What Makes A Shiite Or Sunni Muslim!
‘Sunnis And Shiites Split Into Two Over Succession’
(Imam Rahman Bello, Lagos)
IN the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. May His Peace and Blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad (SAW), his Household and his Companions, Aameen. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah (Qur’an) and be not divided among yourselves…” (Q3v103)
“Verily those who split up their religion and became sects, you have no concern in them in the least. Their affair is only with Allah, Who then will tell them what they used to do.’ (Q6v159)
“(Do not fall in idol worship) like those who divide their religion into sects, each party rejoicing with what they have.”(Q30v32).
“Ironically, they broke up into sects only after the knowledge had come to them, due to jealousy and resentment among themselves. If it were not for a predetermined decision from your Lord to respite them for a definite interim, they would have been judged immediately.” Indeed, the generations who inherited the scripture are full of doubts.” (Q42v14). The above reference quotations from the Holy Qur’an clearly reveal that Allah warned Muslims about splitting into sects 1437 years ago.
Besides, it has been narrated in the Books of Hadith (At-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Abu Dawud) that the Prophet (SAW) said: “The Jews and the Christians will be divided into 71 or 72 religious sects and this nation (Muslims) will be divided into 73 religious sects…all in Hell, except one, and that one is: on which I and my Companions are today i.e. following the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah (legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements). Who are the Shiites and who are the Sunnis? The word “Shi’ah” in Arabic means a group or supportive party of people. The term is shortened from the original “Shiat Ali” meaning “Party of Ali.” They are also known as followers of “Ahl al-Bayt”- People of the Household of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
The word “Sunni” in Arabic connotes one who follows the traditions of the Prophet, Muhammad (SAW). They are the orthodox Muslims. The split of Muslims into these two branches of Sunnis and Shiites dates back to a 7th Century disagreement over succession after the death of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). After the Prophet’s demise, the group now known as Sunnis chose Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s adviser to become the first Caliph (Successor) to lead the Muslim State. The Shiites favoured the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali bin Abi Talib. The latter believes that, following the death of the Prophet, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law and subsequent successors should have been through his lineage through his wife, Fatimah, the only surviving daughter of the Prophet.
The Sunnis were in majority and so they had Abu Bakr elected as the first successor.
It should be well noted here that the choice of Abu Bakr had received the Prophet’s approval even before he died. This was evident in the Prophet’s appointment of Abu Bakr to lead the Muslims during the period of the Prophet’s illness before he died.
Thus, the succession began with Abu Bakr, then Umar bin Khattab, then Uthman bin Affan and Ali bin Abu Talib thereafter became the fourth Caliph. The separation occurred after the assassination of Ali. Consequently, throughout history, Shiites have not recognised the authority of elected Muslim leaders. Instead, they chose to follow Imams from the lineage of Ali bin Abu Talib.
The Sunnis contend that there is no basis in Islam for a hereditary privileged class of spiritual leaders and certainly no basis for the veneration or intercession of Saints. They submit that leadership of the community is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves.
The Holy Qur’an corroborates this position of the Sunnis in Q2v124, when Allah made Ibrahim (Abraham) an Imam (a leader) for mankind and he requested that the privilege be extended to his offspring. Allah said, the Convenant will not include the Zaalimuun (polytheists and wrong doers among them)
Although, both the Sunnis and Shiite Muslims share the most fundamental Islamic tenets and article of faith, they differ in some areas. The difference between the two sub-groups initially stemmed from political differences and not from spiritual differences. Over the centuries, however, the political differences have spawned a number of varying practices and positions, which have come to carry a spiritual significance.
