Debunking myths about shia’s part I

I have always had a fascination with religion and religious history. If one would try to categorize my curiosity, I would be a type A, total fantasist about what lies beyond and the one to always ask the craziest of questions right from childhood about my religion, my ancestry and so on. It has stood me in good stead over the years, as throughout my life as a Muslim of the Sunni sect indoctrination in various methods and forms of bigotry and hate have been commonplace.

I can pinpoint the start of my curiosity with the Shiate sect of Islam. I had heard plenty of myths about their revered Imam Ali and his failings, his rage, his drunkenness and so on. I had also heard stories about his sword, how it never existed, how it was just a figment of  shia hyperbole. Well one day while visiting the Topkappi museum in Istanbul me and my wife saw it, among other historic Islamic exhibits like the Quran Hazrat Usman was attacked on. Immediately we looked at each other and smiled because believe me when you see the length and the breadth of this sword (the exhibit said it was real) you can begin to understand the failings of the historians in our sect who have done their best to vilify Hazrat Ali.  Even if that sword we saw was not “Zulfiqar” and one of the swords Ali wielded, by god no mere mortal can even lift that thing it is enormous!! To date no one will believe me, perhaps they are right or perhaps they are blinded by the hate ingrained in them, well hate serves no purpose and as moharram is in front of us and undoubtedly violence will break out on this somber occasion in Pakistan, one thing is clear to me. It does not matter if you are celebrating the birth of our prophet (PBUH) or in tears at the tragic death of his nephews in Karbala, belief is something which cannot be judged.

So I thought, hey gods given me a voice,  why don’t I do something about this hate. Well I want to finish it, and the only way I know how is to educate people, thus I got together  people from different strata and careers in the “shia community”and asked them the questions most used against them by imams of other sects. Perhaps this exercise will go some way in dispelling the myths created and manipulated about shias.

Due to the overwhelming response from twitter and among my friends, these will be a series of posts with the same set of questions asked from totally different individuals.

Participants in this post

Raza Abbas :  25 year-old student and blogger from Karachi. A Computer Science PhD student in the states at present.

Shaista Hussain : A blogger and peacemaker from Isloo, organizes like a demon and has the power to equally convince and shoo away at a moments notice

Samar Fatima : She claims she aint a scholar but her words speak otherwise to me

Often sunnis are told that shias do matam because they are cursed by bibi ayesha what truth is there in this if any?

Raza: This is totally false. Matam is an expression of grief in the Arab world where they beat their chests and slap their faces in times of tragedy. Different cultures have different ways of doing matam (expressing grief). The matam done here is a little different to the one done in Iran and Iraq, but is purpose is the same i.e., remembrance of the great tragedy of Karbala.

Shaista:  Had the Shias been really cursed, they would have been self-flagellating all year round! Enough Said….

Samar : Matam simply means a state of mourning and lamentation. But most of us take it as beating ourselves And if we quote Sunni Books, its written that Hazrat Ayesha (R.A) said, at the last time of my husband Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.W) his head was in my lap, when he breathed hus last I was so much disturbed that I picked up grinder (a form of wood cylinder) and do matam on my head with that and do matam on my legs with my hands..  Ibn Katheer al Nasibi in al Bidayah wa al Nihayah Volume 5 page 420. Theres no truth in Shias being cursed by Ayesha.

Why are taaziyas taken out and matam done in pakistan when these practices are not common in public in yhe majority shia countries like

Samar: Tazias are common everywhere. There are juloos and Alams even in Iran, KSA or Gulf countries. Tazias are symbols. Verse 158 from Chapter Al Baqarah,

