Murder that western Medias didn't see it.Because victims were Muslims
Erdogan Chides Obama's Silence on Chapel Hill Killings
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized US President Barack
Obama for his silence after the killings of three young Muslims in North
Carolina this week.
Speaking alongside Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto during a state
visit to Mexico on Thursday, Erdogan said the silence of Obama, Vice
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry was "telling" and
they should take a position following such acts.
"If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don't
make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you," Erdogan said,
in the latest sign relations between him and the White House have
The three Muslims were shot dead on Tuesday near the University of
North Carolina campus in an incident police said was possibly a hate
crime, Al Jazeera reported.
The White House said on Wednesday it would await the results of the police investigation before commenting.
Newlywed Deah Barakat, 23, a University of North Carolina dental
student, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad
Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, were gunned
down on Tuesday in a condominium about three kilometres from the UNC
campus in Chapel Hill.
Police charged the couple's neighbour, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, with murder.
Investigators said initial findings indicated a dispute over parking
prompted the shooting but they were looking into whether Hicks was
motivated by hatred towards the victims because they were Muslim.
Turkey, a European Union candidate nation and member of the NATO
military alliance, is a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic
State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
But Erdogan has become increasingly outspoken about what he sees as rising Islamophobia in the West.
Last year, Erdogan said his relations with Obama had become strained
and that he no longer spoke directly with him as he was disappointed by a
lack of US action over the war in neighbouring Syria.
Erdogan said he instead spoke with Biden over issues such as Iraq.
Despite working together to combat ISIL, differences have arisen between the US and Turkey over how best to tackle the rebels
More than 400 people held a gathering in the US
capital of Washington DC to pay tribute to three young Muslims who were
murdered in North Carolina this week.
Islam is a monotheistic religion (believing in only one God)
originating with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Islam is the
second-largest religion in the world today, with an estimated 1.5
billion adherents, spread across the globe, known as Muslims. Muslims
form the majority in more than 50 countries of the world. Today Islam is
the fastest growing faith in the world - its beautiful message is
reaching millions in the far corner of the earth. One more meaning of
the word "Islam" means "submission", referring to the total surrender of
one's self to God, and the word Muslim means "one who submits (to
Muslims believe that God revealed the Holy Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) in the course of twenty three years as the final and last
message to mankind through angel Gabriel (on whom be peace). The Holy
Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Sunnah are
regarded as the fundamental sources of Islam. Muslims do not regard
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the founder of a new religion, but as the
restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham,
Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. Muslims hold that part of the messages
of these prophets became distorted over time either in interpretation,
in text, or both. Like Judaism, and Christianity, Islam is also an
Islam is a religion, which guides its followers in every aspect of their lives. It is a way of life.
Islam is the modern or latest version of the message sent by God
through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, Islam was sent to mankind
through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Islam is "modern" in the sense that it
has come to complement the teachings, which were introduced through
Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Islam is a religion, which seeks
to give a meaningful purpose to our life on this earth. Islam seeks to
guide us in fulfilling that purpose by creating harmony between Creator,
our fellow human beings and ourselves. What you will read below are
some of the basic features of Islam. THE ONE and ONLY GOD Islam is a monotheistic religion.
It teaches that there is only one God who is the origin and creator of
the universe. This is the foundation stone of Islam, and is reflected in
the famous sentence, which says that, "There is no god but Allah"
(Allah is the Arabic name of God). The belief in God relates us to our
origin and guides us throughout our life. The belief in one God shows
that man should not worship any material thing or person in this
universe. By teaching that there is only One God for all humans, Islam
promotes the sense of brotherhood and equality in human society, all are
equally related to God in the same way. The Holy Qur'an, the holy book
of Islam, says: Say: He is God, the One and Only, God the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him. Holy Qur'an (Chapter 112 THE PURPOSE OF LIFE Our life on this earth has a specific
purpose; it is not the result of nature's accident, nor is it a
punishment for eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. We are here
according to God's plan: the worldly life is a test; it is a chance to
prove ourselves as deserving of the eternal blissful life in the
hereafter. God did not create us just for few years of this life. To be
created just for this world's life would amount to a joke played by the
Creator with the human species. Muhammad (pbuh), the Prophet of Islam,
said, "You have not been created to perish; on the contrary, you have
been created for eternal life." According to Islam, the final
destination of mankind is the life hereafter. At the end of time, all
human beings will be resurrected and will be held accountable for their
worldly life: The life in hereafter will be an eternal life. However,
whether it will be blissful or full of sorrow depends on how we spend
our present life. It was to help mankind in achieving this objective
that God sent various prophets and messengers to guide them. Muhammad
(pbuh) is the last prophet; and Islam is the final and complete version
of God's message.
STATUS OF HUMAN BEINGS IN ISLAM PRIME CREATION: Human being is the prime creation of God. He says, "We
have indeed honoured the children of Adam; spread them in the land and
the sea, provided them with good things; and preferred them in esteem
over many things that We have created." Holy Qur'an (17:70)
BORN SINLESS: Islam teaches that every human being is born sinless;
no child carries the burden of his or her ancestor's sins. God says, "And
a burdened soul cannot bear the burden of another and if one weighed
down by burden should cry for (another to carry) its burden, not aught
of it shall be carried, even though he be near of kin." Holy Qur'an
(35:18) Each human being is born with a pure conscience, which can
absorb and accept the true message of God. It is only the social and
familial influences, which take a person away from God's message.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Islam also emphasizes on the issue of responsibility
and accountability of human beings, each person is responsible for his
or her own actions. Although Islam teaches that God has predetermined
the span of our life and time of our death, but this does not mean that
even our actions are predetermined by Him. We surely are free in our
actions and are, therefore, accountable for them. God only provides
guidance for us to know what is good and what is bad. He says, "Surely
We have created man from a small life-germ uniting (itself): We mean to
try him, so We have made him hearing, seeing. Surely We have shown him
the way: he may be thankful or unthankful." Holy Qur'an (76:2-3)
RAGE: Islam very categorically rejects racial discrimination. It promotes the feeling of brotherhood and equality among its followers. God clearly says, "O
you men! surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made
you tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most
honorable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his
duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware." Holy Qur'an (49:13)
Therefore, no one can claim any superiority over others based on racial
or tribal differences. A person is to be judged by his character, not by
his colour or race. God continues, "Surely the most honourable of you in God's sight is the person who is most upright in character among you". Holy Qur'an (49:13)
GENDER: Even gender does not count as a criterion of superiority. In
Islam, a woman is as human as men. They are not evaluated on basis of
their gender, but on basis of their faith and character. Fourteen
hundred years ago, the Holy Qur'an recorded God's clear statements on
this issue. Out of the four verses, I will just quote one: "Whoever, be it a male or a female, does good deeds and he or she is a believer, then they will enter the Paradise."
Holy Qur'an (4:124) So there is no difference in the degree or level of
woman's humanity or honour in Islam. The only difference there exists
is concerning the role which Islam has envisioned for man and woman.
This has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority. In Islam, man
and woman are equal in rights; but equality is not synonymous to
similarity. Islam believes that man and woman are equal but dissimilar.
Islam looks at their different roles in society not as superior or
inferior but as complementary to each other.
ISLAM THE RELIGION OF PEACE Islam
is a religion of peace. This is evident even from the name "Islam"
itself. ("Islam" is an Arabic word.) The word "Islam" and the Arabic
word for peace, "salaam" both come from the same root, "salima". Muslims
are taught to greet each other by saying "salamun alaykum (peace be upon you)."
The daily prayers also end with the same sentence. In Islam, one of the
names by which God is known is "Salaam", which means peace. However,
one must realize that peace can never be achieved in vacuum. It is inter
twined with justice. One can have peace only on basis of justice.
