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The brutal Killing of Farkhunda Malikzada

The brutal  Killing of Farkhunda Malikzada

Farkhunda Malikzada[1] (Persian: فرخنده) was a 27-year-old Afghan woman who was publicly slain by a mob in Kabul on March 19, 2015. A large crowd formed in the streets around Farkhunda when accusers began yelling, announcing her alleged crimes to the public. They claimed that she had burned the Quran, and for that, her accusers announced that she must pay the ultimate price.

Police initially tried to protect Farkhunda and disperse the crowd, but were overwhelmed by the mob’s numbers and fury.

The mob grabbed Farkhunda, pulled her hair, hit her, spit at her, pushed her to the ground, stomped on her body, kicked her in the head, and ripped the veil from her face. Police, seeing the urgency of the situation, attempted to remove her from the crowds by climbing atop a shop roof. Farkhunda lost her balance while fighting to stay conscious, and slipped down the rooftop and back into the crowd.

She was brutally and mercilessly beaten into unconsciousness; seeing Farkhunda now motionless, the crowd dragged her into the street and ran over her body with a car, dragging her some 300 feet. They then set her corpse on fire and watched her body burn. They used their own clothing articles (e.g. scarves and hats) to keep the fire alight, because her own clothing and body were so bloodied that they would not catch alight.

She was murdered after allegedly arguing with a mullah who falsely accused her of burning the Quran, the Quran. Police investigations revealed that she had not burned anything.[2] Her murder led to 49 arrests;[3] three adult men received twenty year prison sentences, eight other adult males received sixteen year sentences, a minor received a ten year sentence, and eleven police officers received one year prison terms for failing to protect Farkhunda.[4] Her murder and the subsequent protests served to draw attention to women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Background

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Farkhunda: The making of a martyr – BBC Newsnight

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Farkhunda was an observant Muslim who wore a veil (hijab). At the time of the attack, she had just finished a degree in religious studies and was preparing to take a teaching post.[5] Her name means “auspicious” and “jubilation”.[6]

The attack

In a still frame from a video captured and widely disseminated on social media and in the news, a bloodied Farkhunda appears to plead with her attackers before she is knocked down.

Farkhunda had previously been arguing with a mullah named Zainuddin, in front of a mosque where she worked as a religious teacher,[2] about his practice of selling charms at the Shah-Do Shamshira Mosque, the Shrine of the King of Two Swords,[7] a religious shrine in Kabul.[8] During this argument, Zainuddin reportedly accused her of burning the Quran. She responded

“I am a Muslim, and Muslims do not burn the Quran!”[9]

According to eyewitnesses, hundreds of angry civilians flocked to the mosque upon overhearing the mullah’s accusation. They dragged out Farkhunda and started to beat her.[5] She was thrown from a roof, run over by a car, and beaten with sticks and stones outside the mosque. The mob then set her body alight and dumped it in the Kabul River while police allegedly looked on.[8][10] Farkhunda’s parents said the killing was instigated by the mullah with whom Farkhunda had been talking, who, according to Tolo News, began loudly accusing her of burning the Quran “in order to save his job and life.”[11] An eyewitness said that the mob was chanting anti-American and anti-democratic slogans while beating Farkhunda.[12]

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The Killing of Farkhunda

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Reactions

Public reaction in Afghanistan

A number of prominent public officials turned to Facebook immediately after the death to endorse the murder. The official spokesman for the Kabul police Hashmat Stanekzai, for instance, wrote that Farkhunda “thought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship. But before reaching their target, they lost their life.” The Deputy Minister for Culture and Information Simin Ghazal Hasanzada also approved the execution of a woman “working for the infidels.” Zalmai Zabuli, chief of the complaints commission of the upper house of parliament, posted a picture of Farkhunda with this message: “This is the horrible and hated person who was punished by our Muslim compatriots for her action. Thus, they proved to her masters that Afghans want only Islam and cannot tolerate imperialism, apostasy, and spies.” [13]

After it was revealed that she did not burn the Quran, the public reaction in Afghanistan turned to shock and anger. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Kabul on 23 March protesting her brutal death. Protesters marched from where the attack began to where Farkhunda was thrown in the river. A number of women on the march wore masks of her bloodied face while others condemned the government for failing to bring security to Afghanistan. Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament representing Kabul Province and a longtime women’s rights activist, told Al Jazeera that her killing had triggered the city and the rest of the country to think about women’s rights.[10] She said: “This is not a male or female issue, this is a human issue and we will not stop until the killers are brought to justice.”[10] Roshan Siren, a former member of parliament, said that the murder highlights violence against women in the country, and has become a rallying point for a younger generation of women to campaign for “the protection and progress of women.”[14]

The woman’s father complained that police could have done more to save Farkhunda.[8]

Protests

On March 23, hundreds of women protested the attack, demanding that the government prosecute those responsible for Farkhunda’s death.[8] The protest was organized by Solidarity Party of Afghanistan and residents of Kabul.[15] Farkhunda’s death has also become a rallying point for women’s rights activists in Afghanistan.[16] On March 24, thousands of people protested the attack in front of the Afghan Ministry of Justice in Kabul.[17]

Official response in Afghanistan

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation into the incident and, in a statement released by his office, condemned the “act of extreme violence”.[18] He described the killing as “heinous”.[11] He also said that Farkhunda’s death revealed that Afghanistan’s police were too focused on the Taliban insurgency in the country and not focused enough on local policing.[19]

Nine men who were seen in the video of Farkhunda’s murder on social media were subsequently detained.[20] The Interior Ministry later reported that 28 people were arrested and 13 police officers suspended as part of investigations. Hashmat Stanikzai, a cleric who publicly endorsed the murder, was sacked over comments that he made on social media supporting Farkhunda’s killers.[5]

The Afghanistan Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs announced that it found no evidence that Farkhunda had burned the Quran.[11]

International reaction

The European Union condemned the attack. A spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that “[t]he killing of Ms Farkhunda… is a tragic reminder of dangers women face from false accusations and the lack of justice in Afghanistan.” She added, “We all hope that [those] responsible can be brought to justice.”[5] The United States also condemned the murder, with a statement from its embassy in Kabul calling for “those responsible to be brought to justice so such heinous acts will never occur again”.[21]

Global Times China columnist Farman Nawaz wrote “Choosing rulers through the ballot box is a positive sign for the country, but the survival, and even growth, of extremist mentality even after suffering from the barbarism of extremist groups reflects a critical failure by Afghan political parties”.[22] Afghan American historian Ali A Olomi argued that Farkhunda’s murder demonstrated the endurance of an underlying culture of violence and devaluation of human life that comes out of generations of Afghans being raised during a war and facing oppression.[23]

Reaction from Islamic scholars

In Afghanistan

The day after the murder, certain imams and mullahs endorsed the killing during Friday prayer services in their mosques. One of them, the influential Maulavi Ayaz Niazi of the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque, warned the government that any attempt to arrest the men who had defended the Quran would lead to an uprising.[13][24]

After it was revealed she did not burn the Quran, senior Islamic scholars in Afghanistan expressed outrage over the incident. Ahmad Ali Jebreili, a member of Afghanistan’s Ulama Council set for administering Islamic law, condemned the attack, accusing it of contravening Islam.[18] Haji Noor Ahmad, a local cleric, said “People come and execute a person arbitrarily; this is totally prohibited and unlawful. However, some justified her killing and were met with public anger.”[25]

Abroad

Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, a prominent, conservative, Islamic scholar, expressed horror on his Facebook page and said “A sign of how truly civilized a nation is, is how it treats its women. May Allah restore the honor and respect that women deserve in our societies!”[26]

Yama Rasaw of the International Policy Digest blamed intolerance among Afghans and Muslims for the killing of Farkhunda.[27]

Funeral

On March 22, a number of women, dressed in black, carried Farkhunda’s coffin from an ambulance to a prayer ground and then to a graveyard. This was a marked departure from tradition, which holds that such funerals are typically only attended by men.[12]

Criminal cases

Of 49 suspects tried in the case, four men were sentenced to death for their roles in Farkhunda’s murder. The sentences were handed down by Judge Safiullah Mojadedi in Kabul on May 5, 2015. Eight other defendants were sentenced to 16 years in prison. The trial was noted for its unusual brevity, lasting just two days.[28] The verdict has been criticized because although some investigators believe a fortuneteller set the attacks on Farkhunda in motion, this person was found not guilty on appeal, and the shrine’s custodian had his death sentence commuted despite the fact that he originated the false charge that Farkhunda had burned the Koran.[29]

Three suspects in the murder were still at large at the time of the May 5 sentencing, according to Mojadedi.[30]

On May 19, eleven police officers were sentenced to one year in prison for failing to protect Farkhunda.[31]

On 2 July 2015, an appeals court overturned the death sentences for those convicted in the mob killing. Three of those had their sentences reduced to 20 years in jail, while the fourth was re-sentenced to 10 years prompting street protests and a debate on women’s rights.[32]

As of August 12, 2015 an examination of the outcome of the proceedings in the matter by a panel of lawyers appointed by Afghanistan’s president resulted in a planned recommendation to the Afghan Supreme Court that those accused in her death be retried.

See Sharia Law

See Women’s rights in Afghanistan

Women’s rights in Afghanistan

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Sunnis and Shia – What’s the difference?

According to Adherents.com the two biggest religions in the world are Christianity , with approximately 2.2 billion practising followers and Islam , with approximately 1.6 billion practising followers and both have various offshoots and different strands often dictated by regional and cultural boundaries.

When you consider that the world population is approximately 7.3 billion ( as of July 2015  )  then almost half of the world population follow Christianity and/or Islam and sadly both religions are responsibly for more deaths and devastation  than any act of nature or global war and the corridors of time are littered with the blood of the innocent and the souls of the none believers – In my book religion has a lot to answer for!

 

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Sunnis and Shia – What’s the difference?

Struggles between Sunni and Shia forces have fed the Syrian civil war that threatens to transform the map of the Middle East, spurred violence that is fracturing Iraq and widened fissures in a number of tense Gulf countries. Growing sectarian clashes have also sparked a revival of transnational jihadi networks that poses a threat beyond the region.

The Major Difference Between the Shi’a and the Sunni

All the Muslims agree that Allah is One, Muhammad (S) is His last Prophet, the Qur’an is His last Book for mankind, and that one day

Allah will resurrect all human beings, and they will be questioned about their beliefs and actions. There are, however, disagreements between the two schools in the following two areas:

1. The Caliphate (successorship/leadership) which the Shi’a believe is the right of the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt.

2. The Islamic rule when there is no clear Qur’anic statement, nor is there a Hadith upon which Muslim schools have agreed.

The second issue has root into the first one. The Shi’a bound themselves to refer to Ahlul-Bayt for deriving the Sunnah of Prophet (S). They do this in conformity with the order of Prophet reported in the authentic Sunni and Shi’i collections of traditions beside what the Qur’an attests to their perfect purity.

The disagreement about the caliphate should not be a source of division between the two schools. Muslims agree that the caliphate of Abu Bakr came through election by a limited number of people and was a surprise for all other companions. By limited number, I mean, the majority of the prominent companions of prophet had no knowledge of this election. ‘Ali, Ibn Abbas,

Uthman, Talha, Zubair, Sa’d Ibn Abi Waqqas, Salman al-Farsi, Abu Dharr,

Ammar Ibn Yasir, Miqdad, Abdurrahman Ibn Owf were among those who were not consulted nor even informed of. Even Umar confessed to the fact that the election of Abu Bakr was without consultation of Muslims. (See sahih al-

Bukhari, Arabic-English, Tradition 8.817)

On the other hand, election implies choice and freedom, and that every

Muslim has the right to elect the nominee. Whoever refuses to elect him does not oppose God or His Messenger because neither God nor His Messenger appointed the nominated person by people.

Election, by its nature, does not compel any Muslim to elect a specific nominee. Otherwise, the election would be coercion. This means that the election would lose its own nature and it would be a dictatorial operation.

It is well known that the Prophet said: “There is no validity for any allegiance given by force.”

Imam ‘Ali refused to give his allegiance to Abu Bakr for six months. He gave his allegiance to Abu Bakr only after the martyrdom of his wife

Fatimah al-Zahra (sa), Daughter of the Holy Prophet, six month after the departure of Prophet. (see Sahih al-Bukhari, Arabic-English version, Tradition 5.546). If refusal to give allegiance to an elected nominee was prohibited in Islam, Imam ‘Ali would not have allowed himself to delay in giving his allegiance.

In the same tradition in Sahih al-Bukhari, Imam ‘Ali (as) said that he had some rights in Caliphate which was not honored, and he complained why Abu Bakr should have not consulted him in deciding upon the ruler. He later gave his allegiance when he found that the only way to save Islam is to leave the isolation which occured due to his refusal of giving the oath of allegiance.

What’s more? The well known companions, Abdullah Ibn Umar and Sa’d Ibn Abi

Waqqas, refused to give their allegiance to Imam ‘Ali for the entire duration of his caliphate. (Ibn Al-Athir, his history Al-Kamil, v3, p98).

But the Imam did not punish these companions.

If it was permissible for a Muslim, who was a contemporary of the caliph,to refuse to give his allegiance, it would be more permissible for a person who came in a later century to believe or not to believe in the qualifications of that elected caliph. In doing so, he would not be sinning, provided that the Caliph is not assigned by Allah.

The Shi’a say that Imam must be appointed by God; that appointment may be known through the declaration of the Prophet or the preceding Imam. The

Sunni scholars say that Imam (or Caliph, as they prefer to say) can be either elected, or nominated by the preceding Caliph, or selected by a committee, or may attempt to gain the power through a military coup (as was in the case of Muawiyah).

The Shi’a scholars say that a divinely appointed Imam is sinless and

Allah does not grant such position to the sinful. The Sunni scholars (including Mu’tazilites) say that Imam can be sinful as he is appointed by other than Allah. Even if he is tyrant and sunk in sins (like in the case of Muawiyah and Yazid), the majority of the scholars from the schools of Hanbali, Shafi’i, and Maliki discourage people to rise against that Caliph. They think that they should be preserved although they disagree with the evil actions.

The Shi’a say that Imam must possess above all such qualities as knowledge, bravery, justice, wisdom, piety, love of God etc. The Sunni scholars say it is not necessary. A person inferior in these qualities may be elected in preference to a person having all these qualities of superior degree.

See Al – Islam org for more details

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Shia–Sunni relations

Sunni and Shia Islam are the two major denominations of Islam. The demographic breakdown between the two denominations is difficult to assess and varies by source, but a good approximation is that 85-90% of the world’s Muslims are Sunni[1] and 10-15% are Shia,[2][3] with most Shias belonging to the Twelver tradition and the rest divided between many other groups.[2] Sunnis are a majority in most Muslim communities: in Southeast Asia, China, South Asia, Africa, and most of the Arab world. Shia make up the majority of the citizen population in Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, as well as being a politically significant minority in Lebanon. Azerbaijan is predominantly Shia; however, practicing adherents are much fewer.[4] Indonesia has the largest number of Sunni Muslims, while Iran has the largest number of Shia Muslims (Twelver) in the world. Pakistan has the second-largest Sunni as well as the second-largest Shia Muslim (Twelver) population in the world.

The historic background of the Sunni–Shia split lies in the schism that occurred when the Islamic prophet Muhammad died in the year 632, leading to a dispute over succession to Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community spread across various parts of the world, which led to the Battle of Siffin. The dispute intensified greatly after the Battle of Karbala, in which Hussein ibn Ali and his household were killed by the ruling Umayyad Caliph Yazid I, and the outcry for revenge divided the early Islamic community. Today, there are differences in religious practice, traditions, and customs, often related to jurisprudence. Although all Muslim groups consider the Quran to be divine, Sunni and Shia have different opinions on hadith.

Over the years, Sunni–Shia relations have been marked by both cooperation and conflict. Sectarian violence persists to this day from Pakistan to Yemen and is a major element of friction throughout the Middle East.[5][6] Tensions between communities have intensified during power struggles, such as the Bahraini uprising, the Iraq War, and most recently the Syrian Civil War[7][8][9] and in the formation of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its advancement on Syria and Northern Iraq.

