Sunni/Shi'i faultlines

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Jumada' al-Akhirah 08, 1434 2013-04-19

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

Allah guides us provided that we listen and we act in the character of the Qur’an and the Prophet. He says to us in ayah number one hundred and two in Surah Aal Imran

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

Oh you who are securely committed to Allah guard against Allah as is due to Him in the full measurement of this guard and do not die except in a state of submission to Him. And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided; and bare in mind Allah's provision, favor and privilege upon you when you (who are now Committed Muslims), were once enemies of each other and then He reconciled your hearts and familiarized and acquainted you with each other and then, due to this provision, favor and privilege you became brethren of each other; you were on the edge of a pit of fire and Allah saved you from it; it is with this is mind and with understanding these dynamics and factors that Allah is going to guide us. (Surah Aal Imran verse 102-103)

There’s a few other ayaat that follow. What concerns us of the fertile meanings of these ayaat and what we will concentrate our attention on in relaying the meanings of these ayaat to the developments of human social and psychological behaviours of our time is

وَاعْتَصِمُوا

And we should take refuge... (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

The average translation is

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا

And hold tight to the rope from Allah all of you… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

A better and more meaningful rendition of this ayah in English, (and it can’t be done with a few words, it needs much more explanation),

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ

… is to fortify yourself with the extension… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

Al habl in its organic or fundamental meaning is composed of threads. When you take a look at a rope, a rope is made of parallel threads or strains so in this wording of the ayah there’s a concession to the fact of life that we are all, when we are put together, strands or threads. (It’s) as if Allah wants to say that His guidance to us results in strains of understandings; there is no one and only one understanding of the many meanings related to us from Allah in some of the issues that it is permissible for us to have multiple but parallel and complimentary meanings.

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided... (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

We all know the meaning in the theoretical or the linguistic component in this ayah but what does it mean when we come down to the real world- we have real Muslims in the real world. Look at them- are they this combination of this parallel strains or threads coming together? You look around- observe, think. Do we constitute this in the real world as this ayah implies or as this ayah commands?

وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

… and be not divided and be not separated… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

You look around (and) study the condition that we are in and you’ll find unfortunately, (let the truth be said), that’s not the case. If some of us are lazy minded and we don’t observe our reality- this is us- if we can’t take an objective hard look at who we are you think the world is a vacuum? There are not others who don’t wish us well, who do take a hard look and an impartial look at who we are? Of course there are and they are wreaking havoc and we can expect them to do that; it’s in the nature of germs to harm the body and it’s in the nature of Allah’s enemies to do harm to our social body or to our collective selves especially when we place a distance between us and our own selves. To come down to “what do you mean? Can you give us examples? Can you be more practical about this?” Yes we can. This is the area (and) this is the stuff out of which civil wars are made. They, meaning those who wish us no good and have their strategic plans and their think tanks and their spies and their informers all around and they have institutions and they have budgets and they have militaries and they have all of this and we- innocent and simple us- are incapable at looking at reality as it is. Oh Allah show us the facts of the truth exactly as they are… We have no spin in this issue. We want no zigzagging about this affair. We want to see it as it is. So how is it? What is it? Why are we becoming right now the canon fodder for civil strife and divisions and the polarisation and the irreconcilability of our own selves with its own self? Well they look, (and now we; at least better late than never), at what is this matter right now that is disturbing the Muslim soul and it is scattering Muslim thought? What is it?

