SHAFAQNA -Â Â Dr. Esam Ali Yahya El-Emad, a Muslim researcher who was born to a Zaidiyyah family in A`b City, Yamen, 1968. He studied to get his PhD degree, through which he had to study Wahabism in Imam Mohammed Bin Soâ€™ud Salafi (Wahabi) University, located in Saudi Arabia.
The official website of the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine interviewed Dr. Esam, and asked him some questions:
Q: What does Shia or Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them) mean to you?
Dr. Esam: I had a very distorted image about Shia due to reading the books of Ihsan Alihi Dhuhair, Mohammed Mal-Allah, and Mohib Ed-Deen El-Khateeb, till I became full of hatred towards Shia people. Therefore, I wrote a book against Shia people, called â€œConnection between Shia people and hyperboleâ€.
Q: Did you finish the book? Whatâ€™s the reason you Left Wahabi faith and embraced Shia faith?
Dr. Esam: Imam Mohammed Bin Soâ€™ud Salafi (Wahabi) University asked me to write a book against the Grand Shia scholar and author, sheikh El-Mufeed, and therefore I had to collect some books of his, in addition to some other Shia and Sunnie books. Through the search for books, I found a book called, â€œImam Es-Sadiqâ€ by Mohammed Abi Zehreh. The book was the first opportunity for me to understand Shiasim from a different perspective. Although the book was criticizing Shiasim, but at the same time, it was objective in discussing the Shia faith and was completely different from the books I studied in the university because those books were far away from objectivity. After that, I began to read El-Mufeedâ€™s books; his style was void of hyperbole. Therefore, his books attracted me so much. Ever since, I discovered that many scholars hadnâ€™t treated Imam Ali (Peace Be Upon Him) impartially in their books, and in some other books I realized that there was so much prejudice for the prophetâ€™s companions; neglecting Imam Ali and his virtues. Thus I realized that Imam Ali (Peace Be Upon Him) was wronged, – many narrators never defended him for fear of being accused of being Shia.
I then came to a conclusion that Umayyad people had established a misleading trap through which they had driven away many thinkers from the reality, and I fully understood the plot that had been hatched against Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them).
After a long-drown-out research and facts were substantiated, I could not remain subscribed to Wahabi faith. Therefore, I changed my faith and embraced Shia faith in 1989; I wrote a book about Imam El-Mehdi (May Allah Hasten His Reappearance) and dedicated it to the one who was the reason behind my guidance, sheikh El-Mufeed, (May Allah Be Pleased With Him).
Q: How was the resonance of the news of your convert into Shia faith?
Dr. Esam: Although I converted before the movement of converting into Shia faith, but it was a great impact on my family and my friends, after that I travelled to Yamen and to Damascus, Syria and stayed there for more than 20 years, where I joined the Shia religious school. In 1990, I travelled to Qum, Iran, where I also joined the Shia religious school till I attained the rank of promulgating and teaching the culture of Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them). Since then, I began to write books and conduct debates and talks with the other Islamic faiths based on ideological, religious, and scientific evidence in order to manifest the truth of Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them).
He also said that converting into another faith is a hard decision, because it is accompanied by psychological elements, in addition to some other issues, such as hesitation, doubt, and oscillation till one obtains certainty, forgetting the past and beginning another life which is sound in everything.
Q: What do you think of Ahlul-Bayetâ€™s (Peace Be Upon Them) perspective on you?
Dr. Esam: Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them) have a very beautiful perspective on the convert, and they urge them to communicate with their community in order to treat their people fairly; this is the way of Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them) to treat people. Imam Es-Sadiq (Peace Be Upon Him) says, â€œBeing led in prayer by a convert (into Shia faith) is as to be led in prayer by the Prophet Mohammed (Allahâ€™s Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him & His Pure Lineage)â€. That indicates that a convert should be communicating with his people, where he is from, in addition to offering the obligatory prayers in the mosques of those who are subscribed to other Islamic faiths.
Q: Do emotions matter in converting into another faith, or faith can be originated from belief and creed?
Dr. Esam: Emotions have nothing to do with having faith towards Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them) as long as Ahlul-Bayet (Peace Be Upon Them) were mentioned in all the divine scriptures, such as the New Testament and Bible, therefore it is merely a matter of a mental, intellectual perspective. Yes, some Quranic conclusion may require one to be passionate in order to be able to express a sentimental matter; this can be the last stage after Quranic, ideological, and rational evidence substantiated.
Q: During the changes taking place in the Arab countries, what is your call towards fulfilling the Islamic unity?
Dr. Esam: I think that the Islamic unity is an obligation which is similar to the obligation of offering prayers, fasting, and making pilgrimage because the Almighty Allah orders us to be united. Therefore, the Islamic unity issue must be obligatory, away from politics.
Q: What do you think should be done to solve this issue and fulfil the Islamic unity?
Dr. Esam: We ought to coexist and forgive each other in terms of our differences â€“ not only do Muslims forgives other Muslims, but Muslims should forgive others who are subscribed to different religions. The Almighty Allah says, â€œThere shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religionâ€. Thus we should concentrate on the common factors.
He stressed that it is not about one being religious, but it is about one being fanatic and practicing sectarianism; that violates othersâ€™ rights; humans are free to choose. There was a big war among Orthodox and Catholic Christians which destroyed the European society, but now, everything has been changed because they solved their problems and settled down their differences and then united all their Christian faiths. Therefore, we must learn from the European experience to fight sectarianism.Â Â Â Â