Numbers

Sunnis are a majority in most Muslim communities in Southeast Asia, China, South Asia, Africa, most of the Arab World, and among Muslims in the United States (of which 85–90% are Sunnis).[10][11] This can also be confusing because of the fact that the majority of Arab Muslims in the United States are Shia, while the majority of Arab Americans are Christians, the conflation of Arab and Muslim being quite common.[12]

Shias make up the majority of the Muslim population in Iran (around 95%), Azerbaijan (around 90%),[13] Iraq (around 75%) and Bahrain (around 70%). Minority communities are also found in Yemen where over 45% of the population are Shia (mostly of the Zaidi sect), according to the UNHCR.[14] Others put the numbers of Shias at 30%.[15][16] About 15-20% of Turkey’s population belong to the Alevi sect. The Shia constitute around 30–40% of Kuwait,[17][18] 45–55% of the Muslim population in Lebanon, 25% of Saudi Arabia,[18][19] 12% of Syria, and 20-25% of Pakistan. Around 15–20% of Afghanistan, less than 6% of the Muslims in Nigeria, and around 5% of population of Tajikistan are Shia.[20]

…Shias are about 25-to-30 percent of the entire Muslim world. We don’t have accurate statistics because in much of the Middle East it is not convenient to have them, for ruling regimes in particular. But the estimates are that they are about 25 to 30 percent of the Muslim world, which puts them somewhere between 185 and 215 million people….The overwhelming majority of that population lives between Pakistan and Lebanon. Iran always had been a Shia country, the largest one, with a population of about 70 million. Pakistan is the second-largest Shia country in the world, with about 30 million population. Also potentially, there are as many Shias in India as there are in Iraq.[21][22]

— Vali Nasr, October 18, 2006

The main Islamic madh’habs (schools of law) of Muslim countries or distributions

Historical beliefs and leadership

Successors of Muhammad

Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad’s wife Aisha, was Muhammad’s rightful successor and that the method of choosing or electing leaders (Shura) endorsed by the Quran is the consensus of the Ummah (the Muslim community).

Shias believe that Muhammad divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi Talib (the father of his grandsons Hasan ibn Ali and Hussein ibn Ali) in accordance with the command of God to be the next caliph, making Ali and his direct descendants Muhammad’s successors. Shias believe that Muhammad quoted this, in Hadith of the pond of Khumm. Ali was married to Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter by his wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid.

Aisha endorsed her father Abu Bakr as the successor to Muhammad. In the Battle of the Camel (656), Aisha opposed her step son-in-law Ali outside the city of Basra, because she wanted justice on the assassins of the previous caliph, Uthman. Aisha’s forces were defeated and Muhammad’s widow was respectfully escorted back to Medina.

Sunnis follow the Rashidun “rightly guided Caliphs”, who were the first four caliphs who ruled after the death of Muhammad: Abu Bakr (632–634), Umar ibn al-Khattab (634–644), Uthman ibn Affan (644-656), and the aforementioned Ali Ibn Abi Talib (656–661).

Shia theology discounts the legitimacy of the first three caliphs and believes that Ali is the second-most divinely inspired man (after Muhammad) and that he and his descendants by Fatimah, the Imams, are the sole legitimate Islamic leaders.

The Imamate of the Shia encompasses far more of a prophetic function than the Caliphate of the Sunnis. Unlike Sunni, Shias believe special spiritual qualities have been granted not only to Muhammad but also to Ali and the other Imams. Twelvers believe the imams are immaculate from sin and human error (ma’sūm), and can understand and interpret the hidden inner meaning of the teachings of Islam. In this way the Imams are trustees (wasi) who bear the light of Muhammad (Nūr Muhammadin).[23][24]

Mahdi

The Mahdi is the prophesied redeemer of Islam. While Shias and Sunnis differ on the nature of the Madhi, many members of both groups, especially Sufis,[25] believe that the Mahdi will appear at the end of the world to bring about a perfect and just Islamic society.

In Shia Islam “the Mahdi symbol has developed into a powerful and central religious idea.”[26] Twelvers believe the Mahdi will be Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth Imam returned from the Occultation, where he has been hidden by God since 874. In contrast, mainstream Sunnis believe the Mahdi will be named Muhammad, be a descendant of Muhammad, and will revive the faith, but will not necessarily be connected with the end of the world.[27]

Hadith

The Shias accept some of the same hadiths used by Sunnis as part of the sunnah to argue their case. In addition, they consider the sayings of Ahl al-Bayt that are not attributed directly to Muhammad as hadiths. Shias do not accept many Sunni hadiths unless they are also recorded in Shia sources or the methodology can be proven of how they were recorded. Also, some Sunni-accepted hadith are less favored by Shias; one example is that because of Aisha’s opposition to Ali, hadiths narrated by Aisha are not given the same authority as those by other companions. Another example is hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah, who is considered by Shias as the enemy of Ali. The Shia argument is that Abu Hurairah was only a Muslim four years of his life before Muhammad’s death. Although he accompanied Muhammad for four years only, he managed to record ten times as many hadiths as Abu Bakr and Ali each.[28]

Shiism and Sufism

Shiism and Sufism are said to share a number of hallmarks: Belief in an inner meaning to the Quran, special status for some mortals (saints for Sufi, Imams for Shias), as well as veneration of Ali and Muhammad’s family.[29]

Pillars of faith

The Five Pillars of Islam (Arabic: أركان الإسلام) is the term given to the five duties incumbent on every Muslim. These duties are Shahada (profession of faith), salat (prayers), Zakāt (giving of alms), Sawm (fasting, specifically during Ramadan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). These five practices are essential to Sunni and Shia Muslims. Shia theology has two concepts that define religion as a whole. There are Roots of Religion (Usūl al-Dīn) and Branches of Religion (Furu al Din).

Practices

Many distinctions can be made between Sunnis and Shiaīs through observation alone:

Salat

When prostrating during ritual prayer (salat), Shias place their forehead onto a piece of naturally occurring material, most often a clay tablet (mohr), soil (turbah) at times from Karbala, the place where Hussein ibn Ali was martyred, instead of directly onto a prayer rug. There is precedence for this in Sunni thought too, as it is recommended to prostrate on earth, or upon something that grows from the earth.[30][31]

Some Shia perform prayers back to back, sometimes worshipping two times consecutively (1+2+2 i.e. fajr on its own Dhuhr with Asr and Maghrib with Isha’), thus praying five times a day but with a very small break in between the prayer, a tradition followed by Muslims all over the world while performing Hajj, instead of five prayers with at least one hour gap between them as required by Sunni schools of law.[32]

Shias and the followers of the Sunni Maliki school hold their hands at their sides during prayer; Sunnis of other schools cross their arms (right over left) and clasp their hands;[33] it is commonly held by Sunni scholars especially of Maliki school that either is acceptable.[34][35][36][37][38]

Mut’ah and Misyar

 

Twelver Shia permit Nikah mut‘ah—fixed-term temporary marriage— which is not acceptable within the Sunni community, the Ismaili Shia or the Zaidi Shia and is believed a planned and agreed fornication. Twelvers believe that Mutah was permitted until Umar forbade it during his rule. Mutah is not the same as Misyar marriage or ‘Arfi marriage, which has no date of expiration and is permitted by some Sunnis. A Misyar marriage differs from a conventional Islamic marriage in that the man does not have financial responsibility over the woman by her own free will. The man can divorce the woman whenever he wants to in a Misyar marriage.[39]

Hijab and dress

Both Sunni and Shia women wear the hijab. Devout women of the Shia traditionally wear black and yellow as do some Sunni women in the Gulf. Some Shia religious leaders also wear a black robe. Mainstream Shia and Sunni women wear the hijab differently. Some Sunni scholars emphasize covering of all body including the face in public whereas some scholars exclude the face from hijab. Shias believe that the hijab must cover around the perimeter of the face and up to the chin.[40] Like Sunnis, some Shia women, such as those in Iran and Iraq, use their hand to hold the black chador, in order to cover their faces when in public.

Given names

Shia are sometimes recognizable by their names, which are often derived from the names of Ahl al-Bayt. In particular, the names Fatima, Zaynab, Ali, Abbas, Hussein, and Hassan are disproportionately common among Shias, though they may also be used by Sunnis.[33] Umar, Uthman, Abu Bakr, Aisha, Muawiya, Yazid being the names of figures recognized by Sunnis but not Shias, are commonly used as names for Sunnis but are very rare, if not virtually absent, for Shias.[41]

History

Abbasid era

Destruction of the Tomb of Husayn ibn Ali at Karbala, condemned in a Mughal era manuscript.

The Umayyads were overthrown in 750 by a new dynasty, the Abbasids. The first Abbasid caliph, As-Saffah, recruited Shia support in his campaign against the Umayyads by emphasising his blood relationship to Muhammad’s household through descent from his uncle, ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib.[42] The Shia also believe that he promised them that the Caliphate, or at least religious authority, would be vested in the Shia Imam. As-Saffah assumed both the temporal and religious mantle of Caliph himself. He continued the Umayyad dynastic practice of succession, and his brother al-Mansur succeeded him in 754.

Ja’far al-Sadiq, the sixth Shia Imam, died during al-Mansur’s reign, and there were claims that he was murdered on the orders of the caliph.[43] (However, Abbasid persecution of Islamic lawyers was not restricted to the Shia. Abū Ḥanīfa, for example, was imprisoned by al-Mansur and tortured.)

Shia sources further claim that by the orders of the tenth Abassid caliph, al-Mutawakkil, the tomb of the third Imam, Hussein ibn Ali in Karbala, was completely demolished,[44] and Shias were sometimes beheaded in groups, buried alive, or even placed alive within the walls of government buildings still under construction.[45]

The Shia believe that their community continued to live for the most part in hiding and followed their religious life secretly without external manifestations.[46]

Shia–Sunni in Iraq

Many Shia Iranians migrated to what is now Iraq in the 16th century. “It is said that when modern Iraq was formed, some of the population of Karbala was Iranian”. In time, these immigrants adopted the Arabic language and Arab identity, but their origin has been used to “unfairly cast them as lackeys of Iran”.[47] Other Iraqi Shias are ethnic Arabs with roots in Iraq as deep as those of their Sunni counterparts’.[48]

Shia–Sunni in Persia

Main article: Islam in Iran

Shafi’i Sunnism was the dominant form of Islam in most of Iran until rise of the Safavid Empire although a significant undercurrent of Ismailism and a very large minority of Twelvers were present all over Persia. Many illustrious scholars and scientists who lived before the Safavid era, such as Avicenna, Jābir ibn Hayyān, Alhazen, Al-Farabi, Ferdowsi and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and the poet Hafez were Shia Muslims of both the Ismaili and Twelver traditions (some indistinguishably so, such as al-Tusi), as was most of Iran’s elite. There were many Sunni scientists and scholars as well, such as Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, philosopher-theologian Al-Ghazali, and poet Saadii. Nezamiyehs were the medieval institutions of Islamic higher education established by Nizam al-Mulk in the 11th century. Nizamiyyah institutes were the first well-organized universities in the Muslim world. The most famous and celebrated of all the nizamiyyah schools was Al-Nizamiyya of Baghdad (established 1065), where Nizam al-Mulk appointed the distinguished philosopher and theologian, Ghazali, as a professor. Other Nizamiyyah schools were located in Nishapur, Balkh, Herat and Isfahan.

The Sunni hegemony did not undercut the Shia presence in Iran. The writers of the Shia Four Books were Iranian, as were many other great scholars. According to Morteza Motahhari:[49]

The majority of Iranians turned to Shi’ism from the Safawid period onwards. Of course, it cannot be denied that Iran’s environment was more favourable to the flourishing of the Shi’ism as compared to all other parts of the Muslim world. Shi’ism did not penetrate any land to the extent that it gradually could in Iran. With the passage of time, Iranians’ readiness to practise Shi’ism grew day by day. Had Shi`ism not been deeply rooted in the Iranian spirit, the Safawids (907‑1145/ 1501‑1732) would not have succeeded in converting Iranians to the Shi’i creed and making them follow the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt sheerly by capturing political power.

Yavuz Sultan Selim who delivered a devastating blow to the Shia Safavids and Ismail I in the Battle of Chaldiran, a battle of historical significance.

The Shia in Persia before the Safavids

 

The domination of the Sunni creed during the first nine Islamic centuries characterizes the religious history of Iran during this period. There were however some exceptions to this general domination which emerged in the form of the Zaidis of Tabaristan, the Buwayhid, the rule of the Sultan Muhammad Khudabandah (r. 1304-1316) and the Sarbedaran. Nevertheless, apart from this domination there existed, firstly, throughout these nine centuries, Shia inclinations among many Sunnis of this land and, secondly, Twelver and Zaidi Shiism had prevalence in some parts of Iran. During this period, the Shia in Iran were nourished from Kufa, Baghdad and later from Najaf and Al Hillah.[50] Shia were dominant in Tabaristan, Qom, Kashan, Avaj and Sabzevar. In many other areas the population of Shias and Sunni was mixed.

The first Zaidi state was established in Daylaman and Tabaristan (northern Iran) in 864 by the Alavids;[51] it lasted until the death of its leader at the hand of the Samanids in 928. Roughly forty years later the state was revived in Gilan (north-western Iran) and survived under Hasanid leaders until 1126. After which from the 12th-13th centuries, the Zaidis of Daylaman, Gilan and Tabaristan then acknowledge the Zaidi Imams of Yemen or rival Zaidi Imams within Iran.[52]

The Buyids, who were Zaidi and had a significant influence not only in the provinces of Persia but also in the capital of the caliphate in Baghdad, and even upon the caliph himself, provided a unique opportunity for the spread and diffusion of Shia thought. This spread of Shiism to the inner circles of the government enabled the Shia to withstand those who opposed them by relying upon the power of the caliphate.

Twelvers came to Iran from Arab regions in the course of four stages. First, through the Asharis tribe[clarification needed] at the end of the 7th and during the 8th century. Second through the pupils of Sabzevar, and especially those of Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, who were from Rey and Sabzawar and resided in those cities. Third, through the school of Hillah under the leadership of Al-Hilli and his son Fakhr al-Muhaqqiqin. Fourth, through the scholars of Jabal Amel residing in that region, or in Iraq, during the 16th and 17th centuries who later migrated to Iran.[53]

On the other hand, the Ismaili da‘wah (“missionary institution”) sent missionaries (du‘āt, sg. dā‘ī) during the Fatimid Caliphate to Persia. When the Ismailis divided into two sects, Nizaris established their base in northern Persia. Hassan-i Sabbah conquered fortresses and captured Alamut in 1090. Nizaris used this fortress until the Mongols finally seized and destroyed it in 1256.

After the Mongols and the fall of the Abbasids, the Sunni Ulama suffered greatly. In addition to the destruction of the caliphate there was no official Sunni school of law. Many libraries and madrasahs were destroyed and Sunni scholars migrated to other Islamic areas such as Anatolia and Egypt. In contrast, most Shia were largely unaffected as their center was not in Iran at this time. For the first time, the Shia could openly convert other Muslims to their movement.

Several local Shia dynasties like the Marashi and Sarbadars were established during this time. The kings of the Kara Koyunlu dynasty ruled in Tabriz with a domain extending to Fars and Kerman. In Egypt the Fatimid government ruled.[54]

Muhammad Khudabandah, the famous builder of Soltaniyeh, was among the first of the Mongols to convert to Shiaism, and his descendants ruled for many years in Persia and were instrumental in spreading Shī‘ī thought.[55] Sufism played a major role in spread of Shiism in this time.

After the Mongol invasion Shiims and Sufism once again formed a close association in many ways. Some of the Ismailis whose power had broken by the Mongols, went underground and appeared later within Sufi orders or as new branches of already existing orders. In Twelve-Imam Shiism, from the 13th to the 16th century, Sufism began to grow within official Shiite circles.[56]

The extremist sects of the Hurufis and Shasha’a grew directly out of a background that is both Shiite and Sufi. More important in the long run than these sects were the Sufi orders which spread in Persia at this time and aided in the preparing the ground for the Shiite movement of Safavids. Two of these orders are of particular significance in this question of the relation of Shiism and Sufism: The Nimatullahi order and Nurbakhshi order.

Shiism in Persia after Safavids

Ismail I initiated a religious policy to recognize Shiism as the official religion of the Safavid Empire, and the fact that modern Iran and Azerbaijan remain officially Shia states is a direct result of Ismail’s actions.

Shah Ismail I of Safavid dynasty destroyed the tombs of Abū Ḥanīfa and the Sufi Abdul Qadir Gilani in 1508.[58] In 1533, Ottomans restored order, reconquered Iraq and rebuilt Sunni shrines.[59]

Unfortunately for Ismail, most of his subjects were Sunni. He thus had to enforce official Shiism violently, putting to death those who opposed him. Under this pressure, Safavid subjects either converted or pretended to convert, but it is safe to say that the majority of the population was probably genuinely Shia by the end of the Safavid period in the 18th century, and most Iranians today are Shia, although there is still a Sunni minority.[60]

Immediately following the establishment of Safavid power the migration of scholars began and they were invited to Iran … By the side of the immigration of scholars, Shi’i works and writings were also brought to Iran from Arabic-speaking lands, and they performed an important role in the religious development of Iran … In fact, since the time of the leadership of Shaykh Mufid and Shaykh Tusi, Iraq had a central academic position for Shi’ism. This central position was transferred to Iran during the Safavid era for two-and-a-half centuries, after which it partly returned to Najaf. … Before the Safavid era Shi’i manuscripts were mainly written in Iraq, with the establishment of the Safavid rule these manuscripts were transferred to Iran.[53]

This led to a wide gap between Iran and its Sunni neighbors, particularly its rival, the Ottoman Empire, in the wake of the Battle of Chaldiran. This gap continued until the 20th century.

