Hence you will find that most of those who proclaim such views
will sooner or later be shown to be heretics. Heretics usually conceal their
views, but Allaah has punished some of them to make an example of them, and
there are many reports that they were turned into pigs in life and in death.
The scholars have compiled such reports, such as al-Haafiz al-Saalih Abu
‘Abd-Allaah Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Waahid al-Maqdisi, in his book al-Nahi ‘an
Sabb al-Ashaab in which he narrated the punishments that befell such heretics.

In conclusion, there are some groups of those who slander the
Sahaabah concerning who them is no doubt that they are kaafirs, others who
cannot be judged to be kaafirs, and others concerning whom there is some doubt
regarding that.

source: Al-Saarim al-Maslool ‘ala Shaatim al-Rasool, p. 590-591.

Taqiy al-Deen al-Subki said:

… This refers to one who slanders some of the Sahaabah. But if a
person slanders all of the Sahaabah, then he is undoubtedly a kaafir. The same
applies if he slanders one of the Sahaabah just because he is a Sahaabi,
because this is demeaning the virtue of the Sahaabah and indirectly slandering
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). So undoubtedly the
person who does this is a kaafir. Based on this, the words of al-Tahhaawi, “and
hating them is kufr” should be understood as meaning that hating all of the
Sahaabah is undoubtedly kufr, but if a person slanders a Sahaabi not because he
is a Sahaabi but for some personal reason…

The reason for the scholarly dispute on this issue is if a person
slanders a specific person it may be for some personal reason, or he may hate
someone for a worldly reason etc. This does not imply that he is a kaafir. But
undoubtedly if he hates one of the two Shaykhs because he was a companion of
the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), then this is kufr, and
indeed hating any of the Sahaabah who was lower in status than two Shaykhs just
because he was a companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) is also definitely kufr.

source: Fataawa al-Subki, 2/575.

In fact, this has always been the position of the Ahlus Sunnah on
the matter. Therefore, we should not misrepresent ourselves when we state that
cursing the Sahabah is Kufr, but rather we should clarify this position and
make it clear.

Based on the above, we see that it is Kufr to hate the Sahabah if
any of the following conditions are met:

(a) One hates all of the Sahabah or at least the vast majority of
them. (This could apply to the Shia, many of whom claim that the vast majority
of the Sahabah apostatized.)

(b) One hates a Sahabi for the fact that he is a Companion of the
Prophet. (This could apply to Non-Muslims, such as Abu Jahl, who would hate
anyone who became one of the Prophet’s friends.)

© One hates a Sahabi for some religious reason such as believing
that he usurped the divinely appointed
role of Imamah. (This no doubt applies to the Ithna Ashari Shia. Notice how the
Zaidis believe that Ali was better suited to be the Caliph than Abu Bakr, but
they do not believe that this is a religious difference
but rather a political one. Therefore, we do not pass a verdict of Kufr on them
for this. The Ithna Ashari, on the other hand, claims that this is a religious
issue, one decided upon by Allah Himself.)

(d) One who curses a Sahabi is sinning, but the one who thinks
that it is permissible to
curse Sahabah is Kaafir irrespective of if he himself does that or not. (This
most definitely applies to the Shia, who believe that it is permissible to
curse the Sahabah.)

The reason that these things constitute Kufr is because they are
disbelieving in the verse in the Quran in which Allah says “You are the best of
peoples ever raised up for mankind” (Quran, 3:110) and “And the first to
embrace Islam, of the Muhajirs and the Ansars, and also those who followed them
exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well pleased
with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell
therein forever.” (Quran, 9:100) And many other such verses. Because these
verses are stated in the general sense, we only say that it is Kufr to make
general condemnations of the Sahabah. However, Abu Bakr and Aisha were
mentioned in the Quran specifically, in verse 9:40 and verses 24:11-26
respectively. Abu Bakr was declared the companion of the Prophet, and Aisha was
declared innocent of adultery.

Imam Ibn Abidin states:

“There is no doubt in the disbelief (kufr) of those that falsely
accuse Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) of adultery, deny the
Companionship of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him)…”

And some scholars extend these verses to encompass other beliefs,
such as negating those who say that Abu Bakr was evil or sinful (as the Prophet
says in that verse that “Allah is with us”) or accusing Aisha of other things
(because Allah says “Allah warns you not to repeat the like of it again”).