"Justice" means putting everything in its rightful place. If one starts
putting things in the wrong places, then he disrupts the social harmony
and disturbs peace. Islam seeks to promote peace on two levels:
1. Peace Within One's Self: A person can achieve inner peace by
creating harmony and balance between his main emotions (desire and
anger) and his spiritual self. In other words, between his emotions and
his conscience. Human's spiritual power or conscience is not a static
phenomenon: it has the ability of growth as well as decadence. God
swears by the soul of human being and says, "He inspired to it to
understand what is good and what is evil. Prosperous is the person who
purifies it, and failed is he who seduces it." Holy Qur'an (91:10)
2. Peace With Others: Islam very strongly emphasizes on the rights,
which people have over each other. It seeks to preserve peace in society
by training and urging its followers to fulfill the rights of each
other. In Islam, salvation is not possible by just fulfilling the rights
of God; one has to fulfill the rights of other human beings also.
Unfortunately, because of the Middle Eastern events of last three
decades, Islam has been branded by the media as a religion of violence.
In recent years, the word "Islamic" has become one of the adjectives of
"terrorism." In this back-drop, firstly, one must realize that the
events in the Middle East can be fairly and fully understood only in the
light of the post world war I history of that region, in particular the
promises given by the British to the Arabs. Secondly, no fair-minded
person would allow himself to blame the religion of Islam for the
wrong-doings of those who call themselves as Muslims. It is just like
saying that the Catholic Church promotes violence and terrorism because
of the Irish Republican Army's activities
A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds
that there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world
today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8
While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than
60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the
Middle East and North Africa. However, the Middle East-North Africa
region has the highest percentage of Muslim-majority countries. Indeed,
more than half of the 20 countries and territories1 in that region have populations that are approximately 95% Muslim or greater.
More than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of the world’s Muslim
population, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion.
These minority Muslim populations are often quite large. India, for
example, has the third-largest population of Muslims worldwide. China
has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than
Jordan and Libya combined.
Of the total Muslim population, 10-13% are Shia Muslims and 87-90%
are Sunni Muslims. Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in just four
countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq.
These are some of the key findings of Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population,
a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public
Life. The report offers the most up-to-date and fully sourced estimates
of the size and distribution of the worldwide Muslim population,
including sectarian identity.
Previously published estimates of the size of the global Muslim population have ranged widely, from 1 billion to 1.8 billion.2
But these commonly quoted estimates often have appeared without
citations to specific sources or explanations of how the figures were
The Pew Forum report is based on the best available data for 232
countries and territories. Pew Forum researchers, in consultation with
nearly 50 demographers and social scientists at universities and
research centers around the world, acquired and analyzed about 1,500
sources, including census reports, demographic studies and general
population surveys, to arrive at these figures – the largest project of
its kind to date. (See Methodology for more detail.)
The Pew Forum’s estimate of the Shia population (10-13%) is in
keeping with previous estimates, which generally have been in the range
of 10-15%. Some previous estimates, however, have placed the number of
Shias at nearly 20% of the world’s Muslim population.3
Readers should bear in mind that the figures given in this report for
the Sunni and Shia populations are less precise than the figures for the
overall Muslim population. Data on sectarian affiliation have been
infrequently collected or, in many countries, not collected at all.
Therefore, the Sunni and Shia numbers reported here are expressed as
broad ranges and should be treated as approximate.
These findings on the world Muslim population lay the foundation for a
forthcoming study by the Pew Forum, scheduled to be released in 2010,
that will estimate growth rates among Muslim populations worldwide and
project Muslim populations into the future. The Pew Forum plans to
launch a similar study of global Christianity in 2010 as well. The Pew
Forum also plans to conduct in-depth public opinion surveys on the
intersection of religion and public life around the world, starting with
a 19-country survey of sub-Saharan Africa scheduled to be released
later this year. These forthcoming studies are part of a larger effort –
the Global Religious Futures Project, jointly funded by The Pew
Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation – that aims to
increase people’s understanding of religion around the world
* Indicates the use of a source with a small enough sample size to
make these estimates somewhat less reliable. Due to this greater margin
of error, percentages are rounded to the nearest integer rather than to
the first decimal place and are therefore more approximate (~). The only
exception to this rule is the display of Turkey’s percentage of world
population as 4.7% rather than ~ 5%.
“–” indicates that the number of Muslims is too small to be reliably estimated.
Map: Distribution of Muslim Population by Country and Territory
Only countries with more than 1 million Muslims are shown
2009 Muslim population, the percentage of its population that is Muslim
and the percentage of the world Muslim population it represents.
This “weighted” map of the world shows each
country’s relative size based on its Muslim population. Figures are
rounded to the nearest million. Click to enlarge.
Two-thirds of all Muslims worldwide live in
the 10 countries shown below. Of the 10 countries, six are in Asia
(Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey), three are in
North Africa (Egypt, Algeria and Morocco) and one is in Sub-Saharan
Countries with the Largest Number of Muslims
Data for Turkey and Morocco come primarily from general population
surveys, which are less reliable than censuses or large-scale
demographic and health surveys for estimating minority-majority ratios
(see Methodology). As a result, the percentage of the population that is
Muslim in these two countries is rounded to the nearest integer.
Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life • Mapping the Global Muslim Population, October 2009
The bulk of the world’s Muslim population –
more than six-in-ten (62%) – is located in Asia, a region that, for the
purposes of this report, includes not only East Asian countries such as
China but also countries as far west as Turkey. (For a complete
breakdown of countries by region, see World Muslim Population by Region and Country.)
Muslim Population by Region
Middle East-North Africa
The list of countries that make up each region can be found in the
section titled “World Muslim Population by Region and Country.”
Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life • Mapping the Global Muslim Population, October 2009
Living as Majorities and Minorities
While 80% of the world’s Muslims live in countries where Muslims are
in the majority, significant numbers – about one-fifth of the world’s
Muslim population – live as religious minorities in their home
countries. Of the roughly 317 million Muslims living as minorities,
about 240 million – about three-quarters – live in five countries: India
(161 million), Ethiopia (28 million), China (22 million), Russia (16
million) and Tanzania (13 million). Two of the 10 countries with the
largest number of Muslims living as minorities are in Europe: Russia (16
million) and Germany (4 million).
These minority populations are often quite large. For example, India,
a Hindu-majority country, has the third-largest population of Muslims
worldwide. The Muslim population of Ethiopia is about as large as that
of Afghanistan. China has more Muslims than Syria; Russia is home to
more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined; and Germany has more
Muslims than Lebanon.
Countries with the Largest Number of Muslims Living as Minorities
Data for Germany come in part from general population surveys, which
are less reliable than censuses or large-scale demographic and health
surveys for estimating minority-majority ratios (see Methodology). As a
result, the percentage of the population that is Muslim in Germany is
rounded to the nearest integer.
Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life • Mapping the Global Muslim Population, October 2009
Of the 232 countries and territories included in this study, 50 are
Muslim-majority. Out of these, however, more than six-in-ten (62%) have a
smaller Muslim population than do Russia and China individually.
The Middle East-North Africa region contains the highest percentage
of Muslim-majority countries compared with other regions. Of the 20
countries and territories in the region, 17 have a population that is
more than 75% Muslim, with Israel, Lebanon and Sudan being the only
exceptions. In comparison, only 12 of 61 countries in Asia, 10 of 50
countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and two of 50 countries in Europe
(Kosovo and Albania) are 75% or more Muslim.
Sunni and Shia Populations
An overwhelming majority of Muslims are Sunnis, while an estimated
10-13% are Shias. This report estimates that there are between 154
million and 200 million Shia Muslims in the world today.
Between 116 million and 147 million Shias live in Asia, representing
about three-quarters of the world’s Shia population (note that Iran is
included in the Asia-Pacific region). Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of the
world’s Shias (36 million to 44 million) live in the Middle East-North
Looked at in a different way, 12-15% of the Muslim population in the
Asia-Pacific region is Shia, as is 11-14% of the Muslim population in
the Middle East-North Africa region. The figures for Shias are generally
given as a range because of the limitations in the secondary-source
data (see Methodology for Sunni-Shia Estimates).
