Debunking myths about Shias, Part II

Presenting the second part of the series, I wish to point out once again that the whole concept of these posts is to encourage understanding between us all. some people raised the question of why “aalims” were not being asked these questions rather then common folk. Well I think it is the “aalims” who have led us to this life of hate we now live. So perhaps it is now time to face one another as people and not as flocks led by different sheepherders.
The contributors to this post are

SH – Sehrish Haider – She did her bachelors in social sciences from LUMS & currently works for a bank
SW : Salma Warraich – Who describes herself in the following words “I call myself a displaced Lahori learning about life and living in Karachi. I come from a Sunni family which by any standard is very liberal and tolerant. The practice of religion was strictly enforced in my childhood but I credit my family for recognizing the fact that religion and faith come from within oneself and the mere act of praying does not make one a good Muslim. I have always held an interest in religion and the shroud of mystery that envelopes ALL faiths. My husband is a practicing Shia and my insights in the Shia faith are both of an outsider fascinated by the myths surrounding the sect and of a brand new inductee into the Shia community learning something new everyday. In the two years of my marriage, I have learnt a lot about the Shia faith and my meandering mind has conjured up a lot more questions regarding both Sunni and Shia sects as well as other sects of Islam. The quest continues … ”
1) Often sunnis are told that shias do matam because they are cursed by bibi ayesha what truth is there in this if any?

SH – Refer below

SW – Maatam is an expression of grief and an act of remembrance of the events that occurred at Karbala. Maatam ranges from ‘haath ka Maatam’ to the more extreme flagellation with chains and knives. The principal is the same and the devotion of the Azaadar can’t be measured by the extremity of the expression of Maatam. Grieving by acts of self flagellation is deeply rooted in Arab culture where the griever beats himself over the head, so it is not just restricted to Shia faith.

2) Why are tajias taken out and matam done in Pakistan when these practices are not common in public in the majority shia countries like Iran?
SH- Remembering and mourning martyrdom of Imam Hussain(A.S) and his family has been urged in shitte school of thought. The way it is practiced may vary from place to place depending on how people of that particular region traditionally mourn. For instance, Iranis do matam with the beat of the drum while drums are used for entirely different purpose in subcontinent. Similarly Arabs mourn by beating their chest.
· Tajzia/shabeeh are used to symbolize what happened in Karbalah. Symbolism greatly features in other Islamic practices as well.For example
Kaaba is said to symbolize Bait ul ateek on Arsh.
Running between safa marwa while performing Hajj .
Stoning of Satan while performing Hajj.
SW – That isn’t correct! Tazyeh, Processions and Maatam is done across the Muslim world in the Shia communities. Tazyeh are symbolic in nature; a portal for paying tribute to the events at Karbala and a form of remembrance. As such, they are a living lesson in history. In countries like Pakistan, the taboo on human representation is strictly adhered to. The Tazyeh and processions carry inanimate objects symbolizing the army of Imam Hussein going to their final battle. In Iran, Tazyehs often refer to re-enactments of the battle of Karbala with actors playing the roles of the key protagonists on both sides of the battle.

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

SH – Neither Imambargah nor masjids are sealed off for followers of any sect. Followers of all fiqh/sects are allowed to pray in Shia mosques and vice versa.

SW – This is again a very common misconception. Imambargahs don’t ask the visitor to declare their sect upon entrance. In my opinion, these myths have come about as a result of both sects speculating about each other and mutual wariness and distrust. I visited Imambargahs before my marriage because I was genuinely curious about the Shia faith. Everyone kept to their own business and no one questioned my presence.

4) 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?

SH – Following is narrated various sunni sources (As I have “Al Farooq”by Allama Shibli Numani ,I am quoting from it):Caliph Umar said that two mutah were allowed during the time of Prophet but I disallow them from now on and these are Mutah of Haj and Mutah of Nisaa (Pg 217)

SW – I’ll preface my response by saying that I am not an expert and there are varied views on this subject within the Shia sect. I will try to explain it as best I can. If there are inaccuracies in my understanding, I apologize to all readers.