Shia–Sunni in Levant

Rashid ad-Din Sinan the Grand Master of the Ismaili Shia at Masyaf successfully deterred Saladin, not to assault the minor territories under the control of their sect.

Shias claim that despite these advances, many Shias in Syria continued to be killed during this period for their faith. One of these was Muhammad Ibn Makki, called Shahid-i Awwal (the First Martyr), one of the great figures in Shia jurisprudence, who was killed in Damascus in 1384.[54]

Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi was another eminent scholar, killed in Aleppo on charges of cultivating Batini teachings and philosophy.[54]

Shia–Sunni in South Asia

Main article: Islam in Asia

Sunni–Shia clashes also occurred occasionally in the 20th century in South Asia. There were many between 1904 and 1908. These clashes revolved around the public cursing of the first three caliphs by Shias and the praising of them by Sunnis. To put a stop to the violence, public demonstrations were banned in 1909 on the three most sensitive days: Ashura, Chehlum and Ali’s death on 21 Ramadan. Intercommunal violence resurfaced in 1935-36 and again in 1939 when many thousands of Sunni and Shias defied the ban on public demonstrations and took to the streets.[61] Shia are estimated to be 21-35% of the Muslim population in South Asia, although the total number is difficult to estimate due to the intermingling between the two groups and practice of taqiyya by Shia [62]

Sunni razzias which came to be known as Taarajs virtually devastated the community. History records 10 such Taarajs also known as Taraj-e-Shia between the 15th and 19th centuries in 1548, 1585, 1635, 1686, 1719, 1741, 1762, 1801, 1830, 1872 during which the Shia habitations were plundered, people slaughtered, libraries burnt and their sacred sites desecrated.[63]

Shia-Sunni Relations in the Mughal Empire

Shia in South Asia faced persecution by some Sunni rulers and Mughal Emperors which resulted in the killings of Shia scholars like Qazi Nurullah Shustari[64] (also known as Shaheed-e-Thaalis, the third Martyr) and Mirza Muhammad Kamil Dehlavi[65] (also known as Shaheed-e- Rabay, the fourth Martyr) who are two of the five martyrs of Shia Islam. Shias in Kashmir in subsequent years had to pass through the most atrocious period of their history.

Modern Sunni–Shia relations

In addition to Iran, Iraq has emerged as a major Shia government when the Twelvers achieved political dominance in 2005 under American occupation. The two communities have often remained separate, mingling regularly only during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. In some countries like Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Bahrain, communities have mingled and intermarried. Some Shia have complained of mistreatment in countries dominated by Sunnis, especially in Saudi Arabia,[66] while some Sunnis have complained of discrimination in the Twelver-dominated states of Iraq and Iran.[67]

Some tension developed between Sunnis and Shia as a result of clashes over Iranian pilgrims and Saudi police at the hajj.[68] Millions of Saudi adhere to the school of Wahhabism which is a branch of Hanbali Sunni.[69]

According to some reports, as of mid-2013, the Syrian Civil War has become “overtly sectarian” with the “sectarian lines fall most sharply” between Alawites and Sunnis.[70] With the involvement of Lebanese Shia paramilitary group Hezbollah, the fighting in Syria has reignited “long-simmering tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites” spilling over into Lebanon and Iraq.[71] Ex-Ambassador Dimitar Mihaylov further claims that the current post-Arab Spring situation (encompassing ISIS, the Syrian civil war, Yemen, Iraq and others) represents a “qualitatively new” development in the history of Shi’a-Sunni dynamics. Historically, the inner rifts within Islamic ideology were to be hidden from the public sphere, while the new violent outbreaks highlight said rift in an obvious manner and is nourished by the two extremes of their mutual rivalry which will strongly affect both globally and regionally.[72]

1919–1970

At least one scholar sees the period from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire through the decline of Arab nationalism as a time of relative unity and harmony between traditionalist Sunni and Shia Muslims—unity brought on by a feeling of being under siege from a common threat, secularism, first of the European colonial variety and then Arab nationalist.[7]

An example of Sunni–Shia cooperation was the Khilafat Movement which swept South Asia following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the seat of the Caliphate, in World War I. Shia scholars “came to the caliphate’s defence” by attending the 1931 Caliphate Conference in Jerusalem, although they were theologically opposed to the idea that non-imams could be caliphs or successors to Muhammad, and that the caliphate was “the flagship institution” of Sunni, not Shia, authority. This has been described as unity of traditionalists in the face of the twin threats of “secularism and colonialism.”[7]

In these years Allama Muhammad Taqi Qummi travelled to Cairo and started his efforts for reforming Islamic unity at Al-Azhar University, since 1938. Finally, his efforts and contacting with scholars such as Mahmud Shaltut and Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi led to the founding of Dar-al-Taghrib (community for reforming unity between Sunni and Shia Muslims).[73]

Another example of unity was a fatwā issued by the rector of Al-Azhar University, Mahmud Shaltut, recognizing Shia Islamic law as the fifth school of Islamic law. In 1959, al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most influential center of Sunni learning, authorized the teaching of courses of Shia jurisprudence as part of its curriculum.[74]

The year of Iranian Islamic Revolution was “one of great ecumentical discourse”,[75] and shared enthusiasm by both Shia and Sunni Islamists. After the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini endeavored to bridge the gap between Shiites and Sunnis by declaring it permissible for Twelvers to pray behind Sunni imams and by forbidding criticizing the Caliphs who preceded Ali—an issue that had caused much animosity between the two groups.[76] In addition, he designated the period of Prophet’s Birthday celebrations from 12th to the 17th of Rabi Al-Awwal as the Islamic Unity Week. (There being a gap in the dates of when Shiites and Sunnis celebrate Muhammad’s Birthday).[77] However, this harmony was short lived.

Post-1980

See also: Iran–Iraq War

Damage to a mosque in Khoramshahr, Iran

Following this period, Sunni–Shia strife has seen a major upturn, particularly in Iraq and Pakistan. Many explain the bloodshed as the work of conspiracies by outside forces—”the forces of hegemony and Zionism which aim to weaken [Arabs]” (Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Yusuf al-Qaradawi),[78] unspecified “enemies” (Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad),[79] or “oppressive pressure by the imperialist front.” (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad).[80]

Others lay the blame for the strife at a very different source, the unintended effects of the Islamic revival. According to scholar Vali Nasr, as the Muslim world was decolonialised and Arab nationalism lost its appeal, fundamentalism blossomed and reasserted the differences and conflicts between the two movements, particularly in the strict teachings of Sunni scholar Ibn Taymiyyah.[81] The Iranian Islamic revolution changed the Shia–Sunni power equation in Muslim countries “from Lebanon to India” arousing the traditionally subservient Shia to the alarm of traditionally dominant and very non-revolutionary Sunni.[82] “Where Iranian revolutionaries saw Islamic revolutionary stirrings, Sunnis saw mostly Shia mischief and a threat to Sunni predominance.”[83]

Although the Iranian revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, was very much in favor of Shia–Sunni unity, he also challenged Saudi Arabia, in his view an “unpopular and corrupt dictatorship” and an “American lackey” ripe for revolution. In part because Saudi Arabia was the world’s major international funder of Islamic schools, scholarships, and fellowships, this angered not only Saudi Arabia but its many fundamentalist allies and benefactors throughout the Arab world, according to Nasr.[84]

Another effect noted by political scientist Gilles Kepel, is that the initial attraction of the Islamic Revolution to Sunnis as well as Shia, and Khomeini’s desire to export his revolution motivated the Saudi establishment to shore up its “religious legitimacy” with more strictness in religion (and with jihad in Afghanistan) to compete with Iran’s revolutionary ideology.[85] But doing so in Saudi meant a more anti-Shia policies because Saudi’s own native Sunni school of Islam is Wahhabism, which includes the prohibition of Shia Islam itself, as strict Wahhabis do not consider Shia to be Islamic. This new strictness was spread not only among Saudis in the kingdom but thousands of students and Saudi funded schools and international Islamist volunteers who came to training camps in Peshawar Pakistan in the 1980s to learn to fight jihad in Afghanistan and went home in the 1990s to fight jihad. Both groups (especially in Iraq and Pakistan) saw Shia as the enemy.[86][87][88] Thus, although the Iranian revolution’s leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, was very much in favor of Shia–Sunni unity, and “the leadership position that went with it”,[89] his revolution worked against it.

From the Iranian Revolution to 2015, Shia groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, supported by Iran have recently won “important political victories” which have boosted Iran’s regional influence.[90] In Lebanon, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia and political movement is the “strongest political actor” in the country. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq removed Saddam Hussein from power and instituted elected government, the Shia majority has dominated the parliament and its prime ministers have been Shia.[90] In Syria, a Shia minority—the heterodox Alawi sect that makes up only about 13 percent of the population—dominate the upper reaches of the government, military and security services in Syria, and are the “backbone” of the forces fighting to protect the Bashir al-Assad regime in Syria’s civil war.[90] In Yemen, Houthi rebels have expanded their territory south of Saudi Arabia, and become the country’s “dominant power“.[90]

Olivier Roy, research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, sees the “Shia awakening and its instrumentalisation by Iran” as leading to a “very violent Sunni reaction”, starting first in Pakistan before spreading to “the rest of the Muslim world, without necessarily being as violent.” According to Roy, “two events created a sea change in the balance of power between Shia and Sunnis: the Islamic revolution in Iran and the American military intervention in Iraq” in 2003. “Today, Azerbaijan is probably the only country where there are still mixed mosques and Shia and Sunnis pray together.”[91]

From 1994-2014 satellite television and high-speed Internet has spread “hate speech” against both Sunni and Shia. Fundamentalist Sunni clerics have popularized slurs against Shia such as “Safawis” (from the Safavid empire, thus implying their being an Iranian agents), or even worse rafidha (rejecters of the faith), and majus (Zoroastrian or crypto Persian). In turn, Shia religious scholars have “mocked and cursed” the first three caliphs and Aisha, Mohammed’s youngest wife who fought against Ali.[90]

Iraq

Shia–Sunni discord in Iraq starts with disagreement over the relative population of the two groups. According to most sources, including the CIA’s World Factbook, the majority of Iraqis are Shia Arab Muslims (60%-55%), and Sunni Arab Muslims represent between 32% and 37% of the population.[92] However, Sunni are split ethnically between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. Many Sunnis hotly dispute their minority status, including ex-Iraqi Ambassador Faruq Ziada,[93] and many believe Shia majority is “a myth spread by America”.[94] One Sunni belief shared by Jordan’s King Abdullah as well as his then Defense Minister Shaalan is that Shia numbers in Iraq were inflated by Iranian Shias crossing the border.[95] Shia scholar Vali Nasr believes the election turnout in summer and December 2005 confirmed a strong Shia majority in Iraq.[96]

The British, having put down a Shia rebellion against their rule in the 1920s, “confirmed their reliance on a corps of Sunni ex-officers of the collapsed Ottoman empire”. The British colonial rule ended after the Sunni and Shia united against it.[97]

The Shia suffered indirect and direct persecution under post-colonial Iraqi governments since 1932, erupting into full-scale rebellions in 1935 and 1936. Shias were also persecuted during the Ba’ath Party rule, especially under Saddam Hussein. It is said that every Shia clerical family of note in Iraq had tales of torture and murder to recount.[98] In 1969 the son of Iraq’s highest Shia Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim was arrested and allegedly tortured. From 1979-1983 Saddam’s regime executed 48 major Shia clerics in Iraq.[99] They included Shia leader Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister. Tens of thousands of Iranians and Arabs of Iranian origin were expelled in 1979 and 1980 and a further 75,000 in 1989.[100]

The Shias openly revolted against Saddam following the Gulf War in 1991 and were encouraged by Saddam’s defeat in Kuwait and by simultaneous Kurdish uprising in the north. However, Shia opposition to the government was brutally suppressed, resulting in some 50,000 to 100,000 casualties and successive repression by Saddam’s forces. The governing regimes of Iraq were composed mainly of Sunnis for nearly a century until the 2003 Iraq War.

Iraq War

Some of the worst sectarian strife ever has occurred after the start of the Iraq War, steadily building up to the present.[8] The war has featured a cycle of Sunni–Shia revenge killing—Sunni often used car bombs, while Shia favored death squads.[101]

According to one estimate, as of early 2008, 1,121 suicide bombers have blown themselves up in Iraq.[102] Sunni suicide bombers have targeted not only thousands of civilians,[103] but mosques, shrines,[104] wedding and funeral processions,[105] markets, hospitals, offices, and streets.[106] Sunni insurgent organizations include Ansar al-Islam.[107] Radical groups include Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad, Jaish al-Ta’ifa al-Mansurah, Jeish Muhammad, and Black Banner Organization.[108]

Takfir motivation for many of these killings may come from Sunni insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Before his death Zarqawi was one to quote Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, especially his infamous statement urging followers to kill the Shia of Iraq,[109] and calling the Shias “snakes”.[110] An al-Qaeda-affiliated website posted a call for “a full-scale war on Shiites all over Iraq, whenever and wherever they are found.”[111] Wahhabi suicide bombers continue to attack Iraqi Shia civilians,[112] and the Shia ulama have in response declared suicide bombing as haraam:

حتی كسانی كه با انتحار می‌آيند و می‌زنند عده‌ای را می‌كشند، آن هم به عنوان عملیات انتحاری، این‌ها در قعر جهنم هستند
Even those who kill people with suicide bombing, these shall meet the flames of hell.

— Ayatollah Yousef Saanei[113]

Some believe the war has strengthened the takfir thinking and may spread Sunni–Shia strife elsewhere.[114]

On the Shia side, in early February 2006 militia-dominated government death squads were reportedly “tortur[ing] to death or summarily” executing “hundreds” of Sunnis “every month in Baghdad alone,” many arrested at random.[115][116][117] According to the British television Channel 4, from 2005 through early 2006, commandos of the Ministry of the Interior which is controlled by the Badr Organization, and

…who are almost exclusively Shia Muslims — have been implicated in rounding up and killing thousands of ordinary Sunni civilians.[118]

The violence shows little sign of getting opposite sides to back down. Iran’s Shia leaders are said to become “more determined” the more violent the anti-Shia attacks in Iraq become.[119] One Shia Grand Ayatollah, Yousef Saanei, who has been described as a moderate, reacted to the 2005 suicide bombings of Shia targets in Iraq by saying the bombers were “wolves without pity” and that “sooner rather than later, Iran will have to put them down”.[120]

Egypt

Almost all of Egypt’s Muslims are Sunni,[121] but the Syrian Civil War has brought on an increase in anti-Shia rhetoric,[122] and what Human Rights Watch states is “anti-Shia hate speech by Salafis”.[123] In 2013 a mob of several hundred attacked a house in the village of Abu Musallim near Cairo, dragging four Shia worshipers through the street before lynching them.[123] Eight other Shia were injured.[122]

            Jordan
Main article: Islam in Jordan

Although the country of Jordan is 95% Sunni and has not seen any Shia–Sunni fighting within, it has played a part in the recent Shia-Sunni strife. It is the home country of anti-Shia insurgent Raed Mansour al-Banna, who died perpetrating one of Iraq’s worst suicide bombings in the city of Al-Hillah. Al-Banna killed 125 Shia and wounded another 150 in the 2005 Al Hillah bombing of a police recruiting station and adjacent open air market. In March 2005 Salt, al-Banna’s home town, saw a three-day wake for al-Banna who Jordanian newspapers and celebrants proclaimed a martyr to Islam, which by definition made the Shia victims “infidels whose murder was justified.” Following the wake Shia mobs in Iraq attacked the Jordanian embassy on March 20, 2005. Ambassadors were withdrawn from both countries.[124][125] All this resulted despite the strong filial bonds, ties of commerce, and traditional friendship between the two neighboring countries.[125]

Pakistan

Pakistan’s citizens have had serious Shia-Sunni discord. Almost 80% of Pakistan’s Muslim population is Sunni, with 20% being Shia, but this Shia minority forms the second largest Shia population of any country,[126] larger than the Shia majority in Iraq.