Quick Definition: Sunnis and Shias
Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims (also known as Shiites) comprise the
two main sects within Islam. Sunni and Shia identities first formed
around a dispute over leadership succession soon after the death of the
Prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D. Over time, however, the political divide
between the two groups broadened to include theological distinctions and
differences in religious practices as well.While the two sects are
similar in many ways, they differ over conceptions of religious
authority and interpretation as well as the role of the Prophet
Muhammad’s descendants, for example.For readers seeking more detail on
the categories used in this report, Sunnis include followers of the
Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools of Islamic jurisprudence as
well as the Wahhabi or Salafi movement. Shias include Ithna Asharis
(Twelvers), Ismailis, Zaydis, Alevis and Alawites.
There also are a few Muslim groups that are difficult to classify as
either Sunni or Shia. These include Kharijites in Oman and the Nation of
Islam movement in the United States, as well as the Druze, who are
located primarily in and around Lebanon. Given the relatively small
numbers of people associated with such groups, this report does not
provide separate figures for them, but they are included in the overall
Muslim population statistics.
Readers should also note that there is no separate estimate for
Sufis, whose spiritual and mystical practices have a following among
both Sunnis and Shias. There are no reliable figures on the proportion
of Muslims worldwide who follow Sufi practices.
Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in four countries: Iran,
Pakistan, India and Iraq. Iran has 66 million to 70 million Shias, or
37-40% of the world’s total Shia population. Iraq, India and Pakistan
each are home to at least 16 million Shias.
Sizeable numbers of Shias (1 million or more) are found in Turkey,
Yemen, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Nigeria
and Tanzania. Shias constitute a relatively small percentage of the
Muslim population elsewhere in the world. About 300,000 Shias are
estimated to be living in North America, including both the U.S. and
Canada, constituting about 10% of North America’s Muslim population.
In four countries – Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq – Shia Muslims make up a majority of the total population.
Map: More Than a Third of the World’s Shia Muslims Live in Iran
Roll over a country bubble to see the percentage of its Muslim
population that is Shia and the percentage of the world Shia population
Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life • Mapping the Global Muslim Population, October 2009
Countries with More Than 100,000 Shia Muslims
Percentage of Muslim
Population that is Shia
Percentage of World
66 – 70 million
90 – 95%
37 – 40%
17 – 26 million
10 – 15
10 – 15
16 – 24 million
10 – 15
9 – 14
19 -22 million
65 – 70
11 – 12
7 – 11 million
10 – 15
4 – 6
8 – 10 million
35 – 40
5 – 7 million
65 – 75
3 – 4
3 – 4 million
10 – 15
3 – 4 million
15 – 20
2 – 4 million
10 – 15
1 – 2
1 – 2 million
45 – 55
500,000 – 700,000
20 – 25
400,000 – 600,000
10 – 15
400,000 – 500,000
65 – 75
United Arab Emirates
300,000 – 400,000
200,000 – 400,000
10 – 15
100,000 – 300,000
5 – 10
100,000 – 300,000
10 – 15
10 – 15
154 – 200 million
10 – 13
Countries with an estimated Shia population of less than 1% of the
country’s Muslim population are not listed. The figures for Shias are
generally given in a range because of the limitations of the
secondary-source data (see Methodology for Sunni-Shia Estimates).
Figures may not sum to totals due to rounding.
Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life • Mapping the Global Muslim Population, October 2009
1 For a definition of “territories,” see the methodology.
4 The three-quarters figure for Asia was calculated by
comparing the middle of the range of the estimates for Asia’s Shia
population (about 132 million) with the middle of the range of the
estimates for the world’s Shia population (about 177 million). The
figure for the Middle East-North Africa was calculated by comparing the
middle of the range of the estimates for the Middle East-North Africa’s
Shia population (about 40 million) with the middle of the range of the
estimates for the world’s Shia population (about 177 million).
PILGRIMAGE - HAJ - A LIVING TESTIMONY
Every year, during the pilgrimage season, the world witnesses the
wonderful spectacle of this international Exhibition of Islam in
leveling all distinctions of race, color and rank. Not only the
Europeans, the African, the Arabian, the Persian, the Indians, the
Chinese all meet together in Mecca as members of one divine family, but
they are all clad in one dress, every person in two simple pieces of
white seamless cloth, one piece round the loin the other piece over the
shoulders, bare headed, without pomp or ceremony, repeating, "Here am I O God; at thy command; thou art one and the only; Here am I."
Thus there remains nothing to differentiate the high from the low and
every pilgrim carries home the impression of the international
significance of Islam.
In the words of Prof. Hurgronje "the league of nations founded by
prophet of Islam put the principle of international unity and human
brotherhood on such universal foundations as to show candle to other
nations." He continues: "the fact is that no nation of the world can
show a parallel to what Islam has done towards the realization of the
idea of the League of Nations."
ISLAM - A BEACON TO A DRIFTING WORLD
The prophet of Islam brought the reign of democracy in its best form.
Caliph Umar, Caliph Ali and the son-in-law of the prophet, the Caliph
Mansur, Abbas, the son of Caliph Mamun and many other caliphs and kings
had to appear before the judge as ordinary men in Islamic courts. Even
today we all know how the civilized white races treat the black Negroes.
Consider the state of Bilal, a Negro slave, in the days of the prophet
of Islam nearly 14 centuries ago. The
office of calling Muslims to prayer was considered to be a position of
honor in the early days of Islam and it was offered to this Negro slave.
After the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet ordered him to call for prayer
and the Negro slave, with his black color and his thick lips, stood
over the roof of the holy Kaaba, the most historic and the holiest place
in the Islamic world, when some proud Arabs painfully cried loud, "Oh,
this black Negro slave, woe be to him. He stands on the roof of holy
Kaaba to call for prayer."
As if to answer this outburst smacking of pride and prejudice, both
of which the Prophet of Islam aimed at eliminating, he delivered a
sermon in which he said:
"Allah is to be praised and thanked for ridding us of the vices and
pride of the days of ignorance. O People! Note that all men are divided
in two categories only: The pious and God-fearing who are esteemable in
Allah's reckoning, and the transgressors and hard-hearted, who are lowly
and contemptible in the eye of Allah. Otherwise all human beings are
the progeny of Adam and Allah has created Adam of Clay"
This was later approved and confirmed by Qur'an in the following words:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a
female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each
other not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of
you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And
Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). Holy Qur'an (49:13)
The Prophet of Islam thus brought about such a mighty transformation
that the noblest and purest among Arabs by birth offered their daughters
in marriage to this Negro slave and whenever the second Caliph of
Islam, known to history as Umar the great, the commander of faithful,
saw this Negro slave, he immediately stood in reverence and welcomed him
by exclaiming, "Here comes our master; Here comes our lord." What a
tremendous change was brought by Qur'an and Prophet Muhummed in the
Arabs, the proudest people at that time on the earth. This is the reason
why Goethe, the greatest of German poets, speaking about the Holy
Qur'an, declared that, "This book will go on exercising through all ages
a most potent influence." This is also the reason why George Bernard
Shaw says, "If any religion has a chance of ruling over England, nay,
Europe, within the next 100 years, it is Islam".
It is this same democratic spirit of Islam that has emancipated women
from the bondage of man. Sir Charles Edward Archibald Hamilton says,
"Islam teaches the inherent sinless ness of man. It teaches that man and
woman and woman have come from the same essence, posses the same soul
and have been equipped with equal capabilities for intellectual,
spiritual and moral attainments."
WOMEN HAD RIGHT TO OWN PROPERTY
The Arabs had a very strong tradition that he alone can inherit who can
smite with the spear and can wield the sword. But Islam came as the
defender of the weaker sex and entitled women to share the inheritance
of their parents. It gave women, centuries ago the right of owning
property. Yet it was only 12 centuries later, in 1881, that England,
supposed to be the cradle of democracy, adopted this institution of
Islam and an act was called "the married woman's Act". But centuries
earlier, the Prophet of Islam had proclaimed that "Woman are twin halves
of men. The rights of women are sacred. See that women maintained
rights granted to them."
