What Is Mainstream Islam - Shi'a Or Sunni?
Those people for whom the caliph was Mu'awiya at that point, you would not necessarily call them Sunni Muslim, but they are just Muslims living in different countries. They are living in Egypt, they are living in Syria, they are living in Iraq. They have probably never seen Mu'awiya, but they know there is a caliph by that name. They never met Amir al-Mu'minin, they never met the Prophet. The ahadith in praise of the Ahl al-Bayt have been washed away, hidden, changed, forged.
And I want to argue, besides the fact that the majority does not necessarily mean that is orthodox Islam, but I want to argue the fact that the Muslims that are majority today, they came about to be Sunni Muslims because of historic and sociopolitical reasons, not because of any religious or theological reason. Let me explain this. There was no major debate at some point where the Shi'a 'ulama and the Sunni 'ulama had these big debates and the Sunni 'ulama completely trumped and defeated the Shi'a 'ulama, and then the majority went with this and the other ones were left behind. It was not like that. What I will demonstrate to you is that most people living in a society will follow the government of the time without standing up for any cause or fighting for anything that they see wrong in that society.
Let's make it relevant and talk about the society we live in today. We live in Canada. We see a lot of things in the policies of this government that we like, that gives us the freedom, the security, the comfort, the benefits that we live in, bihamdi-Llah. But we see things that are wrong as well. How many of us stand up and protest about it?
For example, the government introduces gender specific education to very young children. And some of those teachings we know are wrong and are corrupting the minds of our children. We are very concerned. But will we go downtown and protest and write petitions and write letters? No. Why? We are busy with our lives. We have to go to work, we have to put food on the table. We have dependence, we have responsibilities. There is no time for these sort of things. So we say others will do it.
The government is trying to legalize pot. We all know it is wrong, right? We do not want marijuana legalized. But how many of us are going to write petitions and letters? No, we just let things go. The government, when we came to Canada, many of us, there was no gay marriages. Now it is legalized. How many of us said anything about it? No. If you came a long time back, maybe there was a time when Canada had capital punishment and then they removed it, right? You can give example after example after example. Abortion, right? Pro life, pro choice. We see these things happening on a day by day basis.
You hear in the news that the government is now the province of Ontario is going to allow alcohol and wine to be sold at the grocery stores. You do not want that. You do not want your children when you go grocery shopping, seeing the bottles of wine and alcohol, but are you going to do anything about it? You let it go. You let this slide. You let that slide.
Over a period of time, that way of life and that way of thinking becomes what is defined as quote unquote, "Canadian values." And these are then infused into your children's minds. And they grow up with these ideas of what is human rights, what is feminism, what is animal rights, what is right and wrong about the environment, what should you stand up for, what should you not stand up for?
And then you speak that language. When you get on social media, you blog, you write comments to every news article. You write based on what you have determined to be right and wrong, based on what society has fed you as values. But your fathers, when they saw these first creeping in, they kept quiet. So it went, and you go with the flow. What I am trying to say here is this is the same thing that happened with Islam.
The rights of the Ahl al-Bayt, as we shall demonstrate, were usurped. They were marginalized and put aside and tormented and tortured. After the early caliphs, and particularly after Amir al-Mu'minin, 'alaihi as-salam, when the Umayyads came to power, they were brutally opposed to the Ahl al-Bayt, and they also spread lies and rumors and fabricated false traditions to disparage Amir al-Mu'minin and the Ahl al-Bayt, and to downplay their importance in Islam. And so the society grew up with those values.
Now, those people for whom the caliph was Mu'awiya, at that point, you would not necessarily call them Sunni Muslim, but they are just Muslims living in different countries. They are living in Egypt, they are living in Syria, they are living in Iraq. They have probably never seen Mu'awiya, but they know there is a caliph by that name. They never met Amir al-Mu'minin, they never met the Prophet. The ahadith in praise of the Ahl al-Bayt have been washed away, hidden, changed, forged.
So they do not know any better. They go with the flow. You do not protest. You have a living to do. You have to go to work. You have to provide for your family. And things go one after the other.
The Umayyads rule comes to an end. The Abbasids come to rule. The Abbasids rule comes to an end. The Ottomans come to rule. The Ottomans rule until the First World War, Second World War, the khilafat comes to an end. Countries break up. There is now nations with borders. But for the majority of the time, when the Muslim Ummah was growing and expanding in hundreds and thousands and millions, the government was determining what is going to be the official story of Islam.
And what some of these caliphs did as well, as I shall demonstrate is, they also created a sanctity around the idea of the sahaba and said that we must not speak any ill of any one of the companions of the Prophet and create sort of an aura of infallibility around them. Why? Because if we allow investigations and discussions around them, even if they are true and honest, they might lead people back to seeing the Ahl al-Bayt 'alaihimu as-salam, and they might now also point fingers at us that we are not as good as even the Sahaba Ikram. So we must somehow make them perfect. But at the same time we are claiming titles to be Khalifa of Allah and Khalifa of Rasul. So we must bring the Prophet down as well and show flaws in his character so that now we are worthy of being his khalifa.
Now, this sounds like a conspiracy theory at this point but I will abundantly prove this with evidence. The one advantage that the Shi'a Muslims have over the Sunni Muslims is that when the Shi'a Muslims argue their case, they bring their proofs and arguments from the Sunni sources. Because a lot of the early history, the seerah of the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, were written by Muslims that you might today categorize as Sunni. So for example, Tarikh Tabari, Tarikh Ibn Athir, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Suyyuti, Ghazali, Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, and there is a host of them. Sirah Ibn Ishaq, Sirah Ibn Hisham, none of these were Shi'as. So we use those very same sources to argue our case. But what we argue is we say we must not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that there was nothing wrong.
We must dig this out and talk about it, not because we want to foster division and arguments, but because that is the only way to heal and understand what we lost in the original Islam so that we can recalibrate our compass and find the way forward and solve the plight of the Muslims today.
You see, the Qur'an itself abundantly argues that the majority for the most of times is wrong. If you read the Qur'an, the language of the Qur'an always condemns the majority. We are not saying that this is proof that the Sunnis are wrong, the Shi'as are right, but we are saying it is not an argument that because you are the majority, therefore you must be right. Consider, for example, in Surat ul-An'am, chapter six, verse 116, it says, "wa in tuti' akthara min fil ardhi yudilluka an sabilillah" (6:116). And if you were to follow most of those who are on the earth they will take you away from the path of Allah. "In yattbi'una illa adh-dhan wa inhum illa yakhrusoon" (6:116). They follow nothing but suspicions and they are only guessing their way through. It is only conjecture. So the Qur'an repeatedly argues this case.
But as I said, it is not that all the Sunni Muslims necessarily agreed with what Mu'awiya preached or what Harun ar-Rashid did, or what Mutawakkil did. But when you live in a society, in a government, you go with the flow. You do not really oppose it. And this is how the majority came to follow that one path. It is because for the longest time, Muslims were ruled by tyrants and dictators. But that does not mean the majority is right, nor does it mean that the minority who voiced their opinion and opposed these tyrants are wrong.
And so when we search for orthodox Islam we must not judge it on the basis of majority or play with words and labels of saying "how did the word Shi'a come about?" and "how did the word Sunni come about?"