Interaction between the scholars of the various Islamic schools is one of the important and undeniable necessities which will help promote unity amongst the Muslim community. When we look at the actual jurisprudential differences which exist amongst the various schools, it is apparent that these differences are only minor in nature; the jurisprudents agree in the vast majority of jurisprudential issues. Such general jurisprudential topics as prayers, fasting, Khums, Zakāt, Ḥajj, trade, and marriage, and their minor laws such as (in regards to prayers) the pillars of prayers, and its various other parts, as well as all of the religious laws which are explicitly explained in the Quran or which are based on successively transmitted traditions of the great Prphet of Islam (s) are all unanimously accepted principles across the Muslim world.
It is necessary that all of the Muslim scholars strengthen the ties of unity amongst themselves and benefit from what will come about as a result. The establishment of the international congress on “Extremism and Takfīrī Trends in the Muslim Scholars’ View” during the last year, under the guidance of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, can be counted as one such important initiatives towards this end. This conference resulted in a greater strengthening of unity amongst the Muslims and helped facilitate a greater level of interaction among them.
One thing which has been in the news lately in regards to such initiatives is a letter by Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī to Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ṭīb, the leader of the Al-Azhar University in Egypt. In this letter, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī invites Shaykh Aḥmad al-Ṭīb in order to form a series of joint intellectual sessions with the participation of the scholars of both the Shia and Sunni schools of thought.
In these sessions, the scholars would research and analyze the various issues which prevent greater Muslim unity, and they would also examine various solutions for resolving these issues and strengthening Muslim unity. This initiative from Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī is quite a valuable one and it shows the importance which he places on the issue of unity, particularly unity amongst the scholars of Islam. Let us now delve into the most important strategies for increasing unity amongst the Muslim scholars from the viewpoint of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī. This article will also deal with the importance of this issue and the role which the scholars can play in furthering unity amongst the Muslims.
Emphasizing the Commonalities--- A Key Strategy in Fostering Unity amongst Muslim Scholars
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī believes that one of the greatest elements in fostering unity amongst the Muslim community is through the emphasis of the commonalities which are present amongst them. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated: The majority of the Muslim jurisprudents, in spite of their varying schools, share many commonalities in the most important aspects of their rulings. The Quran and the Prophetic Sunnah are two foundational resources from which the Islamic laws are derived by all of the scholars and the only differences are those which arise from interpretation or from the tools (such as the extent the intellect is used) which are utilized towards this end.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then mentioned the following in how the Muslims can use their commonalities to promote unity amongst their ranks: ‘Without any doubt, the differences which do exist amongst the Muslim schools are not so many that they would prevent the various groups from working together in regards to their common interests. The reason behind this is that the commonalities between the various sects are very great in number and they are faced with common enemies as well.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has emphasized the necessity of recognizing the evil goals of those who work to create conflict and divisions amongst the Muslim community. He has stated: ‘There are hands at work who wish to fan the flames of conflict, war, and bloodshed through magnifying the differences which exist amongst the various Islamic schools… The Muslims must not give the enemies any room for success in this regard and they need to utilize all the resources at hand in order to better propagate the true reality of the Islamic faith.’
Accordign to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī,personal intellectual and cultural interaction amongst the Islamic scholars are among the best ways of moving away from conflict and division. He stated in this regard: ‘If the scholars of the various Muslim schools convene in a friendly atmosphere, and far away from prejudice and stubbornness, they will be able to discuss various issues with one another and analyze the root causes of conflict amongst them. Here we are not claiming that all of the conflicts will be resolved but at least, their potential severity will be lessened’.