AL-AMEEN THE TRUSTWORTHY / THE GOLDEN MEAN Islam is not directly concerned with political and economic systems,
but indirectly and, in so far as political and economic affairs
influence man's conduct, it does lay down some very important principles
of economic life. According to Prof. Massignon, Islam maintains the
balance between exaggerated opposites and has always in view the
building of character, which is the basis of civilization. This is
secured by its law of inheritance, by an organized, and not an optional,
system of charity known as Zakat; and by regarding as illegal all
anti-social practices in the economic field like monopoly, usury,
securing of pre-determined unearned income and increments, cornering
markets, hoarding and creating artificial scarcity of any commodity in
order to force the prices to rise. Gambling is illegal. Contribution to
schools, to places of worship, hospitals, digging of wells, opening of
orphanages are highest acts of virtue. Orphanages have sprung for the
first time, it is said, under the teaching of the prophet of Islam. The
world owes its orphanages to this Prophet who was himself born an
orphan. "Good all this" says Carlyle about Muhummed. "The natural voice
of humanity, of pity and equity, dwelling in the heart of this wild son
of nature, speaks."
A historian once said, a great man should be judged by three tests:
Was he found to be of true mettle by his contemporaries?
Was he great enough to rise above the standards of his age?
Did he leave anything as permanent legacy to the world at large?
This list may be further extended but all these three tests of greatness
are eminently satisfied to the highest degree in case of Prophet
Muhummed. Some illustrations of the last two have already been
The first of the three is: Was the Prophet of Islam found to be of true mettle by his contemporaries?
Historical records show that all the contemporaries of Muhummed both
friends foes, acknowledged the sterling qualities, the spotless honesty,
the noble virtues, the absolute sincerity and the absolute
trustworthiness of the apostle of Islam in all walks of life and in
every sphere of human activity. Even the Jews and those who did not
believe in his message, accepted him as the arbiter in their personal
disputes on account of his scrupulous impartiality. Even those who did
not believe in his message were forced to say "O Muhummed we do not call
you a liar, but we deny him who has given you a book and inspired you
with a message." They thought he was one possessed. They tried violence
to cure him. But the best of them saw that a new light had dawned on him
and they hastened him to seek that enlightenment. It is a notable
feature in the history of Prophet of Islam that his nearest relation,
his beloved cousin and his bosom friends, who know him most intimately,
were not thoroughly imbued with the truth of his mission and convinced
of the genuineness of his divine inspiration. "If these men and women,
noble, intelligent, and certainly not less educated than the fishermen
of Galilee, had perceived the slightest sign of earthliness, deception
or want of faith in the Teacher himself, Muhummed's hopes moral
regeneration and social reform, would all have been crumbled to dust in a
moment." From "The Sprit of Islam" by Sayed Ameer Ali.
On the contrary, we find that devotion of his followers was such that
he was voluntarily acknowledged leader of their lives. They braved for
his sake persecutions and danger; they believed, trusted, obeyed and
honored him even in the most excruciating torture and severest mental
agony caused by excommunication; even unto death. Would this have been
so, had they noticed the slightest backsliding in their leader?
UNDYING LOVE FOR THE HOLY PROPHET
Read the history of the early converts to Islam, and every heart would
melt at the sight of the brutal treatment of innocent men and women.
Sumayya, an innocent woman, is cruelly torn into pieces by piercing
through with spears. An example is made of Yasir whose legs are tied to
two camels and the beasts are driven in the opposite direction. Khabbab
bin Arth is made lie down on a bed of burning coal with the brutal legs
of the merciless tyrant on his breast so that he may not move and this
makes even the fat beneath his skin melt. "Khabban bin Adi is put to
death in a cruel manner by mutilation and cutting off his flesh
piecemeal." In the midst of his tortures, when asked whether he did not
wish Muhummed in his place while he was in his house with his family,
the sufferer cried out that he was gladly prepared to sacrifice himself,
his family and children and all to save Muhummed from the prick of a
thorn. Scores of heart-rending incidents of this type may be narrated.
But what do all these incidents show? Why was it that these sons and
daughters of Islam not only surrendered to their Prophet their
allegiance but also made a gift of their bodies, hearts and souls? Is
not the intense faith and conviction on the part of the immediate
followers of Muhummed, the noblest testimony to his sincerity and to his
utter self-absorption in the task assigned to him?
FOLLOWERS OF BEST CALIBRE
And these men were not of low station or of an inferior mental caliber.
Around him in quite early days, gathered what was best and noblest in
Mecca, its flower and cream, men of position, rank, wealth and culture,
and from his own kith and kin, those who knew the ins and outs of his
life. All the first four Caliphs, with their towering personalities,
were converts of this period.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says, "Muhummed is the most successful of
all Prophets and religious personalities". But this success was not the
result of mere accident. It was not a windfall. It was recognition of
the fact that he was found to be of true mettle by his contemporaries.
It was the result of his admirable and all-compelling personality.
AS-SADIQ THE TRUTHFUL / PERFECT MODEL FOR HUMAN LIFE
The personality of Muhummed, it is most difficult to get into the whole
truth of it. Only a glimpse of it I can catch. What a dramatic
succession of picturesque scenes. There is Muhummed, the Prophet, there
is Muhummed, the General; Muhummed, the King; Muhummed, the Warrior;
Muhummed, the Businessman; Muhummed, the Preacher; Muhummed, the
Philosopher; Muhummed, the Statesman; Muhummed, the Orator; Muhummed;
the Reformer; Muhummed, the Refuge of Orphans; Muhummed, the Protector
of slaves; Muhummed, the Emancipator of women; Muhummed, the Judge;
Muhummed the Saint. And in all these magnificent roles, in all these
departments of human activities, he is alike a hero.
Orphanhood is the extreme of helplessness and his life upon this
earth began with it. Kingship is the height of the material power and
his life ended with it. From an orphan boy to a persecuted refugee and
then to an overlord, spiritual as well as temporal, of a whole nation
and Arbiter of its destinies, with all its trials and temptations, with
all its vicissitudes and changes, its lights and shades, its up and
downs, its terror and splendor, he has stood the fire of the world and
came out unscathed to serve as a model in every face of life. His
achievements are not limited to one aspect of life, but cover the whole
field of human conditions.
MUHUMMED (P.B.U.H.) THE GREATEST
If for instance, greatness consist in the purification of a nation,
steeped in barbarism and immersed in absolute moral darkness, that
dynamic personality who has transformed, refined and uplifted an entire
nation, sunk low as the Arabs were, and made them the torch-bearers of
civilizations and learning, has every claim to that greatness. If
greatness lies in unifying the discordant elements of society by the
ties of brotherhood and charity, the prophet of the desert has got every
title to this distinction. If greatness consists in reforming those
warped in a degrading superstition and pernicious practices of every
kind, the Prophet of Islam has wiped out superstitions and irrational
fear from the hearts of millions. If it lies in displaying high morals,
Muhummed has been admitted by friend and foes as Al-Amin, and As-Sadiq,
the trustworthy and faithful. If a conqueror is a great man, here is a
person who rose from helpless orphan and a humble creature to be the
ruler of Arabia, the equal of Khosros and Caesars, one who founded a
great empire that has survived all these 14 centuries. If the devotion
that a leader commands is the criterion of greatness, the prophet's name
even today exerts a magic charm over millions of souls, spread all over
THE UNLETTERED PROPHET
He had not studied philosophy in the school of Athens or Rome, Persia,
India, or China; yet, he could proclaim the highest truths of eternal
value to mankind. Unlettered himself, he could yet speak with an
eloquence and fervor which moved men to tears of ecstasy. Born an orphan
and blessed with no worldly goods, he was loved by all. He had studied
at no military academy; yet he could organize his forces against
tremendous odds and gained victories through the moral forces, which he
marshaled. Gifted men with a genius for preaching are rare. Descartes
included the perfect preacher among the rarest kind in the world. Hitler
in his 'Mein Kamp' has expressed a similar view. He says: "A great
theorist is seldom a great leader. An Agitator is far more likely to
posses these qualities. He will always be a better leader. For,
leadership means the ability to move masses of men. The talent to
produce ideas has nothing in common with capacity for leadership." But,
he says, "The Union of theorists, organizer and leader in one man, is
the rarest phenomenon on this earth; Therein consists greatness." In the
person of the Prophet of Islam the world has seen this rarest
phenomenon on the earth, walking in flesh and blood.