This debate is beyond the scope of this article and the abilities
of this humble author. Indeed, I am simply trying to prove the point that it is
a much more involved topic than simply saying “whoever curses the Sahabah is
Kaafir.” Having said that, realistically the Shia scholars would be Kufaar
based on their slander of the Prophet’s wives and Sahabah based on the above
conditions. However, it is unclear as to what the average Shia lay-person
believes on such a matter and whether or not he understands the gravity of his
belief. It is likely that the average Shia lay-person will deny having hatred
for the Sahabah in general, and therefore, this is a dead-end issue to debate.

(5) Other strange beliefs.

Historically, various Shia sects have held many strange beliefs,
such as that Ali is God, or that Angel Jibraeel made a mistake, or that Allah
lies, etc. However, because the mainstream Shia do not believe in these things
any more, it serves no point to dwell on these matters. And there are many
other beliefs which the Shia do believe
in which commonly come up in this debate. However, I strongly believe that none
of them are important to discuss except the first issue which I stated, namely
the superiority of Imams over Prophets.

The Ruling

The question about Shia and their position as Muslims (or not) is
a multi-factorial issue. The crux of the issue, however, is the matter of
Imamah and its superiority over Risalah (Prophethood). This is the one issue
that the Shia scholars do not shy away from. They will do Taqiyyah when it
comes to Tahreef of the Quran, they will obfuscate when it comes to Imams
receiving revelation, they will become catty when it comes to hating the
Sahabah, play word games on other issues, etc. But the issue about Imamah is
one that the Shia scholarship has clearly stated, and it is this issue which
casts out the Shia scholars into the realm of Kufr. Having said that, the bulk
of the Shia lay-persons (at least in the West) are unaware of this belief and
therefore do not believe in it. As such, they are not disbelievers and we
should regard them as Muslims.

Fatwa of Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot

There is one fatwa that has become notorious in the Sunni-Shia
dialogue, namely the religious edict passed by Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot of
Al-Azhar who claimed that the Jaffari Madhab was an acceptable “fifth Madhab.”
Invariably, this fatwa will be recycled in the Sunni-Shia debates. However,
this fatwa has absolutely no value because it was categorically denounced by
the Sunni scholarship en masse. One scholar’s errant opinion cannot refute the
Ijma (consensus) of the scholars, but rather it is disregarded as baseless.
Shaikh Faraz Rabbani responded to this claim of a “fifth Madhab” by saying:

“Jafari fiqh is not accepted as a sound school of law by Sunni

souce: Sunni Path,


Sidi Musa wrote a refutation of this bogus fatwa entitled “Myth of
the Fifth Madhab”, saying:

“There is no fifth madhhab in addition to the four madhahib of Ahl
Al-Sunnah…there is no madhhab in addition to the four madhhahib of Ahl
Al-Sunnah that is permissible for Muslims to follow…Can one, for example,
follow the madhhab of Twelver Shi`a? …The answer is, quite clearly, no.”

In the second introduction to “The Reliance Of The Traveler” it is
stated in regards to any so-called “fifth Madhab”:

“Ibn Salah reports that there is scholarly consensus on its [sic]
being unlawful to follow”

The Shia propagandists will chime in that the fatwa advocating the
“fifth Madhab” was passed by the prestigious Al-Azhar University. What they fail
to mention is that after that errant fatwa passed by that one Shaikh, Al-Azhar
University passed another fatwa many years later rebuffing the earlier fatwa.
In fact, it is well-known that Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot was influenced by a Shia
lobbyist of Dar al-Taqrib named Muhammad Taqi al-Qummi; although we respect the
scholars, everyone makes mistakes and it is not acceptable to follow a scholar
who has an errant opinion on a matter. Shaikh Nuh Keller called it “madness” to
follow such a fatwa advocating a “fifth Madhab”.

