From this episode we will begin to discuss the verdict we had alluded to previously and that is the permissibility of worshipping according to all of the Islamic schools. As you all know this subject has resulted in a large amount of controversy as many have wanted to find out more about what this statement consists of and the nature of the evidences in support of it. But before we begin I would like to mention as part of the introduction to this series the reason why I feel this topic is of importance. Some might ask is there even a need to bring up this topic. Let it not occur to anyone that this is merely a theoretical issue, on the contrary this is something I completely believe in and I will demonstrate shortly the nature of evidences used for this ruling. One of the most serious problems which has afflicted religious communities since time immemorial is the issue of intolerance and the lack of accepting the other.
You should pay close attention to this issue, as we have seen how intolerance of the other, rejecting the other, insulting the other and takfīr of the other has been a problem not only for those of religion but humanity in its entirety, in Europe you had the wars between the Catholics and Protestants. Similarly when we look at Islamic history we see killing and tyranny, where one school is preferred over the other, the traditionalists over the rationalists, for example look at the chaos that ensued over the issue during the Abbasids on whether the Qur’ān was created or eternal. Or what has happened between the Sufis and the Sunnis, or between the Ash’arites and the Mu’tazilites, or between the Sunnis and the Shi’i – read history and you’ll see how grave an issue this was (and still is).
Even within single schools you’ll see these conflicts, look at what happened within the school of the Ahlulbayt between the Akhbāris and the Usūlis . Or look at the conflicts between the Wahhābīs and how they have done takfīr on their fellow Sunnis. Right now we have this movement that seeks to establish Islām and it is evident for all to see how freely they kill Sunnis just like they kill the Shi’i if not more! Many of the explosions that rock the Arab world target the Sunnis also, they don’t kill the Shi’i alone. This (killing and takfīr) is a trend that we see throughout history, be it from the inception of Islām or in our contemporary era.
The most striking example of this is the current situation in Iraq and you all know very well what’s happened there. Without a doubt this problem originates from two fundamental issues. Firstly, the notion that every sect considers themselves to be on the absolute truth and that nothing of the truth can be found outside of themselves and they defend this position with numerous traditions which they attribute to themselves that speak of the saved sect. Secondly, the inability to accept and tolerate other opinions and thoughts. You won’t find the culture of tolerance amongst them. And then from here we could say a third issue arises, that the other (that we have rejected) will not reach salvation in the next world. Not only do they do takfīr of the other in this world but they insist on their eternal damnation in the next!  And from here we see the consequences and end product of this ideology where people kill and murder others with the hope of seeking closeness with God.
Keeping this in mind, what’s the solution? Is the solution to this mess that’s crippled society and religion simply to increase security, increase military presence and implement peace zones? Or to grant a specific province independence so they may be free from threats and violence?
I firmly believe that this critical predicament is rooted in our religious understanding and for that reason it’s imperative to pause and revisit the fundamentals on which my verdict was issued so that this problem which has paralyzed the Islamic ummah can be solved.
1 – The severe conflict between the Akhbāris and the Usūlis can be summed by the murder of Mirza Muhammad Akhbāri (d. 1816) who was killed alongside his son and students at the hands of a frenzied mob after a verdict for the permissibility of his killing was issued by the leading Usūli scholars of his time. His corpse was then reported to have been dragged in the streets. For more see Hassan Ansāri (Farsi), http://ansari.kateban.com/post/1875
2 – Allāmah Majlisī, commenting upon a tradition on the virtue of the Shi’i says the following: “Know that the use of the words shirk and kufr [in our literature] for the one who rejects Imāmate, or for the one who prefers others over them, is enough to support that they are disbelievers who will eternally reside in hell”. Bihar al-Anwar, v. 23, p. 390.
Sadiq Meghjee is a frequent contributor to Iqra Online and has been studying in the seminary of Qom for 6 years. Prior to entering the seminary he pursued an accounting qualification and worked in London. His field of interest is intellectual history.