Until recently Shia–Sunni relations have been cordial, and a majority of people of both sects participated in the creation the state of Pakistan in the 1940s.[5] Despite the fact that Pakistan is a Sunni majority country, Shias have been elected to top offices and played an important part in the country’s politics. Several top Pakistani Generals such as General Muhammad Musa. Pakistan’s President Yahya Khan[citation needed] were Shia. Former President Asif Ali Zardari is a Shia. There are many intermarriages between Shia and Sunnis in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, from 1987–2007, “as many as 4,000 people are estimated to have died” in Shia-Sunni sectarian fighting in Pakistan”, 300 being killed in 2006.[127] Amongst the culprits blamed for the killing are Al-Qaeda working “with local sectarian groups” to kill what they perceive as Shia apostates, and “foreign powers … trying to sow discord.”[127] Most violence takes place in the largest province of Punjab and the country’s commercial and financial capital, Karachi.[128] There have also been conflagrations in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Azad Kashmir,[128] with several hundreds of Shia Hazara killed in Balochistan killed since 2008.[129]

Arab states especially Saudi Arabia and GCC states have been funding extremist Deobandi Sunnis and Wahhabis in Pakistan, since the Afghan Jihad.[130] Whereas Iran has been funding Shia militant groups such as Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, resulting in tit-for-tat attacks on each other.[128] Pakistan has become a battleground between Saudi Arabia-funded Deobandi Sunni and Wahhabis and Iran-funded Shia resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent Muslims.

Background

Some see a precursor of Pakistani Shia–Sunni strife in the April 1979 execution of deposed President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on questionable charges by Islamic fundamentalist General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Ali Bhutto was Shia, Zia ul-Haq a Sunni.[131]

Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization that followed was resisted by Shia who saw it as “Sunnification” as the laws and regulations were based on Sunni fiqh. In July 1980, 25,000 Shia protested the Islamization laws in the capital Islamabad. Further exacerbating the situation was the dislike between Shia leader Imam Khomeini and General Zia ul-Haq.[132]

Shia formed student associations and a Shia party, Sunni began to form sectarian militias recruited from Deobandi and Ahl al-Hadith madrasahs. Preaching against the Shia in Pakistan was radical cleric Israr Ahmed. Muhammad Manzour Numani, a senior Indian cleric with close ties to Saudi Arabia published a book entitled Iranian Revolution: Imam Khomeini and Shiism. The book, which “became the gospel of Deobandi militants” in the 1980s, attacked Khomeini and argued the excesses of the Islamic revolution were proof that Shiism was not the doctrine of misguided brothers, but beyond the Islamic pale.[133]

Anti-Shia groups in Pakistan include the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, offshoots of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). The groups demand the expulsion of all Shias from Pakistan and have killed hundreds of Pakistani Shias between 1996 and 1999.[134] As in Iraq they “targeted Shia in their holy places and mosques, especially during times of communal prayer.” [135] From January to May 1997, Sunni terror groups assassinated 75 Shia community leaders “in a systematic attempt to remove Shias from positions of authority.”[136] Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has declared Shia to be “American agents” and the “near enemy” in global jihad.[137]

An example of an early Shia–Sunni fitna shootout occurred in Kurram, one of the tribal agencies of the Northwest Pakistan, where the Pushtun population was split between Sunnis and Shia. In September 1996 more than 200 people were killed when a gun battle between teenage Shia and Sunni escalated into a communal war that lasted five days. Women and children were kidnapped and gunmen even executed out-of-towners who were staying at a local hotel.[138]

Afghanistan

Shia–Sunni strife in Pakistan is strongly intertwined with that in Afghanistan. Though now deposed, the anti-Shia Afghan Taliban regime helped anti-Shia Pakistani groups and vice versa. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, have sent thousands of volunteers to fight with the Taliban regime and “in return the Taliban gave sanctuary to their leaders in the Afghan capital of Kabul.” [139]

“Over 80,000 Pakistani Islamic militants have trained and fought with the Taliban since 1994. They form a hardcore of Islamic activists, ever-ready to carry out a similar Taliban-style Islamic revolution in Pakistan.”, according to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid.[134]

Shia–Sunni strife inside of Afghanistan has mainly been a function of the puritanical Sunni Taliban’s clashes with Shia Afghans, primarily the Hazara ethnic group.

In 1998 more than 8,000 noncombatants were killed when the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan where many Hazaras live.[140] Some of the slaughter was indiscriminate, but many were Shia targeted by the Taliban. Taliban commander and governor Mullah Niazi banned prayer at Shia mosques[141] and expressed takfir of the Shia in a declaration from Mazar’s central mosque:

Last year you rebelled against us and killed us. From all your homes you shot at us. Now we are here to deal with you. The Hazaras are not Muslims and now we have to kill Hazaras. You must either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan. Wherever you go, we will catch you. If you go up we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below, we will pull you up by your hair.[142]

Assisting the Taliban in the murder of Iranian diplomatic and intelligence officials at the Iranian Consulate in Mazar were “several Pakistani militants of the anti-Shia, Sipah-e-Sahaba party.”[143]

Iran and Shia statehood

Iran is unique in the Muslim world because its population is overwhelmingly more Shia than Sunni (Shia constitute 83% of the population) and because its constitution is theocratic republic based on rule by a Shia jurist.

Although the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, supported good Sunni–Shia relations, there have been complaints by Sunni of discrimination, particularly in important government positions.[144] In a joint appearance with former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani calling for Shia-Suni unity, Sunni Shiekh Yusuf al-Qaradawi complained that no ministers in Iran have been Sunni for a long time, that Sunni officials are scarce even in the regions with majority of Sunni population (such as Kurdistan, or Balochistan).[145] Sunnis cite the lack of a Sunni mosque in Tehran, Iran’s capital and largest city, despite the presence of over 1 million Sunnis there,[146] and despite the presence of Christian churches, as a prominent example of this discrimination. Although reformist President Mohammad Khatami promised during his election campaign to build a Sunni mosque in Tehran, none was built during his eight years in office. The president explained the situation by saying Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would not agree to the proposal.[147] As in other parts of the Muslim world, other issues may play a part in the conflict, since most Sunnis in Iran are also ethnic minorities.[146]

Soon after the 1979 revolution, Sunni leaders from Kurdistan, Balouchistan, and Khorassan, set up a new party known as Shams, which is short for Shora-ye Markaz-e al Sunaat, to unite Sunnis and lobby for their rights. But six months after that they were closed down, bank accounts suspended and had their leaders arrested by the government on charges that they were backed by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.[144]

A UN human rights report states that:

…information indicates Sunnis, along with other religious minorities, are denied by law or practice access to such government positions as cabinet minister, ambassador, provincial governor, mayor and the like, Sunni schools and mosques have been destroyed, and Sunni leaders have been imprisoned, executed and assassinated. The report notes that while some of the information received may be difficult to corroborate there is a clear impression that the right of freedom of religion is not being respected with regard to the Sunni minority.[148][149]

Members of the ‘Balochistan Peoples Front’ claim that Sunnis are systematically discriminated against educationally by denial of places at universities, politically by not allowing Sunnis to be army generals, ambassadors, ministers, prime minister, or president, religiously insulting Sunnis in the media, economic discrimination by not giving import or export licenses for Sunni businesses while the majority of Sunnis are left unemployed.[150]

There has been a low level resistance in mainly Sunni Iranian Balouchistan against the regime for several years. Official media refers to the fighting as armed clashes between the police and “bandits,” “drug-smugglers,” and “thugs,” to disguise what many believe is essentially a political-religious conflict. Revolutionary Guards have stationed several brigades in Balouchi cities, and have allegedly tracked down and assassinated Sunni leaders both inside Iran and in neighboring Pakistan. In 1996 a leading Sunni, Abdulmalek Mollahzadeh, was gunned down by hitmen, allegedly hired by Tehran, as he was leaving his house in Karachi.[151]

Members of Sunni groups in Iran however have been active in what the authorities describe as terrorist activities. Balochi Sunni Abdolmalek Rigi continue to declare the Shia as Kafir and Mushrik.[152] These Sunni groups have been involved in violent activities in Iran and have waged terrorist[153] attacks against civilian centers, including an attack next to a girls’ school[154] according to government sources. The “shadowy Sunni militant group Jundallah” has reportedly been receiving weaponry from the United States for these attacks according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.[155][156] The United Nations[157] and several countries worldwide have condemned the bombings. (See 2007 Zahedan bombings for more information)

Non-Sunni Iranian opposition parties, and Shia like Ayatollah Jalal Gange’i have criticised the regime’s treatment of Sunnis and confirmed many Sunni complaints.[158]

Following the 2005 elections, much of the leadership of Iran has been described as more “staunchly committed to core Shia values” and lacking Ayatollah Khomeini’s commitment to Shia–Sunni unity.[159] Polemics critical of Sunnis were reportedly being produced in Arabic for dissemination in the Arab Muslim world by Hojjatieh-aligned elements in the Iranian regime.[160]

Syria
Main article: Islam in Syria

Syria is approximately three quarters Sunni,[161] but its government is predominantly Alawite, a Shia sect that makes up less than 15% of the population. Under Hafez al-Assad, Alawites dominated the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, a secular Arab nationalist party which had ruled Syria under a state of emergency from 1963 to 2011. Alawites are often considered a form of Shia Islam, that differs somewhat from the larger Twelver Shia sect.[162]

During the 20th century, an Islamic uprising in Syria occurred with sectarian religious overtones between the Alawite-dominated Assad government and the Islamist Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, culminating with the 1982 Hama massacre. An estimated 10,000 to 40,000 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed by Syrian military in the city. During the uprising, the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood attacked military cadets at an artillery school in Aleppo, performed car bomb attacks in Damascus, as well as bomb attacks against the government and its officials, including Hafez al-Assad himself, and had killed several hundred.

How much of the conflict was sparked by Sunni versus Shia divisions and how much by Islamism versus secular-Arab-nationalism, is in question, but according to scholar Vali Nasr the failure of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Republic of Iran to support the Muslim Brotherhood against the Baathists “earned [Khomeini] the Brotherhood’s lasting contempt.” It proved to the satisfaction of the Brotherhood that sectarian loyalty trumped Islamist solidarity for Khomeini and eliminated whatever appeal Khomeini might have had to the MB movement as a pan-Islamic leader.[163]

Syria Civil War
Main article: Syrian Civil War

The Syrian Civil War, though it started as a political conflict, developed into a struggle between the Alawite-dominated Army and government on the one hand, and the mainly Sunni rebels and former members of the regular army on the other. The casualty toll of the war’s first three years has exceeded that of Iraq’s decade-long conflict, and the fight has “amplified sectarian tensions to unprecedented levels”.[90] Rebel groups with 10,000s of Sunni Syrian fighters such as Ahrar ash-Sham, the Islamic Front, and al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front, employ anti-Shia rhetoric and foreign Arab and Western Sunni fighters have joined the rebels. On the other side Shia from Hezbollah in Lebanon and from Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah militias from Iraq have backed the Syrian government.[90] “Even Afghan Shia refugees in Iran”, driven from Afghanistan by Sunni extremism, have “reportedly been recruited by Tehran for the war in Syria”.[90]

Lebanon

Though sectarian tensions in Lebanon were at their height during the Lebanese Civil War, the Shia–Sunni relations were not the main conflict of the war. The Shia party/militia of Hizbullah emerged in Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War as one of the strongest forces following the Israeli withdrawal in the year 2000, and the collapse of the South Lebanese Army in the South. The tensions blew into a limited warfare between Shia dominated and Sunni dominated political alliances in 2008.

With the eruption of the Syrian Civil War, tensions increased between the Shia-affiliated Alawites and Sunnis of Tripoli, erupting twice into deadly violence – on June 2011, and the second time on February 2012. The Syrian war has affected Hizbullah, which was once lauded by both Sunnis and Shi’ites for its battles against Israel, but now has lost support from many Sunnis for its military assistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hezbollah has been blamed for bombings of two mosques (Taqwa and al-Salam) frequented by Sunnis in Tripoli on August 23, 2013 that killed at least 42 and wounded hundreds.[164] The bombings are thought to be in retaliation[165] for a large car bomb which detonated on August 15 and killed at least 24 and wounded hundreds in a part of Beirut controlled by the Hizbullah[166]

Yemen
Main article: Islam in Yemen

Muslims in Yemen include the majority Shafi’i (Sunni) and the minority Zaidi (Shia). Zaidi are sometimes called “Fiver Shia” instead of Twelver Shia because they recognize the first four of the Twelve Imams but accept Zayd ibn Ali as their “Fifth Imām” rather than his brother Muhammad al-Baqir. Shia–Sunni conflict in Yemen involves the Shia insurgency in northern Yemen.[6]

Both Shia and Sunni dissidents in Yemen have similar complaints about the government—cooperation with the American government and an alleged failure to following Sharia law[167]—but it’s the Shia who have allegedly been singled out for government crackdown.

During and after the US-led invasion of Iraq, members of the Zaidi-Shia community protested after Friday prayers every week outside mosques, particularly the Grand Mosque in Sana’a, during which they shouted anti-US and anti-Israeli slogans, and criticised the government’s close ties to America.[168] These protests were led by ex-parliament member and Imam, Bader Eddine al-Houthi.[169] In response the Yemeni government has implemented a campaign to crush to the Zaidi-Shia rebellion”[170] and harass journalists.[171]

These latest measures come as the government faces a Sunni rebellion with a similar motivation to the Zaidi discontent.[172][173][174]

A March 2015 suicide bombing of two mosques (used mainly by supporters of the Zaidi Shia-led Houthi rebel movement), in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, killed at least 137 people and wounded 300. The Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant movement claimed responsibility, issuing a statement saying: “Let the polytheist Houthis know that the soldiers of the Islamic State will not rest until we have uprooted them.” Both the Sunni al-Qaeda and “Islamic State” consider Shia Muslims to be heretics.[175]

Bahrain

The small Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain has a Shia majority but is ruled by Sunni Al Khalifa family as a constitutional monarchy, with Sunni dominating the ruling class and military and disproportionately represented in the business and landownership.[176] According to the CIA World Factbook, Al Wefaq the largest Shia political society, won the largest number of seats in the elected chamber of the legislature. However, Shia discontent has resurfaced in recent years with street demonstrations and occasional low-level violence.”[177] Bahrain has many disaffected unemployed youths and many have protested Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa‘s efforts to create a parliament as merely a “cooptation of the effendis“, i.e. traditional elders and notables. Bahrain’s 2002 election was widely boycotted by Shia. Mass demonstrations have been held in favor of full-fledged democracy in March and June 2005, against an alleged insult to Ayatollah Khamenei in July 2005.[178]

Nigeria

An example of governments working “to drive wedges between Sunnism and Shiism” was found in Nigeria in 1998 when the Nigerian government of General Sani Abacha accused Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zak Zaki of being a Shia. This was despite the fact that there are few if any Shia among Nigerias Muslims and the Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni organization.[179]

Indonesia

Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia, which also has a larger Muslim population than any other country in the world, with approximately 202.9 million identified as Muslim (88.2% of the total population) as of 2009.[180]

The majority adheres to the Sunni Muslim tradition mainly of the Shafi’i madhhab.[181] Around one million are Shias, who are concentrated around Jakarta.[182] In general, the Muslim community can be categorized in terms of two orientations: “modernists,” who closely adhere to orthodox theology while embracing modern learning; and “traditionalists,” who tend to follow the interpretations of local religious leaders (predominantly in Java) and religious teachers at Islamic boarding schools (pesantren).