The Shiites follow senior clerics of their own choosing, shaping their practices and behaviours around particular Imam’s Edicts. In contrast, the Sunni clerics are more concerned with scholarly consensus around new interpretations of Quranic laws and principles. Furthermore, the Shiites are on intimate terms with their saints, holding feast days as commemoration and making pilgrimage to their shrines. For the Sunnis, pilgrimage is reserved for Mecca and Madinah and they frown at Shiites’ over-preoccupation with Islamic figures besides Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In fact, the Sunnis most orthodox strain, the Wahabbism, considers images of religious figures and indeed representations of human and animal form as idolatry. This is why in Saudi Arabia and some other places, figurative painting and sculpture are banned from public life.
Furthermore, because of the Shiites’ animosity towards some of the Companions of the Prophet- Abu Bakr, Umar, Aishah – on their positions and actions during the early years of discord about leadership in the community, the Ahaadith (Prophet’s Traditions) narrated by them about the Prophet’s life and spiritual practice are rejected by the sect and never used as basis for their religious testimonies. This naturally gives rise to some differences in religious practices between the two groups
In Nigeria, Shiite Muslims are more pronounced in the North. They are less noticed in the Southern part of the country. The Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) remains the umbrella body for the Muslim faithful in the country. The NSCIA needs to work hard and be more proactive in stemming the sect’s over zealousness. The security apparatus – Military, Police and Para-military bodies should work hand-in-hand with NSCIA to checkmate security challenges that may be posed by any sect.
Regular dialogue revolving around peaceful co-existence among all religious groups and of course among all Nigerians cannot be over emphasised. More importantly is the need for members of the Muslim Community to be well and appropriately educated about Islam, do away with vested interest in all ramifications and hold on to the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW).
‘Sunni Muslims Are Strict Followers Of Islam, The Shiites Are Loyalists To ‘Ali (RA), The Fourth Caliph’
(Arc. Wunmi Agbaje, National President, Jamatul Islamiyya of Nigeria & Overseas)
YES, Islam is and will forever remain a religion of peace. It is not only the Islamic scholars that can attest to this, but also every objective, non-bias, rational and understanding individuals as well. Whoever cares to know more about Islam can explore the Qur’an and will come to understand that it’s a complete way of life.
Sectarianism has no room in Islam. There was none during the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) nor did he encourage the formation of such after his departure. The emergence of Shiite and Sunni sects is politically oriented and not religiously motivated. The Sunnis are regarded as the strict followers of the tenets/teachings of Islam as laid down by the Qur’an, practised and taught by the Prophet (SAW). They also accept and believe in the rightly guided Caliphs and support them always as leaders in Islam.
On the other hand, the Shiites came into existence as a sect after the death of the Prophet (SAW) in 632AD, when the issue of his succession came up. Essentially, they are the loyalties of ‘Ali (RA), the fourth Caliph. Their belief is that only the ‘Ahlul-Bayt’ (the household of the Prophet) should be solely entitled to his succession. The only platform where any one can be cautioned when advocating anything contrary to the ideals of Islamic principles is by educating the followers of the right principles and acceptable practices.
As we all know, anything that has to do with religion is always very sensitive, which as such, needs cautious handling.
In most cases, people with adulterated beliefs are always after destabilising the rightly established principles, as they are mostly sponsored. That is the case of the Shiites in most places where they are found apart from Arabian region particularly Iran and Iraq among others.
On what the Muslim community can do to foster peace and unity among their members to ensure they adhere to the principles as enshrined in the Quran, I would say it is very simple. The only avenue that is open for the encouragement of the Muslim faithful to remain committed, consistent and formidable is by constantly educating them via a series of lectures, seminars, workshops, and symposia as well as during Friday sermons (admonitions).
‘I’m Not Interested In Any Group That Disobeys Teachings Of The Holy Book’
(Ustaz Taofeek Yusuf Eniafe, Chief Imam of Anu Oluwapo, Orile, Oshodi, Lagos)
THESE days, there are a lot of factions in Islam with different groups coming up and anybody can claim to be so and so. But if they are not depending on the Holy Book, which is the Qur’an and are not following the teachings of the Holy Book, or practising the teachings of the Holy Prophet (SAW), then they need to be questioned. That is one of the major questions they need to ask themselves.