Mut’ah is a time bound contract of marriage which is usually entered into with the intent of having ‘religiously approved’ intercourse. The time frame varies from a few hours to a year and the marriage is automatically void at the end of the time period without the requirement of going through ‘Talaaq’. However, if the marriage is physically consummated, the woman has to observe a period of ‘idaat’.

Mut’ah was observed in the early years of Islam and there are references to the Prophet (saw) allowing it in Hadith (Bukhaari). As I mentioned, it is a controversial subject within the Shia sect itself. It isn’t practiced in Pakistan to the best of my knowledge though it is in other countries. The necessity of Mut’ah existed in early islam since the Prophet himself sanctioned it but in modern times, I would personally find the practice more than a little unacceptable.
Please refer to the following source as it provides a brief overview of this subject along with its relevance for today:

5) 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?

SH – Following is an extract from Sunni source Isbaat al-Wasiyyah (by Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Hussain Al-Masudi)
“They surrounded Ali (AS) and burned the door of his
house and pulled him out against his will and pressed the leader of all
women (Hadhrat Fatimah (AS)) between the door and the wall killing Mohsin
(the male-child she was carrying in her womb for six months).”

This is what is widely believed by Shiite as to what happened.Similar instances are quoted in other sunni sources.
‘History of Tabari (Arabic), v1, pp 1118-1120- History of Ibn Athir, v2, p325- al-Isti’ab, by Ibn Abd al-Barr, v3, p975- Tarikh al-Kulafa, by Ibn Qutaybah, v1, p20- al-Imamah wal-Siyasah, by Ibn Qutaybah, v1, pp 19-20

SW – There are multiple references to such an incident but I can’t comment on it since I haven’t studied it in detail. It is true that Bibi Fatima was very dejected by the response of some of the Prophet’s followers following his passing, so is the fact that her daughter, Bibi Umm Kulthum Bint Ali was later married to Hazrat Umar with the consent of Hazrat Ali. A historian or religious scholar would be better suited to answer this question.

6) 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?

SH – Qalma is considered expression of Aqeeda.Hence the addition reflects the Shiite belief in walait of Hazrat Ali (Concept of Walaya is too vast to be explained here).However it is not obligatory to say ali un waliullah.

SW – The Kalima is a declaration of faith acknowledging the supremacy of Allah and accepting the Prophet as his representative. To understand why the third phrase is suffixed to the two basics tenets, one has to study the event at Ghadeer al Khum which is referenced in both Sunni and Shia texts and is considered irrefutable (mutawatir).

Following Hujja tul Widah, the Prophet (saw) held another congregation at Ghadeer al Khumm where following a lengthy sermon, the Prophet (Saw) declared the oft-referred phrase: “Mun Kunto Maula Fa-Haazan Ali un Maula”. (sic)

“For whoever I am his leader (Mawla), Ali is his leader (Mawla). O Allah! Love those who love Ali, and be the enemy of the enemy of Ali; help him who helps Ali, and forsake him who forsakes Ali.”

The meaning of Maula has been interpreted in different ways in Shia and Sunni faith but there is no dispute as to the authenticity of the event and the declaration. Shia faith takes this as the appointment of Hazrat Ali as the wali of the Prophet (saw).

Following this address, the following verse was revealed to the Prophet:

“This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion;” (Al-Maeda, verse 3; 5:3)

This revelation of this verse right after the sermon at Ghadeer al Khumm is considered to be the completion of the three tenets of faith as interpreted by Shia faith, Toheed, Rasaalat and Imaamat. It does not take away from the basic declaration and only adds what was declared by the Prophet at Ghadeer al Khumm.

7) 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?

SH – There is a hadith by Prophet that sajda performed on “Khak” is the most Afzal.As far as I know Imam Malik (sunni source) has also quoted this hadith.