“Verily, Safa and Marwa are among the signs of Allah”
Al-Qur’an, Surah 2, Ayah 248
And (further) their Prophet said to them: “A Sign of His authority is that there shall come to you the Ark of the covenant, with (an assurance) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if ye indeed have faith.”
Since the love of Imam Husain (as) is obedience to Allah then all Symbols, Monuments, Taaziyah, Zareeh, Zuljanah etc. that indicate love and attachment to Rasulullah (s) and his Ahl’ul bayt (as) are all Signs of Allah (swt) and they command respect.
Raza: To say matam is not common in other shia-majority countries would be false. Tazias and Alam are perhaps more common in Pakistan than anywhere else. Like I said, different cultures have developed different ways of paying tribute to the Imam. These are all symbols or replicas of their tombs, their swords, their horses (zuljanas) and should not be thought of as idolatry, as
they are not worshiped.
Shaista: Taazias and Matam (self-flagellation) are different forms of expressing your grief and mourning.  Agreed that Taazia is specific to Indo Pakistan but Matam is not.  Quma (matam by sword) is practiced in Iran, Iraq and Damascus.  Matam by hand and Zanjeer is practiced widely across Shia states.  In some countries, silent processions are also taken out to mark the mourning of the event. Therefore you will notice that the way the event of Karbala is remembered and mourned is marked by the local cultural values and socio-economic conditions


Why are imambargahs sealed off for sunnis can we visit them?

Raza: Shias do not have separate ID cards, sir :). Anyone can visit the imambargahs anywhere. I have seen a lot of people go to Nishtar Park in Karachi on 9th and 10th Muharram to see what actually goes on there. Nothing is sealed off.
Shaista : This is again a myth.  An Imam Bargah is perhaps more open than a Shia-Sunni mosque because it is a used for a gathering that discusses an event, based on historical references and knowledge is imparted using primarily the Quranic references.  I have personally witnessed and met with several Sunni families who do come to attend the Majalis.  Therefore there is by no means any bar or ‘sealing off’ the place.

Samar: Shia masjid/imam bargahs are never closed for anyone, shia sunni whoever be. Even women can, since its Allah’s house. No one can stop anyone from entering it.

Muttah is regarded by sunnis as an abhorrent shia tradition of promiscuity could u pls shed some light on its real purpose? Is it even applicable today?

Samar : Mut’ah is a type of Nikah until an agreed time. It can be for a day, two days, a month, one year, three years etc. It  has certain condtions to be fullfilled. If they fullfill them, then theres no harm in doing it. And no to forget, theres a similar concept in Sunnism as well, often refered as Misyar marriage, which can be further elaborated.

Raza : How is muttah an “abhorrent shia tradition” when it is part of Sunna itself? The second Caliph revoked this practice (which we dispute he couldn’t do since no one can revoke a sunnat), and we, therefore, claim it still stands. It is not widespread, certainly, and is simply there for extreme situations. Remember, Islam is a DEEN of great flexibility. Muttah was never meant to be part of our daily lives, but only something that could be invoked under specific circumstances.

Shaista : Muttah was coined to support the soldiers who would be traveling long distances, away from their wives.  The idea was obvious, and it allowed them to meet their desires without violating the limits set out by Allah.  However, Muttah as I understand is perhaps not practiced anymore because the world as a global village hardly has any distances that cannot be borne.  Muttah is also an exception for those who are not ready to support a life long relationship and it allows them timebound relation with another woman (who should not be in another active relationship/marriage)

There is some mention of a hadith by shias in which umar broke down alis door and dragged him to abubakar for his refusal to give bait causing bibi fatima a miscarriage wud u shed some light on this also?

Raza: The hadith is not only mentioned by Shias, but is also present is several works of hadtih done by Sunni scholars as well (for example, Al-Tabari). It is not fiction, and this actually did happen. What more can I say? Things weren’t as rosy as they are painted out to be in our “glorified” Muslim history. There were schisms in Islam deeper than we think. That is why I recommended you that book yesterday (After the Prophet). It is objective, and talks about this particular event happening as well. Suffice it to say, there are several things that are not brought up when talking about history, in order to present a much more peaceful and positive view of that time in early Islam, yet we see that only 10 years after the Prophet’s death, Ali (A.S) and Hazrat Ayesha (R.A) fought a battle against each other. And only 50 years after the Prophet’s death happened the great tragedy of Karbala. Does this sound like a rosy history to you?