You cannot propagate Islam by fighting your fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, who are in the same religion with you, and even those who are not Muslims. That is not the way to propagate Islam.
I, personally, will not believe in any group that does not believe in the teachings of the Holy Prophet (SAW), or drop the teachings of the Holy Book or belief in the Almighty Allah. Because the teachings in the Holy Book are very clear, that “thou shalt not kill.”
Particularly, I don’t want to know any group that drops the teachings of the Holy Book. Whatever name they call themselves, if their belief is not based on the Holy Qur’an, and their belief is not in the Holy Prophet (SAW), definitely, they are not Muslims. Because the teachings of Islam, especially the five pillars of Islam dictate differently from what they are doing. The first pillar teaches us the oneness of Allah, that is, ‘I swear and believe in the oneness of Allah and that Mohammed is his messenger.’
This is followed by Salat, Zakat, Ramadan and then Hajj. Therefore, you cannot by pass the first pillar. What that means is that you must obey the first pillar before you begin to think of others. And so, if, for instance, you want to fast or obey other pillars, without first obeying the first pillar, you are not obeying what is in the Qur’an.
If you want to worship Allah and you don’t believe in the totality of the five pillars of Islam, then you are on your own.
And so, if any group does not profess faith in the Holy Prophet (SAW) as the messenger of Allah, definitely, they are not worshipping Allah.
We have only one Holy Book, which is the Qur’an, and there is no other version. So, any group that goes against the teachings of Islam or against the Holy Prophet Mohammed (SAW) or tells us that Allah is not God again, definitely, they are not in Islam, no matter the name they call themselves. One of the teachings of Mohammed is that whenever there is any misunderstanding, we should go for dialogue. It is at this point that peace will be brokered.
One of the things that identify a true Muslim or group is their attitude or way of life. They respect constituted authority.
The Qur’an is enough platform to checkmate every one that believes in Islam; how you should behave or act in public. It is a guide for those who fear “Me God.” So, if you want to checkmate yourself, the Qur’an is there to guide you. It tells us what is wrong or what is right.
The fact that the Nigerian Constitution allows freedom of worship should not be a licence for people to misbehave or carry on, as they like. I think it is wrong. I am saying this for both Muslims and Christians.
In our daily sermons on Fridays and even in our daily sermons in the mosque, we do preach peace, but one thing is that those who are bad, and it happens in every organisation, will not be part of a good congregation and such groups will not listen to good lectures.
Our Muslim leaders have been trying, just as many of us have been using the media and the electronic to advise our members on what is expected of them.
‘The Sunnis Are Large In Number, While the Shiites Are A Significant Minority’
(Dr. Ismail A. Musa, Associate Professor Department of Arts and Social Sciences Education/Deputy Imam, UNILAG Muslim Community MosqueUniversity of Lagos, Akoka)
MUSLIMS all over the world believe in the five fundamental principles of Islam, as well as the primary sources of Islam, the Qur’an and Sunnah. Adherents of Islam are divinely called Muslims. Sectarian nomenclatures and names are largely human creations. The Sunnis constitute the overwhelming majority of Muslims, while the Shiites are a significant minority in the sense that they are not only around 10 per cent of the entire Muslim population, but also constitute the largest minority. The Sunnis should not be less than 85 per cent.
It is noteworthy that all the sects agreed on the fixed Arabic text of the Qur’an and by extension, all the obligatory duties that make a Muslim a true follower of the Islamic faith. The differences are superfluous and do not essentially determine a Muslim’s salvation.
The Qur’an is unequivocal in commanding unity of Muslims and prohibiting divisions. The instruction is: “Hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves”. (Qur’an 3:103). One must observe the double mechanism of emphasis here. The first is making the task of achieving unity a compulsory duty and the second is prohibiting disunity both in a single statement, each following the other.