Saudi Arabia

While Shia make up roughly 15% of Saudi Arabia’s population,[183] they form a large portion of the residents of the eastern province of Hasa—by some estimates a majority[184]—where much of the petroleum industry is based. Between 500,000 and a million Shia live there,[185] concentrated especially around the oases of Qatif and Al-Hasa. The Majority of Saudi Shia belong to the sect of the Twelvers.[186]

The Saudi conflict of Shia and Sunni extends beyond the borders of the kingdom because of international Saudi “Petro-Islam” influence. Saudi Arabia backed Iraq in the 1980–1988 war with Iran and sponsored militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan who—though primarily targeting the Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979—also fought to suppress Shia movements.[187]

Relations between the Shia and the Wahhabis are inherently strained because the Wahhabis consider the rituals of the Shia to be the epitome of shirk, or polytheism. In the late 1920s, the Ikhwan (Ibn Saud’s fighting force of converted Wahhabi Bedouin Muslims) were particularly hostile to the Shia and demanded that Abd al Aziz forcibly convert them. In response, Abd al Aziz sent Wahhabi missionaries to the Eastern Province, but he did not carry through with attempts at forced conversion. In recent decades the late leading Saudi cleric, Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd Allah ibn Baaz, issued fatwa denouncing Shia as apostates, and according to Shia scholar Vali Nasr “Abdul-Rahman al-Jibrin, a member of the Higher Council of Ulama, even sanctioned the killing of Shias,[185] a call that was reiterated by Wahhabi religious literature as late as 2002.”[188]

Government policy has been to allow Shia their own mosques and to exempt Shia from Hanbali inheritance practices. Nevertheless, Shia have been forbidden all but the most modest displays on their principal festivals, which are often occasions of sectarian strife in the Persian Gulf region, with its mixed Sunni–Shia populations.[186]

According to a report by the Human Rights Watch:

Shia Muslims, who constitute about eight percent of the Saudi population, faced discrimination in employment as well as limitations on religious practices. Shia jurisprudence books were banned, the traditional annual Shia mourning procession of Ashura was discouraged, and operating independent Islamic religious establishments remained illegal. At least seven Shi’a religious leaders-Abd al-Latif Muhammad Ali, Habib al-Hamid, Abd al-Latif al-Samin, Abdallah Ramadan, Sa’id al-Bahaar, Muhammad Abd al-Khidair, and Habib Hamdah Sayid Hashim al-Sadah-reportedly remained in prison for violating these restrictions.”[189]

And Amnesty International adds:

Members of the Shi‘a Muslim community (estimated at between 7 and 10 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s population of about 19 million) suffer systematic political, social, cultural as well as religious discrimination.[190]

As of 2006 four of the 150 members of Saudi Arabia’s “handpicked” parliament were Shia, but no city had a Shia mayor or police chief, and none of the 300 girls schools for Shia in the Eastern Province had a Shia principal. According to scholar Vali Nasr, Saudi textbooks “characterize Shiism as a form of heresy … worse than Christianity and Judaism.”[191]

Forced into exile in the 1970s, Saudi Shia leader Hassan al-Saffar is said to have been “powerfully influenced” by the works of Sunni Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami and by their call for Islamic revolution and an Islamic state.[192]

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Shia in Hasa ignored the ban on mourning ceremonies commemorating Ashura. When police broke them up three days of rampage ensued—burned cars, attacked banks, looted shops—centered around Qatif. At least 17 Shia were killed. In February 1980 disturbances were “less spontaneous” and even bloodier.[193] Meanwhile, broadcasts from Iran in the name of the Islamic Revolutionary Organization attacked the monarchy, telling listeners, “Kings despoil a country when they enter it and make the noblest of its people its meanest … This is the nature of monarchy, which is rejected by Islam.”[194]

By 1993, Saudi Shia had abandoned uncompromising demands and some of al-Saffar’s followers met with King Fahd with promises made for reform. In 2005 the new King Abdullah also relaxed some restrictions on the Shia.[195] However, Shia continue to be arrested for commemorating Ashura as of 2006.[196] In December 2006, amidst escalating tensions in Iraq, 38 high ranking Saudi clerics called on Sunni Muslims around the world to “mobilise against Shiites”.[197]

Shia Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi is reported to have responded:

The Wahhabis ignore the occupation of Islam’s first Qiblah by Israel, and instead focus on declaring Takfiring fatwas against Shias.[198]

Saudi Sunni

A large fraction of the foreign Sunni extremists who have entered Iraq to fight against Shia and the American occupation are thought to be Saudis. According to one estimate, of the approximately 1,200 foreign fighters captured in Syria between summer 2003 and summer 2005, 85% were Saudis.[120]

Another reflection of grassroots Wahhabi or Saudi antipathy to Shia was a statement by Saudi cleric Nasir al-Umar, who accused Iraqi Shias of close ties to the United States and argued that both were enemies of Muslims everywhere.[199]

Al-Qaeda

Some Wahabi groups, often labeled[by whom?] as takfiri and sometimes linked[by whom?] to Al-Qaeda, have even advocated the persecution of the Shia as heretics.[200][201] Such groups have been allegedly responsible for violent attacks and suicide bombings at Shi’a gatherings at mosques and shrines, most notably in Iraq during the Ashura mourning ceremonies where hundreds of Shias were killed in coordinated suicide bombings,[202][203][204] but also in Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, in a video message, Al-Qaeda deputy Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri directed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, not to attack civilian targets but to focus on the occupation troops. His call seems to have been ignored, or swept away in the increasing tensions of Iraq under occupation.

United States

In late 2006 or early 2007, in what journalist Seymour Hersh called The Redirection, the United States changed its policy in the Muslim world, shifting its support from the Shia to the Sunni, with the goal of “containing” Iran and as a by-product bolstering Sunni extremist groups.[205] Richard Engel, who is an NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent, wrote an article in late 2011 alleging that the United States Government is pro-Sunni and anti-Shia. During the Iraq War, the United States feared that a Shiite-led, Iran-friendly Iraq could have major consequences for American national security. However, nothing can be done about this as Iraq’s Shiite government were democratically elected.[206] Shadi Bushra of Stanford University wrote that the United States’ support of the Sunni monarchy during the Bahraini uprising is the latest in a long history of US support to keep the Shiites in check. The United States fears that Shiite rule in the Gulf will lead to anti-US and anti-Western sentiment as well as Iranian influence in the Arab majority states.[207] One analyst told CNN that the US strategy on putting pressure on Iran by arming its Sunni neighbors is not a new strategy for the United States.[208]

ISIS[edit]

As of March 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (or ISIS), a Salafi jihadi extremist militant group and self-proclaimed caliphate and Islamic state led by Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria,[209] had control over territory occupied by ten million people[210] in Iraq and Syria, as well as limited territorial control in some other countries.[211][212] The United Nations has held ISIS responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes, and Amnesty International has reported ethnic cleansing by the group on a “historic scale”, including attacks on Shia Muslims.

According to Shia rights watch, in 2014 ISIS forces killed over 1,700 Shia civilians at Camp Speicher in Tikrit Iraq, and 670 Shia prisoners at the detention facility on the outskirts of Mosul.[213] In June 2014, the New York Times wrote that as ISIS has “seized vast territories” in western and northern Iraq, there have been “frequent accounts of fighters’ capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shiites are singled out for execution”. The report listed questions ISIS uses to “tell whether a person is a Sunni or a Shiite”—What is your name? Where do you live? How do you pray? What kind of music do you listen to?[214]

After the collapse of the Iraqi army and capture of the city of Mosul by ISIS in June 2014, the “most senior”[215] Shia spiritual leader based in Iraq, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who had been known as “pacific” in his attitudes, issued a fatwa calling for jihad against ISIS and its Sunni allies, which was seen by the Shia militias as a “de facto legalization of the militias’ advance”.[216] In Qatari another Shiite preacher, Nazar al-Qatari, “put on military fatigues to rally worshipers after evening prayers,” calling on them to fight against “the slayers of Imams Hasan and Hussein” (the second and third Imams of Shia history) and for Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.[216]

Efforts to foster Sunni–Shia unity

In a special interview broadcast on Al Jazeera on February 14, 2007, former Iranian president and chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and highly influential Sunni scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, “stressed the impermissibility of the fighting between the Sunnis and the Shi’is” and the need to “be aware of the conspiracies of the forces of hegemony and Zionism which aim to weaken [Islam] and tear it apart in Iraq.”[78]

Even on this occasion there were differences, with Rafsanjani openly asking “more than once who started” the inter-Muslim killing in Iraq, and Al-Qaradawi denying claims by Rafsanjani that he knew where “those arriving to Iraq to blow Shi’i shrines up are coming from”.[78]

Saudi-Iran summit

In a milestone for the two countries’ relations, on March 3, 2007 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held an extraordinary summit meeting. They displayed mutual warmth with hugs and smiles for cameras and promised “a thaw in relations between the two regional powers but stopped short of agreeing on any concrete plans to tackle the escalating sectarian and political crises throughout the Middle East.”[217]

On his return to Tehran, Ahmadinejad declared that:

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are aware of the enemies’ conspiracies. We decided to take measures to confront such plots. Hopefully, this will strengthen Muslim countries against oppressive pressure by the imperialist front.[218]

Saudi officials had no comment about Ahmadinejad’s statements, but the Saudi official government news agency did say:

The two leaders affirmed that the greatest danger presently threatening the Islamic nation is the attempt to fuel the fire of strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and that efforts must concentrate on countering these attempts and closing ranks.[219]

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud bin Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz said:

The two parties have agreed to stop any attempt aimed at spreading sectarian strife in the region.[220]

Effort to bring unity between Sunni and Shia Muslims had been attempted by Allama Muhammad Taqi Qummi.[73]

Some opinions about unity

Sunni scholars

  • Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltut: In a Fatwa Sheikh Shaltut declared worship according to the doctrine of the Twelve Shia to be valid and recognized the Shiite as an Islamic School.[221]
  • Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy: «I think that anyone who believes that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his Messenger is definitely a Muslim. Therefore, we have been supporting, for a long time, through Al-Azhar, many calls for the reconciliation of Islamic schools of thought. Muslims should work on becoming united, and protecting themselves from denominational sectarian fragmentation. There are no Shiites and no Sunni. We are all Muslims. Regretfully; the passions and prejudices that some resort to, are the reason behind the fragmentation of the Islamic nation.»[222]
  • Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali: It is the duty of all Muslims to unite against enemies of Islam and their propaganda.[223]
  • Sheikh Abd al-Majid Salim: In a letter that was sent to Ayatollah Borujerdi by Sheikh Abd al-Majid Salim, was wrote:«The first thing that becomes obligatory to scholars, Shia or Sunni, is removing dissension from the minds of Muslims.»[224]
  • Doctor Vasel Nasr The Grand Mufti of Egypt: «We ask Allah to create unity among Muslims and remove any enmity, disagreement and contention in the ancillaries of Fiqh between them.»[225]

Shiite scholars[edit]

  • Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi: Ayatollah Borujerdi sent a letter to Sheikh Abd al-Majid Salim, the Grand Mufti of Sunnis and former Chancellor of Al-Azhar University and wrote: «I ask Almighty Allah to change ignorance, separation and distribution among different Islamic Schools to each other, to the actual knowledge and kindness and solidarity.»[226]
  • Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: «We are Oneness with Sunni Muslims. We are their brothers.» «It is obligatory for all Muslims that Maintain unity.» Ayatollah Khomeini said.[227]
  • Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei: In a Fatwa about creating dissension, Ayatollah Khamenei said: «In Addition to dissension is contrary to the Qur’an and Sunnah, this weakens Muslims. So, creating dissension is forbid (Haram).»[225]
  • Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani: To answer this question that:«Does anyone say Shahadah, pray and follow one of the Islamic Schools is a Muslim?», Ayatollah Sistani says: «Every one says Shahadah and does not any work unlike that and does not enmity with Ahl al-Bayt, is muslim.

 

 

 

 

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Escape from Isis: The brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

Escape from Isis: the brutal treatment of women in Raqqa

Four million women live under the rule of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria. Tonight, Channel 4 screens an important and troubling documentary showing just how hellish that life is.

RAQQA

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah
الرقة
Al-Raqqah Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphratesal-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gateQasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah

Al-Raqqah skyline • The Euphrates
al-Raqqah city walls • Baghdad gate
Qasr al-Banat Castle • Uwais al-Qarni Mosque

Al-Raqqah is located in Syria

Al-Raqqah
Al-Raqqah

Location in Syria

Coordinates: 35°57′N 39°1′E / 35.950°N 39.017°E / 35.950; 39.017
Country  Syria
Governorate Al-Raqqah
District Al-Raqqah
Subdistrict Al-Raqqah
Founded 244-242 BC
Occupation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Area
 • City 1,962 km2 (758 sq mi)
Elevation 245 m (804 ft)
Population (2004)
 • City 220,268
 • Density 110/km2 (290/sq mi)
 • Metro 338,773
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)
Area code(s) 22
Website http://www.esyria.sy/eraqqa/(Arabic)

Al-Raqqah (Arabic: الرقةar-Raqqah), also called Rakka and Raqqa, is a city in Syria located on the north bank of the Euphrates River, about 160 kilometres (99 miles) east of Aleppo. It is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest dam. The city was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate between 796 and 809 under the reign of CaliphHarun al-Rashid. With a population of 220,488 based on the 2004 official census, al-Raqqah was the sixth largest city in Syria.

During the Syrian Civil War, the city was captured by terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which made it its headquarters in Syria. As a result, the city has been hit by Syrian government, US and Arab nation airstrikes. Most non-Sunni structures in the city have been destroyed by ISIL, most notably the Uwais al-Qarni Mosque which was Shiite.

History

Hellenistic and Byzantine Kallinikos

The area of al-Raqqah has been inhabited since remote antiquity, as attested by the mounds (tell) of Tall Zaydan and Tall al-Bi’a, the latter identified with the Babylonian city Tuttul.[1]

The modern city traces its history to the Hellenistic period, with the foundation of the city of Nikephorion (Greek: Νικηφόριον) by the Seleucid kingSeleucus I Nicator (reigned 301–281 BC). His successor, Seleucus II Callinicus (r. 246–225 BC) enlarged the city and renamed it after himself as Kallinikos (Καλλίνικος, Latinized as Callinicum).[1]

In Roman times, it was part of the province of Osrhoene, but had declined by the 4th century. Rebuilt by the Byzantine emperorLeo I (r. 457–474 AD) in 466, it was named Leontopolis (Λεοντόπολις or “city of Leon”) after him, but the name Kallinikos prevailed.[2] The city played an important role in the Byzantine Empire’s relation with Sassanid Persia and the wars fought between two states. By treaty, it was recognized as one of the few official cross-border trading posts between the two empires (along with Nisibis and Artaxata). In 542, the city was destroyed by the Persian ruler Khusrau I (r. 531–579), who razed its fortifications and deported its population to Persia, but it was subsequently rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565). In 580, during another war with Persia, the future emperor Maurice scored a victory over the Persians near the city, during his retreat from an abortive expedition to capture Ctesiphon.[2]

In the 6th century, Kallinikos became a center of Assyrian monasticism. Dayra d’Mār Zakkā, or the Saint Zacchaeus Monastery, situated on Tall al-Bi’a, became renowned. A mosaic inscription there is dated to the year 509, presumably from the period of the foundation of the monastery. Daira d’Mār Zakkā is mentioned by various sources up to the 10th century. The second important monastery in the area was the Bīzūnā monastery or ‘Dairā d-Esţunā’, the ‘monastery of the column’. The city became one of the main cities of the historical Diyār Muḍar, the western part of the Jazīra.[citation needed] In the 9th century, when al-Raqqah served as capital of the western half of the Abbasid Caliphate, this monastery became the seat of the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.

Bishopric

Callinicum early became the seat of a Christian diocese. In 388, Emperor Theodosius the Great was informed that a crowd of Christians, led by their bishop, had destroyed the synagogue. He ordered the synagogue rebuilt at the expense of the bishop. Ambrose wrote to Theodosius, pointing out he was thereby “exposing the bishop to the danger of either acting against the truth or of death”,[3] and Theodosius rescinded his decree.[4]

Bishop of Damianus of Callinicum took part in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and in 458 was a signatory of the letter that the bishops of the province wrote to Emperor Leo I the Thracian after the death of Proterius of Alexandria. In 518 Paulus was deposed for having joined the anti-Chalcedonian Severus of Antioch. Callinicum had a Bishop Ioannes in the mid-6th century.[5][6] In the same century, a Notitia Episcopatuum lists the diocese as a suffragan of Edessa, the capital and metropolitan see of Osrhoene.[7]

No longer a residential bishopric, Callinicum is today listed by the Catholic Church as an archiepiscopaltitular see of the Maronite Church.[8]

Early Islamic period

The remains of the historic Baghdad gate

In the year 639 or 640, the city fell to the Muslim conqueror Iyad ibn Ghanm. Since then it has figured in Arabic sources as al-Raqqah.[1] At the surrender of the city, the Christian inhabitants concluded a treaty with Ibn Ghanm, quoted by al-Baladhuri. This allowed them freedom of worship in their existing churches, but forbade the construction of new ones. The city retained an active Christian community well into the Middle Ages—Michael the Syrian records twenty Jacobite bishops from the 8th to the 12th centuries[9]—and had at least four monasteries, of which the Saint Zaccheus Monastery remained the most prominent.[1] The city’s Jewish community also survived until at least the 12th century, when the traveller Benjamin of Tudela visited it and attended its synagogue.[1]

Ibn Ghanm’s successor as governor of al-Raqqah and the Jazira, Sa’id ibn Amir ibn Hidhyam, built the city’s first mosque. This building was later enlarged to monumental proportions, measuring some 73×108 metres, with a square brick minaret added later, allegedly in the mid-10th century. The mosque survived until the early 20th century, being described by the German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld in 1907, but has since vanished.[1] Many companions of Muhammad lived in al-Raqqah.

