Experience tells us that the “extremes” on both side of the Sunni-Shi‘i line of contact are going to be emotionally or mentally disquieted after reading this article. The following comment is not meant to stir any strong or inflammatory feelings. The subject matter is so concentrated (by Shi‘is) or so diluted (by Sunnis) that regardless of how carefully words are selected, there will be those who will find something to “throw” at us.
So here it goes. One of the prominent Saudi preachers ‘A’id al-Qarni expressed some notions about Imam Husayn via social media (Facebook or Twitter). This was also carried by CNN (the Arabic CNN, presumably). And this is what he had to say, “We Ahl al-Sunnah [the Sunnis] believe that al-Husayn [the grandson of the Prophet] was killed as a shahid — unjustly. And we condemn whoever killed him and we declare our innocence to Allah from whoever killed him. We Ahl al-Sunnah love Aal al-Bayt [the household of the Prophet] and we consider them our awliya’ (natawallaahum) — our first in rank and degree. And we perceive and appreciate their status, love, and adulation without overstating their position. This is what the Scripture (the Qur’an) and the Sunnah convey. We — Ahl al-Sunnah — perceive truth and validity [al-haqq] belonging to Amir al-Mu’mineen ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) and ascertain the justness of his leadership from among the khulafa’ al-rashideen [the rightly-guided successors of the Prophet]. And that he was more worthy of the khilafah than others besides the three [khulafa’] who preceded him.”
He has more to say. But before we go on we want to comment on the above.
In the first instance, who is this Mr. al-Qarni to be speaking for the Sunnis of the world? Speak for yourself. The last time we checked, you were a bona fide Wahhabi employed by an imperialist-Zionist toady —otherwise known as Saudi Arabia. And if what you are saying and believing is true that al-Husayn was killed and a shahid because of that, then why don’t you and your ilk call to remembrance the tragedy of Karbala’? Why do you and your variety of Muslims (and we affirm that you are Muslims and do not brand you with kufr) discourage and try to prevent and show opposition to Muslims who want to keep a reference to the tragedy of Karbala’ in the public sphere? And, here, we are not condoning some of the bloody passion plays that pop up on this occasion by local cultures that lost the focus on the central issue of the whole calamity of Karbala’.
You say that you curse and condemn (nal‘an) he or those who killed him. Well if that is the case, do you not have enough courage to name the killers? Or is it because they are royalty and responsible for the first deviation in Islamic political history (the Umayyad dynasty) when the khilafah turned into a monarchy — along the lines of your own Saudi monarchy — that you are nerveless in verbalizing the names of Mu‘awiyah, Yazid and their henchmen?
You say that we the Sunnis love and align ourselves with the household of the Prophet (pbuh), without any dis-proportionality in expressing such love. OK. If that is the case, when, where and how do you express your love? Is it by bulldozing their historical homes and sites in Makkah and Madinah? Does your love translate into effacing their history of opposition to the monarchies of the Umayyads and ‘Abbasids from your curricula and syllabi throughout all your educational systems and the educational systems that you sponsor all around the world? At the very same time that you are laying to waste the history of the Prophet (pbuh) and his intimate family members you have allocated $200 million to build a center for the memory of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab in al-Dar‘iyyah!
You say that Amir al-Mu’mineen ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib was more worthy of the highest office in the Islamic Ummah by which we understand he was more fit for it than Mu‘awiyah. So, if you love ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib why can’t you pronounce the name of his opponent and yes — his enemy — Mu‘awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan? Or were they (Imam ‘Ali and King Mu‘awiyah) buddy-buddies, fighting a war between friends, and both of them were right!?
And if you and your equivalents think that both of them were right, wouldn’t that be a license to kill and to have people of status and stature go into civil wars in a shar‘i way, under the pretext that they were sahabah and who are we to form an opinion of and pass judgment on sahabis? Does your love of Aal al-Bayt translate into converting a taliq; that is, Mu‘awiyah, who along with his father fought against the Prophet (pbuh) and Imam ‘Ali for over 20 years, into a sahabi? By posing this question, we are not promoting hatred; rather, we are trying to be fair to Imam ‘Ali who spent a lifetime of supreme sacrifices alongside the Prophet (pbuh) and be fair to Mu‘awiyah who jumped on the Islamic bandwagon after the liberation of Makkah. After that he maneuvered his way by virtue and vice to subvert the khilafah, thereby becoming the first king in Islam and institutionalizing a monarchy with his son Yazid as crown prince.
