Letter from a Shia Muslim

Yahya writes:

You are spot on about the lack of Offensive Jihad in Shia Islam. While conquest began under Muhammad, primarily in the Levant, much of the territorial acquisition occurred under the Rashidun and Umayyads. Ali was too caught up in suppressing the Kharwaji to engage in conquest, and apparently (in a Shia Hadith) criticized the previous three caliphs for their oppression of Dhimmis.

It is also worth noting that Shia have a much more nuanced view of traditions and narrations. They don’t assign near the weight to narrations that Sunnis do, believing that with the passage of time comes alterations or downright fabrications (they accuse the Umayyads of issuing fabricated Hadiths to diminish or insult Ali). In Sunni Islam, most of the barbarism is to found in the books of Hadith, and by taking up a cynical view of these books, one can circumvent a great deal of stupidity, which may or may not have been authentic.

There are two further principles which make Shia Islam more capable of conforming to modernity:

Firstly, Shia are encouraged to refrain from that which gives Islam a bad image. This is generally agreed to include prescriptions found in Hadith but not in the Quran. For example, the punishment of stoning adulterers is only found in narrations, and thus Iran has found it within their liberty to temporarily suspend the use of such punishments.

Secondly, the Usuli (the mainstream school of Shia Islam) are much like Jews in that they stress that while the laws remain the same, their interpretation and circumstances surrounding them change.

However in some ways, Shia Islam undoubtedly more extreme. For example in the case of apostasy, the Sunni schools believe that only the state can try and execute apostates, but in Shia Islam, the duty can fall upon civilians as well (the same is true of blasphemy ). This causes a great many problems for obvious reasons.

And whereas in Sunni Islam, no differentiation is made between those apostates born to a Muslim father (Murtad Fitri) and one who converts and then apostasizes (Murtad Milli): both are asked to rejoin Islam, with a potential waiting period. In Shia Islam the former is killed regardless of their repentance, and the latter is given one opportunity and no waiting period.

The predictions in the post are fairly accurate, although I wouldn’t call Syria a failed state. I am certainly committed to the idea that the future of Islam is interred in the West.

– An agnostic Shia

Interesting comment.

Ali was too caught up in suppressing the Kharwaji to engage in conquest…

The Kwarwaji were like today’s takfiris and to a lesser extent the Wahhabis.

…and apparently (in a Shia Hadith), Ali criticized the previous three caliphs for their oppression of Dhimmis.

This is interesting. I wonder how exactly he criticized their treatment. I know that Iran does treat most religious minorities fairly well compared to how they are treated in a lot of Sunni states with the except of the Bahai, whom they view as heretics.

The predictions in the post are fairly accurate, although I wouldn’t call Syria a failed state.

I fretted about that myself. I suppose the state is still quite powerful in Syria.  The state might even be stronger in Syria than it is in Iraq.This despite the fact that Syria has lost a lot of territory. The USSR lost a lot of territory in WW2, but it never became a failed state. It did become a warzone though. Syria is more like a warzone.

2 Comments

Filed under Asia, History, Iran, Islam, Islamic, Middle East, Regional, Religion, Shiism, Sunnism, Syria

2 responses to “Letter from a Shia Muslim

  1. Yahya

    The relation between Wahabis and the Kharwaji is oft mentioned observation, and the most striking similarity between them is that both of them valued individual interpretation. Just as the Kharwaji adopted their own individual interpretations of Islam in spite of the Prophet’s family and companions, the Wahabi will pursue their own interpretations in spite of the scholars and schools of thought. Most terrorists are ghair-muqtalid, as in they do not follow a school (Maliki, Hanafi, etc), and are often young and rebellious to the mainstream.

    This doesn’t necessarily conflict with the idea of schools, as the founders of such methodologies have said to not follow them if one believes they are conflicting with the Sunnah. However, the Wahabi often believes that two must necessarily conflict, that one cannot both follow a school and the prophet. While the schools have in history involved themselves in politics and degraded their objectivity, there is also a reason the four major schools have stuck around so long. It is like saying “You fools, it can’t be both April and Wednesday!”

    I will have to look for the Hadith on which Ali (and I believe his cousin Ibn Abbas) criticized the first three caliphs in this way. I have not seen the text, but heard it during a sermon. When citing a hadith in a sermon, a Sheikh (or whomever is giving the sermon) will only state the last individual in the chain of narration, not the book, or the grading. So it might take a little while, and further impounded by the fact that full translations of Shia hadith books are rare, and in some cases nonexistent, so I may have to try to translate it myself.

  2. Yahya

    Oh, and it worth noting that Shia allege that many of the more oppressive tendencies of the Islamic state/Caliphate to have originated under the second caliph Umar. They accuse of instituting the following innovations:
    1) Forced Christians to lodge Muslims in their churches for three days and three nights
    2) Forcing Christians to give up their seats to Muslims where there is not much space
    3) Banning Christians from wearing clothing resembling the Muslims (ie thobe, turban, etc) and forcing them to wear a distinctive hat
    4) Forbidding Christians from using a saddle when riding a donkey
    5) Forcing Christians to shave their heads
    6) Decreeing that Christians may not be buried next to Muslims
    7) That Christians may not sing or read loudly in Church, or mourn loudly over the dead
    8) Preventing the Christian tribe of Taghlib in Northeastern Arabia from baptizing their young.

    I presume all the following statutes are true, as Sunni commentators have attempted to justify them, as opposed to deny them.

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