The Ummah or Muslim Community is declared to be a single one, irrespective of race, language, status, age or gender. All the modes of worship are the same among the sects. One, therefore, wonders why these divisions exist. There is no credible basis for it, going by Quranic standards. It is the duty of all Muslims to discourage violations of Allah’s injunctions. I am not joining issues with any of the groups. I do not belong to any. I’m contented being a Muslim that follows the pristine Islam taught theoretically and practically by Muhammad (Peace Be on Him). He remains the model all Muslims should emulate. This is the message we all should follow, as the Qur’an clearly directs: “You have in the apostle of Allah.” Continuous education is vital here. Islam, first of all, enjoins moderation. The Nigerian nation is a commonwealth.
There’s No Dichotomy Between The Group’
(Imam Moruf Onike Abdul-Azeez, Deputy Chief Missioner/Imam, NASFAT Hq, Lagos)
THE recent clash between the members of the Shiites group and the Nigeria army has brought the activities of the former under the klieg light of opinion watchers even to the extent of some people trying to find out the status of the group in the Islamic world and what makes them different from others if there is any distinction at all.
First and foremost, it has to be stated that members of the group are Muslims since they profess the statement of tawhid (formula of testimony to the unity of Allah), which is “Lâ ilâha ill-Allah Muhammadur-Rasûl-Allah.” This phrase is called Kalimat at-tawhîd. The brief meaning of it is as follows: There is no god except Allah, and Muhammad (‘alaihis-salâm) is His Messenger.
However, before going further there is need to look at the meaning of the two key concepts in this article, which are sunnis and shiites and also trace the historical origin of the later.
The word Shi’ah linguistically connotes followers, allies, party or faction, therefore, as an islamically theological term, it refers to those who swore allegiance to Ali bn Abi Talib, who happened to be the son-in-law of the holy Prophet Muhammad (May The Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon him), they believe that Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) should be the only rightful successor to the prophet in the spiritual and temporal world meaning that leadership of the Muslim community should reside with the family of the holy prophet alone, and He (Ali) as the in-law of the prophet and coupled with the prophet having no other direct son, the baton of leadership of the Muslims should be handed to him after the demise of the Prophet.
The following facts should however be mentioned: this group did not exist during the lifetime of the holy Prophet or that of Ali himself, it came about in the aftermath of Ali and his son’s murder.
The group was a politico-religious entity supporting the descendants of Ali and working towards establishing a state in their name as the rightful successor to the holy Prophet.
However, its highly important to mention that with the passage of time the Shi’ite experienced some internal splits and there are so many break away groups with some having a wide variety of belief, even though some are close to the Sunnis others more extreme in their attachment to Ali, Hassan and Hussain, (the sons of Ali/grandsons of the Holy Prophet) the extremism was demonstrated by some obnoxious characters among converts to Islam and others hiding under the guise of love for the members of the household of the Prophet to exploit Shiism.
These converts, including Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Indians and those who wanted to carve independent Kingdom or state for themselves have introduced their former doctrines into Shiism. Examples of some of the beliefs that the converts introduced to Shiism are: “That fire will not burn a Shiite”, it’s originally from the Jews when they say, “lan tamassanaa’l-naaru illaa ayaaman ma’dudaat”
The doctrines of Raj’ah (Expected Mahdi) and second coming of an Imam and incarnation, which are from Christians.
Transfiguration of souls concept, which was found among the Brahamas and the Magians, etc.
On the other hand, the Sunnis or Ahlu’s-Sunnah are described as followers of the established tradition, sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad. They are said to constitute 90 per cent of the world population of Muslims and they also accept the leadership of all the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar and Ali.
Conclusively, one most important point to note about the two groups is that on the basic doctrine of the unity of God, the Prophethood of Muhammad, and the five pillars of Islam, they have no disagreement and they have lived side by side, perform hajj and observe salaat together, etc, this understanding has made it possible for Muslims to live strife-free life with one another regardless of the minor and non-fundamental differences.