Disbelievers or People of Deviation

There is no valid opinion amongst the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah
that would place the Shia in any fifth Madhab, but rather there are only two
opinions on the matter. Each and every Shia person is either part of the :

1) Kufaar (disbelievers)


2) Ahlul Bidah (People of Innovation or Deviation)

There is no other option. It should be noted that Ahlul Bidah can
be broken down further into two arbitrary groups, namely:

1) Those members of Ahlul Bidah who are simply ignorant.


2) Those members of Ahlul Bidah who are obstinate in their

The second group should be shunned. As for the first group,
however, we should seek to soften their hearts so that they educate themselves
about the Straight Path and they abandon the Deviated Path. Shaikh Muhammad
Salih Al-Munajjid of Islam-qa.com says:

Softening the hearts of some people is more effective than
shunning… shunning may make a person more rebellious and stubborn, and prevent
further opportunities to advise and call him; in that case it should not be
done…Do not forget to advise him (the sinner or innovator)…Seeking to soften
his heart with gifts, smiling at him and speaking kindly to him may be more
effective than shunning him, so do that. If he refuses that from you, and does
not respond to you, then there is no sin on you and you are not to blame for
that…The believer looks at what is in the best interests (of Islam). This does
not contradict the idea of hating the kaafirs, innovators and sinners for the
sake of Allaah and loving the Muslims for the sake of Allaah. Attention must be
paid to what is in the general interest; if shunning is better then they should
be shunned, but if the objectives of Islam dictate that ongoing da’wah efforts
should be made rather than shunning, then that is what should be done,
following the teaching of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him). And Allaah is the Source of strength.

Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah said:

Softening people’s hearts may be more beneficial in some cases
than shunning. And shunning is more beneficial in some cases then softening
hearts. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) softened
the hearts of some people and shunned others.

source: Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 28/206

Therefore, the former group (the ignorant) should be softened and
the second group (the obstinate) shunned.


Amongst the Ahlus Sunnah, three opinions exist amongst the

1) Those who say: “The Shia are Kufaar.”

2) Those who say: “The Shia are Muslim.”

3) Those who say: “Some Shia are Muslim and others are Kufaar.”

However, the reality is that all three opinions are basically
saying the same thing, and the difference in opinion is only lexical. It
depends on how one defines the word “Shia.”

For example, Opinion 1 is held by Mufti Ebrahim Desai of Darul
Iftaa who says:

“Shi’as are not Muslims.” (www.ask-imam.com)

Mufti Ebrahim Desai defines the word “Shia” as a hypothetical and
conceptual entity, as one who followsthe beliefs of
Shi’ism based upon their texts and the opinions of their classical scholars. In
other words, XYZ beliefs are Kufr, and XYZ beliefs are a part of the faith of
Shi’ism; therefore, anyone who does not accept the XYZ beliefs is not a real

Opinion 2 is held by Shaikh Faraz Rabbani:

“Notwithstanding the known disagreements between Sunnis and Shia,
traditional Sunni scholarship has considered the Shia to be Muslim”

Shaikh Faraz Rabbani is defining the “Shia” in a practical and
worldly sense, referring to anyone who calls himself a Shia. This particular
fatwa was “politically correct” and in fact Shaikh Faraz Rabani’s disciple,
Sidi Salman Younas, clarified:

“Shaykh Faraz’s position is that a Shi`a is a disbeliever if he
denies any of the necessary aspects of the religion, without sufficient shubha.
Otherwise, he will not be considered as such.” (Sidi Salman Younas)

In fact, the Sunni Path website clarifies elsewhere:

According to the classical and the majority of contemporary
scholars, there are two types of Shi’as:

a)Those that hold beliefs that constitute disbelief (kufr)…shi’as
that hold such beliefs are without a doubt out of the fold of Islam.

b)Those who do not hold beliefs that constitute Kufr…Such Shi’as can not be
termed as out of the fold of Islam, rather they are considered to be severely
deviated and transgressors (fisq).

source: Sunni Path, http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=1898&CATE=164

In other words, the difference of opinion is simply lexical,
revolving around how the term Shia is used. Even those who declare that “Shia
are Kufaar” are simply using a different definition of the word “Shia.” For
example, above we have seen how the Ask Imam site says that “Shia are Kufaar”
in one fatwa, but we find in another fatwa on the same site that the
clarification is given:

“All the Shiites are not regarded as Kaafir…If a Shiite does not
believe in the above (beliefs) and respects all the Sahabah, then he will not
be regarded as a Kaafir.

source: Ask Imam, http://www.Islam.tc/ask-imam/view.php?q=8649

And this is also the opinion of Mufti Taqi Usmani, who–like Mufti
Ebrahim Desai–is Deobandi. Mufti Taqi Usmani is quite explicit in his fatawa
Uthmani that the way of the scholars of Dar ul Uloom is to consider a Shia to
be Muslim unless he holds certain beliefs which constitute Kufr.

Therefore, the most appropriate way to phrase the position of the
Shia is the third way, which is to refrain from blanket statements and to say
that some Shia are Muslim and others are Kufaar. This removes ambiguity and is
most precise. Blanket statements such as “the Shia are Kaafir” or “the Shia are
Muslim” cause confusion; even though the person who says such statements might
know what he is really saying, the reader will be confused into thinking
something else. Furthermore, such a person risks the chances of being

Some people mistakenly bring up quotes from past scholars and take
them out of context in order to somehow prove that certain classical scholars
passed blanket Takfeer on the Shia. Indeed, these quotes are using the word
“Shia” in the same way as Mufti Ebrahim Desai used it, namely as one who
adheres to the tenets of Shi’ism which includes XYZ beliefs. Oftentimes, when
the context of the quote is shown, then this will clear up the matter. Many
people have falsely claimed that all four Imams have passed Takfeer on the
Shia, but this is not a blanket Takfeer and is only in regards to those who
hold XYZ beliefs. Indeed, Ibn Abidin stated in his Radd Al Muhtar, which is the
central reference for fatwas in the Hanafi Madhab, that none of the four Imams
passed blanket Takfeer on the Shia.

Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah is known as being one of the
harshest against the Shia, and indeed he did justifiably criticize those Shia
who have beliefs which constitute Kufr. And yet, Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah
refrained from doing blanket Takfeer on the Shia. Unknowingly, many persons
pass around the following quote:

Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said about the Raafidah, “They are
more evil than most of the people of desires, and they are more deserving of
being killed than the Khawaarij.” [Refer to Majmoo’ul-Fataawaa (28/482) of Ibn

And yet, this is taking the quote out of context, because what
Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah said is not in regards to all Shia or even all Rafidhis,
but only those who have specific beliefs which he mentions:

“Whosoever claims that the Sahabah became apostates after the
Messenger of Allah (except for a small group that did not reach ten odd people
in number) or that they majority of them were disobedient sinners, then there
is also no doubt about the Kufr of this one.”

It is not a blanket Takfeer of all Shia but rather of “this one”
with those beliefs. Indeed, in no uncertain terms, Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah says:

“And regarding the Salaf and Imams, they did not sway from their rejection of
Takfeer upon the Murjiah and Shia and others like them. Nor do the texts of
(Imam) Ahmad (bin Hanbal) differ in that he did not make Takfeer upon them…and
regarding the Khawarij and the (Shia) Rawafid, there is dispute and hesitation
regarding Takfeer upon them from (Imam) Ahmad (bin Hanbal) and others besides

source: Majmoo` Fatawa

Sidi Salman Younas, a disciple of Shaikh Faraz Rabbani, says the
following when someone asked if Shia are Muslim or Kaafir:

“We asked Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf about this question and he
pointed out the things Shias do that make them Kaffir, and he followed up with
how we have Shias here in the U.S who are utterly unaware of major Shia beliefs
(such as cursing the Khulafa); thus this fatwa (of Kufr) will not apply to
them. Whether you label this Taqiyya or not, the point still remains that we do
not judge their inner (selves).”

