Author(s): Muhammad Masjid-Jame‘i
Translator(s): Mahdi Azadi
Publisher(s): ABWA Publishing and Printing Center
Category: Sunni amp; Shi’a Politics amp; Current Affairs
Topic Tags: Political Thought Miscellaneous information:nbsp;Backgrounds Of Political Thought In Shi‘ism And Sunnism
Author: Muhammad Masjid-Jame‘i
Translator: Mahdi Azadi
Project supervisor: Translation Unit, Cultural Affairs Department , The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)
Revised by: Fatimah Fath-Nejad
Publisher: ABWA Publishing and Printing Center
Congress Classification: BP231/م 47ز804952 1391
Dewey Classification: 297/4832
National bibliography numbers: 3718974
First Printing: 2008
Printed by: Layla Press
© The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly (ABWA)
All rights reserved
نام کتاب: زمینه های تفکر سیاسی در قلمرو تشیع و تسنن
نویسنده: محمد مسجد جامعی
مترجم: مهدی آزادی
زبان ترجمه: انگلیسی
Featured Category: Debates amp; discussions Resources for Further Research Responses to Misconceptions Shi039;a beliefs explained
سرشناسه : مسجدجامعی، محمد
Masjid Jamei, Muhammad
عنوان قراردادی : زمینه های تفکر سیاسی در قلمرو تشیع و تسنن. انگلیسی.
عنوان و نام پدیدآور : Backgrounds of political thought in shiism and sunnism/ Author Muhammad Masjid-Jame'i.; translator Mahdi Azadi
مشخصات نشر : Qom: The Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly, 2012= 1391.
مشخصات ظاهری : 268 ص.
شابک : 978-964-529-459-3
یادداشت : انگلیسی.
یادداشت : کتابنامه: ص. 246-268.
موضوع : اسلام و سیاست
موضوع : رهبری (اسلام)
موضوع : ولایت
شناسه افزوده : آزادی، مهدی، مترجم
شناسه افزوده : Azadi, Mahdi
رده بندی کنگره : BP231/م 47ز804952 1391
رده بندی دیویی : 297/4832
شماره کتابشناسی ملی : 3718974
This book is an extension and elaboration of four lectures from fall 1987 in the hall of the Contemporary Arts Museum. The book is aimed to provide the main backgrounds of Shi‘ite and Sunni political thought, how they were formed, what factors influenced them, how they have reacted and finally making this book possible for the two parties to have a clearer picture of the other, to know the theological and jurisprudential limitations and obligations, the historical experiences and doctrinal structure of the other and their mutual expectations in coordination with these principles, foundations and capacities.
In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful
The precious legacy left behind by the Holy Prophet’s Household [ahl al-bayt] (may peace be upon them all) and their followers’ preservation of this legacy from the menace of extinction is a perfect example of an
all-encompassing school [maktab], which embraces the different branches of Islamic knowledge. This school has been able to train many talented personalities by quenching them with this gushing fountain. This school has presented scholars to the Muslim ummah who, by following the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a), have occupied the station of clarifying doubts and skepticisms brought forth by various creeds and intellectual currents both inside and outside Muslim society. Throughout the past centuries, they have presented the firmest answers and solutions to these doubts.
Anchored in the responsibilities it is shouldering, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has embarked upon defending the sanctity of risalah [messengership] and its authentic beliefs—truths which have always been opposed by the chiefs and leaders of anti-Islamic sects, religions and trends. In this sacred path, the Assembly regards itself as a follower of the upright pupils of the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)—those who have always been ready to refute those accusations and calumnies and have tried to be always in the frontline of this struggle on the basis of the expediencies of time and space.
The experiences in this field, which have been preserved in the books of scholars belonging to the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), are unique in their own right. It is because these experiences have been based upon knowledge [‘ilm] and the preeminence of the intellect and reasoning, and at the same time, they are completely devoid of blind prejudice, whim and caprice. These experiences address experts, scholars
and thinkers in a manner that is acceptable to a healthy mind and the pure human natural disposition [fiṭrah].
In a bid to assist those who are in quest of truth, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly has endeavored to enter a new phase of these worthy experiences within the framework of research and translating the works of contemporary Shi‘ah writers or those who, through divine guidance, have embraced this noble school.
The Assembly is also engaged in the study and publication of the valuable works of pious predecessors and outstanding Shi‘ah personalities so that those who are thirsty for the truth could quench their thirst from this refreshing fountain by listening and embracing this truth, which the Holy Prophet’s Household (‘a) has offered as a gift to the entire world.
It is hoped that our dear readers would not deprive the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly of their valuable opinions, suggestions and constructive criticisms in this arena.
We also invite scholars, translators and other institutions to assist us in propagating the pure Muhammadan (S) Islam.
We ask God, the Exalted, to accept this trivial effort and enhance it further under the auspices of His vicegerent on earth, Hadrat al-Mahdi (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent).
It is appropriate here to express our utmost gratitude to Muhammad Masjid-Jame‘i for writing the book, and to Mahdi Azadi for translating it, as well as to all our honorable colleagues in accomplishing this task especially the dear ones in the Translation Office for undertaking this responsibility.
Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) World Assembly
The history of the future will show that the 1970’s and 1980’s were the most important turning points in the political history of Islam and the history of Muslim political thought. What future follows these turning points is a different issue. What matters is that a great development has occurred, which is supported by numerous varying experiences both in the Muslim world and internationally.
It has to be said that the future of Islam—Islam as a religion and as a historical, cultural and social reality—is strictly related to the present reality. This situation results from the past history of this religion and especially the way it enters the new era, its interaction with the latter and its internal capacities and potential. These three factors, and especially the latter one, have had and will have the greatest share in the future developments related to the present situation.
Meanwhile, what matters is that the essential share role of Islam itself as a source of development and change should not be forgotten. There are many people who study the developments in the history of Islam and contemporary Islam without considering its inherent capabilities and potential or its direct immediate effects while considering it as a historical, cultural and social reality that is merely subject to the present developments, rather than as a reality that, besides the mentioned characteristics, has an independent creativity and activity. One cannot study the developments of divine religions without considering this last point.
There is no
question that religion itself, since it is believed in by its followers and thus enters the scene of the society, is itself subject to historical and social laws. The question is whether there is a meta-historical reality behind it. If we accept that religion has a metaphysical reality that has somehow been injected into the history, we also have to accept that studying it without this characteristic and merely as a factor out of history will lead us to false conclusions. If we accept this, we will logically have to accept that this meta-historical element will show reactions to various social, intellectual and political currents proportionately to its principles and characteristics. In order to know these reactions, one has to consider its foundations, characteristics, potential for change and adaptive capacities in the same way that one studies the historical, social, economic and cultural conditions.
* * *
There has been a modem wave of Islamic radicalism throughout the Muslim territories in the last few decades in which has affected both Shi‘ites and Sunnies. In those days, and especially after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, when Islamism reached its peak, it seemed that the two schools would react similarly to the new current. However, later when the excitement subsided, it was clarified that the two would go through the new period in two different ways and proportionately to their historical experiences, jurisprudential and theological principles and sociopsychological structure. This difference, as it is the outcome of two different historical
experiences, also results from two different jurisprudential and theological systems. The present situation of either of the two in transition through the new period is in agreement with its doctrinal systems as it is in harmony to its historical experience.
To know the present situation, these two points have to be sympathetically and precisely studied and evaluated and it should be particularly noted out how each of the two schools, in their entirety, have formed the psychological, social and religious structure of their followers and what potentials and capabilities each of them has on accordance to the developments, pressures and necessities of the present era. The clarification of this point, rather than denying it, while contributing to a better understanding of the present situation, can outline the future situation to a certain extent as well.
The discussion here is not a polemical discussion, nor a discussion of the values and of which experience and interpretation of Islam have been right and which have been wrong or for setting forth controversial issues to doubt or weaken Muslim brotherhood or unity. Certainly, a scholarly impartial discussion of the intellectual, doctrinal, historical and psychological distinctions of the parties and the causes and consequences of each, will contribute to a deeper and more honest knowledge, and will further contribute to brotherhood and unity. The result of denial of realities by the believers and committed is that will provide and explain the same in a distorted way.
Understanding, sharing thoughts and actions, mutual responsibility and participating in the
shared destiny of each other can be achieved if the parties know each other honestly and bravely and show themselves as they are. This will not be achieved in the world today except by knowing and at the same time respecting each other.
The minimum result of such knowledge is that the parties will not have expectations from each other that are beyond their principles, capacities and limitations. Unfortunately, this has been a problem that Muslims have always faced and are still facing. They should know who they are and who the other party is, what goals they follow and how they interpret them. They should know the way they have to cooperate in order to achieve them.
* * *
The book you are reading is an extension and elaboration of four lectures from fall 1987 in the hall of the Contemporary Arts Museum. The purpose of the lectures at that time was to provide the main backgrounds of Shi‘ite and Sunni political thought, how they were formed, what factors influenced them, and how they have reacted and are reacting to the deep and rapid developments, pressures, and necessities of the contemporary period. Finally, they were aimed at making it possible for the two parties to have a clearer picture of the other, to know the theological and jurisprudential limitations and obligations, the historical experiences and doctrinal structure of the other and their mutual expectations in coordination with these principles, foundations and capacities.
Although this and the related discussions
were warmly welcomed, putting them in writing was delayed.
The four chapters of this book are based on the lectures. If the book was to be compiled independently and without considering the lectures, the order of the outlining of the chapters would be different, putting many discussions in separate chapters. However, for certain reasons, the most important one of which was shortage of time and the extensiveness of the discussions and the variety of problems in the contemporary period, this was not accomplished. This also resulted in a large number of notes, some of which are lengthy. I hereby apologize to the reader for this.
Finally, I would like to express thanks to Ayatullah Ja‘far Subhani, head of Imam Sadiq (‘a) Research Institute, whose facilities, especially the library, benefited me in the compilation of this book, and also Mr. Baha’uddin Khorramshahi, who was its editor. Mr. Mustafa Tajzadeh had the greatest share in holding procuring the lectures, which I greatly appreciate.
I would also like to thank Mr. Muhammad Baqiri Lankarani, who kindly accepted to transcribe the tapes. This work is indebted essentially to his efforts and persistence. I also thank Mr. ‘Ali Rida Beheshti, Mr. Kiyumarth Amiri, Mr. Muhammad Bari and the other brothers who contributed to the organization of this work.
In the last decade, the Muslim world has been the most restless part of the world and most of the news has been related to it. This has included not only Iran but the entire Muslim world,
although Iran has been the center or, rather, the source of inspiration for this movement and restlessness.
What is nowadays construed as the revival of Islam and Islamic fundamentalism encompasses the westernmost part of the Muslim world, i.e. Tunisia and the Arabic Morocco to its easternmost part, i.e. Indonesia and parts of the Philippines settled by Muslims. No doubt, all these countries and other places where Muslims, whether natives or not, constitute a minority compared to the entire population, are affected by this new wave although the degree to which they are affected is different throughout and varies according to the conditions.
Such developments and restlessness did not begin in the recent decade. Most likely, the restlessness in the Muslim world in the recent century has been elevated and more serious compared to the other parts of the world. At least one can say that, from among all the faiths that exist today, Islam as a religion and also as a civilization and culture—the civilization and culture that it has created and the protection of which it has undertaken—has witnessed more movements, struggle and conflicts than any other faith.
No other religion has reacted to such an extent against the full-fledged hegemony of the new culture. Although they may have conflicted or struggled with it positively or negatively, in the end they submitted to it and settled for a peaceful coexistence with it, i.e. they adapted themselves to the status quo at the cost of giving up their own principles and fundamentals
since, contrary to doing so, they could not survive and could not stop their children and followers from abandonment.(1)
Among all religions, only Islam was firm on its principles and identity, was not absorbed into the modern civilization and supported a face-to-face conflict so as to maintain its sovereignty at least within its own territory, a sovereignty that had been denied or at least limited by the modern civilization and its advocates. The story of the struggles and conflicts of this religion in the last decade and even the last century is nothing but the sociopolitical realization of the insistence, conflict and confrontation; and this goes back to the very essence of this religion. The internal structure of this religion is so that it calls its believers to a constant attempt for realizing their own identity and rejecting all that is not part of this.
A Muslim, as long as he is a Muslim, is bound to abide by his/her own fundamentals and principles. This is an essential element of his/her belief and essential for his/her eternal salvation and worldly pride and dignity. This is a necessary religious and ideological necessity and an unchangeable, non-negotiable duty. Although, in practice, for a short or long period of time this duty may not be fulfilled for certain reasons, such as weak faith or inappropriate social conditions, it cannot be completely forgotten. As long as there is Islam or Muslimhood, this duty is to be performed and the religion is likely to adopt a position
according to the present circumstances and based on the claim of coordinating itself with the same.
To put it in a few words, the conflict of this religion with whatever that is unknown goes back to its nature and essence rather than being a temporary or emotional condition that will soon go away and end. Although the entire external conditions have a basic role in its emergence and in the quality of the emergence, the main factor is from within and the external factors only provide the proper conditions. The history of Islam is the history of an endless constant fight between ‘tradition’ and ‘heresy’. History is a constant attempt for reinforcing the tradition and rejecting heresy.(1)
No matter what the form and dimensions of the heresy are, the fight will persist as long as it exists. Indeed, there has been no time without such heresy and, consequently, there will be no time without such struggle, although it may not have a severe political form. The form of the struggle determines the conditions but the substance is determined by religion. (2)
Throughout the history of Islam and especially in the recent decades we have witnessed the struggle and strife between Shi‘ism and Sunnism. The struggle by the Shi‘ites and by Sunnis to consolidate and stabilize the laws and precepts of Islam and to reject anything other than these is similarly motivated while it originates in the very substance of Islam and cannot be two-pronged. This is why the story of religious struggles in
a country like Iran is not essentially different from those in other countries such as Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. The contemporary history has narrated these stories in the same way.(1)
Despite all these, however, one should admit that there are differences and failing to take them into account may entail problems and misunderstandings. Unitive tendencies have prevented a proper understanding and evaluation of the differences. This is a great problem and can be solved only if dealt with impartially and bravely.
The differences relate to the different socioeconomic, political and historical conditions in Shi‘ite and Sunni territories on the one hand and to the ideological features of the two schools and the role that such features have played in forming the social, psychological and belief structure of their followers on the other. This is important point that should not be ignored. The problem is not just that these two differ from each other.
More important than this is that, in the light of their way of understanding and beliefs in the course of history, they have grown into two differing series of features. They have lived in two different social, political and cultural backgrounds and, therefore, they have two different psychologies, religious characters, religious thoughts and sensitivities.(2)
In order to study the ideological features that contribute to a better and deeper understanding of the present situation of the Islamic movement, a study of the political thought of these two schools are of the utmost importance, therefore we will first deal with there.(3)
has to see how these principles and factors, whether they are historical, jurisprudential or theological, have formed the religious political understanding of the Shi‘ites and Sunnis, why so and what reflections this way of thinking had on their religious political developments in the past and in the present. There is also the question of whether the courses of sociopolitical and even cultural developments of these two, when coming into conflict with religion, were the same or different and, if they were different, how far were they affected by their theoretical fundamentals in religion and the quality of such a relation; also, how did this understanding affect the psychosocial structures of the followers of these two schools.
It is important to carefully study this subject not because the past of the Shi‘ites and Sunnis would be better understood in the light of it. But rather, because, without paying due consideration to it, the present condition of the Islamic movement cannot be well understood. Although it may be said that the present Islamic movement has similarly covered the Shi‘ite and Sunni territories, it would be a mistake to presume that the movement was formed and went on based on similar theoretical backgrounds and fundamentals. The effect of the sociopolitical and economic conditions as well as the historical background and the more or less common colonial experience of the believers in these two schools were so strong and critical in forming the present conditions that it would be difficult in the beginning to evaluate
the importance of the belief characteristics and the religious, political structures of the two based on two different realizations of the Islamic movement.
This indeed should not be interpreted as ignoring the numerous common grounds of the two in various fields such as the political thought. The problem is that there are important distinctive differences despite all the similarities and even the common grounds. Such differences have emerged because of the complex conditions that exist today. A proper impartial understanding of these misleading differences would help understand more deeply the other party and remove any problem and suspicion. Therefore, they have to be set forth for discussion rather than be hidden.
The fact is that the Shi‘ites and Sunnis have two different ways, especially in their political outlook, and religious political movements in their societies have occurred in two different ways. Is it not a fact that any sociopolitical movement is formed by the psychosocial facts and the historical experiences and beliefs in its territory? Now, if the facts become different, the movement will surely be affected. The psychologies of a typical Shi‘ite and a typical Sunni differ as their religious social structures do. When it is so, the results, inspired by the difference, will unavoidably be different as well.(1)
For example, there is a general tendency in Iran to consider the lack of a religious political leadership among the Sunnis as a great weak point in the contemporary Islamic movement. Such a belief is based on an undue comparison between the Shi‘ites
and Sunnis, ignoring the fact that this arises from the jurisprudential and theological structure, the historical tradition and the psychosocial structure of their society and do not have to exist among the Sunnis as well.
The Shi‘ites, because they are the Shi‘ites and not because they are Iranians or live in the present time, have a tendency towards being guided by a leader and even being leader-makers, which is based on religious requirements while such requirements do not necessarily exist among Sunnis; neither the theoretical foundations nor the historical experience exist for it; neither their psychological structure has grown and been formed so that they would refer to a religious authority for any problem nor their religious social structure is so as to put such a person at the apex of the decision-making power.
Because of the importance of this discussion, it would be better to quote part of the intelligent criticisms of the author of the book Al-Fikr as-Siyasi ash-Shi‘i from Muhammad Jawad Mughniyah. In his book ash-Shi‘ah wa’l-Hakimun, Mughniyah says,
“The majority of the Sunnis necessitate obeying a tyrant sovereign and being patient upon his tyranny while denying the right to revolt against him. Shi‘ism, however, necessitates encounter and revolution against tyranny and corruption. In this respect, Shi‘ism opposes Sunnism and stands against it. According to the majority of Sunnis, revolting against the oppressive sovereign is revolting against the faith and against Islam while Shi‘ism provides that such revolt would be within the context of the faith and being
patient with oppression is revolting against the faith. Here lies the basic reason and the true interpretation of what Ahmad Amin and others say, to the effect that, “Shi‘ism is an umbrella for he who seeks the destruction of Islam.”, because in the logic of Amin and his descendants, Islam is manifested by and personified in the person sovereign, no matter if he is an oppressor or a just person. Therefore, whoever stands against him has deserted Islam. However, in the logic of Shi‘ism, it is the tyrant who has deserted Islam… and, therefore, it is not surprising if he calls Shi‘ism ‘the destroyer’; true, but the destroyer of aberration and corruption.”
“It was Hasan Baṣri who said, “It is necessary to obey the Umayyad although they may be oppressors… I swear by God what they make good is more than their corruption.” Then, he adds, “The Shi‘ite Imams, faqihs (jurisprudents) and literary scholars have always stood against oppressive sovereigns and refused to cooperate with them, as they deemed this a sin to do so. Shi‘ism by nature advises standing up against the falsehood and altruism for achieving the truth. It would have not been wise for those in power to ignore this point, which is why they always kept the Shi‘ites followed and persecuted them anywhere. They bribed the wrongdoing clerics and these two united to kill the pure believers in God and the Prophet and the Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet’s Household). They welcomed the slaughter and issued a fatwa
that the believers had deserted the faith.”(1)
What Mughniyah says is the general perception that the Shi‘ites have of their school as well as of the Sunni school and their clerics. Although this is in turn a right theory, it is not yet an inclusive one. It is part rather than all of the reality. One has to see why these are so and those are like that. Is all this due to personal and moral matters or is it far from these? To evaluate the position of each of these two groups, in the first place one has to take a look at the doctrinal, intellectual, social and historical backgrounds in which they have acted and figure out what the obligations and limitations of each of them have been.
They could, however, not go beyond their doctrinal, jurisprudential and theological frameworks. One who follows his/her doctrinal rules and obligations not only cannot be blamed but also has to be praised if he or she does it sincerely and with goodwill. If there is a criticism, it has to be directed towards the choices rather than towards commitment to the accepted principles and standards. Accordingly, expecting things beyond the principles and obligations is a vain, unreasonable expectation.
The critic, after quoting Mughniyah, says, “Without wanting to arouse prejudice in this respect and while appreciating Mughniyah, we have to say that we cannot agree with him in this analysis without considering his special romantic approach. One feels that he has a double standard
when it comes to the attitudes of the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis towards the sovereigns. These two groups lived under different circumstances after the Prophet died and under the rule of the sovereigns.”
Then he adds, “The opinions issued by Islamic jurisprudents were personal as well as public. Fatwas issued were not limited to the issuing jurisprudent. They covered his followers, disciples and advocates as well. Therefore, no issue has to be considered in this way although it contains some traces of the truth as well. It is true that we have to be brave and straightforward in our stances, but we should not forget the limits and boundaries. It is a means rather than an end. Otherwise, the end will be the victim of the means. Nevertheless, the position of the Shi‘ites before the tyrant is based on some deep fundamentals, which are rooted in the attitude of the Infallible Imams towards the sovereigns, which is followed by the Shi‘ites.”(1)
Again, this is one side of the matter. The other side is the people. It is not that the jurisprudential and theological structures as well as the historical experience and consensus of the Sunnis have somehow entailed limitations for the sociopolitical activities of their clerics.
A cleric among the Sunnis is a pious believer who specializes in Islamic sciences and, therefore, referred to concerning religious problems.(2)
According to Shi‘ism, a cleric is far from this. He is a safe shelter for people. They refer to him in religious as well personal matters. They
even ask his advice in various sociopolitical matters. The answer is not to be sought in the social environment. An important part of it, which is the source of the different social environment, has ideological reasons. One of the most important of such reasons is that Shi‘ism is open to interpretation by jurisprudents (‘ijtihad’ is open to further analysis) and Shi‘ites are bound to follow (imitate) a jurisprudent, which is quite contrary to Sunnism.
The natural and logical consequence of this is that the people have to update themselves with the religious obligation as to ‘incidents’ and whatever that happens for the first time in any matter, by seeking the Islamic legist’s (mutjahid’s) response and his personal opinion because that is valid and has to be obeyed. A Sunni cleric is at its best a speaker of the fatwa, and a fatwa of that which is older than a thousand years.
A Shi‘ite cleric either expresses his own opinion or that of a living Islamic legist. Both the psychological structure and the personality structure of one who has reached the level of the legist (ijtihad) or issuing fatwa are different from those who relate the fatwa at the highest level while also the psychological structure and the personality structure of those who refer to these also differ.
If in the past, because of the closed Islamic societies, especially the religious communities within Islamic countries and the slow pace of social, cultural and economic developments, this difference could not be dealt
with, but it has now emerged. The point is that the difference is not new. It is a difference more or less as old as the two religious schools, but it has recently emerged from sociopolitical dormancy.
Apart from these, many affairs that the Sunnis think of as deserving to be dealt with only by the rulers and refer to the latter are referred in Shi‘ism to the faqih (Islamic jurisprudent). This is not merely for political reasons. Its social aspect is quite stronger and more important. Because of this, on the one hand the Shi‘ite cleric thinks of himself as having the necessary powers and, on the other hand, the people refer to him in their own affairs. Therefore, the cleric expects to be obeyed while the people also accept it as their religious duty to obey him. Such things have never been and could never be experienced by the Sunni society in history and also seem very unlikely to be experienced in the future.(1)
The concept of religious leadership and the need to follow the full-fledged religious legist [mujtahid jami‘ ash-shara’it] is one of the fundamentals of Shi‘ite jurisprudence and theology. These fundamentals, as they put the Shi‘ite legists at a top position, makes the people obey them as well. This is not just to say that the Shi‘ites refer to religious legists in their own problems. Basically, the Shi‘ite school is so that it can educate such legists. Again, the problem is not that, for example, the Shi‘ite clergies
have throughout history been more struggling and braver than their Sunni counterparts; rather, it is that the theoretical fundamentals of Shi‘ism reinforces and even creates such characteristics.(1)
Emphasizing his beliefs, a Shi‘ite cleric can stand up, without any doubt or fear, against the ruling system in cases in which he thinks fit and proper while also calling the people to join him. However, based on what part of his beliefs can a Sunni scholar do so? It is true that the collection of Sunni jurisprudence and theology provides examples of struggles in which standing up against the oppressive Sultan is advised and even necessitated.
However, firstly these examples are not typical, i.e. there are more and more valid cases in opposition to such thought.(2) Secondly, it can at least be said that the texts on Sunni jurisprudence and theology do not show such an attitude so clearly and explicitly as the texts in Shi‘ite jurisprudence and theology do, and this is the point. In such a background, how can one expect the emergence of clerics who have a defiant attitude and at the same time be committed to the jurisprudential, theological and ideological fundamentals?
Looked at from this angle, it is not a personal matter anymore and cannot be attributed only to the personal characteristics of Shi‘ite or Sunni clerics. It is the jurisprudential and theological structures of these two schools that nurture their clerics and followers in two different ways in terms of their stance in important political issues. Accordingly, these
theoretical fundamentals have, throughout the history, resulted in the formation of psycho-sociopolitical foundations appropriate to their own characteristics and in practice put the Shi‘ites, the Sunnis and the clerics of these two schools on two historically, socially, intellectually and ideologically different paths.(1)
It would be a gross mistake if we want to compare these two without considering their differences. Indeed, a number of committed dynamic young Sunnis may gather together in such groups as Islamic parties and choose an individual as the political and religious leader. Yet, such an action can hardly succeed and last without any religious foundation or obligation and without it collapsing in confrontation with hard realities. Apart from this, such a limited action cannot be generalized to the entire society. Each society goes forward according to its own specifications rather than according to what a certain group desires.(2)
Nevertheless, it is not expected to fully explain the goal here. Rather, it should be considered that these differences exist and they have roots as deep as the history itself in the two schools. They have to be studied scientifically and without prejudice so that each can be studied better and we will not expect anything beyond the ideological capacities and characteristics of each other. The failure to do so has been the source of some problems, especially in recent years.
In order to find out what the effect of the political thought of the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis are on the Islamic movement, the characteristics of this movement have
to be clarified. Much indeed has been said and written in this respect. Without a doubt, in the recent decade, nothing in the world has gained more attention than this movement. This book is not for repeating or evaluating these analyses. Rather, it is a study by considering the historical and social aspects in contemporary history throughout the Third World, part of which is the Muslim world.
From a more inclusive and comprehensive perspective, the present Islamic movement is the dawn of a new era in the history that has covered almost the entire Third World. Although the manifestations of this era are not the same throughout the Third World, they still exist anywhere and, for certain reasons, they have emerged in the Muslim World more strongly, but the strength with which they have emerged in the Muslim World varies depending on the historical conditions, the depth of religious influence, the degree of creativity brought about by Islam in that region throughout the history, and the volume of economic, industrial, social and political developments. It cannot be denied, however, that its scope has expanded to cover every where and has had a comprehensive influence. Now let’s see what the story is.
Since the Third World countries entered the modern era, while their entry varied depending on which part of the world they were in, a new historical period began that more or less continued to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This was the time that marked the beginning of a new
period (both in terms of culture and sociopolitical tendencies) that differed from the previous period in some significant ways. It is quite natural if the latter period does not have the same origin in all countries. It begins earlier or later, strongly or weekly, depending on the historical, economic and political characteristics of the country.
From the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s and the early 1980’s, the new period is politically marked with unrest in the Third World and especially the Muslim World(1) as the political manifestation of this new period, which is either entirely formed by the historical period or is under the influence of its characteristics.
The modern period for the Third Worlders began when they first came into contact with the modern civilization and history, whether through colonialism or by ordinary non-colonial contacts. Before such contacts took place, they lived their own way of life, from China and Japan to India, Iran, Egypt and other African countries—Latin American countries are outside the present discussion because of historical and demographic reasons. This discussion is about those countries that had a civilization and culture and lived according to them while they suddenly evolved by coming across the modern world, without the historical course to be suddenly cut off by massive immigration, as it happened to Latin America, where the immigrants had a sharply different culture with that of the native inhabitants, thus imposing the developments.(2)
Before contacts, changes and developments in such countries were limited to their historical and cultural
characteristics. However, when contacts occurred and gradually expanded and deepened, the modern period began. This period had characteristics that will be mentioned as far as they relate to the present discussion.
The important characteristic of this period has been the influence of modern culture on the educated powerful elite of these countries. Despite this influence, which was occasionally very deep and sometimes reached a degree of being fond of it or alienation, the masses of people until the early 1960’s and 1970’s, depending on the pace of the socioeconomic developments or their society being open or closed, had not yet been directly, effectively and comprehensively influenced by this culture. They lived in a traditional environment and in special conditions dating from the old times. The values and their lifestyles were those of the old times as well as their aspirations and ideals.
Although some elements of modern culture had penetrated their lives whether through the educated elite or through daily living necessities, which were constantly under pressure of technology, this was not yet an evolving influence. The social, cultural and economic foundations either survived in their traditional forms or the new developments were not so extensive as to cause a general metamorphosis.(1)
This historical period in the Third World and in Islamic countries has two important characteristics. One is the same as was said, i.e. the deep influence of modern culture on the powerful educated elite of these societies and the latter’s being more or less alienated from the native culture—which indeed
varied depending on the individuals, conditions and regions—and the continuation of the past culture and heritage by the masses of the people. The second characteristic is the unrivaled and forceful domination of modern culture and its value system on the decision-making system and general planning of the society, which was indeed manifested by the same elite that were influenced by modern culture.
This hegemony was, on the one hand, due to the dogmatic belief of the elite of absolute superiority of modern culture(1) and, on the other hand, to some form of implicit admission of the masses to the effect that, although they kept living in the traditional atmosphere of their own society, they somehow admitted such superiority. The admission was made at least by making no permanent explicit objection to it. Although there were occasionally objections, these were occasional, unsystematic and temporary. Undoubtedly, the colonial powers also had a critical role in making modern culture and its value system dominant.(2)
Briefly, this is the nature of the period of the contemporary history of Third World countries in general and Islamic countries in particular. The mass of the people and their culture was marginalized in the active sociopolitical and cultural life. The modern-class elite reigned absolutely as the pre-modern dictators had reigned, the difference being that they had a modern appearance and, by the way, it was this appearance that further consolidated their position. The goal was to lead the society towards values and characteristics promoted by modern culture while all
this was done thanks to the apparent consent or at least the silence of the children and protectors of the old heritage.(1)
Indeed, this did not mean that the past culture and heritage was entirely forgotten and the modernist elite that were in power did not pay any attention to it. It was not so, rather it was also emphasized. However, the problem was that the past was looked at and judged from beyond the value system and attitude of modern civilization. Therefore, it was less similar or conforming to the reality the way it was and the way it existed among the masses. Such an image was in harmony with the identity, needs, inclinations and goals of the same ruling culture and the ruling class.(2)
This is exactly why the people were marginalized from the active sociopolitical life. They were usually working for those in power or those fond of power in the society, both of these groups either had modernist tendencies or were modernists. They did not have any opinion of their own and looked at the events indifferently or probably with some sort of fear or worry. They neither had reached a certain degree of intellectual or cultural maturity that they could adopt new viewpoints nor could say something against the unrivaled hegemony of modern culture over their society. The dazzle of the civilization and its heralds and supporters had captured the eyes of all. It is against for this reason that the sociopolitical developments in this historical
period are mainly formed by statesmen or elite thinking differently from the ruling system.
It should be borne in mind, however, that there was no difference in the essence of these two. Both those in powers and their political opposition, who were entirely or partially from the modernist elite, had already considered modernism and the new civilization as the ideals. Their difference was about who should rule or about variety of tastes, quite contrarily to the subsequent period, in which the developments are formed by the youth rather than by this group.(1)
As we mentioned, the sociopolitical and even the intellectual and cultural developments of this period were formed by the modernist westernized elite. The mass of the people are in the margin of the active social developments and life and are either indifferent witnesses or the means for the realization of the same. During this period, both the power and the leadership of the opposition political currents were in the hands of the elite. It was as if the sociopolitical interactions took place in a space beyond that of the practical life of the mass of the people.
As the socioeconomic developments accelerated and the political and cultural pressures increased, from early 1950’s onwards, the ground was prepared for the emergence of another historical period, which will now be discussed. This is a period which is different from the previous one in terms of its intellectual and cultural tendencies, social origin, political claims and leadership system. The accelerated economic and
industrial developments penetrate the more or less traditional and introverted societies of the masses of the people.
The opened society exposes them to new intellectual, philosophical and scientific currents while also sensitizes and outrages them by directly or indirectly insulting and humiliating their heritage, culture and religion. Population concentration around big cities, expansion of the mass media, universal education, widened class gap, loosening and even destruction of institutions and factors that determined an individual’s position in a society result in a new situation that finally entails the loosening of the apparently unshakable position of the ruling modernist elite and their thoughts and ideals.(1)
Nevertheless, such questions as ‘How did the creeping transition take place?’, ‘How did the next period begin?’, ‘How was the social and cultural ground for the absolute domination removed?’ and, principally, ‘Why such a tendency was formed?’, and ‘Where in the society was such tendency stronger?’, can be answered by providing further elaboration separately. What is important is that this period began two to three decades ago. It has had ups and downs and its signs appeared sooner or later in different regions. Its important characteristic is ‘seeking original values (radicalism)’ and ‘individualism’. In other words, its goal is going back to the true tribal, national, religious, racial, linguistic, cultural origins, and the historical distinctions, even if it requires some form of disintegration.(2)
The signs of the formation of this period can be seen in many Third World countries. Sociopolitical unrests in many Third World states, where they relate
to their social, cultural and political conditions, are mainly caused by the formation of this new period. The Islamic movement of the last century can also be traced within the same classification.(1)
The new period has significant differences with the previous one whether in terms of its nature or its sociocultural background, goals or trends. The formation of the new period is a consequence of the clash with the modern culture, deviating from the past historical policy and attempting to adapt the society to the modern culture, at least where it related to those in power and the planners, while here, it is a reaction to such a passive attitude which deems unconditionally following and adaptation. It seeks to return to its origins although it may be ready to pay a heavy price to achieve the same. There, the power lied in the hands of the westernized elite and the people were practically pushed to the brink and were simple observers while here the power lies in the hands of the young people who have turned away from the modern standards, and the mass of the people have entered the sociopolitical life more actively.
Despite the numerous differences of these two historical phases, the formation of the second phase is a natural and logical consequence of the rule of the first one. The modern civilization, when entering the Third World territory, was too dazzling to resist. A small group was attracted to it while the mass of the people stayed watching it
without any strong reaction and chose to be silent before it. However, this did not imply their final submission, especially in regions inheriting a bright culture and civilization. They somehow entered a period of latency, which they did not come out of until the last two or three decades. Their leaving this condition assured the second phase.
At any rate, time had to pass for developments to take place and experiences to be acquired, along which a morale for fighting the undesirable reality and the courage to stand against the ruling current be formed for such a great development to take place. However, the fact is that the heavy socioeconomic developments in many Third World countries provided the best ground for the appearance of the second historical phase. The youth, having emerged out of the traditional society, lacked the necessary characteristics to challenge the ruling power, culture and power system. His faith and belief might simulate him to take an action but such action could not be turned into a course to bring about a new historical period.
An example is the movement of the Sikhs, who have risen against and fought the central government since the early 1980’s. More than anything else, this movement is indebted to the great developments of the Indian society in recent decades and the quality of programming of those in power there. Certainly, if all the factors other than the last one existed, such a movement would either basically not exist or at least it
would not be on such a scale and would not have such solidity.(1)
The present Islamic movement can also be analyzed according to the above-mentioned points. It is the political-religious manifestation of this second historical period in the Muslim world although this movement is deeper and more inclusive than the similar political movements in the non-Muslim part of the Third World and, indeed, such characteristics relate to Islam and the Islamic civilization.
As the religion of the Islamic civilization, Islam, a glorious heritage to be proud of, which at the same time made up the historical and the present identity of the Muslims, has been constantly criticized, attacked and even violated since the Muslim societies met with the modern civilization. Although Muslims showed reactions to the attacks according to the present requirements, these reactions did not go so far as to deny the rule of thought and the westernized policy reigning in the Muslim societies. If there were such cases, they were limited and insignificant and were mainly fed by religious dogmatism rather than by intellectual, cultural or social maturity at an optimum level. It is interesting to know that, in the meanwhile, the West had such uncontested hegemony that even defending Islam was done with its help. The content of the arguments was that Islam is right and true since it agrees with the standards of the modern civilization and is even the same as the latter. Meanwhile, almost all attempts were dedicated to proving the similarity of Islam and the
modern civilization so as to prove the truth of the former.(1)
Such conditions persisted nearly into the 60’s. Yet, a set of factors, which it would be too lengthy to mention, made the Muslims and especially the young people and the students to rebel in a similar fashion to their counterparts in the Third World although more strongly and at a faster pace. The second phase thus began. This phase emerged sooner in countries where the socioeconomic as well as the intellectual and cultural developments were faster, more forceful and deeper and the Islamic faith and culture were attacked more frequently and under more pressure. Through these countries, the other regions were influenced depending on how much they were aware of the new phase based on their social, intellectual, religious and psychological background.(2)
It would be appropriate here to mention the present developments in the Eastern Bloc, which is influenced by the cultural, tribal and religious realities and claims and by the nations residing therein. Although this Bloc has been led towards its origins for reasons different from those leading the Third World towards its national, cultural and religious origins, it cannot be denied that right now these two are pursuing more or less similar goals and, most likely, the success of each of them in achieving their goals stimulates and motivates the other. The individualistic and autonomous claims of some tribal and racial groups residing in this Bloc, which sometimes goes as far as separatism and seeking independence, certainly will further
encourage radicalism and individualism by Third Worlders. Now we will exaime the problem and how it began.
As the changes and developments within the Third World are mainly caused by the formation of the new historical period in these countries, the rapid deep developments of recent years in the Eastern Bloc is also one of the manifestations of the new history that has begun for some time and will continue. The basic difference between these two is that the first historical period belongs to the Third World and its history and, for various reasons that are mainly rooted in its industrial, political and military weakness, will remain within the same limits, while the recent historical period, although it is presently within the borders of the Eastern Bloc, will have results that will go far beyond its borders to turn into a vast deep development in the entire contemporary history because, firstly, some of the causes of its formation are globally motivated and relate to the rapid industrial and ultra-industrial> developments-whether in military or non-military technology—in the 1970’s and 1980’s in developed countries(1) and, secondly, because this Bloc is one of the two big stakeholders in international politics.
At any rate, what is important is to find out about the characteristics of this period and why and how they appeared. As we have already said, numerous factors were involved in the formation of this period. Here we intend to study them where and so far as they relate to the cultural realities and
culture in its general sense.
In order to know what the characteristics are and what were the causes of their formation were one has to clarify how the modern civilization and history began and how it penetrated into countries—i.e. countries later forming the Eastern Bloc—that had no share in its development, how it was absorbed and functioned there and what changes it underwent. Also how it encountered the traditional cultures and civilizations and tribal, linguistic and religious heritages and, in general, what constitutes the historical, national and tribal identity of the people in these countries. More importantly, what was the position that the ruling power of the society adopted and how it dealt with the industrial, economic and social development and renovation. Finally, did it entirely ignore the traditional culture and did it cater to nothing but the modern culture and its necessities or did it leave some space for the living and flourishing of the native culture rather than looking at it as a rival and enemy.(1)
The study of this point clarifies the root of many developments of the present and future. Although the developments in the Eastern Bloc began for more tangible reasons that were mainly political, economic and industrial, the problem is that these developments and principally the potential to seek change and development, which is somehow a cause of those developments, had to be led to its natural path, and one of the best paths indeed was radicalism. It is mainly under the cover of this claim
that the developments, where they relate to the people, are manifested and, most likely, this cover, which has an effective share in the present sociopolitical developments, will retain its importance in the future as well.
Let’s put it more clearly. The modern civilization first developed and thrived in Southern Europe and later in Western Europe. This civilization was the natural product of the diverse developments that encompassed Western European nations in the post-Renaissance centuries. Therefore, apart from the fact that in these regions it had undergone various phases of its history, it had not only adapted itself to the historical, social and political conditions of these lands, but also adapted itself the new conditions. This civilization was the fruit of that tree and both of these two were actively in full harmony with each other.
On the other hand, this proportion and harmony and the various phases did not exist in the other regions, including Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the way it existed in Western Europe, although some Eastern European nations, such as Czechoslovakia, Eastern Germany, to some extent Hungary, and Poland belonged to Western Europe, were within its cultural domain or were directly and gradually influenced by it in the last and the present century or before the domination of the Communists. However, the fact is that the other Eastern European nations neither belonged to this geographical domain nor to this cultural domain.
This is truer about the Soviet Union. This country is like a continent of its own by
encompassing a major part of the two continents of Europe and Asia and including diverse nations, tribes and cultures. The non-Russian western parts of this country have culture and characteristics similar to Western Europeans and the Balkans while the people in the Asiatic parts have characteristics to the Central Asian, far Asian or even Western Asian people.(1)
Although the entry of the modern civilization into these lands was not as problematic as it was coming into the Third World countries, particularly nations with the capable, long-standing living cultures. However, the entry of this culture and especially the way it entered were not without complications. More than being rooted in the contradiction between the value and the nature of the culture prevailing in these regions and those of the modern culture and civilization, these complications were rooted in the nature of renovation and reconstruction of the society in various industrial, economic and social backgrounds for achieving the new civilization.
The Marxist regimes ruling over these countries took responsibility for industrially developing and renovating and for modernizing their societies as pioneers of the new civilization. Their being armed to the modern values, which, in their view, were fully crystallized and manifested in Marxism, and their centralized military, political and economic power prevented the emergence of the reality of the local, tribal and religious cultures the way they were. The latter either had no chance of expressing themselves or, ultimately, if they were given a chance, it would be for providing an interpretation of their
culture that would be in agreement with the Marxist dialectic logic, so as to accept such interpretation as the truest possible and to act upon the same, i.e. considering Marxism as absolute and setting it as the criterion for knowing the reality while at the same time deeming it the best and the ultimate solution and publicizing and enforcing it with threats and force, moving the present living cultures to a state of latency by using force without defeating them absolutely or even weakening them.(1)
The feel that some Eastern Bloc nations had not had a general active, creative share in the development and prosperity of the modern civilization, their probably being alien and contradictory to this culture, lack of any useful constructive experience in this respect and that this culture was made dominant in the form of Marxism—which is itself a manifestation of the modern culture in a form that the conditions in Western Europe in the mid-1900’s required or rather necessitated(2)—by the military and political dictatorships made the regional and native cultures choose to be or forced them to be silent without having a chance to express themselves or to find out about the present conditions to adapt themselves to it.
