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Islam Explained Part 5 of 5: Uncovering the Myths of Islamic History

First publication of a pamphlet from Intellectual Muslim

Throughout history, Islam has encountered opposition from both its rivals and its own followers. Even during the early years of Islam and under the prophet’s leadership, a group of Muslims (or so-called companions) opposed and sometimes violated the prophet’s commands at various occasions. While there existed true companions of the prophet who took upon themselves the responsibility of propagating and delivering the authentic message of Islam, there were those who viewed embracing Islam as a means for taking over the leadership of the Arabian Peninsula and other parts of the world. Consequently, Islamic history has been written by those who used Islam for their own advantage disregarding the corruption and misguidance of its leaders and caliphs.

This phenomenon is not unique to Islam though. During the medieval ages, the Christian church exploited the message of Jesus to influence the lives of the masses and to suppress opposition, freedom of speech and freedom of knowledge-seeking. However, unlike Christianity in which the retaliation to the church has resulted in adopting secularism, there is little mention of similar incidents by Arabs and Muslims when looking into the history of Islam. A religion as great as Islam will manifest its greatness only by admitting the shortcomings committed by those who claimed to be followers of the religion while their motivation was earthly gains rather than following the teachings of Islam.

Hanging Onto the Profitable Status Quo

When Prophet Muhammad was chosen by Allah to deliver his message, Arabs (especially the elite) did not deny the existence of Allah nor did they find the message of Islam to be human-made or false. However, Arabs knew that Islam would take away their wealth, pride, and elatedness in two aspects. Firstly, Mecca was the center of the pilgrimage, and the Meccan tribes made huge monetary gains during these seasonal pilgrimage markets through trade and commercial transactions. Secondly, there were around 360 idols each of which was owned by a main tribe. Arabs considered these idols to be mediators between them and Allah; hence, Meccan tribes were in charge of caretaking for these idols which was a profitable business. As a result, Meccans realized that submitting to Allah meant to give up power, wealth, and arrogance and to be equated in treatment with slaves. To avoid power loss, they attempted to compromise the message of Islam either by offering the prophet leadership and money (which he clearly rejected) or by waging war on Islam and Muslims.

Plotting for Future Leadership

However, there were other Arabs who foresaw the importance of Islam in the future as means to rule others in the name of God. These Arabs embraced Islam with the expectation that they would eventually utilize their Islamic seniority to justify the legitimacy of their leadership after the death of Prophet Muhammad. This group included some who embraced Islam before the migration to Medina and many others who had no choice but to embrace Islam as the prophet took over Mecca and freed it from idols. It is those people who ended up ruling the Islamic world for tens of years after the death of the prophet. Condemning their motivations, the Quran speaks clearly to those Arabs “The Badwins say, ‘We believe.’ Say, ‘you have no faith; but you (only) say, ‘We have submitted our wills to Allah,’ for Faith has not yet entered your hearts.” [Chapter 49, Verse 14 of the Holy Quran]

Opposition to the Prophet

Some of those Muslims who later on took leadership of the Muslim nation have been cited opposing the prophet and exhibiting ill-mannered behavior. One of them was condemned in the Quran because of his disrespect to the prophet, “Those who shout out to you from without the Inner Apartments—most of them lack understanding.” [Chapter 49, Verse 4 of the Holy Quran] Some others never gave up their arrogance after embracing Islam and were condemned because of their arrogance as clearly mentioned in the Quran, “He frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man.” [Chapter 80, Verses 1-2 of the Holy Quran]

The Death of the Prophet

The prophet did not leave the Islamic world without a named leader. His cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib (hereandafter “Ali”), was clearly declared a few months before the death of the prophet to be his successor. The confusion and near-fighting amongst Muslims before the death of the prophet is clear in all Islamic history narrations. The prophet requested the companions to write his last testament; however, some Muslims (the ones who later took over leadership) refused and even accused the prophet of hallucinating thereby rejecting a basic concept of Islam which is the infallibility of prophets. While the true companions were busy burying the prophet, Meccans were busy arguing with citizens of Medina about who should be the successor of the prophet, ignoring the fact that the prophet had commanded them to take Ali as the leader.

