May I graciously ask “Sunnis” and “Shi‘is”, who have a bone to pick, to set aside their inherited partiality and their dogmatic prejudice before reading what is to follow. Otherwise, persistent and intransigent tempers will impair what is being said.
There is a false impression among “Sunnis” that the Islamic society allotted to us by the passing on of our memorable Messenger (pbuh) was made up of ideal people called the sahabah. If there were any munafiqeen in the crowd, they were few and far-between. Thus, in the “Sunni” collective mind one could count the number of munafiqeen on the fingers of one’s hand. This hereditary piece of misinformation has to be abandoned. One very helpful way of dissipating it is to read the Qur’an with an attentive mind to realize that there are hundreds of ayats in the Qur’an that speak about a social phenomenon called nifaq and a bloc of people called munafiqeen. They were in the Hijaz and in Arabia, as well as in al-Madinah itself. The Seerah of the Prophet (pbuh) tells us that the head honcho of the munafiqeen (Ibn Sallul) broke away from the Prophet (pbuh) with one third of the army following him back to al-Madinah – what lives on in the collective “Sunni” memory is Ibn Sallul and not the three hundred or so “Muslims” who reneged and abandoned the Islamic forces with Ibn Sallul as the Prophet (pbuh) and his sincere followers were preparing to militarily encounter the Makkan mushriks at Uhud.
Likewise, there is a false impression among “Shi‘is” that the Islamic society apportioned to us by the passing on of our unforgettable Prophet (pbuh) was made up of disingenuous and artificial Muslims. If there were any sincere and genuine Muslims, they were few and far-between. Thus, in the “Shi‘i” collective mind you could count the number of true sahabah on your hand. This hereditary piece of misinformation has to fade away too. One very helpful way of dispelling it is to read the Qur’an with an attentive mind to realize that there are hundreds of ayats in the Qur’an that speak about a social phenomenon called al-Muhajireen wa al-Ansar. The Seerah of the Prophet (pbuh) tells us that there were hundreds (if not thousands) of committed Muslims who were willing to give their lives for Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh).
The “Sunnis” have to dig deeper into Islamic history by examining and analyzing it through a Qur’anic frame of reference to finally understand and conclude that the number of munafiqeen and their influence is much more than they were led to believe. Similarly, the “Shi‘is” have to excavate deeper into Islamic history by researching and inspecting it through a Qur’anic frame of reference to finally recognize and deduce that the number of sincere followers of our profound Prophet (pbuh) is much more than they were led to believe.
If and when these two thoughts and feelings of “Sunnis” and “Shi‘is” reach a common ground as discussed above we can satisfactorily and cordially reevaluate our common Islamic history.
If we mature sufficiently enough to bypass our hyphenated Muslim classifications (“Sunni and Shi‘i), we can mutually understand that an Islamic society (back then and today) has its devotees and disciples as well as its detractors and disparagers, thus it grows and drops, has its ups and downs, falters and corrects itself, and contracts and expands. In other words, it struggles to live up to its Qur’anic quality, Islamic integrity, and Prophetic principles.
Thus if we refer to such a book as Al-Tabaqat by Ibn Sa‘d as well as Al-Tabarani and read about al-Muqanna‘ al-Tamimi’s offering of sadaqah to the Prophet (pbuh) and the rumor that circulated after that from within the Islamic society claiming that the Prophet (pbuh) is sending Khaled ibn al-Walid with “economic help” to the “slaves” of the tribe of Mudar which was of course not true. Nevertheless, that rumor or unfounded information did circulate within that Islamic society and the Prophet (pbuh) had to refute it by saying:
اللهم لا أحل لهم أن يكذبوا علي
“O Allah! I have not given them approval to attribute to me what I did not say.”
This obviously means that there were some people within that early Islamic society who in all likelihood were munafiqeen that churned out false information pertaining to the Prophet (pbuh) himself when he was still alive. Did we not have in our formative years of an Islamic society during the lifetime of our leading Prophet (pbuh) those who built a masjid to counteract and contradict the Prophet’s Masjid? It was identified in the Qur’an itself as Masjid Dirar. If there were less than sincere Muslims or even hostile Muslims working against the Prophet (pbuh) during his lifetime, wouldn’t you reason that there would be less than sincere Muslims who would be working against the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers after he passed on?
