Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Origins of the Sunni-Shia split in Islam

As I am studying Islam I found an article on why and how a split happened in Islam to give two sects by an eminent scholar Hussein Abdulwaheed Amin. Here I want to share that important information with my readers.
IntroductionThe Shia shahadah (1st declaration of faith) states:
"There is no god but Alláh, Muhammad is the Messenger of Alláh, Alí is the Friend of Alláh. The Successor of the Messenger of Alláh And his first Caliph."
If you are already familiar with standard Sunni beliefs, you will immediately notice the addition to the shahadah regarding Imam Ali (ra), cousin of the Prophet (pbuh), husband of his daughter Fatima, father of Hassan and Hussein and the second person ever to embrace Islam. The term Shia or Shi'ite derives from a shortening of Shiat Ali or partisans of Ali, companions of Ali. Whereas Sunni means those who follow the life style of prophet Mohammad called Sunnah. Shia prefer to follow life style of Ali rather than that of Mohammad.

Islam as a freedom tool of Arabs against the Sassanid, Ali accepted and not as a path to God. In that context Ali became first soldier by accepting Islam. Often his acceptance of Islam is misunderstood as his acceptance of Islam as his faith. His followers also do not know this. As for path to the Almighty, he had already chosen Sufism. Old records if quoted, we see that Hanif community to which Mohammad belongs were practicing Sufism for faith with other Arab practices by way of cultural heritage. (Notable example of how a cultural practice passes as religious practice in Islam they practice circumcision, this is actually an Arabic cultural practice and has nothing to do with Islam, otherwise it would have been included as one of the (sixth) pillars of Islam) Often cultural practices are taken as religious practices creating much misunderstanding about them. Islam as a Freedom fighting tool later on became empire building tool for later on rulers destroying freedom of other people.

HistoryAli is the central figure at the origin of the Shia / Sunni split which occurred in the decades immediately following the death of the Prophet in 632. Sunnis regard Ali as the fourth and last of the "rightly guided caliphs" (successors to Mohammed (pbuh) as leader of the Muslims) following on from Abu Bakr 632-634, Umar 634-644 and Uthman 644-656. Shias feel that Ali should have been the first caliph and that the caliphate should pass down only to direct descendants of Mohammed (pbuh) via Ali and Fatima, They often refer to themselves as ahl al bayt or "people of the house" [of the prophet]. Shia did not approve of the first three Rashiduns. The strife has its roots in this bias.