The issue is, (to put it in a few words because we don’t have much time), look there are some Muslims who believe in this concept of Al Imamah, leadership and these particular types of Muslims say “this concept is one that is included in the foundations of Islam” but then there are other Muslims who say “no, this concept of leadership is peculiar to the choice of the Ummah” and there are rationalisations for both these positions. We’re going to enter here into sensitive territory. The Shi’is say “the Imam is ma’sum, the leader is infallible and the imam is defined and outlined by an nass and al wasiyyah.” Those who are Sunnis say “the Ummah is the ma’sum.” They quote the Prophet’s hadith my Ummah does not have a fallacious consenses. Here we are stuck between those who say “the Imam is Ma’sum” and those who say “the Ummah is ma’sum.” For those who consider themselves of the Sunni persuasion should they not ask themselves when was it possible or when in today’s world is it possible to see what the consensus of the Muslims are or the Ummah is? How do you get about doing that? All of the channels of the Ummah expressing itself have been blocked! You can’t go out there and present the Ummah with the question “who do you want to be your leader?” and then the Ummah has the freedom to express itself? It doesn’t and anyone who has difficulties understanding this they can approach yours sincerely here and we can explain why that is the case. It’s so obvious that no one should have any problems with this. How are we going to determine the consensus of the Ummah when there is no freedom for the Ummah to speak its conscience? This is a fact of life but never the less we the Muslims are in this. What do we do?

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided... (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

Which means- OK, all of us should have this togetherness that resists divisions. So this is who we are. We can move forward, we can open up lines of communication to know what common ground do we have here. Whatever common ground we may find or not find- let’s say each group of Muslims is going to be ensconced in their convictions and in their positions, (i.e.) those who say the Imams are ma’sum are not going to budge and those who say the Ummah is ma’sum are not going to budge; let’s say that’s the case, let’s assume worse case scenario, no one is going to give in an inch here or an inch here; does this become a matter of kufr and iman? We ask you and you ask yourselves with the Islamic information that you have or the Islamic scholar that you refer to- because the other Muslim doesn’t agree with you on your particular position, is the other Muslim a Kafir? This is the area that the trouble makers now are entering into. There’s a vulnerability in the psychology of the Muslims and the trouble makers (and) the warmongers move into this area and then they begin to strike these sensitive cords so you begin to hate the other Muslim and when you begin to hate you begin to rationalise going to war against the other Muslim. Instead of putting this in the positions of kufr and iman can we just say well “maybe it’s a matter of being right or wrong. Someone here is right and someone here is wrong.” We can live with that if the psychologies here and the psychologies there could submit that someone is right and someone is wrong but don’t say someone is mu’min and the other is Kafir. This issue doesn’t tolerate that, therefore the ayah

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided... (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

You think this is the only issue? No, it’s not the only issue.

We move on to the second issue. There is something like a historical tension concerning the Qur’an. Some figures in history in the Shi’i context may have said or they may have even written some words to the affect that “either the Qur’an is incomplete or the understanding of the Qur’an is incomplete.” So? There had been Muslims who call themselves Sunnis who had their issue with the Qur’an itself. So do you judge the larger body of Muslims- whether they are Shi’is or whether they are Sunnis because there are individuals here or individuals there who may have said something about the Qur’an.

(On) the issue of Imamah we’re going to take you a little further inside the private minds of some people who may not say this in public. The issue of leadership in Islam, which has its history and right now has its current developments, is so important that some Shi’i scholars went looking in the Qur’an for some ayahs that would without a second thought deliver the significant meaning of Imamah to all of the rest of the Muslims in all of the rest of the world (and) they couldn’t find it. There’s no ayah in the Qur’an that you could quote that says that the Imamah (or) the leadership of the Muslims is in the twelve Imams. For some individuals this created something like a crisis. They were not satisfied with at ta’wil. You see, we spoke about what at ta’wil means in the previous khutbahs. There are ayaat in the Qur’an, if you want to apply the instruments of ta’wil, that will deliver the meanings of the significance of the Imamah or Khilafah or leadership of the Muslims but you have to use the instruments of at ta’wil. If we don’t use it the ayah is not a muhkam ayah that delivers the meaning without any second thoughts. There isn’t! So because of that we have differences of opinion and sometimes it is expressed. Some Muslims who believe and are convinced of the concept of Imamah not being far’ in Islam but being asl- one of the usul of Islam at times come out and speak their minds. When the American Imperial invasion of Iraq occurred ten years ago one of these persons came out and he said “the Shi’is in Iraq have been oppressed from the time of Abu Bakr to the time of Ahmad Hassan Al Bakr” that’s the Baathi guy who preceded Saddam and this they attribute to the lack of the divine leadership that is integral to their understanding of Islam and if this historical understanding of Islam resulted in the comeback of an Islamic leadership, we think, this gives food for thought for those who call themselves Sunnis. Where’s the leadership? Remember brothers and sisters the ayah

