Saturday, May 22, 2010

"I'm JUST a Muslim. Not Shiite, Not Sunni, JUST Muslim." Lies.

Pre-pre-post: I'm going to be posting many more similar posts in the next few months. And I'll give examples of this whole idea of "interpretation" and all so that people actually get what it means. In one of the best books I've ever read in my life (Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women by Khaled Abou el-Fald), the author gives a fannnntastic example of it. I'll go ahead and copy just that in the beginning.

Pre-post:  This post is going to lead to the one on Zakir Naik and why I don't think highly of him or see him as a scholar or anything like that.


Many Muslims do not support the idea of having to label themselves Shiite or Sunni [i.e., they're "just Muslims"]. Historically, these labels have stimulated much violence in the Muslim world, as each sect seems to believe that it follows the real Islam and proselytizes its own while reproving the other. For example, violence against Sunnis in majority-Shiite regions, such as Iran, is a regular phenomenon today; similarly, the persecution of Shiites in majority-Sunni areas like Pakistan is just as regular an occurrence. Some argue that while this violence is entirely due to different interpretations of historical events in Muslim history as well as in Quran and Sunnah, their differences need not be displayed so boldly and bluntly. Others, however, believe that the differences between Sunnis and Shiites should be recognized, though not emphasized to such an extent that they play a role in engendering violence. For the latter group of Muslims, their identity includes these labels, as being a Shiite or a Sunni reveals haunting events in the Muslim past; for them, to call themselves what they are not – for instance, for Shiites to call themselves Sunnis – is to assume a title that does not belong to them in reality; it is to defer to a creed the interpretation of which does not comply with that of their own. Though both believe in and accept the same Quran and the teachings of the same Prophet, their belief is futile without its interpretation as understood by each sect. Speaking merely in theories does no help: the differences in interpretation need to be acknowledged, and a more creative, intelligent, and nonviolent way needs to be thought of in order to settle these differences. Avoiding violence for Muslims should not have to mean denying their differences, as legitimate as they are, for unity can be achieved alongside diversity. Making fruitless attempts to avoid expressing the differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims does not solve the problem that has been a product of those differences; neither sect should have to accept the interpretation of the other when it can defend its conclusions intellectually. The focus, instead, should be on teaching each other how to accept differences and how to respond to an interpretation that does not coincide with the one people have been taught is the only possible one.
We need to understand the *fact* that the current sects of Islam that we have are a result of different interpretations of Islam (the Quran and Sunnah), and that these differences are perfectly legitimate. Why should either sect have to settle for the interpretation of the other? How do we decide
which interpretation is the correct one? We can never know for certain -- we can only make judgments. And part of the problem is deciding which scholars to agree with and follow. 

We should also remember that Sunni comes from the Arabic term "Sunnah," which literally means "the way (of the Prophet, pbuh)" and the full name of "Shi'a" is "Shi'it-e-Ali" (which means supporters of Ali, those who wanted Ali to be the first khalifah). This does not mean that Shiites don't believe in hadith, as way too many Sunnis are taught. I'm personally not okay with the title "Sunni" for this reason because it gives the wrong impression that only Sunnis accept hadiths, or at least that non-Sunnis don't.


  1. wasnt the shian e ali term contemprory of shian e muawiya term??? "the full name of "Shi'a" is "Shi'it-e-Ali" (which means supporters of Ali, those who wanted Ali to be the first khalifah)". i guess this statement is wrong... plz rectify me if i dont know

    1. Salaam, Anonymous,
      Thank you for your comment.

      I'm not sure I get your question, but if I get it correctly, no, "Shi'a" means "Shi'at Ali," which is Arabic for "the party of Ali."

  2. Long way to go they don't even recognize the differences between Sunni school of thoughts e.g. in our area most of us Hanfi see even the Wahabi(Salafi) in a displeasing view as they not follow our forefathers school of thought. Islam is against the blind following of one's forefathers religion its not the spirit of islam to be blind followers.

    1. Thanks for your point, Usman! It's true - we do have a long way to go, and it's really scary realizing that!

      Peace be with us all!


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