And more wonderful still is what the reverend Bosworth Smith remarks:
"Head of the state as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in
one; but, he was pope without the pope's pretensions, and Caesar without
the legions of Caesar, without an standing army, without a bodyguard,
without a police force, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man had the
right to say that he ruled by a right divine, it was Muhummed, for he
had all the powers without their supports. He cared not for the
dressings of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping
with his public life."
MUHUMMED (P.B.U.H.)-UNTAINTED AND PURE
After the fall of Mecca more than one million square miles of land lay
at his feet, Lord of Arabia, he mended his own shoes and coarse woolen
garments, milked the goats, swept the hearth, kindled the fire and
attended to other menial offices of the family. The entire town of
Medina where he lived grew wealthy in the later days of his life.
Everywhere there was gold and silver in plenty and yet in those days of
prosperity many weeks would elapse without a fire being kindled in the
hearth of the king of Arabia, his food being dates and water. His family
would go hungry many nights successively because they could not get
anything to eat in the evening. He slept on no soften bed but on a palm
mat, after a long busy day, to spend most of his night in prayer, often
bursting with tears before his creator to grant him strength to
discharge his duties. As the reports go, his voice would get choked due
to weeping and it would appear as if a cooking pot was on fire and
boiling had commenced. On the day of his death his only assets were few
coins, a part of which went to satisfy a debt and rest was given to a
needy person who came to his house for charity. The clothes in which he
breathed his last had many patches. The house from where light had
spread to the world was in darkness because there was no oil in the
CONSISTENT UNTO DEATH
Circumstances changed, but the prophet of God did not. In victory or in
defeat, in power or in adversity, in affluence or in indigence, he was
the same man, disclosed the same character. Like all the ways and laws
of God, Prophets of God are unchangeable
In the desert of
Arabia was Muhummed born, according to Muslim historians, on April 20,
571. The name means, "Highly Praised". He is to me the greatest mind
among all the sons of Arabia. He means so much more than all the poets
and kings that preceded and succeeded him in that impenetrable desert of
When he appeared, Arabia was a desert - a nothing. Out of nothing of
the desert a new world was fashioned by the mighty spirit of Muhummed - a
new life, a new culture, a new civilization, a new kingdom which
extended from Morocco to Indies and influenced the thought and life of
three continents - Asia, Africa and Europe.
NEED FOR UNDERSTANDING
When I thought of writing on Muhummed the prophet, I was a bit hesitant
because it was to write about a religion one does not profess (The
author is a Hindu) and it is a delicate matter to do so, for there are
many persons professing various religions and belonging to diverse
schools of thought and denominations even in same religion. Though it is
sometimes claimed that a religion is entirely personal yet it cannot be
gainsaid that it has a tendency to envelop the whole universe seen as
well unseen. It somehow permeates sometime or other, our hearts, our
souls, and our minds their conscious parts, subconscious parts,
unconscious or whatever part they contain or are supposed to contain.
The problem assumes overwhelming importance when there is a deep
conviction that our past, present and future all hang by the soft,
delicate, tender-silked cord. If we further happen to be highly
sensitive, the center of gravity is very likely to be always in a state
of extreme tension. Looked at from this point of view, the less said
about other's religion the better. Let our religions be deeply hidden
and embedded in the recesses of our innermost hearts fortified by
unbroken seals of our lips.
MAN IS GREGARIOUS
But there is another aspect of this problem. Man lives in society. Our
lives are bound with the lives of so many, willingly or unwillingly,
directly or indirectly. We eat the food grown in the same soil, drink
the water, from the same spring, and breathe the air of the same
atmosphere. Even while staunchly holding our own views, it would be
helpful, if for no other purpose, at least to promote proper adjustment
to our surroundings, if we also know to some extent, how the mind our
neighbor moves and what the main springs of his actions. From this angle
of vision, it is highly desirable that one should try to know all
religions of the world, in the proper sprit, to promote mutual
understanding and better appreciation of our neighborhood, immediate and
Further, our thoughts are not scattered, as they appear to be on the
surface. They have got themselves crystallized around a few nuclei in
the form of great world religions and living faiths that guide and
motivate the lives of millions that inhabit this earth of ours. It is
our duty, in one sense if we have the ideal of ever becoming a citizens
of the world before us, to make a little attempt to know the great
religions and system of philosophy that have ruled mankind.
THE PROPHET - A HISTORIC PERSONALITY
In spite of these preliminary remarks, the ground in the field of
religion, where there is often a conflict between intellect and emotion,
is so slippery that one is constantly reminded of fools that rush in
where angels fear to tread. It is also so complex from another point of
view. The subject of my writing is about the tenets of a religion, which
is historic, and its prophet, who is also a historic personality. Even a
hostile critic like Sir William Muir speaking about the holy Qur'an
says that. "There is probably in the world no other book which has
remained twelve (Now fourteen) centuries with so pure text." I may also
add, Prophet Muhummed is also a historic personality, every event of
whose life has been most carefully recorded and even the minutest
details preserved intact for the posterity. His life and works are not
wrapped in mystery. One need not hunt for the accurate information and
embark on arduous expeditions to sift the chaff and husk from the grain
My work is further lightened because those days are fast disappearing
when Islam was highly misrepresented by some of its critics for reasons
political and otherwise. Prof. Bevan writes in Cambridge Medieval
History, "Those account of Muhummed and Islam which were published in
Europe before the beginning of 19th century are now to be regarded as
literary curiosities." My problem is to write this monograph is easier
because we are now generally not fed on this kind of history and much
time need not be spent on pointing out our misrepresentation of Islam.
The theory of Islam and Sword for instance is not heard now
frequently in any quarter worth the name. Principle of Islam that there
is no compulsion in religion is well known. Gibbon, a historian of
worldwide fame, says, "A pernicious tenet has been imputed to the
Muhummedans, the duty of extirpating all the religions by sword." This
charge of ignorance and bigotry, says the eminent historian, is refuted
by Qur'an, by the history of Musalman conquerors and by their public and
legal toleration of Christian worship. The greatest success of
Muhummed's life was affected by sheer moral force, without a stroke of
MUSTAFA THE CHOSEN ONE / "WHO SUBDUE THEIR ANGER" Holy Qur'an (3:134)
To the Arabs who would fight for forty years on the slight provocation
that a camel belonging to the guest of one tribe had strayed into the
grazing land belonging to other tribe and both sides had fought till
they lost 70,000 lives in all, threatening the extinction of both the
tribes, to such furious Arabs, the Prophet of Islam taught self-control
and discipline to the extent of praying even on the battlefield.
WAR FOR SELF-DEFENCE
When, after repeated efforts of conciliation had utterly failed,
circumstances arose that dragged him into the battlefield purely in
self-defense, the prophet of Islam changed the whole strategy of the
battlefield. The total number of casualties in all the wars that took
place during his lifetime, when the whole Arabian Peninsula came under
his banner, does not exceed a few hundreds in all. He taught the Arab
barbarians to pray, to pray not individually, but in congregation to God
Almighty even amidst the dust and storm of warfare. Whenever the time
for prayer came - and it comes five times every day - the congregational
prayer had not to be abandoned or even postponed. A party had to be
engaged in bowing their heads before God while another was engaged with
the enemy. After finishing the prayers, the two parties had to exchange
In an aged of barbarism, the Battlefield itself was humanized and strict
instructions were issued not to embezzle, not to cheat, not to break
trust, not to mutilate, not to kill a minor child or a woman or an old
man, not to hew down date palm nor burn it, not to cut down a fruit
tree, not to molest monks and persons engaged in worship. His own
treatment of his bitterest enemies was the noblest example for his
followers. At the conquest of Mecca, he stood at the zenith of his
power. The city which had tortured him and his followers, which had
driven him and his people into exile and which had unrelentingly
persecuted and boycotted him even when he had taken refuge in a place
more than 200 miles away, that city now lay at his feet. By the laws of
war he could have justly avenged all the cruelties inflicted on him and
his people. But what treatment did he meet out to them? Muhummed's heart
overflowed with the milk of love and kindness as he declared, "This
day, there is no reproof against you and you are all free."
