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Shia Islam’s Answer to Anyone Who Believes Prophets Sinned

Of all the groups of people who believe in God’s prophets (Jews, Christians, Sabeans, Muslims, and more), Shia Muslims are the only ones who contend that all prophets of God (starting with Adam) were infallible in everything they said and did. This belief is the core belief that distinguishes a Shia from any other kind of Muslim and from any other adherent to an Abrahamic faith.

All prophets (and God-appointed interpreters of Scripture who came between prophets) are and were infallible in everything they said and did.

Sounds like a nice thing to say doesn’t it? How can we know it’s true?

Through logic. God gave humans the capacity to reason for a reason. You think science has the monopoly on reason and logic and proofs? Nothing in Islam is said to be true except through reason and logic and proofs. (Which is, incidentally, why a lot of converts to Islam cite Islam’s ability to answer their tough questions using logic as a factor in their conversion.)

Let’s start with the premise that God is absolutely just in every aspect and that God HAS to be absolutely just—he is incapable of being unjust. (This can be proven too, but I’m not going to cover that proof here since I’m writing for an audience who would agree that God is absolutely just.)

God created creatures of choice (e.g., humans for just one example—there are others) and creatures of no choice (e.g., animals, vegetation).

Because of God’s absolute justice, creatures of choice need to be put to the test in order to manifest their capacity of having choice. It would not be fair of God to put humans to the test without telling us what the test is and how to pass it, so he has sent Scripture to humankind to tell us what the test is and how to pass it.

The manual for humankind (Scripture) has to come from the absolute just being himself–if we were to rely on human ideologies as our source for what the truth is and how to pass the test, we would be led astray because humans are not all-knowing and are subject to being led astray.

God communicated to us what we need to know about the test (life on earth) through prophets. There have been 124,000 prophets to humankind counting Adam. In Islam, the prophets who were given the special task of communicating God’s laws to us are called messengers. All messengers were prophets, but not all prophets were messengers. Prophets call people to God’s right path in accordance with the previously revealed Scripture.

If God’s manual for this life were to land in our hands and we were to receive no correct interpretation of the manual, our own fallibility would lead us astray. We can see this from our own human history. Left to fallible human interpretation of Scripture, how many sects of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have formed? It would be unjust of God to make us rely on interpretations of other humans; absolute justice dictates Scripture be interpreted for us by an infallible person whose knowledge of the Scripture comes directly from God; absolute justice dictates that that person be infallible in everything they say and do.

What about people whose lifespans did not intersect the lifespans of prophets and messengers? It would be unjust for them to be left without an infallible interpreter of Scripture (infallible in interpretation and infallible in word and deed)…and, indeed, they were not so left. Between each prophet or messenger and the next prophet or messenger, a God-appointed infallible interpreter of Scripture existed. A chain of infallible interpreters of Scripture connect each prophet, and each one is announced publicly by the existing prophet or messenger or interpreter before his death.

Before Jesus departed from earth, he appointed, by God’s command, the infallible interpreter who was to carry on the true message after him. It was Simon Peter. Shia Muslims contend that had the church stayed with his teachings (and with his God-appointed successors’ teachings) instead of being led astray by Saul/Paul, who was not an infallible interpreter, Christianity would have stayed in line with God’s right path and Jesus’ true teachings.

An infallible prophet, messenger, or interpreter has existed and will exist at every second of time for as long as humankind exists in this test (life on earth). Their existence is necessary in order for our test on this earth to be just.

The infallible interpreter of Scripture appointed by God and announced publicly by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadeer Khum (the pond of Ghadeer) was Ali, given the title of Imam indicating his mandate from God to guide humankind until the next Imam’s appointed time. Shia Muslims are possibly the only people left on earth who know of and keep track of the chain of infallible interpreters (Imams) that existed between the last messenger’s death and the Day of Judgment when all humans’ tests culminate in a perfectly just judgment. And, yes, of course there is an infallible Imam (interpreter) alive today on earth. He is the last one; the one who will be alive on earth when Prophet Jesus returns to finish establishing the kingdom of God on earth.

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Islam Explained Part 3 of 5: Shia-Sunni Explained

First publication of a pamphlet from Intellectual Muslim

What is the meaning of the words shia and sunni?