The pressure of the central governments on one hand sensitized the members of these cultures to their heritage and, on the other hand, the present industrial and economic developments provided and encouraged the background for thinking about themselves and their identity, which were manifested in such sensitivities—As we have
already mentioned, the industrial and economic developments, contrary to what is often considered, in many causes make the people more interested in their heritage, be it religious, historical or cultural, in the long run.
Before these countries, generally, could experience modern history in the light of the modern civilization and to learn coexistence and thinking about the national interests in a healthy open environment without the pressures of the ruling dictators who were armed with an ideology that claimed to create the promised paradise on earth, were forced to reconstruct themselves, and do this on the basis of an ideology with Marxist characteristics. Their economic and industrial development was not in line with some sociocultural development that could further strengthen the tribal heritage and the national understanding and unity.(1) This problem indeed did not find an outlet so long as the iron fist continued to exist. However, once the pressure was reduced, reality showed its face.
This is one of the most important reasons that accounts for the lack of tribal unrests in the more developed and industrialized countries in Eastern Europe. The development and industrial nature of these countries are indebted to the pre-Marxist era. This means that they experienced the modern civilization in the freer pre-Marxist environment and achieved a desirable national and social unity in the process of this experience. This indeed does not mean that we should ignore the role of the other factors. Rather, what we are saying is that their industrial and economic growth is more
deeply rooted and more significant since it was realized in a freer and healthier environment and could bring about a more powerful social and national unity and coherence.
The reverse of this current can be seen in the separatist tendencies of the Soviet republics, the Yugoslav states and the tribal unrests in Romania and Bulgaria. The tendencies in the southern Soviet republics are subject to the same rule. Although the mechanism of action in the tendencies in these republics, since their residents are generally Muslims, is different from that of the Baltic republics, this difference is, on one hand, due to Islam as a religion with values different from or rather contradictory to the values of the modern culture and the Marxist heritage and, on the other hand, to the cultural essence that has been created and developed by this religion.(1)
The present Baltic culture has grown and been formed under the influence of Christianity, mainly Catholic Christianity and partly Orthodox and Protestant Christianity. Therefore, it is more similar to the modern culture than the culture prevailing in the southern republics. Despite the fact that the separatist and independence-seeking developments in the southern republics are more of a tribal and cultural nature than religious, they are still different in certain ways from the radicalistic and individualistic trends in the Baltic region since they are Islamic rather than Christian culture.
What was said does not mean that such other factors as the political, international, economic or other factors such as seeking freedom and welfare
at the same level as that of the Westerners did not have or hardly have a role in this respect. Rather, it means that one of the most important and sensitive ways through which the changing and epoch-making developments are manifested should be considered and that one has to know the causes and quality of its formation and what differences it had with the causes and quality of emergence of similar tendencies in the Third World. Now let’s return to the main discussion.
Thus, the tendencies towards the original values (radicalism) or, rather to say, rushing towards them began and, since this thought was the most progressive, the best justified and the most supported sociopolitical thought in this historical phase, many other persons who were somehow incompatible with the political ruling were attracted to it. It is exactly because of this reason that presently various forces have gathered around this sort of thought that have revolting and adventurous attitudes. These attitudes are commonly found in societies that have been rapidly modernized and lack an ethical, upbringing and familial consistency. Such problems are well to be expected when the volume of economic, industrial and social developments are beyond the capacity of a society.(1)
In order to properly understand the present situation of the political movements across the Third World as well as the Islamic movements, it is necessary to consider the abovementioned point. It is not so that all the forces within these movements believe or are committed to their goals. They have
joined the movements because they did not find a more appropriate way to respond to their internal needs, the core of which is fighting the present conditions.
This current has numerous causes. However, all of them return to Islam itself or its exceptional characteristics. In the contemporary era, Islam was attacked and violated not only as a religion but also as the creator of the Islamic civilization, culture and identity. Therefore, the modern Islamic movement not only seeks to return to Islam as an ideology and a value system, but also emphasizes the Islamic heritage. The Third World radicalism and individualism in the contemporary history has manifested itself in the form of returning to the Islamic heritage, characteristics and identity.
Throughout its history, Islam was never under so much pressure so as to withdraw from the active social, political and cultural life. However, such pressure existed in the new period. This pressure not only was new and unprecedented, it was also contradictory to its inherent and internal characteristics. As other religions are not as extensive and radicalist as Islam is, they can better cope with the pressures of the new era and adapt themselves to it. However, this religion cannot and will not be able to do so. The great mistake of the Westernized Muslim analysts or the Westerners observing the events in the Muslim world was that they attributed the Islamic resistance of the last century only to blind dogmatism and blind religion, which would gradually fade away. They were unaware
of the very essence and substance of this religion and had failed to note that what is incompatible with the pressures of the modern era is the very essence and substance of this religion rather than their so-called reactionary dogmatism.(1)
What misled these Westerners and Westernized Muslims was the reformist path that Christianity had gone and the other religions to a certain extent as well. They assumed that Islam as a religion would have to go on more or less the same path. Islam had an identity different from that of Christianity and had expectations from its followers that were appropriate for such nature. The condition of faith was faith in this religion and its entirety while it was an important point that this entirety could not be decomposed as in Christianity. Also, the time or the consensus of the followers at any period of time would not have any effect on its principles and limits as in Christianity. As this is an important issue, let’s briefly examine it.
Concerning the clash of Islam and Christianity with the modern civilization, the problem is not just that this civilization was formed and grew within the Christian territory and, therefore, has been and is more compatible with it than with Islam. The basic thing to be considered is that Christianity as a religion could somehow adapt itself to the developments that arose out of the growth of this civilization and the new necessities that it had created in the various scientific, social, political and
cultural and even moral and educational grounds. This adaptation was initially indebted to the inherent characteristics of this religion.(1)
Christianity consisted of a core, i.e. the message and verdicts of Jesus and the Bible and the Old Testament, which was later recognized as part of Christianity and its peripheral parts that had been developed and added thereto by the Church authorities and the ecclesiastical scholars so as to make Christianity a perfect and comprehensive religion that would take charge in all the material, spiritual, individual and collective affairs of the followers throughout the Middle Ages.
The Christian society governing Europe in the Middle Ages was like Islam governing the Muslims in that time. The two similarly responded to the various needs of their followers and actively participated in the various dimensions of their individual and collective lives, the difference being that the entirety of Islam originated from its substance, i.e. the Qur’an and the tradition, while only part of the nature of Christianity at that time related to the pure original Christianity. In fact, it was the consensus of the Church authorities and the ecclesiastical scholars that compensated for the gaps and shortages to make it a perfect and comprehensive religion.
Naturally, these two religions reacted in two different ways to the pressures that sought to fight them and force them to retreat. Here, it was religion itself that defined its principles, fundamentals and limits while, elsewhere, part of this whole was explained and determined by the prime religious legislator rather than
by the others who, although they were sacred and reliable, but yet could not be as important as the prime religious legislator. A more important point is that the validity and authority of such people, more than rising from within the religion, rose from the consensus of the believers. It was the consensus of the Church authorities that put the saints and the clerics in such a position as to be deemed part of the law and of the religion.
In practice, these two reacted in two different ways to the modern civilization, which were in fact their competitor and even opponent. Christianity resisted for a while but it was a resistance that was against the natural course of the history and in vain, while finally it collapsed due to various causes. Undoubtedly, however, the most important cause was its vulnerability. It was this characteristic that gave rise to Luther, Calvin and the other founders of Protestantism. They provided a different interpretation and, despite all hardships and difficulties, they penetrated and went forward.
Is it not true to say that what they claimed was returning the pure original Christianity and truncate everything that had been gradually added by the Church authorities and ecclesiastical scholars? They stepped on the scene with this claim while the conditions were appropriate for the progress of such a thought. Therefore, it expanded rapidly and bypassed all the barriers. Such a phenomenon could not be formed and progress within the Islamic territory.
Although there have been many within the
Muslim World that have followed more or less the same goals in the last century while directly following Christian Protestantism or without considering it, they failed from the very beginning or they did not end up being successful.(1) As we said, the main cause was the differing natures of the two religions. Religious reform in the sense of rejecting part of the beliefs and even the fundamentals of Christianity could occur in Christianity but not in Islam. A Christian could be a devout believer while putting aside the additions on the grounds that they were not from the prime religious legislator. This would not contradict his faith and purity of belief but a devout Muslim could not do so because the entirety of what existed and he believed in and committed to was from Islam rather than from Islamic scholars having reached a consensus thereon.
Islam, like any other school of thought during its history, had acquired many additions and there were many common interpretations of its principles and concepts that differed from what Islam itself had defined and provided. Many people rose to remove these additions and to reform these false interpretations in order to introduce it the way it had originally existed. However, this is different from the reforms that took place in Christianity or the other religions and was required by modern history and civilization.
This civilization sought the decomposition and retreat of religions more than it required their reform and modification. It wanted religion to put aside
all its non-personal claims and to submit. This was its goal and Christianity and the other religions responded to it, to a great extent, positively. However, Islam could not and the reformist Muslims who had, as they claimed, worked for such a goal, failed. The present radicalist movement is itself the reason that reformist movements with such a claim and goal failed and their failure was more for ideological than political reasons.(1)
The difference in Islam and Christianity and their specific attitudes towards the modern civilization is not simply because, for example, Christianity can have Luthers and Islam cannot or because a movement such as Protestantism can occur within Christianity and be victorious while it cannot be in Islam. Even the more radicalist branches of Christianity have a different attitude towards the modern civilization than that of Islam and this is all because of the internal natures and structures of the two. The comprehensiveness of Islam and its emphasis on the necessity of full and precise implementation of its orders and that the otherworldly salvation and even the worldly respect of the Muslims are subject to implementing the orders, unlike other religions or at least unlike their present interpretation, maintains its authenticity against the increasing and crushing pressures of the modern history.
This is explained by Johnson from another angle, “Nowadays, Islam and the Western world have begun to clash with each other and are opposing each other. No other great religions have entered into such a struggle. Neither Christianity, which is
part of the Western world and has been exhausted by modernism nor Hinduism or Buddhism, which are deeply spiritual and think of spiritual salvation nor Judaism, which is a small tribal religion. None of these religion leaders had such an effect on the West that could be compared with the influence of the caliph, Mahdi or the Ayatullah. The reason for this is that Islam has been clashing militarily with the West for 1500 years and the present situation is the continuation of the same.”(1)
Although his analysis and interpretation relate to the political and military clashes of Islam and the West, it is still clear that this is a clash of Islam as a religion that emphasizes its original values and the modern civilization that requires its adjustment and even withdrawal.
Therefore, considering the inherent characteristics of this religion, one has to ask why it left the scene of history for such a long period or rather why it has actively come on the scene today. What we are witnessing today is in agreement and harmony with its inherent characteristics and what we used to see was an unstable, temporary complication, especially because no religion permeates the society and history so extensively and deeply and is capable of mobilizing the force of its followers for realizing its goals as Islam, and is, while its opposition to the West and to the outside of itself is, deeper and more serious than any other religion or school.(2)
The present Islamic movement is in fact
a manifestation of the resistance of this religion against the globalization of the modern civilization. Its first goal is to reject this globalization within its borders. This is a natural current. Lack of such a current would be unnatural and questionable. If the other religions and cultures did not have such a move, or theirs was not so deep and strong, it is because they have not inherently opposed the globalization of the modern civilization or because they did not have binding values and standards for their territory or because they could coordinate their values and standards with the value system of the modern civilization.(1)
Indeed, one has to add that the internal developments of the Islamic society within the last century were so as to provide the necessary material force for realizing such a conflict. The events of the recent periods and the constant blows that the Muslims received from the modern civilization formed their thoughts, beliefs and personality so that they could employ themselves for such a huge movement.
The best way to investigate this is the study of Islamic thought in the recent era. In the first decades of the confrontation of Islam and the modern civilization, the Muslims were so terrified that, in order to defend their religion, they did not think of anything other than proving its similarity to the modern civilization. By the apologetic approach these people wanted to prove the existence of that similarity. The next generation expressed its beliefs more confidently. Its goal was
not defending Islam by proving its similarity to the standards of the modern civilization, the way its ancestors had done. Its goal was to explain it independently. The understanding and expression of today’s generation is principally different and does not consider and is not satisfied with anything less than the full-fledged rule of its ideal and religion. In its view, it is Islam which is the criterion for truth or falsehood and it is the others that have to be compared to it rather than the opposite.(1)
This development itself indicates a development in the mentality and psychology of Muslims, especially the Muslim youth and students. The important thing is that this set of intellectual and ideological developments was simultaneous and even in harmony with the social, economic and political developments of Islamic countries and, therefore, they increasingly reinforced each other until late ‘70’s, when it reached the point of explosion and created a fresh current that continues to date. As we said, this movement is the politico-religious and sociocultural manifestation of the new period that encompasses the entire non-industrial world other than Latin America. The new period is mainly the product of its previous period, i.e. the period in which the dazzle, power and technology of the modern civilization terrified and threatened the civilizations in non-European regions and made them retreat while gaining a full-fledged hegemony. The new situation, which was accompanied by the hegemony of the modern civilization, was adventitious and unstable rather than natural and stable. The stability
was due to the fact that the old heritage had been forgotten without any reason and its inheritors had been forced to remain silent.
This state of being forgotten, which was often accompanied by humiliation, could not last for long. Yet, its termination required some backgrounds to be prepared. The backgrounds were prepared in the last century and matured and culminated in the recent two or three decades, thus the enterence of the Third World into a new historical period. This new period encompassed the Muslim World as well, but more intenesely.
Now, it is another problem what factors and forces the new period is influenced by and what its strong and weak points are, and how far it can maintain its stability, creativity and growth. If the radicalist ideology of the new period, of which the new period is a creation, can respond to the various needs of the Third World, especially within the Muslim World, in a way that radicalism, modernism and respecting the original values, while seeking reform, none is sacrificed for the other, it can then be said with certainty that this ideology will emerge the victor. Resorting to the original values without considering the various needs of the fast developing world today cannot guarantee such victory on its own. This is truer of our period, i.e. the ‘80’s and the next decade, than of any other period in the past. Considering this principle not only guarantees victory for radicalist ideologies in the battle they have entered into,
it can also be said that the stability and continuation of the new period is indebted to the same success. The failure of these ideologies and their inability to respond to the needs and necessities of the new period will more or less coincide with the end of this period.(1)
The discussion that will be dealt with in the coming parts of the book has to do with the study of the political thought of the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis. One must understand both these schools and what their characteristics and differences are.
The basic problem in this respect is that the difference in these two religious branches is considered to be limited only to the caliphate of Imam ‘Ali (‘a). It is not the problem whether ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib was the immediate substitute of the Prophet (S) or being the fourth caliph. The difference goes beyond this.
Basically, the argument is not about a person and who he was. It is about stature and about what the stature is and who can be given such a status. In other words, rather than being about applications, the argument is about concepts. The discussion is primarily what Imamate is rather than who the Imam is. It would be a mistake to reduce the problem to a set of historical events. The truth is that this concept affects all the dimensions and angles of religious Shi‘ite and Sunni thought.
To put it more straightforwardly, the ideological, jurisprudential and theological structure of the Shi‘ites and, consequently,
their historical experience and psychological and social structure on one hand, and those of the Sunnis on the other hand, have been formed and grown under the effect of two different series of factors. The main cause of this difference is that the Sunnis understand, view and interpret Islam according to the version of Islam that was realized at the time of the Senior Caliphs [khulafa-ye rashidin], the Companions [sahabah] and the Followers [tabi‘in] while the Shi‘ites determine Islam according to the recommendations of the Prophet (S) concerning his substitution. One considers Islam based on the early Islam while the other evaluates early Islam according to the Islamic criteria and rules.
In the one place, religion is looked at and understood according to history while in the other place according to religion. These are two absolutely different attitudes and understandings. It can be said that the main differences between the Shi‘ites and Sunnis and the distinctions of these two as two jurisprudential and theological schools result from the same current.(1)
When the early Islam history, especially the history of the Senior Caliphs is attached an importance equal to that of Islam itself, such Islam would indeed be different with the version of Islam provided by another group who, not only do not believe in such importance and value, but also have a critical attitude towards it. Now we see that the issue is more serious than it seems at first glance. The difference of these two is the difference in the interpretation
In one place, Imamate, caliphate, the Imam and the caliph are understood different from the way they are understood in the other. In one place, the stature and characteristics of the Prophet (S) is lowered to the level of the following caliphs while, in another place, the stature and characteristics of the Imam are raised to the level of the Prophet (S)—which is indeed natural except in the issue of revelation and prophethood. These two attitudes entail other issues that are mainly manifested in political thought. In other words, the political thought of these two sects more than any other discussion are influenced by their varying attitudes in their understanding of Islam.
Here it should be said that such discussions should not result in misunderstandings such as ‘What does Islamic unity mean when there are such differences?’, or ‘Unity is a principle and, therefore, one has to avoid setting forth such discussions.’ Firstly, these two sects and the general public within the Islamic sects, despite all the differences, have some essential commonalities due to the potential and the stable fundamentals of Islam, which makes it possible to stand in unity. Secondly, the religion itself has emphasized unity as a duty. Therefore, such doubts cannot be raised in the first place.
The problem is that, in order to have a proper analytical understanding of the past history of these two religions and their present conditions, one has to examine them very carefully and to systematize their diverse elements and factors in
order to develop and determine their political thoughts. What was and will be said will be in the employment of and will be targeted in this important task.
The most important factor in the formation of Sunni and Shi‘ite political thought is their attitude towards the history of Islam. Indeed, the importance of this discussion is not that, with its help, we can find out about the fundamentals of political thought, rather, it is the religious perception of these two sects in their entirety under the effect of this attitude; although the effect of such an attitude in the formation of their political thought is stronger than its effect in other issues.
The problem, as it was said in the previous chapter, is that the early history of Islam, especially at the time of the Senior Caliphs [khulafa-ye rashidin] and the Companions [sahabah] and the Followers [tabi‘in] is of key importance to the Sunnis while, in the Shi‘ahs view, this part of history is not distinct from the other periods of the history of Islam. This is not merely a theoretical belief, i.e. it is not that the Sunnis show a special religious respect to it while Shi‘ites fail to do so. Its importance is because such a view has strongly affected the religious perception of the followers of these two sects, so much so that the Sunnis look at Islam, in its entirety, through this part of history because they consider it to be the realization and manifestation of
the teachings of Islam while Shi‘ites, on the other hand, look at this part of history through Islamic values and, therefore, have a critical stance towards it. As a precise understanding of this is of the utmost importance for understanding the religious perceptions of these two groups and especially their political thought, let’s first deal this subject.
Sunnism gives a special religious stature and even attaches a divine sacredness to the history of the early period, at least to the end of the Senior Caliphs. One has to see why, how and at what time this belief was formed and what effect it had on their religious perception and especially the political thought and their social and historical developments.
The fact is that the history of Islam—i.e. after the death of the Prophet (S) to the end of the reign of the fourth of the Early Caliphs, and Sunnis in general have a consensus that this period is of special religious value and importance—was not of special importance to early Muslims. Not only did they not believe in such a value, but they did not even distinguish it from other periods. Events that occurred later resulted in the formation of such a view.
In other words, the history of this period was realized in a form which was otherwise looked at in the subsequent periods, and these two were very different. The religious perception of the Sunnis and their political thought also followed such an attitude rather than the realization. Now let’s see
what the story was, what its ups and downs are, where it ended and why it was so. To clarify the discussion, first let’s study the quality of its realization and then the quality of the formation of this attitude and belief.
The main point here, as we said, was that, according to the Muslims at that time, there was no position or office and no individual, indeed with the exception of the position of prophethood and the person of the Prophet (S) that was sacred.(1) We will later say that a small group of Muslims at that time put Imam ‘Ali (‘a) in a high position appropriate to what the Prophet (S) had advised. However, the caliphate and the caliphs did not have any special stature either. A brief study of the events of that time takes us to this conclusion.
After the death of the Prophet (S), Abu Bakr was chosen as caliph. He was chosen to be the caliph and to substitute the Prophet (S) in their worldly affairs—merely as the Prophet’s (S) caliph and nothing more than that, i.e. to run the society and administer its affairs. Indeed, it shall not be noted that the worldly, social and political affairs of Muslims had a different meaning at that time from what it means today.(2)
Islam at that time had created developments in the society according to its principles, laws and values and had founded numerous socio-religious, socio-political and economic-religious institutions that existed in practice. Abu Bakr was chosen as
caliph in order to undertake responsibility for running such a society, a society whose worldly and religious affairs could not be separated. All of these had an inseparable relation to each other. The important fact is that the Islamic society from the very beginning had been formed and had grown and its religious and worldly affairs had been intermingled with each other so that the Muslims of the time did not have certain conditions in mind for someone to take office in such positions. It was merely being Muslim and especially being at the top of a system that mattered.(1)
For example, the communal prayers and the Friday communal prayers comprised one of the socio-religious institutions of the newly-founded Muslim society. In the Prophet’s (S) time, when he was present, whether in Medina, during a travel or a war, these two prayers were led by him. Whenever he was absent, they were led by someone whom the Prophet had appointed as the general or substitute. For example, during the war, the prayers were led by the army general and in Medina in the Prophet’s (S) absence, by the substitute appointed by the Prophet (S).
In the same manner, as long as the Prophet was alive, the public treasury was controlled by the Prophet (S) while, in his absence, the army general or a substitute appointed by the Prophet would take charge. The same applied in the case of judgments and arbitration and in the administration of the political and military affairs. However,
the tact that a person would be in such positions in those times did not indicate to the Muslims that he was of any special religious stature or position. The Muslims’ experience when they were in Medina induced the concept that the ruler has responsibility for such position only on the ground that he is a ruler, no matter if the scope of his responsibility is wide or limited. Therefore, there was never the thought that having such positions would promote the ruler to a higher religious position.
In a chapter of his famous book that deals in detail with the currents that were formed after the Prophet’s (S) death, ‘Ali ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq says in a part of his analysis on the events that led to the selection of Abu Bakr as such, “… on that day—the day of the Prophet’s (S) death—the Muslims discussed the country, the government and the state they had to form. This was why they used such words as state, statesmen, ministry and ministers and talked about power and the sword, respect and wealth, splendor and mastery. The reason for all this was merging into the ruling system and trying to form the government, thus rising to rivalry with the Immigrants [muhajirin], the Helpers [ansar] and the senior Companions. The outcome was allegiance to Abu Bakr and making him the first king of Islam.
If we take a careful look at the conditions in which allegiance to Abu Bakr occurred and how he was installed as caliph, we
will see that it was a political and state allegiance while having all the characteristics of new governments; like other governments have done: based on power and the sword.
This was the new government that the Arabs founded. It was an Arab state and an Arab government. However, Islam, as you know, belongs to the entire humanity. It is neither exclusively for Arabs nor for non-Arabs. However, this was an Arab state that had been founded based on religious invitation. Its motto was supporting the invitation and rising for it. Perhaps it has a great effect in the progress of the invitation. Certainly, it had a role in developing Islam. However, despite all these, it was still an Arab state that would reinforce the power of the Arabs and protect their interests. It made others show deference to them on the earth, like the other powerful conquering nations… The perception of the Muslims at that time was that, by selecting him, they would establish an earthly civil state. This was why they deemed it permissible to disobey and oppose it.
They knew that their difference in this respect is a difference in earthly rather than religious affairs. They quarreled over a political issue that had nothing to do with their religion and would not shake their faith. Neither Abu Bakr nor any other of the elite thought that leading the Muslims is a religious position or opposing it would be opposing the religion. Abu Bakr explicitly said, “Oh people, I am
a person like you and I do not know. Perhaps you define for me as duty things that the Prophet (S) could bear. God selected the Prophet (S) from among the people and preserved him from harm and gave him innocence. I am a follower not a leader.”
Later, however, for numerous reasons, Abu Bakr’s selection was given a new interpretation. It was depicted to the people as if he had a religious position and represented the Prophet (S). Thus, the thought was formed that ruling the Muslims had a religious concept and position as representative of the Prophet (S). One of the most important reasons based on which this thought appeared among Muslims was the title given to Abu Bakr, i.e. the Prophet’s caliph.(1)
It was based on such an interpretation of the ruler that the Muslims chose Abu Bakr as caliph. To them, he was an individual like others and had been chosen to a position that, in their view, lacked any religious stature.
Although this position and its duties and principally the new form of the newly founded Islamic society and its institutions were determined and defined by religion, this current meant to the Muslims of the time only that God wished the Muslims to live in such a society and conditions and it never meant that those appointed to such positions had to have certain religious qualifications. Here indeed the talk is about the image and perception that the Muslims had in this respect and not what, for
example, the Prophet (S) had asserted. To comprehend the developments of those days, one mainly has to study this understanding and perception and the way it was formed and the influence it had.(1)
The best witness to what was said is the way Abu Bakr was selected and settled as caliph. Although his selection was generally accepted later and especially after pledging allegiance to ‘Ali, on the first days it was subject to much controversy. His opponents, on one hand, were the Helpers, who did not want to accept the rule of the Immigrants(2) and, on the other hand, the Qurayshis, on top of them Abu Sufyan, who considered Abu Bakr’s clan to be too low to rule the superior clans of Quraysh and, therefore, sought to select ‘Ali or ‘Abbas, the Prophet’s paternal uncle.(3)
Another group was the Bani Hashim and the faithful devoted advocates of ‘Ali, who opposed the selection [of Abu Bakr] merely on religious grounds.(4) This was the only current that existed in Medina. Many Muslim clans outside Medina opposed the selection and were later known as the Rejecting Party [ahlu raddih]. Although some of the tribes really turned to apostasy and turned away from Islam, a group of them only objected to the way Abu Bakr was chosen as caliph, although the expediency of the time and, later, of the history required that they should be accused of apostasy as well.(5)
What is of the utmost importance, however, is the controversial discussions between those who agreed and those
who disagreed on the Abu Bakr issue. Other than a small minority that advocated ‘Ali (‘a) and emphasized the Prophet’s (‘a) advices and ‘Ali’s (‘a) religious merits for the position and basically the importance of this position, what others said focused on a different argument. The argument was not what the Prophet’s (‘a) succession meant and what characteristics and qualifications it required and who could and should succeed him. Every group supported their own candidate. In other words, the issue had been reduced to a mere political and tribal competition with no religious element.(1)
As we said, only the opposition of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and his advocates had a religious element in itself. Their point, which was in the later periods explained by Imam ‘Ali himself in greater detail—especially during his caliphate, an example of which is the Shiqshiqiyyah Sermon [khutbah Shiqshiqiyyah]—was, first of all, why the repeated advices of the Prophet (S) were ignored and, secondly, the person to be appointed to such a position required qualifications that could only be found in Imam ‘Ali (‘a). Therefore, any person other than him lacked such qualifications.(2)
Addressing those who had surrounded Abu Bakr to pledge allegiance to him, Imam ‘Ali (‘a) said, “I swear by God, o’ the Immigrants! Do not take power and reign out of the Prophet’s house to put in your own houses. Do not prohibit the right persons from caliphate or what they deserve. O’ Immigrants! I swear by God, we are the most rightful of the
people thereto. We are the Prophet’s Household and deserve it more than you. Is it not true that he who recites the Book, he who is a jurisprudent in God’s religion and aware of the Prophet’s tradition and aware of the people’s affairs and turns away the bad and divides equally is among us? I swear by God that he is among us. Do not be capricious or else you will lose the God’s way and deviate from the truth.”(1)
This was a word with a different tone. Others, while defending themselves, pointed to things other than the necessary qualifications and merits for such a position. Inter-tribal competition had been revived and everybody talked of and emphasized it. On the one hand, there was rivalry between the Immigrants and the Helpers and, on the other hand, there was competition within the Immigrants, each of whom had sought a certain person’s support. The Umayyad had surrounded ‘Uthman while Bani Zuhrah had gathered around ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf and Bani Hashim around ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib.(2)
Abu Sufyan, who was not satisfied with Abu Bakr’s caliphate, well depicts the conditions at that time in a brief sentence, “I swear by God, I see a cloud of dust—which means the cloud of dust that is created during the war and attack under hooves of animals—which will be settled only by blood. O’ the children of ‘Abd Manaf! Why should Abu Bakr be in charge of your destiny? Where are the two who were held weak
and humiliated? Where are ‘Ali and Abbas?”(1)
Nevertheless, in those days, the situation was such that ‘Ali’s (‘a) opposition was outshone by that of Fatimah (‘a), because, if ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib had insisted on his opposition, he would have been attacked—as he was frankly told, “If you express opposition, you will be killed.”—while the special position of Fatimah Zahra’ (‘a), who was a woman as well as the Prophet’s (S) only child, had some sort of security. Therefore, Imam ‘Ali swore allegiance after his wife [Fatimah] testified. Naturally, the other members of Bani Hashim and his special companions followed him in doing this.(2)
Such were the conditions in which Abu Bakr was installed as caliph. The quality of this selection and the nature of the speeches for approving or rejecting it indicate the mentality of the Muslims at that time about the issue of caliphate. Although Abu Bakr was a well-known person, what led to his appointment as caliph was not his religious characteristics or stature, which was later much elaborated on and on which much was forged for different motivations. Rather, it was the simple perception of the Muslims about the Prophet’s succession. To them, the Muslims did not attach any special religious status to this position.(3)
In the meanwhile, there were indeed other factors that were involved, the most important ones of which were probably the threats from outside the society in Medina, including the revolts by the Rejecting Party and the subsequent tensions among the southern and central
Arabian tribes, which had for a while seriously threatened Medina. The Rejecting Party here means those who actually rejected Islam and intended to attack Medina not those who were thus named because of rejecting Abu Bakr’s caliphate. The second danger was Rome and Iran [formerly Persia], the former being very serious, thus attracting attention to the outside and causing the internal differences to be forgotten, at least temporarily, and making the Muslims devote their attempts to protecting their existence.
To clarify the disorderly suspenseful conditions of those days, it will suffice to say that, only in the suppression of the apostates, more than 1,200 Muslims, some of whom could recite and had memorized the Qur’an,(1) were killed.(2) Considering the limited population of Medina and the entire Muslims at that time, this figure can well indicate how disorderly and worrying the situation was at the time.(3)
During Abu Bakr’s caliphate, the Rejecting Party’s revolt was suppressed and the internal conditions in Arabia became peaceful. Yet, the foreign threats were still in place and worried the Muslims, especially because the vassals of the two great powers of that time were in the neighborhood of the Muslims and might attack them at any time.(4)
Apart from this, on the last days of his life, the Prophet (S) equipped an army led by Usamah bin Zayd for fighting the Romans. Although the main intention of the Prophet (S) had probably been to keep away from Medina those who were likely to prepare the ground from deviating
from his will on the issue of caliphate and Imamate, there was, however, danger from Rome’s side that threatened the Muslims even during the Prophet’s (S) lifetime. After releasing himself of the Rejecting Party, Abu Bakr sent an army led by Usamah to fight the Romans. This event, as he himself declared, was mainly an act to follow the Prophet (S) rather than to fight a real threat, although such a threat existed and had been a disturbing one.(1)
Abu Bakr died in such conditions. ‘Umar was selected as caliph following Abu Bakr’s will. Caliphate was established for him for the same reason as it had been for his predecessor. The people expected him to undertake their worldly affairs and just that. ‘Umar accepted to fulfill such a role and was thus accepted. There were many reasons why he was accepted peacefully and without any objection. It was partly because of the conditions in those days and the experience of Abu Bakr’s succession while also partly due to his personal characteristics.(2) There was yet no religious stature although much was said in this respect later. He neither considered himself to have any religious stature nor provided any proof to this end.
The people of his time also did not consider such stature for him and did not consider his rise to power to be due to such reasons although, as a ruler, ‘Umar enjoyed the most religious and worldly advantages that a ruler could enjoy due to his position. However, this
did not yet have anything to do with his religious stature. These advantages were due to ruling in a government rather than to the religious capacities of the ruler. Doubtless, ‘Umar’s personal characteristics had a much more important and effective role in his ascension to and continuation of his powerful ruling than his religious position.(1)
His acceptance was in fact the continued acceptance of Abu Bakr and the product of recognizing the same method although Abu Bakr had been selected and ‘Umar’s caliphate was a result of the former one’s will. Yet, what is important is that, while selecting Abu Bakr, the issue of the Prophet’s (S) succession was set forth in a way as to leave the way open for ‘Umar’s caliphate. Apart from this, Abu Bakr’s caliphate was in fact the caliphate of three persons at the top of whom was Abu Bakr. The other two persons were ‘Umar and Abu ‘Ubaydah Jarrah. Interestingly, in the last moments of his life, ‘Umar was sorry why Abu ‘Ubaydah was not alive and said that, had he been alive, he would have selected him to the position.(2)
His personal characteristics indeed had a critical role. He was a man that knew the Arabs very well and knew how to lead them. After being appointed to caliphate, he said to the people, “An Arab is like a tamed camel that follows his guide. Wherever the guide takes him, he will follow. However, I swear by the God of Ka‘bah that I will take
you to the way I want.”(1)
A more important fact to consider is that he entered the scene exactly at a time when the society needed an individual with his characteristics. No doubt, had he ascended to power at a sooner or a later time, he would have either been defeated or at least would have not have been in such a position. He was lucky because he stepped on to power at the right time, at a time when the conditions were proportionate to and harmonious with his mental and ethical characteristics. He was not one who could rule other than the way he did. His rule was the natural outcome of the realization of his characteristics. It was his nature that was in harmony with his zeitgeist and, since his politics were a creation of his nature, it was in harmony with the needs of his time. His strict spirit left no place for political maneuver and the latter was actually not much needed. Neither the Muslim society nor the Arabs at that time had any interest in such a method. The caliph was mentally and ethically a man like the mass of the people of his time and this was the key to his success.(2)
The extraterritorial threats were still in place at this time, and perhaps more strongly so. If there was no opponent within Arabia, Iran and Rome had become sensitive to the increasing power of the new religion and system. Iran showed more sensitivity in the
meanwhile and the Muslims were seriously threatened.
In such conditions, public opinion was naturally focused on nothing but how to eliminate such threats. Again, the eyes were focused on the outside rather than the inside and there was no room for internal conflicts. The threats were so serious that ‘Umar decided several times to go to war with Iran to promote morale of the soldiers, but each time Imam ‘Ali stopped him. Apart from this, the wars of Muslims with Iranians or Romans in these days were mainly for eliminating the threats from the side of the latter rather than for any conquest and the prevailing feeling was based on reality rather than delusion. Such threats really existed and they considered themselves to be too weak to resist such great powers let alone defeat them, especially because the stories of punishments by the two powers, especially the Sassanid kings and their vassals in the region, were still vividly remembered and their dazzling splendor meant infinite power. A precise study of the historical documents relating to this period and the doubts as to take such action proves the latter statement.(1)
The first military clashes between them and their neighbors were limited. However, they made them aware of the vulnerability, fragility and internal weakness of their opponent’s system. What accelerated this current was the adventurousness of some of the local commanders who were willing to wage and continue wars. In fact, it was they who encouraged and even forced them to wage an open
all-out war with Iran and Rome. However, to the last moment of victory, he and many Muslims were concerned about a crushing defeat.(1)
This was the fact of the first half of ‘Umar’s life. What was later written about the background of his decision and that of the other Muslims to wage a war and jihad with Iran and Rome was mainly intended to depict their heroes as great and as powerful as possible. The fact is that the situation was different although things were different after conquering Mada’in (Tisfun) and Bayt al-Muqaddas (Jerusalem) and doubts and worries faded away and, from then on, they went on without fearing the two powers. Nevertheless, things changed in the second half of ‘Umar’s caliphate because both Mada’in and Bayt al-Muqaddas had been conquered, Iran and the Byzantine Empire had collapsed and the religious heroism and the social zeal had settled.
In the meanwhile, one has to mention the infinite plunder that no Arab had seen so far. This much wealth and the numerous captives who were of a higher culture and a more advanced civilization all of a sudden entered the plain primitive Arabian life and covered everywhere. Although the effects of such a massive sudden entrance appeared later at the time of ‘Uthman, the second half of ‘Umar’s period was not unaffected by the consequences of this explosion. Despite ‘Umar’s strict attitude, many events are seen at the end of his reign that indicate dissatisfaction caused by the changes and developments, to which
he reacted sharply.(1)
He was killed at the best time of his reign. If his caliphate had gone further, his power and influence would have been reduced because of the rapid developments that were taking place and he would not have achieved such a distinguished heroic position later given to him by Sunnis.
‘Umar left power in conditions that were different from when he took power. At that time, the society was a simple one with no view of the outside world and the foreign threats left no room for competition or opposition. However, in this time, neither was the society the same as the previous one nor were such threats in place. The Muslims had gathered wealth as well as power and had become a great empire while being on the threshold of experiencing a new world.(2)
This change and these developments had been very effective. Meanwhile, the elite, who were mainly from the Quraysh tribe, had been especially affected. In the last years of his life, ‘Umar complained to them and even asked God for his death. Once, addressing a group of Qurayshis, he said, “I have heard that you have separated yourselves from others and hold private meetings, so much so that once often hears that such and such person is a companion of such and such. I swear by God this is not to your benefit and to the benefit of your religion, prestige and respect. I see that your next generation will say it is the decision of
such and such person and Islam will be divided. Gather together and meet each other as this will contribute to friendly relations and will give you a higher position in the eyes of the people. O’ God, they upset me and I upset them. They are tired of me and I am tired of them. I do not know which of us will leave this world sooner but I know that one of them will take charge. O’ God, call me to Thyself!”(1)
In his last years, ‘Umar had to deal with such problems. His influence had been reduced, which was not only due to him in the new situation, but also because the society had been changed and the changes had entailed certain expectations and dissatisfactions, which he neither could respond to nor could bear. On his way back to Medina from his last hajj pilgrimage, he addressed the people, saying, “I have been told that such and such a person—he meant ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf—has said that if ‘Umar dies, I will pledge allegiance to a certain person… Be careful not to be cheated by being said that ‘allegiance to Abu Bakr took place despite being sudden and not being planned for.’ Yes, that allegiance was like that but God saved the Muslims from its evils. Yet, there is no person among you whom everybody would obey…”(2)
The best evidence for what was said is the nature of ‘Umar’s will compared to that of his predecessor. Abu Bakr appointed ‘Umar and
this was accepted but ‘Umar did not and could not do so. Abu Bakr ruled a uniform society and could easily have the final say and others would obey him, not because he had said so, but because there were so many things to worry about. Secondly, taking power in that time did not entail any advantages in their view. The caliph was an individual like the others. Everyone had a job and responsibility and his was the caliphate. In addition, in a limited poor society like that of Abu Bakr’s time, the ruler did not benefit from any material advantages. Therefore, neither was there a war for power nor could there be such a war.
This was not the story, however, when ‘Umar died. Neither the dangers nor the poverty or limitations were in place. It was natural that the influential individuals and groups would rise for taking power exclusively for themselves. If the caliph did not have any special advantages on grounds of being caliph, yet he would be in a position that could benefit from many things, therefore, everybody looked at the position.(1)
The reason that ‘Umar, unlike his predecessor, did not mention anyone in his will is most probably because of this. Otherwise, he was neither weaker than Abu Bakr nor could speak less effectively. The problem was that the situation did not have such a requirement and he had cleverly found this out. Therefore, he was forced to make the exceptional will, an action in which no
one imitated him nor could anyone have done so,(1) in spite of the fact that he had such a powerful character in the eyes of his supporters that they tried to imitate him in many cases.
‘Umar’s son, Abdullah, thus recounts the story of his father’s will, “Just before the death of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali and ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, Zubayr and Sa‘d ibn Waqqas entered his room. Talhah was in Iraq at that time. He looked at them for a while and then said, ‘I thought about you ruling the people and found no difference other than the one among you have among yourselves. So, if any division takes place, it will be from you. The ruler can be any of the six, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, Zubayr ibn ‘Awwam, Talhah and Sa‘d. Your people have to choose from among you. Then you ‘Uthman, if the power will be yours, do not give Bani Abi Ma‘it domination over the people. If you, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman, are given power, do not give your relatives domination over the people. If you are in power, ‘Ali, do not make Bani Hashim dominant over the people.’ Then he told them, ‘Rise to consult to select one from among yourselves.’ Then they rose and consulted…”(2)
All of these indicated that the conditions had dramatically changed. There were more people who claimed caliphate and they claimed it more strongly while their supporters saw the benefits in defending them. Although such problems existed at
the time when ‘Umar took power, they were not so acute, dangerous and critical.
It has been quoted that Imam ‘Ali rejected ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf’s request to follow the way of the two former caliphs if selected, saying, “Time has changed.”(1) Even if this is not a true story and has been made up, it at least shows the turbulent conditions at that time because every story that has been made up bears an element of truth. Otherwise, it would not be mistaken for truth.
Finally, ‘Uthman took power. His victory was not that of a person, it was, rather, that of a faction who had introduced him because he was the weakest and the least worthy for the position from among the six-man group that ‘Umar had appointed. To prove this, it would suffice to say that, from among the virtues that were later forged to attribute to the caliphs and for him for reasons that we will talk about later, none relate to his personal capabilities. They were entirely based on his relation to the Prophet (S) or his psychological experiences.(2)
Although ‘Uthman was an unworthy and weak person, the problem is that the situation had changed even where it did not relate to his power and merits. Lack of a foreign threat, easily obtained massive wealth and the consequences thereof in a retarded tribal society that suffered chronic intertribal disputes, increasing factional influence which the caliph represented or was a puppet of and which only considered but their own personal
interests. Lack of a powerful centrality that was accepted and respected by all, self-interest and recklessness of the state governors had created a complex situation.
The weakness of the caliph was an addition to this because the other claimers of caliphate were looking at the position greedily while considering themselves worthier and more rightful to the position. The situation had become so difficult that even the mass of the people felt themselves in difficult conditions and, after several times objecting, came to Medina to object to the caliphate openly, which did not work until all this ended with the caliph’s murder.
It would be appropriate here to quote Ibn Khaldun on the same changes and developments. Knowing his views contributes to the understanding of the early Islamic developments, especially from the middle of ‘Umar’s period onwards and especially ‘Uthman’s caliphate and that of Imam ‘Ali. Although this would be lengthy, we have to quote a major part of it.
