by Abu Dharr (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 2, Rajab, 1438)
Unless Muslims begin to think outside the Sunni-Shia box, they will remain vulnerable to manipulation by the enemies of Islam as is happening today.
As any committed Muslim with listening ears and observing eyes would confess, the Muslims from the most ignorant to the most educated are living through times of trials and ordeals. These pivot around the sectarian psychology that has taken possession of those who say they are Sunnis as well as those who say they are Shi‘is. Fortunately, though, there are Muslims with free souls who have not fallen into this sectarian sinkhole. Let us try to deconstruct the sectarian centered information in a way that will enlighten our minds but may hurt our inherited emotions or cut through our local cultures.
In the previous year some scholars convened to define who is a Sunni. That was done, by and large, because the Wahhabi wealthies hijacked the word Sunni and gave it a Wahhabi image. An impartial consideration of who is a Sunni would have us visit the scholars who themselves had an input into defining who a Sunni is. Political establishments from the time of king Mu‘awiyah did their best to own the definition of who is a Sunni. All Muslims who say they are Sunnis are in agreement to the Prophet’s hadith that the era of the khulafa (Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali) is to be followed by a despotic monarchy [mulk ‘adud].
If we were to visit the history of the Sunni fuqaha’ we will definitely find that Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi‘, and Malik, not to mention others, to have sided with the struggle/opposition of the Ahl al-Bayt. Ahmad ibn Hanbal is considered by some to be more of a scholar of hadith than a faqih. There are thousands of hadiths attributed to his scholarly effort. One of the rulers during the time of Ahmad ibn Hanbal was killed in a venue of amusement and enjoyment with the drinking that goes with it as well as hundreds of concubines (jawari). For those who are emotionally jarred by this, refer to the books of the ardent Sunni al-Suyuti.
Among the Sunnis were scholars who developed ideas relying on the Qur’an and Hadith as well as scholars who kept to a literalist reading of the divine Book and the Hadith. This dynamic gave the Muslims the historical “controversy” of whether the Qur’an is created or not. These two sets of scholars then and now do not give us a satisfactory definition of the word Sunni.
Then we have that scholarly effort to find a happy medium between the literalist reading of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the extended rational reading of them. These are referred to as the Ash‘aris. It is said that one of the takfiris (Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi) distrusted the late leader of the Taliban (Mulla ‘Umar) because the latter considered himself an Ash‘ari-Maturidi. The fact of the matter is that the average Sunni, as far as we can tell, does not see himself, per say, as an Asha‘ari, even though he may very well be one.
In the climate of our turbulent times, there is a growing impression among this general body of Sunnis that there is a diabolic sectarian war [undeclared] against them; in exclusion to other Muslims. Some Wahhabi obsessed among them go as far as accusing Shi‘is of entering into a scheme by the US and others to eliminate Sunnis in places like ‘Iraq, Syria, etc… Mind you, the Zionists and imperialists manipulate this sectarian impression to extend their pilfering of Muslim resources and their penetration and manipulation of Muslims markets.
The simple, but undetected, truth of the matter is that all these intra-Islamic confrontations and conflicts as they swing from near-victory to near-defeat are the result of a profound public ignorance of our own selves – Sunnis and Shi‘is.
The old-hand Zionists and their co-politicos the imperialists are draining the pool of Islamic potential as they have experience from playing off Muslims during their era of colonialism and interventionism in the past centuries throughout Asia and Africa. When we the Muslims cannot think outside the Sunni-Shi‘i box we become easy targets for their thought-out wars. The intensity of our common ignorance has some of us referring to the regime of Saddam Husain as a Sunni regime – a Sunni government that persecuted the Shi‘is! Saddam Husain and his Ba‘thi comrades are turning in their graves and feeling insulted to have anything to do with Islam – of course unless it serves a sectarian purpose.
If the Sunnis are being sought out by Shi‘is for extermination, as some sectarians would like us to believe, then explain to us what is happening in Libya and Egypt. Explain to us what happened in Algeria a couple of decades ago. Ask yourself beyond your emotional trigger-points, who is arming and financing some Muslims to kill other Muslims? The Muslim Egyptians are practically 99% Sunnis. Its army and institutions are manned by Sunnis. So who and with the help of whom are innocent Egyptians being killed? Libya is 99% Sunni. Are there any Shi‘is involved in the wars among the tribes, cities and regions of Libya?