Shia means “followers” or “supporters.” Later in Islamic history, the term came to be applied to the followers of Ali ibn Abi Talib (hereandafter “Ali”), the successors of Prophet Muhammad.

Sunna means “habit” or “usual practice.” Later, the term came to be applied to the Muslim group who claimed to be the followers of the habit of the prophet. In English, we generally use a different form of the word when referring to this sect—sunni.

Why is this topic important?

The Shia-Sunni topic is very important not only for Muslims but for everyone else in the world. The Shia-Sunni division is most felt in the Arab countries which control most of the oil distributed to the world. A slight instability in that region is quickly felt in the streets of California and New York where cars and factories pay steeply for the energy to produce and operate. For example, during the writing of this document in 2011, there is a major uprising in Libya. Even though Libya produces only 2% of the world’s oil supply, the price of oil rose to a record. If the Shia-Sunni division leads to civil wars in those regions, may Allah forbid, oil production there will halt resulting in jobs lost and poverty here in the U.S.

What is the historical background of the terms?

Prophet Muhammad was the head of the young Islamic state in Medina. Under his rule, two competing tribes (Aws and Khazrej) were united—the two tribes had been engaged in civil wars for years. Muslim immigrants from Mecca to Medina comprised a third group. A fourth group was comprised of seemingly Muslim hypocrites who could be categorized as one of two kinds: 1) citizens of Medina who were wary of the prophet upsetting the status quo, 2) a subset of the immigrants from Mecca to Medina who knew that Islam would emerge victorious eventually and were so reserving spots in the powerful new state. This specific group would come to play a major role in successfully dividing Muslims until this day.

During the presence of the Holy Prophet, the first three groups abandoned their differences and strove to propagate Islam and defend it from non-believers in Mecca. But only hours after the prophet passed away, all four groups competed to appoint a caliph despite the clear command from the prophet that Ali was to be the leader after him. Before the prophet passed away, he had appointed the obvious best Muslim in all regards, Ali, to be his successor. The prophet had said about Ali, “I am from Ali, and Ali is from me. He is the only representative of me.” After the prophet’s death, each group wanted to seize leadership. The Meccan hypocrites emerged as the winner by exploiting the differences between the Aws and Khazrej. The Meccan Abu Bakr became the leader of all groups.

A few influential Muslims sided with the righteous leader, Ali, and refused the quick nomination of Abu Bakr that had been conducted on the sly while Ali was absent, preparing the burial of the Holy Prophet. The individuals who sided with Ali were called shiatu Ali, and that was the first appearance of the group that was to be called shia.

There is no accurate date of when the other group was called sunni, but it is no later than the 8th century A.D. The term sunni used to refer to the collectors (i.e., actual people) of hadith (sayings, actions, and concurrences of the prophet.) These collectors relied on the sahabah (sing. sahabi) of the prophet as their source. A sahabi is anyone who lived during the prophet’s time period and saw him, not necessarily meeting him, or heard him speak, even for a brief moment. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, one of the four lines of Sunni jurisprudence and the leading authority of the Hanbali doctrine, widened the term to also include the adherents of all four Sunni subgroups.

Both Shias and Sunnis refer to the Quran as the first source of knowledge and to the prophet as the second. Their difference lies in how, or rather, from where, they get the information about what the prophet said and did. Sunnis refer to the sayings, actions, and concurrences of the prophet (hadith) as relayed by sahabah. Shias refer to the sayings, actions, and concurrences of the prophet as relayed through the infallible progeny of the prophet.

Is the Shia-Sunni issue only a political dispute?

Muslims believe that all prophets were infallible in their words and actions. The appointment of Ali by Prophet Muhammad to head up the Islamic state after the prophet’s death was an appointment free from error and originated through revelation from Allah (Arabic for God) to the prophet shortly before his death. This appointment was designed to direct and preserve Islam under the ruling of the most pious, the bravest, and the most knowledgeable person, Ali. He was to teach Muslims, and the world, about the interpretations of the Quran and distinguish correct from false teachings. Ali sought power in order to establish a just civilization, not to gain political power. But because power was shifted from Ali to unqualified people, oppressive rulers emerged and started causeless wars and oppressed people. The new kings started unlawful expansion wars to polish their image as propagators of Islam. From that day until today, the Islamic world has never experienced the just and good leadership that Allah has designed.

Why does it matter if you are a Shia or not?