“… thus they were away from material comfort and pleasures whether because of their religion, which called them to avoid worldly pleasures or because of their Bedouin life and the violence and difficulty with which they lived and to which they were used to, as in the case of the Mudir tribe, which was in shortage of food and in living conditions worse than any other people in the entire world because they lived in Hijaz, which was void of any farm or means of animal husbandry and were away from the cultivated
areas and the crops that were obtained in the lands because they lived in remote areas. Apart from these, the crops of these areas were exclusive to tribes that had control of the areas, such as Rabi‘ah and the tribes in Yemen. Therefore, they never reached for those prosperous areas and often ate scorpions and khabzduk—a stinking dirty animal—and were proud of eating ‘ilhiz, which is the camel wool mixed on stone with blood and then cooked. In terms of food and housing, Quraysh lived in conditions similar to those of Mudir until the Arabs united under the flag of religion because God respected them because of Muhammad’s (S) prophethood.”
“Therefore, they led military expeditions to Iran and Rome and claimed lands that God had granted them based on His true promises and took the throne by force and dealt with their worldly affairs. Consequently, they achieved welfare and power, so much so that the share of a single cavalryman from the booties in some wars amounted to 30,000 gold coins or something close to that. Therefore, they reached an unlimited wealth. Nevertheless, they were still violent on life, as ‘Umar made his clothes out of patches of animal skins and ‘Ali said, “O’ you gold and silver, go and cheat another person.” Abu Musa avoided eating chicken because it was not a custom among Arabs to eat chicken because of its rarity. Therefore, they would eat wheat flour with bran yet they were considered to be the most powerful people
in the world because of the wealth they had acquired”.
“Mas‘udi says, “In ‘Uthman’s times, the Prophet’s Companions acquired a large amount of property and land. When ‘Uthman himself was killed, there were 150,000 dinars and 1,000,000 dirhams in his treasury and the price of his landed property in Wadi al-Qura—an area close to Medina—and Hunayn—an area between Ta’if and Mecca—and other areas was worth 200,000 dinars while he had a large number of camels and horses. 1/8 of one item of the Zubayr’s properties after he left was 50,000 dinars while he left, after his death, 1,000 horses and 1,000 female slaves. Talhah each day acquired 1,000 dinars worth of products from Iraq and more than this amount from the area of Sharat”.
“There were 1,000 horses, 1,000 camels and 10,000 sheep in ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf’s stable. One quarter of his inheritance amounted to 84,000 dinars. Zayd ibn Thabit left so many gold and silver ingots that an ax was used for breaking them. This was in addition to the property whose price amounted to 100,000 dinars. Zubayr built himself a house in Basrah and other houses in Egypt and Kufah and Alexandria.”
“In addition, Talhah built a house in Kufah and another house in Medina, for which he used plaster, bricks and teakwood—which grew only in India and whose wood is black and hard and does not rot in soil. Sa‘d ibn Waqqas built himself a house in ‘Aqiq—an area in Medina, Yamamah, Tahamah, Ta’if, Najd, etc.—which had a high
ceiling with large premises with crenellated walls. Miqdad built himself a house in Medina that was plastered on the interior and the exterior. Waya‘li ibn Minbah left some land, water, and the like while the price of his other property was 300,000 dirhams.”
“As we saw, the property and wealth acquired by the Arabs were thus and they cannot be religiously blamed for this because their wealth was property that they obtained as booties and fay’ and they were not extravagant in spending it. Rather, they chose the middle way in their manners and lifestyle. Therefore, having much wealth was not blamed on them. If acquiring a great deal of wealth can be blamed, it is because the owner chooses the extravagant way and deviates from the middle path.”
“Nevertheless, if the powerful go on the middle path and spend their wealth for the good and charitable purposes, increase in their wealth will contribute to doing good things throughout the world. As the simple and Bedouin life of that people was gradually forgotten and, as we said, they were influenced by statesmanship and power and their statesmanship contributed to their wealth, yet their domination over the conquered countries was not put at the service of doing bad things and they did not go beyond the limits prescribed by the principles of the right religion…”(1)
These were the conditions at the time of ‘Uthman—and later inherited by ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. As we have already mentioned, these conditions were mainly caused by the
rapid consecutive conquests of civilized and wealthy lands of that time. However, ‘Uthman himself had an effective share in making further severe this great crisis. Shahrestani, who is an ardent supporter of ‘Uthman, thus sets forth the story of his becoming the caliph, his numerous mistakes, the people’s withdrawing support from him and finally his murder, “Everybody swore allegiance to ‘Uthman. The affairs of the society were put in order and, the call to Islam continued at his time as well. Many conquests were made and the Public Treasury [bayt al-mal] was filled. He treated the people well and generously until his relatives from the Umayyad put him on the verge of collapsing. They suppressed the people and he was suppressed as well. In his time, there were many disputes, all from the side of the Umayyad.
“Among these were returning ibn Umayyah to Medina, whom the Prophet had rejected and was known as “Tarid Rasul Allah” [rejected by the Prophet]. ‘Uthman interceded on his behalf during Abu Bakr’s caliphate, but it was of no avail. ‘Umar exiled him to 40 farsangs [almost 240 km] away from his residence. Also exiling Abudhar to Rabdhah and marrying his daughter to Marwan ibn Hakam and giving to him 1/5 of the booties from Africa, which amounted to 200,000 dinars.
He also returned and gave shelter to his foster brother ‘Abdullah ibn Sa‘d ibn Abi Sarh, whose killing was allowed by the Prophet. ‘Uthman gave Egypt to him and Basrah to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amir. Then,
there happened what happened and other things took placed by which he was troubled. His army generals were Mu‘awiyah, the governor of Syria, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amir, the governor of Basrah, and ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Sarh, the governor of Egypt. All of them disrespected and left him until his destiny of being killed in his own house came true.”(1)
The story of acceptance and killing of ‘Uthman compared to the two previous caliphs clearly indicates that neither the acceptance of the caliphs shows that the people of the time believed in a higher religious position for them nor that such a position had any religious significance at that time. He was accepted because ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, who had been made the arbitrator of the six-man group, chose him for the position and was killed because he did not listen to what the objectors said and he ignored his obligations and promises to them.
Now let’s see who the objectors were and why they objected. They were Muslims from various areas who were fed up with the irreligious and reckless behavior and oppression of their rulers and took their complaints to the caliph while the latter did not pay attention to such facts. They called the caliph to religion and to protect the religious rules and regulations because they believed that the caliph had made his non-pious and reckless relatives and friends the rulers of the Muslims. This was actually the fact in practice.(2)
The other trend of this objection indicates the perception of the
Muslims at that time about the caliph and even the position of caliphate. Their objection, in the first place, meant that the caliph deviated from the right path and he had to be reminded of this. Their subsequent insistence meant that the caliph insisted on his wrong way and, therefore, had to be resisted. This resistance went so far as to result in surrounding and finally murdering him. However, this was not yet the end of the story. ‘Uthman had lost his position as a Muslim to such an extent that he was not buried for three days and, after this, he was buried somewhere inappropriate.(1)
If the judgment of the next generations about him was to be affected by the way the Muslims treated him, he would be put in a position much lower than a regular Muslim. However, subsequent actions by Mu‘awiyah for exculpating him and giving him sanctity were so that he was given a status equal to that of the two previous caliphs. This point has always been a weak one in Sunni theological and ideological arguments. What practically put ‘Uthman in a status equal to the other of the Senior Caliphs was the propaganda by Mu‘awiyah and his successors. Those who have a critical attitude towards the early history of Islam have blamed him for the basis of the propaganda and the forged information as well as the unallowable actions of ‘Uthman. In the past, the Mu‘tazilite were mainly so and, in the contemporary times, religious
intellectuals and those with revolutionary and especially military tendencies are among such critics. We will later talk in greater detail in this respect.(1)
Nonetheless, the Muslims’ attitude towards ‘Uthman is the best example of their perception of the position of caliphate and the person in such a position. When he was chosen to this position, nobody objected. He practically received general acceptance similar to that of ‘Umar(2) Therefore, subsequent objections were not due to lack of primary acceptance. Rather, they were because of his mistakes, which put him in such a low position that everybody, even his friends and former allies, opposed him.
The best reason is what Zahri, a first-century scholar, says in this respect, “‘Uthman was the caliph for twelve years. In the first six years, nobody objected to him. The Quraysh loved him more than they had loved ‘Umar because ‘Umar had been strict while ‘Uthman treated them gently. Then, ‘Uthman managed things loosely and assigned the affairs to his relatives and friends and gave away a great deal to them. The people condemned this and opposed him.”(3)
If the caliph and the caliphate meant to the Muslims of those days what was later said they did, they must have not risen against him in that way, especially since ‘Uthman was one of the Senior Caliphs, i.e. he was among those who were later attached the highest spiritual and religious position. The story of ‘Uthman is the best witness to the fact that it was the Muslims in the later
periods that otherwise depicted the position of caliphate and the caliph and especially those of the Senior Caliphs while attributing this to the early Muslims or even to Islamic beliefs and they elaborated on this so much that it would hardly be doubted.(1)
In such a difficult situation, the unsatisfied masses went to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (‘a) and chose him to caliphate despite his initial refusal. In fact, this was the first time that the mass of the people decided on their own to pledge allegiance to the worthiest person. ‘Umar and ‘Uthman took to power because of the wills of the previous caliphs. The case of Abu Bakr was not like that of ‘Ali (‘a). A limited number initially pledged allegiance to him and the events that occurred rapidly—because of the covert and overt competition between the Immigrants and the Helpers and between the tribes of Aws and Khazraj as well as because of the foreign threats—stabilized his situation. It was perhaps because of this that later ‘Umar said on different occasions, “Allegiance to Abu Bakr was a sudden action not thought about and God saved Muslims from the evils of it. So, kill whoever wants to repeat the same.”(2)
Imam ‘Ali took power in the worst conditions possible and had to bear problems in the causes of which he had no share. Basically, the people who went for allegiance to him in great numbers sought solutions to the problems. In their view, ‘Ali was the only person that was
capable of solving them. Almost all of those who swore allegiance had such an intention.(1) The number of those who did so with the claim of ‘Ali’s inherent merits for the position of caliphate and for following the Prophet’s advice was small although ‘Ali could overcome the problems later even with this small group.
The fact is that none of the previous caliphs took power in such difficult conditions. After a while, the claimers, who were considering taking the position in the later times of ‘Umar’s period and had prepared themselves at the time of ‘Uthman, began expressing their opposition. Delay in opposition was due to fearing the large masses of people who had encircled Imam ‘Ali (‘a). If someone other than ‘Ali took power, they would still oppose him because the society had been torn apart. It was as if everybody, or at least those exerting an influence, had lost control of themselves. They neither knew themselves or their status nor had an appropriate expectation from themselves or their society.(2)
For example, consider the heads of the opposition to ‘Ali. You can see that what they expected was far beyond their capacity or status and, if they did not share opposition to ‘Ali as a person at top of power, they would oppose each other as well. Was it not Talhah and Zubayr who pulled on each other’s cloaks when disagreeing on who should lead the prayer for the Jamal army and they lashed their horses on the face?(3) Was it
not Marwan ibn Hakam, a member of the Jamal army, who was accused of killing Talhah for revenge; at least he expressed happiness over his death.(1) Or could Mu‘awiyah bear these or could these bear Mu‘awiyah? Apart from these, was there not the probability that impartial influential persons who neither pledged allegiance to Imam ‘Ali nor opposed him would rise against any other person who would be caliph? But, ‘Ali’s unparalleled personality and background stopped them from doing so although they did not stand beside him either.(2)
The problem, as we said, was that the social, moral and psychological order had been disrupted. The problem was not knowing themselves and mistaking their capabilities. The problem is not that ‘Ali could not put these conditions in the right order; no one else could put the collapsed society with individuals who had become rebellious in the right order. These individuals had to be stopped by force and military action. Unfortunately, however, after these ups and downs, this order and system was established by Mu‘awiyah.
‘Ali provides a wise brief account of the conditions at that time and the many changes that had occurred. Once, when he was the caliph, someone ironically told him, “Why have so many people united to oppose you while they had united to support the first two caliphs?” ‘Ali said in response, “Because they [the first two caliphs] ruled people like me while I rule people like you.”(3)
These were the facts. The situation had changed entirely. Imam ‘Ali’s problems were
mainly due to these changes. The opening of a new horizon to a limited, closed and poor society and converting its local government to a vast empire, which encompassed the Iranian (Persian) Empire and a major part of the Roman Empire not only created new complex problems, but more importantly, affected the morals, thoughts, spirits, expectations, ideals and wishes of the early Muslims. They did not want to or perhaps, because of their new characteristics, could not bow to the religious rules and fundamentals. They wanted a religion that they could interpret on their own, a religion that would serve their goals and wishes rather than the other way round. This is why they could not bear a person like Imam ‘Ali (‘a). An example of this follows.
During the war of Siffin, Imam and his outstanding companions were trying to prevent war by any means. One of such companions was ‘Ammar. He tried to preach to Mughayrah ibn Shu‘bah to prove the Imam’s truth but the latter pretended he did not know what he heard although he well knew the Imam and his background and had even at the beginning of his caliphate told him, “Reinstante Talhah, Zubayr and Mu‘awiyah in their positions so that the people would unite on pledging allegiance to you and the solidarity would not be disturbed, then you can do what you want.” When he found out that ‘Ali did not pay attention to this suggestion, said on the following day, “After reflecting on the
issue, I found out that I had made a mistake and the truth is what you thought.”(1) Imam said to ‘Ammar, “Leave him, because he would not take from religion other than what would bring him closer to this world. He actually makes himself mistake affairs so as to find excuses for his mistakes.”(2)
Indeed, one should say that not only could they not bear the Imam, they could not bear any other person either. Their joint opposition to the Imam was actually because he had the power and did not pay attention to their unlawful and mainly impractical wishes. This was the cause that united them or at least prevented any clear difference between them from appearing. Such unity would indeed collapse in sensitive moments and the disputes and tensions would appear.(3)
Nevertheless, during his caliphate, ‘Ali had to fight those who rose to fight him. The wars were a natural result of the complications that dated from the pre-Islamic era and had appeared from the middle of ‘Umar’s caliphate. This period ended by Imam ‘Ali’s martyrdom and Mu‘awiyah’s taking power.(4)
There are many people who say that the problems during ‘Ali’s caliphate were due to his strict approach that was based on justice and the Religion. Although this is right, the fact is that all the problems were not caused by this single reason. The roots of many of them have to be sought in the evolved conditions of those days.
A full-fledged deep development had occurred that would drown anything and
anyone. Only a small number of faithful and pure Muslims were saved from the current; those who joined ‘Ali and stood by his side to the last drop of their blood while many of them were martyred in the three wars.(1)
This disrupted situation could be put in order neither by Imam ‘Ali nor by any other person. Quite on the contrary to what many old and new writers have said, if the first two caliphs had been in the same situation as ‘Ali had, things would not have changed greatly.(2) The success of those two in maintaining the unity and social order was indebted to the conditions of those days rather than to their personal characteristics or general policy. Undoubtedly, if ‘Ali had been chosen as caliph in their time, he would have been much more successful than they were. This is to a certain extent true even about ‘Uthman. His failure did not result just from his negative characteristics. Most probably, if any of his two predecessors had been caliph in his time, the situation would not have been so different and they would have faced more or less the same problems.
These writers have forgotten that problems of ‘Uthman were in the first place the continuation of the problems that ‘Umar faced in the last years of his caliphate and were actually the side effects of the new situation that had been created mainly by the new conquests. In his last years, ‘Umar felt that he had lost his
influence and could not rule with the same power and decisiveness of the first years. It was very difficult for him to accept this fact and, as we have already mentioned, on several different occasions he expressed his wish to die.
However, it is as if ‘Ali’s critics have forgotten all this. This was because, in their analysis, they fail to consider the rapid essential developments of the conditions and they have evaluated the degree of success of each of the caliphs merely based on their policies and personal characteristics.(1)
Even if Mu‘awiyah, who was known for his tolerance, tactfulness and policies, had taken charge immediately after ‘Uthman’s murder, he would have faced the problems that Imam ‘Ali faced.(2) Doubtless, the Jamal Companions would oppose Mu‘awiyah much more strongly than they opposed ‘Ali because they admitted the religious and personal worthiness of ‘Ali and even the legality due to public allegiance to him and only brought excuses. They knew this and, therefore, ‘A’ishah on several occasions decided to return while each time she was stopped from doing so by the lies she was told (3) and she later very much regretted what she had done.(4) Zubayr also left the front in the last moments, because he could not convince himself to fight Imam ‘Ali.(5)
However, in their view, not only Mu‘awiyah lacked any worthy past, but they also considered themselves much more superior and worthier than Mu‘awiyah. Apart from this, most probably, people like Sa‘d ibn Waqqas and others, who neither supported
nor opposed Imam ‘Ali, would have opposed Mu‘awiyah. To them, it was incomprehensible and unacceptable that Mu‘awiyah should be caliph immediately after ‘Uthman and they should follow him. Long after taking power, Mu‘awiyah still feared them and considered them as impediments to his succession by Yazid.(1)
This is also true in another way about those who accepted the Imam’s caliphate. People like Qays ibn Sa‘d ibn ‘Abadah, even if the Imam was not on the scene, would surely oppose Mu‘awiyah or his likes. Their opposition to Mu‘awiyah was not because they were among the supporters of ‘Ali and then ‘Ali opposed Mu‘awiyah. Their opposition was a serious and deeply rooted one. They fought beside ‘Ali because they thought he was right. Even if there was not such a person to stand beside and fight, the situation would not be much different as Mu‘awiyah feared them even after ‘Ali was martyred.(2)
It was thus that the Rebels [khawarij] appeared unavoidably. The problem of the Rebels was not born out of the Arbitration [hakamiyyat]. The event made public a problem that existed even in the Prophet’s time. They were violent, strict Bedouins who basically comprehended the religion otherwise, with a very strict interpretation, and it was based on the same understanding that they objected even to the Prophet (S). It is well known that one day a member of the Bani Tamim tribe, who later became one of the heads of the Rebels and was killed in the Jamal war—Dhu’l-Khuwaysarah—when the Prophet distributed the
booties, objected to him, saying, “O’ Muhammad, why didn’t you distribute them fairly?” The Prophet got angry and said, “Are you saying I did not act fairly? With whom can you find justice other than with me?” Then, the Prophet said that they would be a group who would rebel against the religion and would have to be fought.(1)
Some time was needed to pass and some developments had to take place before this Bedouin group with its strict interpretations and misunderstandings would be formed to stand up against the ruling system. It would be a sheer mistake to say that they were formed out of the Siffin war and the story of the Arbitration [hakamiyyat]. They were a tumor within the Islamic society that finally secreted its infection and indeed the conditions at the time of Imam ‘Ali were so that they found the right time to show themselves.(2)
Definitely, if Mu‘awiyah was in ‘Ali’s place, he would act more powerfully and extensively. Their objection to ‘Ali was, “Why did you accept the Arbitration? You have to regret this act of yours!” This was the only objection they could have because, in their opinion, ‘Ali had never deviated from the right path of Islam and, therefore, many of them changed their mind after the Imam and his companions provided some explanation and left the war front in Nahravan. But, could they treat Mu‘awiyah so?
A person like Mu‘awiyah was, in their eye, the manifestation of oppression, violation, infidelity and irreligiousness. Thus, they
resisted him and his successors when they came to power. It should be said that they created epics in doing so. Their resistance and fighting against them lasted to the beginning of the ‘Abbasid period and they finally faded away not with military power but because the grounds for their presence and continuation faded away and those who remained reformed and modified their thought, beliefs and practice so that they became like the other Muslims.(1)
The conclusion is that ‘Ali’s (‘a) problems were not just rooted in his justice-seeking attitude. A major part of the problems were due to the conditions of those days and any other individual in his place would face the same problems. If later Mu‘awiyah settled in power, it was more because of the conditions that were in place after ‘Ali’s caliphate rather than because of Mu‘awiyah’s personal characteristics. Most of his rivals and claimers had been killed in the fight with ‘Ali and the bitter experiences of those days had exhausted and fatigued the people and they were no longer willing to respond positively to the call by influential individuals who had claims on power. It was as if the society had been tamed and lost its turbulence while seeking a power that would bring about security. At this time the people thought that it was only Mu‘awiyah who could do so with the help of his obedient Syrian supporters. Although he later brought about a security like that in a cemetery among the dead, which
meant divesting the people of all their freedoms and dignities and violating all the principles of Islam.(1) This was a brief account of the story of how ‘Ali became the caliph and of the oppositions against him. ‘Uthman’s inefficiency and nepotism and the violations and recklessness of his governors made the people support ‘Ali. The people went to ‘Ali to pledge allegiance in such great numbers that his two sons were injured. They went to ‘Ali themselves so it would not make sense to talk about his being accepted by the people. They had made their choice before pledging allegiance.
There were other factors as well. For example, what Montgomery Watt says about the cause of Mu‘awiyah’s victory and the problems that Imam ‘Ali (‘a) faced, “Mu‘awiyah was supported by the Syrian Arabs who were ruled by him for many years. Most of them had not come from the desert and were from families who had lived in Syria for one or two generations and, therefore, were more reliable than the Bedouins whom ‘Ali (‘a) relied on. The superior situation of these Syrian Arabs was one of the main reasons for Mu‘awiyah’s success.”(2)
The opponents and objectors to ‘Ali were in fact troublemakers and adventurous people who would oppose any other person that was to be in ‘Ali’s place. Their objection was why they were not on top of power. What put them in the same front was their shared opposition to ‘Ali rather than sharing the same beliefs or methods. It
was them whose propagandas, threats, or subornation created a gap in the united line of the masses of people who had directly pledged allegiance to ‘Ali or had recognized him. Otherwise, the fact is that, except for a small number, everyone had accepted ‘Ali as caliph. It can even be said that this popular acceptance was more extensive than that of the past caliphs.(1)
We remind that the story of ‘Ali’s becoming the caliph was different from those of the three previous caliphs. Although the people who surrounded and swore allegiance to him generally looked at him as they had at the previous caliphs and wanted him to take charge of their worldly affairs, there were still some among his supporters who swore allegiance to him because they thought he was the right person to succeed the Prophet (S). Their allegiance was not just for having a leader for their worldly affairs. Rather, it was an allegiance to the right successor of the Prophet (S) both in their worldly and in their religious affairs, i.e. an allegiance to one who was worthy of the position of Imamate in its deep and extensive sense, an Imamate that was the continuation of Prophethood, a divine mission and a natural and logical consequence thereof. Although they were small in number, they kept remained by ‘Ali’s side and would call the people to him while also having a critical role in ‘Ali’s wars and were by and large martyred during the wars.(2)
This was the reality
of the history of the Senior Caliphs as it occurred. If the first part is peaceful and without tension, it is because of the foreign threats and being busy dealing with the internal threats, poverty, the simple and narrow society. If the next part is disturbed and full of tension, it is because of the new conditions that were created as the foreign threats had been removed and the wealth that had flowed in. Appointing the caliphs was a regular thing to the people of that time. In their view, the caliphs were ordinary people and their position did not have any significance. The caliphs themselves had the same view.
When Abu Bakr said, “Understand me; I am not the best of you.” Or “There is a Satan who overcomes me. If I go the wrong way, lead me back to the right way”, he neither joked nor was it a litotes. He really thought like that and the others viewed him that way. When ‘Umar said, “Watch me. If I make a mistake, notify me.”, he was serious. When an Arab stood up to say, “I swear by God that, if you go the wrong way, we’ll use our swords to bring you back to the right way.”, in fact he was expressing the perception of the people of his time about the caliph and basically the position of caliphate.(1)
Later, however, as we will explain, things were looked at and depicted differently. The stories gradually become less and less worldly
and more and more religious and spiritual and even sacred. The period of history that was the history of the early Muslims was depicted as the history of the realization of Islam in its entire and pure form as part of the sequence of the other Islamic periods or even in line with the religion itself. They even become criteria for interpreting the religion and given a stature equal to that of the Prophet’s (S) time. Now the problem is how this occurred, why and what the consequences were.
After Mu‘awiyah had absolute power and Imam Hasan was forced to keep silent, he did things that later became the source of many important changes in the history of Islam and even in the understanding of the Muslims themselves. This does not mean that he knew the results of his actions. Perhaps he pursued other goals but his actions were very much effective in the structure of Islamic theology, jurisprudence and ideology, so much so that it would not be an exaggeration to say that, without considering what he did, one cannot find out about the changes in the understanding of the Muslims about Islam and Islam in its entirety.(1)
Mu‘awiyah had important opponents even in the peak of his power and perhaps he knew them well. They were ‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr, ‘A’ishah, Sa‘d ibn Waqqas, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, Qays ibn Sa‘d ibn ‘Abadah and, in general, the companions of and the Shi‘ites supporting Imam ‘Ali (‘a). Except for
the opposition of Shi‘ites and of the Rebels, which was on ideological grounds, the rest were politically motivated. However, Mu‘awiyah was clever enough and knew enough about the people and the right time to tackle his political opponents and to suborn and threaten them to silence. Therefore, he could bear them. What was unbearable to him and he even feared was the heavy shadow and the attraction of ‘Ali (‘a).
Indeed ‘Ali (‘a) had already been martyred by that time. He feared his personality rather than his person. Such a personality opposed the legality and the absolute domination of his. If he could break the personality and sacredness, he both would have taken the historical revenge of himself and his family on him and removed the biggest impediment to the legality and continuation of his domination and that of his family.(1)
The first step was encouraging cursing Imam ‘Ali (‘a). After a while, he realized that this alone was not sufficient and effective. He, therefore, decided to order his rulers to forge stories similar to stories of the virtues of ‘Ali, as approved by the Prophet (S), but this time about other people. This is the starting point of the developments and the time when he and his men are taken as sacred. At this time, sayings were forged in appreciation of the Companions, the time of the Companions, the Three Caliphs, the Senior Caliphs, the Promised Ten [‘ashrah Mubashshirah], the Prophet’s wives and important influential people in the early periods of
Islam. These sayings settled in the minds of the people and even the scholars and narrators of sayings, and never left their minds or were doubted because there was no ground for this to happen while they were reinforced in the later periods for reasons that we will say later.
Ibn Abi’l-Hadid has a chapter in Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah under the title ‘Expressing Part of the Pains and Tortures inflicted upon the Ahl al-Bayt’, in which he quotes a full saying from Imam Baqir (‘a) in which the latter provides an account of what the Shi‘ites’ Imams and their followers went through, “… We were constantly subject to battery and cursing, chasing and disadvantages. We and our followers could not live safely. Then liars who fought the truth stepped in who reached positions with amirs, judges and governors because of the lies they told. They forged quotations and propagated them. What we had not said or done, they narrated about us so as to disgrace us with the people and to make them hostile to us. This situation was worsened after Imam Hasan died in the time of Mu‘awiyah…”(1) After this quotation, he quotes another story from the reliable book Al-Ihdath by Mada’ini, a major part of which we mention here because it serves many useful purposes, “After ‘Ali (‘a) was martyred, when Mu‘awiyah settled in power, he thus wrote to his governors, ‘I shall not have any obligation to him who talks about the virtues of ‘Ali or his family.’
Subsequently, orators began to curse at ‘Ali (‘a) at any rostrum they stood on to give speeches. They expressed their renouncement and used bad language about him and his family. Kufah was troubled more than other places because there were more Shi‘ites there. Mu‘awiyah appointed Ziyad ibn Sumayyah as the governor and added Basrah to that. He hunted for Shi‘ites and, as he was a Shi‘ite during ‘Ali’s time, he knew them very well. He would find and kill them anywhere they were. Terror reigned wherever. He would cut off limbs, make them blind and would hang them from palm trees. He chased them out of Iraq. As a result, no well-known person remained there.”
On another occasion, Mu‘awiyah wrote to his agents, “Do not accept the testimony of the Shi‘ites of ‘Ali or any of their dependents. Focus your attention on Shi‘ites and the friends of ‘Uthman. Bring close to yourselves and respect those who talk about his virtues. Send me their story, their name and the names of their father and their clan.”
His agents did so until there were many virtues of ‘Uthman talked about and distributed around. This was due to the various awards that Mu‘awiyah gave to Arabs and liberated slaves, be it a cloak or a piece of land, etc. They competed for material success. Any hobo that went to an agent of Mu‘awiyah and recounted a story on the virtues of ‘Uthman would be enrolled to be appreciated and given a special reward. Some time
passed by with such events. As these events unfolded, time passed by.
After a while, he wrote to his governors, “There are many sayings about ‘Uthman anywhere. When you get my letter, encourage the people to talk about the virtues of the Companions and the First Caliphs. Any virtue that has been talked about ‘Ali, forge the same about the Companions and send it to me, because I like this better and it would make me happier while they neutralize the arguments of ‘Ali and his Shi‘ites and it will cost them dearer than mentioning the virtues of ‘Uthman.”
His letters were read out to the people. Following this, many stories about the virtues of the Companions were told, all of which were lies and forged. The people went on this path until the stories were read out on rostrums and were induced to school masters. They taught the same to children and the sayings became so common and so significant that they were learned like the Qur’an and were taught to girls, women, male and female slaves.
Then he wrote another letter asking his agents to put under pressure and persecute anyone who loved ‘Ali and to destroy his house. “…thus many sayings were forged and propagated. The jurisprudents, judges and amirs followed on the same path. In the meanwhile, the narrators who lied and pretended to be pious and sacred were far ahead of the others and much more involved in reaching wealth and a position by doing so and by
getting close to governors, until the forged sayings reached pious and truthful people, people who neither told lies nor could, by nature, believe that the others could tell lies as narrators. Therefore, they accepted them all as truth. If they had known the sayings were lies, they would have neither accepted them nor narrated them…”(1)
Ibn Abi’l-Hadid then quotes ibn Naftawiyyah, who is a great scholar of the sayings, “Most of the forged sayings that were made about the Companions during the Umayyad reign were made because the latter intended to bring themselves closer to the Companions, thus destroying the Bani Hashim.”(2)
The fact is that Mu‘awiyah and, his successors, the Umayyad did so for a variety of reasons. To stabilize and legalize their position and to defeat their great rival, Bani Hashim and on about that the Imams, they had to depict themselves as the religious and legal inheritors of ‘Uthman and show that ‘Ali was involved in his murder. If they could do so, they would achieve their goals. It is exactly because of this that their poets and eulogists talked about the virtues of ‘Uthman, his innocence while being murdered and that the Umayyad were the true inheritors of his blood and his inheritors in the caliphate.(3)
In this regard, Goltziher says, “It is historically quite evident that the Umayyads introduced themselves as the religious and legal successors of ‘Uthman and, seeking to avenge ‘Uthman’s death, were hostile to ‘Ali and the Shi‘ites. ‘Uthman was the symbol and slogan of
the Umayyads against ‘Ali and the ‘Alavites. Thus, the title ‘Uthmani (ottoman) was one used for the ardent supporters of the Umayyad.”(1)
All this depended on giving ‘Uthman as high a position as possible. Such a position would immunize him against any criticism that might be said against him. This would entail several results. Firstly, nobody would consider why and by whom and on what charges was he killed. The virtues that were recounted about him surrounded his true personality and behavior with a thick curtain and would make him disappear in a halo of light. Secondly, it would prove that an individual like this was on the right path to the last moment of his life, he was killed innocently like a martyr and his murderers were misled about religion and were on the wrong path. They could indeed use propaganda to make the people believe that ‘Ali was involved in the event, and effectively so. Thirdly, the innocent blood had to be avenged and nobody deserved to do this more than Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad and it is he who deserves to succeed ‘Uthman.
Thus, Mu‘awiyah’s succession and caliphate would be justified and his opposition and fight against ‘Ali as well. This was an argument that would be accepted by the Muslims of that time, who were still under the influence of the pre-Islamic heritage and rules, which the Umayyads sought to revive as much as possible because, according to the “Thar” law in the pre-Islamic customs, the inheritors
of the murdered person should avenge his blood. The only principle was attaining revenge.(1)
The best proof for what was said is the story of the conclusion of the agreement during the arbitration for the Siffin war by ‘Amru ibn al-‘As and Abu Musa Ash‘ari, a model which later both Mu‘awiyah and the other Umayyad caliphs followed. After the many arguments between the two, ‘Amru ibn al-‘As asked his counterpart to have what they agreed on written by the scribe, who was ‘Amru’s son. After they both testified to the unity of God and the prophethood of the Prophet and truth of the first two caliphs, ‘Amru addressed his son, asking him to write, “‘Uthman became caliph after ‘Umar and with the consensus of the Muslims and consulting with the Companions and he was a pious person.” Abu Musa objected, saying, “We are not here to discuss this issue.”
‘Amru said, “I swear by God he was either a pious person or an infidel.” Abu Musa said, “He was a pious person.” Amru said, “Was he an oppressor or was he made subject to oppression?” “He was subject to oppression.” Abu Musa said. “Has God not given the choice to the guardian of the oppressed to avenge their blood?” “Yes, he has.” Abu Musa said. ‘Amru said, “Do you know a worthier person than Mu‘awiyah to be ‘Uthman’s guardian?” “No.” Abu Musa said. “Is Mu‘awiyah not right in searching out ‘Uthman’s murderer wherever he is in order to kill him or
not be faught in attempting to do so?” “Yes.” said Abu Musa. “We think that ‘Ali has killed ‘Uthman.”(1)
All of these were written as part of the agreement.
This was a brief account of the conditions in which sayings were forged in favor of ‘Uthman and his previous caliphs and the Prophet’s Companions. In order to achieve his goals, Mu‘awiyah had to put ‘Uthman in a high position. Therefore, as Mada’ini says, Mu‘awiyah issued orders for forging sayings immediately after he became the caliph. However, the problem was that this could not be limited to ‘Uthman. To the people of that time, some of whom had seen ‘Uthman and the previous caliphs, it was not acceptable that he had had such a position while the previous caliphs and the other well-known Companions had not. It would be questionable and dubious and would raise doubts about ‘Uthman’s virtues. They were thus forced to raise the positions of others along with ‘Uthman, and they did so.
Other than this obligation, there were other consequences to this action, the most important being that, by illuminating the face of each of the Companions, they would help reduce the importance of the most illuminating one.(2) When Mu‘awiyah said, “Do not ignore any virtue that has been quoted by any Muslim about ‘Ali, unless you mention for me a counterpart for it among the Companions.”, he actually meant to reduce the importance of ‘Ali. Therefore, he explicitly said, “I would like it better. It would make me happy
and would neutralize the arguments of ‘Ali and his Shi‘ites.” Indeed he succeeded in this for reasons that we will mention later.
Nevertheless, the result was that he raised the level of the others so much that sometimes they would be close to that of the Prophet (S)(1) and the early history of Islam was given a special importance and became sacred and was as valuable and important as Islam itself. It was so important that Islam would be unimportant without considering it.
Thus, a political rivalry entailed a great development in the understanding of the religion, which meant understanding the religion in the light of the early periods, i.e. those of the Senior Caliphs, the Companions, the Followers and especially the Senior Caliphs and the Companions. Although there were numerous factors involved, the most important and effective were indeed the same as those of Mu‘awiyah for destroying the personality of ‘Ali. His forgeries for disgracing ‘Ali, however, did not and could not survive although they were not ineffective either, especially in the first centuries; however, his forgeries for putting others at the same level as that of ‘Ali remained and were universally believed.
As we have mentioned before, one of the basic differences between the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis was and is their different perceptions of Islam. The Sunnis, contrarily to the Shi‘ites, accepted Mu‘awiyah’s actions consciously or subconsciously and finally accepted him. Therefore, they looked at Islam through its early history while the Shi‘ites looked at the early history of
Islam according to the principles and criteria of Islam.(1)
Although later with the development of analysis and historical critique, mainly thanks to the Mu‘tazilites, the undisputable religious splendor of the early period was somehow broken, it was a transient flow and could not be continued due to numerous reasons, the most important of which was that the Mu‘tazilites came into being when the religious thought of the mass of the people had been formed. They wanted to reform beliefs that had been intermingled with the heart and soul of the people and based on which, their personalities had been formed. They naturally failed in doing so. Most probably, if they had come into being at an earlier time, they would have had more success.(2)
As we said, the core of Sunni religious belief in those and the later days is the same sacred attitude towards early Islamic history.(3) If this collapsed, the basis of their beliefs would collapse. Therefore, neither the Mu‘tazilites nor any other group could confront it. The question was not which opinion was right and which wrong. The mentality of the masses of the people and a major part of the jurisprudents and scholars of the sayings had been formed in a way that required such an outlook.
Otherwise, both their faith and their personalities would collapse from within and this meant that no belief would exist to substitute the previous attitude. Accepting the Mu‘tazilite beliefs would mean the collapse of the entire structure of their beliefs. Neither were
the Mu‘tazilites so reliable nor what they said was explicit and comprehensible to be blindly accepted by them, especially since the Mu‘tazilites did not have a stable and well-developed school and every one of them expressed a view different from those of the others.(1)
Finally, another important point to be added to this is that every faithful person, be he a Muslim or non-Muslim, has a conservative belief system. This is a requisite for religious faith and its outcome. He has accepted the religion and borne its limitations to reach otherworldly salvation. Because of this, he will choose faith if given two choices of faith or reason. The problem again is not that these two are opposite to each other or vice versa. The problem is discovering the characteristics of the mind and the thought of a faithful person or his attitude. When facing two beliefs one of which he deems to be according to the rules of the religion and the other one of which he deems to be according to reason, he will finally chose the former. In such cases, the religious precaution will never be overcome by rational precision.(2)
The Mu‘tazilites faced such a problem. This is a problem that many reformists today are facing as well and is the most important factor of why progressive reformist movements tend to be conservative although their views are rationally and logically superior to those of their rivals and are seemingly according to the religious rules as well. However, being suspicious about
them, which was caused by the irresponsibility of some, and their disagreement with the heritage of those whom the people considered as righteous people, finally drove them out and made their rivals successful. It would be appropriate here to quote Ibn Abi’l-Hadid about some of their views about the Companions:
“The Mu‘tazilites looked at the Companions and the Followers as they looked at the other people, i.e. individuals who sometimes made mistakes and sometimes were on the right path, who did things some of which are to be praised and some to be criticized. They did not fear adopting such a position while the others were not so because they had put the Companions and the great ones of the Followers in a position that could not be criticized.”
“The Mu‘tazilites said, ‘We see that some Companions criticize the others and some even cursed at the others. If the Companions were in such a position that was not to be criticized or cursed at, this would have to be inferred from their behavior towards each other because they knew each other better than the people of our time do while we see that Talhah, Zubayr, ‘A’ishah and their supporters refused to support ‘Ali and even opposed him. Mu‘awiyah and ‘Amru ibn al-‘As also fought against ‘Ali. ‘Umaru made a sarcastic remark to Abu Hurayrah because of the latter’s quoting a story and upbraided Khalid ibn Walid as a corrupt person while condemning ‘Amru ibn al-‘As and Mu‘awiyah of betrayal and theft from
the public treasury. Basically, few people can be found among the Companions who were not subject to his action or remarks while many such examples can be found.
The Followers treated each other in a similar fashion to that of the Companions and made similar remarks about their offenders. However, the public put them in a high place in later times. The Companions are like the other people. We criticize their wrongdoers and praise their righteous ones. Their superiority to others is only because of experiencing the presence of the Prophet (S). Perhaps their sins are greater than those of the others because they closely witnessed the miracles and the signs of the truth of the religion and, therefore, our sins are lighter than theirs because we can be excused [on such grounds].”(1)
After quoting the above, Ahmad Amin says that the Mu‘tazilites freely criticized the deeds and words of the Companions and the Followers and revealed their contradictions. They even went so far as to criticize the Two Shaykhs. Then he mentions examples of their criticisms of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.(2)
Adopting such a position towards the Companions and the Followers were mainly or even entirely due to their rationalist tendencies. They did not want to accept anything that was said without reason or give any principle a priority higher than that given to reason. It was exactly because of this that the people said this about them and their opponents, “Backgammon is Ash‘arite and chess is the Mu‘tazilite.”, because the backgammon
player relies on chance and destiny while a chess player relies on wits and struggle.”(1)
Other than the Mu‘tazilites, there were also others who inclined towards intellectual liberalism and critically analyzed the early history of Islam and the time of the Companions and of the Followers. From among them, we can mention Ibn Khaldun. While talking about Islamic jurisprudence, he says, “… Apart from this, all the Companions were not experts on giving opinions or issuing fatwas and it was not possible to ask all of them regarding religious duties. This was limited to those who knew the Qur’an by heart and to those who were familiar with the nullifying [nasikh] and nullified [mansukh], similar [mutishabih] and explicit [muhkam] contents and the other guidelines of the Qur’an, because they had either learned these directly from the Prophet (S) or from their superiors.
Therefore, they were known as the Reciters [qurra’], i.e. one who recited the Qur’an because the Arabs were an illiterate nation, those who could read the Qur’an became known as the Readers, which seemed to be a strange thing to them at that time. In the early periods of Islam, this was the situation. After a while, Islamic cities developed and progressed and reached a splendid point and illiteracy was eliminated among the Arabs by insisting on the Book—the Qur’an—and inferences were made and the jurisprudence was completed and included among the techniques and the sciences. Then, the word to refer to someone who knew the Qur’an by heart
changed and was replaced by ‘jurisprudent’ or scholar…”(1)
Ibn Hazm is among these individuals. Indeed he reaches a viewpoint similar to that of the Mu‘tazilites and Ibn Khaldun from a different stance. He is a scholar and jurisprudent of the Zahiri school, who limited the religious documents to the divine decrees and the consensus and rejected deduction. He reached such a point of view by rejecting the theory of ‘the right words’ and the ‘right deeds’, which were unanimously agreed on by Sunnis. In this regard, Muhammad Abu Zuhrah says, “Ibn Hazm believed that it was not permissible to imitate any person, be he one of the companions or otherwise, alive, or dead. He believed that deeming as true sayings which are attributed to the Companions, but are not approved by the Prophet’s tradition is an imitation that is not allowed in God’s religion because no saying shall be deemed as true, unless it is approved by the Book and the Tradition or a consensus of these two or a proof that is derived from the collection of these three.