The Dangers of the First Way

The First Way, which is to make general statements like “the Shia
are Kufaar”, is dangerous because it hardens the hearts of the Shia
lay-persons, many of whom are genuinely good people and may just be ignorant.
They need Dawah and Naseeha, which require softness. Condeming them as Kufaar
will only make their hearts turn harder and they will turn away from us. The
truth is that they are not Kufaar, but rather only misguided by their Kaafir
scholars. We should differentiate between the ignorant masses and the evil Shia

By distinguishing the masses from their Ayatollahs, we are driving
a wedge between the two groups. And this is what we want to do: our Shia
bretheren have been under the brain-washing and programming of their
Ayatollahs, and we have to save them from that. If we group them both together
as Kufaar, then we are increasing the love between the two and increasing the
power and status of the Ayatollahs. In reality, we should create disunity and
disharmony in their ranks, driving the people away from the Shia leaders. It is
the Shia leaders, not the masses, who propagate such deviant beliefs, who hate
the Sahabah, who organize Shia death squads in Iraq, etc.

Many people have criticized the Ahlel Bayt website for the fact
that we refer to the Shia as “brothers” but there is nothing wrong in this,
because we are addressing the lay-persons and the commoners from amongst them,
not their leaders. We seek to soften their hearts so they harken to the truth
and reject their blasphemous leaders.

The Dangers of the Second Way

The Second Way, of making general statements like “the Shia are
Muslim”, is obfuscation of the truth. It denies the reality that in fact we
believe that Shi’ism is Kufr, all of the scholars of Shi’ism are Kufaar,and
that even the remaining group are Ahlul Bidah. This confusion will cause
problems, such as Sunnis marrying Shia, or Sunnis thinking that they can adopt
Shi’ism as a possible “Fifth Madhab”, or the Shia feeling that their way is
approved by the Muslims. On the Day of Judgement, these same Shia will point
fingers at us and ask us why we did not warn them of the Kufr of their beliefs.

Furthermore, it is very necessary to expose the Kufr of the
leaders of Shi’ism. They have declared war on the true Islam, both by pen and
by sword. Unity with them is not possible, and it is a part of their creed to
accept the Ahlus Sunnah externally but to oppose us internally. If we allow
ourselves to be fooled by false slogans of “Muslim unity”, we will only be left
to one day deal with the Shia leaders stabbing us in the back, as has been the
case historically and even today in Iraq.

The Third Way

There is much confusion as to the correct position of the Ahlus
Sunnah wal Jama’ah with regards to the Shia, and a lot of this has to do with
the lexical distinctions made by various scholars. However, despite the
seemingly contradictory statements, almost everyone (apart from some
exceptions) is saying the same thing. I believe that the third way is the best
way, and that the first two ways cause confusion. The third way, of saying that
some Shia are Muslim and others are Kaafir, is the best methodology. One should
be clear that Shi’ism is Kufr, and that some Shia are not Kufaar simply because
they are ignorant of the beliefs of Shi’ism which constitute Kufr. In “Hayate
Shaikh” by Sayyid Muhammad Shahid Saharanfuri, we read:

“Hazrat Gangohi used to say that because of the ignorance of the
masses, they are (only) faasiq (sinful), (even though) their Ulama are kaafir.”

Yet, despite our lenience towards the masses, we should be very
clear in saying that Shi’ism is Kufr and call the people away from it and those
who propagate such Kufr.

The principle of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah is to pass
condemnation in general terms, refraining from passing condemnation on people
in specific. Therefore, we should make the general statement that “Shi’ism is
Kufr”, but we should refrain from saying “that Shia person is Kaafir.” This is
stated by Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah:

“With regard to a specific evildoer, we should not curse him,
because the Prophet forbade cursing ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Himaar who used to drink
wine, even though he had cursed the wine-drinkers in general; however cursing a
specific person if he is an evildoer or promoter of bid’ah is a point of
dispute among the scholars.”

Shaikh Ibn Uthaymeen said:

The difference between cursing a specific person and cursing those
who commit sin in general is that the former (cursing a specific person) is not
allowed, and the latter (cursing the people who commit sin in general) is
allowed. So if you see an innovator, you do not say, ‘May Allaah curse you,’
rather say, ‘May the curse of Allaah be upon those who introduce innovations,’
in general terms. The evidence for that is the fact that when the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) cursed some people among the
mushrikeen and followers of jaahiliyyah and said: “O Allaah, curse So and so,
and So and so, and So and so,” he was told not to do that when Allaah said
(interpretation of the meaning):

“Not for you (O Muhammad, but for Allaah) is the decision; whether
He turns in mercy to (pardons) them or punishes them; verily, they are the
Zaalimoon (polytheists, disobedients and wrongdoers)”

[Quran, 3:128]

source: al-Qawl al-Mufeed, 1/226.

