By Mike Ghouse
Facts don't matter. It did not matter to the leadership of President Bush and his obedient followers. They chose to believe what they had decided to believe about WMD, despite the information to the contrary.
Muslims leadership is no different, each one of the sect is entrenched with certain beliefs, and facts don't matter to them either. Indeed, accepting facts will make the earth beneath them disappear. If Sunnis accept Shiite version as a fact and/or Shiites see the Sunni version as the truth, their whole theology collapses, each one will cease to exist, and for that reason, no one will subscribe to each others' "facts."
The chasm between the two groups was born out of Prophet's last sermon.
Sunni Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said that he was leaving the book (Quran) behind him for his followers to learn, understand and practice the religion. Each one is individually accountable for his or her actions, while the Shiite Muslims believe that Prophet had also said he was leaving behind his progeny to offer guidance.
Both the versions are authentic to the believers, and this is the problem. If the Shiite version is accepted by the Sunnis, then they would have to accept that the spiritual leadership is passed on through Prophet's family and accept the Shiite imams as their spiritual guides. On the other hand, if Shiites were to accept the Sunni version, then they will find themselves rudderless; there is no formal spiritual leader in Sunni Islam. Although the Caliphs ran the communities through 1924, they were not necessarily the spiritual guides; there were civic and political leaders.
Even if we were to recover the real voice and speech of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), neither group will believe in it; it amounts to wiping out their current beliefs, and it isn't going to happen.
It is best to follow the guidance from Quran and let you believe what works for you and I believe what works for me, as long as we do not mess with each other's space, sustenance and nurturance. Both will go to Janna (paradise) if we care about God's creation.
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I would add that faith is in the heart of the believer. Shiite beliefs have worked for Shiites, just as Sunni, Wahhabi, Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Salafi, Sufis, Deen Muhammad, Barelvi, Deobandi and other beliefs have worked for each one of them for centuries. Do we see the need for a change?
Religion is not a football game where the touchdown will be decided if the guy's foot or any part of his foot was inside the line while catching the ball in the end zone. Religion is not that precise. A sinful woman can give water to a thirsty animal and earn God's grace, and a drunk who has never prayed can share food with his neighbor and get preference over the Namazi (someone who prays all times). Islam is a big universal religion, and is not defined by petty lines. All will go to paradise, God assures in Quran that whether you are a Jew, Christian or other, you need not worry, he will recompense for the good you do. The bottom line is, if you take care of fellow beings, animals and environment -- indeed serving and preserving God's creation means serving God.
We have conflicts among us, not real ones, but the ones that do not affect our space, sustenance and nurturance. God has intentionally created us to be different, he created us from a single couple into many tribes, communities and nations, and he expects us to be different, but he also expects us to know each other, and figure out how to preserve his creation and not mess with it. The best among you, he says is the one who is righteous, the one who cares about God's creation with no exclusions.
We need to learn about our differences, that are human curiosity, however we need to do our Jihad, our inner struggle in fighting the temptation to denigrate the other in any fashion. Here again God loves us, and guides us how to dialogue without ever putting each other down.
The Sunnis include all of Prophet's wives as his family, whereas the Shiites limit it to the Prophet's daughter, Hazrat Fatima, and her husband, Hazrat Ali, and their descendents. A side note, there are Sunnis who claim to be direct descendents of the Prophet, as if to claim special privileges. Islam is about equality and humility and not privileges. No one in Islam is special unless it is for his actions, piety and deeds. The Prophet even told Fatima that there is no free ticket to her to paradise, just because she is the daughter of the Prophet, so what makes any one think that he or she has privileges? Prophet wiped the vainglorious privileges completely, as it is arrogant to claim such status, and God does not like it because arrogance messes with his peaceful creation, where as humility builds bridges to create peaceful societies.
Prophet appointed Hazrat Bilal, a freed African Slave at that time, to the highest position of calling Muslims to prayers. It was meant to shut the arrogant ones that he was a slave. He explained the beauty of a cohesive society for the pompous ones to let go of their snobbishness and stand in the same line in the prayers no matter who was standing next to them. He liberated women (considered chattel, men's personal property even in the United States a century or two ago) and announced women are free individuals like men, who were free to marry, divorce, own the property and business. Of course, men are men, no matter what race, religion or nationality they belong to, most of them get it right, a few don't.
Prophet continued with his mission and said all will do the fasting to imbue a sense of humility. And remember he made Zakat (tithe) proportionate so all can contribute to the common good funds. Did he make the Hajj (Pilgrimage once a life time) a requirement for all? Heavens no, and this is the only thing that is not required, because of the affordability factor. Islam is never against making money and getting rich as long as you are fair and just to the resources that make you rich.
As a Sunni, I implore fellow Muslims to learn to respect each other's traditions and beliefs. There is no point in proving each other wrong. I urge Shiite, Sunni and Ahmadiyya Muslims to accept the otherness of the other without the temptation to correct the other. Just follow the guidance of Allah and the Prophet -- be good to fellow beings.
I suggest for each one of you, on your own to start going to each other's place of worship and see the devotion each group has in the way they pray. I would not ask anyone to do this, if I did not do it myself. I am blessed to have been in every mosque including the Kaaba, Masjid Nabawi, Masjid Aqsa and Bait-al-Muqaddas. I have prayed and iftaared regularly in Bohra, WD Muhammad, Ahmadiyya, Shia, Sunni, Sufi and just about every traditions with the exception of Ismailis. Insha Allah, God may fulfill me with that wish and the wish to pray in Shiite's holy mosque of Imam Ali.
Knocking prejudice out toward fellow Muslims is peaceful. Try it. You may cherish it. Alhamdu Lillah, I walk my talk.
Insha Allah, we will do more intra-faith dialogue and learn to respect each other for what we believe, and not get hell bent on proving and denying each other's faith. I will do my personal share of work in bringing unity for common goodness. All it takes is more of us to take the stand and hold such meetings and learn about each other for creating a better world (Quran 49:13).
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place and standing up for others as an activist. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com