Samar : Yes, burning people’s homes was a favourite threat from the khalifa to get people to see things their way. It didn’t work to get the Bayya when Abu Bakr and Umar burned Ali (as) and Fatima (as)’s house.

Shaista : As far as I know, this is true and has been mentioned in history books esp the ones that I have read.  I do not have exact references but somebody should be able to pull out Sahih Bukhair or Tirmazi reference for the Sunni audience.

Sunnis claim shias have changed the kalima by adding ali un waliullah to it what is the purpose behind this change? Does it actually happen?

Raza : What does Kalima mean my friend? It is simply an exclamation of faith. Nowhere in Quran is written La Illaha Ill Allah Muhammad un Rasool Allah. It is simply arabic for “No God but one God, and Mohammad (PBUH) is his Messenger”. The kalima is not end-all, nor it has been claimed to be. To add one more phrase to it is not KUFR. It is simply a expression of our faith.

Shaista : The short answer to your question is that there is only one Kalima: There is no god but God, and that Mohammad is His Prophet. Citing ‘Ali un Waliullah’ is an exclamation of your allegiance to acknowledge Ali as the rightful spiritual leader of the Muslims, after Prophet Mohammad’s departure.  This by no means implies that if you do not ever say it in a lifetime, you shall not be considered a Muslim, no absolutely not. However, it is important to note that this was coined at the famous incident of Ghadeer when the Prophet himself declared Ali as his ‘Wali’ post Hajj.  This incident has been cited in Sahih Bukhari and other history books also. You will find some contradictions in history books (views of sunnis and shias) that Prophet Mohammad praised Ali only to ‘protect him from further criticism, esp after his departure’ and yet majority of the Muslims also believe that whatever Prophet ever said was by the Will of God.  Therefore, the fact that all history books agree on Prophet stating Ali as Wali should suffice for this argument.  Interpretations of why he said so become secondary in my point of view.

Samar : Kalima means any sentence that means something. Theres no single hadith that say that Kalima is fixed and cannot be changed.  Or even Kalima Tayiba in quran ? Not merging up the verses but complete Kalima in just one sentence ? If innovations are Biddah, then What is As-salatu khair al-min an-Naum which was added by Umar !

I have seen some of my shia friends do sajda on a small tablet of mud from kerbala or khake shafa i think its called. Why is this done is it thought of as a medium?

Raza : Yes, its called Khaak e Shifa. We pray on Khaak e Shifa because of its FAZEELAT. Its unlike any other sand anywhere in the world. Another reason is that, our scholars have recommended to do sajdah on things that are natural (and what could be more natural than sand, and that too, sand of Karbala).

Shaista : Sajda is meant to be done on a pure surface (organic if I may say so such as leaf, piece of wood or sand). Majority of the Shia muslims use khak-e-Shifa (as sijdagah) to place their forehead on a ‘clean’ surface.  This by no means implies that they are ‘worshipping’ that, or that it is used as a ‘medium to connect to Allah’.  It is used only for the stated purpose, placing forehead on a clean surface.

Samar : In Ahl’ul Sunnah’s authority work Targhib wal-Tarhib, Vol 1 page 581 we read:
“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh&hf) said: Make your faces dusty, and cover your noses with dust.”
The Prophet (s) explained the reasons for prostrating on soil in the most beautiful manner.


Why is the entire shiate faith si shrouded in mystery? Or is it that the sunni ulema give it that color to make us feel like its some sort of cult?

Raza : I would argue that the entire Shia faith is made out to be so different and mysterious for our Sunni brothers, when it is not. True, there are differences among us, but there is far more common to us than we think. Too often these differences are used politically and otherwise to divide us, and the only way to defeat them is to seek out the truth yourself instead of letting others tell you what Shia do or do not believe.

