Monday, March 2, 2020

Shia-Sunni Divide: Practical Steps towards Unity

By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander, New Age Islam
16 December 2019
The Muslim community during its infancy got divided into antagonistic blocs. These blocs further got divided into non breachable majority Sunni and minority Shia that still remain at loggerheads with each other. The reasons for the divide if one begins to count are numerable ranging from historical to theological, political to sectarian and regional to universal.  This divide has hurt Muslims more than collective onslaughts by their enemies. The divide is certainly based on different, alternative and even antagonistic concepts and interpretation of history, theology and religion, which makes both Shia and Sunni different schools of thought. But the divide has been so deep, dark and devastating that it has evolved into sectarianism. There were a few attempts at uniting these sects but all such steps yielded few positive results. The reasons for this divide and opposition are numerous. Deliberating and addressing them would not be helpful. These same differences have been used by each sect to denounce and oppose the other sect. It has given rise to hatred, antagonism and intra religious violence in the heart of Islam.
The Shia Sunni divide is rooted in the historical manifestation of Muslim polity after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Shia allege that Ali, the son in law of Prophet was discriminated in the choice of being first caliph and this discrimination was continued by the other two succeeding caliphs also. The Sunnis hold completely different view and consider the first three caliphs as the legitimate ones. Then for some Sunni’s Yazid the murderer of Imam Hussain and his family the grandson of Prophet was a legitimate ruler too, whom Shia remember with deep hatred and animosity.
Down the line the debates about these historical facts and events are being raked even today and on their basis each sect tries to denounce the other as heretic and infidel. These historical facts can’t be corrected now, and there is no reason for Shia or Sunni to declare each other infidels on the basis of certain circumstances or different interpretation of historical facts. To be a Muslim legally it is not an obligation to believe in the caliphate of any of the caliphs. They all were Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)s companions who played a historical role in the spread of Islam, but neither Allah nor Islam, holds us accountable to believe in the caliphate of any caliph. We have to believe in Allah, his Prophet and other commandments but not in the people who were part of his mission, whom we need to revere only and acknowledge their contribution. 
Another fact to be taken in account is that none of the contemporary Muslims were present during those turbulent times when internecine battles among the companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were being fought. Also we don’t have any correct or authentic account about the events that took place then. Also it is a belief of most Muslims that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are the most revered ones of the Ummah who earned salvation because of their good deeds and companionship with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). They have attained salvation and pleasure of Allah that is the true and sole purpose of life of a Muslim. Hence they have succeeded to attain the real purpose of life. Hence passing verdicts about their faith and intentions is only to put one’s own faith and belief in the peril that can lead to wrath of Allah. Yes, one can uphold a certain interpretation of events, but to base sectarianism on these events is self defeating. Also none of us was present during those times, so to make these events a matter of faith and unbelief is helping reinforce the division of the Ummah.
The basis of our faith, the questions faced in the grave and fundamentals of our salvation none concern with the stance we take regarding these events. These events have been made a source of driving wedge among Muslims whereas in reality they are a part of Muslim history and to believe or discard them is a personal choice of a Muslim that in no way is concerned with the salvation of an individual Muslim. The sectarian mullahs and enemies of Islam, use these events to rake up hatred among Muslims so that they become venerable and gullible to sectarian onslaughts and divisions.
The Only Practical Steps That Need To Be Undertaken To Overcome The Divide Are Two
1.      Both Shia and Sunni should pray behind each other in mosques belonging to each school of thought.
2.      There should be marriages among Shias and Sunnis.
These steps along with Intra Faith Dialogues will certainly help overcome the sectarian divide and bridge the differences that will help in mutual understanding ushering an era of Peace, Tolerance and Equality among Sunnis and Shias.  
Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir

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