Reducing Sectarian Frictions

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I came across an article on anti-Shi’ism and was troubled after speaking to a shia friend who said that their lived reality is that they have relatives murdered for being shia back home and they believe the concept of ummah to be a fallacy.

How do we acknowledge and respond to the points raised in this article (keeping in mind their lived reality) in a way that will reduce the feeling of ‘otherism’ and that will help us engage with all sects, while holding strong to the sunni aqeedah?

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

I pray you are well.

Thank you for your important question. I read the article, and recognise that the author has raised many valid points, although not all that is said is valid. Many of the observations in the article require a deeper understanding of the theological and methodological approaches of the Sunni and Shi’te schools. There is also a ‘progressive’ undertone, which, in many instances seeks to subvert many positions held by Islam.

Unfortunately, Inequality Exists

Whether we like it or not, the world we live in has had much occur within it before we even entered it. These conflicts leave their scars on individuals, communities, and societies. It also colours people’s perception of the world; and sometimes, past traumatic events shape and influence our understanding of other situations.

Without going into a detailed analysis of the article and the situation as a whole, it can be said that the core teachings of Islam would not tolerate mistreatment of others based on them adhering to another sect. There is a whole legal framework on properly treating non-Muslims living and travelling in the Muslim lands. If injustice – in any form – is not tolerated when it comes to them, why would it be tolerated towards believers – even if there is a difference in secondary theological issues?

Islam has provided us with the means to establish a just and benevolent society: the Laws of the Shari’a and the beautiful conduct of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Whether people do that or not is the focus of their life test, which they will be judged on.

Religious Influence

The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, ”A person will truly have the religious practice of his close friend, so all of you be careful about who you make your close friend.” (Ahmad) This is a serious matter, as it directly affects one’s relationship with Allah.

Based on this Hadith, it is important to realise that keeping the company of some people detrimental to one’s relationship with Allah. This is why scholars have warned against this. A brief perusal of such topics on social media will give a very clear idea of just how toxic the discourse can be, and from both sides. This should be every Muslim’s priority.

Practical Steps

Much of what is discussed in the article is subjective, which does not mean that it is invalid. The best thing to do is to work within your circle of influence and show good conduct and character without compromising your belief and relationship with God.

You can’t change people’s attitudes and behaviour. None of us are responsible for the rest of humanity. Just for our part of the room. Be warm, friendly, and inclusive, and everyone will notice a difference.

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.

Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.

Was Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq Sunni or Shi’i?

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: I am a bit confused about Imam Jafar as-Sadiq(ra). The Shias consider him one of the Imams amongst the 12 Imams of which they believe. I also read  that he was also the founder of the Jafari madhab for Shias. In addition, I discovered that he is revered by the founders of the Naqshabandi tariqah and that he was Imam Abu Hanifa’s (ra) teacher for some time. Was Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (ra) Sunni or Shia? I am confused.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

Wa alaikum as salam,

Thank you for your question.  Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (80-148 AH) was a pious Sunni scholar and the great-great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him].

He was from the generation of the Followers (Tabi’een) and would narrate hadiths, most of which he had heard from his father, to a large number of prominent scholars such as Imams Malik, Abu Hanifa and Sufyan al-Thawri, may Allah be pleased with them. [Sawa’iq al-Muhriqa, Ibn Hajr al-Haytami].

Even though they were contemporaries, Imam Abu Hanifa did hear some hadiths from him and reviewed some questions of sacred law with him, as Imam Ja’far was a mujtahid in his own right, who had his own legal school.

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq was far from any bad opinion or hatred regarding any of the Sahaba.  Being a great-grandson of Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) from his mother’s side and having great respect and love for him, he was vehement in rejecting any belief that involved looking down upon him or rejecting the validity of his caliphate.  [al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubalaa’]

A Paragon of Virtue and Chivalry

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq was once asked by the famous mystic Shaqiq al-Balkhi to describe what chivalry was [Ar. futuwwa].  So Imam Ja’far asked him back, “Well, what do you think it is?”  Shaqiq replied, “If we are given [favors or gifts from someone] we thank them, and if we are not given [anything], we remain patient.”

“Even the dogs here in Madina do that!” Imam Ja’far exclaimed.  Then Shaqiq asked, “O son of the Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him], then what is chivalry to you all [of the Prophetic household]?”

Imam Ja’far replied: “If we are given, we show appreciation… but if we are not given anything, we still thank them.”  [Imam al-Qushayri, al-Risala]

It was said that when the name of the Prophet [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] used to be mentioned in front of Imam Ja’far, he would become pale out of his love, respect and awe.  This was coupled with his steadfast following of the Sunnah [life example] and emulation of his great-grandfather, the Prophet [Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him]   [Ibn Abi Jamra, Adab al-Sami’ wa al-Mutakallim]

The Way of Moderation and Avoiding Unnecessary Dispute

The way of Ahl al-Sunnah is to have love and respect for the descendents the Prophetic Household and to hold its true scions, may Allah be pleased with all of them, in high esteem, especially when they are adorned by sacred knowledge, piety and righteousness.

It is best to avoid argumentation on polemical matters with those who see differently, as this is neither constructive to seeking the truth, nor to become closer to Allah Most High, nor to living alongside one another in mutual respect, despite our differences.   And Allah knows best.


Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani