The Islamic schism which never was …

SHAFAQNA – If Prophet Muhammad was sent as God’s last messenger, a final reminder of God’s Words onto His creation, Muslims have since worked very hard at dividing which was meant to stand united. From the moment Prophet Muhammad was commanded to speak those first words of knowledge: “Read! In the Name of your Lord who created man, out of a clot (of congealed blood). Read (Proclaim), and your Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the Pen, taught man that which he knew not,” men have ambitioned to stifle the very light Islam was sent to shine forth. And since none could stood in the way of Islam, then it is Muslims who became designated target.

If you care to look back at history you will note that as long as the Prophet Muhammad led the way, none ever dared challenge his authority … and with good reasons. Who could stand and deny Muhammad’s prophethood when it had been divinely ordained? Who indeed …

But what of Prophet Muhammad’s wishes? What about the wishes he imparted onto his community? Were they not too divinely ordained? Can we in all honesty look onto the prophet’s life and not recognize that every breath he took had a purpose which echoed of God?

Prophet Muhammad lived a pure life, a life of absolute devotion. In many ways his very life, the walk he walked, and the words he spoke were Islam. Our prophet was perfected and purified by God, so that we, his community, could look up to him and find guidance in the knowledge that his guidance bore not a fleck of darkness.

The last of God’s prophet, Prophet Muhammad was a reflection of God’s will. Through him God spoke Men his last Message – one last reminder, one last call to follow and through Him find peace.

So far I imagine that all Muslims will stand in agreement!

For as long as the Prophet Muhammad has still a breath in him, the Muslim ummah lived as one united community. In the prophet, men and women had found a Guidance and a Light they could rely on, trust and follow wholeheartedly. The prophet’s death however would come to shatter this sense of social and religious cohesion.

The very second his heart stopped, many reverted to their pettiness and arrogance – free once more to hide their ambition behind a mask of self-righteousness,

I will not bore you readers with the details of Islam’s grand religious dispute … we all know how the story goes. Or at least we all know what we have chosen to believe of the story.

Regardless of how one chooses to remember there are facts still that we cannot deny or argue over. History it needs to be said is immovable in that it stands testimony of our past deeds – it holds a mirror to our actions, and more often than not betrays our real ambitions/

Islam’s schism is no different! Islam’ schism was NOT as we were told a religious spat in between warring, or even competing factions. Islam’ schism never was because Islam can never be divided.

This drawn-out argument over Imam Ali, AhlulBayt and the real source of Islamic legitimacy is but a political debate posing as a religious crusade. I would personally argue that there was never any doubt as to whose leadership was worthier, and more legitimate – denying Imam Ali’s position in Islam is denying Islam itself.

Men chose what they chose in full knowledge of their rebellion. They chose for in that moment they chose themselves, and their pride over that of God’s command. They chose power, believing that they could rise themselves up to the level of Islam’s First Imam – their betrayal was really against themselves. Note that Imam Ali did not speak any reprimand against anyone.

Amid such turmoil, Imam Ali stood as he always did – a light against all darkness. Just as he guarded the last prophet of God with his life, Imam Ali acted a guardian over Islam, and all Muslims. His legitimacy never needed Men’s approval … What better station but that of Ali? There on the prophet’s shoulders he stood, and from the prophet’s shoulders he destroyed the idols.

What man can claim to have stood so close to the Heavens? Whose man did the prophet call together his brother, his son and his lieutenant?

And still Muslims argue his true title, and his true station.

The world has now learned of Islam division – a division which started over legitimacy.

Let us now speak legitimacy.

The first question you need to ask yourself is whose legitimacy? Ultimately this divide in between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam comes down to one simple question: Did the prophet appoint an heir? Or rather did God provision for His Religion, His Book, His Tradition, His Message to be entrusted in the care of a custodian?

Remember this word: custodian.

While many so called religious authorities would have us believe that God left us to our devise after offering us absolute guidance, history tells us differently.

The prophet did appoint his heir. He actually did much more … He linked Muslims’ very declaration of faith to AhlulBayt (the house of the prophet, his progeny).

“It is probable that I will be called soon, and I will respond. So I leave behind me two weighty (very worthy and important) things, the Book of Allah (the Qur’an), which is a string stretched from the heaven to the earth; and my progeny, my Ahlul Bayt. Verily Allah, the Merciful, the Aware, has informed me that these two will never be separated from each other until they meet me at the Fountain of Abundance (the Hawdh of Kawthar, a spring in heaven). Therefore, be careful of how you treat these two in my absence, said the Messenger of Allah.”[1]

This hadith was declared on, at least five occasions—the first being the farewell speech during the last hajj, the second at Ghadeer Khum, the third after the Prophet left the city of Taif near Mecca, the fourth at the pulpit in Madina, and the fifth—just before he died—in his room which was full of his companions.