SW – This is a literal interpretation of Hadith where Sajda is supposed to be done on something natural, i.e. earth. Given the religious significance of Karbala, the Fazeelat of a mohr made from Khaak e Shifa’a is considered to be inestimable. It should be clear that the act of Sajdah on the mohr does not constitute it as essential to Namaaz. If a mohr isn’t available, the Sajdah can be done on the prayer mat as well.

8) Why is the entire shiat 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?

SH – If you go through the history of subcontinent, it was not only Shiite but also sunni and hindus who participated in muharram mourning. It was only after deobandi movement in 1800s that the azadari was proclaimed sinful and represented as some sort of a cult.

SW – There is no mystery only a self-imposed distance with respect to religious discussions from both sects which fuels speculation and theories. Anyone who wants to know about either sect can go and ask or research.
9) Why are fiqaye jafria timings for seher and iftar different? Don’t u think we can even agree on something small like this?

SH – The Quranic verse regarding opening of fast( “thamar atmou alsiyamar ilaa Al-lail”) uses the word “lail” which means “night” so the iftar is likewise timed when darkness casts in representing the beginning of Night.The sunni iftar timing is seen to be set earlier which is thought as evening.In Arabic,the word “Masaa” is used for “evening” while “Lail” is used for “night” and thus the interpretation.

SW – I don’t think this question even merits to be asked. The fiqh timings are a matter of interpretation in a religion which is extremely flexible since it is based on interpretation of a Book which is said to be for all times.

The Fiqh Jafriya simply interprets the timings for Sehr & Iftar as the time when dawn/dusk can clearly be distinguished from night/day.

  1. Salam un Alaik.. great effort..I must appreicate the owner of this blog and also particpents of this post..We should clear the misconception about Shia faith.. good effort.. jazak Allah.

  2. Have you heard that “little knowledge is a dangerous thing”? Due to your lack of knowledge about Islam and the misconceptions that shias are spreading, you are actually helping them rather than “debunking” the myths. If you are interested in learning what are actual arguments behind the two faiths, whats taqqaya and tabbara, go through books of authentic scholars rather than relying on your “experts”.

  3. @abu hamza the first thing i am interested in learning is how are you referring to two different fiqahs of the same faith “Islam” as two faiths…? Do you realize you just labeled the whole shia community and Shiate countries like Iran and Iraq of a “different faith”

    My second question to you would be, are these the same scholars you have gleaned the premise of the “great shia conspiracy” from? You know the great plan to spread “mis conceptions” and how i am “helping” them in their evil designs?

  4. Instead of questioning me, go do some research yourself about the origins and motives of Shias. Do not rely on hearsay or half-baked “experts”.

  5. I have a myth which I like some one to debunk. Shias are actually descendants of Kufis who invited Imam Hussain to Kufa to do Bia and fight against Yazid t dethrone him. But the same Shian e Ali kufis betrayed Imam and even before that his cousin Aqeel who was murdered by Kufa governor. These Shias did hide themselves in their houses and let Imam taste Shadat alone with his family in Karbala. This mourning(Ma’Tam) also started to soothe the GUILT for this betrayal to Prophet’s grandson.

  6. @Faisal: First of all, thanks for keeping my comments even when I was disagreeing with your efforts. While your intentions maybe good to bridge gaps and learn more about other faiths, my sincere advice is not to indulge in a subject of which you have insufficient knowledge. Religion should not be discussed unless one has command over it, else it leads to fitna and fitna alone.

    Please remember that all companions of Prophet (saw) should be dear to us. We are in no position to differentiate between them and have no authority to say anything bad about them. If there were any differences between them, we can not take sides. This is basic rule of thumb.

    You wanna know about what Shias say? try

  7. I heard this idiom of Urdu when I was a kid,

    This article is the best example of that.

    Self destruction is prohibited in Islam, and Maatam is beating yourself (or in many cases cases cutting yourselves with sharp knives). So this is totally haraam. And Shaheed doesn’t die, they are alive, so why do maataam of living people? The very basics of this cult are very distorted.

