Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Shia-Sunni Drama for Yo'Momma

Recently I had a post on Al-Azhar called "Fresh off the Unity Parade". This began a long conversation with my close friends and then with Shia acquaintances. One thing I realized was that Sunnis are experiencing for the first time being a minority community in society. Yet the Shia experience has been adapted to this minority status. That raised a question for me, which was how has the Shia community experienced life in the paradigm of being a super-minority?

To answer this question, a friend relates her experience at a local University. Muslamics is interested in dialogue and most of all a neutral and safe environment to discuss these sorts of issues. The Shia-Sunni divide is filled with history, bad blood, and most of all emotion. While all three components are important to everyone's narrative, I would encourage people to follow these ground rules while reading, processing and commenting on the issue:

  1. Respect.
  2. We all agree to disagree.
  3. Keep in mind that if we disagree, we are still HUMAN.
  4. Lets keep the conversation relevant.
  5. Finally, lets not personalize- no finger pointing, back biting, labeling and finally NO CALLING out of schools, places of worship, organizations or individuals (anonymity is key and some degree of vagueness for the sake of opening discussion is critical)
Without further "dancing around the bush"- a post by Anonymous Guest Writer on the Shia experience in the MSA/University environment:

My School Experiences as a Shi'a Sister

As I recall back to my first two years in college, there were only three, maybe four Muslim girls that I knew were Muslim because they wore hijab. I had never met them before, but it made me very happy to bump into these girls in random hallways and eventually in our "prayer" room at school. It made me happy not only because I identified with them, but because the MSA was full of male. So, I stopped going to the MSA events after my first year. That was until in my third and fourth year, the number of hijabis almost quadrupled. The MSA took on a different role on campus and for me.
The girls were all friendly and lovingly gave hugs and had sincere conversations with my sister and I , who also started going to school there. I could say the same about the brothers, also. Lunchtimes flew by, MSA meetings were great, and there was such a bond between everyone.

That was until they found out we were Shi'a. I can't say that I was affected by it directly in any way because the girls who started school with me were still as friendly and did not care for the difference between me and them. However, something very different happened for my sister and another sister who was also Shi'a. I remember one brother in particular, after he found out that the other sister was Shi'a, told her a series of very hurtful remarks like "Shi'as are not Muslims." At that point, I don't think he knew that I was Shi'a, but I kept distance from him anyway. Although he did not say any verbal remarks to my sister, he also began to act very rudely with her.

How could someone be so naïve? Slowly, the other sophomore and junior girls began to act the same way. They didn't say anything in front of us, but just being around them made us feel less welcome. And, we saw straight through the façade with invitations made out of obligation. It's not like we didn't try to fit in. I remember distinctly praying with them, eating with them, going to MSA meetings with them, and even going out of my way to go to Qur'an discussions where they discussed things that were the complete opposite of what I believed in (for example, Shi'as do not believe the Prophet was ever illiterate.

But, the truth is, sometimes we did not and could not fit in. We pray with our arms down, we don't practice taraweh, and maybe the most important difference—our view about the successors of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Despite these differences, we still believe in and worship ONLY Allah SWTA, we pray five times a day, we fast in the month of Ramadhan, we believe strongly in giving charity and helping the less fortunate, we believe in dawah and spreading the goodness of Islam—then, why the animosity? It's the biggest confusion that I have.

How can one Sunni sister treat her fellow Christian (or any non-Muslim) sister with such respect and give her friendship, yet alienate her fellow Shi'a Muslim sister? I realize that there is a lack of information and large quantities of misinformation about Shi'a Islam, specifically, Shi'a Ithna-Asheri Islam (believers of the twelve guided Imams). I, as one sister, can tell you that there is discrimination and hate against Shia’s, but I cannot tell those who refuse to listen. In this time when many in the world are against Muslims, we should at least try to understand each other and build unity so that we can defeat the ignorance. Non-Muslims will ask us questions and be inspired by our commitments, charity, and unity. What will we tell them when they realize that there really is no real unity.

Now its your turn. Please add your experience. We need to hear from you about this issue because it is critical. I look forward to your thoughtful comments, questions and stories.

Sincerely on behalf of the Muslamics Team,

Affad Shaikh


Anonymous said...

asalam `alaykum wa rahmatulah

I, growing up in a Sunni Muslim environment, had the basic understanding that we were different from the Shia Muslims.

My mother taught at a Shia school for a couple years when I was a child, but I was not allowed to go to the school or hang out with the other kids. I grew up with a mutual understanding that we had different beliefs, but I was not taught to hate them. I understand my parents did what they did when I was a kid so I would be raised on a sound religion and not be confused by the different teaches, until they made sure I understood my own.
What was presented in this article is a perspective from a different point of view. What I don't agree with are people who automatically judge people, call them "Kaffirs", when they have their own personal faults to resolve. It is up to Allah SWT to judge according to each person, and it is an MSA to foster an environment where Muslims can come together for the sake of Allah SWT.

Anonymous said...

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu,

As a muslim I'm extremely disturbed each and every time i hear such stories. How is it that we call ourselves the followers of Muhammad (peace be upon him) but we can not even practice a grain of the tolerance and compassion that he had for his fellow man?

Unfortunately I know first hand that these MSA horror stories are the norm rather than the exception for shia Muslims at universities.

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the right path and grant patience to those of us in the struggle for unity.