Therefore, we should say that “Shi’ism is Kufr” (general
statement) instead of pointing to individual Shia lay-persons and saying “you
are Kaafir” (specific statement). The exception to this, of course, are those
Shia leaders who propagate their views; it becomes necessary to condemn them
publically so that people are warned to stay away from them. This condemnation
would also apply to those non-scholars who become their foremost propagandists
and who debate with us in an obstinate way, exceeding the limits. Mufti
Mohammad Sajjad stated:

Q. Is there any difference between scholars of Imami Shias and
their laymen, as Mufti Rasheed Ahmed Ludhanvi (rahimuhullah) didn’t distinguish
between them?

A. If they, the laymen, hold the same beliefs as their scholars
then there is no difference between them and their ruling is the same [i.e.
they are disbelievers].

Therefore, it is important to notify the people of the Kufr of
these Shia scholars, leaders, and self-appointed propagandists. We read:

Question: Is it permissible to mention peoples’ names and
characters when one wants to criticise them and their thinking?

Response: If someone writes something that contradicts the pure
Sharee’ah, and distributes that material, or if he propagates that view in the
media, it becomes compulsory to refute him and expose the falsehood of what he
says. There is nothing wrong in mentioning that person’s name or in warning
people about him if he calls to innovation, shirk, or if he calls people to
what Allaah has prohibited or to disobedience. Until this day, there are
knowledgeable and believing people from the callers to the truth and bearers of
the Sharee’ah fulfilling this obligation, sincerely for Allaah (Subhaanahu wa
Ta’aala) and for the benefit of His servants, rebuking the wrong, inviting to
the truth, warning others against those who propagate falsehood and destructive

And Allaah is the Expounder of (all) success.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz

Fataawa Islaamiyyah - Volume 4, Page 279


A very clear explanation of the status of the Imami Shia has been
given by a student of Mufti Ebrahim Desai, who said:


Are all shia Kafir? If not what makes them kafir or how can i
identify if he is kafir?


Firstly, hereunder are the criteria for declaring someone a

–When a person openly calls himself a non-Muslim, i.e. he accepts
that he is a Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc.

–When a person negates, through his words or actions, something
unanimously proven through Quran and Hadith. He will not be regarded a Muslim
even though he claims to be one.

Jawahirul Fiqh Vol:1 Pg:23 (Maktabah Darul Uloom

Secondly, although the Shias claim that they are Muslims, most of
them have beliefs that negate the clear cut principles of Islam…[such as] they
regard the status of their twelve Imams to be higher than the status of the
Ambiya (Alaihim Assalaatu Wassalaam).

Aaapke Masaail aur Unka Hal Vol:1 Pg:188
(Maktabah Bayyinat)

Thereafter, Shias are categorised into three groups in regards to
the ruling they fall under:

(1) Those about whom it is certain that they negate the principles
of Islam. Such Shias will be regarded as non-Muslims even if they do claim

(2) Those who do not negate any principles of Islam, but have a
difference of opinion with the Muslims on saying that Ali (Radiyallahu Anhu)
was the most superior amongst all the Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum). Such Shias
will not be regarded as non-Muslims, but they will still be regarded as fasiqs
(those who transgress the laws of Islam openly)…

(3) Those whose beliefs cannot be confirmed. They will not be
regarded as Muslims nor will they be regarded as non-Muslims. As a matter of
precaution, inter-marriages with them will not be permissible and the meat from
the animals slaughtered by them will not be Halal.

Jawaahirul Fiqh Vol:1 Pg:59-63 (Maktabah Darul
Uloom Karachi)

As far as ties with Shias are concerned, it is not permissible
to have close friendship with them. However, Islam encourages Muslims to have
good conduct with them, and show good character.