    And Mrs Salma Warraich, for your kind information, this mere act of Prayer is called the difference between Muslim and Non Muslim.

    May Allah guide us to the right path,

  8. Fundamentalist: I’m sorry but could you clarify which ‘mere act of Prayer’ distinguishing Muslims from Non-Muslims are you’re referring to in your comment? I strongly believe that praying 5 times a day does not distinguish Muslims from Non-Muslims. It is the intent behind the prayer. Going through the motions of namaz yet going against all that Islam stands for in your values does not make one a ‘Muslim’. The concept of ‘Niyat’ is very clear in Islam, is it not? I would appreciate if you could not categorise a religious minority as a cult.
    @Abu Hamza: Your comment is simply disheartening. The basic tenets remain the same as was laid out in Islam at the outset. I am appending the official Fatwa by Al Azhar University which is in essence a Sunni establishment.

    “Head Office of al-Azhar University:

    IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE BENEFICENT, THE MERCIFUL Text of the Verdict (Fatwa) Issued by His Excellency Shaikh al-Akbar Mahmood Shaltoot, Head of the al-Azhar University, on Permissibility of Following “al-Shia al-Imamiyyah” School of Thought

    His Excellency was asked:

    Some believe that, for a Muslim to have religiously correct worship and dealing, it is necessary to follow one of the four known schools of thought, whereas, “al-Shia al-Imamiyyah” school of thought is not one of them nor “al-Shia al-Zaidiyyah.” Do your Excellency agree with this opinion, and prohibit following “al-Shia al-Imamiyyah al-Ithna Ashariyyah” school of thought, for example?

    His Excellency replied:

    1) Islam does not require a Muslim to follow a particular Madh’hab (school of thought). Rather, we say: every Muslim has the right to follow one of the schools of thought which has been correctly narrated and its verdicts have been compiled in its books. And, everyone who is following such Madhahib [schools of thought] can transfer to another school, and there shall be no crime on him for doing so.

    2) The Ja’fari school of thought, which is also known as “al-Shia al- Imamiyyah al-Ithna Ashariyyah” (i.e., The Twelver Imami Shi’ites) is a school of thought that is religiously correct to follow in worship as are other Sunni schools of thought. Muslims must know this, and ought to refrain from unjust prejudice to any particular school of thought, since the religion of Allah and His Divine Law (Shari’ah) was never restricted to a particular school of thought. Their jurists (Mujtahidoon) are accepted by Almighty Allah, and it is permissible to the “non-Mujtahid” to follow them and to accord with their teaching whether in worship (Ibadaat) or transactions (Mu’amilaat).

    Signed, Mahmood Shaltoot.

    The above Fatwa was announced on July 6, 1959 from the Head of al-Azhar University”

    Islam also stood for tolerance. Pity that it’s in short supply.

  9. aslmlkm everybody ,
    cmmon let peace prevail …
    I as a shia will hugely respect anybody who respects Prophet Mohammad (saw)
    even he does not acknowledge the imams .
    please realize that Matam , Taziadari etc are not essential part of islam , these are cultural things . One might agree or disagree with this . But lets appreciate the fact that this is not a part of Schiism .I have closey seen people who would not offer prayers but perform matam with knives(muslims , shia as well as sunnis ) .etc ..
    Message to both shias and sunnis –>
    when ever we become lazy and instead of finding about religion , or truth on our own , decide to BLINDLY believe so called Ulemmas , we give them immense power to lead us .
    As a result they also become politically strong . Hatred is a profound instrument to gain popularity .Homo sapiens find it very easy to hate as compared to love or forgive someone .
    lets all be patient (sabir) and not try to be judge of others . It is indeed Alimighty’s task to decide what’s right or wrong . One must do what he consideres right , but should refrain from believing that he is mighty enough to be others judge .
    Try to love and forgive others as Prophet Mohammad(saw) did.
    najaf husain zaidi

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