Shaista : Shiaism in my humble opinion is a branch of the Muslim Ummah that show their allegiance to Mohammad’s immediate family and acknowledges them as the rightful spiritual leaders of the Muslims.  It is by no means a ‘cult’. People as we understand them come in all shapes, sizes and social practices and there are extremists in every corner of this world.  This should by no means undermine the true spirit of this faith, which forms part of the larger Muslim Ummah.  Remembering Hussain for his great sacrifice for his grandfather’s religion is a way of ensuring that the event is not shrouded in the dark corridors of history.  Because if Hussain has a progeny and followers who mourn him every year, then so does the army who stood against Hussain and his cause! Therefore, Moharram every year should serve as a reminder that Hussain’s sacrifice was for Islam, as we understand it today.  Had Hussain not given up his life, along with his friends, family and especially children, our present faith would have been distorted and totally chaotic.  Read Allama Iqbal’s poetry for further reinforcement!

Samar : Nothing is mystry. You just need to learn and you can just learn everything. Lack of knowledge and mistook silence can be the reasons.

Why are fiqaye jafria timings for seher and iftar different? Don’t u think we can even agree on something small like this?

Raza : It is simply a matter of interpreting hadith. Our scholars have concluded that Sehar must be stopped a good 10-12 mins earlier than actual time (for precaution). And Iftar should be opened 10-12 minutes later when it is sufficiently dark. This is not something small, and I think it still is no big deal. We’ve always had it this way.
In general, I would say the JAHAALAT and narrow-mindedness of our people has helped fuel the divide between us. Again, I would ask you to refer to Maulana Ishaq’s video about shia-sunni differences. Just because we interpret things differently does not mean we are any lesser Muslim. People should think with an open mind, and accept that this difference has been there for ages and concentrate on 90% of the things that we have in common rather than the 10% that makes us different.

Shaista : Quran does not state that Seher timings should be 4:45 a.m or that Iftar is at 5:35 p.m sharp! It provides indications that have been interpreted in different ways.  Shias interpretation of Iftar after maghrib prayers come from the Quranic statement of dusk/darkness and next Ramzan you must objectively notice how much light there still is when the first call of Maghrib Azaan takes place.  However I agree that this could be settled between Ullemahs but then again, for a nation that cannot agree on Eid (which is again based on the citing of the moon) how can we expect them to agree on something perhaps a bit more complicated than Eid

Samar : The time for the breaking of fast in Ramadan, and for Maghrib prayers is the same, therefore for the breaking of fast Allah Almighty says:

“Establish prayers after the decline of the sun till the darkness of the night and the morning recitation…”
Surah al-Israa, verse 78

And just to conclude, Imam Ghazali stated in Ahya ul-Uloom, volume 1, page 335 (Dar ul Isha’at, Lahore):


“…the time for Maghrib prayer is when the sun is concealed from one’s vision. This concealment is meant to be in terms of going below the surface of the earth. In this case, one should wait till the darkness prevails over the horizon/sky”

I would like to add that these people have taken considerable time out to open up and answer my questions, so I will certainly not tolerate any abusive comments on their faith or way of life, discussion is encouraged ignorance will not be tolerated.
Pic of Hazrat ali’s sword by Emane @ deviant art
  1. All that stuff apart i will read that for sure tomorrow but why do Shias pay more important to Hazrat Imam Hussain i mean the Hazur SAW was the highest Prophet not his grandchildren but why all the emphasis on them ?

  2. oh and also meant the same about Hazrat Ali but it seems that these two personalities have more importance than Hazur SAW in Shia faith ! i mean why would u ask for help from Hazrat Ali or Hazrat Imam Hussain when you say “Ya Ali Madad” i think you cant even ask for help that way from Hazur SAW its considered “shirk” ? no ?

  3. Excellent piece. Kudos to you for sharing this information with us. It’s a pity there are people out there who distort the truth. There were a lot of things I was not aware and this piece allowed me to understand their point of view in a different light. 🙂

  4. There are too many things unnecessarily dividing us Muslims. The least we can all do is focus on things that unite us and bring harmony among us. How Allah finds our belief or our intentions is between Allah and each individual. It is not in our ability to understand what Allah sees best for us, or what He accepts from us. We should however focus on those traits and features that bring us together, and not break us apart.

