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Newsletter for February 2014




Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3 - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12




In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

May Almighty Allah bless Prophet Muhammad and his progeny 

“A faith in the beginning is simple & uncomplicated.
As time goes on, people start elaborating those simple beliefs and that is when disputes arise & different sects are established.

It has happened in all previous religions and Islam was not an exception.”


The name “Shi‘a” or “Shi‘ite” entered the Western media’s common vocabulary during the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and it is being frequently heard now in context of the war in Iraq when reporters or commentators say that sixty to sixty-five percent of the Iraqis are  “Shi‘ite” or “Shi‘a Muslims”.

If you travel across the Middle East and Asia, you will soon realize that besides the *similarity and uniformity* found among the Muslims on basic issues, there is also a great *diversity* in the world of  Islam.
Not only in the composition of its membership but also in thought and practice: there are different *theological sects* and a variety of spiritual brotherhoods*.

However, the most the important division in Islamic theology has  placed the Muslims into two main schools of thought: the Sunni and the  Shi‘a.
The Muslims who believe that ‘Ali was the immediate successor and caliph of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) are known as “Shi‘a”. The name “Shi‘a” is a short form of the Arabic phrase: “Shi‘atu ‘Ali – a follower of ‘Ali.” ‘Ali, son of Abu Tălib, was
the cousin and the son-in-law of the Prophet of Islam.

Out of almost a billion Muslims in the world, about fifteen percent  are Shi‘a Muslims. The following table gives the distribution of Shi‘as in countries where they are found in considerable numbers:

Country Shí‘a Population

Shí'a of Total Population
Iran 60,000,000 90 %
Pakistan 30,000,000 20
India 10,000,000 1.8
Iraq 16,000,000 65
Turkey 1,000.000
Afghanistan 4,000.000 15
Lebanon 1,000.000 30
Bahrain 170,000 70
Saudi Arabia 440,000 7
% mostly in the eastern region
Azerbaijan 5,000,000 62

We can safely say that there are about *127 million* Shí‘as in the world.
It is important to note that in most Muslim communities and for most part of the their history, the Shi‘as have lived in peace and harmony with the Sunni Muslims. Polemics in religious writings on both sides has been part of our history, but that was limited to the learned and the educated elite, and it never degenerated into physical violence against one another.

Unfortunately, in the last twenty years, the Shi‘a Muslims have been persecuted on religious and political grounds in certain Muslim countries, especially in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. In Pakistan, by the Sipah-e Sahaba group; in Afghanistan, by the former Taleban government; and in Iraq, by Saddam’s former regime.

The Sunnis and the Shi‘as both are Muslims, so let us first define a  “Muslim”. A Muslim is one who believes in the following three  principles of Islam:

1. *Monotheism Tawhíd).
This is the belief that there is only One God who is the origin and creator of the universe. This is the foundation stone of Islam and is reflected in the famous sentence that says that, “I bear witness that there is no god but Allâh”.

2. *Prophethood  Nubuwwa).*
This is the belief that God sent thousands of prophets and messengers  to guide the human society. Some of the most important prophets of God  in
whom a Muslim must believe are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus,  and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

A Muslim must also believe that Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet and final messenger of God. No prophet or messenger is to come after him. This is reflected in the famous saying: “I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God”.

3. *Resurrection and Life Hereafter Qiyâmat).
*This is a belief that at the end of time, all human beings will be resurrected by God and will be held accountable for their worldly  life. The life in hereafter will be an eternal life. However, whether it  will be blissful or full of sorrow depends on how we spend our present  life.

All Muslims agree that the above three principles are the minimum requirement for joining into the fold of Islam. Anyone who does not believe in all three of the above principles cannot be called a  Muslim.

All the Muslims — the Sunnis as well as the Shi‘as — also agree on the following important issues:

The *Qur’ăn* is the Word of God revealed upon Prophet Muhammad, and  that it is unaltered, and the main source of Islamic views. For example, one of the earliest Shi‘a scholar, Shaykh as-Sadűq (d. 381/991), said:
“Our belief is that the Qur’ăn, which Allăh revealed to His Prophet  Muhammad (s) is the one between the two covers. And it is that which is in the hands of the people, & is not greater in extent than that… And he who asserts that we say that it is greater in extent than this (the  present text) is a liar.” Not only this most famous of the early Shi‘a  scholar believes in the integrity of the Qur’ăn, even the most famous contemporary scholar of the Shi‘a world, the Grand Ayatullăh Sayyid  Abul Qăsim al-Khu’i has written, Bayăn, in which he convincingly proves the integrity of  the Qur’ăn. (You may see its English translation published by the Oxford University Press in 1998 under the

 “The Prolegomena of the Qur’ăn”.) The *Sunna* (sayings and deeds) of the Prophet of Islam is, after the Qur’ân, the main source of guidance for the Muslims. The *Ka‘ba* in Mecca is the symbolic House of God, and that Muslims face its direction whenever they stand for their daily prayers.

The following famous tenets of Islam are accepted by both Muslims,  the Sunni as well as the Shi‘a:
* the* five daily prayers* (salât),
* the *fasting* during the month of Ramadhân (sawm),
* paying of religious *charity and monetary dues* (like zakât),
* the performing of *pilgrimage* to Mecca (hajj).*C. WHO IS A SHI‘A MUSLIM?*

A Shi‘a Muslim believes in all the issues mentioned above. What makes a Shi‘i different from a Sunni are two main concepts: leadership and justice.

(1) Leadership (imâmat):

Shi‘i school of thought believes that Islam is a complete way of  life, and therefore it is inconceivable that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would have ignored the issue of leadership after his death.