In the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia why did the “Sunni” governments of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) support the “Shi‘i” government in Azerbaijan while the government in Iran stood with Christian Armenia? If the Shi‘is are the number one enemy as we hear from some sectarian quarters?
Sunnis are Sunnis because they have a history of tolerance and coexistence with all Muslims. But now is the time to ask: will the Sunnis tolerate the Wahhabis who are prejudiced, segregationists, and sectarians? Even within the Wahhabi kingdom of Saudi ruling family the bigotry and intolerance of the Saudi rulers took issue with the Wahhabi bias in the battle of al-Sablah in 1929 and once again during the rebellion of Juhayman al-‘Utaibi some 37 years ago (November 1979).
Can we or will the common enemy consider Turkey a homogeneous Sunni country with its solid bloc of the Hanafi madh-hab? Or is it an entity waiting for serious fragmentation along the lines of a strong Sufi tradition (especially the tariqah Jalal al-Din al-Rumi) as opposed to the Baktashi tariqah (the Sufi order favored by the Sultans) and the Janissaries for several centuries? Are we, in our self-destructive ignorance, awaiting the time when the enemy plays on the historical events when the Ottoman Sultans leveled some edifices related to Ahmad ibn Hanbal and built in their stead structures honoring Ibn ‘Arabi? On the other hand, the common Zionist-imperialist enemy can set off our emotions by reminding us in our ignorance of our own selves of the antagonism and war between the Ottomans and the Mamluks in Egypt! Who here represents the Sunnis, may we ask?
Back in the 1960’s when Yemen threw off the monarchy and declared itself a republic, the Egyptian (Sunni) government supported those who were pro-republic while the Saudi (Wahhabi) regime supported the pro-monarchists (Zaydi Shi‘is)? That may have been the exception to the rule as the Zaydi Shi‘is have been in a historical struggle against the literalists Wahhabis who disparage the Zaydis for their affinity with the rational Mu‘tazilites). Suffice it to say the wars here and there among the Muslims had nothing to do with sober Islamic ijtihad as much as it had to do with evil politicians and cunning strategists who want to target the Muslims’ Achilles’ heel.
Now to that most seditious of all: Syria. There are some pieces of information that need to be taken into consideration.
Going back to the bombardment of Hamah in the 1960’s, those generals who executed and participated in the assault on Hamah were “Sunnis” and Ba‘this. Were they doing what they did as Sunnis? Or did they do what they did as Ba‘this? Remember the ‘Alawis/Ba‘this came to power in 1970 after the first bombardment of Hamah. Who were those Sunnis and Ba‘this? To name a few: ‘Abd al-Halim Khaddam, Nur al-Din al-Atasi and their president was the “Sunni” and Ba‘thi Muhammad Amin al-Hafiz.
The Corrective Movement (the coup de etat) of 1970 undertaken by General Hafiz al-Asad (‘Alawi-Ba‘thi) relied heavily upon “Sunni” but Ba‘thi generals the likes of Hikmat al-Shihabi and Naji Jamil. The coup was substantially supported by the preponderantly “Sunni” Chamber of Commerce in Damascus.
Now to the leap of logic. What happened in 1979 and thereafter was not a sectarian conflict – even though many were led to believe it was. It was actually a clash between a regime that refused to be drawn into the trap of Camp David on one side and the advocates of Camp David who gave support and logistics to the rebels. There was a weapon delivery route extending from Egypt to Israel to the Lebanese port cities of Junieh and Tripoli and from there onwards into the Syrian interior. In that context the Israeli military went into action against the Palestinian resistance, the Syrian armed forces, and the patriotic/nationalist Lebanese movement during 1982.
If Syria comes out of the current crisis (which again is not a Sunni-Shi‘i conflict), it will reverse the Zionist and imperialist invasion and settlement in ‘Iraq. That will result in the consolidation of a 200 million bloc of Muslims extending from Central Asia to the Mediterranean.
When this happens and it is bound to happen, the sectarian canard will be exposed. The Islamic tide will, in a massive way, turn in favor of the final march towards the Holy Land. And the hitherto sectarians will then see the light of day.
With Allah rests all power of decision, first and last, and on that day the committed Muslims will have cause to rejoice in Allah’s support: for HE supports whomever HE wills, since HE alone is almighty, very gracious. (Surat al-Rum, ayat 4-5.)