Stands >2005 Stands >The Stand of Zu El-Hujja 29 1425H /February 8, 2005 A.D.

Islamic unity and sectarian discourse

Sayyed Fadlullah: All conscious and open-minded religious scholars whether Shiites or Sunnis should hasten to meet and start making every effort to circumvent this escalating sectarian discourse.

Asked in his weekly seminar the following question: How does Islam view the issue of unity, especially in this difficult stage?

The Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, said:

Islam has always been concerned to protect the Islamic nation from division. It also wants humanity in its entirety to seek to build civilizations on the basis of a general unity that agrees on common principles, since one of Islam’s major goals is to provide favorable political social and economic atmospheres for humanity to progress, scientifically. And this in turn will provide prosperity and a feeling of safety to all nations on earth.

On the Islamic level, Islam has viewed Islamic unity as one of the sacred issues that no one should tamper with, or even hurt the Islamic societal solidarity whether in his discourse, practices or actions.

Islam also called to demonstrate all signs of unity in the Friday prayers as well as in pilgrimage and other Muslim occasions which ought to reflect the image of Muslim unity despite the differences of sect and race.

Islam even gave the higher interest of the nation precedence over other interests, and called for freezing the demand for any major right to preserve Islamic unity. That is why Imam Ali (a.s.) opted for peace as long as it was in the interest of Islam and Muslims. And that is why we used to say to all Muslims that they have to learn the lessons of that experience in which Imam Ali (a.s.) rose above all personal rights and became the first champion of Islamic unity.

But the problem is that we have not, and for hundreds of years, upheld this unity that safeguards the interests of all Islamic sects. Instead, every party was concerned with his own interests paving the way for the foreigners to exploit the situation by claiming to support certain parties against others. In the end, they were able to dominate us, since they acted on the basis of a well organized plan while we were driven by our divisions and factional interests.

We believe that this is one of the most dangerous things that has led us as a nation to where we are, for we do not have the mentality of dialogue which the Quran wished to educate Muslims on. The problem is that Muslims have ignored the Quran when it came to their political, social and cultural actions…

Therefore, we have to change our mentality of isolation and exclusivism to one of opening up and embracement.

The Arabs and Muslims in general are raised on a devastating education and an exclusivist mentality that does not recognize the other; and consequently it tries to present arguments that aim at destroying the other.

Therefore, we call for a fresh start of laying the appropriate foundations of accepting the other in the Arab and Muslim world.

Let us start from square one in the educational sphere and try to build a mentality that accepts the other as he is and discuss with him his vision as he sees it… Shiite Muslims should discuss their own internal differences and so should the Sunnis do, before they would all engage in a general dialogue workshop that alone could reach a common ground that promotes unity and stop this attitude of throwing accusations of deviation and unbelief.

Such an attitude gains more vigor as the international axis creates more catastrophes. This is what is happening now in Iraq with the aim of extending the state of division to the entire nation.

We feel that these sectarian and subjective arguments, and these articles in the papers, on the net or through TV talk shows are not only counterproductive but also devastating.

They review history in a biased and instinctual way, and make comprehensive and decisive judgments in a way that makes the follower feel that they are either knowingly or not knowingly about to destroy the nation to the benefit of the American occupier and Zionist usurper.

Thus, I consider that these debates and this jumping over what the occupier wants in the region in a way that serves its interests...This intentional or unintentional concealment of the occupier’s role, and this bringing to the fore the so-called Shiite and Sunni threats, is one of the greatest crimes against Islam and the nation, especially that it is taking place at a time the occupation is threatening several Islamic states with war or siege.

I would like to repeat the call to all conscious and open-minded religious scholars whether Shiites or Sunnis to hasten to meet and start making every effort to circumvent this escalating sectarian discourse, and to diffuse the mines the proponents of this discourse are planting and presenting, as a free, or paid for, prize for the occupier. I call on Shiite scholars in particular to turn the occasion of Ashoura into an occasion that serves Islamic unity. It is unlawful to use the Ashoura sermons in a way that undermines Muslims unity.

We are in the midst of one of the most difficult stages in our history, in which we are desperately in need of our unity and solidarity at least to preserve whatever position we are left with among nations.