The Shia-Sunni Conundrum – Part 1

July 24, 2012

The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad passed away in 631 AD. From that time on, Islam and Muslims have been fighting a civil war, with the battle of Karbala in 680 AD being the defining moment when the hatred between two ideologies became sealed with the blood on the sands of Karbala in present day Iraq.

On that fateful day, October 10, 680 AD the Prophet’s own grandson, son of Fatima, his daughter with his son-in-law Sayidina Ali and his small group of followers and family members were brutally and mercilessly slaughtered by a Caliphate army in the tens of thousands.

Imam Hussein (Husayn) Bin Ali was beheaded. His head was brought to the Caliph of that time in some macabre rejoicing. This was the grandson of the Prophet himself. A man so revered as a Prophet of God, the last Prophet no less and yet, they lobbed of the head of his own grandson and massacred his great-grandchildren (some as young as 6) other family members and followers of his household.

Personally when I read this story, I was aghast. I have been ignorant of the history of Islam, and I wager so are most born Malay-Muslims. We learn only what has been allowed, cemented by misinformation if not downright lies that we most probably have heard in the sermons of Friday prayers. I am no Shia or Ahl al-Bayt. Born Muslim in this country, I am to follow Sunni or the Sunnah wal-Jama’ah and my general ignorance of the religion forbids me to follow a particular sect or Mazhab (school of thought).

Many Malay-Muslims here, uninformed as we are, view Shias as heretics and there are fatwas (religious edicts) by religious authorities stating this to be so. BUT! Malaysia itself is a signatory of the Aman Message or the Aman Declaration that recognises Shia as very much Islam. An extract:

1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i and Hanbali), the two Shi’i schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Ja`fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible and impermissible. Verily his (or her) blood, honour, and property are inviolable. Moreover, in accordance with the Shaykh Al-Azhar’s fatwa, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to the Ash`ari creed or whoever practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate. Likewise, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.

Equally, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any group of Muslims who believes in God, Glorified and Exalted be He, and His Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) and the pillars of faith, and acknowledges the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion. In simplicity, those who recite and belief in the Shahadah are Muslims.

No two ways about it! And Shia recite it in exactly the same way as Sunni muslims.

The Amman Message started as a detailed statement released the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 CE by H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Amman, Jordan. It sought to declare what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not. Its goal was to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam.

But regardless of the Amman Message, Syah Islam is not to be practiced in this country. Once however things were different:

Muzakarah Khas Jawatankuasa Fatwa Majlis Kebangsaan Bagi Hal Ehwal Ugama Islam Malaysia yang bersidang pada 5 May 1996 telah membincangkan Syiah Di Malaysia. Muzakarah telah memutuskan bahawa:

Bersetuju supaya keputusan Muzakarah Jawatankuasa Fatwa yang telah diadakan pada 24 dan 25 September 1984 [Kertas Bil. 2/8/84, Perkara 4.2. (2)] mengenai aliran Syiah yang menetapkan seperti berikut :” Setelah berbincang dan menimbang kertas kerja ini Jawatankuasa telah mengambil keputusan bahawa hanya Mazhab Syiah dari golongan Al — Zaidiyah dan Jaafariah sahaja yang diterima untuk diamalkan di Malaysia.” Dimansuhkan.

So once upon a time, ‘Mazhab Syiah of the Al-Zaidiyah and Jaafriah were allowed to be practiced in the country.

We have take a few steps back.

Note: Sunni Islam recognises 4 Mazhab (also spelt Madhab) or schools of thought and named after the Imams responsible for espousing these philosophies of the religion: Shafie Hambali Maliki Hanafi Shia Islam also have their set of Madhab, but what comes of mind are Jaffari and Zaydi.