In 656, during the First Fitna, the Battle of Siffin, the decisive clash between Ali and the UmayyadMu’awiya took place ca. 45 kilometres (28 mi) west of al-Raqqah, and the tombs of several of Ali’s followers (such as Ammar ibn Yasir and Uwais al-Qarani) are located in al-Raqqah and became a site of pilgrimage.[1] The city also contained a column with Ali’s autograph, but this was removed in the 12th century and taken to Aleppo‘s Ghawth Mosque.[1]

The strategic importance of al-Raqqah grew during the wars at the end of the Umayyad period and the beginning of the Abbasid regime. Al-Raqqah lay on the crossroads between Syria and Iraq and the road between Damascus, Palmyra, and the temporary seat of the caliphate Resafa, al-Ruha’.

Between 771 and 772, the Abbasid caliphal-Mansur built a garrison city about 200 metres to the west of al-Raqqah for a detachment of his Khorasanian Persian army. It was named al-Rāfiqah, “the companion”. The strength of the Abbasid imperial military is still visible in the impressive city wall of al-Rāfiqah.

Al-Raqqah and al-Rāfiqah merged into one urban complex, together larger than the former Umayyad capital Damascus. In 796, the caliph Harun al-Rashid chose al-Raqqah/al-Rafiqah as his imperial residence. For about thirteen years al-Raqqah was the capital of the Abbasid empire stretching from Northern Africa to Central Asia, while the main administrative body remained in Baghdad. The palace area of al-Raqqah covered an area of about 10 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi) north of the twin cities. One of the founding fathers of the Hanafi school of law, Muḥammad ash-Shaibānī, was chief qadi (judge) in al-Raqqah. The splendour of the court in al-Raqqah is documented in several poems, collected by Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahāni in his “Book of Songs” (Kitāb al-Aghāni). Only the small, restored so called Eastern Palace at the fringes of the palace district gives an impression of Abbasid architecture. Some of the palace complexes dating to this period have been excavated by a German team on behalf of the Director General of Antiquities. During this period there was also a thriving industrial complex located between the twin cities. Both German and English teams have excavated parts of the industrial complex revealing comprehensive evidence for pottery and glass production. Apart from large dumps of debris the evidence consisted of pottery and glass workshops containing the remains of pottery kilns and glass furnaces.[10]

Approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) west of al-Raqqah lay the unfinished victory monument called Heraqla from the period of Harun al-Rashid. It is said to commemorate the conquest of the Byzantine city of Herakleia in Asia Minor in 806. Other theories connect it with cosmological events. The monument is preserved in a substructure of a square building in the centre of a circular walled enclosure, 500 metres (1,600 ft) in diameter. However, the upper part was never finished, because of the sudden death of Harun al-Rashid in Khurasan.

After the return of the court to Baghdad in 809, al-Raqqah remained the capital of the western part of the empire including Egypt.

Decline and period of Bedouin domination

Al-Raqqah’s fortunes declined in the late 9th century because of the continuous warfare between the Abbasids and the Tulunids and then with the Shii movement of the Qarmatians. During the period of the Hamdānids in the 940s the city declined rapidly. At the end of the 10th century until the beginning of the 12th century, al-Raqqah was controlled by Bedouin dynasties. The Banu Numayr had their pasture in the Diyār Muḍar and the ‘Uqailids had their center in Qal’at Ja’bar.

Second blossoming

Al-Raqqah experienced a second blossoming, based on agriculture and industrial production, during the Zangid and Ayyubid period in the 12th and first half of the 13th century. Most famous is the blue-glazed so-called Raqqa ware. The still visible Bāb Baghdād (Baghdad Gate) and the so-called Qasr al-Banāt (Castle of the Ladies) are notable buildings from this period. The famous ruler ‘Imād ad-Dīn Zangī who was killed in 1146 was buried here initially. Al-Raqqah was destroyed during the Mongol wars in the 1260s. There is a report about the killing of the last inhabitants of the urban ruin in 1288.

Ottoman period

In the 16th century, al-Raqqah again entered the historical record as an Ottoman customs post on the Euphrates. The Eyalet of al-Raqqah (Ottoman form sometimes spelled as Rakka) was created. However, the capital of this eyalet and seat of the vali was not al-Raqqah but ar-Ruhā’ about 200 kilometres (120 mi) north of al-Raqqah. In the 17th century the famous Ottoman traveller and author Evliya Çelebi only noticed Arab and Turkoman nomad tents in the vicinity of the ruins. The citadel was partially restored in 1683 and again housed a Janissary detachment; over the next decades the province of al-Raqqah became the centre of the Ottoman Empire’s tribal settlement (iskân) policy.[11]

The city of al-Raqqah was resettled from 1864 onwards, first as a military outpost, then as a settlement for former Bedouin Arabs and for Chechens, who came as refugees from the Caucasian war theaters in the middle of the 19th century.

20th century

In the 1950s, in the wake of the Korean War, the worldwide cotton boom stimulated an unpreceded growth of the city, and the re-cultivation of this part of the middle Euphrates area. Cotton is still the main agricultural product of the region.

The growth of the city meant on the other hand a removal of the archaeological remains of the city’s great past. The palace area is now almost covered with settlements, as well as the former area of the ancient al-Raqqa (today Mishlab) and the former Abbasid industrial district (today al-Mukhtalţa). Only parts were archaeologically explored. The 12th-century citadel was removed in the 1950s (today Dawwār as-Sā’a, the clock-tower circle). In the 1980s rescue excavations in the palace area began as well as the conservation of the Abbasid city walls with the Bāb Baghdād and the two main monuments intra muros, the Abbasid mosque and the Qasr al-Banāt.

There is a museum, known as the Al-Raqqah Museum, housed in an administration-building erected during the French Mandate period.

Civil war

Main article: Battle of Ar-Raqqah

In March 2013, during the Syrian civil war, Islamistjihadist militants from Al-Nusra Front and other groups overran the government loyalists in the city and declared it under their control after seizing the central square and pulling down the statue of the former president of Syria Hafez al-Assad.[12]

The Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front set up a sharia court at the sports centre[13] and in early June 2013 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said they were open to receive complaints at their Raqqa headquarters.[14]

Since May 2013, ISIL has been increasing its control over the city, at the expense of the Free Syrian Army and the Al-Nusra Front. ISIL has executed Alawites and suspected supporters of Bashar al-Assad in the city and attacked the city’s Shia mosques and Christian churches[15] such as the Armenian CatholicChurch of the Martyrs, which has since been converted into an ISIL headquarters. The Christian population of Al-Raqqah, which was estimated to be as many as 10% of the total population before the civil war began, has largely fled the city.[16][17][18]

In January 2014 it was reported that ISIL militants in the city gained control of the western part of a Syrian army base. The group closed all educational institutions in the city.[19]

On 25 July 2014, ISIL captured the Syrian Army base in Raqqah which garrisoned the 17th Division, and beheaded many soldiers.

During the night of 22–23 September 2014, the United States and Arab partner nations started to conduct airstrikes against ISIL in and around Raqqah and Aleppo, with continued regular airstrikes into 2015.[20][21] Coalition partners in the strikes included Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with Qatar in a supporting role.[21] The USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea and the USS Philippine Sea in the northern Persian Gulf launched more than 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles into eastern and northern Syria.[21] A second wave consisted of F-22 Raptors in their first combat role, F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, B-1 bombers and drones which launched from bases in the region.[21] 96 percent of all delivered munitions were precision-guided.[21]

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10 Misconceptions About Islam & Background Info on Islamic Faith

– Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these documentary are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in Islam

They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

Islam

Islam

Islam (/ˈɪslɑːm/;[note 1] Arabic: الإسلام‎, al-ʾIslām IPA: [ælʔɪsˈlæːm][note 2]) is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion articulated by the Qur’an, a religious text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God (Allāh), and, for the vast majority of adherents, by the teachings and normative example (called the sunnah, composed of accounts called hadith) of Muhammad (c. 570–8 June 632 CE), considered by most of them to be the last prophet of God. An adherent of Islam is called a Muslim (sometimes spelled “Moslem”).[1]

Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable[2] and that the purpose of existence is to worship God.[3] Muslims also believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.[4] They maintain that the previous messages and revelations have been partially misinterpreted or altered over time,[5] but consider the Arabic Qur’an to be both the unaltered and the final revelation of God.[6] Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam, which are basic concepts and obligatory acts of worship, and following Islamic law, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, providing guidance on multifarious topics from banking and welfare, to family life and the environment.[7][8]

Most Muslims are of two denominations: Sunni (75–90%)[9] or Shia (10–20%).[10] About 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia,[11] the largest Muslim-majority country, 25% in South Asia,[11] 20% in the Middle East,[12] and 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa.[13] Sizable Muslim communities are also found in Europe, China, Russia, and the Americas. Converts and immigrant communities are found in almost every part of the world. With about 1.62 billion followers or 23% of the global population,[14][15] Islam is the second-largest religion by number of adherents and, according to many sources, the fastest-growing major religion in the world.[16][17][18

Etymology and meaning

The dome of the Carol I Mosque in Constanța, Romania, topped by the Islamic crescent

Islam is a verbal noun originating from the triliteral root s-l-m which forms a large class of words mostly relating to concepts of wholeness, safeness and peace.[19] In a religious context it means “voluntary submission to God”.[20][21] Muslim, the word for an adherent of Islam, is the active participle of the same verb of which Islām is the infinitive. Believers demonstrate submission to God by serving God, following his commands, and rejecting polytheism. The word sometimes has distinct connotations in its various occurrences in the Qur’an. In some verses, there is stress on the quality of Islam as an internal conviction: “Whomsoever God desires to guide, He opens his heart to Islam.”[22] Islam, by its own inner logic, embraces every possible facet of existence, for God has named Himself al-Muḥīṭ, the All-Embracing.[23]

Other verses connect Islām and dīn (usually translated as “religion”): “Today, I have perfected your religion (dīn) for you; I have completed My blessing upon you; I have approved Islam for your religion.”[24] Still others describe Islam as an action of returning to God—more than just a verbal affirmation of faith.[25] In the Hadith of Gabriel, islām is presented as one part of a triad that includes imān (faith), and ihsān (excellence), where islām is defined theologically as Tawhid, historically by asserting that Muhammad is messenger of God, and doctrinally by mandating five basic and fundamental pillars of practice.[26][27]

Articles of faith

God

Medallion showing “Allah” (God) in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

Main articles: God in Islam and Allah

Islam’s most fundamental concept is a rigorous monotheism, called tawḥīd (Arabic: توحيد‎). God is described in chapter 112 of the Qur’an as:[28] “Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.”(112:1-4) Muslims and Jews repudiate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus, comparing it to polytheism. In Islam, God is beyond all comprehension and Muslims are not expected to visualize God.[29][30][31][32] God is described and referred to by certain names or attributes, the most common being Al-Rahmān, meaning “The Compassionate” and Al-Rahīm, meaning “The Merciful” (See Names of God in Islam).[33]

Muslims believe that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God’s sheer command, “‘Be’ and so it is,”[34] and that the purpose of existence is to worship God.[35] He is viewed as a personal god who responds whenever a person in need or distress calls him.[36] There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God who states, “I am nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.”[37] The reciprocal nature is mentioned in the hadith qudsi, “I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am.”[38]

Allāh is the term with no plural or gender used by Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews to reference God, while ʾilāh (Arabic: إله‎) is the term used for a deity or a god in general.[39] Other non-Arab Muslims might use different names as much as Allah, for instance “Tanrı” in Turkish, “Khodā” in Persian or Ḵẖudā in Urdu.

Angels

Angels

Belief in angels is fundamental to the faith of Islam. The Arabic word for angel (Arabic: ملكmalak) means “messenger“, like its counterparts in Hebrew (malʾákh) and Greek (angelos). According to the Qur’an, angels do not possess free will, and therefore worship and obey God in total obedience. Angels’ duties include communicating revelations from God, glorifying God, recording every person’s actions, and taking a person’s soul at the time of death. Muslims believe that angels are made of light. They are described as “messengers with wings—two, or three, or four (pairs): He [God] adds to Creation as He pleases…”[40]

Revelations

11th-century Qur’anic manuscript with vocalization marks.

Main articles: Islamic holy books, Quran and Wahy

The Islamic holy books are the records which most Muslims believe were dictated by God to various prophets. Muslims believe that parts of the previously revealed scriptures, the Tawrat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospels), had become distorted—either in interpretation, in text, or both.[5] The Qur’an (literally, “Reading” or “Recitation”) is viewed by Muslims as the final revelation and literal word of God and is widely regarded as the finest literary work in the Arabic language.[41][42]

Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) on many occasions between 610 CE until his death on June 8, 632.[43] While Muhammad was alive, all of these revelations were written down by his companions (sahabah), although the prime method of transmission was orally through memorization.[44]

The Qur’an is divided into 114 suras, or chapters, which combined, contain 6,236 āyāt, or verses. The chronologically earlier suras, revealed at Mecca, are primarily concerned with ethical and spiritual topics. The later Medinan suras mostly discuss social and moral issues relevant to the Muslim community.[45]

The Qur’an is more concerned with moral guidance than legal instruction, and is considered the “sourcebook of Islamic principles and values”.[46] Muslim jurists consult the hadith (“reports”), or the written record of Prophet Muhammad’s life, to both supplement the Qur’an and assist with its interpretation. The science of Qur’anic commentary and exegesis is known as tafsir.[47] Rules governing proper pronunciation is called tajwid.

Muslims usually view “the Qur’an” as the original scripture as revealed in Arabic and that any translations are necessarily deficient, which are regarded only as commentaries on the Qur’an.[48]

Prophets

Anbiya are considered prophets of the past in Islam.[49]

Main article: Prophets in Islam

Muslims identify the prophets of Islam (Arabic: أنۢبياءanbiyāʾ ) as those humans chosen by God to be his messengers. According to the Qurʼan, the prophets were instructed by God to bring the “will of God” to the peoples of the nations. Muslims believe that prophets are human and not divine, though some are able to perform miracles to prove their claim. Islamic theology says that all of God’s messengers preached the message of Islam—submission to the will of God. The Qurʼan mentions the names of numerous figures considered prophets in Islam, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, among others.[50]

Muslims believe that God finally sent Muhammad as the last law bearing prophet (Seal of the Prophets) to convey the divine message to the whole world (to sum up and to finalize the word of God). In Islam, the “normative” example of Muhammad’s life is called the Sunnah (literally “trodden path”). This example is preserved in traditions known as hadith, which recount his words, his actions, and his personal characteristics. Hadith Qudsi is a sub-category of hadith, regarded as the words of God repeated by Muhammad differing from the Quran in that they are expressed in Muhammad’s words, whereas the Qur’an is understood as the direct words of God. The classical Muslim jurist ash-Shafi’i (d. 820) emphasized the importance of the Sunnah in Islamic law, and Muslims are encouraged to emulate Muhammad’s actions in their daily lives. The Sunnah is seen as crucial to guiding interpretation of the Qur’an.[51]

Resurrection and judgment

Main article: Qiyama

Belief in the “Day of Resurrection”, Yawm al-Qiyāmah (Arabic: يوم القيامة‎) is also crucial for Muslims. They believe the time of Qiyāmah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The trials and tribulations preceding and during the Qiyāmah are described in the Qur’an and the hadith, and also in the commentaries of scholars. The Qur’an emphasizes bodily resurrection, a break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death.[52]

On Yawm al-Qiyāmah, Muslims believe all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds and consigned to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell). The Qurʼan in Surat al-Zalzalah describes this as, “So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it (99:7) and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it (99:8).” The Qurʼan lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief in God (Arabic: كفرkufr), and dishonesty; however, the Qurʼan makes it clear God will forgive the sins of those who repent if he so wills. Good deeds, such as charity, prayer and compassion towards animals,[53][54] will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as a place of joy and bliss, with Qurʼanic references describing its features and the physical pleasures to come. Mystical traditions in Islam place these heavenly delights in the context of an ecstatic awareness of God.[55]

Yawm al-Qiyāmah is also identified in the Qur’an as Yawm ad-Dīn (Arabic: يوم الدين‎), “Day of Religion”;[56] as-sāʿah (Arabic: الساعة‎), “the Last Hour”;[57] and al-Qāriʿah (Arabic: القارعة‎), “The Clatterer”.[58]

Predestination

In accordance with the Islamic belief in predestination, or divine preordainment (al-qadā wa’l-qadar), God has full knowledge and control over all that occurs. This is explained in Qur’anic verses such as “Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector’…”[59] For Muslims, everything in the world that occurs, good or bad, has been preordained and nothing can happen unless permitted by God. According to Muslim theologians, although events are pre-ordained, man possesses free will in that he or she has the faculty to choose between right and wrong, and is thus responsible for his actions. According to Islamic tradition, all that has been decreed by God is written in al-Lawh al-Mahfūz, the “Preserved Tablet”.[60]

Five pillars

Main article: Five Pillars of Islam

The Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam; also arkan ad-din, “pillars of religion”) are five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory for all believers. The Quran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are (1) the creed (shahadah), (2) daily prayers (salat), (3) almsgiving (zakah), (4) fasting during Ramadan and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime. Both Shia and Sunni sects agree on the essential details for the performance of these acts.[61]

Testimony

Silver coin of the Mughal Emperor Akbar with inscriptions of the Islamic declaration of faith

Main article: Shahadah

The Shahadah,[62] which is the basic creed of Islam that must be recited under oath with the specific statement: “‘ašhadu ‘al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa ‘ašhadu ‘anna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh“, or “I testify that there is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”[63] This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.[64]

Prayer

Main article: Salat
See also: Mosque and Jumu’ah

Ritual prayers, called Ṣalāh or Ṣalāt (Arabic: صلاة), must be performed five times a day. Salat is intended to focus the mind on God, and is seen as a personal communication with him that expresses gratitude and worship. Salat is compulsory but flexibility in the specifics is allowed depending on circumstances. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and consist of verses from the Qur’an.[65] The prayers are done with the chest in direction of the kaaba though in the early days of Islam, they were done in direction of Jerusalem.