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided... (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

And remember on the other hand what is being done to us today peculiarly in Syria and in Iraq along these lines. These are the feeders. The issues that we speak about in this khutbah are the feeders for the events that are taking place and taking shape in our times, on our watch.

Then we have the positions concerning the hadith of the Prophet. Some of us don’t accept a hadith unless it is narrated by the Imams or by those who are affiliated with the Imams- fact! Agree with it (or) don’t agree with it- it’s a fact. And some of us scrutinise the personalities (and) the lifetime of the narrators and if they pass a particular test their hadith is accepted (and) if they don’t pass it their narration of the hadith is not accepted. This in some quarters causes a problem. What’s wrong with some people who can’t accept that this has become our history and we have to take a closer look at these but we haven’t done that. Up until now, no Muslim- scholar, institution or organisation of whatever calibre- have scrutinised the body of hadiths that we have (i.e.) the hundreds of thousands of ahadith that are attributed to the Prophet. No Sunni or no Shi’i as individual or as an authority has come and said “look- we have about eighty per cent of these hadiths that are common.” We don’t know, we’re just speculating- we hear a hadith here we hear it there, hey I’ve heard that hadith before (but) no one knows who is narrating this and where it came from?! So this is another area in which trouble makers step in and then ignite bad feelings among Muslims.

Then there is another issue- a channel that is open to them that they come in on and that’s called at taqiyyah. Some Muslims consider at taqiyyah to be a license to use to enhance or to work on the issue of leadership. What happens is that some individuals abuse this and other Muslims who are watching begin to think the person lies and justifies their lie because of this concept of taqiyyah. We’re peddling very soft on the words Sunni and Shi’i because we want you to think. We don’t want you to either close down or to have prefabricated answers to the issues that we’re trying to stimulate. Then, on the other hand, those who concede the issue of taqiyyah- this is a Qur’anic word.

لَّا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۖ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ فَلَيْسَ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِي شَيْءٍ إِلَّا أَن تَتَّقُوا مِنْهُمْ تُقَاةً

You, the committed Muslims who are the crux or the core or the components of the masses of the people), don’t side with the Kafirs as your allies or superiors to the exclusion of Al Mu’minin, if you do rely on the Kafirs you do so to the exclusion of Allah unless it be as a way of safeguarding yourself from them... (Surah Aal Imran verse 28)

OK- but the understanding of it and then we have the other Muslim say that something that is used Ammaar ibn Yaasir (radi Allahu anhu) agreed with expressing the words of kufr to get out of the danger of death. If you’re going to die and you know you’re going to die if you don’t use certain words then you say those certain words

وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالْإِيمَانِ

… the conviction and the iman has settled into your heart and cannot budge… (Surah An Nahl verse 106)

So if just words are going to get you out of an execution use those words and get out of an execution. So between this restriction on taqiyyah and the other restriction that uses it quite freely we have this area in which trouble makers produce themselves and then they want to play up these seeming contradictions.

For very learned Muslims these are minor issues but for ignorant Muslims they become major issues and these issues have to do with the fiqhi schools of thought in Islam- so the Sunni Muslims listen to the Shi’i Muslims say things like hayya ala khair al amal in the adhaan or ash hadu anna Ali wali Allah in the adhaan. This is sensitive to some Sunni ears- they hear some Shi’is refer to a Masjid as a Husayniyyah. They say “wait a minute- isn’t that a Masjid?” In his mind he says “these are making Masajid into Husayniyyaat.” Or they listen to some Shi’is who say “An Najaf al Ashraf” (and) in the meantime when they mention the Harams in Makkah or in Al Madinah they say “Al Haram Ash Sharif.” Ashraf is a superlative, meaning it has more honour. So they begin to agitate these tendencies that are beneath the surface.