BITTEREST ENEMIES PARDONED
This was one of the chief objects why he permitted war in self-defense -
to unite human beings. And when this object was achieved, even his
worst enemies were pardoned. Even those who had killed his beloved
uncle, Humza, mutilated his dead body, had ripped it open and chewed a
piece of his liver.
THEORY MERGED WITH PRACTICE
The principles of universal brotherhood and doctrine of the equality of
mankind, which he proclaimed, represent very great contribution of
Muhummed to the social uplift of humanity. All great religions have also
preached the same doctrine, but the prophet of Islam had put this
theory into actual practice and its value will be fully recognized,
perhaps sometime hence, when international consciousness being awakened,
racial prejudices would disappear and a stronger concept of the
brotherhood of humanity comes into existence.
PEASANT AND KING EQUAL BEFORE GOD
Sarojini Naidu, speaking about this aspect of Islam, says, "It was the
first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the
mosque, when the AZAAN (the Muslim call to prayer) is sounded and the
worshipers are gathered together the democracy of Islam is embodied five
times a day when the peasant and the king kneel side by side and
proclaim, 'God alone is great'." The great poetess of India continues,
"I have been struck over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that
makes a man instinctively a brother. When you meet an Egyptian, an
Algerian, an Indian and a Turk in London what matters is that Egypt is
the motherland of one and India is the motherland of another."
ISLAM-CIVILISED SPAIN AND IS ANSWER TO TODAYS SOCIAL DILEMMA
Mahatma Gandhi, in his inimitable style, says "Someone has said that
Europeans in South Africa dread the advent Islam - Islam, that civilized
Spain; Islam that took the torch of light to Morocco and preached to
the world the Gospel of Brotherhood. The Europeans of South Africa dread
the advent of Islam, as they claim equality with the white races. They
may well dread it, if brotherhood is a sin, if it is equality of the
colored races that they dread, then their dread is well founded
centuries-old Shia-Sunni differences are the major obstacle to Muslim
unity. These differences have always been fanned by the enemies of Islam
to their benefit. Unfortunately, some so-called Muslim scholars on
their payroll have also played a key role in keeping these differences
I was born into a Sayyid Sunni family, I did not know of many
differences while growing up as a child. Our families always respected
Imam Hussayn (peace be upon him) and his parents and participated in
ceremonies marking the anniversary of his martyrdom (the 10th day of the
month of Muharram which is called Ashura) by reciting the first chapter
of the Quran (al-Fatihah) and other chapters and verses of the Quran
and fasted on the ninth and tenth days of that month.
Now when I give lectures on Islam to non-Muslims, one of the questions
they always ask me is if I am Shia or Sunni. I ask them if they know the
difference. They have no knowledge, other than what has been given to
them by the media. So they say Shias are the ones who are the bad guys,
the militant version of Islam, and cause all the trouble in the Middle
East these days.
non-Muslim American audiences of mine are surprised to learn that some
of the known tyrants like Saddam Hussain and troublemakers like the PLO
and Hamas are all Sunnis, just as they are surprised to learn that Tariq
Aziz (Iraq's Foreign Minister) is Christian and not a Muslim.
This is what I say to them about Shi'ites.
"If Ali Ibn Talib (cousin of Prophet Muhammad) was a Shia, then I am a
Shia. If he was a Sunni, then I am a Sunni (i.e., a follower of Prophet
In Islam there are five recognized schools of Divine Law: 1) Hanafi; 2) Shafi; 3) Maliki; 4) Hanbali and 5) Jafari.
first four are called Sunni, and the fifth one, who in addition to
following sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), also follows
those of Ali and consider him as the rightful successor of the Prophet,
are called Shia .
first four have many major theological differences among themselves and
according to a Christian friend of mine, "The only time Sunnis are
united is when they are fighting Shias." Shi'ism started as a political
movement (Shia means follower or partisan) to help Ali become successor
of Muhammad (S.A.W.).
Around every successful popular figure, there are some admirers whose
own future interests rest with the rise of their leader. Thus in
Indiana, we have "Friends of Lugar Club", who are hoping that some day
Senator Richard Lugar will become a US President. Nationally, we now
have a "Hillary Rodham Clinton Fan Club" with 4,000 members! Thus, there
were the Followers of Ali Club which later on became a political
movement. During the initial battles with unbelievers, Ali, the Sword of
Islam, was in the forefront and defeated and killed many of their
leaders whose children and grandchildren, even when they became Muslims,
always remembered who killed their father (animosity).
Ali was raised by Prophet Muhammad as a child so he knew Islam very
well. Thus, when he became a judge, his judgments were based on strict
Islamic principles, much to the disappointment of many who expected him
to be lenient to the rich and powerful. He was so well respected and
trusted by both Caliph Abu Bakr and Umar, that in difficult cases they
asked his opinion.
Nevertheless, I tell my non-Muslim audience that both Shia and Sunni
have many things in common. They both believe in One God (Allah), follow
the same Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) as the last Prophet, offer five
daily prescribed prayers, perform the prescribed fast in the month of
Ramadan, go to Makkah for the pilgrimage (hajj), read the same Quran,
and pay the poor-due.
However, my answers can only satisfy my uninformed non-Muslim audience.
The Sunni brothers, misguided by western propaganda. who are ready to
embrace non-Muslims (especially the white ones), in the pretext of
invitation to Islam, will not do so for Shia. They are ignorant Sunnis.
Our job as a missionary should be to invite both groups to the true
Islam and not chase them out. There is a movement in the Sunni world to
have Shias labeled as disbelievers. I have been told that Shaykh Bin Baz
of Saudi Arabia has declared an edict that the meat of the People of
Book (Jews and Christians) is permissible for Sunni Muslims to eat but
not the meat slaughtered by Shias.
are scholars on both sides, like Imam Khomeini and Shaykh Shaltut of
al-Azhar who have done their best to minimize these differences and
bring unity, but it is not working due to the misinformation prevailing
in the common masses of Sunnis about Shi'ism. Thus I am listing their
misconceptions of Shia belief and practices. For answers, I have
consulted two Shia scholars in America., Dr. A. S. Hashim of Washington
and Imam Muhammad Ali Elahi of Detroit.
Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr wrote to me "to ignore and not waste time
in responding to such wrong allegations." He also mentioned that "a
great deal of money and effort is being spent in the last few years to
fan the fire of hatred between Shia and Sunni in the Persian Gulf region
with obvious political and economical fruits for powers to-be."
However, in the interest of Islamic unity, I must deal with the
questions rather than shun them. Please note that Imam Jafar (peace be
upon him), founder of the Shia school of law, was the teacher of Imam
Abu-Hanifa (peace be upon him).
Misconception #1: Shias have a different Quran. They add another 10 chapters to the original Quran.
Response: Not true. I have checked many times Quran kept in Shia homes
and mosques. I still find it the same as the original Quran. More
recently, I took care of an Iranian lady patient hospitalized here. I
saw a copy of the Quran by her side. I borrowed it from her and browsed
through cover to cover. In Arabic it was the same as our Quran. Of
course, since I did not know the Persian language, I can't say much
about the translation. It is a sin to even say that the Quran can be
changed or added to by Shia when it is protected by God.
Misconception #2: Some Shia consider Ali as God.
Response: Not true. It is disbelief to even think of such a thing.