When Uthman was murdered in his house by protesters, because he had altered the true copy of Quran. Ali finally succeeded to the caliphate. Ali was, however, opposed by Aisha, wife of the Prophet (pbuh) and daughter of Abu Bakr, who accused him of being lax in bringing Uthman's killers to justice. After Ali's army defeated Aisha's forces at the Battle of the Camel in 656, she apologized to Ali and was allowed to return to her home in Madinah where she withdrew from public life.
However, Ali was not able to overcome the forces of Mu'awiya Ummayad, Uthman's cousin and governor of Damascus, at the Battle of Suffin, Mu'awiya's soldiers stuck verses of the Quran onto the ends of their spears with the result that Ali's pious supporters refused to fight them. Ali was forced to seek a compromise with Mu'awiya, but this so shocked some of his die-hard supporters who regarded it as a betrayal that he was struck down by one of his own men in 661.
Mu'awiya declared himself caliph. Ali's elder son Hassan accepted a pension in return for not pursuing his claim to the caliphate. He died within a year, allegedly poisoned. Ali's younger son Hussein agreed to put his claim to the caliphate on hold until Mu'awiya's death. However, when Mu'awiya finally died in 680, his son Yazid usurped the caliphate. Hussein led an army against Yazid but, hopelessly outnumbered, he and his men were slaughtered at the Battle of Karbala (in modern day Iraq). Hussein's infant son, Ali, survived so the line continued. Yazid formed the hereditary Ummayad dynasty. The division between the Shia and (what came to be known as) the Sunni was set.
An opportunity for Muslim unity arose in the 750's CE. In 750 except for a few who managed to flee to Spain, almost the entire Ummayad aristocracy was wiped out following the Battle of Zab in Egypt in a revolt led by Abu Al Abbass al-Saffah, after he converted to Shia faction he got support of considerable non-Arab Shia group. It was envisaged that the Shia spiritual leader Jafar As-Siddiq, great-grandson of Hussein be installed as Caliph. But when Abbass died in 754, this arrangement had not yet been finalized and Abbas' son Al Mansur murdered Jafar, seized the caliphate for himself and founded the Baghdad-based Abbassid dynasty. After they established as Caliph changed to Sunni sect to get support of Arabs who were Sunni. This shift added more bitterness in the two sects. Which prevailed until the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258. Fight, between the supporters of Ummayad and supporters of Ali, is representative rift showing the fight between the Islam and the Sufism in essence. However, today's Shiats are not aware of this fact. After acquiring power of Caliph Abbassid again converted to Sunni sect from Shia and this shows very clearly that Sunni sect represents Arab faction of Islam and Shia represent non-Arab faction of Islam or what is contemptuously called Mawali by Arabs. Today we observe that Arabs exclusively belong to Sunni sect and non-arab belong to Shia as a rule. We also see some faction of non-Arab Muslims consider themselves as Sunni but true Arabs do not accept them as on par with them. We presently see fights between Sunni and Shia forces fighting, killing each others.
Sunnis and Shias agree on the core fundamentals of Islam - the Five Pillars - and recognize each others as Muslims. Though on surface it appears that Shia have accepted five pillar concept in actual practice they do not practice them for example first pillar says Allah is god and only god and Mohammad is his messenger and nobody else but Shia believe in practice that Ali is above Mohammad since they consider Ali as friend of Allah and Mohammad as his messenger; a friend is always bigger than messenger that clearly shows that Shia actually do not accept first pillar. Second pillar tells to pray five times every day; Shia recommend to pray only three prayers. Third pillar says, charity and that being a universal goodness we see it in all religions and so nothing special about it. Fourth pillar says, fasting during Ramadan month that is not regularly practiced by all Shia. Fifth pillar says pilgrimage to Mecca. Shia do pilgrimage to many other places where their imams are resting in peace and also they visit many durghas of Sufi Pir (Wallis). This shows that Shia are not particular about these five pillars and that Sunni consider as violation of Islamic fundamental laws. This is one cause for dissent in them. About pilgrimage we see Indian and other Muslims calling them as Sunni also visit durghas of many Pir and so they are also violating this pillar. These are given as reasons why true Arabs do not accept them (Hindustani Muslims) as on par with them. There are other causes for significant differences between the two forms of Islam and these are what tend to be emphasized. Many Sunni's would contend that Shia seem to take the fundamentals of Islam very much for granted, shunting them into the background and dwelling on the martyrdoms of Ali and Hussein. This is best illustrated at Ashura when each evening over a period of ten days a Shia commemorate the Battle of Karbala, with a wailing Imam whipping the congregation up into a frenzy of tears and chest beating. It is alleged that instead of missionary work to non-Muslims, the Shia harbor a deep-seated disdain towards Sunni Islam and prefer to devote their attention to winning over other Muslims to their group. Sunni complain that Shia look down upon them as inferior Muslims and at the same time Sunni look down upon Shia as inferior Muslims! This attitude of both factions clearly shows that there is no chance that they can come together and end this schism. There is ongoing violent strife between Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan, both are non-Arab communities. On the other hand, in recent years there has been significant co-operation between the two groups in the Lebanon. And some of the most dynamic developments in Islam today are taking place in Shia-dominated Iran. However, all these co-operations are base on one expectation from other side that they accept the other to be superior to them! We know that such an expectation is not possibly approved by the other. Such expectations actually worsen the schism further.
Practical Differences
On a practical daily level, Shias have a different call to prayer, they perform wudu and salat differently including placing the forehead onto a piece of hardened clay from Karbala, not directly onto the prayer mat when prostrating. They also tend to combine prayers, sometimes worshiping three times per day instead of five. A Shia also has some different Hadith and prefers those narrated by Ali and Fatima to those related by other companions of the Prophet (pbuh). Because of her opposition to Ali, those narrated by Aisha count among the least favored. Shia Islam also permits muttah - fixed-term temporary marriage - which is now banned by the Sunnis. Muttah was originally permitted at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and is now being promoted in Iran by an unlikely alliance of conservative clerics and feminists, the latter group seeking to downplay the obsession with female virginity which is prevalent in both forms of Islam, pointing out that none of the Prophet's thirteen wives was a virgin when he married them. Here the critics do not understand that prophet married many women to bring about alliances between different Arab tribes and not for sex. Those marriages were actually political alliances. If ordinary Muslim accept that as an example to emulate, it will be blasphemy.
In India Muttah is practiced by some Shias like Bohra to introduce Arab blood in their clan because their high priests believe that unless they have that blood they cannot be considered as true Muslims! They invite Yemeni Arabs and allow their women (wife, sister, daughter) to sleep with them until she becomes pregnant of him. The child thus born is considered as gift of Allah!
All discussed we finally conclude that these two factions will continue to exist and also continue to fight so long as there is this creed of Islam.

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