A mosque is a place of worship for Muslims, who often refer to it by its Arabic name, masjid. The word mosque in English refers to all types of buildings dedicated to Islamic worship, although there is a distinction in Arabic between the smaller, privately owned mosque and the larger, “collective” mosque (masjid jāmi’).[66] Although the primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place of prayer, it is also important to the Muslim community as a place to meet and study. Al-Masjid al-Nabawi the Prophets Mosque in Madina was also a place of refuge for the poor.[67] Modern mosques have evolved greatly from the early designs of the 7th century, and contain a variety of architectural elements such as minarets.[68]

Alms-giving

Main articles: Zakat and Sadaqah

“Zakāt” (Arabic: زكاةzakāhalms“) is giving a fixed portion of accumulated wealth by those who can afford it to help the poor or needy and for those employed to collect Zakat; also, for bringing hearts together, freeing captives, for those in debt (or bonded labour) and for the (stranded) traveller.[69][70] It is considered a religious obligation (as opposed to voluntary charity) that the well-off owe to the needy because their wealth is seen as a “trust from God’s bounty”. Conservative estimates of annual zakat is estimated to be 15 times global humanitarian aid contributions.[71] The amount of zakat to be paid on capital assets (e.g. money) is 2.5% (1/40) per year,[72] for people who are not poor. The Qur’an and the hadith also urge a Muslim to give even more as an act of voluntary alms-giving called Sadaqah.[73]

Fasting

Main article: Sawm
Further information: Sawm of Ramadan

Fasting, (Arabic: صومṣawm), from food and drink (among other things) must be performed from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadhan. The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to God, and during it Muslims should express their gratitude for and dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and think of the needy. Sawm is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would constitute an undue burden. For others, flexibility is allowed depending on circumstances, but missed fasts usually must be made up quickly.[74]

Pilgrimage

Pilgrims at the Masjid al-Haram on Hajj

Main article: Hajj

The pilgrimage, called the ḥajj (Arabic: حج‎), has to be done during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. Rituals of the Hajj include: spending a day and a night in the tents in the desert plain of Mina, then a day in the desert plain of Arafat praying and worshiping God, following the foot steps of Abraham. Then spending a night out in the open, sleeping on the desert sand in the desert plain of Muzdalifah, then moving to Jamarat, symbolically stoning the Devil recounting Abraham’s actions.[75][76][77] Then going to Mecca and walking seven times around the Kaaba which Muslims believe was built as a place of worship by Abraham. Then walking seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah recounting the steps of Abraham’s wife, while she was looking for water for her son Ismael in the desert before Mecca developed into a settlement.

[78]

Law and jurisprudence

Main articles: Sharia, Fiqh and Early scholars of Islam

The Shariʻah (literally “the path leading to the watering place”) is Islamic law formed by traditional Islamic scholarship, which most Muslim groups adhere to. Shariʻah “constitutes a system of duties that are incumbent upon a Muslim by virtue of his or her religious belief”.[79]

The Quran set the rights, the responsibilities and the rules for people and for societies to adhere to. Muhammad provided an example, which is recorded in the hadith books, showing how he practically implemented those rules in a society.

Many of the Sharia laws that differ are devised through Ijtihad where there is no such ruling in the Quran or the Hadiths of Islamic prophet Muhammad regarding a similar case.[80][81] As Muhammad’s companions went to new areas,[82] they were pragmatic and in some cases continued to use the same ruling as was given in that area during pre-Islamic times. If the population felt comfortable with it, it was just and they used Ijtihad to deduce that it did not conflict with the Quran or the Hadith. This made it easier for the different communities to integrate into the Islamic State and that assisted in the quick expansion of the Islamic State. Since the Constitution of Medina, was drafted by the Islamic prophet Muhammad the Jews and the Christians continued to use their own laws in the Islamic State and had their own judges.[83][84][85]

Much of the knowledge we have about Muhammad is narrated through Aisha, the wife of Muhammad. Aisha raised and taught her nephew Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr the grandson of Abu Bakr and the grandfather of Ja’far al-Sadiq. Aisha also taught her nephew Urwah ibn Zubayr. He then taught his son Hisham ibn Urwah, who was the main teacher of Malik ibn Anas.

When Umar bin Abdul Azeez became a Caliph in 717[86][87] he appointed a committee of jurist in Madina headed by Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr and it included Urwah ibn Zubayr to advise on legal matters[88] The work of Malik ibn Anas and successive jurists is based on the work of this early committee in Madina. Muwatta[89] by Malik ibn Anas was written as a consensus of the opinion, of these scholars.[90][91][92] The Muwatta[89] by Malik ibn Anas also quotes 13 hadith narrated through Imam Jafar al-Sadiq.[93]

The early scholars of Islam including, imam Abu Hanifa, imam Malik ibn Anas and imam Jafar al-Sadiq worked together in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina along with over 70 other leading jurists and scholars. They did not distinguish between each other or classify them selves as Sunni or Shiʻah. They felt that they were following the religion of Abraham.[94] In the books actually written by these original jurists and scholars, there are very few theological and judicial differences between them.

Fiqh, or “jurisprudence”, is defined as the knowledge of the practical rules of the religion. Much of it has evolved to prevent innovation or alteration in the original religion, known as bid‘ah.

The method Islamic jurists use to derive rulings is known as usul al-fiqh (“legal theory”, or “principles of jurisprudence”). To reduce the divergence, in the 9th century, a student of Malik ibn Anas, the jurist ash-Shafi’i provided a theoretical basis for Islamic law by codifying the principles of jurisprudence (including the four fundamental roots) in his book ar-Risālah.[95] According to ash-Shafi’i, law has four fundamental roots, which are given precedence in this order: the Qur’an, the Hadith (the practice of Muhammad), the consensus of the Muslim jurists (ijma), and analogical reasoning (qiyas). Al-Shafi’i also codified a method to establish the reliability of hadith. Muhammad al-Bukhari[96] then travelled around and collected over 300,000 hadith, but only included 2,602 distinct hadith in his book Sahih al-Bukhari,[96] that passed these tests and he codified as authentic and correct. Sahih al-Bukhari is therefore considered by many to be the most authentic book after the Quran.[97][98] The Arabic word sahih translates as authentic or correct.

They all gave priority to the Qur’an and the Hadith and felt that Islam was completed during the time of Muhammad and they wanted people to refer to the Quran.[99] Ahmad ibn Hanbal rejected the writing down and codifying of the religious rulings he gave. They knew that they might have fallen into error in some of their judgements and stated this clearly. They never introduced their rulings by saying, “This is the judgement of God and His prophet.”[100] There is also very little text actually written down by Jafar al-Sadiq himself. Since Jafar al-Sadiq (702-765) did not write any books, the books followed by the Twelver Shi’a were written by Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni (864- 941), Ibn Babawayh (923-991), and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274).[101][102] Since Jafar al-Sadiq and Zayd ibn Ali did not them selves write any books. But they worked closely with imam Abu Hanifa and imam Malik ibn Anas and the views of imam Jafar al-Sadiq and imam Zayd ibn Ali are in the early Hadith books written by imam Abu Hanifa and imam Malik ibn Anas,[93] the oldest branch of the Shia, the Zaydis to this day and originally the Fatamids, use the Hanafi jurisprudence, as do most Sunnis.[100][103][104]

Islamic law covers all aspects of life, from matters of state, like governance and foreign relations, to issues of daily living. The Qur’an defines hudud as the punishments for five specific crimes: unlawful intercourse, false accusation of unlawful intercourse, consumption of alcohol, theft, and highway robbery. The Qur’an and Sunnah also contain laws of inheritance, marriage, and restitution for injuries and murder, as well as rules for fasting, charity, and prayer.

The differences between the denominations in Islam are primarily political and amplified after the Safavid invasion of Persia in the 1500s and the subsequent Safavid conversion of Iran to Shia Islam due to the politics between the Safavids and the Ottoman Empire.[105] After the demise of the Safavid dynasty, the new ruler of Persia, Nader Shah (1698 to 1747) himself a Sunni attempted to improve relations with Sunni nations by propagating the integration of Shiism by calling it Jaafari Madh’hab.[106] Since Jafar al-Sadiq himself disapproved of people who disapproved of his great grand father Abu Bakr the first caliph.

Jurists

Main articles: Ulama, Sheikh and Imam

There are many terms in Islam to refer to religiously sanctioned positions of Islam, but “jurist” generally refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in several fields of Islamic studies. In a broader sense, the term ulema is used to describe the body of Muslim clergy who have completed several years of training and study of Islamic sciences, such as a mufti, qadi, faqih, or muhaddith. Some Muslims include under this term the village mullahs, imams, and maulvis—who have attained only the lowest rungs on the ladder of Islamic scholarship; other Muslims would say that clerics must meet higher standards to be considered ulama (singular Aalim). Some Muslims practise ijtihad whereby they do not accept the authority of clergy.[107] Education is considered very important to Muslims, so that they could distinguish between right and wrong, but when it comes to entry into heaven, the most noble in the sight of God are the most righteous and they may be honest, compassionate and helpful to others but not necessarily very educated.[108]

Etiquette and diet

Many practices fall in the category of adab, or Islamic etiquette. This includes greeting others with “as-salamu `alaykum” (“peace be unto you”), saying bismillah (“in the name of God“) before meals, and using only the right hand for eating and drinking. Islamic hygienic practices mainly fall into the category of personal cleanliness and health. Circumcision of male offspring is also practiced in Islam. Islamic burial rituals include saying the Salat al-Janazah (“funeral prayer”) over the bathed and enshrouded dead body, and burying it in a grave. Muslims are restricted in their diet. Prohibited foods include pork products, blood, carrion, and alcohol. All meat must come from a herbivorous animal slaughtered in the name of God by a Muslim, Jew, or Christian, with the exception of game that one has hunted or fished for oneself. Food permissible for Muslims is known as halal food.[109]

Family life

See also: Women in Islam

The basic unit of Islamic society is the family, and Islam defines the obligations and legal rights of family members. The father is seen as financially responsible for his family, and is obliged to cater for their well-being. The division of inheritance is specified in the Qur’an, which states that most of it is to pass to the immediate family, while a portion is set aside for the payment of debts and the making of bequests. With some exceptions, the woman’s share of inheritance is generally half of that of a man with the same rights of succession.[110] Marriage in Islam is a civil contract which consists of an offer and acceptance between two qualified parties in the presence of two witnesses. The groom is required to pay a bridal gift (mahr) to the bride, as stipulated in the contract.[111]

The Quran (verse 4:3)[Quran 4:3] limits the number of wives to four and only if a man could treat them with fairness and equity. Most families in the Islamic world are monogamous as the rule is a conditional permission not a recommendation.[112][113]

In case of family disputes, the Quran[Quran 4:34] directs the husband to treat his spouse kindly and not to overlook her positive aspects, and exhort and appeal for reason. If this fails, the husband may express his displeasure by sleeping in a separate bed. As a last retort, the husband may tap or lightly strike her in a manner which causes no pain and leaves no mark on the body. This has been interpreted by early jurists as a symbolic use of the miswak. Even this measure has been discouraged in several hadeeth, and the prophet never retorted to that measure.[114][115][116] A minority of Islamic scholars contest this interpretation and state that even tapping or striking is not allowed.[117] The man of the house is allowed to beat young children; but not adult children.[118]

Economy

To reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, Islamic economic jurisprudence encourages trade,[119] discourages the hoarding of wealth and outlaws interest-bearing loans (usury; the term is riba in Arabic).[120][121] Therefore, wealth is taxed through Zakat, but trade is not taxed. Usury, which allows the rich to get richer without sharing in the risk, is forbidden in Islam. Profit sharing and venture capital where the lender is also exposed to risk is acceptable.[122] Hoarding of food for speculation is also discouraged.[123]

Grabbing other people’s land is also prohibited. The prohibition of usury has resulted in the development of Islamic banking. During the time of Muhammad, any money that went to the state, was immediately used to help the poor. Then in 634, Umar formally established the welfare state Bayt al-mal. The Bayt al-mal or the welfare state was for the Muslim and Non-Muslim poor, needy, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. The Bayt al-mal ran for hundreds of years under the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century and continued through the Umayyad period and well into the Abbasid era. Umar also introduced Child Benefit and Pensions for the children and the elderly.[124][125][126][127]

Government

Mainstream Islamic law does not distinguish between “matters of church” and “matters of state”; the scholars function as both jurists and theologians. Currently no government conforms to Islamic economic jurisprudence, but steps have been taken to implement some of its tenets.[128][129][130]

Jihad

Jihad means “to strive or struggle” (in the way of God). Jihad, in its broadest sense, is “exerting one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavors, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation“. Depending on the object being a visible enemy, the Devil, and aspects of one’s own self (such as sinful desires), different categories of jihad are defined.[131] Jihad, when used without any qualifier, is understood in its military aspect.[132][133] Jihad also refers to one’s striving to attain religious and moral perfection.[134] Some Muslim authorities, especially among the Shi’a and Sufis, distinguish between the “greater jihad”, which pertains to spiritual self-perfection, and the “lesser jihad”, defined as warfare.[135]

Within Islamic jurisprudence, jihad is usually taken to mean military exertion against non-believer/non-Muslim/Muslim combatants who insulted Islam. The ultimate purpose of military jihad is debated, both within the Islamic community and without. Jihad is the only form of warfare permissible in Islamic law and may be declared against illegal works, terrorists, criminal groups, rebels, apostates, and leaders or states who oppress Muslims.[136][137] Most Muslims today interpret Jihad as only a defensive form of warfare.[138] Jihad only becomes an individual duty for those vested with authority. For the rest of the populace, this happens only in the case of a general mobilization.[137] For most Twelver Shias, offensive jihad can only be declared by a divinely appointed leader of the Muslim community, and as such is suspended since Muhammad al-Mahdi‘s[139] occultation in 868 AD.[140]

History

A panoramic view of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina, Hejaz region, today’s Saudi Arabia, the second most sacred Mosque in Islam

Muhammad (610–632)

Main articles: Muhammad and Muhammad in Islam

The calligraphic representation of Muhammad in Islam.

Muslim tradition views Muhammad (c. 570 – June 8, 632) as the seal of the prophets.[141] During the last 22 years of his life, beginning at age 40 in 610 CE, according to the earliest surviving biographies, Muhammad reported revelations that he believed to be from God conveyed to him through the archangel Gabriel (Jibril). Muhammad’s companions memorized and recorded the content of these revelations, known as the Qur’an.[142]

During this time, Muhammad in Mecca preached to the people, imploring them to abandon polytheism and to worship one God. Although some converted to Islam, the leading Meccan authorities persecuted Muhammad and his followers. This resulted in the Migration to Abyssinia of some Muslims (to the Aksumite Empire). Many early converts to Islam were the poor and former slaves like Bilal ibn Rabah al-Habashi. The Meccan élite felt that Muhammad was destabilising their social order by preaching about one God and about racial equality, and that in the process he gave ideas to the poor and to their slaves.[143][144][145][146]

After 12 years of the persecution of Muslims by the Meccans and the Meccan boycott of the Hashemites, Muhammad’s relatives, Muhammad and the Muslims performed the Hijra (“emigration”) to the city of Medina (formerly known as Yathrib) in 622. There, with the Medinan converts (Ansar) and the Meccan migrants (Muhajirun), Muhammad in Medina established his political and religious authority. A state was established[by whom?] in accordance with Islamic economic jurisprudence. The Constitution of Medina was formulated, instituting a number of rights and responsibilities for the Muslim, Jewish, Christian and pagan communities of Medina, bringing them within the fold of one community — the Ummah.[147][148]

The Constitution established:

  • the security of the community
  • religious freedoms
  • the role of Medina as a sacred place (barring all violence and weapons)
  • the security of women
  • stable tribal relations within Medina
  • a tax system for supporting the community in time of conflict
  • parameters for exogenous political alliances
  • a system for granting protection of individuals
  • a judicial system for resolving disputes where non-Muslims could also use their own laws

All the tribes signed the agreement to defend Medina from all external threats and to live in harmony amongst themselves. Within a few years, two battles took place against the Meccan forces: first, the Battle of Badr in 624 – a Muslim victory, and then a year later, when the Meccans returned to Medina, the Battle of Uhud, which ended inconclusively.