Then, the Companions’ sayings cannot be considered as evidence because they were ordinary people. The like of this theory has been quoted from Shafi‘i. In this respect, he said, “How can I adopt the saying of him whom I would argue with if I had been living during his time.” However, it would be close to reality to say that Shafi‘i would accept the Companions sayings if all the Companions had
a consensus on them while he would adopt one of their sayings, if they have varying opinions. No, that a saying is that of a Companion does not constitute sufficient ground for following it because no one’s saying is as valuable as that of God’s Prophet. As Malik ibn Anas said, “Everyone has said things some of which are rejected except by he who has made this speech.”(1)
Nevertheless, the problem is not just that Islam has to be looked at and studied out of the early Islamic history. More important than this was that this period was contradictory in itself in many ways. This is a period full of rivalry, conflicts and disputes, so far so that the great people of the time stood up against each other and had each other’s blood on their hands. If it was the best and the most sacred period and nothing but the realization of true Islam and its Muslims were the best and the noblest Muslims, why did they stand up and draw their swords against each other? How could two truths fight each other? Such considerations in practice influenced the formation of the jurisprudential and theological structure and the religious psychology of Sunnism more than, for example, accepting the principle that Islam has to be understood and interpreted according to the early Islamic history.(2)
To solve this problem, they had to resort to certain solutions. They were forced to say both were right and, despite their disputes and fights, both acted according
to their duties and will, therefore, attain reward and enter into the Paradise. It is possible to justify one, two or several cases based on such a hypothesis and to say that there were mistakes in the actual manifestations. Yet, the problem is that the early Islamic history is full of such events and clashes and is nothing but the story of such rivalries and confrontations, especially among those about whom one cannot mention such doubts. This is a problem that not only strongly influenced the Sunni image of history as relating to those days, but also affected everything that somehow related to Islam.(1)
From this point of view, the history of those days and, consequently, that of the entire history of Islam is neither absolutely black nor absolutely white. Rather, it is gray. It is as if there was no certain criterion to judge the true or the false. Everybody is either absolutely right or somehow floating in a sort of truth without anyone being preferred to the others. More important than this is that judging their actions and behavior and criticizing the events were banned. The principle was that all were good and the difference in their behaviors was because of their differing knowledge rather than their faith or the other characteristics originating from their faith and, because of this, we are not allowed to question what they did and consider their actions for judging their truth. Thus, the mental, intellectual and psychological backgrounds to judge them according to
the contradictions and to evaluate the issues based on their truth or falsehood were eliminated. This strongly influenced the jurisprudential and theological fundamentals of political discussions whether about imamate or caliphate or political and religious issues.(1)
The Sunni jurisprudential and theological structures and, consequently, the Sunni psycho-religious structure rely on the thought that, in competition between two Muslims, it is not possible for one to be absolutely right and the other to be absolutely wrong. This is in the first place due to their sacred view of the early history [of Islam] and its figures. This thought and this psychological structure has made problems within Sunnism in the present time. One can say that it is a new unprecedented problem because the Sunnis in the past never faced such a problem or at least it was not as severe as it is now. It is the modern life, society and history that have brought about such a problem with such severity.(2)
In the past, the need and urgency to respond to the revolutionary needs of the young generation were not so strong or serious or there was not such a problem at all or, if there was, it was not as extensive and forceful as it is now. Today, such a problem exists throughout the Third World and the Muslim countries and Islam cannot be indifferent to it, especially because the young Muslims in general, at least in the past two decades, have demanded Islam to respond. They require Islamic responses to
their new needs because, in the first place, they deem such responses to be more appropriate for and more in harmony with their needs. In the second place, the religious obligation stops them from doing anything that is non-Islamic.(1)
It is precisely because of this that many revolutionary Sunni Islamic thinkers have been reviewing their historical thought in an attempt to find responses to their serious and urgent needs. This was intended to find a more explicit, decisive and helpful criterion for analyzing and evaluating themselves, so as to see the truth as the truth even if it has been distorted by others, and to stand up against falsehood and help the truth. Accepting the principle that the mask of Islam impedes straightforward judgment and decision-making is equal to accepting the illegality of any action against a ruling system that commits any crime or treason by resorting to Muslim appearances. So far as this principle, which is the result of recognizing the early Islamic history and protecting it against any criticism, has not collapsed, the problem will still be in place. It is because of this that Sunni jurisprudential and theological books have defined differently such subjects as allegiance [biy‘ah], consensus [ijma‘],religious authority [ijtihad], rejection [takhta’ah], acceptance [taswib], consensus of the People of Loosing and Binding [ahl-e hall wa ‘aqd], caliphate and the caliphs’ positions, guardianship [wilayat-e amr] and the need to obey the leader, and other subjects.(2)
Revolutionaries and thinkers who have attempted to develop their ideology by maintaining this principle
have actually failed. They wanted to make up for their ideological weakness by relying on individual faith, perseverance and devotion. This is impossible, at least in our time. If the necessary condition for achieving sociopolitical goals is the perseverance and resistance of the revolutionaries, the sufficient condition is undoubtedly the ideology and strategy in harmony with the nature of its goals and the zeitgeist and which at the same time have the power to go on, resist and respond.(1)
The problem indeed does not have to be limited to what was said above. Recognizing early Islam events and protecting them from criticism prevents the necessary proper religious intellectual and scientific development that the Muslims need at this time. Only part of this problem is revolutionary and challenging while, even to respond to this need and to lead it to the right path, a development has to occur in the set of beliefs. More important is that, in order to study the different subjects critically, including the religion and the history of religion, which are among the most important needs of the modern era, a solution has to be considered. It is not possible to defend the faith of individuals against the critiques of the modern era only because of the insistence of the former on dogmas that originated from the consensus of the Muslims in a certain part of the history rather than the religion itself.
Every religion has a set of absolute non-criticizable values and dogmas. This is because of the
nature of the religion and is not affected by the developments through time. However, this is not true about part of the beliefs that are rooted in the consensus among the believers rather than the religion itself and it cannot be defended forever against the scientific and historical criticisms. Resisting this critical current will entail escaping from religion or rebelling against its protectors and causing an ideological disorder.(1)
Apart from this, it was a principle that everything that happened in that period was nothing but the realization of true Islam, and, in order to find out about the applications and views of Islam in any respect which has an example in this era, one has to refer to that period. However, the important thing is that, in this time, there are sometimes various answers to a certain problem without any change in the conditions. Now, which answer has to be taken as true?
For example, as to the selection of the caliph, there were various examples. Abu Bakr recommended ‘Umar in his will while ‘Umar recommended six people in his will and determined how the caliph had to be selected from among them. Also, Abu Bakr’s caliphate in the beginning received the allegiance of a few people. This and many other examples, especially in jurisprudential and theological problems, which resulted in various answers to be given to a certain problem, which were occasionally contradictory, later created many problems for Sunni theologians and jurisprudents in terms of determining the justified criterion. All of
this was because of recognizing the early Islamic history in its entirety.(1)
It was briefly mentioned in the previous chapter how the early history of Islam was formed and what the attitude towards it was in the later years. This attitude was reflected in the entire Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure and political thought. A brief introduction is necessary before entering the new discussion.
We have already said that the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis, despite their basic common principles, have two different jurisprudential and theological structures and have founded two different psychosocial structures in their followers. In order to clarify how the religious movements in these two realms were and are formed and what factors and foundations they are influenced by, one has to clarify how these two systems are and how they were formed throughout history. What is most important, in the meanwhile, is what principles the political thought of these two schools are based on and influenced by because the sociopolitical and even the intellectual and cultural movements of these two are inevitably influenced by these characteristics. Unless these characteristics are known and its results and consequences are valuated, the religious movements of these two sects will not be identified properly, whether those that took place in the past or those that exist today.
We said that one of the most important principles that has formed the political thought of the two is their perception and interpretation of the early history of Islam. The Sunni perception of this part
of history is different from its reality.
The second principle is the way Sunnis believe in the ruler simply because he is a ruler, i.e. without considering what occurred in the early history of Islam and the way it is perceived in the tradition. One has to see what their opinion is about the ruler and how this opinion is and may be reflected in their political thought. Finally, the third principle is that what was important to Sunni scholars, jurisprudents and theologians in connection with the government and its legality has been security rather than justice. They were concerned about security and the power that could provide and guarantee it rather than about justice or, for example, a precise implementation of the religious rules and the traditions of the Prophet (S) as they were in force at the time of the Prophet (S) himself. The Shi‘ite opinion in the last two issues is different from the Sunni one. This difference is reflected in the history of the religious and social movements of the followers of these two schools.
It is the people’s love of and desire for justice that is the cause of political and social movements. Shi‘ism, since the beginning of its history, was concerned about and emphasized the concept of justice and a strict implementation of the religious rules and defended and tried to realize the same as its mission while, according to Sunnism, the issue of justice has the second or even the third priority. What was and
is important to them is merely having power and authority, in the shodow of which security can indeed be achieved. We will discuss each of these points here.
We said in the previous chapter that the basic and primary factor in the development of the Sunni attitude towards the early history of Islam was Mu‘awiyah’s actions. His rivalry with and hostility to ‘Ali’s personality and position(1) and his attempt to isolate his supporters, all of whom were his ideological opponents, led him to command to its governors to publicly curse ‘Ali while forging sayings for others about virtues similar to those of ‘Ali and to propagate them, which they did.
For many reasons, cursing ‘Ali did not and could not last for a long time. One important reason was the virtues that had been forged for others. How could the others have such virtues while ‘Ali, who was at least a person like them and a caliph, had the opposites of those virtues so as to be cursed?(2) If they could even make the people have such beliefs, then the mass of the people would have beliefs similar to those of the Rebels and would indeed approach them while this was hated by the ruling system, both the Umayyad and the ‘Abbasid, because the Rebels were their great enemies. Nevertheless, the second action had its influence and took the early history of Islam and the Muslims of the time to a high status, equal to that of Islam. Indeed, other than
Mu‘awiyah’s plan, there were other factors in the meanwhile that would help consolidate and continue such an opinion, which we will deal with later.
The caliphs coming after the Senior Caliphs, both the Umayyad and the ‘Abbasid, and the other persons who appeared in the history of Islam as caliphs and their caliphate was accepted by the people, such as the Mamluk caliphs in Egypt or the sultans of the second period in the Ottoman empire, in order to consolidate their position, needed to attach a religious status to themselves and to make the people accept this. The best means was to give a religious status, not to themselves, but to the position they were in so as to legalize themselves and make themselves accepted. In order to do this, they had to raise the position of the caliphs after the Prophet (S) and introduce their caliphate as a divine and religious position while further highlighting the supporters of the caliphs and the caliphate. In general, they had to give a religious definition to and sanctify the history of those times because, this way, their position of caliphate would be religiously necessary, and this would include the status on which they relied.(1)
In fact, the Umayyad caliphs were not so willing to be identified as caliphs because they neither needed this nor was their Bedouin, pre-Islamic, negligent and reckless nature consistant with such formalities. However, the ‘Abbasid could not remain on the scene without relying on it. Although their being in power
for more than five hundred years was for a major part formal and apparent, yet it continued by resorting to such titles and, for many reasons, they developed the current that Mu‘awiyah had founded. Although many of Mu‘awiyah’s policies and, in general, those of the Umayyad were denied in the ‘Abbasid era, this was one of the exceptions that was approved because the holy and divine respect to the caliphs after the Prophet (S) directly helped sanctify the concept and system of caliphate and the one who was in charge of it.(1)
The other factor that reinforced such a view was the need to confront Shi‘ites and the Rebels. The most important opponents of the caliphs, both Umayyad and ‘Abbasid, during the first two or even three centuries, were the Shi‘ites. Both of them had a critical attitude towards the early history of Islam. The Shi‘ite view is well-known, in which they considered it to be a period like the other parts of the history of Islam, without any difference or distinction. However, the Rebels approved of the first part of the period of the Senior Caliphs, which lasted to mid-‘Uthmanite period, while deemed the second part as polytheism and deserting the religion. In addition, their perception of the first part was not similar to that of the others and was different in certain ways. They were pigheaded people that were not willing to consider any individual or period as holy. It was only this period that they approved of without
Now, one of the ways to confront these two groups in the public opinion of the Muslims was to say that they did not accept the early history of Islam. To achieve this goal, the best way was to praise it as much as possible. The more important and religiously more valuable and divine this period became with the mass of the people, it was better possible to disarm the opponents. One of the most important populist pretexts they had was that they said to their opponents that you, who are considering us unjust and are opposing us, lack any legality because you do not respect or believe in the early history of Islam and its characters.(2)
This accusation was especially effective against Shi‘ites and was long used as the best propaganda tool against them. Many cases can be found in the past in which they suppressed the opposition at the early stage by using this means although this means has not been abandoned yet and is widely used especially by the Sa‘udis and their colleagues and sympathetic thinkers. They wickedly present such a picture of early Islam that nullifies any critical attitude in advance. They try to highlight this in order to isolate Shi‘ites and present them as abominable and to suppress any reformist movement under such claims because the reformist and revolutionary movements within the Sunni world in general have a critical attitude towards the early history of Islam and, principally, the history of Islam. When this attitude
and way of thinking is questioned, those who believe in it will be doubted and this is what is desired by their opponents.(1)
In fact, it was these two political factors that increasingly reinforced the religious and divine aspect of the early period. The post-Mu‘awiyah caliphs needed it for many reasons and emphasized it. The need remained as long as there was caliphate, i.e. practically to the early present century. After that, it was needed by those in power who considered themselves as benevolent descendants.
In the meanwhile, other actions were also taken that further strengthened this current, in which Mu‘awiyah still had the primary role. To defend his legality and truth, Mu‘awiyah resorted to another policy, which was very successful and contributed in sanctifying the image of the early history with the Muslims. He wanted to establish a relationship between himself and his truth and the first caliphs and their truth, especially Abu Bakr. However, as long as ‘Ali (‘a) was alive, this was not effective and ‘Ali did not allow such misuse. ‘Ali’s outstanding personality and his unique position and past and his being appointed as caliph by the majority of the people were the biggest impediment to use such means. However, when Imam ‘Ali (‘a) was martyred and Imam Hasan (‘a) became the leader, it was possible to use it. We had better hear the story from Mu‘awiyah himself.
In response to a letter from Imam Hasan (‘a), in which the issue of peace and stopping the war had been
set forth, Mu‘awiyah wrote, “…when this nation disagreed on your virtues and past and your closeness to the Prophet (S) and your position in Islam and among the Muslims, they were not ignorant. They saw it better that the Qurayshis would be leaders because of their relationship with the Prophet. The senior members of the Quraysh, the Helpers, etc. from among them said, ‘Let’s choose as leader one from among Quraysh whose Islam is older, who is more knowledgeable about and friendlier to God and who is more powerful in God’s affairs’, and they chose Abu Bakr.
This was the decision of the men of wisdom, religious and virtues and those of the nation who were aware… If the Muslims had seen one among you who was able to do that, they would have not hesitated. They would have done what they thought was fit for Islam and the Muslims… The story of me and you is like that of you and Abu Bakr after the Prophet (S) passed away. If I saw you more fit to the affair of the nation, I would do what you are inviting me to. However, you know that I am more experienced as a ruler and am an elder man of politics and am older than you are. Therefore, it would be more appropriate for you to do what you expect me to do and for you to accept to obey me…”(1)
While saying these, Mu‘awiyah tries to resort to the same reasons for
legalizing himself with which Abu Bakr had been legally appointed and tries to pretend that his story is like that of Abu Bakr, by saying that the same criteria that applied for legally appointing Abu Bakr applies to him too, so much so that even Imam Hasan (‘a) has to obey him.
In this regard, Mahmud Subhi says, “This letter of Mu‘awiyah is the first theological interpretation of the supporters of Sunnism and consensus on the issue of caliphate in general and that of allegiance to Abu Bakr in particular. While ascending the power, Mu‘awiyah could achieve theological and ideological victory and, through this, he could express the beliefs of Sunni Muslims in general… He used this opportunity to undertake the defense of the caliphs and the senior Companions, thus giving religious acceptance to his claim in caliphate and cleverly setting forth his own claim in the form of defending Abu Bakr. According to this interpretation, he did not usurp the power and did not impose himself on the nation. His position was like that of Abu Bakr. He was more capable in administering the affairs and a better politician and more experienced and aged in dealing with various affairs. Thus, his claim of avenging ‘Uthman while ‘Ali (‘a) was in charge turned into a more dangerous, effective and acceptable ideology that responded to his requests for becoming the caliph and stabilizing his position.” (1)
The result is that, other than the factors already mentioned, that led Mu‘awiyah to give a religious
stature to the early history of Islam and its characters in order to isolate his opponents, on top of them, Shi‘ites, and break down the position of ‘Ali in the public opinion, there were other factors that encouraged him to do this. His confrontation with Imam ‘Ali and his followers, whether during ‘Ali’s life or after, could not succeed without relying on this historical period. He needed it and made use of it cleverly and for various reasons, and such uses later found a high place in the Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure, especially in the issues of imamate and caliphate. Doubtless, if the main rival of Mu‘awiyah had been someone other than Imam ‘Ali, or a person other than one like Mu‘awiyah stood against ‘Ali, the history of those days would have been formed otherwise and most probably the Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure would have had major differences with its presence structure.
Other than the mentioned factors, which were mainly political, there were two other factors that helped this current, which we will mention below.
The first factor was the need to respond to various religious, jurisprudential and theological problems, especially jurisprudential ones, which the Muslims faced from late or even mid first century [AH], for which there were no clear answers in the Prophet’s (S) tradition. They had to find solutions to such problems, and one of the best solutions was to consider the early history of Islam equal to Islam itself rather than looking for answers only in
the Prophet’s (S) tradition. This was quite a natural thing to happen.
The Islamic society in the Prophet’s (S) period was a closed and limited society with few needs and problems. Any new problem would be set forth to the Prophet (S) himself. The conditions changed after the rapid expansion of Islam, especially after the important early conquests ended, the religious passion was settled and the society calmed down in mid first century [AH]. The problem was not that the society had grown in size. The qualitative complexity due to the quantitative development was far more and was increasingly complex. The tribes, cultures, philosophies, sects and religions were covered by the new power, which had religious claims. Such a gathering would entail numerous problems that required answers which had to be explicit, pragmatic and not merely theoretical because the society had to be administered with the same answers. These were actually laws that gave order to and systematized the society.
Meanwhile, the problem was that only a small fraction of these new problems were directly answered in the Prophet’s (S) tradition.(1) These questions were new subjects and, at that time, neither existed theoretically nor practical. However, they now required theoretical as well as practical responses. In the meanwhile, they had to give religious respect and recognition to a period that extended beyond the Prophet’s (S) life, and the latter included the period of the Senior Caliphs.
In an impartial and realistic estimate, one has to say that they were right to do so
because, if there is only one part of the history of Islam that has to be recognized because of its apparent similarities to the Prophet’s (S) period, it is exactly the same, especially since this period was agreed on and respected by the majority of Muslims while the subsequent periods were not so. As a result, this period was considered as the continuation of the Prophet’s (S) tradition and contributed in responding to the numerous questions that had arisen, especially considering that in those days the jurisprudential expertise had not yet developed as methodologically as it later did. So, in every case, they had to refer to the explicit decrees.(1)
However, Shi‘ites basically did not face such a problem. In their belief, the sayings and deeds of the Infallible Imams were like the Prophet’s (S) tradition. This belief had neither been imposed by a historical necessity nor by any other factor. The natural and logical consequence was their belief in the principle of imamate the way they understood and interpreted it. Thus, the religious tradition according to them continued to the year 260 AH, which was the year of the death of Imam ‘Askari (‘a). This rich and various tradition, being the outcome of responding to various issues that had been set forth during 273 years since the Prophet’s (S) mission, plus the period of the imamate to the beginning of the minor and also its emphasis on the principle of ijtihad (religious expertise and authority) and determining its fundamentals and
limits, basically removed the need for things that were urgently needed by Sunnis.
The second factor was emotional as well as religious. Basically, human beings psychologically and affectively tend to love whatever that is somehow related to the object or individual they are interested in, whether it is real or an illusion or unreal. It will just suffice for him to suppose that there is such a relation. This factor was much stronger and more effective in older times than it is now. The modern man is more unfocused intellectually and affectively. As a result, the depth and duration of his love is less and shorter. However, in the past, if someone loved an object or person, he would be attracted to it/him entirely and the stronger the attraction, the stronger would be the love of his dependents and any characteristic that he attached to his beloved one, would be attached to his dependents as well.
During the history of Islam, the Prophet (S) was always the most popular and the most sacred person. The most beautiful and most mystical descriptions were applied to him, especially by the Sufis who were pioneers in doing so. Naturally, the charisma of such an attractive person would be extended to his surrounding people. This was a natural human trend. It was impossible for one to love the Prophet (S) and not be attracted to his dependents. Here the problem was not who the dependents were and how they lived. The issue was that they surrounded
The Sufis and the Muslims in general during the history thus looked at the Prophet (S) and early Islam. In their view, it was the best period because it contained the Prophet (S) and those individuals were the best because they lived with the Prophet (S). This is indeed true but its meaning and limits should be defined. It is true that the Prophet’s (S) period was specially respected because the Prophet lived in that period and it is true that the people surrounding the Prophet (S) were fortunate to experience the Prophet’s presence, but this did not entail the conclusion that the era of the Companions is the best period because of closeness to the Prophet (S) or, for example, Islam has to be identified with its help, and the Companions’ being fortunate to experience the Prophet’s (S) presence does not mean that they were, in practice, committed Muslims.(1)
Nevertheless, this psychological mechanism extended the Prophet’s (S) sacredness to the Companions and the Companions’ time, and all of them were encircled by a halo of divinity. This in turn gave special sacredness to the current whose goal was to give special religious credit to early Islam. The question why the Shi‘ites were not affected by this state and mechanism has a special reason. They always loved the Prophet (S), like the other Muslims did, and considered him to be the best person. However, because of sayings, which are entirely valid to them, they loved a special group rather than
the entire Companions. If there had not been such sayings, they would have extended the Prophet’s (S) sacredness and position to the others as well, because this is human nature.
It would be appropriate here to mention an example and what value and position, according to the Muslims of the later periods, experiencing the Prophet’s (S) presence had and how it became the most important and the most definitive criterion to judge the religious and spiritual qualifications of individuals.
While criticizing Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, who believed that there may be other individuals among the people of the later times more virtuous than the Companions, based on the saying, “My nation is like rain. One does not know if the beginning or the end is better.” Ibn Hajr says, “This is a very rate theory which is not conformed by the Sayings.” Then, he sets forth his own theory by thus quoting a story from Ibn Mubarak, “This point is also approved by ‘Abdullah Bin Mubarak, who is well-known in the sciences and jurisprudence. He was asked which one of Mu‘awiyah or ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz were better. He said in response, ‘I swear by God that a dust in the nostril of Mu‘awiyah’s horse while besides the Prophet (S) is far better than a hundred people like ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz.’ By saying this, he wanted to say the honor of accompanying the Prophet (S) and seeing him and being seen by him is a value that cannot be equaled by any action or
Doubtless, all this was much influenced by politics. It should be admitted, however, that the Muslims grew with such a way of thinking and their mentalities and personalities were formed based on this, apart from the fact that they had to present a theological system compatible and homogeneous with a system that had been contradictory from within.
Principally, any true believer, no matter what he believes in, religion or else, tends to find his beliefs in a coherent and harmonious system without contradiction. This is one of his basic needs. The point is not that he has to do so in order to present his beliefs to the others or to defend the same. More important than this is his internal needs that will remain unfulfilled without such an attempt and practice. The peace of the human mind as to his beliefs is indebted to their harmony and homogeneity. An important part of one’s intellectual and scientific attempts, whether in the realm of religion, thought or science, is merely systematizing and coordinating one’s beliefs. This is mainly due to the same internal need.
An example of such an attempt can be found in the theory where it concerns the early Islamic Companions and personalities, “The best people in this nation and in all the nations after the Prophets (S) is Abu Bakr, then ‘Umar, then ‘Uthman and then ‘Ali (‘a). This was heard from the Prophet (S) and shall not be denied. The best of the people after these are Talhah, Zubayr,
Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas, Sa‘id Ibn Zayd, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf and Abu Ubaydah Jarrah. All of these had the capacity to be caliphs. The best of the people after them are the Prophet’s Companions, the century in which the Prophet was appointed by God as prophet, the early Immigrants, the Helpers and those who prayed towards both of the Two Qiblahs. After them, the best of people are those who accompanied the Prophet (S), whether one day, one month, one year, less or more. We ask God to bless them and recount their virtues and ignore their mistakes and do not remember any of them other than for their virtues…”(1)
The result is that the above and the other factors as a whole gave a special religious position and sanctity to early Islam, the Prophet’s Companions and the Senior Caliphs in the eyes of Sunnis and there is not anyone among them who doubts these. This is a principle on which they have consensus. More importantly, they comprehend and interpret Islam in its light, so much so that one can say, without having this in mind, one cannot comprehend their understanding of Islam. Islam in its entirety, from jurisprudence and analysis and history to theology, philosophy and mysticism, especially where it relates to political and religious discussions probably has the most differences in terms of how Sunnis and Shi‘ites comprehend it.
It is exactly at this point that Shi‘ites and Sunnis can understand each other less and less because they do not
notice that their beliefs and theories are based on two different intellectual, philosophical, theological and historical foundations and systems. Consequently, they come across problems in their discussions, talks and mutual understanding and assistance. Any of them views the beliefs of the other through his own religious view and, therefore, does not understand him and has expectations contrary to the other’s principles and fundamentals.
This is not a theoretical problem; it is a tangible reality. Unless the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis have full knowledge of the characteristics of the intellectual and doctrinal systems of each other and from where their obligations originate, they will not be able to talk to each other or to reach a useful and effective understanding or cooperation. As we said, this is truer about political and religious issues. It was because of this reason that we presented this discussion more elaborately.(1)
Now let’s see what the consequences of such beliefs are, i.e. what their doctrinal, psychological, social and political outcomes are. Here, we will mention only two important results of it, which is of special importance in connection with the present discussion.
We said that the early period of Islam is of special importance to Sunnis. However, the issue is that these periods are full of differences, tensions and conflicts, especially among the senior Companions. Many of the Promised Ten [‘Asharah Mubashshirah], whose high religious rank was not at all doubted, draw swords on each other. Now, how can this period and these individuals be of a high
religious rank while at the same time stand up against each other and shed each other’s blood? Here, it is not the question of individuals; it is rather the question of criteria and rules. The problem is what the criteria are for judging the truth or falsehood and, basically, what the truth and falsehood is, how one has to live and what his stance should be in order to be on the right side. Apart from this, does he have to fight the falsehood or not and, if so, which is the falsehood and what is the criterion to judge it?
The fact is that they could not find a satisfactory answer. Therefore, they resorted to justifications and interpretations that would be too long to mention here. However, what mattered was that such a problem left its effect on Sunni psychological and doctrinal structure, i.e., since the problem had not been solved—and could not be considering its hypotheses—they tried to leave its similar examples unsolved. In other words, the final solution was that, since the problem has no answer, one must not try to solve it, so much so that some people considered any such attempt as prohibited and irreligious. The principle was that they had to remain silent towards it and be content to the virtues that had been quoted in this respect, and not even examine the truth or falsehood of such accounts.
However, the point was that silence towards this issue resulted in silence towards other similar issues. It
is exactly from this that one can see the traces of such silence on the ideological and psychological structure of the Sunnis, which deeply affected the formation of their sociopolitical and religious history.
As an example, consider the words of Ibn Hanbal quoted here, “Ibn Hanbal revered all the Companions of the Prophet (S) and did not say anything about them other than their virtues. It was exactly because of this that, despite admitting that ‘Ali’s caliphate was legal and right, he did not say even a word in criticizing Mu‘awiyah, as he also did not say anything about the Siffin and Jamal wars, in which many of the Companions were killed. All of this was in order not to say a word to blame the Companions… To him, the companions were of an equal rank and he said nothing but nice things about them. He used to say, ‘Mu‘awiyah, ‘Amru ibn al-‘As and Abu Musa Ash‘ari are among those about whom God has said in the Qur’an, ‘One can see signs of prostration on their face.’”(1)
Also one of the analysis of the book As-Sanah by Ibn Hanbal thus says in his analysis, “If you see somebody arguing the deeds of the Companions and talks sarcastically about them, know that he is a man of caprice because the Prophet (S) said, ‘When there is a mention of my Companions, hesitate’. This is because the Prophet knew that they would make mistakes after his death, but he did not treat them but
nicely and said, ‘Let go of my Companions. Do not talk but nicely about them and do not mention any of the mistakes that they did…’ Know that the one who questions the conduct of the Prophet’s (S) Companions, in fact he questions the Prophet (S) himself and tormenting him in his grave.”(1)
Ibn Juzzi, the well-known jurisprudent and theologian of the 8th century A.H., gives the same advice more explicitly, “Concerning the conflict between ‘Ali (‘a) and Mu‘awiyah, you had better not deal with it, remember them as good people and interpret what happened, in the best way possible because this is an issue of ijtihad (religious judgment). However, ‘Ali and his followers were on the right side because they judged and made the right judgment and will be rewarded but Mu‘awiyah and his advocates judged wrongly and are excused. What we have to do is to respect and love these two and the other Companions.”(2) Numerous other such examples can be given.
Nevertheless, their perception of the early Islam currents and events led them to the conclusion and rather made them believe that there can be no two Muslims who can contradict or argue against and oppose each other while one is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong. They especially emphasized that, in the conflict between two Muslims, if they are Muslims, i.e. they have the qualifications and meet the criteria that can define them as Muslims, it is certain that none of them can be wrong. Here the
problem is not who is on the right side. What matters is that there is no wrong side in this. It seems as if they admitted implicitly that the truth of the parties is relative in such circumstances rather than absolute because, when there is no falsehood, then either party has to have a degree of truth on its side.
This mentality and this way of thinking on their part is so strong and deeply rooted that many of them hesitated and chose to be silent on the issue of ‘Ashura. If there are some who fail to do so, it is because of certain reasons that they consider as valid, i.e. they resort to certain sayings from the Prophet (S) on the virtues of Imam Husayn (‘a) and to other sayings that explicitly or implicitly mention ‘Ashura to say Husayn was right and Yazid wrong. It means that, without considering such sayings, they cannot judge even this case in order to say who was wrong and who was right. Why is this so? The answer is the same reasons that were mentioned. It also has other jurisprudential and theological reasons.
Let’s put it more clearly. If we ignore all the sayings that are directly or indirectly related to the story of ‘Ashura and the position of the Prophet’s (S) Family and the Pure Five [khamsih-ye tayyibah] and the vices of the Umayyad, the Sunni religious structure in its entirety and the resulting religious and doctrinal psychology is so that they will
hesitate on such an apparent and clear issue as that of ‘Ashura. And they did so. Because of the reasons and criteria that they had accepted, they could not say which one was right and which wrong, and failed to say why it was so.
The strange thing is that some even go beyond this and condemn Imam Husayn (‘a) in their own view according to religious and jurisprudential criteria and acquit and support Yazid. Abu Bakr Bin al-‘Arabi and his fellow thinkers, whether in the past or in the present, are among them. He openly praises Yazid and considers rising to be a mistake. He says, “He did not accept the advice of the most knowledgeable person of his time, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas, and deviated from the opinion of the Shaykh of the Companions, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar. He sought the end at the beginning and the truth in the deviated way. While caliphate was lost by his brother, who was accompanied by a large army and the senior men of the tribe, how could he return it with the help of the rabble of Kufah? The senior Companions disapproved of what he wanted to do. He should have obeyed what his ancestor said, “Corruption and disturbance will soon rise. Then, you shall kill the one who wants to create discord among this ummah while it is united, no matter who he is.” Husayn had to show further patience and to pledge allegiance to Yazid. It was not Yazid and his
governor, ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad who killed him. Those killed him who asked him to go to Kufah and then gave him to the rabble of Kufah.”(1)
Here it is not important what the purpose and motivation of Ibn al-‘Arabi is in such criticism from a sympathetic religious stance. More important is that his words are ultimately compatible with the accepted Sunni jurisprudential and theological principles. In fact, it is the dignity of Imam Husayn (‘a) and corruption of Yazid that stops such an explicit expression of opinion by Sunni clerics in general. In other words, the secondary necessities had a greater share in their disagreement with Ibn ‘Arabi than difference in the primary fundamentals. If there is a difference here, it is secondary and probably pertinent to the past rather than principal and fundamental.(2)
It is exactly because of this reason that many Sunni scholars had hesitated and have chosen to be silent in this respect. Now one has to see why they hesitated. Why did many Sunni clerics hesitate in condemning Yazid and some of them principally consider it to be the wrong thing to do? The fact is that some of those who hesitate or prohibit such condemnation were not people who would give up the afterworld for this world and express such opinions to the pleasure of the rulers. Some of them basically expressed such an opinion when it was contrary to the public opinion or even the ruling power, yet they insisted on their opinion as a religious
duty. In the conflict between their jurisprudential and theological fundamentals and the secondary obligations resulting from validating the sayings regarding Imam Husayn’s (‘a) dignity and the vices of Yazid or even the sayings that directly or indirectly mentioned the story of ‘Ashura and the innocent martyrdom of the Imam, they chose to be silent. In such circumstances, the right way was caution and caution meant hesitation and silence.(1)
Anyhow, the answer has to be sought in the same cautious religious psychology that was the product of sanctifying the early history of Islam and its characters.
It has to be mentioned that Shi‘ites and Sunnis, despite some similarities, differ in their applications and, to some extent, concept of caution, whether doctrinal cautions that relate to the principles of the beliefs or the jurisprudential cautions that concern practical orders. This shall be further elaborated on later. When the general certain principle is that all those characters are holy and even at the same level religiously or spiritually while they may have fought each other, commitment to such a principle would lead one to caution in his later judgments. This would be a crippling caution that would not let them judge an incident where both parties are well-known, such as that of ‘Ashura, and they would prefer to hesitate on this and equally acquit the parties while stopping the exploration or judgment by others as a religious duty and in order to call to the good and stop the bad.
For example, Mahmud Subhi thus talks
about the theological and ideological consequences of Imam Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom among Sunnis who, in his words, would rather choose intermediate and indirect solutions, “The Sunni reaction to Imam Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom was very difficult and painful because any attempt to find an intermediate solution that would be favorable to Sunnis based on which they could approve of the Imam’s uprisings and express friendship to his enemies would fail. It was the story of ‘Ashura that made such an attempt fail.” Then, he goes on to mention some evidence about his theory.(1)
The story of such a way of thinking is as old as Islam itself. It has always been, now is and will later be an issue. There is almost no great Sunni cleric who did not say a word about this. Ibn Abi’l-Hadid quotes such views under different titles in the different parts of his book, which is in fact a great encyclopedia of all that relates to early Islam. An important part of the last volume of his book is dedicated to such discussions. It would be appropriate here to mention the theory of Ghazali on the Companions and then Yazid. He is selected here because of his comprehensiveness, his scientific credibility, his public acceptance, his piety and his waiver of this world’s benefits, so that it would not be presumed that such words are because of ignorance or for serving the rulers of the time or for public acceptance.(2)
Expressing how our belief about the Companions should be,
he says, “Take the middle path rather than any of the extremes in this respect and know that, in this respect, you can be suspicious or make sarcastic remarks about a Muslim on no realistic basic, then you will be a liar, or you can have good intentions about a Muslim and avoid being bitter to him without your lack of suspicion being realistic. In the meanwhile, an error accompanied by good intentions about a Muslim is closer to the right path than blaming him. For example, if someone avoids cursing Lucifer, Abu Jahl or Abu Lahab or any other mean person during his life, such avoidance will not harm him. However, if one is sarcastic to an innocent Muslim, he has put himself in hell.”(1) Such a think is also said by Imam al-Haramayn Juwayni more elaborately, which is quoted by Ibn Abi’l-Hadid in the 20th volume of his book.
In his most elaborate and reputable book Ihya’ al-‘Ulum, Ghazali discusses if it is allowed to curse Yazid or not, which is summarized as follows, “Cursing Yazid and his likes is not jurisprudentially permissible. So long as it is not certain that Yazid ordered the killing of Imam Husayn (‘a) and was content to this and so long as his belief in Islam is certain, it is not permissible to curse him because, according to authentic documents and sayings of the Prophet, cursing a Muslim is forbidden.”(2)
What is all this the result of? It is the result of what has
been said already, i.e. a national and logical result of the doctrinal and psychological structure that was initially formed on such a basis. The problem is not what the external factors are. The problem is what kind of thought and mentality we use when setting out to know them. Such a mentality and thought also views and evaluates the story of ‘Ashura according to their own standards and criteria. This is a natural current.
It is interesting that such a view is so acceptable and certain to some Sunni clergies that they have expressed doubts about the sayings that directly mention the event of ‘Ashura and the vices of Yazid. It is certain that a group of them were hired by the sultans and preached for them, and they still are doing so. However, there were certain of them that really thought and believed so.(1)
We see that how far the psychological backgrounds and the mental and doctrinal structures of the followers of these two schools differ, at least in this part. In one, the mental structure has been formed so that it loses the power to judge differently two Muslims or two groups of Muslims that have stood up to fight each other while, in the other, the intellectual and psychological structure is so that it can make only differing judgments, i.e. it can consider one side to be the absolute truth while the other to be the absolute falsehood. Certainly, this fine and at the same time critical and important
difference will create two different social and cultural backgrounds for sociopolitical developments.
The strength and severity of revolutionary passion in a society that, while confronting harsh events, considers a group to be of the Husyan-type and the opposite group as of the Yazid-type are certainly much different than the revolutionary passion of a society according to which the history, or at least the history of Islam, is neither absolutely Yazidi nor absolutely Husyani (if he assumes that Yazid was absolutely wrong and Husyan was absolutely right). Here, it is not a talk about which of them is a good thought and which a bad one. What we mean is to express the characteristics of each of them. They have different spirits and mentalities and they look at issues differently.
Therefore, they can understand each other with difficulty because of having two different views about a single issue; two views that are based on absolutely different preliminaries. If a Sunni can probably comprehend a Shi‘ite on these issues and can understand historical and political currents the way the Shi‘ite does, it is because he has adopted a Shi‘ite mentality and a Shi‘ite spirit rather than because he has been able to view issues like a Shi‘ite by having the spirit, mentality and psychology of his own and his school. What Ba‘inah says about Shi‘ites is also true. They cannot look at the historical and social events like a Sunni. Their mental and doctrinal structures are different and, naturally, they cannot view
and evaluate issues similarly.(1)
If there are individuals among Sunnis today, especially their youth, who have a view close to that of Shi‘ites and have even adopted a view like them, it is because of the influence of factors other than their beliefs and religious and historical heritage on their psychological, intellectual and doctrinal structures. The course of economic, social and cultural developments in some Muslim countries has been so as to create in the youth and students a psychology to understand issues and currents differently. The more rapid and deeper the amount of developments has been and the more traditional and complex the society was, the stronger and more inclusive this characteristic has been.
In the same manner, the higher the revolutionary potential in a country, the more frequent such a state has been because a necessary element of being revolutionary and having revolutionary thoughts, especially among the youth, is to have a dialectic understanding of the history and the present situation. Since the economic, social, political and intellectual moves and developments in the Third World and in the Muslim World in the last two to three decades have contributed to the growth, development and deepening of such a tendency and thought, such spirits and conditions have also been created.
Right now we stop explaining this point because a necessary condition for being revolutionary, where it relates to the mass of the people and not, for example, the elite and cultured individuals who have revolutionary tendencies despite the depth of
their thought and their extensive knowledge and experience, is the ability to perceive things dialectically.
This discussion can be studied theoretically as well as historically and socially, similarly to the attitude of Shi‘ites and Sunnis in the past decades towards Marxism, which has dialectics as the basis of its philosophy, and the differences they had and the causes of these differences, and also the study of the quality of the effects of the developments of the recent period in creating a spirit and situation among Shi‘ites and Sunnis.(1)
Because of the importance of this recent issue, it is necessary to quote some of the more serious parts of the book Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq, which is the most important and effective intellectual guide of the defiant Sunni generation in the present century. As we will see, their attitude and that of Shi‘ites and especially the revolutionary Shi‘ites in the present century are similar to each other because of their dialectical understanding of the ongoing currents.
That is to say that the mask of Islam and the appearances of the religion do not prevent them from forming definite sound judgments about the illegality of those wearing such masks and those who are pretentious. However, they have achieved this point through a way different from the way Shi‘ites achieved it, whether in the past or contemporary times.
According to Shi‘ites, who have inherited the heritage of the Infallible Imams, this is one of the primary evident principles. Principally, one of the primary goals of the
Imams during their lives was to remove the mask of those who misused the religion, sought power or were ignorant. However, according to what was said, Sunnis could not do so because their beliefs, thoughts and mentalities grew in a way that they could not act or even judge so.
Therefore, when the sociopolitical, intellectual and religious pressures of the recent decades made some Sunni thinkers seek a solution and made the revolutionary religious youth listen to, support and even follow them, they had to solve this problem from another point and to remain indifferent to the beliefs, thoughts and mentalities of their ancestors and contemporaries who thought otherwise. Although this in turn created new problems, it opened a new way.
A careful consideration of the following sentences shows how different the analytical method, way of evaluation, concept of Islam, the goals and finally the prevailing spirit are different from the Sunni religious experience and jurisprudential and theological heritage throughout the history.
“Nowadays, we are in an age of ignorance similar to the pre-Islamic ignorance or rather darker than that. All that is around us is ignorance… The conceptions and beliefs of the people, their habits and imitations, the sources of their culture, their arts and literature, their laws and regulations, even much of what we consider as Islamic culture, Islamic sources, Islamic philosophy and Islamic thought is ignorance… All of them are products of this ignorance…!”
“We have to liberate ourselves from the ignorant society and the ignorant conceptions, imitations and leadership… and
especially in our times… our duty is not to converse with the ignorant society and to accept his friendship because, with this quality, which is the quality of ignorance, conversation is impossible. Our duty is to create a change within ourselves based on which we can evolve the society. The first duty is to change the reality of this society. Our duty is to change the foundation of this ignorance reality. It is a fact that is essentially against the Islamic way and method and, with force and pressure, it impeded our living according to what God has asked us.”(1)
“Islam does not recognize more than two types of society. One is the ignorant society and the other the Islamic society. The Islamic society is the society in which Islam has been realized in all the dimensions of belief and workshop, the shari‘ah and the system, manners and morals. The ignorant society is the society in which Islam is not practiced, neither in the beliefs or conceptions of Islam nor in its values and rules nor in its system and laws nor in its manners and morals. The Islamic society is not the society that consists of individuals who call themselves Muslims, in which the shari‘ah is not the law, no matter if they say their prayers, fast, go on hajj or not. The Islamic society is not the society in which the members of the society devise an Islam of their own which was not provided by the Prophet and
which they call the “developed Islam” [islam-e mutatawwir].”