  5. faisal:

    praise be to you for taking this step!

    and more praise be unto raza, shaista and samar


    first i would like to recall an incident…gen zi(n)a, may he burn in hell, called a conference of ulamas…at maghreb they broke for the prayers…there was not one unified prayer…each aalim led his own prayers

    these learned aalims who believe in the same allah and the same prophet ..saw…would not follow another alim in prayers…such is the schism and fitna in their hearts…and the majority of them were sunnis…

    the point i wish to emphasise is in today’s clime…the ulemas have become heir to their own vested interests…and they wrongly use islam to justify their arrogance and stand…


    and then their is the bigger picture…the book informs us that allah sent 1,24,0000 messengers…it boggle the mind that they could have only focused on the fertile crescent…surely allah would have dispatched them all over the world…which imho means his followers are all over the world…some still practising versions of the message received by their prophets


    the believers are not restricted or confined by any measure to muslims alone…this is also evident from the surah in the book that defines the criteria of who would go to heaven…and if memory serves me right…that criteria was: belief in one supreme being, belief in a day of reckoning and leading a good life

    khair, apologise for the digressions…

  6. And ask them about Quran.Shias say the Quran today was edited by Khalipas in there favour and the Quran today is not real.And Mehdi will bring the real Quran.When Allah himself promised to Protect the Quran how they claim that Quran is not real?
    Ask them abotu azmat e Shaba.Ask them how they can curse Shahba When Allah himself has forgive all there Mistakes.

    Shia a sect created by Jealous and defeated jews to divide Ummat becasue they knew that at that time Muslims Imaan was so strong and there belife in Allah was so strong that they can not be beaten in wars.So munafiqs of that time created this Kufuria sect.

    May Allah guide Everyone.


  7. A lot of things in Islam are changed, manipulated etc by “ulemas” of different sects. When u talk of sunni tradition it is necessary to say which sect of sunnis since most of the “misconceptions” of sunnis you state above are not something most people I know have. And by definition of most people I’m considered a “wahhabi” who are supposedlyt bitter enemies of shias. However, I’m actually friends with a lot of shias. In fact some of my very close friends are shias. To them their beliefs and to me mine. The only judge is Allah and not us.


  8. A brave and much needed initiative. Well done. There is too much hate in this world to keep adding to it with our self righteous behaviour.

    I am glad you began this post.

  9. I would like to answer a question that an earlier comment asked. The Quran and Shia belief about it. I would like to quote:

    “It is our belief that the Qur’an which Allah revealed to His Prophet Muhammad (s) is (the same as) the one between the two covers (daffatayn). And it is that which is in the hands of the people, and is not greater in extent than that… And he who asserts that we say that it is greater in extent than this (the present text) is a liar.”

    [As-Saduq, Kitabu’l-I`tiqadat (Tehran: 1370 AH) p. 63; English translation, The Shi’ite Creed, tr. A.A.A. Fyzee (Calcutta: 1942) p. 85]

    “All great Twelver Shi’ah scholars from the earliest period to the present century have believed in the complete preservation of the Qur’an. Some famous early Shi’ah scholars who have clearly stated this belief in their books include:
     Shaykh al-Saduq (d. 381 AH), Kitabu’l-Itiqadat, (Tehran, 1370) p. 63.
     Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413 AH), Awa’ilu l-Maqalat, pp. 55-6;
     Sharif al-Murtada (d. 436 AH), Bahru ‘l-Fawa’id (Tehran, 1314) p. 69;
     Shaykh at-Tusi (d. 460 AH), Tafsir at-Tibyan, (Najaf, 1376), vol 1 p. 3;
     Shaykh at-Tabrasi (d. 548), Majma’u ‘l-Bayan, (Lebanon), vol. 1 p. 15.
    Some of the later scholars who spelt out the same views include:
     Muhammad Muhsin al-Fayd al-Kashani (d. 1019 AH), Al-Wafi, vol. 1 pp. 273-4, and al-‘Asfa fi Tafsir al-Qur’an, p. 348;
     Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (d. 1111 AH), Bihar al-‘Anwar, vol. 89 p. 75

