by Abu Dharr (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 3, Sha'ban, 1440)
After being knocked out militarily, economically, and politically and being in an ideological coma for centuries, Alhamdulillah, the Muslims of the world are making a slow but sure revivalist comeback. This Islamic consciousness and awakening does not come easy. It is proving to be very demanding in life and limb, resources and riches; from stateless Muslims in Palestine, Kashmir, Myanmar, etc. to pilfering potentates in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, etc.
To put it in the context of this article, it should be mentioned that around 99% of stateless Muslims are “Sunnis” as are around 99% of pilfering potentates “Sunnis.” In this wide-reaching Islamic recovery there are individuals and institutions and, yes, even nation-states that are down-right evil and dangerously malicious — a real threat to this up-and-coming Islamic revitalization.
These types are trying to circulate within the Muslim populace and spread their sectarian hate of the other Muslim. Their TV programs, journalistic “research” and even their khutbahs and speeches, concentrate on a mild or harsh demonization of the other Muslim. These sectarian extremists fashion themselves as “Sunnis” or “Shi‘is.” Furthermore, they claim that they are the true Sunnis or the true Shi‘is and anyone who takes issue with their divisive discourse does not belong to the true Muhammadi Islam.
They have different words to express their discordant slant but the bottom line is that they have no tolerance and no intention to develop a working relationship with the other Muslim who does not tow their intolerant rhetoric. The most deadly types are the “takfiris” and the most elusive types are the ones fossilized and hardened deep down inside a centenarian “taqiyah.” The “takfiris” and some of their salafi gurus claim that the followers of the illustrious Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq, the great, great grandson of the Prophet (pbuh), are kafirs and are subject to extermination! At the other end the taqiyah loudmouths and bad mouths spew out hateful rhetoric claiming that there was indisputable hostility between Imam ‘Ali on one side and the khulafa’ Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman on the other. The killing done by the takfiris generates hate and the hate espoused by the taqiyah crowd eventually leads to carnage or warfare. In this vicious scenario, hate justifies murder and murder generates hate. Readers can fill in the blanks with the bombings, cold-blooded killings, attacks on masjids, demographic dislocations, and the terrorizing of “other” Islamic communities within this hate-kill pathology.
In the span of an article like this, let us diffuse some of the hate oratory that very few scholars are willing to tackle. If there ever was a time when we Muslims are in need of such all-encompassing Islamic scholars — the likes of Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Abu al-A‘la al-Mawdudi, Ayatullah Burujirdi, Imam Hasan al-Banna, Ayatullah Kashif al-Ghita’, Muhammad Iqbal, etc. — it is this generation that we are in today. It looks like Islamic reasoning as the source of truth and Islamic reasoning as the basis of action is suffering from a mental drought these days. Can anyone point out even a few Islamic broadminded scholars of the caliber of those mentioned above? So let us deal with a few of the hot-button issues that breed hatred of the other Muslim.
In the first instance, it is historically established that Imam ‘Ali did not confirm bay‘ah to Abu Bakr on the first day he became khalifah. But Imam ‘Ali did consent to Abu Bakr as khalifah sooner or later (depending on what history books a Muslim refers to). Then came ‘Umar and ‘Uthman and Imam ‘Ali endorsed their reign straight away. Some sectarians claim that Imam ‘Ali was either coerced or outmaneuvered into endorsing the khulafa’. Not only is this an insult to the Muslim public mind and common sense, it also suggests that Imam ‘Ali, who is known for his courage and honor, all of a sudden became scared! Knowing the history and personality of Imam ‘Ali will tell us that if he sensed that the khulafa’ were usurpers of power or power maniacs, he certainly would have revolted against them as did his son Imam Husayn against King Yazid. Comparing father and son (Imam ‘Ali and Imam Husayn), was Imam ‘Ali less courageous, or was Imam Husayn less concerned with the unity of Muslims? The non-sectarian answer is that both of them were equally courageous and equally concerned with the unity of Muslims. The difference was that the khulafa’ cannot be compared to Mu‘awiyah and Yazid. Therefore, Imam ‘Ali endorsed his three predecessors, even though he was more qualified to lead the Muslim Ummah. Whereas Imam ‘Ali confronted Mu‘awiyah in the trenches and Imam Husayn stood against Yazid at the battlefield because Mu‘awiyah and Yazid were power hungry and power obsessed; they [Mu‘awiyah and Yazid] were not concerned with justice and equality. To put it in the words of Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita’, “Even though Imam ‘Ali knew he was more qualified to lead the Muslims he gave his bay‘ah to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar and was on good terms with them because they did their utmost in spreading the message of tawhid by tending to the troops and developing the Islamic domain and were never self-centered or oppressive.” Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr put it this way, “The Sunni governance that was represented by the prudent khulafa’ was one built on Islam and justice at a time when Imam ‘Ali was himself enlisted in defending Islam. Imam ‘Ali was a “foot-soldier” in the war against the breakaway factions (hurub al-riddah) when Abu Bakr, the first khalifah, was the commander-in-chief.” And if the “Shi‘i” sectarians have not heard enough we add what Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq said in reference to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, “Two leaders who were fair and just. They lived in accordance with truth and justice and they died in accordance with truth and justice. May Allah’s mercy be upon them on the Day of Resurrection.”
Yes, there was a regrettable divergence between Abu Bakr and Fatimah al-Zahra’. It had to do with the possession of land called Fadak. Abu Bakr may have made a mistake — even a serious one — as he was not infallible. And no one has ever said he was infallible. But there was no spite in that disagreement. He will be held responsible for his verdict pertaining to that piece of land. So let us ask: what purpose does it serve when the enemies are coming at Muslims from every direction while Muslims are ill-informed about their own controversies? What purpose does it serve to vilify Abu Bakr in these Muslims-need-unity-most circumstances? The issue of Fadak among fanatic Shi‘is corresponds to the issue of ‘Uthman’s shirt (qamis ‘Uthman) among fanatic Sunnis. Both amount to rallying cries by diehard groupies.
After ‘Umar became the khalifah, Imam ‘Ali was his confident consultant, his able assistant, and his dependable deputy — without any inferiority-superiority relationship. ‘Umar frequently made it known that “if it wasn’t for ‘Ali, ‘Umar would have perished.” He is also famously known for his public statement, “O Allah! Don’t sequester me to a problem in the absence of Abu al-Hasan [Imam ‘Ali].” ‘Umar acknowledged the preeminence of Imam ‘Ali saying, “Indeed, he [Imam ‘Ali] is my mawla and the mawla of every Muslim.” Imam ‘Ali was also demonstrative toward ‘Umar and the stability of an Islamic established order. ‘Umar at one time wanted to accompany the troops to the front lines, and it was Imam ‘Ali who convinced him not to go as that may result in enemies targeting him, which would lead to a likely upheaval within the Islamic realm — potentially causing significant destabilization that could put an end to the central Islamic authority in Madinah.
We don’t mean to open up a proverbial Pandora’s box (in Greek mythology, the first woman, who was sent by the gods with a jar full of evils in order to avenge Prometheus’ theft of fire; she opened the jar out of curiosity, thus releasing the evils into the world), what we aim at is to open up the goodness in the overwhelming majority of Muslims’ hearts, and to tap on their feeling of solidarity and togetherness, and to cut through the contentious nonsense that have made us easy targets for both selfish sectarians and hell-bent enemies,
And do not be like those who went their disconnected ways and were also at odds with each other after clear evidence had come to them [from their Sustainer]: it is they who shall be inflicted with painful suffering (3:105).