“The ignorant society may have different forms. It may be a society in which they deny God and interpret the history materially and dialectically and in which a social system is realized that is named ‘scientific socialism’. It may also be a society that does not deny God but which limits God only to the heavens and deprives Him from the earth. They neither submit to His laws nor to his stable values. It allows the people to worship God in churches and mosques but does not allow them require the rule of the religious laws in their material lives. It thus denies the divinity of God or suspends it while the Qur’an says explicitly, ‘It is He who is worshiped in the sky and is worshiped on the earth.’ Therefore, such a society is not one of God’s religion because God says, ‘He has ordered you not to worship but Him. This is the solid and sound religion.’ Such a society will be an ignorant one although they worship God… The Islamic society is the only progressive society and the ignorant societies, with the different forms of ignorance, are retarded societies. This great truth has to be clarified.”(1)
“Islam does not accept partnership with ignorance, neither in terms of conceptions nor in the conditions and grounds that entail such conceptions. Either Islam or ignorance; there is no middle choice, half of which is Islam and the other half ignorance, and which will be
accepted by Islam and with which Islam will be content… Islam’s view is clear in that the true path is one and it cannot be multiple in number, and that all that is other than that is misleading. These two cannot be covered by each other’s dress or be mixed with each other. The order is either that of God or that of ignorance. The law is either God’s law or it is caprice. There are frequent verses of the Qur’an on this, ‘And judge them according to what God revealed and do not follow their whims. Fear them may they not lead you to disturbance on some of what God has revealed to you…’ These are only two and there is no third one to them. Either accepting God’s message and that of the Prophet or obeying one’s whims…”(1)
“Providing the ground for the rule of God’s divine laws on the earth and destroying human rule and that of the human laws, depriving from power those who have assumed it and returning it to God… will not be attained only by propaganda and preaching because the authoritarian despots and those who have assumed God’s power will not give up power by propaganda and advice. If they did, the prophets would easily be able to establish God’s religion on the earth while this is contrary to what history shows. The history of this religion is like that of the other religions.”
“This public notification for liberation of ‘man’ on the “earth” from
any power that is other than God’s and to the effect that divinity only belongs to Him is not a theoretical, philosophical or passive notification. It is a dynamic, real and active one, one that seeks to realize God’s law on the earth and practically release the servants to make them God’s servants… therefore, besides ‘expression’, there shall be ‘dynamism’ as well… so as to deal with ‘reality’ in all its dimensions.”(1)
The above sentences are quoted from Sayyid Qutb’s book, which, despite becoming a bit lengthy, we mentioned due to the importance they had for clarifying this and the other discussions. The fact is that the doctrinal, intellectual and political fundamentals of the present Islamic movement will not be known within the Sunni territory, unless this book is well studied and understood. It is interesting that, even the revolutionary thinkers that did not share his ideas are also somehow affected by this book. They began where he began and more or less with the same method. Their difference is rather in the different sources and accepting the priority of the sources not any other factor.
The basic cause of this current is not, for example, the vastness of Qutb or the untainted grandeur of his thought. Undoubtedly, he is a creative and pure thinker. The problem is that, the welcome given to him, more than being due to his personality and thought, is due to the fact that so far no one has been able to set forth Islamic political and
revolutionary thoughts from any other point without denying the sanctity of the early period, i.e. the period of the Senior Caliphs—while he strongly criticizes Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad as well as the subsequent periods and, in certain cases, even ‘Uthman. He embarked on a way that the others have to take, unless another way is opened.(1)
Since the book was published, there have been many people who opposed and criticized it on various religious or non-religious grounds. However, despite all these, the book is still the most reliable and inspiring part of the Islamic sources for Muslim youth who were led by the rapid and deep developments of the recent decades towards revolutionary and armed activities and tendencies while also seeking the answer within Islam. The vast welcome that Qutb received from the youth, especially this book of his, was due to the lack of revolutionary Islamic thoughts in the Sunni society and basically in the Sunni history. The need to such thoughts is a serious real need that requires an answer while no one but him has a word to say on this. It is natural that others are rushing towards him.
Apart from this, how Qutb or any other committed believer thinker could create a crack in this lofty damn and demand an answer from the collection of principles or even its constituents directly or indirectly and in conflict with the appropriate necessary response. If this damn is still to be maintained as it was and is not to be
collapsed by historical critique, then what way there will be other than the one resorted to by Qutb or similar ways in order to provide an answer?
Muslim critics in general have criticized him for his considering the Muslim society as an ignorant one and also as a battlefield. However, they have not been taking into account under what intellectual or doctrinal pressure arising from the real needs of today’s generation he has done so. The principle, according to him and his fellow thinkers and followers, was to find an answer, and it is still so. Therefore, what other way could he take to achieve his intended purpose? His desired purpose was “to write an instruction for the pioneers of the Islamic movement to tell them how to begin taking an action and how to rise to fight the ignorance that is deeply-rooted throughout the entire territory; pioneers who are in need of the signs of the way—Ma‘alim at-Tariq—signs with whose help they can find out about their mission, duty and goal as well as the beginning point of this long journey… and to find out where to approach the people and where to get away from them; to know the characteristics of the ignorance and to know how to talk to the ignorant people of the time in the language of Islam and on what issues to address them…”(1)
In an impartial estimate, one has to say that, considering the doctrinal limitations, pressures and necessities under which he lived and thought,
Qutb was successful as a whole. His critics either failed to take into account his theological limitations and obligations or ignored the pressures or necessities that he faced.
Here we do not mean to study and evaluate Qutb’s theories. Rather, we want to describe how Sunni jurisprudence and theology and the subsequent intellectual and doctrinal structure react to the severe sociopolitical and cultural currents and with what considerations. As Sayyid Qutb was a living example of such a committed and religious while at the same time revolutionary attitude, we studied some of his views and which point he began his revolutionary Islamic thought and why he chose this point. For him to prove the religious necessity and obligation to deny the ruling system of his society, he had to begin from this point and to organize his ideology by relying on that.(1)
We study the second consequence, which has similarities to and common points with the first consequence independently since the quality of its affects on the history and the present circumstances is different from the consequences of the first.
A natural and logical result of accepting the religious credibility and the divine stature of the early period, despite all its numerous internal contradictions, was blaming historical and religious critiques, i.e. accepting, without any research or investigation, that the Muslims of this period were all outstanding and good and each performed their duty and are, therefore, rewarded by paradise and we are not in a position to question what they did. A direct
result of such a belief was a form of spiritual, psychological and theological conservatism against the Prophet’s (S) Companions.
However, when such a spirit was created, it was not limited to the Companions and their time and, rather, covered the entire history of Islam while this was in contradiction with the spirit of research and study of the religious qualifications of individuals and whether they were right or wrong or whether they publicized the truth or falsehood. We called this historical critique.
A Shi‘ite would not be subject to such a dilemma because he had a critical approach towards early Islam and had the same attitude towards the entire history of Islam while criticizing the early Muslims as strongly and baldly as he criticized those deviating from the path of Islam. Therefore, it would not be difficult for him to criticize, for example, Yazid, Marwan, ‘Abdu’l-Malik, Hisham, Mansur, Harun, Mutawakkil or Hajjaj or Ibn Ziyad or even the bad jurisprudents or reporters of sayings or scholars because of what they did.
The interesting point is that the issue goes far beyond this to them because, in their view, the criterion is truth and falsehood and, therefore, they can evaluate the Shi‘ites themselves with the same criterion. The problem is not that people in power such as Yazid, Mansur or Mutawakkil are criticized. More important than that is that a person such as Shah ‘Abbas is criticized. Not only he, but all the Shi‘ites kings, whether Deylami, Saffavid, Afsharid, Zandi or Qajarid
As it has already been mentioned, in such cases, the only critical factor is not the perception of these two schools towards early Islam, yet it is one of the most important and effective factors with them. It is impossible for a Sunni to criticize, with a religious purpose, a king equal to Shah ‘Abbas among Sunnis. This is the point. Today, the society is open and anyone can say a word and give an opinion. A writer or even a university student can question all the sacred aspects of the religion. However, no religious or committed person, despite the open atmosphere, can go beyond the religious limits and rules in which he believes and to doubt the religious grounds provided from them. Nevertheless, the point is that no committed believer Sunni can explicitly criticize a character equal to or even lower in rank than Shah ‘Abbas. It would be an opposition to their jurisprudential and theological fundamentals and the consensus they have reached.(1)
What was said has many effects and consequences. The problem is not just its jurisprudential and theological outcome. Its historical, social, cultural and political consequences, especially in the contemporary time, are far more important and critical. The concept of history is different with us and them, be it religious, national or tribal or clan-based. History in its nature, and here we mean the history of Islam, is of special value and importance to them that cannot and must not be ignored. However, it is basically not
so among Shi‘ites. According to a Sunni, quite contrary to a Shi‘ite, the history of Islam, if not a sacred one, cannot be criticized either. Although Sunnis in general tend to consider their past sacred, humane and glorious, if there is a group that does not think so, at least it does not criticize it from a religious stance and does not consider it to be the story of oppressions, violations, and whims and irreligious acts of the caliphs, sultans and rulers.(1)
Nevertheless, according to them and from the humane point of view, if it is not worthy of respect and pride, it cannot be condemned either. In the same manner, their historical understanding is far stronger than that of ours. Those who condemn the history in advance cannot give any value to it. Since they follow their religious taste not to see the negative points of history, they consider it as a set of glorious and prideful events and acts. This history is the history of their religion; the history of their glorious deeds and prideful acts. It is the history of their conquests and jihads, the history of their valor and manly acts, of their scholars and scientists, poets and artists, glorious culture and civilization and, finally, the history of their magnificent powerful caliphs and sultans and even the history and mythology of the One Thousand and One Night, of those who symbolized the power, glory and stature of Islam and Muslims.(2)
However, because of the psychological drive in
them, consider it negative rather than positive points and, naturally, they not only do not like it, but escape from it as well. This is true even about their own history, i.e. the history of the Shi‘ite sultans and dynasties. In their opinion, this history is one of oppressions, murders and bloodsheds; it is the history of tyranny and despotism, irreligiousness and disbelief, hypocrisy and flattery and, finally, that of the unknown victims who were crushed by the beasts and buried at the foot of the high palaces of the powerful and the rich. One views the history through its glory while the other through its justice and religiousness and we can at least say that one has chosen such a rule, rightly or wrongly, in his subconscious and tries to exaggerate in what he is sensitive to and to show the past the way he likes to.(1)
We can see how different these two images are. It is not to say which one is real or closer to reality or both are equally far from reality. It is to say that the two ways of viewing renders two different sets of results, the most important being that there is more continuation and establishment in the Sunni history than in the Shi‘ite one—i.e. the history of independent Shi‘ite dynasties and powers. The former never deny the past while the latter generally do so. The former consider the present as the continuation of the past while the latter consider the present to
be the denial of the past. Even in the severest forms of Islamic revolutionary movements, one cannot find a movement the basis of whose work is the absolute denial of the past. It is difficult to find an example here whose goals do not include denial of the past.(1)
A comprehensive expression of the results of these two attitudes requires being provided separately. This relates to such important issues as the Islamic identity and nationality, cultural identity and independence, historical backing and heritage, independent identity and social developments, all of which are among the most urgent and basic problems of the day affecting the Muslims. In order to find answers to these questions, one has to study the issue carefully and analytically.
Indeed, some changes have occurred in Shi‘ism as in Sunnism. Although many Sunnis even in the modern times look at their past in the same manner, the number of those who deal with it critically is not small. The pressure of the necessities of modern life and the expansion of rationalism and criticism has been more powerful and critical than such beliefs.
The fact that such an attitude has not been changed effectively by such necessities is due to other obligations that are the products of modern times. In an age when everyone had to define and determine their own historical heritage and cultural identity, the Muslims and especially the Arabs had to make themselves known. They had to rely on it so as to avoid the constant humiliation of the
Naturally, under such pressure and painful conditions, not only they had to insist on the prideful elements of their civilization and culture and deny the manifestations of its weakness, the more important thing was that they basically did not see anything other than its weak points. The point was not for them to deny the weak points. Basically, such points would not attract their attention. If there was not such a point, the attitude and way of thought inherited from the old times would be totally eliminated or at least would be less important than it is now and the Arab World would live in intellectual and cultural conditions far different from what it now has.(1)
It would be appropriate now to quote from Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm by ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, where he criticizes the past, including the early Islamic period and that of the following caliphs. Although, from this point of view, he is not in a position similar to that of Sayyid Qutb, he is one of the most important and deepest pioneers of enlightened thinking in this respect and one of the most effective and influential figures in this respect although, for certain reasons, his reputation does not equal his intellectual influence.
There are sociopolitical reasons for this. The ruling politics of Egypt during Nasir and before that and the politics ruling the entire Arab World at that time and even for the time being was emphasizing Arab nationalism and propagating and sanctifying it. The Nasiris and Arab leftists
welcomed ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq since he fought part of the old traditions, especially the ones that were reactionary in their view. However, they did not like his criticisms of the past history and heritage. Their goal was to make this past seem as beautiful, glorious and humane as possible. Therefore, they opposed him and his fellow thinkers.(1)
Socially, during his life ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq did not have much chance of influence and progress. Because of his books, the religious groups, who constituted the majority, had a feeling of rancor about him. Even the religious and revolutionary youth of the following periods, who had thoughts and beliefs strongly opposite to those of the religious people of the time of the writing of the book, disliked him, because he believed that religion and politics are separate and should be separate. Otherwise, it would be politics that would put religion at its service rather than vice versa. Therefore, the two must be separate. Such a theory was contrary to the beliefs and ideals of the young people as to the realities and needs of their time.(2)
Because of these reasons, he could not find a social and intellectual position that would suit him. However, it is not important how influential he was and why he was that influential. The important thing is that he set forth theories that, both because of their truth and their harmony and agreement with the modern requirements were more likely to be influential in a way that would without doubt be more extensive and
critical in the future. However, less the Arab fanaticism becomes for glorifying the past, his historical attitude and that of his fellow thinkers would be welcomed more.
What was said about ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq is just intended for clarifying the position of his attitude and his historical views. The purpose is to reflect on his words in order to clarify the thought of historical critique among Sunnis where it relates to their ideological foundations.
“Undoubtedly, one has to say that the basis of caliphate has always consisted of violence and domination. History does not remember any caliph, unless his name is accompanied by horrible armed forces surrounding him, a violent force that supports him and drawn swords that guard him. It would not be an exaggeration to say that any single ring of caliphate has a sign of violence and domination. Yes, what is known as caliphate stands but on human heads and is established only on necks. What is known as the crown is not alive other than by taking lives and is not powerful other than with the power it takes away from the others. It does not have any glory other than the one given to it by the others, like the night which will make the day shorter if it is made longer and its glory is from the sparkling of the swords and the fire of the fights.”(1)
“The zeal to protect the property made the king support his throne against anything that was likely to shake it or disgrace
it or reduce its sanctity. Therefore, it was natural for the king to be violent and to evilly shed blood while getting control over one who tried to disobey him. Therefore, it was natural that he would be the sworn enemy of any discussion, even the scientific one; discussions that, in his view, might damage the columns of his throne or expose it to a risk although it might be a risk far away. It is from this point that the sultanate puts pressure on the freedom of science and the centers of education…”(1)
“The tangible fact that is approved by reason as well as by history, whether in the past or in the present history, is that the maintenance of religious appearance and acts does not just depend on the type of government that is called caliphate neither by jurisprudents nor to those whom the people call the caliphs. The fact is that the global expediency of the Muslims does not depend on it either… Rather, one has to say that caliphate has always been and still is a disgrace for Islam and Muslims. It has been the source of any evil and corruption…”(2)
“Islam, as you know it, was a high invitation that God made for the happiness and salvation of the people of this world, including easterners and westerners, Arabs and non-Arabs, men and women, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant. It is a single religion that God intended on communicating to man and to
cover the other parts as well. Islam was not an Arabic call or an Arabic unity or an Arabic religion. Islam did not give superiority to one nation over another, to one language over another, to one land over another, to one time over another or to one generation over another, unless according to piety.”(1)
“If you look carefully at the backgrounds resulting in the allegiance with Abu Bakr and his caliphate, you will find out that it was a political allegiance, had all the characteristics of the government in contemporary times and was obtained by relying on power and the sword.”(2)
“Perhaps some of those whom Abu Bakr fought did not want to give up religion and become infidels on the ground of not paying the zakat. The problem was that they had not accepted Abu Bakr like some of the senior Muslims and it was natural that they would not pay zakat to him since they did not recognize him so as to obey him. Whenever one carefully examines all that the history recounts about the rebels against Abu Bakr, whom were called the apostates, and contemplates their fights, which were known as the Rejection War, one feels how much of history is dark and oppressive. However, there is always a ray of the light of truth in the dark of history, which will one day catch the attention of the scholars. May they find the truth through that way.”(3)
“From early Islamic times, there was an assumption among Muslims that
the caliphate is a religious position and regency on behalf of the Prophet. This was to the benefit of the kings, who propagated this mistake so as to obtain shields for the protection of their thrones, to be supported against the rebels. They still do so in different ways—there are so many such ways if the seeker pays due attention to them—so as to make the people believe that obeying the caliphs is obeying God and rebelling against them is rebelling against God.”
“However, the subsequent caliphs were not satisfied with this and were not satisfied with what Abu Bakr was satisfied with and did not show anger on what made him angry, and called the sultan God’s caliph on the earth… Then, other religious discussions were added to caliphate and were made part of the belief in unity. A Muslim would learn that besides the attributes of God and his Prophet and these were induced to him as the Two Testimonies were induced to him. This was the crime of the kings and their oppression against the Muslims. They misled and blinded them. They hid the new ways by resorting to the religion and they cheated them and limited their wisdom in the name of the religion… They even limited their religious understanding, closed their eyes and deprived them from the other doors of science that somehow related to caliphate…”(1)
“Was there a reason other than the love of caliphate and the eruption of power that made Yazid shed the
clean blood of Husayn, the son of the Prophet’s daughter? Was there a reason other than this which gave Yazid domination over the first capital of the first caliphate, the city of the Prophet, which he disgraced? Was there a reason other than this that made ‘Abdu’l-Malik disgrace God’s house? Was there a reason other than this that made Abu’l-‘Abbas thirst for and shed blood? Thus, the ‘Abbasids were made subject to murder and some of them rebelled against the other…”(1)
Such an attitude and analysis cannot be found in the past as part of the causes, some of which were mentioned. This is the result of the developments and the necessities of the recent century and, as you see, has been made very similar to the historical perception and the method of analysis of Shi‘ites. This is a current that will go forward despite the many impediments on its way.(2)
Here, part of the first discussion is ended, which is why the Shi‘ite and the Sunni perceptions of early Islamic history are different and how such a difference was created and what were its origins and what were the results and consequents in the entire religious thought and mentality of the two and how it affected the intellectual, psychological and doctrinal structures of these two. This was the first foundation in the development of the political thought of these two. Now let’s examine the second principle, i.e. how the two look at the ruler in the sense of the ruler proper.
the time being, I set aside the Shi‘ite view in this respect because the readers are sufficiently familiar with it. We have to see what the Sunni view is about the ruler and what it has been affected by and what effects and consequences it had in practice.
The fact is that, despite some consensus in principle among Sunnis throughout the history in this respect, the issue is not clear in all its aspects. The reason for this is also clear because this is a religious problem which, at the same time, had much friction with the political rule while those in power constantly required the religion and put pressure on it so as for the latter to recognize it, that is to say, the religion had to take a form that could respond to their wishes and desires. Perhaps no other part of religion has been so much under different types of pressure in all aspects and was never exploited so much.
Consequently, the references concerning this subject are also abundant as well as various and rather scattered and contradictory. The book Kanz al-A‘mal, which is in fact a big classified encyclopedia of Sunni tradition sayings, quotes about 400 sayings only in Kitab al-‘Imarah, which directly deals with this issue. This is a small part of the sayings available in this respect because the great part of the sayings that can be used deal with it indirectly and are not mentioned in this book.(1)
Without consideration to the study of the series
of documents and the men of the sayings, indeed according to the Sunni rather than the Shi‘ite criteria, and by considering the subject in question and the variety and contradiction between them, it can easily be discovered that they have been subject to active forgery. Although there have been few scholars and sayings scholars who let themselves criticize these texts, this seems evident at first sight while, considering the involvement of politics; one has to say that this is also natural.
The fact that hardly anyone has dared to make such criticism is important in itself because the various issues concerning this subject have been so much subject to consensus and agreement throughout history and especially after the final defeat of the Mu‘tazilites and the taking of power by the Ash‘arites that there has principally been no question regarding the truth or falsehood of the primary references. The issue was not anymore the question whether the texts were valid according to the existing principles of statesmanship or wisdom. The issue was that any attempt to reach a different interpretation or expression was condemned in advance since it would break up the consensus of the jurisprudents, theologians and sayings scholars.
There was another problem in the meanwhile, which was the fear of accusations, especially by scholars who were directly or indirectly supported and approved by the rulers because any investigation in this respect would result in the decline of the ruler’s position and acceptability. What practically existed was the final limit of the
theory that was likely to be set forth on the position of the ruler per se and in order to consolidate his position. Thus, any new attempt could not further reinforce their position and would probably help weaken them. When the thought was accepted as a principle that merely resorting to violent means and force would legalize the position of one who resorted to them by using the force of the sword and by shedding blood, therefore obeying him would be legal and any rising against him would be prohibited religiously, then here would remain no room for further strengthening to be achieved by further adjustment and collection and interpretation of the texts. Because of this, neither the ruling body would like such discussions and investigations nor their accompanying scholars. These two and other factors kept this discussion unpurified and un-criticized.
An important person who, in the middle of the third decade of the present century and simultaneously with the final fall of the Ottoman caliphate, interpreted and analyzed this problem otherwise was ‘Ali ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, the author of the book Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, which at that time aroused a turmoil throughout the Muslim World, especially in the Arab World. He indirectly dealt with the discussion of caliphate and its historical and religious position and the subject of its religious necessity. In those days, with the fall of the Ottoman caliphate, this attracted a great deal of attention. He discussed imamate and the government by providing rejecting arguments.
The turmoil that was
created by the book showed how far Sunni beliefs in such cases are un-criticizable and un-arguable. The fact is that such rows, more than—in the words of ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq’s opponents—showing the antireligious or anti-Islamic tendencies of the author or, for example, his infidelity or apostasy, show the Sunni hypersensitivity to discussions that he had criticized and analyzed. Otherwise, there were many writers at that time who doubted even the principal issues of Islam while none of them met with such severe and full-fledged reactions. It went so far that it was said, “Since the printing industry entered our countries, no book has been printed that aroused so much turmoil and evil as that aroused by ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq’s.”(1)
Prior to entering this discussion, there is a point to be noted. It is that, according to Sunnis, the government means an Islamic and religious government. Its attributes are one thing and the ruler and his qualifications are another thing. These two are two separate categories despite their internal relation and have been formed under the effect of two different series of factors.
Their view of the government is affected by the Qur’an, the Prophet’s (S) tradition and probably the heritage of the Companions. However, their view of the ruler is mainly or rather entirely affected by the historical and political situation and conditions in the first days and their later periods to early ‘Abbasid period. In clearer words, their understanding of the government is affected by the theoretical fundamentals of Islam and their understanding of the
ruler per se is affected by historical realities. It might be appropriate to say that they are idealistic concerning the government while realistic about the ruler. In their view, there is no relationship between the two—quite the opposite to that of Shi‘ites—and they are of two different categories and have to be looked at differently.(1)
Now we have to see why it was so. Islam is a vast inclusive religion. It is a religion as well as a government, worship, law and politics. These characteristics are based on the essence of Islam as a religion. A Muslim, like a believer in any other religion, has to believe in Islam in its entirety. Because of this, the non-worshipping parts cannot be ignored. A Muslim cannot be a Muslim while forgetting these parts. If he does not wish to or cannot practice them, he cannot believe in them and be committed to them because this is contradictory to the truth of his beliefs.
However, this is one side of the issue. These are theoretical considerations that will be otherwise in practice, as they were. It is true that Islam is a religion as well as a government and it is the application of the Qur’an as well as the tradition. However, one has to see which ruler is to have control of the government and what the Qur’an and the tradition say in this respect and whether what these two say is the same as what was realized or perhaps the issue was realized
otherwise, and also what the change was, why it occurred and what was its end result.
This is one of the most sensitive points where the Shi‘ite understanding and the Sunni understanding of Islam, politics, imamate and government differ strongly. The understanding by the two of the religious and worldly attributes of Islam is not different. Both believe that the worldly laws of Islam constitute part of Islam and that one has to believe in and be committed to them. Both equally believe in the necessity of Islamic government, indeed according to the relevant conditions, and they do not think much differently on the details. Their basic difference is in their view of the ruler rather than the government. According to Sunnis, the ruler is a category that is practically separate from the theory of government and all that relates to it. In the Shi‘ite view, these two are absolutely interdependent and correlated.(1)
In order to clarify this point, we have to take a look at the view of the two about imamate and guardianship. There, the question is not who is the Prophet’s (S) imam and guardian. The problem does not begin there. According to Shi‘ism, the problem is not basically that of the imam or guardian. The problem is the imamate and guardianship. The problem is not the person, it is the position. The problem is what position the imamate and guardianship have and, according to them, who can be the imam or guardian. In their view, the imam and
caliph is one who has the qualifications for such a position. First the position is defined and delimited and then the qualified person is specified.(1)
This requires further explanation although this may lead us astray from the main discussion. However, there is no way but to further talk about it in order to clarify that which is of the utmost importance for a better understanding of this discussion.
What Shi‘ites say concerning the Prophet’s (S) guardianship and caliphate is not that the Prophet (S) appointed ‘Ali (‘a) as his successor and repeatedly emphasized it. More important than that is that basically their understanding of the issue is of special depth and extensiveness and has special attributes. In other words, the talk is not about the person and who should succeed the Prophet (S). Rather, it is mainly what the concept of the Prophet’s (S) succession is and what dimensions and attributes it has. Also, according to all of the dimensions and attributes, who can and must be appointed to this position.
The fact is that Shi‘ites, because of numerous logical and historical reasons, attach special importance to the caliphate and guardianship after the Prophet (S) and believe that it is far more important, more sensitive and more critical than political leadership in its common sense. As the leader of the Muslims, the Prophet (S) was not an ordinary leader who just had power. As a result, his successor in the position of leadership cannot be an ordinary person who just had the responsibility
of politically leading the people. This is, in the first place, due to the unique characteristics of Islam.
As we said, Islam is a religion which is both a religion and a government; faith as well as politics and government. The two are connected to, dependent on and integral to each other. The Prophet’s (S) way of leadership in Medina is the best example for this. As the political leader of the society in Medina, the Prophet (S) sought to lead the society according to the teachings and orders of the Qur’an. The issue was administering the society according to the precepts of Islam rather than merely administering the people. The principle was to run the people’s affairs justly and to make the laws of Islam rule over all individual and social aspects of the people’s life. This is possible if the leader of the society has moral and spiritual merits accompanied by science and insight in religious affairs. The Prophet (S) was the best and the most perfect application of such characteristics.
The problem is who can and must succeed such leadership, who can both administer the society and seek to realize the Islamic orders in all individual and collective aspects of the people’s lives. In clearer terms, he has to have the power to administer the society within the principles and laws of Islam and without violating the same. If someone is only in charge of the political affairs of the society, does this mean that he has even the
If we accept that the Prophet (S) was worthier than a political leader in leading the people, his successor has to have qualifications and a position higher than that of a political leader. If we accept that the administration of the society according to the laws of Islam and of the Qur’an is a duty, then in all times and not just in the time of the Prophet (S), the Prophet’s (S) successor has to have the scholastic power and religious insight for carrying out such a duty. Finally, if we accept that the leader of the Islamic society that seeks to realize the orders and ideals of Islam has to have certain characteristics of spirituality and piety and be a manifestation of virtues that he seeks to realize, then certainly this principle is truer about the one who must take power after the Prophet (S).
Therefore, caliphate and guardianship of the Prophet or, in other words, the principle of imamate is of special importance to Shi‘ites. More than being about the successor and who he should be, the problem is about the subject, dimensions and concept of succession and whether one can or has to be in such a position.
It is true that the Shi‘ite belief about Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) immediate caliphate is, in the first place, due to the explicit and repeated orders and emphases of the Prophet (S) regarding his succession, it should also be added that, since ‘Ali (‘a) has to be the immediate caliph after
the Prophet (S) because he, more than anyone else has the qualifications and characteristics that are required for such a position. According to Shi‘ites, the reason why the Prophet (S) appointed ‘Ali (‘a) as his successor was his unique characteristics, that made him worthier than anyone else for that position. Such merits and qualifications made him worthy of the position. The Prophet’s selection and recommendations were a practical approval of this fact.
In brief, according to Shi‘ism, imamate and caliphate, before being about an individual, is about the position. First the position is defined and delimited and then the person to be in the position. An imam is one who has the qualifications needed for being in the position of imamate. It is not that there is a merit to imamate or caliphate, whose meaning is perceived in the light of the characteristics that the imams or caliphs had.(1)
However, according to Sunnism, it is the other way round. First, the person is determined and the position is defined according to his characteristics. First, the guardian and caliph are determined and then guardianship and caliphate are defined. Their view of the ruler is affected by this principle. They recognize what occurred and then define and delimit the conditions, characteristics and powers of the ruler.
According to what was said, it can briefly be said that, “The Shi‘ite and Sunni views of the government and politics and, in general, the non-worship laws of Islam, since they return to the same sources, are more or
less similar. If there are differences, they are in details rather than in the principles, and it relates to their criteria in criticizing and studying the tradition since the two have different criteria in verifying the validity of sayings attributed to the Prophet. However, the views of the two concerning the ruler and his characteristics are very different. The Sunni view in this regard is recognizing the rulers that had the power in the previous centuries. Such recognition, through time, shaped and improved their jurisprudential and theological foundations in this respect. However, Shi‘ites view the problem essentially different. Their view of the ruler arises from their view of the principle of ruling as it was in the hands of the Prophet (S) and then was or had to be transferred to his successors. According to them, this ruling is one of the characteristics of prophethood and the Prophet’s mission. Since imamate and guardianship are somehow the continuation of prophethood and are in a position equal to that, the same type of ruling is applied. This continuation does not contradict the end of prophethood in Islam, which is a principle of Islam. It is exactly from this point that their thought about the ruler and his conditions, characteristics and powers is shaped and developed. From such an angle, what occurred in the early centuries lacked legality and, naturally, cannot be a criterion for discovering the rules and conditions that are to be taken into account in determining the ruler’s qualifications.
be appropriate to mention the Rebels here. Contrary to Sunnis and because of psychological, tribal and social reasons, they denied the status quo and then organized their view about the ruler and his qualifications based on such denial. The denial of the status quo by Shi‘ites had ideological reasons while the ideology of the Rebels was born out of the status quo.
Nevertheless, the discussion was that the view of Sunnis concerning the ruler was not that relevant to their view of the government. Their thought about the government and that the society has to be run according to the precepts and laws of Islam was affected by the Qur’an and the tradition while it was affected by historical facts regarding the ruler and his characteristics.
The beginning of this dualistic attitude towards this problem goes back to before the Prophet’s (S) death, after which, nobody doubted that the religious precepts had to govern the society. It was known and agreed on according to which laws and rules the society had to be run. However, concerning the ruler that had to be selected as caliph, the issue was not so clear. What was important and practically existed was that the society had to be run and an individual had to be selected to that position. When Abu Bakr was selected as caliph, he received general allegiance not because he had a certain characteristic or qualification that they had defined for the ruler. According to them, the issue was far more practical and
urgent or rather regular than such reflections or controversies. A number swore allegiance to him and the others followed them without delay.
Abu Bakr’s caliphate and rule was accepted as a reality. If the people had pledged allegiance to someone else, his caliphate and rule would have been accepted as a reality. What established the caliphate for the first caliph was that a number pledged allegiance and the others said that they would follow the former. It is interesting that, in response to the repeated calls by Fatimah Zahra (‘a), who asked them not to forget the Prophet’s (S) recommendations and to administer the truth through the right path, they said, “You should have taken action sooner. We have pledged our allegiance, the issue is settled. If you had come to us earlier, we might have pledged allegiance to you.”(1)
Now let’s see what the final result was. The Prophet (S) has a position of his own as the ruler and sovereign. The position as the religious legislator, the policy-maker and the political leader was accepted by all, and this was a religious acceptance. After the Prophet, the power was put in the hands of Abu Bakr. The people of that time did not attach any religious respect to him either before or after his caliphate. In their opinion, he was a person like the other Immigrants and Helpers. However, the important point is that, allegiance to him prepared the ground for a thought that was later established as a principle of
Sunni thought concerning the ruler and his qualifications. This requires further explanation.
The first people who pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr were very small in number. It was mainly their allegiance that stimulated the others to swear allegiance, i.e. the others said, “We will swear allegiance because they did, and this means accepting the reality.”, which means recognizing him since recognizing him was a reality.
Although the story was not so tangible concerning the second and the third caliphs, the truth of the matter about them was like this as well. Abu Bakr appointed ‘Umar, i.e. recognized his caliphate and succession, and the others followed him. ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, on behalf of the six-man council, recognized ‘Uthman, and the people accepted this. However, the story of ‘Ali’s (‘a) selection as caliph was different. It was the large masses of the people who swore allegiance to him with much insistence.
What is important in the meanwhile is that the seed of obeying the ruler because his rule is a reality was planted at the time of the Senior Caliphs. Although this seed sprouted later when the Umayyad took power, taking a meaning and dimensions far different than what it practically meant at the time of the Senior Caliphs. At this time, the religious and sacred aspects of this part of the history was extended and received wide acceptance and the more or less unanimously achieved religious acceptance of it largely contributed to this.
As we said, the final improvement of this way of thought occurred
during the Umayyad period and the person of Mu‘awiyah had an essential share in this. After his power was established, he tried hard to make caliphate hereditary in his clan. This was unprecedented until that time. Despite some important opposition, he was the final victor and the caliphate became hereditary. From then on, transfer of power followed a mechanism that was beyond or rather independent of the will of the Muslims. The question was not what the people want and say or what the religious rules relating to the ruler were according to by which to appoint the caliph. This was the fact and it was very difficult and to some people of that time impossible to change it. They considered it very difficult and were not willing to do it because it required doing things they did not like and were not willing to do as it required a great deal of distress and devotion.(1)
Thus, the reality won over beliefs, ideals and rules because the principle was accepting the reality although the reality that was later recognized was totally different from the one that had been initially accepted and the mechanism of appointing the caliph and the general qualifications for it and the limits of his powers were totally different from what existed at the time of the Senior Caliphs. As a result, the ruler was acceptable and had to be obeyed solely on the grounds that he had the power, even if he did not have the least
qualifications or he took power by force and violence or oppression and violated the limits of the shari‘ah and became corrupt.(1)
As an example, the well-known jurisprudent and judge, Ibn Jama‘ah says, “The third way through which compulsory allegiance is made is the force of a powerful person. Then, if a time is void of a qualified imam to take the position and a powerful person establishes his control over the people by using force and military force and without the people’s allegiance or without being the successor to one to whom the people had pledged allegiance, he has to be obeyed… so that the Muslims’ affairs are put in order and unified and ignorance and corruption will not impede this flow.” He then adds, “If someone becomes the imam by means of force and then another person rises up and defeats the previous person, the previous person will be deposed and the new person will be the imam, which is according to what we said about the expedience of the Muslims and the need to maintain unity among them. It was because of this that Ibn ‘Umar said on the episode of Harrah, ‘We are with the one who wins.’”(2)
Naturally, the ruling system was not indifferent in the meanwhile and it would not be logical for it to be so. Such a way of thinking was satisfactory and even ideal for it and it tried to support it by the Qur’an, sayings and stories, jurisprudence, history, theology and philosophy, and
it did so. Since it was in harmony with the spirit of the people and their historical and cultural background and the sociopolitical developments of their time, it was widely accepted. As further dealing with this and also how forgery and distortion were involved in the meantime would make us deviate from the main discussion, we give it up and suffice to make two points.(1)
Now we have to see what the problem was of those in power in those days. They wanted to make the people obey the ruler merely on the account that his power and rule were a reality. The Umayyad practically did not want anything more than this. As we have already mentioned, they were not so willing to be given a religious stature. They neither required it nor liked it. Even if they made use of religious motivations, it was to reinforce their worldly power not to consolidate their religious position as the caliph of the Muslims—quite contrary to the ‘Abbasid caliphs, who were willing to define themselves a religious position and stature, in whose light to consolidate their worldly power.(2)
What factor could be put at the service of such a goal and to make the people obey them unconditionally? Considering the psychological, cultural and historical backgrounds, the best means was to resort to fatalism. The pre-Islamic Arabs had an unalterable belief in fate. They believed that the human life and fate are beyond his will and control and that the ups and downs of life
are due to predetermined causes, in which human beings have no role.
As was common among the Bedouins, this thought was perfectly accepted among the people of Mecca and the Quraysh. Basically, their idolatry can be comprehended and analyzed in such a relationship. Therefore, they believed in various deities and they made sacrifices to them while believing that they had a role in their lives. Any event that occurred from their birth time to their death, be it the birth of a boy or girl, drought, trade and profit, victory or defeat in war, disabling diseases or poverty, they considered to be the direct result of the same deity while they did not define any role for human decision in this regard.(1)
Principally, dualism, polytheism and belief in various deities and idols are contradictory to the belief in human freedom and responsibility. Human freedom would not make sense in a world in which the fates of any part of it is controlled by an independent metaphysical force. Man can be said to be free if he is the architect of his own fate, at least to a certain extent. Otherwise, if the fates and events of one’s life are controlled by independent deities, it will not make sense to talk about freedom.
Nevertheless, fatalism and determinism were the prevailing thought in the pre-Islamic Arabian society, which was strongly criticized by the Qur’an as it resulted in internal human deterioration. The criticisms followed several goals. Firstly, they sought to eliminate this unrealistic untrue thought,
which was a foolish delusion of the pre-Islamic Arabs thinking of the world as having several deities. Secondly, they thought to revive the human conscience and the personal sense of responsibility in individuals who did not think of themselves as having any will. On the same basis, they would submit to any mean or evil act and, as opposed to their internal pressures, they approached the fictitious gods to attain salvation rather than by reforming their selves.
When one’s happiness or misery is not controlled by his own actions and are referred only to the will of the gods and goddesses, naturally no one will try to reform himself in order to achieve happiness and everyone will resort to the same idols or, in their own words, interceders. Finally, the criticisms sought to collapse the doctrinal and intellectual foundations of the superiority of the chosen nobility which was ruthless, materialistic and evil. In the ignorant pre-Islamic society of those days, what consolidated the ruling nobility was not the power of the sword. It was, rather, the deterministic superstitions.
The society of Arabia then was too tribal and dispersed to be made obedient by the force of the sword. The stature and position of the corrupt ruthless powerful people of that time arose from the people’s ignorance and dogmatism rather than their weakness or inability. It was exactly because of this that they were the most revengeful enemies of the Prophet (S) to the last moment and would not bow to
the Prophet. When they converted to Islam because of fear or greed, they constantly sought to take revenge and, finally, they did so under the protection of the Umayyad.
The fact is that perceiving and accepting monotheism, in the sense that it is understood in divine religions, especially Islam, although it is an inherent and conscientious ability, requires a minimum of intellectual and rational growth. One who is incapable of this cannot simply accept and comprehend that everything is controlled by God and that, what man considers to be the effective factors, are all the material and non-material means and tools of this great world, which were entirely created by God and obey Him. It is to be said that the ignorant pre-Islamic Arabs lacked such intellectual and rational abilities. Their biological, social, historical and cultural backgrounds were distant from the developments that would entail such growth.
As we have said, they did not even have a clear understanding of the concept of causality although they were perhaps familiar with it yet were unable to discover the relations between different factors. This was because of the absolute commonality of the superstitions and fortunetelling among them at the most obtuse level. Indeed, any tribe and nation has superstitions of its own but what was common among the pre-Islamic Arabs was more than superstitions. More than being due to factors that would result in seeking and loving superstitions, which was generally due to idiocy, lunacy and not using the rational forces rather than the
suppressed or unsuppressed spiritual and psychological needs. It would be appropriate here to quote part of the precise description of Ahmad Amin on “the intellectual life of the pre-Islamic Arabs”.
“The pre-Islamic Arabs were not able to establish a proper relationship between cause and effect. If somebody was sick and in pain, they would consider it to be incurable. Although they somehow knew there was a relationship between the illness and the drug, the relationship was not clear to them. They just knew that the tribal habit was to use such a drug for such pain. That was the most of their understanding. Therefore, it would not be strange for them to believe that the chief’s blood would cure a dog or that the cause of a human disease is an evil spirit that has entered his body and the spirit has to be rejected in order to cure the person. When they feared that somebody might go mad, they would apply the waste matters and bones of a dead body on him. There are many such examples. None of these things, so long as the tribal chief did them, were questioned or denied because people refuse to do such things if they are really looking for the causes of the diseases while the pre-Islamic Arabs had not yet attained such a level of development.”
“The same inability to have a causative understanding of affairs accounts for the absolute commonality of superstitions and myths among the pre-Islamic Arabs and the reason literary
books are full of such myths and superstitions… This was why they resorted to fortunetelling in order to study the events of the past and of the future.”
“It is true that in any tribe or society, however civilized and developed they might be, there are people who believe in superstitions, but Arab literary books indicate that such beliefs were believed by the people in general rather than by certain individuals, and that fortunetelling and the like have been recognized by all the tribes of that time although, in a couplet of pre-Islamic Arab poetry, an example of astral discussions or a story with high thoughts indicating the causative relations might be found. However, even in these cases, one cannot find deep thought or a clear analysis.”(1)
Amin quotes a story from Sirah by Ibn Hisham, “One of the tribes of Thaqif were terrified by the fall of the stars—i.e. meteors. They went to a person in their tribe who was known as ‘Amru ibn Umayyah, who was from Bani ‘Alaj. He was the most clever and deep-thinking of the Arabs. They told him, ‘O’ ‘Amru, did you not see what happened in the sky because of the fall of the stars?’ He said, ‘I did.’, and then added, ‘If those of the stars fell with whose help the people find the directions on land and in the sea and the seasons of summer and winter are identified by them and the people’s lives depend on them, I swear by God that
it means the end of the world and the destruction of the creatures. If stars other than these fell and the former remained in place, it means a fate that God has determined for the creatures. Which of them fell?’”(1)
The strange thing is that such things are still believed by some Arabs today, indeed by those who have maintained and been brought up according to their old heritage. They still breathe and think in such atmospheres. A while ago, newspapers wrote that the great Mufti of Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Baz has taken a devil out of an Arab and he converted him to Islam .(2)
What is considerable among these is that the most reputable and influential cleric of a country or even of a religious branch, i.e. Wahhabism, which deems that it is the only branch whose Islam is pure and, like the original Islam, is beneficent and away from additions and superstitions and forged items, thinks like this in our time and takes direct action to exorcise the devil and then calls it to Islam and the latter accepts it. More importantly, the newspapers of this country write it without the least doubt, while they so strongly believe in it and in their own beliefs they would not hesitate even to mock and be harsh to others.