Al-Qarni goes on to say, “Those who say the Sunnis are hostile to him (‘Ali) are bringing out a great injustice, a lack of fairness, a fabrication and outright misrepresentation [of the facts]. We [the Sunnis] state clearly our non-culpability of those who are hostile to Aal al-Bayt; we assign a priority of rank and alliance to Aal al-Bayt and we ask [Him] to be pleased with them. We the Sunnis are the happy medium between those who stretch the truth about them and those who express animosity to them. We love and ally ourselves with Aal al-Bayt but we do not claim that they are infallible; we don’t overstate their case nor do we detest them… We the Sunnis state firmly to Allah our non-culpability of those who curse our mother and the mother of committed Muslims ‘A’ishah — the immaculate whose innocence was stated from above seven heavens. We declare to Allah our clear conscience from those who incriminate her — upon them all are Allah’s execrations.”
So, if what Mr. al-Qarni is saying is accurate; that is, the Sunnis did not express any hostilities toward Imam ‘Ali, then the question is: who were his enemies? We agree with al-Qarni that the Sunnis have nothing whatsoever against Imam ‘Ali. But everyone knows that there were enemies who launched wars against Imam ‘Ali and if they are not Sunnis, then who are they? This, obviously, is a hard question to answer by those who are functionaries of monarchies. The answer is the Umayyads. And the leap of logic required by such scholars on the Saudi payroll is to begin to distinguish between Sunnis and Umayyads. And this is something that both “Sunnis” and “Shi‘is” are hesitant to do. Have you ever listened to a prominent “Sunni” or “Shi‘i” scholar who identifies Mu‘awiyah as a monarch? If you have, let me know. The inability of Sunnis and Shi‘is to identify Mu‘awiyah as a monarch is on par with the inability to distinguish between Sunnis and Umayyads. And for those who are not aware of the fact that Mu‘awiyah himself blurred the line between an Umayyad and a Sunni, we remind you of Mu‘awiyah’s remark once he ascended his throne after militarily overcoming Imam ‘Ali’s camp. Mu‘awiyah said, “Hadha ‘aam [al-Sunnah wa-] al-Jama‘ah: This is the year of Sunnah and Jama‘ah!”
Now as to Umm al-Mu’mineen ‘A’ishah (ra) she and Imam ‘Ali had their differences — differences that reached a military pitch. And without going into all the details, we do not have any reliable historical information telling us that Imam ‘Ali — even though he disagreed with ‘A’ishah — ever cursed her, abused her, or in any way offended her. To the contrary, there is information that he honored her in spite of her serious error of judgment pertaining to the Battle of al-Jamal. Therefore, it is not within the bounds of Islamic character to profane Umm al-Mu’mineen ‘A’ishah (ra).
Al-Qarni who you may consider to be the religious altar ego of the Saudi establishment goes on to say, “We the Sunnis love the Sahabah and we seek Allah’s nearness by loving them. We avoid dealing with their differences among themselves. We believe that their generation was the best of desirable generations. We don’t claim that anyone is infallible after the Messenger (pbuh). The Sahabah are of ranks: the first are the khulafa’ rashideen and his [the Prophet’s] household, then the people of Badr, and then the people of the Bay‘ah al-Ridwan — all of them are of their own status. The Sunnis view al-Hasan and al-Husayn as the master-youths of paradise. They are the relish of Allah’s Messenger. Sunnis identify and ally themselves with them and love them. Sunnis disassociate from all who are their enemies or who curse them.”
This word sahabah has to be defined in a conclusive and decisive manner. Much of the ambiguities that circulate in intra-Islamic perceptions and discussions are related to a nebulous and imprecise definition of a sahabi. The problem with Sunni Muslims is that they extend the meaning of Sahabah so much that the munafiqin of that era are almost non-existent when we know from the ayat of the Quran that they are a full-blown bloc of people — in the hundreds if not in the thousands — at the end of the prophetic mission. And the problem with the Shi‘is is that they extend the definition of munafiqin so much that there is no longer a sizable number of Sahabah around. Let us suggest, to get the process going, that we begin by saying that the Sahabah are al-Muhajireen, al-Ansar, Ahl Badr, and those who honorably fought in the wars with the Prophet (pbuh) against the mushriks.
And on a final note, in all of Mr. al-Qarni’s presentation he failed to use the word imam before the names of ‘Ali, al-Hasan, and al-Husayn. It appears his love for Aal al-Bayt falls short of using the word imam before their names.
Verily, Allah and His angels bless the Prophet: [hence,] O you who are committed [to Him], bless him and give yourselves up [to his guidance] in utter self-surrender! (33:56).