Given the high importance of the Noble Quran, why would the Prophet associate AhlulBayt with the Quran and place them second in importance to it? The answer is that AhlulBayt are the best to explain the true meaning and interpretation of this Noble Book. The Quran, as it states itself, contains both clear (muhkam) and unclear (mutashabiah) verses, and so the correct interpretation of these unclear verses must be passed on from the Prophet himself, as he did to his AhlulBayt. In addition, AhlulBayt, due to its closeness to the Prophet, had an unparalleled knowledge of his traditions.

If we agree that the prophet only spoke God’s will, then we can agree that Imam Ali’s appointment was ordained by God!

On the 18th of Dhul-Hajjah, after completing his last pilgrimage (Hajjatul-Widaa), Prophet was leaving Mecca toward Medina, where he and the crowd of people reached to a place called Ghadeer Khum (which is close to today’s Juhfah). It was a place where people from different provinces should say Good bye to each other and take different routes for their home. In this place, the following verse was revealed:

“O Apostle! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; and if you don’t do it, you have not delivered His message (at all); and Allah will protect you from the people …” (Quran 5:67).

Upon receiving the verse, the Prophet stopped. He then called for all his people to gather around him.

The Prophet Muhammad declared: “It seems the time approached when I shall be called away (by Allah) and I shall answer that call. I am leaving for you two precious things and if you adhere both of them, you will never go astray after me. They are the Book of Allah and my progeny, that is my AhlulBayt. The two shall never separate from each other until they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise).”

Then the Messenger of Allah continued: “Do I not have more right over the believers than what they have over themselves?” People cried and answered: “Yes, O’ Messenger of God.” Then the Prophet held up the hand of Ali and said: “Whoever I am his leader (Mawla), Ali is his leader (Mawla). O’ God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him.”

Immediately after the Prophet finished his speech, the following verse of Holy Quran was revealed:

“Today I have perfected your religion and completed my bounty upon you, and I was satisfied that Islam be your religion.” (Quran 5:3)

Imam Ali’s appointment marked the completion of Islam – Ali is Islam’s declaration of faith.

For those still in doubts: The prophet said: “I am the city of knowledge, and Ali is the door”.

Prophet Muhammad ensured that his legacy would be continued by the formal institution of Imam Ali at Ghadeer Khum and also by his many traditions, Sunna. He said to Ali, ‘You are from me, and I am from you.”

And: “Ali is with the Quran and the Quran is with Ali. They will not separate from each other until they return to me at the [paradisal] pool.”

This transference of the prophetic nature to Imam Ali is not only in the following of his words and deeds, the Sunna, but also of his spirituality, his inner nature, that soul connection that every Muslim aspires to, and Imam Ali became the foremost exemplar. Did not Angel Gabriel reveal to Prophet Muhammad: “There is no one like Ali!”[2]

Still today Muslims argue … Still today Shia Muslims are called apostate for daring speak the very words the last prophet of god spoke. Still, Shia Muslims are being mocked!

But what it is that Sunni Islam reproaches Shia Islam? Do you actually know?

I will offer this by way of an answer:

Wahhabis have looked down on all Shia Muslims: from all different school of thoughts and backgrounds on account they have chosen to look up to Imam Ali and see God’s chosen Custodian of the Word. Wahhabis have called Shia Muslims apostates because they have held true to the calls of the Prophet Muhammad and recognized that AhlulBayt is our testimony of faith. AhlulBayt is part of Shahada, it is the completion of any Muslims’ declaration of faith. One cannot call its religion complete if one does not embrace AhlulBayt and what it represents.

Wahhabis have mocked Shia Islam and called it an aberration and an evil. Wahhabis have rejected the authority of Imam Ali, Imam Hasan, and Imam Husayn, and YET they are quite happy to revere al-Saud Royals as the Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques.

I ask you this: Who is more worthy of holding this title? Who is more worthy of holding the banner of Islam?

Do we stand with the progeny of the last Prophet of God – those men and women who were blessed with a Light so pure it still shines today, or do we follow those who, out of arrogance and pride appointed themselves the guardian of a tradition they do not understand?

Do we deny the wishes of God’s prophet, or do we stand with Islam’s First Imam? Whose names did the people call out when in need? Whose voice did answer them? Whose arms bore weapons, when all others failed and ran away? Was it not time and time again our Imams, the sons and daughters of the last prophet of God who spoke truth in the face of evil, regardless of what would happen to them?

Have we forgotten how tall Lady Zainab[3] stood before Yazid? How we forgotten how Imam Husayn and his 72 braves towered over an army of a few thousands, knowing their lives had already been forfeited? Have we forgotten those we were called to love?

Whose names are we calling still? Whose names speak Islam?

Being Shia is not standing outside of Islam, it is embracing Islam and standing with the Quran.

The Prophet once said, “Ali is knowledge and knowledge is Ali.” And if we agree that all the knowledge of the world is held within the pages of the Quran, then Ali is the Quran.

And if Ali is the Quran, we are all the followers of Ali.

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna


[1] This hadith has been narrated by more than twenty companions of the Prophet and has also been narrated by over 185 narrators mentioned in Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, 238; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 5, 181-182; Sahih Tirmidhi, Vol. 2, 220.


[3] The Victory of Truth: The Life of Zaynab bint Ali by Muna Bilgrami

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