Nevertheless, a proper sympathetic understanding of the intellectual and mental characteristics of pre-Islamic Arabs is of key importance in understanding this and many other discussions, we had better quote another part
of Amin’s description, although it would be a bit lengthy.
“An Arab’s attitude towards the world is not general and all-inclusive, like that of a Greek. In their first philosophical attempts, the Greeks looked at the world in a comprehensive and all-inclusive manner. They would ask, ‘How did this world come to existence? In my view, this world is a set of changes and developments. Is there a single stable basis beyond all this change and development? If there is, is it water, air or fire? My feeling is that all the components are interrelated like the components of a single object and that they follow fixed laws. What is the system and how was it formed and from what?
A Greek would ask himself these and similar questions and this would form the basis of his philosophy, all of which was the result of his general outlook. However, an Arab, whether before or after Islam, would not look at the world in this way. He would look around himself and, if something caught his attention, he would run to it and he would be inspired by a great deal of poetry, wisdom and proverbs and would say something in its description.
He did not have a perfect inclusive outlook. He could not analyze its causes and effects. More importantly, when encountering an object, he would not see it in its entirety. For example, when he stood before a tree, he would not see it as a whole. He would pay attention to
some of its components, like the straightness of the stem or the beauty of the branches. The entirety of a garden would not catch his attention and his mind would not take an image of it like a photograph taken by a camera. He was like a honeybee that flies from one flower to another and sucks some juice from any of them. These are the mental and rational characteristics of an Arab, which accounts for the defect as well as the beauty of Arab literature, even during the Islamic period.” (1)
Shahrestani puts this in another way, “There were few Arab philosophers and their philosophy consisted of sudden and self-motivated thoughts… The intellectual activities of Arabs and Indians were similar to each other. Their goal was to know the properties of objects and the dominating feature of their thought was essence and nature. The intellectual activities of Iranians and Romans were similar as well. Their goal was to study the quality of objects and the dominating feature of their thought was acquisition and attempt.”(2) After quoting this, Amin adds that many orientalists such as Shahrestani thought that the Arab outlook on the world was not general and inclusive and principally could not look at this world in that way.
Naturally, fatalism would grow and progress in such an atmosphere. It is not necessary for anyone to contribute to its promotion. In such a background, chiefly no thought other than fatalistic thoughts had a chance to progress. The mentality and the psychological
structure of the people is such that bows to anything that is not supported by reason because there is practically no rational or analytical activity going on. This is because of the final victory of the Ash‘arites, the Traditionists and the supporters of determinism and condemnation of reason. The problem, more than having political causes, had social, psychological, cultural and educational causes. They achieved victory at a time when the political rule had been weakened and dispersed. Their final victory was not acquired with the support of the ruling power, religious domination or propaganda. Ultimately, it was the determinist-thinking and determinist society, rather than the rulers promoting determinism, which defeated the supporters of reason and freedom.
At the same time, however, this does not mean that the pre-Islamic determinism had certain well-defined principles and existed as a philosophical and theological school, like the one we witness in the later centuries. It was public belief and had a wide influence, in a way that the psychological and doctrinal and even sociopolitical structure of the Arabs had been developed under its influence. It has to be added, indeed, that this belief and way of thinking was for a while overshadowed by the suspenseful as well as hopeful sociopolitical conditions of the days when Islam was taking power and its power was extending. However, when the world conquests of Islam were on the fall and the other tribes and nations were included within the new empire, the ground was prepared for its further appearance,
especially since the newly converted Muslims had much experience and well-developed systematized thoughts and beliefs in this respect, all of which coincided with the period of domination of Mu‘awiyah. It is at this point that the story begins seriously, as there was a ground for it.(1)
The situation was quiet and the conquests had ended. There also had been the heavy and difficult-to-accept experience of the time of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali and the clashes between the Muslims. Meanwhile, the Peoples of the Book and the various sects had found an opportunity to find their position in the new system in order to promote their beliefs. More importantly, when Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad took power, the best background was prepared for the reviving of the pre-Islamic Ignorant heritage as the Bedouin and their Ignorant nature was strongly sympathetic with the pre-Islamic period while they also needed it for continuing their domination and the mass of the Arab people in that time liked and even loved it.(2)
As if the ground was prepared, from every respect, for the reviving of the Ignorant heritage, especially for fatalism and determinism. It happened in practice. This conquering thought stepped forward and covered the entire society. This was indeed approved and supported by the ruling system. Even if there had not been the well-thought and systematic support of Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad, this thought would still have opened a place for itself considering the conditions of that period. However, when the support was added, it became dominant in
all aspects. Worse than anything else was that it was under the mask of the religion and the Qur’an, for which forgeries, distortions and new interpretations were applied on Islam and the Qur’an in order to give them an image that would approve the principle of determinism. The problem was not, anymore, whether the thought was approved by the Qur’an. More important than that was that they said Islam and the Qur’an were nothing other than that.(1)
Now we have to see what they wanted and why they propagated this thought so strongly. We have already mentioned that they required the people to be obedient and quiet. They wanted the people to follow them, not to criticize or object to them, not to say ‘Why did you do this? Why did you do that?’, not to say, ‘Why are you oppressive? Why are you violating the religion?’, not to say, ‘Why do you violate God’s limits? Why do you not punish the violators?’, not to say, ‘Why do you plunder the public treasury and spend it for your personal desires? Why do you not stop the recklessness of your governors?’ They wanted to be absolute in what they did and to rule without any impediment. Their Bedouin Ignorant nature, wealth, unlimited facilities and power, limitless lechery, lack of capacity, mean personalities and the tendency to saturate themselves in all ways did not let them think other than about their whims and wishes. Those whose fathers would be more than satisfied by
several camel loads and would envy such a thing were now on top of the greatest empire. Naturally, what they did and expected irrationally was quite expectable.(1)
How could the ruler, be it the caliph, his province governors or governors, rule freely? The religious precepts as well as the people who believed in the precepts would limit him. This could not be countered. The Islamic society was not the pre-Islamic ignorant society without laws or rules. Islam existed and they could not deny it explicitly because this would result in their own denial. They could ignore the laws but could not deny its principle.
The best solution, which would neither result in the denial of Islam nor impede their freedom, power and lechery, would be one that would encourage determinism and say that man is a forced being without a will that does not and cannot have a role in determining his destiny. The events of his life are controlled by God and what happens to the human being are from Him and his will. The same pre-Islamic deterministic thought was encouraged in an Islamic rendering, with the difference being that various deities were replaced by God.(2)
According to this interpretation, what occurs to man is beyond his will and is from the absolute will of God Almighty, be it from the nature or from the ruler or caliph or other people. The important point is this last one, i.e. what is from the ruler is the same as God’s decision which is
realized through the ruler and, therefore, is unchangeable and unobjectionable. Also the very existence of the ruler is a God’s decision and cannot be changed. He exists because God wants him to exist, and he has power because God wants him to have power.(1)
For example, consider these words of Mansur, the second ‘Abbasid caliph, addressed to the people in one of his trips to Mecca, “O’, people! I am God’s sultan on the earth. I rule you with His help, approval and inspiration. I am his treasurer and act based on what He wants and distribute with his permission. God has given me the lock to his treasury. He will open it to you when He so wishes and will lock it when He wishes to lock it. So, go to God and on this day that he will bestow on you what he told in his book and ask for it, about which He said, “Now I completed my religion on you and perfected my blessing on you and chose Islam as your religion.” Ask him to aid me on the right path and inspire me to be kind and good to you and open me to give away to you your portions fairly.”(2)
Another example is what Mu‘awiyah said. The book Aghrad as-Siyasah fi I‘rad ar-Riasah, which is full of such examples, thus quotes him, “We kings are like the time. He whose hand we get will rise and he whom we put below will be inferior.” Then,
the author, as an explanation and approval of Mu‘awiyah’s words, says, “These words indicate his high character and the ultimate point of his nobility while being a king under God’s approval. In fact, kings are God’s substitutes and caliphs and their orders on the people’s property will be effective. One who wants to get to a noble rank has to see it as a duty to obey the king.”(1)
In Nazariyyat al-Imamah, Mahmud Subhi thus explains Mu‘awiyah’s policy, “In order to consolidate the columns of his government he merely use force and material power. He also made use of the religious beliefs. He told the people that there had been a difference between him and ‘Ali as to caliphate. Therefore, they left it to God to decide and God chose him before ‘Ali and selected him as caliph. In the same manner, when he wanted to make the people of Hijaz pledge alleiance to his son, Yazid, he told them that his selection as caliph is a predetermined decision of God and the people have no choice in it. It was thus nearly settled in the Muslims’ minds that whatever the caliph wants and orders, even if it contradicts God’s orders, is a predetermined decision of God and He has decided to make it happen to his people.
During his emirate at the time of ‘Uthman, Mu‘awiyah explicitly said that the assets at the public treasury belonged to God rather than to Muslims. He meant to keep them for himself. In a
like manner, he made use of the ideology of divine determination and the religious right of the kings in order to found and consolidate his rule. This was the worst change possible in the religious policy of Muslims because he wanted to exploit the religion for his power and to make the believers follow the ruler’s whims.”(1)
Mu‘awiyah’s propaganda and that of his successors succeeded for numerous reasons, many of which had social, mental and historical backgrounds and were rooted in the psychological structure of the people of that time and not merely to his actions and propaganda. The people saw and evaluated the issues and currents the same way that he and his likes wanted. An example of such a way of thinking can be seen in the theory that Hasan Basri told Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. Interestingly, he was more liberal and bolder than his contemporary jurisprudents and sayings scholars>, so much so that the Mu‘tazilites consider him one of their own because he rose up against the deterministic thought of his time. In this respect, he has made some correspondence with ‘Abdu’l-Malik and Hajjaj himself, in which he rejects their invoking some verses of the Qur’an to prove their deterministic theory.(2)
He is even one who criticized Mu‘awiyah on various occasions because of what he did.(3) However, despite all these, he prevented the people from fighting against Hajjaj, who committed any crime, saying, “Do not fight him because he is God’s punishment. Therefore, you cannot turn away God’s punishment with
your swords. If he is God’s calamity, then be patient to such calamity so that God will rule between you and him because God is the best ruler.”(1) This was while he considered Hajjaj to be the worst of God’s people and said about him, “If any nation brings forth the worst and the most evil of them and we take forth Hajjaj, we will be the winner in such a competition.”(2)
It would be appropriate to mention some examples here. After the bloody episode of ‘Ashura, when Imam Husayn’s family was taken to Ibn Ziyad as captives, there were exchanges of words between Ibn Ziyad and Zaynab and Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, which are considerable in respect of this discussion. Ibn Ziyad pointed to Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, and asking who he was. They said he was ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn. “Was it not ‘Ali ibn al-Husyan whom God killed.” Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin said, “I had a brother who was also named ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, whom the army killed”. Ibn Ziyad said, “Rather say God killed him.” The Imam read the verse “God kills the people when their time comes.” Ibn Ziyad was angry and said, “Do you dare respond to and deny me? Behead him.” Indeed, things happened and the order was not performed.(3)
A similar discussion took place in Yazid’s court. Yazid addressed the Imam, saying, “Praise to God who killed your father.” Imam said, “God’s curse on him who killed my father.” Hearing this, Yazid ordered his death, but this was
not performed. After a short time, he ordered that Imam be taken to him. He began cutting the chain that was on Imam’s neck, while reading this verse, “The troubles that the people have are because of the wrong things they do while God forgives many of them.” The Imam said, “You are wrong to think this verse is about us. What is about us is that, ‘The calamity will affect you, whether calamities to you or your soul or the things that happen to you from outside, unless they are written in the heavenly scripture. Do not regret and do not be happy for what has happened to you.’” (1)
Is it not true that the only thing the two wanted to say was that what happened to Imam Husyan and his companions was done by God rather than by the ruler and that the ruler was only a means for the realization of God’s will? That is to say, it was not Yazid or Ibn Ziyad or their army who killed Imam Husyan but it was God who killed them. And why did God do so? It was the result of their own actions and they deserved such punishment. Here this was important for fully acquitting the ruler, as if no responsibility was to be attached to him and all returned to God.
The ruler would thus have unlimited power and immunity because all his actions were the manifestation of God’s will and, therefore, could not be changed or objected
to. This was the Umayyad interpretation because they neither had to deny the principle of the religion nor failure to make such denial would limit them. They wanted power and unlimited freedom in action rather than religious justification or the like. All this was obtained in the light of such interpretation.
The Umayyad principally thought, lived, ruled and made propaganda on such basis. Their caliphate is full of such examples. When Mu‘awiyah died, Yazid wrote to the governor of Medina, “Mu‘awiyah was one of God’s people. God dignified him and made him His successor and entrusted the people’s affairs to him and gave him power and mastery.”(1) Similarly, in response to those who objected to the crown princedom of his son, Yazid, Mu‘awiyah said, “This kingdom and sultanate is God’s and He will give it to anyone He wants. God has chosen Yazid as crown prince and you are not in a position to object to it. No one has power over it.”(2)
Their governors would talk and make propaganda in a like manner. One day, Ibn Ziyad said to the people, “O’ people, we are your chiefs and it is us who protect you from affliction. We rule with the power that God has given us and we give you from the things He has bestowed on us while we will treat you fairly. Then try to obey, cooperate with and give advice to us so as to deserve our justice.”(3) A more developed example of such a way of thinking,
to which many elements of the Qur’an and sayings are attached, can be found in the elaborate will of Yazid ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik for the crown princedom of his two sons.(1)
Based on such a way of thinking, a great deal of sayings were forged to the effect that what is done by the ruler is the same as God’s wish. “Let the ruler do what he wants because, if he does good deed, he will be awarded and you shall be grateful and, if he does bad deed, he will be responsible for his own sins and you shall be patient. If the ruler does a religiously undesirable thing to you, be patient towards him and do not violate your allegiance to him because one who does this will die as if he died before Islam.” They went so far as to claim that the Prophet (S) had said, “There will be rulers who will not follow my directions and my method and will have a devil’s heart in a human body.” “What should we do towards them?”, the Prophet was asked. “Listen to and obey his orders even if he lashes you and takes your belongings.”, said the Prophet (S). Finally, they said that the Prophet said, “Obey any emir as obeying him will be like obeying me.” As an example, refer to the chapter “Kitab Al-Imarah”, of the book Kanz al-‘Ummal. Interestingly, most sayings quoted in this respect contain similar points.(2)
As we said, the main motivation of forging such
sayings was the deterministic thought and the thought that the ruler himself and his actions are the actions of God. However, those in power were apparently not satisfied and did not think of it as sufficient for stabilizing their position. Therefore, they forged many sayings to the effect that breaking one’s allegiance in any form was religiously prohibited. If somebody has not pledged allegiance to an emir, he will die as if before Islam. “Pray behind any emir, good or bad, just or roué, and follow his orders. Do not say a bad thing about them, as cursing them is cursing me. If they delay saying the prayer, follow them without objection. Never think of standing up against the ruler as one who does this has abandoned the religion. Behead the one who stands up against the ruler. Kill the one who violates the Muslims’ customs. It behooves you to obey the emir in any situation, whether you are satisfied or have reservations for doing so. Do not fight them for power. The tribe who wishes to weaken the sultan will be weakened by God in this world. One who calls the people to himself while there is an emir, may God, his angels and his people curse him and you shall kill such a person.(1)
This was the story of the deterministic propaganda of the Umayyad. They wanted to put the ruler in a position that was not harmed by criticisms. The fact is that they succeeded in doing so.
They worked so hard and invested so much to this end that it was later said that, “It is the Umayyad who support and promote determinism and the Alavites who claim and promote justice and monotheism.” The Infallible Imams stood, as much as they could, against the blind crippling and stagnating determinism and fought it. However, because of the reasons that were mentioned, this thought opened a position for itself and had a share in forming the Sunni thought about the ruler. Indeed, this does not mean that Sunnis later accepted their deterministic interpretation. Yet, this is true to a certain extent, but the point was that their attitude towards the ruler grew and was accepted under the effect of such thought.(1)
Although this series of sayings was not directly related to the subject of determinism that was promoted and supported by the Umayyad, it was a consequence thereof and for reinforcing and strengthening it. Sayings to the effect that the divine will was carried out through the ruler’s commands and actions actually put the ruler in an invulnerable and un-criticizable position without the need to assume a religious position for him. Sayings to the effect that it was necessary to obey the ruler and prohibited to break allegiance with and rise up against him in fact served the same un-criticizable position.
The great Sunni jurisprudents, sayings scholars and theologians viewed the ruler from this same point of view and defined and evaluated the necessity of obeying him and the prohibition of
opposing him and the limits of his powers on the same basis. The gist of their argument was that the ruler per se without considering who he is and how he took power and what he believed in and how he acts was legal and had to be obeyed because his presence and power was a reality and this is God’s wish as He realized it as a fact.(1)
Although there have been people among the outstanding jurisprudents, theologians and scholars whose views of the ruler was not so, i.e., for example, they defined certain conditions for him such as practicing the religion and justice, being brave, knowledge of politics, tactfulness, being from the Quraysh tribe and even ijtihad (religious expertise). However, firstly they were a minority and, secondly, they disappeared through time and their thought was consequently forgotten, as the Mu‘tazilites faded away and their thoughts and beliefs were overshadowed by the dogmatic beliefs of the Ash‘arites and their predecessors. This group of jurisprudents and theologians, like their fellow liberal thinkers, i.e. the Mu‘tazilites, shone for a while in the first centuries and in the flourishing period of rationalism of the Islamic civilization and then faded away for ever. The important thing is that their thoughts did not receive any attention either in their own time or in the following periods, and did not change into an independent jurisprudential and theological or possibly sociopolitical current and did not penetrate the structure of Sunni socio-religious thought. What ruled and created flows
was the public thought that shaped Islam and is still active despite all changes and developments.
Another factor in this regard was the thought that emerged from mid-Umayyad period and grew and extended rapidly, i.e. the thoughts of suspensionism [murajja’ah].(1) Why this thought was created and extended is an independent question itself. However, what is certain is that the Umayyads welcomed it very much and worked hard to promote and exploit it.(2)
Suspensionism was in fact a reaction to the strict thought of the Rebels, who said that even the doers of minor sins were infidels and had to be killed. Such strictness resulted in a form of laxity, believing that one’s deeds do not harm one’s faith(3) and that one cannot judge the good or bad personalities of individuals according to their behavior and deeds. What was important was the individual’s faith, but what he did neither mattered nor could one judge the individuals in this world based on that. This was some form of religious and doctrinal justification for any dissipation and breaking of the rules. Therefore, it was desirable to the reckless people, who constituted a vast portion in that time while it was consistent with the pre-Islamic ignorance heritage, which was still in place and had an unrivalled domination.(4)
One of the characteristics of the Ignorance period was the people’s hate of and escaping from any limit, law and rule. The Ignorance culture was a free culture that would not accept laws. More importantly, it was a culture of
laxity and especially lechery. The conditions of those days required such a culture and the available evidence confirms this. Islam was in contradiction with this culture in all its aspects. Although Islam made important changes, the culture that had brought up its children according to its own characteristics and value system was too powerful, influential and lasting to retreat from its rival this soon, although it was not at the same time so strong as to deny it and rule again. However, it could wear the mask of religion and continue its life, and it did so.(1)
The lustful nature of the Arabs and their unwillingness to accept obligations and limitations, the vast facilities and endless wealth of the conquered lands, the beautiful female slaves and the large number of boy slaves,(2) getting familiar with means of pleasure which had never been imaginable to Arabs, all together created conditions in which the people looked for a justification to resort to, which would reduce their internal pressures and the pressures of their conscience and would provide a religious way to take pleasure. The fact is that the willingness of the people to reckless pleasure at the time of the Umayyad was not weaker than that of the Umayyad themselves. As an example, see the book Al-Aghani.(3)
The ignorant nature, the strong psychological desire and the sociocultural conditions required the thought of suspensionism. Therefore, when it came to the fore, many of the people rushed towards it. This was indeed desirable to the Umayyads
because of two reasons. Firstly, it was in harmony with their desires and whims and, when the people adopted a lecherous life and broke the religious and moral limits, then no one could criticize them for the same reasons. Secondly, the principle that one’s deeds do not affect one’s faith immunized them as they could resort to it to say that if the ruler or his governors, who were often more corrupt and reckless than themselves, practiced a corrupt life, drank wine and violated the limits, it did not matter. What mattered was the faith, which was not affected by the deeds. The deeds not only do not exclude him from the realm of the religion, but do not reduce his faith and spiritual position. They could thus disarm their critics before the public opinion as they said that one would lose their faith and piety by doing such things and would be disqualified for being a ruler.(1)
Nevertheless, this thought was supported and encouraged by the Umayyads and played an important role, at least during the Umayyad period, in legalizing the ruler, thus securing his position against any harm or criticism. As we have already said, there were also other factors involved, which we will not mention here.
In the previous chapters, we talked about two important principles of Sunni and Shi‘ite political thought and the theoretical differences between the two and the way they formed in practice the history and the psychological and social structures of their followers.
In this Chapter, we study the third principle and then go back to the main discussion, i.e. the political movements within the Shi‘ite and Sunni territories in the contemporary history and their differences.
As we said in the previous chapter, the third basic factor in the development of Sunni political thought is that they are sensitive to power and security and the power that can provide and maintain security while Shi‘ites are sensitive to justice and the strict implementation of the Prophet’s (S) tradition the way it was at the time of the Prophet himself, rather than the way it was later interpreted. To them, what is important, obligatory, and sacred consists of a grand strong power in whose light security is provided either against the internal rebels or against the foreign threats and invaders.
Although this is approved by Shi‘ism to a certain extent, it has not attached a full value to be absolutely true. This neither agrees with their jurisprudential or theological foundations nor is approved by the practice of the Infallible Imams. Now let’s see why and how this principle appeared among Sunnis and what the factors by which it was affected are?
It shall be said in brief that three important factors were involved. The first factor is the concept of justice, which is unlike that of the concept of justice with Shi‘ites, both in jurisprudential and in theological and philosophical terms. The second factor is the concept and duties of the government in old times. Finally, the
third factor relates to the historical realities and necessities, each of which will be discussed.
The difference in the Shi‘ite and Sunni perception of justice is too clear to require any explanation here. Although the Mu‘tazilite perception and interpretation of justice were close to and in some cases similar to those of Shi‘ites, the Ash‘arite interpretation was far different. It was this school that was later dominant and influenced the development and organization of Sunni jurisprudential and theological foundations.
The important thing in the meantime was that the Ash‘arite interpretation of justice principally had a form that made it unimportant. The point was not that they considered it to be important and critical but offered another interpretation, rather, it was that they provided a meaning for it that made it loose its significance, which was perhaps desirable to them.
When they denied rational agreeableness or disagreeableness of something, in fact they reduced the concept of justice to a level that it would be compatible with any oppressive and tyrannical action. In other words, the thought and ideal of justice was reduced to reality and whatever that existed while the existing reality was made the criterion of judgment rather than a superior concept to be so. Because of this, it would not make sense anymore to evaluate and judge this reality based on its compatibility and incompatibility with that superior concept. When rational agreeableness or disagreeableness is ignored, in fact the concept and nature of justice has been ignored rather than that a new
definition has been provided based on such denial.(1)
Such an interpretation of justice naturally provides the best ground for rejecting any ideal beyond the present reality, and it actually did so. Here, it is not a discussion of justice or whether it has been done or not. Principally, there is no situation superior to the present one, based on now to define justice and to evaluate the present situation.(2)
The author of the well-known book Al-Mawaqif, who is one of the greatest and most rationalist Ash‘arite theologians, concerning agreeableness or disagreeableness says, “Disagreeableness is what is prohibited by the shari‘ah and agreeable is contrary thereto. To the reason, nothing is judged as agreeable or disagreeable. These two do not return to another real and true matter within one’s action so that the shari‘ah would reveal it. Rather, it is the shari‘ah that creates agreeableness or disagreeableness and defines them. If it becomes the other way round and what it considers as offensive, it considers as good and what it considers to be good, it considers as offensive, this will be possible and the result would be reversed.
However, the Mu‘tazilites say, “The criterion for recognizing the agreeableness or disagreeableness of something is reason and one’s action is per se either good or bad while the shari‘ah only discovers and clarifies this reality. Then, it makes on sense to reverse the matter because goodness and badness relate to real things and are not contractual.”(3)
As we said, such an interpretation of good and bad and
its criteria will leave no room for the concept of justice and basic reason. More importantly, the rational criteria of recognizing truth or falsehood of religious texts, and especially the sayings, will be eliminated while the intellectual, doctrinal and psychological background necessary for accepting them, with a religious and shari‘ah-based acceptance, will provide the ground for any oppressive and corrupt action and will ultimately give a good reason to those in power and the bad clerics to document their oppressions and violations with the religion in order to achieve their goals. More importantly, the religion will also be made liable to such exploitation and misuse.(1)
Unlawful exploitation of the religion, especially by those in power, has generally been done by falsifying the reason in the name of the religion. When reason is put aside with all its capabilities and limitations, especially as regards to religion, the oppression and superstitions will replace it. This has always been favored by the misusers of the religion. Thus, when reason is falsified in one of the most sensitive and important religious discussions, i.e. justice, such results will inevitably follow.
It should be added that the difference in the Mu‘tazilite and Shi‘ite perception and interpretation and those of the Ash‘arites of justice did not make them create the most just sociopolitical system through their history. They were in practice more or less the same and the belief in the principle of justice did not entail sociopolitical justice. There was essentially no difference between the Mu‘tazilites, who were
at the service of Ma’mun, Mu‘tasim and Wathiq, and the Ash‘arites and Ash‘arite-like thinkers after and before them although these caliphs, especially Ma’mun, were considerably different from the caliphs before and after him; but this was mainly due to his better cultured and freethinking character rather than the advise or attention of the Mu‘tazilites around him.(1)
This applies to the Shi‘ites to a large extent as well. It is difficult to accept that Shi‘ite sultans throughout history were more just and democratic than their Sunni counterparts.(2) The desire for justice and administering justice, especially in the Islamic east, which lacked the necessary sociopolitical institutions for the administration of affairs by considering the appropriate interests and requirements rather than personal decisions, was more than anything indebted to their own internal and personal tendencies and to the general conditions of the territories they ruled.
Nevertheless, despite all this, it cannot be denied that the two, i.e. the Mu‘tazilites and especially Shi‘ites and Ash‘arites, were and acted in two different ways in terms of guiding the ruling system to the right way, dethroning it or establishing a just system. In other words, the outcome of belief in justice and the way these two interpreted is shown when standing up against the ruler. One of the most important factors that called the Mu‘tazilites and Shi‘ites to stand up against the tyrants was their understanding of justice.(3)As such interpretation was principally not considered or believed in by the Ash‘arites, it would not make sense anymore to stand
up against the sultan by relying on it. They denied rational agreeableness or disagreeableness and they did not have any criterion beyond the existing factors in order to evaluate what was there.
Therefore, in history, the Mu‘tazilite and especially Shi‘ites have had many justice-seeking movements while similar examples cannot be found with the Ash‘arites, Salafis or Traditionists. What they actually had and have was movements that, according to them, sought to reject heresy and to defend and establish the tradition.(1)
Indeed, their different understanding and interpretation of justice is not the only factor for this difference. There were other factors as well. Undoubtedly, however, this different perception has had and will have the greatest share. In other words, although the belief in the principle of justice actually did not bring about sociopolitical justice, its acceptance provided the best ground for justice-seeking movements.
The story of justice-seeking and liberal movements throughout the history of Islam is itself the best confirmation of this. Such movements did not exist within the Ash‘arite and Traditionist territories while they were abundant within the Shi‘ite and Mu‘tazilite territories. This relation was so strong and powerful that, in periods in which such tendencies appeared for any reason, the grounds were prepared for Mu‘tazilite thought and especially the Shi‘ite ideology. Although the Shi‘ite ideology was welcomed for reasons beyond its belief in the principle of justice, the belief in this principle had yet a basic role.
It was precisely because of this that the Mu‘tazilites and especially Shi‘ites were attacked by those
in power, the clerics and their affiliate propagandists. The ruling oppression prepared the ground for the growth of justice-seeking movements. However, as the dominant religious thought, which was promoted and probably created by the rulers, could not fulfill this need because of its lack of belief in the principle of justice, the revolutionaries had to face and encourage religions that claimed to seek justice.(1) As Shi‘ism and Mu‘tazilah were so, attempts were made to give them a bad reputation so as to divert the public opinion from them. This failed indeed. Part of the pessimism among Sunni masses about these two results from the same preventive and counter-propagandist actions.(2)
What has been said so far was about the theological concept of justice. Now we have to see what its jurisprudential concept was and what results it entailed. In this connection, contrary to the previous one, the Mu‘tazilites are like non-Mu‘tazilites and the difference is between Shi‘ites and non-Shi‘ites.
The fact is that the concept of justice is not jurisprudentially very much different among Shi‘ites and Sunnis. The basic difference is in considering justice as a qualification, most importantly for the communal prayer leader and the Friday communal prayer leader as well as the ruler. Shi‘ites deem justice as a necessary for all of these while Sunnis do not define it as a qualification for the communal prayer leader and the Friday communal prayer leader and only some Sunnis consider the communal prayer leadership of a corrupt and heretic person as religiously undesirable(3)
as many of them do not consider justice to be a necessary qualification of the ruler either.
What is important in this discussion is the justice of the communal prayer leader and the Friday communal prayer leader because they have differing views on the ruler’s justice. Now let’s see what results this difference entailed.
Prior to entering the discussion, it is necessary to note the special and sensitive position of the communal prayer leader and the Friday communal prayer leader in early Islam. In that time, prayers or Friday communal prayers were socio-politically far more important than they are today. These two, especially the Friday communal prayer, were the key to maintaining Islam, unity, integrity and, finally, stability and security of the society. It indicated the health of thought and belief in the participants and their being on the religion agreed on by the Muslims.(1) It showed that the society accepted the order of their emir and ruler and recognized him. It was through this prayer that the rulers, sultans and caliphs were recognized and their power and position would be stabilized and consolidated.
At that time, the cities and the other points of concentrated population were small and had small populations. All the people and especially the men considered it their duty to participate in the public and Friday communal prayers, while this participation was obligatory in many respects.(2) Some Sunni jurisprudents consider communal prayers and all Sunni jurisprudents consider Friday communal prayers to be obligatory. Shi‘ite jurisprudents consider participation in Friday
communal prayers during the presence of an infallible imam to be obligatory as well. Many of them consider it obligatory even in the absence of an infallible imam if the appropriate conditions are provided. It was, therefore, natural that these two prayers would have a high political value so far so as to become the most important indicator of belief in Islam and unity in the society.(1)
According to the above points and its sensitivity, who other than the most prominent person, at least apparently the most prominent, could lead it? It would not make sense to give the responsibility for this most important symbol of the community of the believers and the key to the unity and stability of the society to someone other than such a person. The people also did not expect anything other than this. Apart from this, the jurisprudential fundamentals would approve of and reinforce such a current. We had better say that the people’s perception of the communal prayer leader, the Friday communal prayer leader and imamate was in harmony with the appearances of the orders of the shari‘ah.(2) The shari‘ah legislator required the most prominent person to be the prayer leader although the meaning of prominence and the application of the most prominent person changed in the later times under the pressure of sociopolitical necessities.
During the Prophet’s (S) time, he led both prayers in Medina or in any other part when he was present. Where he was absent, the prayers would be led by
the representative, substitute, emir or ruler that he appointed. After the Prophet (S) passed away, the first caliph led the prayers. This specially helped him on the first days in gaining acceptance for and establishing his caliphate.(1) This current continued in this way until the end of the period of the Senior Caliphs and also when the Umayyad took power. (2)
For example, concerning the permission of the infallible imam or his special or general substitute for saying the Friday communal prayer and on how to appoint the Friday communal prayer, Muhaqqiq Karki says, “…The principle in this issue, before the consensus, is the agreement of the Muslims to the effect that the Prophet, in his own time, appointed the Friday communal prayers and judges. After the Prophet (S), the caliphs did so. As it is not right for one to be a judge with the imam’s permission, it is also not right to be the Friday communal prayer leader without such permission. This is not reasoning by analogy. It is referring to the continuous practice and opposing it is violating the consensus.”(3)
As quoted by Pederson, “From the early days of Islam, the ruler also led the prayers. He was the commander of war, head of government and leader of communal prayers. In the same manner, province governors were both in charge of prayers and taxes. He would lead prayers, especially the Friday communal prayers, in which he would deliver sermons. In his absence, the police chief would represent him. However,
this changed in the time of the ‘Abbasids and the caliph would not regularly lead the prayers.”(1)
What existed in the time of the Senior Caliphs was not that problematic. The first two caliphs and their governors would keep the appearances of the shari‘ah although the conditions changed during ‘Uthman’s time, especially in the second half, and people such as Walid ibn ‘Aqabah was appointed as governor—governor of Kufah who stood to pray while drunk, saying four prayer units for the [2-unit] morning prayer, besmearing the altar with the effects of drunkenness.(2) However, such cases were rare and ignorable. Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) time is well-known. Basically, there could be and was no problem in this period.
The problem shows itself seriously from the time of the Umayyad, at which time the justice of the communal and Friday communal prayer leader is overshadowed, interpreted and justified by the realities and necessities. It is gradually reduced to a level that is forgotten.
The heritage of the Prophet (S) and the Senior Caliphs required that the caliph and his representatives and governors would lead the communal and Friday communal prayers. The caliphs would not be content with less than this, not because they sought to enforce the Prophet’s (S) tradition and that of the Senior Caliphs but because failing to do so would contradict their rule, establishment and legality. They wanted to be in power and to govern and this could be achieved if the one in power would lead the communal and Friday communal prayers
as well. Thus, they led both of the prayers.
It was a necessity at this time. According to the history sources relating to those days, the Umayyads were not so willing to lead prayers, especially on Fridays because the Friday communal prayer leader had to give sermons while this was difficult for them to do. In this regard, Goldziher says, “Delivering sermons was not easy for Umayyad caliphs but they consented to do it so as to remind the people that they were in charge. ‘Abdu’l-Malik was asked, “Why do you have a white beard at this early age?” “How do you expect me not to,” he replied, “While I have to deliver a sermon once a week and expose my thoughts to be judged by the others.”(1)
Reluctance to deliver sermons was not limited to the Umayyad caliphs only. Their province governors did not like to do it either. Even an eloquent person such as ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad would consider it as an impediment to the pleasure of governing.(2) Another emir told the people, “Before becoming the emir, Friday was the best of my days while nowadays it is the worst because I have to deliver sermons.”(3)
On the other hand, the problem was that the Muslims had to take part in regular and Friday communal prayers. Both the previous customs required this and the religious texts recommended it. It was a shar‘i obligation. Indeed, it has to be added that, from the early days and even in the Prophet’s (S) time,
the people were asked to take part in regular and Friday communal prayers and those who refused to do so would be severely punished.(1) The point was not that an individual, by refusing to take part in a communal or Friday communal prayer would be a sinner by violating an obligation, the more important thing was that he could not do so. He was forced to do so because such non-participation would be deemed as an entire or partial rejection of the accepted religion by the believers or as rejection of the present government or denying its legality or compulsory obedience of it. No ruler, especially the oppressive Umayyad rulers, would bear such a thing.(2)
Considering these conditions, what way was there other than denying justice as a condition for qualification of communal and Friday communal prayer leaders. The most committed individual in the Umayyad dynasty, other than ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz, who was an exceptional person, was Mu‘awiyah himself. However, his behavior was different from the minimum consideration of which was necessary according to the shari‘ah legislator and was practiced by the earlier caliphs. He went so far as to say prayers different in form from what the Prophet (S) and the Senior Caliphs read—He is the first person to deliver a Friday sermon while sitting.(3)
The caliphs after him and his governors were in more inappropriate conditions, so much so as if they were absolutely unfamiliar with the religion and did not think of anything other than ruling and pleasures.
They had the power and would lead the regular and Friday communal prayers and the people had to say their prayers with them. Now the problem was if such prayers were separate or not. This is other than if the regular and Friday communal prayer leaders were qualified to lead prayers and principally what such qualifications were. Is justice or not committing sins or at least not persisting on committing sins one of these qualifications or not? Is it possible to take as prayer leader a corrupt tyrant who commits any crime? If yes, is the prayer of those standing behind him accepted?
The only solution was to deny the qualification of justice. Indeed, if a development had occurred at a time when the Umayyads entered the scene, no interrelation would have been established between the governance and legality of the ruler and the regular and Friday communal prayer leadership. Most probably, justice would have not been denied in this case, like in the case of the judge and witness. However, such a development did not occur and, therefore, they had to interpret and justify the issue to a certain extent as to the qualifications of regular and Friday communal prayer leaders, so as to deny the justice qualification in practice or at least reduce the issue to reluctance in saying prayers behind a corrupt tyrant.(1)
Indeed, Shi‘ites did not face such a problem. They considered the Umayyads to be illegal usurpers and did not have to accept those conditions and obligations.
Consequently, they did not have to face such interpretations and justifications. Apart from this, the texts of the divine decrees they accepted, which had been passed to them through the Infallible Imams, explicitly defined justice as one of the qualifications of the regular and Friday communal prayer leaders;(1) although this does not mean that the Shi‘ites never took part in regular and Friday communal prayers in the past. They took part in these prayers and generally deemed their prayers as accepted. In their view, in certain cases such prayers were accepted as well as worthy of being highly rewarded. (2) However, such religious rewards and such pious deeds had their own special reasons. It was not, for example, because they considered the justice qualification unnecessary for a regular or Friday communal prayer leader.
The fact is that Sunnis’ failure to accept the justice qualification and Shi‘ites’ accepting of it affected the development of the jurisprudential and theological structures of the two, their sociopsychological structure and ideological and religious sensitivities more than it seems in the beginning. Not accepting this condition meant recognizing the present condition and whatever related to it, although there were other factors involved. Yet, this was the most important, effective and finally the most critical factor.
Although the Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure is so that the ruler’s obedience is compulsory,(3) the problem is if the Sunni masses throughout the history accepted the rulers as legal only because of these reasons. The complex theological discussions and the arguments in
jurisprudence were and are far above the average level of culture of the masses. It was not through familiarity with these discussions that they accepted to obey the rulers. Principally, such discussions did not have a role in their religious perception and understanding. Their understanding and perception were too simple and limited to digest these ideas.
In other words, the problem is not simply what the natural and logical requirement of the Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure is. More importantly is which part of this large collection exists in their thought, mind, faith and belief, i.e. what the perception of the mass of the people is of this collection, what its limits are and what the interrelations of the various components are. What is living and effective is this understanding and perception and it is the same that play a role in the society and on the scene of the history. Although such religious perception changes to a certain extent in any time and condition depending on the conditions, there are generally fixed elements in the changes which are affected by the fixed principles and fundamentals of the religion itself.
The most tangible, understandable and routine part of the religious faith of a Muslim was and is the prayers. Considering the fact that, in the early periods, the Muslims said their prayers always communally and took part in Friday communal prayers and that these prayers were always led by the caliphs, their representatives or emirs, and, to the people, such leading symbolized
the government, legality and religious acceptability of the caliph or ruler. Is it not that the justice qualification has the most important share in accepting the ruler and the present condition and in legalizing his position?
This is truer especially in the early centuries when the people were obliged to take part in regular and Friday communal prayers and those in power and even the regular were more sensitive to the participation of the various walks of life and to the emirs who led the prayers, at least on Fridays. However, later, when such obligation and sensitivity were attenuated, the prayers were led by people other than the emirs, who were generally and rather entirely appointed directly or indirectly by them.(1) However, the effects of this current, especially before such attenuation occurred, affected the jurisprudential and theological structure and the psycho religious structure of the Muslims.
It was not important here to accept the ruler’s governance when accepting his prayer leadership. More important than that was the thought based on which the leadership of the corrupt tyrant was allowed. Such a thought permeated the other aspects and resulted in deeming as acceptable saying prayers behind such individuals and even paying the alms and religious tax to them and going on hajj pilgrimages and jihads with them. Even a cautious pious person like Ibn Hanbal got to a point as to say, “Jihad along with emirs is allowed until the day of resurrection whether they are just or unjust and they may distribute
the spoils of war and enforce punishments.
No one may make sarcastic remarks about or fight them. It is allowed to pay alms to them and one who gives alms to them, whether they are good people or not, has done his duty. It is allowed to say prayers behind them and one who violates this is heretic and has abandoned the tradition of the Prophet (S). If one does not believe that prayers behind emirs, whether the latter are just or corrupt, are religiously allowed, he has not understood the good aspects of Friday communal prayers. The tradition is that you have to say two units of prayer behind them and believe that it is a perfect prayer without having the smallest doubt about this.”(1)
Now we will examine what the thought was and where its root was. The main origin of this thought, which was relied on for verifying the truth of affairs, was that such things as prayer, religious tax and jihad are inherently good and desirable and the shari‘ah legislator has ordered them. The important thing is to perform them rather than the way in which they are performed. The important thing is that the obligated person has to fulfill his duties according to the rules defined by the shari‘ah legislator and it is not important with whom the act is performed.
The important thing is to say the regular and Friday communal prayers and for the Muslims to participate therein. It is not important who leads them.
What is important is not to give up the duty of jihad, it does not matter under whose command and with what motivation it is done. What is important is to pay alms and religious tax as part of religious fees but it does not matter to whom they are given, whether the one to whom it is given is a corrupt roué or not, and for what purposes they are used.
This is thus explained by Hasan Basri where he intends to account for the acceptability of the prayer of one whose prayer is led by a hypocrite, “The believer’s prayer behind a hypocrite will not harm him and the hypocrite’s prayer behind a believer will not benefit him.”(1) He expresses, more explicitly than ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar, “Prayer is good. I do not mind who will be my partner in performing it.”(2)
Ibn Hazm says in this regard, “We do not know any Companion who refused to say his prayer behind Mukhtar, ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, Hajjaj or any person more corrupt than them. God says, ‘Cooperate on good deeds and do not cooperate on sin and enmity.’ There is no good thing better than the prayer and saying it in mosques. Then it is forbidden for us to help it. The same is true about fasting, hajj and jihad. We will accompany the one who calls us to them and we will not accept the invitation of and will not help the one who calls us to sin. These are the
views of Abu Hanifah, Shafi‘i and Abu Sulayman.”(1)
Ibn Qudamah, who is one of the great Hanbalite jurisprudents, says, “It is obligatory for Muslims to participate in communal prayers on Friday and the Two Feasts even if the prayer leader is corrupt, a roué or heretic because the duties are Islamic rites that the rulers of Muslims perform. Then, failing to perform the prayers behind them will result in the prayers being abandoned.”(2)
From this point of view, what matters is the deed per se without considering its conditions while, since the conditions are part of the deed, it cannot be so. According to them, for example the regular and Friday communal prayers are only for worshipping purposes and, therefore, they recommend and emphasize them by mentioning the good aspects and their desirability—no matter who leads them—and consider them as worthy of being rewarded. Although this may be true about worships to which there is an individual aspect, this cannot be true about regular and Friday communal prayers or about jihad.