During the time of Ali, some pagan groups called Gholat did consider Ali
as Lord. When he found out, they were burned to death. Alawis of Syria
may have a similar belief, but they are non-Muslims, neither Shia nor
Misconception #3: Shias have different declarations of faith and they add to the call to prescribed prayer.
Response: The declaration to become a Muslim, as administered to
non-Muslims, is the same. Some Shia add to themselves, "Ali is a friend
of God (S.A.W.) or Ali is a spiritual leader of God," after the call to
prescribed prayer, but not as part of the call to prescribed prayer.
Misconception #4: Shias do not perform sunnah prayers. Sunnah prayers are non obligatory prayers performed by Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Response: Shia do perform non-obligatory prayers, 36 cycles per day in total, but call it nawafil and not sunnah.
Misconception #5: Some Shia believe the Angel Gabriel made a mistake and prophethood was meant for Ali and not Muhammad (S.A.W.). Response: Not true. No Shia thinks of such false claims. "Only demented minds think of such questions."
Misconception #6: Shias slander and ridicule the first three caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman) and Prophet Muhammad's wife, Ayisha.
Response: Shia consider the first three caliphs as great companions and
good Muslim administrators, but not spiritual leaders (imams). Imam
Jafar Sadiq, whose mother and grandmother came from the line of Abu
Bakr, said of Abu Bakr, "He gave me birth twice." Ayisha is respected by
Shias as the "Mother of Believers," as Ali respected her when he sent
her back from Basra to Madinah after the Battle of the Camel. If some
Shia do slander the three caliphs and Ayisha, they do it out of
ignorance and should ask God's forgiveness.
Misconception # 7: Shias combine all five prayers into one prayer in the evening.
Response: Not true. In Shia mosques, whether in Iran or the USA, all
five daily prayers are performed. Some working Shia do combine noon and
afternoon and evening and night, but Shia scholars recommend performing
them separately. Such combinations may not be ideal, but better than not
praying at all. How can a Sunni who does not pray at all be better than
a Shia who combines prayers?
Misconception # 8: Shias do not pay zakat (poor-due).
Response: Not true. They not only pay 2.5% left over from savings as
zakat, but also an additional 20% as khums or general charity. However,
they prefer to pay directly to the needy rather than corrupt Sunni
Misconception #9: Shias practice temporary marriages (mutah).
Response: Mutah (temporary marriages) was allowed during the time of
Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and he himself practiced it. Ibn Zubayr was
born out of the temporary marriage. Later on Caliph Umar prohibited it
due to social reasons as the Islamic world was rapidly expanding. Shias
discourage mutah but do not consider it prohibited. Some do abuse this.
As a temporary privilege during travel, it is better than adultery.
Misconception #10: They consider Imams infallible and above the prophets.
Response: Not true. All prophets are born Prophet but as mentioned in
Quran about Abraham that after passing the test, a prophet becomes a
leader (Imam). Imams are carriers of the message of Islam. Shias
consider Ali only as an Imam, but Muhammad (S.A.W.) is the Prophet
(nabi), Messenger (rasul) and leader (imam). With the little knowledge
I have, I have tried to do my best as a Sunni in defending my Shia
brothers in Islam with the hope and prayer to God Almighty that He will
"instill love in the heart of the believers" and bring us closer to each
other so that we jointly can fight our common enemy, Satan and his
minorities of Shia around the world, specially in Afghanistan, Pakistan
and India, mourn in the day of Ashura in Muharram in such a way that no
sane person can confirm it. They harm themselves with some type of
blades and say that we love Imam Hussein!
Every year, hundreds of
photos of these ceremonies are distributed over the web and if someone,
unfamiliar with Shia believes, saw these pictures, he may think: o
damn!, what an unconscionable religion!
However, almost all grand Ayatollahs of Shia prohibited these type of mourning. For example, Imam Khamenei, about 20 years ago said:
Tatbir is one of the wrong
doings. I know some will say: “It would have been proper if he had not
talked about Tatbir.” They will say: “What do you have to do with
Tatbir? Some people practice it, let them do so!” No! One cannot remain
silent towards such a wrong action. It is wrong that some people
hold daggers and hit themselves on the head to bleed. What are they
seeking?! How can this be an act of mourning?! Of course hitting on the
head with one’s hands is a sign of mourning. You have seen it several
times that when people face suffering, they hit on their chests and
heads. This is a typical symbol of mourning. But where have you ever
seen a person who is suffering from the loss of a dear one, hit on their
head with a dagger and make it bleed?! How can this be a form of
[#QameZani] is a fabricated tradition. It is among the issues that does
not belong to the religion and undoubtedly God is not also pleased with
such a practice. The more I thought about it, the more truly
I realized I cannot overlook informing our dear people about Tatbir-
which is certainly an act of wrongdoing and a heresy. Do not practice
it! I do not approve of it. If someone does something to pretend that
they want to practice Tatbir, I will be truly dissatisfied with them. I
am declaring this solemnly. Ayatollah #Khamenei, June 07, 1994 #ImamHussain
This act, that is well-supported by Western news channels like BBC, CNN and others, is also prohibited in Quran:
And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.
Muslims observe the Prophet Muhammed's (also known as Mohammed or
Muhammad) birthday on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi'
al-awwal, while Shi'a Muslims mark it on the 17th of this month.
Muhammed is believed to be the last prophet.
What do people do
There are mixed beliefs on how one observes Muhammed's birthday. Some
people see the Prophet's birthday as an event worthy of praise. Others
view the celebration of birthdays as contradictory to Islamic law. Both
sides cite the Hadith (narrations originating from the words and deeds
of the Prophet Muhammed) and events from Muhammed's life to support
World's Biggest Pilgrimage Now Underway, And Why You've Never Heard of it
It's not the Muslim Hajj, or the Hindu Kumbh Mela.. Known as Arbaeen, it is the world's most populous gathering and you've probably never heard of it! Not only does the congregation exceed the number of visitors to Mecca (by a factor of five, in fact), it is more significant than Kumbh Mela, since the latter is only held every third year. In short, Arbaeen dwarfs every other rally on the planet, reaching twenty million last year. That is a staggering %60 of Iraq's entire population, and it is growing year after year.
Above all, Arbaeen is unique because it takes place against the backdrop of chaotic and dangerous geopolitical scenes. Daesh (aka 'Islamic State') sees the Shia as their mortal enemy, so nothing infuriates the terror group more than the sight of Shia pilgrims gathering for their greatest show of faith.
There's another peculiar feature of Arbaeen. While it is a distinctively Shia spiritual exercise, Sunnis, even Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, and Sabians partake in
both the pilgrimage as well as serving of devotees. This is remarkable given the exclusive nature of religious rituals, and it could only mean one thing: people regardless of color or creed see Hussein as a universal, borderless, and meta-religious symbol of freedom and compassion.
Why you have never heard of it probably has to do with the fact that the press is concerned more with negative, gory, and sensationalized tabloids, than with positive, inspiring narratives, particularly when it comes to Islam. If a few hundred anti-immigration protestors take to the streets in London and they will make headlines.. The same level of airtime is awarded to a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong or an anti-Putin rally in Russia.. But a gathering of twenty million in obstreperous defiance of terror and injustice somehow fails even to make it into the TV news ticker! An unofficial media embargo is imposed on the gargantuan event despite the story having all the critical elements of an eye-catching feature; the staggering numbers, the political significance, the revolutionary message, the tense backdrop, as well as originality.. But when such a story does make it through the editorial axe of major news outlets, it creates shockwaves and touches the most random people.
Among the countless individuals inspired by it, is a young Australian man I met several years ago who had converted to Islam. Evidently, no one takes such a life-altering decision lightly, so upon inquiry he told me it all started in 2003. One evening, as he was watching the news only to be drawn by scenes of millions streaming towards a holy city known as Karbala, chanting the name of a man he had never heard of: "Hussein". For the first time in decades, in a globally televised event, the world had caught an glimpse into previously suppressed religious fervor in Iraq.