The Unity of the Muslim Scholars in Effectively Confronting the Issue of Takfīr
From the viewpoint of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, a positive platform for interaction amongst the Muslim scholars will take form when they come together in opposing the crimes of the Takfīrīs. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated that our first goal should be to stand united against the Takfīrīs ; in such circumstances, the Muslim scholars need to warn their respective followers, awakening them to the dangers posed to the entire Islamic word by the Takfīrīs. When such a unified response is shown, the Takfīrīs will in turn retreat.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then explained the current day situation of the Muslim community and the role of the Takfīrīs in the implementation of the evil goals of the su-perpowers. These groups have busied themselves with killing Muslims (particularly the Shias) and in creating great conflict and division (which will lead to an even greater partition of the Muslim world). The Ayatollah has stated in this regard: ‘Every day, the members of various Muslim schools, both Shia and Sunni, witness the bodies of their fellow Muslims who have been killed by people who claim the same faith. This is while the enemies of Islam in Europe and America (particularly in Israel) are overjoyed by such things and clap their hands in delight’.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has warned the great scholars of the various Muslim lands of the necessity of condemning and confronting the crimes of the Takfīrīs and he has mentioned: ‘During what time period did such killings take place? Are you aware of a time when such things were taking place, oh Scholars of Islam? Then why are you sitting silently and why do you not shout out in protest when so many of your fellow brothers are being killed? We all know that the hands of the enemies of Islam, such as the Zionists, the Western powers, and their allies are complicit in these acts!’
Confronting the Negative Innovtions in Religion a Crutial Factor in Bringing about Unity among the Muslim Scholars
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has delineated a specific methodology towards the promotion of unity amongst the Muslims, as well as the Muslim scholars. He has also censured the silence of some Muslim scholars in the face of the negative innovations made in religion by the Takfīrīs and he has reminded them of the historical necessity of fighting against these dangerous innovations: “Has it not been mentioned in the Islamic traditions that whenever negative innovations appear in religion, it is necessary for the scholars to manifest their knowledge; if they fail to do so, then they will be far from the mercy of Allah.”
What innovation in religion is worse than the authorization of mass killings which take place by suicide bombers all in the name of Islam? Is there anything worse and uglier than this in Islamic history? Which verse of the Quran or which traditions have allowed for an individual to attach explosives to themselves and blow themselves up, killing themselves, as well as others? Such people only send themselves to hell, while sending their victims to paradise as martyrs.’ Is not such an act a heinous innovation made in religion? The silence from certain scholars is not acceptable and they will have no excuse before Allah for it. It is necessary that we all stand up with resolution and fight against the barbarous crimes of the Takfīrīs. We must fulfill the terms of our religious beliefs in this regard and make our enemies hopeless of achieving their aims (through the acts of the Takfīrīs).
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also explained the duty of the Muslim scholars in revealing the evil nature of the Takfīrīs: ‘These Takfīrī groups have dealt blows to Muslims, the very religion of Islam itself, as well as to the entire human race. We have a duty to analyze the ideology and goals of this deviant group and to ultimately neutralize them. ’ Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has similarly spoken about the necessity of speaking with the Muslim scholars of all sects as something critical towards refuting the teachings of these groups. He has stated the following in this regard: ‘It is not possible to destroy Wahhabism through military means; therefore, it is necessary for all of the Muslim scholars to gather alongside one another and analyze the methodology which such groups (Takfīrīs) use in attracting the youth.’
The Muslim scholars must work together and cut the ideological roots of these groups. All must voice their condemnation of the initiatives and activities of these groups and tell the world that the Takfiris have nothing to do with Islam or the Quran… The intellectual roots of this group must be destroyed by the scholars of Islam; the Muslim scholars have a heavy responsi-bility in this regard and they must not be silent, for the Prophet (ṣ) has said: ‘When negative innovations appear in religion, the scholar must manifest his knowledge or else he will be cursed by Allah’. Therefore, the scholars must regularly meet with one another and hold discussions, for being away from one another brings about suspicion and mistrust, while being close to one another brings about love and affection.
The Unity of the Muslim Scholars, an Important Element in Reducing the Disunity of the Entire Muslim Ummah
It is worth mentioning that a lack of intellectual cooperation and contact amongst the Muslim scholars, as well as a lack of cultural interaction amongst the Shias and Sunnis, has caused the Muslim society to be confronted with a great number of problems. Disunity and division in the Muslim community is one adverse consequence of this issue. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated that: ‘One of the reasons behind disunity and division is a lack of a proper relation-ship with one another. When we are not in contact and we don’t know one another, then we will naturally be unwilling to cooperate with one another in relation to various things.’