If we have accepted that the regular and Friday communal prayers are among the most important and sensitive Islamic rites as this can be diseovered by referring to news, sayings and practices of the Prophet, “and it has been decided that the purity, monotheism, Islam and Islamic worships shall be apparent and visible, because showing them is a proof for the people of the east and the west…”(3)
Practically, they have been among the most important rites through history. Therefore, one cannot ignore
or underestimate the issue of prayer leading only on the grounds that the prayer per se is a good and desirable thing. It is not acceptable to give the responsibility of religious rites, which indicate the social reality and presence, to someone who is not religiously or morally qualified for it. Religious rites themselves constitute part of the religion and are even among the most important parts of the religion. How can one who is the manifestation of unreligious values and ideals or is at least strange to them lead them?(1) This is too evident to be argued.
Apart from this, praying behind the prayer leader, at least in the first centuries, did not just mean performing a compulsory religious duty, be it daily or Friday prayers. It had further implications and it was these implications that were subject to more attention. According to the people of that time, the problem was not that such and such a person had performed their prayers by taking part in the communal prayer. More important than this, it meant recognizing the legality and governance of the imam whose imamate had been approved through his taking part in the prayer.(2)
As we have already said, communal and Friday communal prayers symbolized the unity and consensus of the Muslims and also was the symbol of recognition of the ruler. This was the inevitable result of participating in these two prayers, which directly contributed to the approval, reinforcement and consolidation of the pillars of the ruling power. This
had nothing to do with the individual’s intention, whether he wanted this or not. His deed in the context of that time had such an implication. When ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, “Friday prayers are to be led by the one who is the victor in fighting his rivals.”(1), he mentioned this point. This was not only his words but also was the words of the most of Muslims at that time.
There is no argument about the foundations of this way of thinking, its dimensions and results. The purpose of mentioning all this was to show how the Sunni clerics think and why they think as they do. For example, Ibn Taymiyyah says in his well-known book As-Siyasat ash-Shar‘iyyah, “There are two types of cooperation. Firstly, cooperation on goodness and piety, from jihad and applying the religious punishments to receiving religious dues and giving them to those who deserve it. These are the things that were ordered by God and His Prophet.
One who fails to do them fearing that he may be accomplice to tyrants has abandoned a compulsory religious duty on the illusion that he is a pious and abstinent person. There are so many occasions when fear and languor are confused with piety and abstinence because both are omission of actions. Secondly, it is cooperation between sin and enmity, like contributing in the killing of a respected person or taking away property or beating someone who does not deserve to be beaten, and the like. These are matters
that have been forbidden by God and His Prophet.”(1)
Most certainly, such a way of thinking, as we expressed in the case of the communal and Friday communal prayers, results from religious obligations on the one hand, and the undesirable and abnormal conditions in early Islamic centuries on the other hand, to which the Umayyads and the early ‘Abbasid caliphs contributed greatly. The possible solution was the one they chose, i.e. removing justice as a condition in certain cases. For example, they could not ignore verses of the Qur’an that called the people to jihad and giving alms and religious tax. Therefore, they said that the important thing was doing these, no matter under whose leadership and with what motivation.
Nevertheless, these were subjects that received the attention of the rulers. They wanted to mobilize the people to go to wars that they called jihad as they wanted to get the religious dues of the people. It would not make sense to seek to stop or weaken such religious precepts. If they had, this would weaken their position or at least impede their ambitions. On the one hand, they took material benefit in implementing the precepts and, on the other hand, they took benefit of the intangible profits. Thus, they could call themselves the warriors of God. This would further add to their popularity and contribute to the consolidation of their position.(2)
Nevertheless, it has to be mentioned that not considering justice as a valid condition for communal and Friday communal prayer leading
contributed extensively to creating, reinforcing and stabilizing this way of thinking in its entirety. All of the people in all places dealt with these two religious duties on a daily basis and, these would include all the people in all the five daily prayer occasions. Apart from the fact that the prayers had a special position in religious terms and in the perception of the people, when the condition of justice was reduced to such a low level, it would naturally be lowered to a similar level in other affairs as well and this would not surprise anyone or make anyone raise an objection. Basically, a new religious thought that was in harmony with some new principles and rules was founded.
When Qattadah asked Sa‘id ibn Musayyib, who was a great pious Follower and had undergone the severest forms of torture as ordered by ‘Abdu’l-Malik on several occasions because of insisting on his opinion—that it is not possible to swear allegiance to two caliphs at the same time while ‘Abdu’l-Malik wanted to get allegiance for his two sons Walid and Sulayman(1)— “Should we pray behind Hajjaj ibn Yusuf?”, he said in response, “We pray behind one who is far worse than him.”(2) This was also true about the Companions and the Followers in general as ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar prayed behind Hajjaj and Najdah, who were heads of the Rebels.(3) Indeed in those days the Shi‘ites and even their seniors would participate in these prayers;(4) but, as it has already been mentioned,
this was because of certain reasons and not because they believed that justice was not a qualification for the communal and Friday communal prayer leader.
This is one of the most important and sensitive diverging points of the Shi‘ite and Sunni jurisprudential and theological systems and, subsequently, of their sociopsychological structures and political and historical developments. From the early days of its development, the Shi‘ite ideology was formed and developed outside the limits of the recognized conditions of those days and the resulting necessities. Thus, justice in its jurisprudential framework played a far deeper and more extensive role than its theological concept in the way it formed the two branches of Islam differently. The historical, religious and sociopolitical developments of the two branches cannot be properly studied and analyzed without considering this point as one would not be able to recognize and evaluate their different limitations and potentials in forming the future developments.
Thus, justice maintained its position in the Shi‘ite jurisprudential and theological system despite Sunnis although Shi‘ites in practice rarely could realize the justice in the society the way they believed in it. Yet, they were constantly sensitive to it and at least thought of it as an ideal. The fact is that such a current cannot be seen among Sunnis. If there is such a current, it is mainly due to their Shi‘ite tendencies in certain parts of the history.(1)
‘Ali al-Wardi explains this very well, “Shi‘ism is right now like a dormant volcano. Its difference with the other mountains
is just in the smoke that comes out of it. However, a dormant volcano, despite its apparent calm, is not without danger. It differs from the other mountains in that it has melting fire within it that no one knows when will explode.” Then he adds, “The Twelver Shi‘ite beliefs were so that they were not stopped from criticizing and opposing the rulers in any period of their long history. They believed that any government is tyrannical, a usurper and unacceptable, unless its power is given to a just infallible imam from among the children of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Accordingly, Shi‘ites were like a constant revolution that would never calm down or stop fighting. They compared any ruler with the rules of the infallible imamate the way they believed in it and, therefore, saw him as defective and a usurper. This belief from the very early periods of Islam to the present resulted in the growth and deepening of hostility between them and those in power and they were accused of being Zandaqah, apostates and heretics. They were deemed heterodox to the religion and to the government. Because of the intensive frequent pressures on them, they would rather be known as Zandiqs and unbelievers instead of Shi‘ites ot heretics.
Mu‘awiyah and his Umayyad descendants as well as the ‘Abbasid caliphs tried all the different methods of force, pressure and torture to eliminate them but failed to do so. Shi‘ism resisted all this and will resist in the future all
the tyrants that disrespect human rights and dignity.”(1) This indeed has its own consequences, the most important of which is its conflict with what one would interpret as stability, establishment and historical continuity.
The acceptance of justice as a principle with the Shi‘ites entailed its own religious psychology and religious perception. Self-motivation, irritability, tendency of devotion and idealism among the Shi‘ites are indebted to this same principle. There were other factors also that helped shape such characteristics, the most important of which is the episode of ‘Ashura. However, the problem is that, in the Shi‘ite perception, this story is itself an exalted example of liberalism, love of justice and living bravely. Therefore, it approves of and even serves explaining, reinforcing and consolidating the same idealistic concept.
These set of factors resulted in the presentation of the ideal of justice as the most superior and the most motivating ideal throughout the Shi‘ite history, and this will continue to be so. This is the natural result of believing in the ideology of Shi‘ism. As long as this school exists and inspires its followers, gives them faith and affects their psychological structure and religious perception, such a characteristic will be in place. Although it may go into a dormancy state for a short or long period due to certain reasons, it will never be put out or eliminated.
Sunnis’ failure to accept justice as a principle has shaped their religious psychology and perception differently. These two aspects, i.e. power and security and accepting the status quo,
have developed with them in a way that the justice has retreated in their favor. Why was this ignored despite the explicit decrees relating to the communal and Friday communal prayer leaders in which justice, piety and religious belief were deemed necessary(1)—decrees that were valuable to them. This was either ignored or depicted as unimportant. Was this because of any reason other than the need to accept the status quo and avoiding the consequences of objecting to it? Yes, their religious psychology and their religious perception were shaped on the axis of the concept of power and security, which competed with justice and made the latter retreat.
This current has special results, among which agreement of this spirit of religious perception with what we interpreted as stability, establishment and historical continuity is the most important. When the status quo had the minimum requirements for some legality that would deem disturbing it as illegal and at the same time there was not a higher legal ideal, no ideal would make the people move in order to reach it. The religious psychology and the religious perception of the people were not so as to respond to such calls. Naturally, such stability and establishment would be attained.
Indeed, this does not mean that history was necessarily so in the two realms of Shi‘ism and Sunnism or it will be exactly so in the future. There were other factors, each of which played their own role in turn. The history of these two religious branches is
the outcome of the interaction of these factors. What was said was and will be undoubtedlyone of the most important and most critical factors. We say it will be so because these two characteristics are deeply rooted in the subconscious and psychological structure of the followers of these two sects due to the ideological structure and specific characteristics of the two ideologies. Therefore, as long as these two have followers, these two currents will continue to exist.
The second factor was the concept of government in old times. Contrary to what it is today, i.e. the government provides services, in the past it firstly provided security. Presently, the government is expected to provide services while in the past it was required to provide and guarantee security, internally and externally. This expectation was exactly affected by the expectation of the ancestors from the government and arose from the conditions of those times. In their view, the government was a system to protect the people’s property, lives and family and its first duty was to deal with such affairs rather than, for example, providing such services as health, treatment, education, culture and healthy recreation or similar services. The modern-day developments changed the concept of the duties of the government, to consider provision of security as one of its duties rather than the most important one.
However, in the past, especially in the Islamic east, which lacked political stability and continuity, the situation was not this way. In those days, everything and all the values
ended in security. What was important was for the government to provide such security. This would be the greatest gift that a government could give to its citizens. However, if the issue is looked at not through today’s view but according to the conditions in the past, the concern of the great Sunni jurisprudents and theologians in this respect will be understood, to the effect that everything can be obtained in the light of such security, from religious rites and orders to the protection of the people’s property, lives and family. In their view, the government both protected the religion and the people. Therefore, it had to provide for their good in this world and in the afterworld.
Sunni scholars in general, who have written about imamate and caliphate, or have dealt with the same, considered the first and the most important duty of the government to be providing security. Even some of them chose this duty as a definition, from a cautious Sufi-type individual like Ghazali(1) to a strict fanatic like Ibn Taymiyyah(2) and from a political scholar and politician like Mawardi(3) to a thoughtful intellectual like Ibn Khaldun.(4) All of them lived in conditions that made them sensitive to such concerns, which was natural.
You would ask why the story did not end up so with Shi‘ites, i.e. why the great Shi‘ite theologians and jurisprudents were not so sensitive about security and the protection of security while they also lived in the old times and closely witnessed the events and
developments. One has to say in response that their concern about security and protecting the lives and blood and reputation of the Muslims was and is not at all less than that of the Sunni clerics. However, that they did not forget about justice despite such sensitivity and this principle was not overshadowed by security and their thoughts and beliefs were due to the practice of the imams and the special decrees that they had accepted, i.e. there was a special reason for this and, if it had not been there, like the Sunni clerics and under the influence of the conditions in the past and the expediency for protecting security and peace, they would have thought the same way.
Finally, the third factor would arise from the historical realities and necessities. Throughout the history of Islam, other than in certain periods, it was the Sunnis who had the power and were responsible for protecting the society and its borders. Shi‘ites, i.e. the Twelver Shi‘ites, were a small minority community and rarely had such a responsibility. Accordingly, it was natural that the Sunni political thought would be more strongly and more deeply influenced than the Shi‘ite political thought by questions concerning the administration and protection of the society and guarding its internal and external security and providing the means for it. Their jurisprudence and theology flourished and expanded at a time when they inherited centuries of experience in statesmanship and protecting the foreign borders. However, the Shi‘ite jurisprudence and theology had
not undergone such experiences when they were developing. The latter was based more on theoretical principles and foundations rather than on realities and practical necessities.
Islam was in constant conflict with fierce malicious domestic and foreign enemies. Such conflicts never stopped and are still going on. Basically, the geographical situation of the Muslim World from the very beginning was so that it exposed it to constant relentless attacks. The most important of these dangers came from the east, where the yellow race from Central Asia threatened the Muslim territory from the very early days. These threats continued long after the Mongol attack. The other attack was from the west, where the Christians and the Crusaders were, and continued to the early times of the present century in military form and still goes on in a different form.(1)
The vastness of the Muslim World and the various groups, cultures, races, nations and religions therein were yet another problem. No religion had so much variety within its territory and no religion has been able to create so much harmony, coherence and unity. This provided an appropriate ground for understanding Islam in different ways and, as a result, for creation of an unlimited number of sects and a great deal of religious, cultural and sociopolitical tensions. Consequently, from the very beginning of its appearance, this religion was in conflict with foreign aggressors on the one hand, and with the internal insurgents on the other. Because of its vastness, anyone could convert to it and, naturally,
it had a great potential for widely different interpretations and justifications. Any of these two could easily benefit from the internal groups who had different thoughts and generally fought, killed and plundered each other in order to create tension and insecurity or at least contribute thereto.
It would be appropriate here to quote part of the views of Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, as quoted by Muhammad Abu Zuhrah, about the causes of sectarianism in Iraq, which is an example of Muslim sectarianism throughout history, and why it was so, “Iraq was home to all Islamic sects because it was the point where all ancient civilizations met. There, one could find the sciences of the Iranians and those of the Chaldeans and the remains of the cultures and civilizations of these nations, merged with Greek philosophy and Indian thoughts, while all of them had been mixed with Islamic thoughts.
Therefore, this land became the birthplace and growing center for various Islamic sects. Ibn Abi’l-Hadid thus explains why different sects were formed in Iraq, “Concerning the difference of this people with the Arabs of the Prophet’s (S) time, I have found out that all of these are from Iraq and reside in Kufah. The Iraqi nature is so that it constantly fosters the believers of various sects and new religions. The people of this land have insight and are interested in discussions and contemplating different issues while they have views and beliefs similar to objectors to religions. People like Mani, Disan, Mazdak and the like
were from among them, who appeared at the time of the Sassanid kings. The Hijazi nature and thought are not like this.”(1)
The words of Ibn Abi’l-Hadid were true about Iraq as well as about many other places. The same causes that created various sects in Iraq or at least contributed to their growth and development existed in the other Islamic lands as well. It was the destiny that this religion extend to lands that were the cradles of ancient cultures and civilizations.
In such circumstances, one can expect that they [the Sunnis] would not think about anything other than security and power that can bring it about. The history of Islam is full of such problems. Apart from all the foreign dangers, one of which was the Mongol invasion that destroyed the Islamic east, Islam was throughout its history involved in constant malicious conflict with Christianity in the western front. If there were intervals in the meanwhile, it was for refreshing the forces rather than for stopping the conflicts permanently. Christianity and the medieval church considered Islam to be a usurping enemy, one that had invaded part of its territory and had risen against its authenticity and truth. Although Muslims followed their teachings to consider Christians as People of the Book, the fact is that the Christians, other than in the present century when they recognized Islam as a religion, considered Muslims as unbelievers(2) that had to be destroyed.
An example of Ha’iri’s account of the Christians’ view of Muslims, quoting from
Sanders, “You could hardly find a Christian with honesty in the period of belief that would consider the Prophet (S) impartially as his religion, in his view, was an infidel caricature of the Christian’s own religion and its followers—from the first to the seventh century, when the Muslims took Syria from the Byzantine government—had destroyed Christianity in its birthplace where it had grown.”(1)
Then, he adds, “Thus, the Christian World, i.e. Europe, looked at Islam and, therefore, they always considered the Prophet of Islam and his religion and followers as enemies and cursed at them, so much so that Pike, in a book that he wrote about the Prophet’s life, admits that Muhammad is one of the great men that has been subject to accusations more than any other famous man.”(2)
As we said, the Christians’ hostility never stopped. They were the permanent organized ideological enemies of Muslims. Their attacks were contrary to that of the eastern invaders, who were general idolaters and whose attacks were for slaughter and plundering and for finding pastures and occupying developed and residential lands. The latter would finally merge into the Muslim society by converting to Islam while the Christians’ attacks were preplanned and ideological. Not only would they not accept Islam, they were also seeking to Christianize the Muslims. The purpose of the eastern invaders was slaughter and destruction while the western invaders sought to destroy Islam and the centrality of Islam.
“To the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and the European governments, the fall
of Granada did not just mean the defeat of Abu ‘Abdullah, the last Muslim ruler of the Granadan Nasiris, against the united forces of Ferdinand and Isabella. It also meant an unforgettable victory for the Christian World against Islam and, as Sanders puts it, the Granada event was ‘an uncompleted partial avenge by Christianity’ against Islam. Europe, which was constantly worried about and feared the unity of the Muslims and the material and spiritual progresses of the Muslim World—which had extended after the Muslims took control of Constantinople—celebrated the fall of Granada and expressed much happiness for the defeat of the Muslims while, as Bartold writes, the fall of Granada was ‘like a bomb exploding in the Muslim World’, making all the Muslims mourn on it. The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church arranged feasts, dances and celebrations in Rome and the Vatican for the event.
In his book Jam-Sultan, a French writer writes that, after the news of the Granada fall spread, the Vatican and the other places in Rome were lit for celebrations, there were plays and horseracing and bullfighting competitions for consecutive days. In one of the plays, two people dressed as Ferdinand and Isabella, while another man playing the role of Abu ‘Abdullah, the defeated Muslim ruler, was chained and fell to their feet. The people were joyous for the king and queen of Spain, who had finally been united to defeat the Islamic rulers of Granada after years of being defeated by them.
Among the first-hand spectators
or audience, there was the same Jam, the brother of Bayazid II, the Ottoman Sultan, who was held by the Pope’s government in order to make the Ottoman sultan behave himself. According to the French writer, more than anything else the prince disliked the chaining play of Abu ‘Abdullah and throwing him at the feet of Ferdinand and Isabella. It seems that the Vatican Catholic leaders held such plays, feasts and celebrations to show that the Muslims were in bad conditions and were disunited, especially in the presence and with the awareness of Jam Sultan, who contemplated having the crown of the greatest Islamic government of that time. They thus sought to quench their sense of avenge and:
1) Say to the Christian World that, despite the past, Islam was now powerless against the West and Christianity had overcome Islam.
2) Severely break the spirit of the Muslims and Muslim rulers, especially the Ottoman kings who claimed to conquer the world.”(1)
In such conditions, it was natural that the thoughts and sensitivity to security and power be directed towards the creater and protector of security rather than to justice or the practice of justice. What mattered here was merely having power and splendor because these would frighten the enemies and protect the centrality and borders of Islam. Therefore, everything would have to be put at the service of making the ruler as powerful and splendid as possible. This is the duty of all and it is a religious and Islamic duty
because, in their view, defending Islam was so intermingled with defending the ruler that it was not possible to defend the religion without defending the ruler. To them, it was not important who he was and what he did and how far he was committed to the religious precepts and Islamic justice. What was important was that he symbolized Islam and everybody had to be at his service and obey him in order to consolidate his position as much as possible because it is the power and splendor of this symbol that silences the enemies, frightens the aliens and establishes security.(1)
This is well explained by Ibn Hanbal where he is accounting for the religious necessity of obeying the rulers, “It is obligatory to obey the rulers and commander of the faithful, be he a good or bad person. It is necessary to obey the one who has become the caliph and the people gather to express their allegiance and also the one who has gained domination over the people with the power of the sword and by force and is known as caliph and commander of the faithful. Jihad by the side of the emirs, whether they are good or bad, is acceptable untill the Day of Resurrection.
The decisions they make like the distribution of spoils and tributes and on punishments is acceptable. No one should be sarcastic towards them or stand up against them. It is allowed and rewarded if you pay them alms, whether they are good
or bad. Standing behind them for prayer and behind any other person who is qualified is acceptable and one who refuses to do this is a heretic and a violator of the tradition of the ancestors. One who does not believe that standing behind good or bad emirs to say the Friday communal prayer is accepted, has not understood the true virtues of the Friday communal prayer.
The tradition is that two units of prayer have to be said with them and you have to believe that this prayer is complete and should not doubt it. One who disobeys an imam of the Muslims whom the people have accepted and whose caliphate the people have accepted, whether with satisfaction or with force or reluctance, has broken the customs of the Muslims and opposed the Prophet’s tradition and, if he dies, it is as if he has died in the pre-Islamic ignorance period.”(1)
The Muslims in the past centuries lived under such conditions and this was true especially in the first centuries of Islam when the seed of Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure and thoughts was planted. These foundations developed in the light of such conditions and necessities. Indeed, this was approved by the experiences of the subsequent centuries. Hajjaj ibn Yusuf says, “The sultan’s weakness is more damaging than his oppression because his weakness affects everybody whereas his oppression affects a certain group.”(2) This indicates the true spirit of that time and the mentality and sensitivity of the people of that
time. It was an example for later times and the emirs advised their children about them.
In those times, it was possible to make one of the two choices, either accepting anarchy, insecurity and foreign threats or submitting to the oppression of the ruler and his deviation from the right path of Islam and Islamic justice. In such conditions, naturally all the people would choose the latter.
As Ghazali sought to prove the religious rather than the rational necessity of imamate, he says things that are a clear expression of the problems that were mentioned and of the necessities arising therefrom, “…And as to the second introduction: It is that the world affairs and the security of the souls and of property is not provided, unless under a powerful obeyed sultan. The best reason for this is when a sultan or caliph dies, that if he is not immediately substituted by another obeyed king, there will be anarchy, murder, plunder and drought everywhere. The beasts will die and the industries will be stopped. The powerful will steal and plunder and no one will have rest so as to worship or seek knowledge, if he survives the situation, and most people will be killed.
Therefore, it has been said that the religion and the sultan are together. The religion is the foundation and the sultan is its guard. What has no foundation will be destroyed and what had no guard will be ruined. In brief, any reasonable person will notice that the people
will be destroyed if they are left to themselves, because of their class difference and conflicting views, and there being no powerful obeyed person to gather them together.
This disease has no cure other than a powerful sultan to maintain the worldly system, and the maintenance of the worldly system is necessary for establishing a religious system, and the religious system is necessary for the otherworldly salvation, which is what the prophets meant. Therefore, the necessity of having an imam is an inevitable religious necessity. Understand this very well.”(1)
It is interesting that the well-known theologian, Qadi ‘Abdu’r-Rahman bin Ahmad Ayji mentions the same point. As the second reason for the necessity of appointing an imam, he mentions preventing probable damage. Explaining this, he says, “With a relative certainty, we know that the shari‘ah legislator, while legislating the religious rites on the days of feast and Fridays, meant to provide for benefits for the people in this world or in the afterworld. These benefits will not be attained other than by having an imam appointed according to the shari‘ah so as to be referred to in what relates to him because the people, with their differing views and their conflicts, rarely submit to each other.
This would result in fights and perhaps the death of all. This has been shown by experience and also by disturbances that happen in the interval between the death of a sultan and the appointment of another individual because, if this appointment is delayed, the daily
life will be stopped and everyone will take a sword to protect his life and property. This will result in the destruction of the religion and of all the Muslims.”(1)
We quoted the above in full because of its importance in the entire discussion. However, despite all this, the big problem was that the second choice, i.e. submitting to an oppressor despite his deviation from the right path of Islam and from the Islamic justice, which was due to necessity, resulted in the establishment of a tyrannical sociopsychological structure among them and formed the foundations of their thoughts accordingly in all respects. This temporary necessity had a lasting effect, which continued to the present day and aroused a great deal of protests by the youth and the intellectuals of the new generation.”(2)
All of these factors finally constituted the thought of preserving the system and the need to do so. The question was to preserve the system. This had the first priority. The other factors were either in its employment or had a peripheral or secondary importance. Such a way of thinking would certainly nip any objection in the bud on grounds of justice, either by claiming to return to the Prophet’s (S) tradition or by claiming to confront heresy. From this point of view, the question is not what the truth is and what the falsehood is. The principle is that all people have to serve to protect and preserve it and to consolidate and reinforce it as much as possible.
Anything other than this would be violating the customs of the Muslims and prohibited, and persistence on that would be deemed as rejection of the religion. Accordingly, the greatest protest that one could have would be an objection in one’s heart and a personal one, i.e. one must not accept a ruler’s heresy by heart, yet objecting to it would be violating the customs of the Muslims and one has to avoid doing so. One’s duty is, at the ultimate point, a denial by heart not in action or practice. The following story explains this very well.
One day, the jurisprudents of Baghdad went to Ibn Hanbal and said to him, “This person—they meant Wathiq, the ‘Abbasid caliphate, who, like Ma’mun and Mu‘tasim, promoted the issue of the creation of the Qur’an—has corrupted the people’s beliefs and does not stop on this. It is necessary to do something.” They meant to get a fatwa for rising against the caliph. However, he said in response, “Your duty is to deny in your hearts. You have to deny him in your heart but are not allowed to rise against him or oppose him.”(1)
Ibn Hanbal did not say this because he sought comfort or he was conservative. He champions the period of hardship, to be later known as the Days of Hardship. He is one of the most prominent opponents of the thought of the creation of the Qur’an and insisted so much on this that he was defamed and beaten for it. In
Mu‘tasim’s period, he was lashed nearly to death. He was not afraid or did not seek personal comfort. He really thought so and recommended that too.(1)
However, the question why he thinks so returns to his jurisprudential and theological foundations, as were mentioned. He believed that even if the imamate and caliphate is attained by force and sword, one is not allowed to oppose it thereafter. When the ruling system and the protection of the ruling system are made a principle, the person who takes it and the qualifications he has to have are overshadowed thereby. The principle is solidity and power rather than conforming the religious precepts or justice. It is this principle that makes it legal and necessary to be obeyed rather than its characteristics. Because of this, even a caliph that believes in the creation of the Qur’an and promotes this has to be obeyed because they believed that the negative results and consequences of opposing the ruling system are far more than the positive results that may result in ‘calling to goodness’ or ‘prohibiting the evil’ in words and in practice. Therefore, one must not do it. Although this is a true saying, if its limits are not defined and it is considered to be true in any circumstances, it would provide the best ground for the rule of oppression and deviation from the religion and justice, as this happened.(2)
It was exactly on this basis that he said they should not make any objection to Wathiq or
take any action against him. It was again based on this he did not call Mu‘tasim, the powerful and strict and at the same time uninformed and unlearned ‘Abbasid caliph, by any title other than caliph and the Commander of the Faithful, even when he underwent the severest forms of torture.(1)
These were the most important factors that formed the mentality of the senior Sunni clerics regarding security and protecting the ruling system, from among of which the third factor was the most effective and critical. This was one of the major differences between Shi‘ites and Sunnis. One of the most important reasons why Shi‘ah has been criticized and even blamed throughout history has been this last factor. They constantly said and say that Shi‘ah, with what they did, has broken the Muslim unity and created differences and disputes. Some even criticize Imam Husayn with this same reason and explicitly ask why he stood against the consensus of the Muslims.(2)
Here the problem is not whether this criticism of theirs is right or not, i.e. whether Imam broke the Muslim unity or whether there was another issue. What is important is that this criticism is the product of their intellectual and doctrinal system. Commitment to such a system will necessarily take one to such views as they have adopted. The critics of the Imam thought so and those that did not say anything, were under the influence of the special sayings regarding the Imam, which were also cited by great Sunni sayings
scholars. That is to say, from among the prohibition of breaking the Muslim unity, which was a natural and logical result of their intellectual, ideological and jurisprudential system, and the sayings that were cited as to the high position of the Imam, they resorted to the sayings. Their silence and probably admiration was due to this rather than due to the agreement of the ‘Ashura uprising with their jurisprudential and theological foundations—here we are talking about the true independent Sunni scholars rather than the ones who were affiliates of tyrants and would give up their religion in order to justify the purposes and actions of those in power. These would say anything even at the price of insulting a person like Imam Husayn.
It would be better here to cite the theory of one of the greatest Sunni scholars, Ibn Qayyim. In his most important and serious book A‘lam al-Muwaqqi‘in, he has a full chapter on “Change and difference of fatwa depending on change of time, place, conditions, intentions and results”, in which he provides a detailed account on that “The shari‘ah has been constructed for the people’s benefits in the worldly and the otherworldly affairs.”
Then, he provides the degrees of prohibiting the evil and its conditions, saying on the latter, “The Prophet necessitated prohibiting the evil so that what God and his Prophet like will prevail. Then, if prohibition of the evil involves another evil which is disliked by God and his Prophet, it will not be allowed, although
that evil is not liked by God and He will punish those who commit it. It is like prohibiting the sultan or the governor from evil by rising up against him, as this will be the basis for any disturbance and evil to the end of time. The Prophet’s Companions asked him about fighting emirs who delay saying prayers on time, and if they should fight them. He said, ‘No, not as long as they say it.’
‘One who sees something from his emir that he dislikes, he has to be patient regarding it and must not refuse to obey him.’ One who contemplates small and big damages that occurred to Islam will see that it has been due to non-commitment to this principle and impatience on the evil. They sought to eliminate an evil but were entangled in a bigger evil, which was the result of their action. The Prophet saw the greatest of evils in Mecca but he could not change them. When God opened Mecca to him and made it the home of Islam, he began changing the Ka‘bah and made it the way Abraham had built as the Qurayshis could not bear it since they had just converted to Islam and left paganism. Therefore, the Prophet did not let the Muslims stand up against the emirs and prohibit the evil in practice as a great disturbance would arise out of it.”(1)
The important thing here is that these two different types of attitudes and interpretations will entail
absolutely different consequences. The historical experiences of Shi‘ites and Sunnis and their present conditions are mainly affected by these two types of consequences rather than by the two types of attitudes and interpretations.
One of the most important differences of these types is that the Sunni revolutionary potential in the contemporary time had an ‘ambition for power’ rather than ‘seeking justice’ the way it is within the Shi‘ite world.(1) The biggest motivation and rather sensitivity and worry of revolutionary Shi‘ites at present are their seeking justice. The important characteristic of their Islamic political ideology, which is the source of their inspiration and mobility, is their seeking justice.
They have risen to establish justice, i.e. they have risen to establish an Islam whose main message is justice and the establishment of justice while the goal of the Sunni Islamic movements in general is mainly creating a powerful grand centrality. They are looking for the power and splendor of Islam like the early periods and want the Muslims to have a power like in the past. Their ideal is powerful caliphs of the early period. To them, Islam is the religion of power in the first place and its history is one of power and majesty. Shi‘ites, at least contemporary Shi‘ites, see Islam as the religion of justice in the first place and deem its true history to be one of justice and administration of justice.
For example, in the Shi‘ite view, the most important distinguishing feature of ‘Ali’s character is his
appreciation of equality, justice and justice administration. The former see bright grand faces among the powerful Islamic caliphs, who ruled over the greatest empire of that time while the later find manifestations of justice and equality in the true caliphs, who lived like the most ordinary people and did not bow other than to the religion and justice.(1)
It is exactly because of this that the internal developments after the Islamic Revolution of Iran, especially after the committed revolutionaries took control of the power, have to be studied based on their concerns about enforcement of justice and social justice. The most important factor that formed the ups and downs in Iran in the meanwhile was exactly this. The other factors were secondary. However, if such a revolution had occurred in a Sunni country, the critical sensitivities and factors would certainly not have been so and, most probably, they would have thought of making the revolution as powerful as possible. The natural result of it would have been its further ability in achieving social integrity and absorbing those that had different thoughts in order to create a powerful centrality.(2)
From among the other important consequences of this different attitude towards security and justice is that, throughout the history, Sunni Islamic movements were generally religious or cultural and one hardly sees any political movement while in the Shi‘ite world, political movements even during the rule of Shi‘ite sultans are abundant as there were the necessary theoretical foundations for rising up against the ruler. Therefore,
they were more likely to occur than where there were no such principles and such actions would be deemed illegal as causes of the order established by the ruling system.
The fact that Sunni Islamic movements in general have been religious and cultural is not because of their lack of theoretical sociopolitical foundations. In the absence of a sociopolitical channel which is both religiously acceptable and can contain and guide the revolutionary potential of the people, a tendency towards change, development and reform shall be naturally contained within the religious and cultural channel while the Shi‘ites did not have such a problem. It was likely for this potential to be put through its religiously acceptable channel, be it social or political or any other military or armed form. There was no problem in this regard. Therefore, a revolutionary potential could easily be led through its natural channel. However, this was not the case with Sunnis.
The outlets of public anger had been blocked and one could not rise up against the ruler, its oppressions and heresies. Consequently, all of these were manifested in the form of fighting heresy, religious deviation and intellectual problems so far as it does not relate to the ruler. One day in the form of fighting the Mu‘tazilites, while the other day in the form of fighting Shi‘ism, Sufism, the philosophy and the next day in the form of fighting any of the four religious branches and the jurisprudential and theologian schools and sometimes in the form
of confronting the people and their beliefs claiming that they do things that are not acceptable to a certain religiously dogmatic and backward group, whereas they have adopted polytheistic tendencies and shedding their blood is allowed.(1)
From this historical point of view, this has been one of the important causes of the endless internal conflicts of the Muslims throughout history. Despite the many common points among the various sects of Islam, which is due to the firm, clear and explicit principles and the infinite capacity of Islam itself, the history of Islam is still full of bloody confrontations between the sects. A great part of this indeed is due to the social, political, tribal and racial factors. However, it should not be ignored that lack of an appropriate and religiously acceptable channel through which one can benefit from the revolutionary potential of the people for sociopolitical reforms was itself a factor for the deviation of this accumulated and at the same time natural force. When this force was deprived of an appropriate and religiously acceptable means to achieve its goals, it will naturally use channels and means that are acceptable to it and, instead of dedicating its force directly towards the ruling system, it will confront its brothers with various excuses.(2)
This is especially more important in a religion such as Islam. Islam, more than any other religion, is capable of mobilizing its hidden forces for promoting its objectives. The other religions more or less dedicate their manpower to individual salvation. It
is not so in Islam. Yet, its difference with the other religions is that this individual salvation will be attained in the light of social action, any action that is dedicated to the promotion of the objectives of this religion.
The final purpose is for this religion to achieve its social objectives. Man will be happy if he puts himself at the service of realizing such a goal and ideal. It is because of this that this religion has been and is better able than the other religions to realize hidden individual talents and benefit from them for its sociopolitical progress. Therefore, a Muslim wishes to make maximum use of his power in order to promote his religion and to devote himself to this cause as much as possible, as this would finally result in his salvation. In other religions, this salvation is attained with a sort of practice on one’s soul or by individual or probably collective actions. However, in this religion, this salvation is attained mainly through individual or collective actions that somehow contribute to the promotion of the objectives. In the meanwhile, the important thing is that Islam has the ability and power to improve the internal forces of a Muslim, develop his sense of devotion and apply all of these forces.(1) Further discussion is needed to better clarify this issue.
It is principally an important human feature to be affected and attracted by something. This is one of his constant unchangeable needs. If this need is not equally
found with all people, it is not because it does not exist. Rather, the reason is the scattering of their internal forces. They are attracted by numerous factors and their forces are scattered without being sufficiently concentrated for the appearance and emergence of this intrinsic aptitude.
However, from among the many elements that can attract one, religion is undoubtedly one of the most important and powerful. This returns on the one hand to one’s intrinsic aptitude to seek the religion and God and, on the other hand, to the deep nature of the religion itself. It is because of this that it can permeate the depths of one’s subconscious and employ all his visible and invisible forces. From this point of view, there is not much difference between Islam and the other religions, such as Christianity, for example. Medieval Christianity employed its followers the same way. A Christian missionary or warrior would work and devote himself with the same passion as a Muslim missionary or jihad warrior. However, in the modern era, when Christianity, and not just Christianity but all the other religions other than Islam, made extensive reforms and put aside many of their authentic elements and primary claims, the difference in Islam and Christianity emerged. Present-day Christianity, contrary to medieval Christianity, is a set of rites with a limited capacity, incapable of mobilizing and employing all the capabilities of its followers, as in the past.
The fact that one does not see Christians nowadays who are as firm as in
the past is not due to the intrinsic weakness of today’s Christianity. Rather, it is mainly due to the weakness of the version of Christianity which is now believed in because Christianity today is not as firm, determined and direct as it was in the past and is actually required of a divine religion. When a religion is set back by the modern civilization by its necessities and pressures and it retreats step by step and gives up its original values in order to adapt to the present conditions at any price, it cannot have the minimum attraction with the help of which to create love and devotion in its followers. The inattention and non-devotion of Christians nowadays is more due to the internal weakness of Christianity promoted by the modern church than to their weak faith.(1)
This is the difference of Islam and the other religions, on top of Christianity today. For various reasons, which related entirely to its essence and nature, Islam went, and could only go, on a path different from the one that the other religions went or had to go on in the modern centuries. Although modern Muslim thinkers wanted it and still want it to be like the other ones. It is precisely because of this that the Islamic beliefs among the masses of the people are not less original than those of their fathers in the past centuries. This means that this religion has retained its originality, purity, entirety, certainty and explicitness and has
been able to preserve the same influence, attraction and potential that it had in the past centuries. It can quench the thirst of the new generation and employ them in the same way as it did their ancestors.(1)
Nevertheless, the discussion was that Islam can develop the internal capabilities of its followers and make them fond of it and employ their mobilized force for promoting its objectives. Now, the point is, when these forces and capabilities flourish but do not have a chance in the sociopolitical scene, it will be deviated and misled, and will turn into a force to encounter all that is deemed as heresy. When the emotions are excited, they will not submit to reason. Then the individual will seek to make his religion the most devoted by encountering whatever that is heresy. It will not matter to him if the one whom he attacks is his brother or fellow believer. He sees confronting him one whom will mean his religious purity and the victory of the religion, the truth, the Qur’an and the Prophet (S). This is not because the one he encounters is really on the wrong path. It is he who needs cases to deem as misled although this might be a mental process and an illusion, so as to apply the fire within him for devotion.(2)
Scenes of bloody sectarian clashes throughout the history of Islam did not just involve Shi‘ites versus Sunnis. It is surprising that sectarian violence between Hanafites and Shafi‘ites(3) or the
Traditionists and the non-Traditionists were far more extensive and bloodier.(1) The problem was not a Shi‘ite-Sunni one—indeed, according to what was said, there was in practice a much greater number of moves by Sunnis against Shi‘ites rather than the other way round as Shi‘ites, apart from the fact that they were generally in a minority, they were not like the Sunnis in terms of facing jurisprudential and theological limitations for making and taking sociopolitical moves and actions and for having a revolutionary potential for reform. Apart from this, their jurisprudential and theological foundations, religious thought and historical experiences were not so as to consider Sunnis to be outside the religion.(2) The problem was that there was no means for expressing religious purity other than by fighting heresy in the sense, as we said, of relating to the ruling system. It was as if the heresy of the other sects had attracted the entire sap of the tree of religious self-sacrifice and devotion and the other branches had been cut away. In other words, ‘sacrifice oneself for the high objectives and ideals of the religion” was put at the service of rejecting heresy, the way they called it, a current that is still going on.(3)
What has so far been said was related to the development of Shi‘ite and Sunni political thought in the first one or two centuries, to the background in which the Sunni jurisprudence and theology developed and what effects this background had on its realization. However, how these
foundations were understood in the following centuries and how they developed are independent subjects without considering which one cannot understand the present situation, especially because their social, religious and psychological structures and institutions are formed in this same period. In the meanwhile, the religious and political method of the ‘Abbasid caliphs was more effective and critical. Although the foundations of Sunni political thought were laid at the time of the Senior Caliphs and the Umayyad, especially Mu‘awiyah, it was in fact the ‘Abbasids who developed it into a final system. They needed the religion and pretended so and made use of it as much as possible in order to preserve and continue their rule.(1)
The flourishing, extension and development of Islamic sciences from jurisprudence, sayings and analysis to theology, statesmanship and history, go back to the same period. Because of their general politics, it was natural that this current be strongly influenced by their interests. It practically became so influential that the Sunni jurisprudential and theological system was involved in the ruling system of the society and, finally, turned into the ruling system’s ideology and justified and legalized it.(2) Later, after the fall of the ‘Abbasid caliphate, the bond was still in place and was put at the service of local rulers.
This requires further explanation. The fact is that the ‘Abbasids, in order to consolidate their power and position, needed the religion more than their predecessors. The Islamic society was more integrated and harmonious in the Umayyad period than in the
‘Abbasid period. The newly converted Muslims of the newly conquered lands in the Umayyad period were frightened of the new situation and power that had dethroned their kings. They either witnessed the events that went on or were finally in the employment of Arab or ethnic Arab rivals who had risen to fight for power. Years had to pass before they could discover that they could effectively and actively participate in the formation of the sociopolitical and even religious and cultural currents.
In the late Umayyad period, the days of seclusion and watching had passed. That is to say, the non-Arab Muslims entered onto the scene, providing for the fall of the Umayyad. Their fall intensified their entering on the scene in all its aspects. The other problem was the presence of new forces that not only had political claims, but had religious and cultural aspects that aggravated the sociopolitical differences despite all its positive results.(1)
The set of these conditions weakened the power of the ‘Abbasids compared to the Umayyads.(2) This was not because, for example, the ‘Abbasid caliphs were less capable or probably less strict or tyrannical; rather, it was mainly due to the change in the conditions. The conditions in the ‘Abbasid period did not allow the pursuit of the Umayyad policies. If the Umayyads had taken power in the ‘Abbasid time, they would have followed more or less similar policies and would have a similar degree of power.
What matters here is the effect of these conditions on the
Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure, which was founded and flourished mainly in this period. That is to say that the caliph’s weak military power made it necessary to use the religion as a means to consolidate his position. In fact, the religion made up for the power that could no longer be obtained by sword.