And Allah knows best

Ml. M. Jawed Iqbal,

Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai

Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah

source: Ask-Imam,


In conclusion, we say that Shi’ism is Kufr, and there is no doubt
about this; if one properly follows Shia doctrine, then such a person is a
Kaafir. Based on this, we say that the Shia leaders, scholars, and learned
ones–including their propagandists–are Kufaar. As for the Shia lay-persons,
then we generally refrain from passing Takfeer on them as a matter of
precaution due to their ignorance which oftentimes saves them from Kufr.
Therefore, we should make general statements such as “Shi’ism is Kufr” and “the
Shia leaders, scholars, and learned ones (including their propagandists) are
Kufaar” but refrain from specifically condemning individual lay-persons who are
ignorant of certain Shia doctrines. We should shun the former (i.e. the learned
ones) but we should soften the latter (i.e. the ignorant ones).


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Kindness Towards the Shia


Although we wholeheartedly disagree with the Shia, this does not
mean that we should become abusive or violently disagreeable. Unfortunately,

the Sunni-Shia divide is a very

sensitive issue for both sides, emotions become heated, tensions rise, and we
often become abusive towards each other. This is not acceptable at all: no matter
how much we disagree with the Shia, we should do so in a kind and courteous
manner, as is the Sunnah of the Prophet. Allah says in the Quran:

“You shall invite to the path of your
Lord with wisdom and kind enlightenment, and debate with them in the best
possible manner. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He
knows best who are the guided ones.” (Quran,

Oftentimes, Sunnis will resort to
hate speech and abusive language in response to some of the inflammatory
statements of the Shia propagandists. However, even if they say the vilest of
things–no matter if they insult the Three Caliphs or the Prophet’s wives with
the most abusive of language–we must still reply with kindness and courtesy.
Allah says in the Quran:

“And remain steadfast in the face of
their utterances, and disregard them in a nice manner.”(Quran,

And Allah says:

“So leave them alone to indulge in
their false discourses and to sport until they come face to face with that
Day…” (Quran, 70:42)

When the Shia propagandists say such
inflammatory things against everything we hold dear, let us remember the Words
of Allah and show patience as opposed to taking revenge on the Shia. We may
feel that one abusive statement is the justifiable revenge for another abusive
statement, but is not patience better than revenge? Allah says:

“But if you resort to patience
(instead of revenge), it would be better” (Quran,

And Allah says:

“You shall resort to patience–and your
patience is attainable only with Allah’s help. Do not grieve because of them,
and do not be annoyed…” (Quran,

As for those Shia who reject the
Call to true Islam, we should realize that they have been raised their entire
lives with such beliefs, and it will take time for them to shake that off. The
People of Taif stoned the Prophet, and Arch-Angel Jibraeel was so incensed by
the People of Taif that he told the Prophet that he could destroy the People of
Taif and remove them off the face of the earth, if the Prophet so wished. But
the Prophet did not give Arch-Angel Jibraeel the permission to do that, and
instead gave the People of Taif some time, rightfully believing that they might
still come to Islam, and if not them, then their children.

And eventually the kindness of the
Prophet paid off as the People of Taif converted to Islam and became the most
ardent supporters of Islam. Therefore, based on this, we see that we should be
kind and courteous towards the Shia, give them time even if they reject true
Islam, and pray that one day they come to true Islam. Allah says in the Quran:

“And let Me deal with those…who reject
(the Call); just give them a little time.” (Quran,

Prophet Musa addressed Pharaon with
kindness and courtesy in spite of his rejection of the Call. None of us Sunnis
are close to the greatness of Prophet Musa and none of the Shia are close to
the wickedness of Pharaon! So let us give the Shia their rights accorded to all
the Children of Adam. Allah says in the Quran:

“Tell My servants to treat each other
in the best possible manner, for the devil will always try to drive a wedge
among them. Surely, the devil is man’s most ardent enemy.” (Quran, 17:53)

Let us discourse with the Shia in
“the best possible manner”, to call them with kindness and courtesy to the Path
of Islam. This does not mean that we shall not continually reject and refute
the Shia propagandists, but only that we hope to do this in the appropriate
manner as is the Sunnah of the Prophet. May Allah forgive us if we have ever
overstepped the bounds.


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