Allah has declared many times in the Quran that to be worthy of his mercy, Muslims ought to follow the teachings of the prophet.

And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it). And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is stern in reprisal. (59:7)

And obey Allah and the messenger, that ye may find mercy. (3:132)

It is clear that obeying the prophet is equal to obeying Allah. The fate of the ones who disobey is made clear:

And whoso disobeyeth Allah and his messenger, lo! his is fire of hell, wherein such dwell for ever. (72:23)

It is essential to know what Allah is commanding us to do in these verses—Allah’s commandments are equal to what the prophet taught us what we must do and not do.

There have been numerous affirmations by the prophet that after his passing, Muslims should follow Ali, the head of the prophet’s progeny. For example, “I am about to answer the call (of death). Verily, I leave behind two precious things (thaqalayn) amongst you: the Book of Allah and my Ahl al-Bayt. Verily, the two will never separate until they come back to me by the side of the pond (in the hereafter).” Even famous Sunni scholars view this hadith as authentic:

  • al-Hakim al-Naysabouri in his book Al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihayn
  • Muslim Bin Al Hajjaj in his book Saheem Muslim
  • Al-Nasa’I in his book Khasai’l Ali Bin Abi Talib
  • Ahmad bin Hanbal in his book Al-Musnad
  • Ibn Kathir in his book Tafseer al-Quran al-Adheemand many others more…

Honest investigators of the hadiths and the verses from the Quran will lead to only one conclusion—that Ali is the only one who must be followed to reach Allah’s happiness. Picking any other leader is putting oneself in the category of the ones who disobey the Holy Prophet.

How to handle the Shia-Sunni division

It is forbidden in Islam to force one’s opinion on others per the teaching in the Quran:

There is no compulsion in religion. (2:256)

Each soul earneth only on its own account, nor doth any laden bear another’s load. (35:18)

Unfortunately, anti-Shia remarks stream non-stop from Wahabi sheikhs in Saudi Arabia—“Shias are worse than Christians and Jews,” “Shias curse the sahabah of the prophet,” etc. These remarks have been the fuel for many suicide bombings in Shia-dominant Iraq that resulted in the killings of thousands of men, women, and children. Stopping these remarks would be a first step to ease the division between Shias and Sunnis. These sheikhs should be held accountable for their hate speech.

A second step would be the forthcoming of non-Wahabi Sunni scholars from Egypt, the head of the Sunni world, to condemn the hate crimes committed by Wahabis against Shias. Thirdly, Shias need to promote awareness about the true teachings of Islam amongst Muslims themselves. Last, but not least, Shias should be forthcoming to tell the world about Shia teachings. It is a personal responsibility, especially for ones who live in the West and have a notable level of freedom.

More information on this topic!

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You Cannot Be “Just A Muslim”

Well-meaning Muslims think that by declaring themselves “just Muslim” instead of Shia or Sunni that they are avoiding harmful divisions in Islam. They probably think that if every Muslim would just give up sectarianism like them that we would all be united as Muslims. Muslims who think like this have not given serious thought to what really divides Shias and Sunnis.

A Muslim cannot be “just a Muslim.” Every Muslim HAS TO have an opinion about what happened at Ghadir Khum (the pond of Ghadir). The story is narrated in many Sunni traditions so a Sunni has absolutely no reason to doubt its authenticity.

Why do you, being a Sunni or just-a-Muslim, trust what companions of the Prophet (PBUH & HF) did after his death more than you trust what the Prophet himself said should happen after his death!? Prophet Muhammad was infallible in every single aspect of his life and his companions weren’t. If you’ve been taught otherwise, you’ve been deceived.

Perhaps you, being a Sunni or just-a-Muslim, didn’t know you were trusting a mere human’s word over Prophet Muhammad’s word. Now you know. Read about what Prophet Muhammad said in that speech at Ghadir Khum and ponder its implications in your beliefs. If you are a sincere Muslim, you cannot afford to push this issue under the rug.

Chapter 5 verse 3 of the Quran was revealed immediately after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HF) spoke at Ghadir Khum that day. “This day I have perfected for you your religion and have completed My favor on you and have chosen for you Islam (as your) religion.” You have an obligation to learn what the Prophet said in that speech such that it perfected Islam.

Learn what happened at Ghadir Khum and see references to Sunni traditions

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