This does not mean that all the clerics who followed a similar path followed the caliph or pursued certain interests that could be gained by doing so. Doubtless, there were people among them that arrived at such conclusions only for the protection of the religion and for the security of the people. In their opinion, what mattered in those hard days of tension was a powerful centrality that could protect the religion and the people’s property and lives, while the ruler alone could not create such centrality. Therefore, the religion had to help create such centrality.
Thus, the religion was adopted as the ruler’s ideology. This did not mean that the religion responded to the ideological needs of the ruling system concerning how to run a society and how to govern. Rather, it was like a support to make up for his weaknesses and shortages. This indeed required a minimum of the religious appearances to be considered by the ruling system. It was not possible to ask the people to bow to and defend the ruling system while the system was entirely inattentive to religious appearances.(1)
According to this, one has to say that, if the ‘Abbasid caliphs
after Harun were not militarily weak, the Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure, at least where it concerns the political and governmental issues, would be shaped otherwise. This did not arouse any objection by Sunnis themselves until the contemporary era. In the latter period, and especially in the last two decades, numerous objections were made, some indications of which can be traced in the writings of revolutionary and even reformist Islamic or non-Islamic political groups in Egypt, northern Africa and some Arab countries.(1)
However, Shi‘ite ideology did not go on this route from the very beginning. Its principles were not so as to be able to turn into the ideology of the ruling system, even where the sultan was a Shi‘ite. When the religious acceptability of the ruling system is defined in connection with its conformity to the principles and conditions that the ruler of the ruling system should have, such an ideology cannot be adopted by the ruling system and cannot serve its justification.
The theoretical foundations of Sunni ideology were so that, in practice, it had no claim other than legalizing and justifying the present conditions. This was, firstly, because its theoretical and doctrinal foundations had been formed and had grown under the influence of political and historical realities, especially where it related to the early period of Islam. In other words, here the ideology was peripheral to and derived from the reality—we have already said that, in the issue of imamate and leadership, despite Shi‘ites, who first defined the
position, Sunnis defined and interpreted the position in the light of the one who was in the position. To them, what had happed in the early period was true and religiously acceptable.
Naturally, they would derive the definitions and concepts from the officially accepted cases. Secondly, the reason for this was that they deemed the preservation and protection of the religion possible only in the light of the existence of the government and the governing system.(1) Since this had been accepted as a principle, it would serve to justify and legalize the present situation. Their thoughts and minds were shaped like this from the very beginning, especially because, in their view, the consensus of the Companions, the Followers and the clerics of the later periods as well as the Qur’anic texts and the Prophet’s tradition approved it as well.(2)
The problem was not just that they had accepted such a principle. They thought this way. More importantly, they understood the religion like this and would interpret it like this. Doubtless, there were many among them who accepted and promoted this method because of bad intentions or for gaining material profit or approaching the sultan. Yet, it cannot be denied that there were also others who had accepted it for reasons that were mentioned.(3)
Nevertheless, these foundations were otherwise with Shi‘ites, who did not think or bow other than to their own rules, criteria and values. That is to say, they did not consider the justification of the present situation and avoiding
weakening the ruler’s power and probably trying to strengthen it, as some Sunnis claimed so, to be the only way to preserve and protect the religion. At least in certain parts of history they believed the contrary. Therefore, in their opinion, the present situation has to be accepted so long as it conforms to these rules or if the conditions are so that the preservation and protection of the religion require non-opposition to the ruling system, in which case they would neither recognize it nor oppose it.(1)
Although this difference may not seem very important and critical at first glance, it has shown its importance in the course of the developments of the new period. The theoretical problems of contemporary Islamic movement in the Sunni world and lack of such problems among Shi‘ites are initially due to this difference as the meaningful silence of Sunni religious circles against the criticism of the new generation about their support of Islam offered and interpreted by the corrupt tyrants, whether in the past or in the present, is because of the same reason.(2)
Although some Shi‘ite intellectuals in Iran and in other countries have made similar criticisms against the Shi‘ite clergy, the problem here had other causes and could, therefore, be solved. Although there were some Shi‘ite clerics by the side of Shi‘ite rulers in the past, this had secondary causes and was not because they considered the ruling system as religiously acceptable or their obligation to be religiously required. The necessity of defending the
true religion and a more important expediency led them to adopt such a position temporarily. Apart from this, as there was not such a necessity in the contemporary times and they had to stand up against the ruling power in order to defend and support the religion, even if the power was a Shi‘ite one, they did so.
The important thing, nevertheless, is that, for certain reasons, the way the clerics stood by the side of the sultan was different in the Shi‘ite and Sunni history. A Shi‘ite cleric could never accept the legality of the power attained by religiously unacceptable means and which acts with a method contrary to the religious rules. Because of this, he could not approve it in this respect. If he had to approve and support him, it was for peripheral and secondary reasons.(1) However, a Sunni cleric did not face such a limitation. To him, the ruler simply because he was the ruler and had the power was religiously acceptable and had to be obeyed. At least, he would deem any opposition to him as religiously prohibited. If some of the early jurisprudents expressed doubts as to the necessity of obeying a ruler only because he was a ruler, they did not yet unanimously agree on the acceptability of opposition.(2)
Indeed, a moral and pious factor prevented the pious Sunni clerics and jurisprudents from getting close to the sultan. They would stay away from the sultanate as it often involved material pleasures, tyranny, violation of others’
rights, lavish drinking and forgetting about the afterworld and the Resurrection. They would similarly avoid the company of the others who lived a similar life. As we said, this mainly had moral rather than doctrinal reasons. According to pious Sunni clerics, the sultan himself was one who had to be avoided in order to avoid the world and the pursuit of worldly pleasures. They followed sayings in this regard that advised avoiding the sultan.(1)
Considering the above points, one has to see now why some Shi‘ite clerics, some of whom were among the best-known of their time and even the following times, stood by the sultan’s side. In fact, most clerics in the Safavid time were so.
The basic reason for this was the political conditions of those times and the constant tensions between the Safavids and the Ottomans. The rivals of the Ottomans, i.e. the Safavids, were Shi‘ites. Therefore, it would be in the Ottomans’ interest to introduce the Shi‘ites as people away from or even outside of and opposing Islam. By doing this, they could arouse the support and courage of their people and persuade them, under the claim of defending the religion and gaining rewards in the afterworld, to do things that they liked and they managed in so doing.(2) However, the important point is that these actions and arousals were and could not merely be against the Safavids and would naturally include the Shi‘ites that lived within the Ottoman territory. It was exactly because of this reason that
they were under constant pressure, harassment, murder and pillage. Some of the slaughters were so extensive that the Shi‘ites in some parts were eliminated forever. As an example, Sultan Salim I, after he dethroned his father Sultan Yazid II and killed his brother and took the throne, in the very beginning ordered the beheading of 40,000 Shi‘ites.(1)
In fact, the political rivalry between the two had resulted in religious rivalry or rather hostility. The fact is that, if it is assumed that the two had a similar role in arousing political rivalry, the Ottomans doubtless had a greater share in arousing religious hostility because the Safavids were Shi‘ites and the Shi‘ites had never throughout the history considered the Sunnis to be outside of Islam so as to fight them on such grounds.(2) However, the contrary is true. For reasons that are beyond the present discussion, there were numerous occasions when the Sunni mobs, provoked by a worldly cleric or a bloodthirsty emir, attacked Shi‘ites. The same was true in this case, i.e. the Ottoman sultans could easily employ such a mentality in order to provoke the people to fight against Iran or the Shi‘ites within their territory. Indeed the undesirable consequences of such provocations were far deeper and longer lasting than was expected by the sultan or the other provokers.(3)
Under such circumstances, the clergy naturally stood by the sultan’s side in order to defend the status and the only powerful Shi‘ite centrality(4) so as to protect the power that was constantly
under different pressures by the rival, as a result of which they would prevent ruthless slaughters of their fellow Shi‘ites in the Ottoman territory, as this was a deterrent against the disrespect shown against the Ottoman Shi‘ites and their slaughter and pillage. In those critical days, the destiny of Shi‘ites whether inside or outside Iran was interdependent with the strength and power of the Safavids and they had no way other than to protect the latter. We finish this section by mentioning a historical example that shows the conditions and situation of those days.
“Sultan Murad IV (1032-1049 A.H.) took interest in taking Iraq, which was controlled by the Safavids at that time. He prepared to enter into war with Iran but, as he knew he could not defeat the Safavids, he decided to arouse a tribal and religious disturbance. Therefore, he asked the court clergy to issue a fatwa for the war against the Shi‘ites. No one accepted his request other than a young man by the name of Nuh Afandi. He issued the fatwa that the Sultan desired. The title of his fatwa was, “One who kills a Shi‘ite will go to paradise.” In some parts of his elaborate fatwa, he said, “Know that God will make you happy as this infidel rebellious group of roués have all the types of infidelity, rebelliousness, hostility, corruption, heresy and apostasy in them and one who hesitates on the order to kill them is an infidel like them.”
He also says, “The
reason for fighting and the permission for killing them are their rebelliousness and infidelity. They are rebellious because have refused to obey the caliph while God says, ‘Fight the rebels so that they will obey God’s orders.’ This is a must ordered in the Qur’an. Therefore, the Muslims have to respond to the call by their caliph for fighting this rebellious group who were cursed by the Prophet. The Muslims have to help him fight them.” Finally, he adds, “After killing these infidels, whether they repent or not… it is not allowed to get tribute from them or give them temporary or permanent refuge… Enslaving wives is permitted as it is allowed to enslave apostate women when they enter into war or go to a place that is not controlled by imam or caliph and this place is a war zone. Their children can also be enslaved following the enslavement of their mothers.”(1)
This fatwa resulted in a war that lasted for seven months, in which thousands of people from both sides were killed until a peace treaty was concluded between Iran and the Ottoman Empire in the city of Qasr-e Shirin and the war ended.
After the war, another war began in the Ottoman territory against Shi‘ites based on the same fatwa. They killed as many of them as they could. The most terrible of all was the slaughter of the people of Aleppo as it was a Shi‘ite-settled city since the time of the Hamdanites. The slaughter and pillage was
so extensive and terrible that, except a few people who fled to the neighboring villages, no one survived. In this event, 40,000 Shi‘ites were killed only in Aleppo, thousands of whom were the Prophet’s (S) descendants. Sayyid Sharafuddin Ali ibn Hujjatullah Shulestani, who was a cleric from Najaf, sent the fatwa to Iran so that the terrible slaughters might be stopped.”(1)
It is necessary to mention another point here. It is the fact that Shi‘ites, unlike Sunnis, were always a minority in isolation. Shi‘ites lived as scattered minorities within the greater Sunni society. Even where they formed a majority and had the power, they were like an island surrounded by their neighbors. As a result of this isolation, especially after the Shi‘ite sultans took power in Iran, the active connection of the Iranian religious society with the outside world and the Muslim World was cut off. When the modern history began in Muslim countries, including Iran and the other Shi‘ite territories, the negative resistance of the religious society to guard its original values further isolated this society.(2)
Although this phenomenon can be seen in Sunni communities as well, their isolation has never been so severe and as deep as that of Shi‘ites. The result of this difference can now be seen in the Islamic thought and the sociocultural movements of the two, especially on a spectrum of religious scholars and thinkers who have been carrying out the mission of defending Islam in the two territories.
Although, for numerous reasons, Shi‘ite Islamic thought
is more genuine and firmer than the Sunni one, because of the more direct and more extensive contact of Sunni thinkers with the modern civilization, apart from the fact that their thoughts are better updated than those of Shi‘ites, their way of thinking is more objective and less subjective than that of Shi‘ites. The long history of reformist and modernist thought among Sunnis is probably affected by this.
When the preservation of the original values is to mean merely a nostalgia about the past and entirely rejecting everything that is new or strange, there would be no room for reform, development and modernism. Such thought, more than originating from the religion and the religious foundations, is due to the secluded historical experience of Shi‘ites and the Shi‘ite religious society.
Indeed, Shi‘ite seclusion, at least in Iran, has other reasons as well. Lack of communication between the religious institutions and establishments and the ruling political power has intensified the seclusion. Lack of relations between the two in modern history and while foreign influence and that of the modern culture was expanding, resulted in a clash between them. As Iran was never a colony and modern thought and culture were not directly but practically imported into the society through the ruling power and its dependents and advocates, the clash between the two finally resulted in the clash between the religious society and modern culture.
As this culture did not show itself to the religious people in any form other than colonialism, exploitation by
foreign powers, corruption and irreligiousness, they thought it proper to avoid it entirely. They withdrew themselves from the surroundings and closed their society as much as possible so as to protect themselves and their children. Most probably, nothing could be done in such conditions and situation other than this that could be possible and useful.(1)
However, the story of the clash of the religious society with the modern culture was not like this. First of all, the strong relation of their society with the ruling political power exposed them to almost the same thoughts and developments that the ruling system was exposed to. Secondly, their clash with the modern culture was a direct one. Sunni settlements in general, from India to the Middle East and Northern Africa were subject to colonialism for a while.
They saw the features of the modern civilization in all its aspects in the faces of their children. However, this civilization was symbolized in Iran in general by people who were frail-minded, and, alienated from themselves, who neither knew this civilization nor thought of achieving such knowledge. Their resorting to that civilization was mainly for avoiding their moral, social and religious obligations. Finally, they were so in order to distinguish themselves from the masses of the people.(2)
In brief, the Shi‘ite and Sunni societies entered the contemporary history in two completely different ways. They experienced the modern civilization, culture and thought in two different ways and this culture influenced them in two different ways. They have inherited two
different experiences and are children of two different developments. The study of the religious situations of these two, especially their Islamic movement, is impossible without bearing this in mind.
Now let’s see, according to what has so far been said on the foundations of Shi‘ite and Sunni political thoughts, how the Islamic movements are within these two realms, what differences they have and where the differences originated from.
The fact is that the Shi‘ite Islamic movement did not have any significant ideological problem. The doctrinal principles, jurisprudential foundations, historical experience and sociopsychological structure arising from these principles, foundations and experience were not so as to be in conflict with the necessities and pressures of modern history in order to find an Islamic answer for political and revolutionary actions. Shi‘ites, led by their clergy, could rely on their ideological foundations to stand up against the tyrannical ruling system and to resist it as long as to overthrow it.
This current was in agreement with the psychological, cultural and moral consequences of the massive socioeconomic and political developments of the recent decades in Islamic countries that produced oil or somehow benefited from it. The problem was not just that, in order to protect the religion and guard its values, it was necessary to rise up against the dominant power that was inattentive or even opposed to it—for example, the way we have been witnessing in the last fifty or one hundred years.
Religious movements in the recent century, other than in the last two
or three decades, were for stopping the unbridled actions of the ruling system against the religious and national interests—more important than this was that such a struggle had significant objectives without considering its ultimate goal. It did not matter that one had to stand up against and lead to the right path the corrupt ruling system in order to defend the religion.
What mattered was that the various developments, the presence of active leftist and rightist groups that carried out political and revolutionary actions provided such an intellectual and psychological background for the Muslim youth and students that the very presentation of a way based on the principles of Islam which were at the same time revolutionary and challenging was itself a necessity. Other than through this way, it was not possible to quench the religious and justice-seeking souls of the youth who felt an ideological gap for justice and struggled for it. They were so thirsty and passionate that, if they could not find an answer in Islam, they would have certainly gone to other schools of thought. In order to protect its children, the religion had to offer its revolutionary ideology.(1)
As we said, Shi‘ite ideology and historical experience could well respond to this without making any change or reform in its foundations or without providing interpretations or justifications beyond its actual capacity, especially as the ‘Ashura of Imam Husayn had a place in the minds and feelings of the people, a story every moment of which contained a
message and the revival of whose memory was actually the revival of the principle that one has to oppose the corrupt tyrannical system no matter how powerful it is, and that one had to resist even by devoting one’s blood. This was the most important source of inspiration for finding appropriate solutions to problems that the new Shi‘ite generation faced.(1)
However, the problem was not like this with Sunnis. On the one hand, there was the pressure of the new generation and the thirsty loving souls of the youth, which required a religious, political and revolutionary answer, and, on the other hand, there was their historical jurisprudence, theology and historical experience that were contrary to such needs and expectations. The problem was both a theoretical and ideological one and a practical, historical and social one. Sunni ideology, even in its most committed, revolutionary form, never went beyond verbal advices when the sultan was a Muslim. Brave Sunni liberals throughout history were those that did not bow to the sultan and did not give up God’s content for that of God’s creation. They did not sell their faith to the world and were not overwhelmed by the splendor or threats or offers of the ruler. They stood against him, his wishes and expectations and told the truth despite the sultan desire and accepted the outcome of living this way.(2)
These are the great Sunni revolutionary heroes. They had the moral and spiritual power to stand firm against the world and the seekers of
worldly advantages while their resistance was different from what was needed for the modern period. The new generation needed figures who would stand up against the ruling system with religious motivations and who would call the people to their way and goals. Figures like Imam Husayn, Zayd ibn ‘Ali and other great Shi‘ite advisors to the truth not people like Ibn Hanbal or Sa‘id ibn Musayyib or other Traditionists who were beaten in the Days of Hardship but still stood firm on their beliefs.(1)
Their denial of the ruler was in their heart or, ultimately, verbal rather than in practice—indeed, verbal denial rarely occurred where it means criticizing the ruler—because denial in practice was not deemed proper by anyone. We have already said that their avoiding advising the truth was because of their beliefs rather than conservatism. Therefore, the changes of the time did not and could not affect it. The Sunni political thought had accepted it as a principle that one cannot and should not rise up or draw one’s sword against the Muslim ruler even if he is a corrupt tyrant,(2) while this was exactly what the modern era needed.
The problem was and is not that the present rulers, whom the Sunni youth oppose, are more tyrannical or corrupt than their previous counterparts. The problem is that today’s conditions are entirely different from those in the past. In the past, people would stand against the corrupt tyrant ruler in order to administer justice and spread religion throughout the society.
The justice and the religion required this and this required standing up against the deviating ruler. There was no obligation other than this because, firstly, the deviation of the society originated from the ruler’s deviation, and that of the latter originated in him. Secondly, there was no sociopolitical, intellectual or cultural need to provide a revolutionary ideology or an ideology for armed struggle so as to, for example, prevent the increasing distance between the youth and the religion.(1)
In our era, however, the problem had another face. The ruler was the puppet or follower or at least an ally of great world powers. It was not he who had control of the affairs. He carried out the plans that were prepared by others and given to him to be implemented. In the past, it was the ruler who had the power or ruled as he wished while now the real power lied somewhere else and he was more like a performer than a decision-maker.(2)
Apart from this, the sociopolitical, cultural and psychological conditions had changed entirely. In the disorderly severe conditions that existed, every school provided its own solution and claimed to be solving the problem while Islam could not do so. This solution naturally had to be proportionate to the existing characteristics, some most important ones of which were aggression, challenge and reformism of the youth, which could be created only in the big urban, industrial and conflicting communities of today that were full of tension and turned into a real
If Islam had not provided an acceptable competitive solution in such conditions, it would certainly have lost its influence. Any religion can maintain its active effective presence, if it is not indifferent to the realities and needs of the surrounding environment. It can even be said that preserving a situation worthy of the religion is indebted to its active creative exchange with all that is going on around it. In conditions in which any school, rightfully or wrongly, claims to reform the present situation, or seeks to disrupt it in favor of a more desirable situation, and such claims were accepted by a large number of young people only because there was a proper background for them, Islam could not remain silent and just watch. This was neither possible nor would the religious commitment and zeal of religious believers, the clerics, the educated people and the intellectuals allowed this.(2)
Other than these two factors, there was another obligatory factor which was neither internal nor external. In the recent decades, all the manifestations of the collective and individual lives had changed. Naturally such conditions would develop a psychology, thought, personality and ideal in harmony with it. The contemporary young Muslim grew up in an environment absolutely different from that of his fathers and ancestors. His psychology and personality, mind and thoughts, sensitivities and needs, wishes and ideals and, finally, understanding and perception were under the effect of the new rapid accelerating socioeconomic, intellectual and political developments. His religious understanding, even in its
most committing type possible, was different from the religious understanding of his ancestors. He was the child of another era, another experience, another necessity and another need.(1)
For certain historical and sociopolitical reasons, this personality, psychological and ideal difference was manifested in socio-religious discussions. The major difference in the religious perception of the new generation and that of his previous generation is in their understanding of politico-religious discussions. Therefore, the classical Sunni thought, even in its most progressive and modernized form could not provide an appropriate response in this regard. The classical thought was appropriate for conditions that no longer existed and it was no longer effective, especially as this had its own vulnerabilities. The Sunni political thought is mainly based on consensus while this basis could not bear and survive the doubts and criticisms of the new generation, as it did not, and many of its assumed principles and theorems collapsed in practice.(2)
Nevertheless, these factors altogether entailed new needs and obligations. The basic problem was that the needs and obligations were in conflict with the past thought and heritage. They sought to find, from an extensive jurisprudential and theological or even historical and traditional collection, which at least considered weakening the ruler as religiously unacceptable if not entirely approving the ruler and the ruling system, a response for fighting the ruler. For the first time in their history, they wanted to stand against their ruler based on religious grounds and to find examples in the past history and fatwas with
whose help to justify their actions and legalize it while this was impossible to do.
This was a serious real need while their doctrinal foundations and historical experiences were in conflict therewith. Such a dead end led them towards unprecedented theories and solutions that were far from the general beliefs and consensus of Sunnis, from the theories set forth in Sayyid Qutb’s Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq to the extremist thoughts of Mustafa Shukri’s “At-Takfir wa’l-Hijrah” group, and from ‘Abdu’s-Salam Faraj’s Al-Faridah al-Gha’ibah to ‘Utaybi’s Al-Imarah wa’t-Ta‘ah wa’l-Biy‘ah.
It is not clear yet which of these theories will prevail in the future because these theories are not based on specific principles so as to be used for predicting the future. What is critical and forms it is the present conditions and the pressure to find a challenging solution and the mentality of those who think of their own problems, one day by saying the society is a pre-Islamic Ignorant one, so as to obligate fighting it, and the other day by resorting to certain parts of the Prophet’s (S) and the early Islamic history in an attempt to choose an isolated minority who has left its society and immigrated, with the help of which they intend to Islamicize the society, which at another time they resort to a fatwa by Ibn Taymiyyah and prove the need of fighting the present society, which includes Muslims, who, although they are Muslims and cannot be deemed as infidels, yet they are ruled by non-Islamic rulers and by
non-Islamic law and order, and, sometimes, they question his religious legality and prove the need to fight him because of violating the allegiance conditions.(1)
We see that, although all seek the same goal, each have gone a different way without the slightest agreement or similarity between their ways. This is itself the best reason for what was said. On the one hand, there is increasing pressure that cannot be moderated or deviated and requires an explicit definite response. On the other hand, there is no ground for a response and, because of this, anyone seeks a way out without seeking the problem in its entirety. If anyone can invoke one or more verses of the Qur’an, sayings or historical examples to suggest a theory, one can invoke other examples from the Qur’an, the tradition and the history to provide their opposing theories. Any study of Islam in which its principles, foundations, spirit and generality are ignored and are not in harmony with its foundations is wrong, unreliable and cannot be continued. The big problem of the theoreticians and their theories returns to the same thing.(2) Therefore, these theories attract young people for a while and are then forgotten. To clarify the issue, it would be better to mention the thoughts and tendencies in modern history.
The history of the thought of an Islamic government and the attempts to establish it within the Sunni territory goes back to the fall of the Ottoman caliphate. From the early days of the expansion of Islam
to the fall of the Ottomans, the Islamic laws ruled the Muslim territories in practice. More importantly, the existence of a caliph in the following periods of the history of Islam was a great religious and spiritual support that calmed the Muslims and reminded to them that the Islamic rules and standards flow in all the aspects of their lives and that they have practiced their duties.
According to Suyuti, throughout the history of Islam before the fall of the Ottomans, Muslims lacked a caliph only for a period of three years.(1) Other than this brief period, there was always a caliph in some part of the Muslim World. This in itself rejected the thought of lack of an Islamic government and no one, therefore, thought of establishing one. Apart from this, the existence of the caliph responded to the religious obligation of having a caliph, following his orders and swearing allegiance to him because, according to them, any Muslim had to be under an oath of allegiance to a caliph and imam. Otherwise, they would die as if before Islam.(2)
Here the problem was not political dependence. It was a form of religious obedience and allegiance. Otherwise, they had to live under the political control and influence of a caliph. Since the late 18th century, when the Ottoman caliphate descended to a weak position, Muslims in general did not have a caliph based in Istanbul. More importantly, he was not anymore considered the most powerful Islamic power to be proud of.
However, despite lack of political hegemony, his religious position was recognized and the people had performed a great duty by paying or swearing allegiance to him.(1)
The Ottoman caliphate was overthrown in 1924 by the Young Turks. This was an unexpected dizzy blow. The Muslims everywhere felt that they lost their support and one of the most important divine duties had no longer been done. They could not imagine living without a caliph and at the same time being a true Muslim. To evaluate the excitement and emotion that the fall of the Ottomans entails, for example, see the poems of Shawqi, the prominent Egyptian poet of that time.(2)
It would be appropriate here to mention some of the developments following the termination of the caliphate in the Muslim World and especially in Egypt.
“One of the well-known events of Egypt at that time was the formation of a permanent assembly as ‘the General Islamic Assembly for Formation of Caliphate’, which published a magazine known as As-Khilafat al-Islamiyyah. The goal of the conference was to appoint one of the kings in the Islamic countries as the caliph.”(3)
Other than the activities of this assembly and its magazine, many scientific circles and newspapers contained the religious discussions relating to the imamate and the caliphate. As a result of these attempts, they mentioned or rather definitely said that, with the termination of the Ottoman caliphate by Ata Turk, Islam had been eliminated in Islamic countries and all Muslims are sinners until they pledge allegiance to
another caliph. This sin would have worldly as well as otherworldly punishments which would soon occur… They also mentioned that, because of removal of the caliphate, they had returned to the Ignorance Period and those who die in such a state would die as if they had died in the pre-Islamic Ignorance Period.
Many magazines published numerous articles and fatwas in this respect, saying, “It is necessary for all to appoint an imam at this time as in the other times. All Muslims are sinners so long as they have not appointed an imam who can unify them and they will be punished in the world with what the people of insight know and, in the afterworld, they will be punished with what God knows… Those whom we have to follow are not Muslims, unless they have an imam whom has pledged allegiance been to voluntarily… The imam of Muslims heads their government and the Muslims have to serve his glory, power and splendor.”(1)
After the caliphate, some Muslim thinkers and clerics considered for a while to revive it, as Rashid Rida theorized, “As much as the Islamic forces of this time can”.(2) However, they did not manage to do this for numerous reasons. Revival of caliphate at that time, despite in other times, that if the caliphate had been removed, it would have been restarted somewhere else, was not subject only to the decision of the Muslims. At that time, the foreigners had a critical and effective influence and would not
remain indifferent to such a current.
Apart from this, a generation of new educated people had risen who were in sensitive sociopolitical positions. They thought similarly to the Young Turks in this regard and, not only did they not intend to return to the caliphate, but they would also oppose it as much as possible. For example, Muhammad Hasanayn Hiykal, the well-known Egyptian politician writer was among them. At that time, he defended the thoughts of ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, whose book was published immediately after fall of the caliphate, and attacked his critics and harshly criticized those who worked to revive the caliphate. He wrote in this regard, “What could one say about an Islamic cleric who seeks a caliphate for the Muslims at a time when any Muslim king wishes to be the caliph.”(1)
Smith, who studies the mutual relations of Islam and the contemporary developments in Egypt in the light of Muhammad Hasanayn Hiykal’s biography, says, “Everybody was under the influence of the political events and socioeconomic developments of Egypt of that time. Everybody was to a certain degree under the influence of the modernists of the 1920’s and wanted to limit Islam and the power of Muslim authorities. Such actions were reflected in ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq’s book, Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, and in Taha Husayn’s Ash-Shu‘ara’ li-Jahili.”(2)
Nevertheless, many, occasionally honest, attempts of many of the believers in the religious necessary of the caliphate failed. The caliphate was terminated and attempts to revive it were futile. The Muslims, despite their tendencies and beliefs, accepted
that it was not possible to revive it although some of those in power at that time in Islamic countries were tempted to nominate themselves for the position, yet such temptations did not last long and were replaced by realism, and the thought was entirely forgotten.(1)
With the weakening of this trend, another trend appeared and grew, which was the thought of an Islamic government, which, to many clerics and religious intellectuals, meant nothing but the same Islamic caliphate and its continuation.(2) Before the fall of the caliphate, this thought was not that comprehensible. The previous caliphs and sultans, although corrupt, were not against the religion as it existed among the people. Their interests on many occasions even required them to promote the religion. So long as there was no significant foreign or domestic factor against the religious reality of the society, everything was in a form of harmony with and in compatibility to the religion and the religious heritage.
However, in the modern history, everything had evolved. The scientific, intellectual and industrial developments, the opening of the closed religious society, the backward society, foreign hegemony, direct or indirect dependence of those in power and influential people on the colonialists created new conditions, as if the religion was under pressure and attack from all directions. The problem was not just that the Ottoman caliphate, as the last sociopolitical and military symbol of the Islamic society had collapsed. More importantly, the situation had entirely changed and the Muslims truly believed that all that
they had was threatened by these events.(1)
In such conditions, eyes were directed towards a new concept, which was the Islamic government. Indeed, it was not a new concept but its realization, as it occurred in middle of the present century and its manifestation as a politico-religious ideal was a new issue. It soon had numerous supporters in different classes and, in the absence of an acceptable, deeply rooted and unanimously agreed on political ideal, it became the most important ideal of the Islamic societies. In the meanwhile, numerous other developments and events occurred, all of which contributed to the acceptability and expansion of this trend.(2)
Along with this trend, the western laws rapidly extended in Islamic countries. This had indeed nothing to do with the termination of the caliphate. Even if the Ottoman caliphate continued, the western laws would have entered Islamic countries and even to Turkey itself, as it had already done. This resulted from the entire conditions of those days not from the fall of the Ottoman caliphate, although some thought of these two as relevant.(3)
At this time, Muslims in all Islamic societies had crept into their closed society. The rapid pace of the developments and pressure of the time along with backwardness and desperation had put them in a passive position and pushed them towards passive resistance. Those who denied or opposed the religion or had claims for the western culture, laws and value system were, in practice, the only ones who ran the society without facing any
opponent or opposition. No one could help resist the new trend and its advocates.(1)
In such conditions, it was natural that the legal system and even the constitution in Islamic countries would be formed and reconstructed in the light of western laws. As the entry of Islamic countries in general into modern history coincided with the expansion of liberal thoughts and tendencies, the first thing that attracted attention was to develop laws and a constitution. Where could the laws be adopted from other than western sources?(2)
This requires further explanation. Throughout their history, Muslims, like many other Third-Worlders, constantly suffered from the tyranny of their rulers. The most important aspect of tyrants is breaking laws and not bowing to or recognizing any rule or law. In such conditions, the new developments began and eyes and ears were opened. All of a sudden, they found out that they lived in the worst sociopolitical conditions and in the utmost decadent backward conditions.
Indeed the top intellectuals had an undeniable role in arousing this feeling and reinforcing it.
By formally comparing their society to the developed societies of that time, they had reached the conclusion that their backwardness was rooted in political tyranny and that it occured in the lack of a legal system. Therefore, they promoted liberalism as much as they could and they considered the developing of a constitution and the other laws as the only way to achieve it. The problem, in their opinion, was entirely due to the rule of tyranny
and lack of freedom, and the cure was naturally the western laws.(1)
This was perhaps one of the most inappropriate choices that the Islamic societies could make, which would entail various complications. Right now, we do not intend to say why it was inappropriate. What matters is that a flood of new laws began to flow without there being proper grounds for them, while the Muslims, at least in this respect did not face any shortage. Although there were no well-compiled laws at that time, at least the sources were there, which are the same Islamic jurisprudence and laws, and they could easily get help from and be inspired by them for their various needs, as this happed in some Islamic countries.(2)
The first serious experience in modern history in Islamic countries, however, began through the modernization of the legal and legislative system. As we have already pointed out, this happened in the absence of committed Muslims. In those days, they were in a state of numbness and fear, had left the scene and, when they regained balance, they found out that they had to bow to new laws that were in many cases against their religious principles and fundamentals.
It would be appropriate here to quote part of the views of William Shepherd on how the Muslims entered the contemporary history, “It was through military events that for the first time the leaders of Muslim societies faced changes, such as the British conquests in the 18th and early 19th centuries in India
and the defeats of the Ottomans by the Russians in the 1768-74 wars, although the Ottomans’ awareness of the westerners’ military superiority had made them take limited actions in order to westernize their society in the early periods of the same century. In a place such as the Ottoman Empire, it was the military issues that entailed reformist attempts. However, when these reforms began, they could not be limited to what the leaders had chosen them to be.”(1)
He goes on to say, “If Christian theology sought to understand God’s nature and actions in this world, the Muslim jurisprudents sought to understand God’s will and the divine laws and shari‘ah, which would define the behavioral duties of all people. It was because of this that modernization attempts are mainly in legal fields and for sociopolitical institutions rather than on issues concerning theology. In the Muslim world, one cannot see anything similar to the great doubts that Darwinism aroused in the Western World although the picture of the creation as provided by the Qur’an is similar to that provided by the Holy Book.(2)”
It is exactly from this point that the seed of the ideology of Islamic movements in the Sunni World was planted. As we have already said, Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure and historical experiences were not as if to allow opposing a Muslim ruler that pretended to believe in Islam. The ultimate apposition was not to bow to him in one’s heart, distance oneself from him and not
to serve him. The most extreme form was to object in words about his vices and note his deviations, heresy or tyranny.
However, for various reasons, it was not allowed to stand up against the ruler and the ruling system and to take political or military action. From this point of view, the problem of objecting to the ruling system was not solvable. The new period, by offering laws other than those of Islam and by making them rule, opened a new door for objecting to the ruler and all the contemporary Sunni religious movements benefited from it. This was a way out and would allow them to live and go on with their activities.(1)
In their view, there was no place in an Islamic country for non-Islamic laws. Everyone had to accept Islamic laws and it was merely these laws that had to rule. Working for the promotion of this cause was a great undisputable and unchangeable duty. This is the concept that was later suggested as ‘the conformity to the shari‘ah’, which attracted the thoughts and minds of committed Sunni revolutionaries and justified the moves that had begun with this motivation.(2)
Genuine Sunni Islamic movements in the second half of the recent century in the Sunni World have all been formed with the same motive and goal. According to them, the Islamic government, i.e. a government in which Islamic laws rule, means Islamicizing, i.e. applying the Islamic laws in all aspects of individual and collective lives and making them rule
in the society. This is a thought that is in itself a reform but not a revolution against the ruling system. It is one against the present laws. Its goal is to change laws not the ruler, and if the ruler does not accept this, he has to be obeyed. If he stands beside these laws and wants to defend them against the people, then a fatwa may be issued for countering such a person.(1)
The principle is to Islamicize the society by Islamicizing its legal system rather than by Islamicizing it by changing its political rule. The problem is that the ruler should accept such a change and, preferably, take such an action on his own. From this point of view, regimes such as the Sau‘dis or the other regimes in the 80’s, when the Islamic movements were at their peaks in the contemporary era, began to conform to the shari‘ah, as in Pakistan under Diya’ al-Haqq, Sudan under Numayri, Egypt under Sadat, and in many sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf.(2)
Such a way of thinking in the past four or five decades, when non-Islamic laws ruled absolutely, although a reformist thought was considered to be a revolutionary thought at that time. Now that the conditions have changed entirely and the psychology, wishes and religious ideals of the young people have changed, this thought cannot respond to their passion for change and struggle. They need something far beyond this limited and somehow conservative capacity. They require the rule of Islamic values
in all aspects not the rule of Islamic laws in the appearances of the social life, which the shari‘ah deals with. The utter dead end of the present Islamic movement in the Sunni World is in this same point. The only door that was opened to them in their jurisprudential and theological thought is too limited to respond to the serious needs of the present generation.(1)
It is because of this limitation that thinkers of the new Islamic movements in general, from Sayyid Qutb to ‘Utaybi and ‘Abdu’s-Salam Faraj, have provided interpretations and justifications that are entirely strange to Sunni principles, beliefs and consensus. They have tried to resort to witnesses in the Qur’an, the tradition and fatwas of some clerics of the past, on the top of whom are Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyim, to provide an ideology that can religiously legalize and even necessitate fighting the ruling system and even establishing a new system. If great Sunni scholars consider these thoughts and theories with doubt, so much so that they liken their founders, claimers and supporters to the Rebels, it is not because of conservatism or seeking a comfortable life. It is because of believing in the principles and foundations of Sunni jurisprudence and theology, unanimously agreed on.(2)
They truly say that, by considering the Qur’an, the tradition and the practice of the Companions and the good people of the past, which the Sunnis have understood and practiced in the past, one cannot accept such theories. These theories are far
beyond the most extremist true interpretations of the Qur’an, the tradition and the practice of the Companions. Although there may be others in the meanwhile that say such a thing because of bad intentions and having certain dependences and may even promote that it is practically so—in which respect the Sau‘dis and the clerics supporting them are the great claimers of this thought at present—this is true without regard to who has said it and with what intentions.(1)
Apart from these issues, which are theoretical anyway, there are other issues as well. We have already said that the differences of Shi‘ite and Sunni movements, especially in contemporary history, are not ideological differences. There is also a difference in their sociopsychological structure, with each of them having created theoretical specifications of their own in a different sociopsychological structure. This difference is the product of centuries of differently experiencing two different ideologies. Any great extensive movement in any of the two would naturally be strongly influenced by these different structures. Because of this, one should not expect the manifestations and emergence of the two movements to be the same merely on the grounds that they are both Islamic. It is true that both are Islamic movements and seek to establish the rule of Islam, yet the problem is that two different interpretations of Islam have influenced their past and is still influencing them today.(2)
Sunni Islamic and revolutionary problems and dead ends are, on the one hand, rooted in the jurisprudential and theological limitations
of this religious branch for fighting the ruling power and, on the other hand, in the rapid developments that have led the new Islamist generation in some Islamic countries to embrace challenging thoughts and methods. These limitations and this rapid pace made it impossible for Sunni religious clergies and intellectuals to move side by side with them.(1)
Indeed, a great part of this was due to the pressures of the ruling governments on scientific and religious centers, eliminating their dependence and employing them forcefully. Those in power in Sunni countries in general, especially in Arab countries which are the base for extensive self-motivated religious movements, from Tunisia and Morocco to Egypt, Syria, Arabia and Yemen, have constantly attempted in recent decades to take control of scientific and religious centers with such claims as modernizing the educational system. However, the result of these developments was not just their being put at their service. More important than that was that they gave up their scientific depth and comprehensiveness and religious authenticity while this was something contrary to the needs of the time. Responding to religious, scientific and moral needs requires living in the time and comprehending the time while also requiring depth and genuineness. Those who are strange to the great Islamic heritage in various grounds will certainly not be able to provide an appropriate response to the needs of the time.(2)
These problems showed themselves from the mid-60’s and were intensified by the proper conditions in the 70’s, while culminating after the victory
of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The main problem was arriving in a new interpretation of Islam that would guide them in their struggle and tell them what to do in order to make an Islamic society and how to fight. They rose to action in the absence of a well-informed scientific and religious authority that they could trust. However, the problem was that, firstly, they knew little, and, secondly, they had already made their decision as to what they wanted and what they had to do. Their little knowledge served to respond to a question that had already been answered. The purpose was to get confirmation for the response.(1)
In such conditions, naturally the answer could not be completely Islamic. It was more Islamic-based than of an Islamic nature. However, as the responses were in general harmony to the psychological, intellectual and doctrinal needs of the young people and the students, they were rapidly and intensively absorbed and deemed as strictly Islamic solutions. This, however, had two basic problems and could not resist the ups and downs to survive. The resistance of an ideology, especially revolutionary and military ideologies, against the current of events depends on their commitment to the adopted principles, on their internal coherence and harmony and their ability in solving the new problems and dead ends, while the latter is indebted to the first two former characteristics. These newly-founded ideologies lacked such characteristics.
In the name of Allah
Are those who know equal to those who do not know?
Ghaemiyeh Computer Research Institute of Isfahan, from 2007, under the authority of Ayatollah Haj SayyedHasanFaqihImami (God blesses his soul), by sincere and daily efforts of university and seminary elites and sophisticated groups began its activities in religious, cultural and scientific fields.
Ghaemiyeh Computer Research Institute of Isfahan in order to facilitate and accelerate the accessibility of researchers to the books and tools of research, in the field of Islamic science, and regarding the multiplicity and dispersion of active centers in this field
and numerous and inaccessible sources by a mere scientific intention and far from any kind of social, political, tribal and personal prejudices and currents, based on performing a project in the shape of (management of produced and published works from all Shia centers) tries to provide a rich and free collection of books and research papers for the experts, and helpful contents and discussions for the educated generation and all classes of people interested in reading, with various formats in the cyberspace.
Our Goals are:
-propagating the culture and teachings of Thaqalayn (Quran and Ahlulbayt p.b.u.t)
-encouraging the populace particularly the youth in investigating the religious issues
-replacing useful contents with useless ones in the cellphones, tablets and computers
-providing services for seminary and university researchers
-spreading culture study in the publich
-paving the way for the publications and authors to digitize their works
-acting according to the legal licenses
-relationship with similar centers
-avoiding parallel working
-merely presenting scientific contents
-mentioning the sources
It’s obvious that all the responsibilities are due to the author.
Other activities of the institute:
-Publication of books, booklets and other editions
-Holding book reading competitions
-Producing virtual, three dimensional exhibitions, panoramas of religious and tourism places
-Producing animations, computer games and etc.
-Launching the website with this address: www.ghaemiyeh.com
-Fabricatingdramatic and speech works
-Launching the system of answering religious, ethical and doctrinal questions
-Designing systems of accounting, media and mobile, automatic and handy systems, web kiosks
-Holding virtual educational courses for the public
-Holding virtual teacher-training courses
-Producing thousands of research software in three languages (Persian, Arabic and English) which can be performed in computers, tablets and cellphones and available and downloadable with eight international formats: JAVA, ANDROID, EPUB, CHM, PDF, HTML, CHM, GHB on the website
-Also producing four markets named “Ghaemiyeh Book Market” with Android, IOS, WINDOWS PHONE and WINDOWS editions
We would appreciate the centers, institutes, publications, authors and all honorable friends who contributed their help and data to us to reach the holy goal we follow.
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Isfahan, Abdorazaq St, Haj Mohammad JafarAbadei Alley, Shahid Mohammad HasanTavakkoly Alley, Number plate 129, first floor
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Introduction of the Center – Ghaemiyeh Digital Library