By: Dr. Amir Parviz Parsa

Many Muslims divide Islam into Sunni and Shi’a. In the opinion of this Writer, we should try to keep unity and “unitedness” (Wihda الوحده) between the two of them. This is a considered opinion and is based on various verses of the Holy Quran, which will be discussed in this article.

It must be brought to the attention of the devoted Muslims all around the world, that too much emphasis on this dichotomy would only weaken Islam; whereas Muslims in particular, and religious people in general, should:

  1. respect each other,
  2. tolerate one another,
  3. and AS FAR AS POSSIBLE, should try to Not engage in dichotomization of Islam.

Islam suffers from many adversities already, and does not need to be further weakened by such discussions.

I. Our view of the necessity of keeping a United front in the religion of Allah (swt) is based on the following verses of the Holy Quran:

Verse 103 of Surah 3 says:

وَاعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُواْ …
“ And hold fast, all together, by the Rope which God has stretched out for You and do not be divided among yourselves….”

Verse 159 of Surah 6 tells us:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُواْ دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُواْ شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللّهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفْعَلُونَ
“As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou has no part in them in the least : Their affair is with God: He will, in the end, tell them the truth of all that they did.”

Verses 31 & 32 of Surah 30 tell us:

… وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ
“ …. And be not among those who join gods with God, those who split up their religion and become mere Sects- each party rejoicing in that which is with itself.”

Verse 105 of Surah 3, tells us:

وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّذِينَ تَفَرَّقُواْ وَاخْتَلَفُواْ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ وَأُوْلَـئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
“Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty”

In verse 13 of Surah 42, after making reference to the religions given to Abraham, Moses, Noah, & Jesus, we are told:

… أَنْ أَقِيمُوا الدِّينَ وَلَا تَتَفَرَّقُوا فِيهِ …
“You should remain steadfast in Religion, and make no divisions therein….”

Verse 10 of Surah 49 informs us:

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
“The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and Reconciliation between your two contending brothers; and fear God that You may receive Mercy.”

For those who try hard to divide the Mulims into Shi’a and Sunni, we should really be asking them, are you adhering to the true tenets & implicit commandment of this verse?

We are even told that if two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, we have the obligation to make peace between them, and not to fire their fights further. See verse 9 of Surah 49.

وَإِن طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا فَإِن بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَى فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي حَتَّى تَفِيءَ إِلَى أَمْرِ اللَّهِ فَإِن فَاءتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ
And if two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other, then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies, then make peace between them with justice, and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just).

Verse 11 of Surah 49 reminds us that we should not allow some men to laugh at others or make mockery of them, It may be that the latter are better than the former….

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَومٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَى أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاء مِّن نِّسَاء عَسَى أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ بِئْسَ الاِسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.

II. Other logical/historical foundations for the discussion:

      1. Consider the Wilaayah of Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Both Sunni and Shi’a schools of thought have reported to us that on a Day called Ghadeer, Ali was appointed by the Prophet Muhammad, to be his successor. He said: For whoever I am a “Mowla” this Ali would be his “Mowla”, and then the Prophet offered a prayer in which he said: “O Allah be supportive of those who support Ali ,and dislike those who dislike him.” It is reported that Omar came to Ali, and congratulated him on this occasion!, How did he ignore this and make alliance with Abu Bakr remains to be judged by Allah Himself.
      2. Those who are familiar with the life of Ali Ibn Abi Talib know too well that he was very close to the Prophet; indeed the closest. In fact, the Prophet was given the custody to raise Ali, train him, and take care of him; not to mention that Ali later became the son-in-law of the Prophet by marrying his daughter: Fatima. So, logically, we should know and rationalize in our mind that no opne was truly and really exposed to the essence of the Prophet’s instructions better than Ali. Thus Ali was the closest maintainer of The Prophet’s traditions (Sunnah). But after 1430 years, since those times, what interest would it serve now for us as Muslims to fight each other on who the successor to the Prophet was. History has told us of the succession of Abu Bakr, then Omar, then Uthman, and then Ali, anyway.
        What difference does it make for our adherence to Islam now and in modern times as to who was really the successor, or who should have been the successor to the Apostle of God Almighty?
      3. Is it not true that we should adhere to the commandments of Islam: its Do’s and Don’t s , rather than fighting among ourselves, on technicalities that would or should only have historical significance for the great scholars and elites of Islam?
      4. On a larger scale, when we look at verse 11 of Surah 42, we realize that Allah (swt) informs us that He has given us the same religious orders that He provided to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. That being the case, and considering the many points of commonality between Monotheistic religions, the question is: Why should we fight amongst ourselves within one religion?
      5. Consider the behavior of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet. After people adhered to the Khilaafah of Abu Bakr, with a long-term perspective of Islam in his mind, and not wanting to cause a fight between Muslims and followers of Muhammad (pbuh), he chose to submit to the events, rather than causing the
        Muslims to abandon the religion and become “Mortadd”. Ali could see nowadays and could feel the necessity of letting events take their shape until people woke up to submit to his “Khilaafah”. From our standpoint and considering the necessities of our modern days, we should really be seeking the contents of Islam and act  according to them, rather than who was the right successor to the Prophet.
      6. Historical facts are recorded, opinions are made, and each school has its own supporters and enemies. The prejudiced people have also made up their minds and we may not be able to persuade them one way or the other. However, whether you call yourself a Sunni or a Shi’a, does not really make any difference to the true contents of Islam. Thus a relevant question is : Why should we now engage in fruitless discussions as to who the true successor of the prophet was?
      7. As to various interpretations placed on various parts of the Holy Quran, the Quran itself has guided us in verse 36 of Surah 17:
        وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً
        And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into

        (on the Day of Reckoning).

        In fact, different interpretations of various Ayahs of the Quran, add to the richness of the subject under the discussion, and the reason why a verse was revealed down to the Prophet. Comparison of various ideas leads to a wiser choice of them, or among them, and cannot be always harmful.

      8. On a grand scale, the purpose of the religions in general has been to guide and direct human beings to a fuller, richer, and better wholesome life. This is a characteristic of most, if not all, of religions. Our real fights and quarrels on the contents should be directed to fighting between the religious people, versus the idiots or atheists and not among the followers of one religion or within one. The Prophet of Islam is quoted to have said that: After my death, there would be 73 denominations in Islam; obviously not all of them can be on the right path.

III. Conclusions:
The fight between Sunni and Shi’a is ill-advized at best. It not only weakens the true Islam, but it gives ammunition to the enemies of Islam who have made up their minds to attack Islam from within and from outside.

Based on the commandments of the Holy Quran, we have an obligation to stick to the commandments of Islam and to endear them too: and to utilize them for the enrichment of our lives. The fight between Sunni and Shi’a is not only un-called for, but also it denegrades Islam, undermines it, and gives grounds to attack the religion altogether.

According to verse 285 of Surah 2 of the Holy Quran:

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ
The Messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His messengers. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers.” And they say: “We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.”

We are even supposed to respect the Prophets of other religions that God has sent similarly, rather than focusing our attention on internal fighting within one religion. The whole world suffers from many dichotomies already and does not need one more religious one to be added to it.

Islam has more than 1.5 billion followers nowadays, among whom are Noble Prize Winners too, and they can be united together and enjoy the fruits of Allah’s guidance. May Allah guide us to be Good Muslims, rather than labeling ourselves as Shi’a or Sunni.