For example, certain elements spread the rumor amongst the Sunnis that the Shias do not accept the Holy Quran and that they have another version of it. Naturally, if these two groups were closer to one another and visited each other’s mosques and read one another’s books, then this issue would be resolved in short order. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also delved into the reasons behind the rise of divisions and disunity and he has mentioned the plots of the enemies of Islam, as well as certain allied nations who have ties to the Takfīrīs: ‘The enemies are another cause behind the disunity and division of the Muslim Ummah. These enemies have been very busy and they have positioned the Wahhabis and the Sunnis against the Shias. In order to destroy these plans, there must be ever greater levels of contact between the Shias and the Sunnis so that the Sunni can hear our logic and not judge us unseen and unheard’.
The Rejection of the Claims as to the Existence of Distortions in the Quran, as a Powerful Means of Increasing Unity amongst the Muslim Scholars
Without a doubt, the blessings which come about from interaction between the Muslim scholars of different schools can be examined from different angles. One of the important blessings which comes about from this type of interaction involves the rejection of the claims as to the existence of distoritions in the teachings of Shia and Sunni Islam. In time, this specific issue can further the cause of unity between the Muslim scholars and the Muslim community in general.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has described the invaluable role which interactions between the Muslim scholars can have in the following statement: ‘The claims concernign the existence of distoritions in the Islamic resources is an act of war against the most basic foundations of the Islamic faith. Unfortunately, some of the ignorant individuals seek to create conflict amongst the Muslims and they desire to negate any move towards greater Islamic unity. One of the more ancient claims of this group has always been that certain Muslim schools hold the belief that the Quran has not remained protected against distortions. These individuals are ignorant of the fact that their own position is not strengthened through such spurious claims but rather, they are moving towards weakening the position of the Quran and opening up claims in regards to its historical authenticity.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then continued and said: ‘What is certain is that the great majority of scholars of both Shia and Sunni schools have rejected the existence of any distortions in the Quran and, thus, no one can ascribe such a belief to any of the Islamic schools. Those who actually believe that some distortions have been created in the Quran are a very miniscule group and when we examine the definitive evidence which exists in this regard, it is clear that their beliefs are baseless and without any foundation.’ Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has explained that the Quran is in reality unalterable in nature and he has stated:
‘The reality is that the Quran could not have been altered or distorted, since from the very beginning of its revelation, it has been recited continuously during the prayers, as well as during other times. During every era, there were numerous memorizers and when we examine those who were encharged with writing it down at the time of revelation, we find that they were as many as forty individuals in number. In addition, all of the teachings of the Muslims are contained within it and so it is illogical to think that there was ever the possibility of it being altered.’
Laws against the Current of Takfīrīism under the Unified Hand of the Muslim Scholars
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned one of the strategies which can be successful in rooting out the Takfīrī ideology as being a unified effort by a group of representative Muslim scholars by creating a set of Islamic jurisprudential rulings against such groups. The Ayatollah has made the following remarks in this regard: ‘Expanding the reform movement and utilizing the viewpoints of the jurisprudents of all the Islamic schools in the creation of laws against the Takfīrī current is one of the most important strategies in the creation of unity amongst the Muslim scholars. This can be done through the use of the soundest viewpoints which are common amongst the scholars of all schools.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned the ever increasing importance of implementing this strategy against the Takfīrī current: ‘The permanent secretariat of this congress has been established in one of the important cities of the Muslim world with the goal of fighting against the intellectual and cultural current of the Takfīrīs. This permanent secretariat is composed of scholars from various intellectual and cultural institutions which exist all throughout the Muslim world. The goal of this group is to develop solutions which can effectively neutralize the extremist views which exist through better consultation with one another.’
A Final Word
In conclusion, it must be said that the best strategies for the realization of unity amongst the Muslim Ummah according to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī are as follows:
1. Moving away from political issues which are not agreed upon and focusing primarily on issues related to extremism from a jurisprudential viewpoint.
2. Refraining from speaking about issues where there is a conflict of opinion. Instead, we must work hand in hand with one another and have an exchange of ideas in regards to the dangers of extremism.
3. We must respect what is holy to all of the Muslim sects.