Written by:
Yasin T. al-Jibouri

Allah’s mercy and Paradise is spacious, very, very spacious, it has room in it for the Sunnis and for the Shi`as, the good ones, of course, as well as for non-Muslims. Contemplate on this hadith:

الدين الأخلاق؛ من لا خلاق له، لا دين له
Ad-deen al-akhlaq; man la khalaqa lah, la deena lah
Religion is ethics; one who has no ethics has no religion.

Another brief yet very weighty hadith says

الدين المعامله
Ad-deen al-mu`amala
Religion is treatment (i.e. how you treat others).

Both of these ahadith can be found in hadith books. Islam is like a tree with one stem and two branches: One is now called “Sunni” and the other is now called “Shi`a”, and it would be better to avoid both labels and just accept the label of “Muslim” for the sake of our unity. Nowadays, the enemies of Islam, particularly Zionist Jews, are assaulting Islam and Muslims with unprecedented force, taking advantage of the disunity among members of the Muslim umma. The seeds of this unity have been sowed by extremists and fanatics in both Schools of Muslim Law. Just as there are fanatics among our Sunni brethren, there are fanatics among our Shi`a brethren, too, and we should condemn such fanaticism no matter where it is. It is these fanatics who are doing Islam and Muslims a great disservice, so we should be aware of them.

You cannot separate Sunni Islam from Shi`a Islam, nor can you do the opposite. Islam greatly indebted to many renown Sunni scholars who served our faith with their pen and scholarship, and these include scholars who enriched our Islamic literature with hadith, fiqh, `ilm al-kalam, akhlaq…, etc. Shi`as have made their contributions, too, but these contributions remain largely hidden from most world population in general and from the knowledge of most of our Sunni brethren in particular. For centuries, Muslim rulers have fought the Shi`as with all the power they have had; therefore, people naturally have a negative impression about Shi`a beliefs and practices. Do not be angry with your Sunni brothers, just forgive their ignorance, love and respect them and try to show them where they have erred. It is not Islamic to harbor any ill feelings towards any other Muslim.

What does the word “Sunnah” mean? It means a way, a path, a method, a route, a manner… A Sunni Muslim is one who practices the Prophet’s Sunnah as reported by the Prophet’s sahaba, companions, may Allah be pleased with the good ones from among them, whereas the Shi`i Muslim practices the Prophet’s Sunnah as reported by the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt (as), his immediate family members twelve of whom, and only twelve, are regarded by the Shi`as as being “infallible imams.” So, both routes try to reach one and the same destination. Yes, I am fully aware of the tradition that says that the Muslim nation will split into 72 sects only one of which will be in Paradise and the others will be in hell. I do not wish to discuss this “tradition” and whether it is authentic or not because I cannot believe that a good Sunni or a good Shi`i who harms nobody but worships Allah the best way he can will be lodged in hell because he happens to belong to the “wrong sect.” I am sorry, I cannot accept it.

And the four major Imams of the Sunnis are not all alike: The most moderate among them and the closest to the Shi`a faith is Imam al-Shafi`i, may Allah be pleased with him, while the furthermost from moderation, in my opinion and according to my knowledge, and the furthermost from the Shi`a School of Muslim Law is Imam Ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him, whose sect produced men like Muhammed ibn Abdul-Wahhab, founder of Wahhabism, and his mentor, Ibn Taymiyyah and many men who justified the shedding of other Muslims’ blood. This means that you can find fanaticism and extremism in only one of four Sunni sects, while being fully aware of the fact that not all followers of Ibn Hanbal are extremist or fanatical; many of them are good Muslims who fear the Almighty and try to do what is right, and may Allah shower His mercy and blessing on them abundantly.

While respecting the beliefs of all my dear Sunni brothers and sisters, I do not think that there is anyone who dares to advocate the preference in knowledge or deeds of the four leading Sunni Imams over the Imams of Ahl al-Bayt who are saluted in 33:33 (Al-Ahzab, verse 33) of the Holy Qur’an, and who are the purified `itra, the nation’s life-boats. the Gate of Salvation, the security against dissension in religion, the flag posts of its guidance, the descendants of the Messenger of Allah (P) and his remnant in his nation. He, Allah’s peace and blessings with him and his progeny, has said: “Do not go ahead of them lest you should perish, nor should you lag behind them lest you should perish. Do not teach them for they are more learned than you.” But it is the dictates of politics at the dawn of Islam which are now brought back to life by rulers of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the U.A.E. and even Turkey… who are now fuelling hatred towards Shi`a Muslims and generously rewarding those who slaughter them, who sever their heads from their bodies or slit their throats to the delight of the enemies of Islam…

I wonder about the claim that the good previous generations (al-salaf al-salih السلف الصالح) adhered to those sects, finding them the most fair and the best of sects and that they agreed to adhere to them in every time and clime, as if one does not know that our predecessors, the good past generations that followed the progeny of Muhammed (P) and that literally constituted half the Muslim population, followed only the faith of the Imams from among the descendants of Muhammed, peace of Allah with him and his progeny. They did not find for it any substitute, and they have been this way ever since the days of Ali and Fatima (as).

The generations of the first three centuries never followed any of those afore-mentioned four Sunni sects. Where were those sects during those three generations, the best generations ever?

  1. Al-Ash`ari was born in 270 A.H./883 A.D. and died in 320 A.H./932 A.D.
  2. Ibn Hanbal was born in 164 A.H./784 A.D. and died in 241 A.H./855 A.D.
  3. Al-Shafi`i was born in 150 A.H./767 A.D. and died in 204 A.H./819 A.D.
  4. Malik was born in 95 A.H./714 A.D.[1] and died in 179 A.H./795 A.D.
  5. Abu Hanifah was born in 80 A.H./699 A.D. and died in 150 A.H./767 A.D.

Shi`as follow the sect of the Imams from the Prophet’s Household, and the household surely know what their house contains. Non-Shi`as follow the sects of the learned sahaba and tabi`in…

So, Brothers and Sisters, please do not waste your time arguing with fanatics and close-minded people. These folks do not seek knowledge; they try to justify their ignorance, perhaps to convince themselves that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Such thought makes them happy, so let them feel happy about it! If they are sincere in their pursuit for knowledge, by all means answer their questions. Test them: Give them a book and see if they bother to read it. If they do, it means they are sincere seekers of the truth. If they do not, they are not worth your time.