We don’t intend to pile it on. There are other events and examples that we will visit in our future critiques, insha‘Allah. Remember, we don’t have a hyphenated Islam and thus we should not have hyphenated Muslims. We hyphenate and separate ourselves to our own detriment. We were never intended to be two opposing camps: Sunnis vs. Shi‘is. A correct understanding of our obedience to Allah would have us all confess that we follow the Prophet (pbuh) to the best of our knowledge and ability. A correct understanding of our Prophet (pbuh) would have us love those who the Prophet (pbuh) loved the most: his daughter, his grandsons, and his family. Do we not (Sunnis and Shi‘is) invoke Allah’s mercy upon them in our salat? Why do we have some Sunnis claiming they love Allah’s Prophet (pbuh) more than others? Why do we have some Shi‘is claiming they love the Prophet’s family more than others? When in fact all Muslims love the Prophet and his family (pbuh)…
We are expected to be one union, having one book, with one Prophet, out of which we may develop obliging opinions, inclusive intelligence, and friendly fiqhi findings.
If we (Sunnis and Shi‘is) could sweep away centuries of unfamiliarity and distancing from each other we would realize that we have two hands that are washing the same face. Could we update our thinking and renew our social vigor by emphasizing the purposeful infallibility of the Qur’an first of all? This would be the launching pad for Islamic unanimity and a worldwide solidarity of over two billion Muslims. The sectarians (both Sunnis and Shi‘is) are bringing into vogue the factional and bigoted labels of nawasib (a pejorative for Sunnis) and rawafid (a pejorative for Shi‘is), while the ayat makes it clear that “this ummah is your ummah when it is a united ummah”.
All the Shi‘is (if they could only examine and explore Islamic history) would understand that they are supportive of the khulafa’ as Imam ‘Ali was when he consented to their governorship knowing that he is the most qualified to lead the Muslims. All the Sunnis (if they could only examine and explore Islamic history) would understand that they are supportive of Imam ‘Ali when he confronted the Umawiy usurpation of power knowing that they gave him their pledge of allegiance (bay‘at).
I hate to use the word “hate”, but if there is anything I hate, it is fiqhi fanaticism. Those who are fiqhi fanatics do not understand fiqh to begin with. Some of them are just unethical or downright sleazy; worse than that we have those who are childish in their understanding of Allah (swt) and His Prophet (pbuh). Is it any wonder that we wind up with social and educational problems, resulting in the likes of those who throw dirt at other madh-habs. Take for example –and this is only a simple example of the many distinctions between and among our schools of thought—a fiqhi fanatic who holds an unfounded grudge against the Maleki madh-hab (school of thought). This low IQ fiqhi fanatic rants on saying that Imam Malek does not know du‘a al-istiftah (the initiation du‘a at the beginning of salat), he is not aware of al-isti‘adha (saying أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم --- a‘udhu bi-Illahi min al-Shaytan al-Rajim), and Malek does not know the significance of the basmalah (saying بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم --- Bi-Ismi Illah al-Rahman al-Rahim) at the beginning of the salat. And Malek validates the salat without the second taslimah at the end of the salat! Thus, Imam Malek, according to this fiqhi fanatic, is ignorant of the Prophet’s Sunnah!!
Another fiqhi fanatic who holds an unfounded grudge against Imam Abu Hanifah says: Abu Hanifah does not raise his hands before and after the ruku‘, and he advises his followers not to read one word when standing behind and following the Imam of salat, and he even permits a man who has shaken hands with a woman to offer his salat not knowing that such a man has invalidated his wudu’ [ablution]!!!
This and its likes are the type of fiqhi factionalism that has decimated the Prophet’s ummah. This nomadic version of fiqh has been given a shot in the arm by some Saudi sellouts and other Arabian copouts simply because there is enough petro-money to go around.
O our Sustainer! Forgive us and those who preceded us in good faith and binding commitment [to You] and do not have our hearts accommodate malice towards those who committed themselves [to Your glory and majesty]. O our Sustainer! Ever are You compassionate, very merciful. (Al-Hashr, 10)