After the death of the prophet, these caliphs made sure to repress all voices who challenged their legitimacy as caliphs. It is clear that these Meccans viewed Islam as a power-sharing religion to be divided among tribes. This is made clear when they argued by saying that Banu Hashim (the tribe to which the prophet belonged) could not possibly take ownership of both the message of Islam and the leadership of the Muslim nation.

Islam Without the Prophet

The post-prophet stage in Islamic history witnessed the use of religion to achieve earthly gains. During this era, wars were waged on neighboring nations with three choices given to the inhabitants, Islam, taxation, or death, a demand which clearly contradicts the commandments Allah stated in the Quran and the prophet’s way of preaching Islam to others. To convince Muslims (most of whom were faithful and honest,) these rulers utilized the media which was led by some scholars to interpret the scriptures justifying these wars and their merits. Compensated for and bought out by rulers, these scholars stood up in mosques encouraging Muslims to join the “jihad” army. They even made up hadiths to repress opposing views, especially those of the progeny of the prophet whom the prophet named as imams to lead Muslims after his death.

Forty years after the death of the prophet, the spread of Islam made it from the Persian Gulf all the way to the Atlantic Ocean including parts of Europe. Caravans full of women, young kids, gold, and other treasures were taken all the way to the center of the caliphs’ kingdoms in Damascus and Baghdad to be used by the members of the royal family and their followers. It is clear from the teachings of Islam that waging wars is not an allowable way to spread Islam Rather, it should spread as it did to the Indo-China subcontinent—by the high level of personal and commercial integrity exhibited by Muslim tradesmen which encouraged others to learn about and discover the Islam that shaped such behavior.

During the prophet’s time, Islam was never preached by force. To call for Islam, the prophet only sent written messages to other rulers inviting them to Islam. Contemporarily, during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Islam is growing rapidly in Europe and the USA as Muslim communities migrate to the west.

Contemporary Events

The early scholars who misled Muslims set forth hadiths that promote violence in the name of Allah justifying the oppression by unjust rulers. According to some hadiths, a Muslim is supposed to obey his ruler even if the ruler is unjust and oppressive. Rulers throughout Islamic history have made sure that scholars continue promoting such hadiths which are in clear contradiction to the Quranic teaching “to relieve people (be they Muslims or non-Muslims) from oppression.” Umayyads, Abbasids, Ottomans, and current Muslim leaders have dominated the media to gain legitimacy and consequently deprive Muslims of their basic rights.

However, many Muslims have realized that such hadiths are made up by bought-out scholars. The revolutions that have taken place in Middle East in the second decade of this century are nothing but a way of rejecting what ancestors have falsely set forth and an initial step towards the return to the true teachings of Islam. With the new methods of media technology (internet and online social networks), corrupt leaders no longer dominate media and Muslims have (finally) realized that literature that promotes violence is not Islamic but is made up by bought-out scholars. Therefore, distorted history and misguidance by these scholars are the main reasons for the defaming of Islam in the name of God for centuries, and there is a new hope that Muslims are to admit the wrong-doing by their rulers and preach Islam by example.

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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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Islam Explained Part 1 of 5

Shortly we will publish the first of four pamphlets from an organization called Intellectual Muslim. Intellectual Muslim, another Minnesotan organization that promotes the true teachings of Islam, is about to release four informational pamphlets in what promises to be a continuing series, and Islamic Media gets first dibs on publishing them!

Their pamphlet series seeks to make clear some misunderstandings and just plain confusing aspects of Islam. Insha Allah next week we will publish on this blog the first pamphlet titled “A Quick Introduction: Shia-Sunni Explained.”

Following titles are:
What’s From Islam and What’s From Culture?
Uncovering the Myths of Islamic History
The True Meaning of ‘Jihad’

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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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