Shi‘as are of the opinion that the Prophet not only gave importance  to the issue of leadership and succession but also clearly appointed  ‘Ali bin Abi Tâlib as his successor and caliph, and also mentioned that  the leadership of Islam will continue in his family. We believe that whatever the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did was done in
accordance with the will of God.

The Sunni Muslims are of the opinion that Prophet Muhammad set no guidelines for the institution of leadership after his death, and  that it was upon the Muslims themselves to come up with a system of leadership. And, therefore, you see a variety of methods were used  for appointment of leaders and caliphs:

1. through a limited selection by a small group of people in Saqifa ashappened in the case of the first caliph;
2. through a will written by the first caliph appointing the second;
3. through a committee of six people hand-picked by the second caliph ashappened in case of the third caliph;
4. through people’s power when the masses insisted on ‘Ali to become their ruler;
5. through military superiority as witnessed in case of Mu‘awiya; and  also
6. through hereditary in case of the Umayyids and the ‘Abbasids.

Shi‘ism bases its arguments on the divine precedence in which God never left the issue of leadership in the hands of the people; He appointed the prophets and their successors. Professor Wilfred  Made lung of the Oxford University makes an interesting observation in his  book,

The Succession to Muhammad, published in 1997. He writes, “The Qur’ăn advises the faithful to  settle some matters by consultation, but not the succession to prophets.  That, according to the Qur’ăn, is settled by divine election, and God
usually chooses their successors, whether they become prophets or not, from their own kin.” (p. 17)

The Prophet of Islam, from the very first day of his mission started introducing ‘Ali bin Abi Tâlib as his successor. He clarified that  this was done by the will of God.

 *Names of the Shí‘a Imams* (successors of the Prophet) and their era of leadership:

1. ‘Ali bin Abi Talib 632-661
2. Hasan bin ‘Ali 661-669
3. Husayn bin ‘Ali 669-680
4. ‘Ali Zayn al-‘Abidin 680-712
5. Muhammad al-Băqir 712-735
6. Ja‘far as-Sădiq 735-765
7. Musa al-Kăzim 765-799
8. ‘Ali ar-Riza 799-818
9. Muhammad bin ‘Ali 818-835
10. ‘Ali an-Naqi 835-868
11. Hasan al-‘Askari 868-873
12. Muhammad al-Mahdi 873-Living in Occultation.

The Twelfth Shí‘a Imam (or successor of the Prophet) is believed to have gone into occultation (that is, he is alive but is not known to anyone). This occultation will last till the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam as the Savior who will establish the Kingdom of God on earth. The Shí‘as believe that the Mahdi will be assisted in his mission by Jesus.

Appointment of ‘Ali by the Prophet:
From the very first day of his mission, Prophet Muhammad started introducing ‘Ali bin Abi Tâlib as his successor.
Islam began when the Prophet Muhammad became forty years old. Initially, the mission was kept a secret. Then three years after the advent of Islam, the Prophet was ordered to commence the open declaration of his message. This was the occasion when Almighty Allăh revealed the verse

“And warn thy nearest relations.” (26:214)

When this verse was revealed, the Prophet organized a feast that is known in history as “Summoning the Family
Da‘wat dhu ’l-‘Ashira”. The Prophet invited around forty men from the Banu Hăshim and asked ‘Ali bin Abi Tălib to make arrangements for the dinner. After having served his guests with food and drinks, when the Prophet wanted to speak to them about Islam, Abu Lahab forestalled him and said, “Your host has long since bewitched you.” All the guests dispersed before the Prophet  could present his message to them.

The Prophet then invited them the next day. After the feast, he spoke to them, saying: “O Sons of ‘Abdu ’l-Muttalib! By Allăh, I do not know of any person among the Arabs who has come to his people with better than what I have brought to you. I have brought to you the good of this world and the next, and I have been commanded by the Lord to call you unto Him. Therefore, who amongst you will support me in this matter so that he
may be my brother (akhhí), my successor (wasiyyí) and my caliph khalifatí) among you?”

This was the first time that the Prophet openly and publicly called therelations to accept him as the Messenger and Prophet of Allăh; he also uses the words “akhí wa wasiyyí wa khalífatí— my brother, my successor, my caliph” for the person who will aid him in this mission. No one answered him; they all held back except the youngest of them — ‘Ali bin Abí Tălib. He stood up and  said, “I will be your helper, O Prophet of God.”

The Prophet put his hand on the back of ‘Ali’s neck and said:
Inna hadhă akhhí wa wasiyyí wa khalífatí fíkum, fasma‘ű lahu wa atí‘ű - Verily this is my brother, my successor, and my caliph amongst you; therefore, listen to him andobey.”*[3]

This was a very explicit statement because the audience understood the appointment of ‘Ali very clearly. Some of them, including Abu Lahab, even joked with Abu Tălib saying that your nephew, Muhammad, has ordered you to listen to your son and obey him! At the least, this shows that the appointment of ‘Ali bin Abí Tălib was clear and explicit, not just implied.

After that, the Prophet at various places emphasized the issue of loving his Ahlul Bayt, seeking guidance from them, and drew the attention of the people to the special status that they had in the eyes of God and His Messenger. (See 42:23)

Then the Formal Declaration:

Finally, just two months before his death, the Prophet clearly appointed ‘Ali in Ghadir Khumm as the leader (religious as well as political) of the Muslims. He said, “Whom so ever Master I am, this ‘Ali is his Master.” He also said, “I am leaving two precious things behind, as long as you hold on to them both you will never go astray: the Book of Allăh and my progeny.”*[4]

Maulana Sayyid Muhammd Rizvi, Toronto, Canada
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Fax: (905) 737-9781









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