With the Sunni Ba'athist regime toppled, Western viewers were eager to see how Iraqis would respond to a new era free from dictatorship persecution. The 'Republic of Fear' had crumbled and the genie had irreversibly escaped from the bottle. "Where is Karbala, and why is everyone heading in its direction?" he recalls asking himself. "Who is this Hussein who motivates people to defy all the odds and come out to mourn his death fourteen centuries after the fact?"
What he witnessed in that 60-second report was especially moving because the imagery was unlike any he had ever seen. A fervent sense of connection turned human pilgrims into iron filings, swarming together other as they drew closer to what could only be described as Hussein's irresistible magnetic field. "If you want to see a living, breathing, lively religion, come to Karbala" he said.
How could a man who was killed 1396 years ago be so alive and have such a palpable presence today that he makes millions take up his cause, and view his plight as their own? People are unlikely to be drawn into a dispute (much less one that transpired in ancient times) unless they have a personal interest in the matter. On the other hand, if you felt someone was engaged in a fight over your right to freedom, your prerogative to be treated justly, and your entitlement to a life of dignity, you would feel you had a vested interest and would empathize with him to the point where conversion to his beliefs is not a far-fetched possibility.
The Ultimate Tragedy
Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, is revered by Muslims as the "Prince of Martyrs". He was killed in Karbala on a day which became known as Ashura, the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram, having refused to pledge allegiance to the corrupt and tyrannical caliph, Yazid.
Shia Muslims have since mourned the death of Hussein, in particular on the days of Ashura, then, forty days later, on Arbaeen. Forty days is the usual length of mourning in many Muslim traditions. This year, Arba'een falls on Friday 12 December.
I travelled to Karbala, my own ancestral home, to find out for myself why the city is so intoxicating. What I witnessed proved to me that even the widest-angle camera lens is too narrow to capture the spirit of this tumultuous, yet peaceful gathering.
An avalanche of men, women and children, but most visibly black-veiled women, fill the eye from one end of the horizon to the other.The crowds were so huge that they caused a blockade for hundreds of miles.
The 425 mile distance between the southern port city of Basra and Karbala is a long journey by car, but it's unimaginably arduous on foot. It takes pilgrims a full two weeks to complete the walk. People of all age groups trudge in the scorching sun during the day and in bone-chilling cold at night. They travel across rough terrain, down uneven roads, through terrorist strongholds, and dangerous marshlands. Without even the most basic amenities or travel gear, the pilgrims carry little besides their burning love for "The Master" Hussein. Flags and banners remind them, and the world, of the purpose of their journey:
O self, you are worthless after Hussein. My life and death are one and the same, So be it if they call me insane!
The message recalls an epic recited by Abbas, Hussein's half-brother and trusted lieutenant, who was also killed in the Battle of Karbala in 680AD while trying to fetch water for his parched nieces and nephews. With security being in the detrimental state that makes Iraq the number one headline in the world, no one doubts that this statement is genuine in every sense.
Free lunch.. And dinner, and breakfast!
One part of the pilgrimage which will leave every visitor perplexed is the sight of thousands of tents with makeshift kitchens set up by local villagers who live around the pilgrims' path. The tents (called 'mawkeb') are places where pilgrims get practically everything they need. From fresh meals to eat and a space to rest, to free international phone calls to assure concerned relatives, to baby diapers, to practically every other amenity, free of charge. In fact, pilgrims do not need to carry anything on the 400 mile journey except the clothes they wear.
More intriguing is how pilgrims are invited for food and drink. Mawkeb organizers intercept the pilgrims' path to plead with them to accept their offerings, which often includes a full suite of services fit for kings: first you can a foot massage, then you are offered a delicious hot meal, then you are invited to rest while your clothes are washed, ironed, then returned to you after a nap. All complimentary, of course.
For some perspective, consider this: In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, and with worldwide sympathy and support, the UN World Food Programme announced delivery of half a million meals at the height of its relief efforts.. The United States military, launched Operation Unified Response, bringing together the massive resources of various federal agencies and announced that within five months of the humanitarian catastrophe, 4.9 million meals had been delivered to Haitians. Now compare that with over 50 million meals per day during Arbaeen, equating to about 700 million meals for the duration of the pilgrimage, all financed not by the United Nations or international charities, but by poor laborers and farmers who starve to feed the pilgrims and save up all year round so that visitors are satisfied. Everything, including security is provided mostly by volunteer fighters who have one eye on Daesh, and another on protecting the pilgrim's path. "To know what Islam teaches," says one Mawkeb organizer, "don't look at the actions of a few hundred barbaric terrorists, but the selfless sacrifices exhibited by millions of Arbaeen pilgrims."
In fact, Arbaeen should be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in several categories: biggest annual gathering, longest continuous dining table, largest number of people fed for free, largest group of volunteers serving a single event, all under the imminent threat of suicide bombings.
Just looking at the multitudes leaves you breathless. What adds to the spectacle is that, as the security conditions worsen, even more people are motivated to challenge the terrorist threats and march in defiance. Thus, the pilgrimage isn't a mere religious exercise, but a bold statement of resistance. Videos have been posted online showing how a suicide bomber blows himself up in the midst of the pilgrims, only to have the crowds turn out in even greater numbers, chanting in unison:
If they sever our legs and hands, We shall crawl to the Holy Lands!
The horrific bomb blasts which occur year-round, mostly targeting Shia pilgrims and taking countless lives, illustrate the dangers facing Shias living in Iraq, and the insecurity that continues to plague the country. Yet the imminent threat of death doesn't seem to deter people - young and old, Iraqis and foreigners - from making the dangerous journey to the holy city.
It isn't easy for an outsider to understand what inspires the pilgrims. You see women carrying children in their arms, old men in wheelchairs, people on crutches, and blind seniors holding walking sticks. I met a father who had travelled all the way from Basra with his disabled boy. The 12-year-old had cerebral palsy and could not walk unassisted. So for a part of the trek the father put the boy's feet on top of his and held him by the armpits as they walked. It is the kind of story out of which Oscar-winning films are made, but it seems Hollywood is more concerned with comic heroes and with real life heroes whose superpower is their courage and commitment.
Golden Dome of Hussein
Visitors to the shrine of Hussein and his brother Abbas are not driven by emotion alone. They cry be reminded of the atrocious nature of his death, in doing so, they reaffirm their pledge to his ideals.
The first thing that pilgrims do upon reaching his shrine is recite the Ziyara, a sacred text which summarizes the status of Hussein. In it, they begin the address by calling Hussein the "inheritor" of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. There is something profound in making this proclamation. It shows that Hussein's message of truth, justice, and love for the oppressed is viewed as an inseparable extension of all divinely-appointed prophets.
People go to Karbala not to marvel at the city's landscape - lush with date palms, or to admire the mausoleum's physical beauty, or to shop, be entertained, or to visit ancient historical sites. They go to cry. To mourn and experience the angelic aura
of Hussein. They enter the sacred shrine weeping and lamenting the greatest act of sacrifice ever seen.
It is as though every person has established a personal relationship with the man they have never seen. They talk to him and call out his name; they grip the housing of his tomb; they kiss the floor leading into the shrine; they touch its walls and doors in the same manner one touches the face of a long-lost friend. It is a picturesque vista of epic proportions. What motivates these people is something that requires an understanding of the character and status of Imam Hussein and the spiritual relationship that those who have come to know him have developed with his living legend.
If the world understood Hussein, his message, and his sacrifice, they would begin to understand the ancient roots of Daesh and its credo of death and destruction. It was centuries ago in Karbala that humanity witnessed the genesis of senseless monstrosities, epitomized in the murderers of Hussein. It was pitch black darkness v. Absolute shining light, an exhibition of vice v. a festival of virtue, hence the potent specter of Hussein today. His presence is primordially woven into every facet of their lives. His legend encourages, inspires, and champions change for the better, and no amount of media blackout can extinguish its light.
"Who is this Hussein"? For hundreds of millions of his followers, a question this profound, which can cause people to relinquish their religion for another, can be answered only when you have marched to the shrine of Hussein on foot