Though the list of misconceptions that non-Shi’as have about the Shi’as are plenty, this is a list of some that I feel don’t seem to disappear. Unfortunately there is a lot of propaganda against the Shi’ite creed due to a lack of willingness to learn. Some misconceptions are rooted out of cultural practices established by the Shi’as of different ethnicity, while some are propagated by certain non-Shi’a scholars who only wish to cause further rift. While major and minor differences in jurisprudence and theology exist, as individuals it is always best to investigate everything you hear and get to the original source of it. Well, here is my list of the 5 common misconceptions non-Shi’as have about the Shi’as:
1. Shi’as Believe that Archangel Jibraeel Made a Mistake During the Revelation of Prophethood
For some, this may be rather laughable but you’d be surprised as to how many sincerely believe that this is true about the Shi’as. The misconception suggests that the Shi’as believe that Jibraeel was supposed to reveal Prophethood to Imam Ali (as), but accidentally delivered it to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). So to clear it once and for all: the Shi’as believe in no such thing!
But here is the other side of the story. There is a discussion on a sect known as the Ghuraabiyyah who are known to have had such a view. As recorded in some books, they believed that since Imam Ali’s face resembled the Prophet (pbuh) a lot, like a crow with another crow, Jibraeel made a mistake in communicating the message from Ali (as) to Muhammad (pbuh).
الغرابية، قالوا: محمد بعلي أشبة من الغراب بالغراب والذباب بالذباب، فبعث الله جبرائيل إلى علي، فغلط جبرائيل في تبليغ الرسالة من علي عليه السلام إلى محمد صلى الله عليه وآله
Al-Ghuraabiyyah: They say that Muhammad and Ali resembled each other, like a crow with (another) crow, and a fly with (another) fly. Jibraa’eel was (suppose) to do the ba`ath to `Alee, but Jibraa’eel made a mistake in communicating the risaalah (message) from Ali (as) to Muhammad (pbuh).
Source: Taraaif al-Maqaal, Volume 2, pg. 232
Well either way, the sect doesn’t seem to be in existence now and the Shi’as clearly condemn such a view.
2. Shi’as Lie About Their Faith and Hide Their Real Beliefs
What’s there to hide anyways? We don’t exactly love the first 3 caliphs and we don’t like the Bani Ummayah and Bani Abbasid rulers and regimes. We don’t like the companions who fought against Imam Ali (as), Imam Hassan (as) & Hussain (as). Neither do we appreciate the fact that each of our Imams thereafter was killed by the ruler of the time. Yes we do believe that the Imams were divinely appointed and yes we believe in Mutah. So now that our real beliefs are exposed, let us figure out why the Shi’as are accused of hiding their beliefs. This misconception is rooted in the propaganda relayed against the Shi’as due to the concept of Taqaiyah.
For those who don’t know what Taqaiyah is – it is referred to as dissimulation. Meaning, concealing one’s faith in order to save their life from death or harm. It is been mentioned in the Qur’an in the following verse:
لَا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۖ وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ فَلَيْسَ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِي شَيْءٍ إِلَّا أَنْ تَتَّقُوا مِنْهُمْ تُقَاةً ۗ وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللَّهُ نَفْسَهُ ۗ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ الْمَصِيرُ
[3:28] Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (To remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.
Now the issue here is that, this concept is accepted by both the Shi’a and Sunni alike – but since the Sunnis didn’t exactly have a chance to practice this as often as the Shi’as had to in history (since the Shi’as have been slaughtered for centuries), it seems that it became attributed as something only the Shi’as do. Needless to say, when a life of a laymen person is in danger they would naturally do whatever it takes to get out of the situation, even if it means hiding their faith from the outside, yet still maintaining it in their hearts. However, it doesn’t mean that in everyday conversation, a Shi’a would be concealing his true beliefs from you (unless you have a gun pointed to their head).
3. Shi’as Worship Graves and Pray to the Dead
No Shi’a on this planet will tell you that we worship graves and pray to the dead. This is rooted out from the notion that grave sites of many Shi’a figures have shrines. However what is funny is that originally, many of these shrines were erected by Sunni rulers of the time. Take for example the shrine of Imam Hussain (as). The shrine has been demolished and reconstructed multiple times, particularly during the Abbasid regime. Likewise, one of the most notable shrine and dome exists in Medina above the grave of the Prophet (pbuh) himself and it wasn’t exactly constructed by a Shi’a. Furthermore, shrines over graves are mere architectural monuments and they don’t tantamount to people worshiping them. The Shi’a have a strong belief in the concept of Tawassul - a belief that is accepted by all traditional Sunni school of thoughts and has only in the last hundred years or so been tarnished due to Saudi’s Petro-Wahabi propaganda – they do not perform Shirk. If you don’t like us going to grave sites because your views differ, then be it – but don’t associate it with us doing Shirk, as you could become guilty of performing Takfir (labeling another Muslim as a non-Muslim).
4. Shi’as Have Added Innovations in the Adhan & Iqamah
This is rooted from the addition of “Ashadhu Anna Aliyun Waliyullah” in the Adhan by the Shi’as today. However, pick up any Fiqh book that deals with this topic and you will notice that this addition in the Adhan must be pronounced with the intention and understanding that it is not part of the real, original Adhan. As a matter of fact, this statement was not added in the Adhan by the Shi’as until the Safavid Dynasty came into power and even then it was as a mere symbol of vocalizing our beliefs.
928. Ash hadu anna Amiral Mu’minina ‘Aliyyan Waliyyullah ( I testify that the Commander of the faithful, Imam Ali (AS) is the vicegerent of Allah) is not a part of either Adhan or Iqamah. But it is preferable that it is pronounced after Ash hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulul lah with the niyyat of Qurbat.
Even today, it is only said to reiterate the fact that Ali (as) was the Wali of Allah (swt) – something which the majority of the Muslims have failed to realize.
5. Shi’a Slander the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh)
Slander: a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report. The Shi’a belief does not endorse the slander of companions. However this doesn’t stop us from presenting the reality of what happened in history. When we see that certain companions abused, tortured and fought against the family of the Prophet (pbuh) it is hard to give such companions much respect. In the heat, if certain Shi’as do cross the lines and resort to slander and swearing, one cannot generalize it as it being the view of Shi’ism. This would be like taking the actions of Usama bin Laden and implying that all Sunnis hold similar views or if a Sunni slanders certain Shi’a personalities, that all Sunnis have such manners. However, what may be often confused as slander is cursing. There is a major difference between slander and cursing. Cusring (لعنة – La’nat) in Islam refers to a Du’a that is made to ask Allah (swt) to remove His blessings from a certain someone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making such a Du’a against a person who has caused harm to the religion.
كَيْفَ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِيمَانِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوا أَنَّ الرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَاءَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ أُولَٰئِكَ جَزَاؤُهُمْ أَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةَ اللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ
[3:86-87] How shall Allah guide a person who disbelieved after their believing and (after) they had borne witness that the Messenger was true and clear arguments had come to them; and Allah does not guide the unjust people. (As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and of men, all together;-
The Shi’as also do not like to present Islamic history as a happy-ending, given that there were multiple civil wars between the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) after his demise. Given that we are supposed to be taking our religion from these companions through their narrations, it becomes important to study their lives and determine who was right and who was wrong. On the contrary, there are numerous companions that the Shi’a revere such as Salman al-Farsi (ra), Abu Dhar (ra), Miqdad (ra), Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr (ra), Maytham al-Tammar (ra), Ammar ibn Yasir (ra), Uways al-Qarni (ra), Hujr ibn Adi (ra) and many more.