    This belief has continued uninterrupted upto the present time. Shi’ah scholars of this century who have reiterated the belief that the Qur’an is completely protected and unchanged include such famous names as Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin al-‘Amili (d. 1371 AH); Sayyid Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi (d. 1377 AH.); Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita’ (d. 1373 AH); Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim (d. 1390 AH); ‘Allamah al-Tabataba’i (d. 1402 AH); Sayyid Ruhullah al-Khumayni (d. 1409 AH); Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khu’i (d. 1413 AH) and Sayyid Muhammad Rida al-Gulpaygani (d. 1414 AH).”

  10. I would like to add that a number of Ahadith in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim that point at the incompleteness of the Holy Quran. Fortunately, the Shias have never used this as ammunition to attack Sunnis.

  11. I am sorry but all this does seem to be quite futile. Do you not find it strange that the ahadith and accounts of the ‘history of early Islam’ began making their appearance some 250 years after Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad Mustafa, had moved out of his physical body? And those histories and anecdotes were penned mostly by converts from Zoroastrian families in the defeated Persian empire.

    Were the Arabs themselves incapable of leaving written records for 250 years? Or, was there a conspiracy to destroy what existed and to replace it with stuff that the people who wielded power thought worth propagating?

    What we have today is a weird religion which makes little sense and which divides the Muslim ummah into dozens of sects. This cannot be Islam, an immutable Deen which was followed by all prophets, according to Al-Qur’an. We need to do away with sunni-ism, shia-ism, etc., not perpetuate them.

    The very post that I put up when I began my blog two months ago was “Islam: back to basics.” Here is the link in case anyone feels inclined to read it:

  12. Shias most authentic Book (according to shias themselves) says Quran is incomplete.

    But what about Sahabas why do Shias curse HAzrat Abu Bakar,Omer And Usman.?

  13. Also had another question dont you think matam is wrong when a mother was crying and beating herself and cursing after her son had died Prophet Muhammad SAW asked her to be patient but she said how could you know you have never lost a son ! and when she got to know that was the holy Prophet Muhammad SAW she said she was sorry and she didn’t know and she will be patient but then the Holy Prophet said the time of patience has passed so if Prophet Muhammad SAW didnt do matam or anything like that on the death why do shias do matam if the holy prophet didnt do it or didnt advise such a thing to be done and forbid anything minutely similar !

  14. AIK HEE SAF MAIN KHARE HO GAYE MEHMOOD O AYAZ… NA KOI BANDA RAHA NA KOI BANDA NAWAZ… when we are doing the same rukoo, the same sajda and praying to same Allah why divide oruselves into sects…

    personally i think 90% of us speaking here are not qualified to discuss relgiion as we havent studied the meaning of the Quran, the Hadith or other islamic works.. if u were a lwyer, you are qualified to speak if u have read the legal doctrine and law .. similarly, if u wanna speak on religion, then study the source documents first..

    its very easy to divide and very difficult to unite.. let us unite rather tahn divide as there are thousand and one enemies of islam anyways so why should we be our own enemies!!

  15. Allah pasand nahi karta hai waaye matam ko siwaye uss k liye jo mazloom ho….ref sur e nisa 148tafseer ibn e kaseer vol 2 pg 820, sahi bukharee vol 2 pg 820.
    phr un ki zauja sara dukh mie aagay barhee aur apnay moun pe tamacha mara. ref sura al dehriat 29
    hazrat adam ny apni tang py itna matam kiya k unki haddi nazar aanay lagi ref mairaj un nabuwa chap 1 pg 248
    museebat mei apna sir peetna hazrat yusuf ki sunnat hai ref tafseer e kabeer vol 5 pg 158

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