there is probably no ‘crucial difference’ between Shias and Sunnis. He admits that Shias do not recognize the Sunni books of Hadith or traditions attributed to the Prophet. Yet, he also claims that most of the ‘authentic’ traditions contained in these books are, in fact, considered as authentic by Shias, either as reports narrated by sources they consider trustworthy or else as points of view of their Imams, whom they regard as infallible. On the whole, then, he concludes, ‘there is a great deal of agreement’ between Shia and Sunni jurisprudence, and this he considers as ‘the most important point’ to be kept in mind when approaching the question of Shia-Sunni dialogue and unity. Both forms of jurisprudence, he says, depend on the same sources, the Quran and the practice (sunnah) of the Prophet, and both are said to share the common aim of ‘establishing Allah’s justice and mercy among people’.
The Shaikh is not unmindful of the differences, on certain issues, between the Sunnis and most Shias, although he considers them relatively insignificant, at least compared to what they share in common. In highlighting the commonalities between the two he also argues against a widely held view in some Sunni circles of all Shias as believing in certain doctrines that are not accepted by the Sunnis. Thus, he writes, ‘some Shi’ite views that seem eccentric to use have been also adopted by some Sunni scholars’. For instance, he says, while most Shias approve of ‘temporary marriage’ (mu’tah), Sunni scholars in general forbid it. Nevertheless, he notes, a companion of the Prophet, Hazrat ibn Abbas regarded this form of marriage as ‘lawful’ and that ‘although he changed his mind later’ on the issue, some of his followers in Mecca and Yemen, such as Said ibn Jubair and Tawus continued ‘holding such marriage lawful’.
As the Shaikh sees it, intra-Muslim rivalry, particularly between Shias and Sunnis, only plays into the hands of forces that are inimical to Muslims. All Muslims should be alert’, he warns, ‘against the schemes and plots planned by the enemies of Islam’. ‘They.want us to disagree and fight each other in the name of belief’, he says, and appeals to Shias and Sunnis ‘not to give them this chance’.
Originally published on Yoginder Sikand’s website at http://www.islaminterfaith.org/archives.html and reprinted with permission of the author.