Some Muslims, the Shi’is have qunut in every salaah; the Sunnis, (generally speaking), have no qunut in no salaah. Just a little scrutinisation of this, just take a close look- the Prophet at times of stress or times of danger used to invoke qunut in as salaah but here we, the Muslims, have taken it, (as we have the affinity to do), in two polarised and then making them opposite positions. If we Muslims understand that we are in positions of pressure today, we are being threatened today (and) we are in danger we invoke the sunnah of the Prophet and say this qunut in all of our salah. We’re not in times of relaxation and tranquillity to relax the qunut! The qunut is relaxed when we are living in peaceful times, when there’s no threats or dangers around- that’s the sunnah of the Prophet. Some of us, or rather all of us, misunderstood this sunnah and put it in our opposite positions. It only takes us to revisit these issues and say where are we on this?

We’re going to repeat here- this ayah has to be repeated

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided... (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

All of these issues don’t have the distance of division that we have among us- none of them! But yet we have these divisions. Some of us insist on “my school of thought is the best and because of that I can’t recognise other schools of thought.” Why? What’s wrong? Why can’t you recognise other schools of thought? Is there a problem here? If there’s a Shafi’i school of thought, a Hanbali school of thought, a Maliki school of thought, a Hanafi school of thought, a Ja’fari school of thought, a Zaydi school of thought, an Ibadi school of thought, a Dhahiri school of thought- what’s wrong with that? If we were to divulge our internal thoughts on this issue, this is lack of schools of thought! There should be hundreds of schools of thought or else we don’t think! And at one time there actually was hundreds of schools of thought but because of the way politics played itself out in our history it came down to what we are in today. So this becomes another area in which trouble makers light a match and throw it so that our ignorance ignites.

(We’ll try to rap it up.) Then we have this discrepancy of thinking about the people around Allah’s Prophet, referred to in the mainstream literature as as sahaba. Some of us exaggerate and say “almost everyone around the Prophet was a Sahabi” and then counter affecting that we have some who will counter exaggerate that and say “there was barely any of these types around the Prophet- four or five of them may be.” OK- and probably both of these positions, like on other issues, are ensconced in extremes- both of them. Here’s how it breaks down- the Prophet of Allah passed on. In the Arabian Peninsula, (no one can say for sure but this is may be the best guestimation about this), there’s about a million people living around the Arabian Peninsula at that time when the Prophet passed away. Of those around one million people who accepted Islam there were about a hundred and twenty to a hundred and twenty five thousand Muslims who one way or the other said ash hadu an laa Ilaha illa Allah wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah. Out of these hundred and twenty odd thousand the Sunnis identified around eight thousand Sahabis. What happened in these years? Islam in this generation and the generation that followed expanded in a phenomenal way that still cannot be explained. No one- no historian, no anthropologist, no social scientist, no philosopher, no scholar has an explanation for how that happened. The Empires that were around collapsed and in the course of eighty years the Muslims were in control of what rulers between Alexandria The Great and Heraclius of Byzantine were in control of. Could this be a matter of a few individuals around the Prophet or it took much more than that? We spoke about the governmental or the political corruption that set in- that’s one thing; but when we speak about the popular movement you can’t throw away the baby with the bath water and everything. Think with your conscience! Think with your reasoning! How can something like this happen? Something is going on here. But then, if there were hundreds or thousands of those who qualify for Sahabis could you tells us if among them there were any Munafiqin? And here is the tricky area where the trouble makers come in again and they want to cause friction among the Muslims because as much as you read in Islamic resource books or Islamic references you will not find those who will weed out these Munafiqin who were living in the time of Allah’s Prophet and who continue to live in the generation of the Sahaba and the generation beyond them. There’s no critical approach to this issue. So here we are living with this fact- some of them will say “there were a handful of Sahabis” and others say “there were eight thousand or so Sahabis” and neither that one is correct nor this one is correct! The truth lays in between but as we said at the beginning even though if both sides wanted to bolt themselves in their positions what does that mean? That we have to be divided? That we can’t reconsider? We can’t rethink? We cannot review this common history that we have? But this is where we are. This is the real world that we are in and that being the case can we not refer to Allah’s words

