by Abdullah Al Rahim

What is it that makes people slaughter one another in the name of religion? Which among all these warriors can claim the integrity to dictate the terms by which God is to be venerated and who is to be slaughtered in God’s name? They call these sects Sunni and Shia. So I ask, which one of these post-Prophet innovations called sects did the holy Prophet Muhammad belong to? Which of these slaughters will he approve of, should he come back today?

We hear in mosques every time the word Bida’a [innovation] which is used to fight anything new we come up with, even if it is positive. So let me ask both, Sunnis and Shias: what are these sects? are they not innovations [Bida’a]? They are the most dangerous of all innovations which have never united but always divided the house of Islam.

We revolt, we demonstrate, because some unknown rag tag that calls itself a newspaper insulted the person of our Prophet in a drawing. And what do we call what has happened, yet again, in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Honouring the Prophet and the religion revealed to him?

When will those who point fingers at one another, call each other all sorts of names and deny the Islam of one another understand the meaning of these words from the Quran: “O you who believe, Let not some men among you ridicule others, it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let some women ridicule others, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame nor call each other by offensive nicknames” (49:11). We ask the non-Muslim to respect Islam, and rightfully so. Do we ourselves respect Islam?

Where are the religious leaders of Islam? Why this silence? Where are the Muslims who should protest against the sacrilege that has happened in Pakistan and Afghanistan more than they did over the stupid drawings? Standing before the Holy Ka’aba in Makkah, the Prophet is reported to have told the Ka’abah, “Oh you sacred Ka’abah, the blood of a human being is more sacred than you?” Do we understand the meaning of these words?

This split must be done away with and it’s time that we learn to co-exist despite whatever dogmatic or historical differences of opinion we might have. We agree on the roots of our faith: that there is a God above us, that Muhammad is His last Prophet, that the Quran is His last testament. We have differences of opinion over the branches. These differences of opinion need not be the cause over which we fight but the diversity of knowledge whose wealth we gain from. God in the Quran says, “This nation of yours is one nation, and I am your God, so worship Me” (21:92).

And as if already addressing the split that happened later because of the historical difference in the succession of leadership, we are told in the Quran, “That was a people that has passed, they shall reap the fruits of what they did, and you shall reap the fruits of what you do and neither will you be questioned about what they did” (2:134).

Here we are, fourteen centuries later, fighting and killing each other over how it all happened and who was who or who should have been the political leader after the Prophet. Indeed, we will not be questioned “about what they did.” But we will certainly be questioned about what we do.

And what are we doing? Muslim lands are under occupation. Muslim children lack proper schooling, most Muslim countries despite Muslim wealth do not even have proper electric generation to light our homes or hospitals to treat our sick or clean water supply to quench our thirst. When earth quakes hit Pakistan or Iran or any other land, Muslims are the least to reach out to those areas with aid. Count the aid that reached the far-east after the Tsunami from Muslim countries. It’s shameful.

The enemy we must fight is within our midst. He is called poverty, mistrust, inequity, illiteracy, injustice, malnutrition, backwardness and so on. This is the real enemy, not Sunni or Shia who are both Muslims.

It’s time we summon the courage to take an introspective view of ourselves, to honestly and sincerely revisit ourselves, both, at the contemporary and historical levels, and to discuss matters in the spirit of Islam. It’s time we discuss openly whether we should abolish innovated sects and replace them with original Islam. It is not a shame for us to follow the example of the learned scholars of our middle ages who had the courage to debate matters that we today in our backwardness consider taboo. To serve Islam we must have the ability to discuss issues openly within the spirit and respect that Islam has taught us. It is not Islam that is backward. It is our understanding of Islam that is backward. Islam is the most revolutionary religion and way of thinking. But Islam requires its adherents to be able understand the spirit of its laws as well as the letter. Unless we are able to do that, our benefit from this great religion will be lacking and our ability to take advantage of its flexibility will be lost.

Islam started among Bedouins in the desert. Islam then integrated other races and ideas and became a great nation and a world power. Islam is still capable of doing that, perhaps more so now with the technology available. The question is, can we measure up to the standard of Islam, or are we still busy reaching for each other’s throats in the name of innovated sects.

[Abdullah Al Rahim is a Yemeni political writer. He can be contacted at rahim321@hotmail.com]