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

Oh you who are securely committed to Allah guard against Allah as is due to Him in the full measurement of this guard and do not die except in a state of submission to Him. And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided; and bare in mind Allah's provision, favor and privilege upon you when you (who are now Committed Muslims), were once enemies of each other and then He reconciled your hearts and familiarized and acquainted you with each other and then, due to this provision, favor and privilege you became brethren of each other; you were on the edge of a pit of fire and Allah saved you from it; it is with this is mind and with understanding these dynamics and factors that Allah is going to guide us. (Surah Aal Imran verse 102-103)

Dear brothers, dear sisters, dear committed Muslims…

As you have just listened to the previous khutbah, there are fault lines in Islamic history, in Islamic fiqh, in the Islamic reasoning of the Qur’an and the Sunnah- there are fault lines. We have them. What we don’t have is the willpower to bridge these fault lines and because we lack this will power we have those who identify these fault lines- they are Zionists, there are Imperialists, there are the enemies of Allah and His Prophet and the committed Muslims and they are working their policies along these fault lines instigating sectarianism (and) inflaming sectarian feelings among the Muslims. We don’t live in an area of the world that is known for sectarianism. Can you look around and see that society around here is a sectarian society? We are free from that and even though we are free from it and should be able to begin to turn the tide against what is happening over there we see the sectarianism that is happening over there making inroads into our communities over here! This is what’s happening. So you go to an Islamic Centre somewhere as an innocent Muslim (and) you walk inside… First of all today’s Muslims are paranoid- not that there’s no reason to have some paranoia around; sometimes a dose of paranoia may be healthy but then they are so paranoid that they become paralysed?! “Who is that? Working for the FBI? He’s going to write a report? He has a microphone in his keychain or in his pocket or somewhere around him? His fuzzy hair? Something- who knows?” But this is where we are and where’s this all emanating from? Dear brothers, dear sisters- if we had the courage to speak the truth we’d identify this is all emanating from the Saudi regime. This is where it all comes from. Just in the past few days this explosion that happened in Boston… Today they’re telling us, (we don’t know if this is the truth but this is out there, it is in the public), “there are two Chechan brothers who were the culprits of this incident.” What’s happening in Chechnya? There’s a brand or there is an orientation towards sectarianism over there. We don’t know whether these two individuals in Boston from Chechnya are culpable for what happened but let’s summon the information that we have. There are numerous incidents in which this media, (that doesn’t belong to us), accuse Muslims of being terrorists. Haven’t these people who are behind this media- the financial interests and the governmental structures- tried to trace where this is coming from? Even an elementary Muslim will tell you “this sectarianism comes out of Saudi controlled Arabia.” So why don’t these people go to the source? Why don’t they tell these Saudis “cut out this sectarianism, cut out this fanaticism.” It seems like behind the scenes they are saying “the fanatics are more important to us than atomic weapons.” (It’s) as if the American administrators are telling the Saudi administrators “please produce more fanatics. This serves us.” Where’s this fanaticism hatched? In the points that were just mentioned in the previous khutbahs- these fault lines; this is where fanaticism grows and thrives and then goes out and kills and even has the temerity to embark on eliminating peoples in their millions and they attribute that to them being al firqah an najiah- also an area that we covered previously.

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