The Arab tribes in the rest of Arabia then formed a confederation and during the Battle of the Trench (March-April 627) besieged Medina, intent on finishing off Islam. In 628, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was signed between Mecca and the Muslims and was broken by Mecca two years later. After the signing of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah many more people converted to Islam. At the same time, Meccan trade routes were cut off as Muhammad brought surrounding desert tribes under his control.[149] By 629 Muhammad was victorious in the nearly bloodless conquest of Mecca, and by the time of his death in 632 (at the age of 62) he had united the tribes of Arabia into a single religious polity.[150]

Caliphate and civil strife (632–750)

Dome of the Rock built by Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan; completed at the end of the Second Fitna.

Further information: Muslim conquests, First Fitna and Second Fitna

With Muhammad’s death in 632, disagreement broke out over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community. Abu Bakr, a companion and close friend of Muhammad, was made the first caliph. Under Abu Bakr the Muslims expanded into Syria after putting down a rebellion by Arab tribes in an episode known as the Ridda wars, or “Wars of Apostasy”.[151] The Quran was compiled into a single volume at this time.

His death in 634 resulted in the succession of Umar ibn al-Khattab as the caliph, followed by Uthman ibn al-Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib and Hasan ibn Ali. The first caliphs are known as al-khulafā’ ar-rāshidūn (“Rightly Guided Caliphs“). Under them, the territory under Muslim rule expanded deeply into the parts of the Persian and Byzantine territories.[152]

When Umar was assassinated by Persians in 644, the election of Uthman as successor was met with increasing opposition. The standard copies of the Quran were also distributed throughout the Islamic State. In 656, Uthman was also killed, and Ali assumed the position of caliph. After the first civil war (the “First Fitna”), Ali was assassinated by Kharijites in 661. Following a peace treaty, Mu’awiyah came to power and began the Umayyad dynasty.[153]

These disputes over religious and political leadership would give rise to schism in the Muslim community. The majority accepted the legitimacy of the three rulers prior to Ali, and became known as Sunnis. A minority disagreed, and believed that only Ali and some of his descendants should rule; they became known as the Shia.[154] After Mu’awiyah‘s death in 680, conflict over succession broke out again in a civil war known as the “Second Fitna“.

The Umayyad dynasty conquered the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Narbonnese Gaul and Sindh.[155] Local populations of Jews and indigenous Christians, persecuted as religious minorities and taxed heavily to finance the Byzantine–Sassanid Wars, often aided Muslims to take over their lands from the Byzantines and Persians, resulting in exceptionally speedy conquests.[156][157] Since the Constitution of Medina, Jews and Christians continued to use their own laws in the Islamic State and had their own judges.[83][84][85]

The descendants of Muhammad’s uncle Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib rallied discontented non-Arab converts (mawali), poor Arabs, and some Shi’a against the Umayyads and overthrew them with the help of the general Abu Muslim, inaugurating the Abbasid dynasty in 750.[158]

Classical era (750–1258)

During this time, the Delhi Sultanate took over the Indian subcontinent. Religious missions converted Volga Bulgaria to Islam. Many Muslims also went to China to trade, virtually dominating the import and export industry of the Song Dynasty.[159]

The major hadith collections were compiled during the early Abbasid era. The Ja’fari jurisprudence was formed from the teachings of Ja’far al-Sadiq while the four Sunni Madh’habs, the Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi’i, were established around the teachings of Abū Ḥanīfa, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Malik ibn Anas and al-Shafi’i respectively. Al-Shafi’i also codified a method to establish the reliability of hadith.[160] Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir completed the most commonly cited commentaries on the Quran, the Tafsir al-Tabari in the 9th century and the Tafsir ibn Kathir in the 14th century, respectively. Philosophers Al-Farabi and Avicenna sought to incorporate Greek principles into Islamic theology, while others like Al-Ghazali argued against them and ultimately prevailed.[161]

Caliphs such as Mamun al Rashid and Al-Mu’tasim made the mutazilite philosophy an official creed and imposed it upon Muslims to follow. Mu’tazila was a Greek influenced school of speculative theology called kalam, which refers to dialectic.[162] Many orthodox Muslims rejected mutazilite doctrines and condemned their idea of the creation of the Quran. In inquisitions, Imam Hanbal refused to conform and was tortured and sent to an unlit Baghdad prison cell for nearly thirty months.[163]

The other branch of kalam was the Ash’ari school founded by Al-Ash’ari. Some Muslims began to question the piety of indulgence in a worldly life and emphasized poverty, humility and avoidance of sin based on renunciation of bodily desires. Ascetics such as Hasan al-Basri would inspire a movement that would evolve into Tasawwuf (Sufism).[164] Beginning in the 13th century, Sufism underwent a transformation, largely because of efforts to legitimize and reorganize the movement by Al-Ghazali, who developed the model of the Sufi order—a community of spiritual teachers and students.[165]

The Tabula Rogeriana, drawn by Al-Idrisi in 1154, one of the most advanced ancient world maps. Al-Idrisi also wrote about the diverse Muslim communities found in various lands.

This era is sometimes called the “Islamic Golden Age“.[166] Public hospitals established during this time (called Bimaristan hospitals), are considered “the first hospitals” in the modern sense of the word,[167][168] and issued the first medical diplomas to license doctors.[169][170] The Guinness World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine, founded in 859, as the world’s oldest degree-granting university.[171] The doctorate is argued to date back to the licenses to teach in Muslim law schools.[172] Standards of experimental and quantification techniques, as well as the tradition of citation,[173] were introduced. An important pioneer in this, Ibn Al-Haytham is regarded as the father of the modern scientific method and often referred to as the “world’s first true scientist”.[174][175] The government paid scientists the equivalent salary of professional athletes today.[173] The data used by Copernicus for his heliocentric conclusions was gathered and Al-Jahiz proposed a theory of natural selection.[176][177] Rumi wrote some of the finest Persian poetry and is still one of the best selling poets in America.[178][179] Legal institutions introduced include the trust and charitable trust (Waqf).[180][181]

The first Muslims states independent of a unified Muslim state emerged from the Berber Revolt (739/740-743). In 930, the Ismaili group known as the Qarmatians unsuccessfully rebelled against the Abbassids, sacked Mecca and stole the Black Stone, which was eventually retrieved.[182] The Mongol Empire put an end to the Abbassid dynasty in 1258.[183]

Pre-Modern era (1258–20th century)

By the medieval era most of the countries on the Silk Road were Muslim majority.

Islam spread with Muslim trade networks and Sufi orders activity that extended into Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Malay archipelago.[184][185] The Ottomans challenged European powers on land and sea, and reached deep into Central Europe at the Siege of Vienna (1529). Under the Ottoman Empire, Islam spread to Southeast Europe, Crimea, and the Caucasus.[186] The Muslims in China who were descended from earlier immigration began to assimilate by adopting Chinese names and culture while Nanjing became an important center of Islamic study.[187][188]

The Muslim world was generally in serious political decline starting the 1800s, especially relative to the non-Muslim European powers. This decline was evident culturally; while Taqi al-Din founded an observatory in Istanbul and the Jai Singh Observatory was built in the 18th century, there was not a single Muslim country with a major observatory by the twentieth century.[189] The Reconquista, launched against Muslim principalities in Iberia, succeeded in 1492 and Muslim Sicily was lost to the Normans. By the 19th century the British Empire had formally ended the last Mughal dynasty in India.[190] The Ottoman Empire disintegrated after World War I and the Caliphate was abolished in 1924.[191][192]

The majority Shia group at that time, the Zaydis, used the Hanafi jurisprudence, as did most Sunnis.[100][103][104] The Shia Safavid dynasty rose to power in 1501 and later conquered all of Iran.[193] The ensuing mandatory conversion of Iran to Twelver Shia Islam for the largely Sunni population also ensured the final dominance of the Twelver sect within Shiism over the Zaidi sect, the largest group amongst the Shia before the Safavid Dynasty, and the Ismaili sect.[194]

A revival movement during this period an 18th-century Salafi movement led by Ibn Abd al-Wahhab in today’s Saudi Arabia. Referred to as Wahhabi, their self designation is Muwahiddun (unitarians). Building upon earlier efforts such as those by Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim, the movement allegedly seeks to uphold monotheism and purify Islam of what they see as later innovations. Their zeal against idolatrous shrines led to the desecration of shrines around the world, including that of Muhammad and his companions in Mecca and Medina.[195][196] In the 19th century, the Deobandi and Barelwi movements were initiated.

Modern times (20th century–present)

Further information: Islamic revival

This map shows the 1979 demographic distribution of Muslims within the former Soviet Union as a percentage of the population by administrative division.

Contact with industrialized nations brought Muslim populations to new areas through economic migration. Many Muslims migrated as indentured servants, from mostly India and Indonesia, to the Caribbean, forming the largest Muslim populations by percentage in the Americas.[197] The resulting urbanization and increase in trade in sub-Saharan Africa brought Muslims to settle in new areas and spread their faith, likely doubling its Muslim population between 1869 and 1914.[198] Muslim immigrants, many as guest workers, began arriving, largely from former colonies, into several Western European nations since the 1960s.

New Muslim intellectuals are beginning to arise, and are increasingly separating perennial Islamic beliefs from archaic cultural traditions.[199] Liberal Islam is a movement that attempts to reconcile religious tradition with modern norms of secular governance and human rights. Its supporters say that there are multiple ways to read Islam’s sacred texts, and stress the need to leave room for “independent thought on religious matters”.[200] Women’s issues receive a significant weight in the modern discourse on Islam.[201]

Secular powers such as Chinese Red Guards closed many mosques and destroyed Qurans and Communist Albania became the first country to ban the practice of every religion.[202][203] About half a million Muslims were killed in Cambodia by communists whom, it is argued, viewed them as their primary enemy and wished to exterminate them since they stood out and worshipped their own god.[204] In Turkey, the military carried out coups to oust Islamist governments and headscarves were, as well as in Tunisia, banned in official buildings.[205][206]

Jamal-al-Din al-Afghani, along with his acolyte Muhammad Abduh, have been credited as forerunners of the Islamic revival.[207] Abul A’la Maududi helped influence modern political Islam.[208] Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood advocate Islam as a comprehensive political solution, often in spite of being banned.[209] In Iran, revolution replaced a secular regime with an Islamic state. In Turkey, the Islamist AK Party has democratically been in power for about a decade, while Islamist parties did well in elections following the Arab Spring.[210] The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), consisting of Muslim countries, was established in 1969 after the burning of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.[211]

Piety appears to be deepening worldwide.[212][213][214] In many places, the prevalence of the Islamic veil is growing increasingly common[215] and the percentage of Muslims favoring Sharia laws has increased.[216] With religious guidance increasingly available electronically, Muslims are able to access views that are strict enough for them rather than rely on state clerics who are often seen as stooges.[213] Some organizations began using the media to promote Islam such as the 24-hour TV channel, Peace TV.[217] Perhaps as a result of these efforts, most experts agree that Islam is growing faster than any other faith in East and West Africa.[218][219]

Denominations

The main Islamic madh’habs (schools of law) of Muslim countries or distributions
An overview of the major schools and branches of Islam.

Sunni

Main article: Sunni Islam

Friday prayer for Sunni Muslims in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The largest denomination in Islam is Sunni Islam, which makes up 75%–90% of all Muslims.[9] Sunni Muslims also go by the name Ahl as-Sunnah which means “people of the tradition [of Muhammad]”.[220][221] These hadiths, recounting Muhammad’s words, actions, and personal characteristics, are preserved in traditions known as Al-Kutub Al-Sittah (six major books).

Sunnis believe that the first four caliphs were the rightful successors to Muhammad; since God did not specify any particular leaders to succeed him and those leaders were elected. Sunnis believe that anyone who is righteous and just could be a caliph but they have to act according to the Qur’an and the Hadith, the example of Muhammad and give the people their rights.

The Sunnis follow the Quran, then the Hadith. Then for legal matters not found in the Quran or the Hadith, they follow four madh’habs (schools of thought): Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi’i, established around the teachings of Abū Ḥanīfa, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Malik ibn Anas and al-Shafi’i respectively.

All four accept the validity of the others and a Muslim may choose any one that he or she finds agreeable.[222] The Salafi (also known as Ahl al-Hadith (Arabic: أهل الحديث; The people of hadith), or the pejorative term Wahhabi by its adversaries) is an ultra-orthodox Islamic movement which takes the first generation of Muslims as exemplary models.[223]

Shia

Main article: Shia Islam

Bahrain has a majority Shia Muslim population

The Shia constitute 10–20% of Islam and are its second-largest branch.[10]

Maria Massi Dakake argues that Shi’ism as a unique phenomenon within the larger body of Islamic community can not be adequately described as a “sect” or “school”, and it is also wrong to view it as an offshoot or detached community therein. Shiites have always considered themselves an integral part of the Islamic community and, in fact, to represent the elite believers thereof. Additionally, being more than just one of the many schools of Islamic thought, different branches of Shiite scholarship are aspects of a larger and more comprehensive phenomenon, embodying a completely independent system of religious and political authority and historical interpretation that deeply informs its own highly structured intellectual and religious hierarchy. Shiism, as such, despite being a minority, has made remarkable contributions to Islamic civilization that far outweigh its size.[224]

While the Sunnis believe that a Caliph should be elected by the community, Shia’s believe that Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, as his successor and only certain descendants of Ali could be Imams. As a result, they believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first Imam (leader), rejecting the legitimacy of the previous Muslim caliphs Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn al-Affan and Umar ibn al-Khattab.

Shia Islam has several branches, the most prominent being the Twelvers (the largest branch), Zaidis and Ismailis. Different branches accept different descendants of Ali as Imams. After the death of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq who is considered the sixth Imam by the Twelvers and the Ismaili‘s, the Ismailis recognized his son Isma’il ibn Jafar as his successor whereas the Twelver Shia’s (Ithna Asheri) followed his other son Musa al-Kadhim as the seventh Imam. The Zaydis consider Zayd ibn Ali, the uncle of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq, as their fifth Imam, and follow a different line of succession after him.

Other smaller groups include the Bohra as well as the Alawites and Alevi.[225] Some Shia branches label other Shia branches that do not agree with their doctrine as Ghulat.

Sufism

Sufi whirling dervishes in Istanbul, Turkey

Main article: Sufism

Sufism (Tasawwuf) is a mystical-ascetic approach to Islam that seeks to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.[226] By focusing on the more spiritual aspects of religion, Sufis strive to obtain direct experience of God by making use of “intuitive and emotional faculties” that one must be trained to use.[227] However, Sufism has been criticized by the Salafi sect for what they see as an unjustified religious innovation.[228][229] Hasan al-Basri was inspired by the ideas of piety and condemnation of worldliness preached by Muhammad and these ideas were later further developed by Al-Ghazali in his books on Sufism. Sufi-majority countries include Senegal, Chad and Niger.[230]

Other denominations

  • Ahmadiyya is an Islamic reform movement (with Sunni roots) founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[231] that began in India in 1889 and is practiced by 10 to 20 million[232] Muslims around the world. Ahmad claimed to have fulfilled the prophecies concerning the arrival of the ‘Imam Mahdi’ and the ‘Promised Messiah’.
  • Non-denominational Muslims are Muslims who do not restrict their religious affiliation to any particular branch of Islam.
  • The Ibadi is a sect that dates back to the early days of Islam and is a branch of Kharijite and is practiced by 1.45 million Muslims around the world.[233] Unlike most Kharijite groups, Ibadism does not regard sinful Muslims as unbelievers.
  • Mahdavia is an Islamic sect that believes in a 15th-century Mahdi, Muhammad Jaunpuri
  • The Quranists are Muslims who generally reject the Hadith.
  • Yazdânism is seen as a blend of local Kurdish beliefs and Islamic Sufi doctrine introduced to Kurdistan by Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir in the 12th century.
  • There are also black Muslim movements such as the Nation of Islam (NOI), Five-Percent Nation and Moorish scientists.

Non-denominational Muslims

In Arabic, they may be referred to as ghayr muqallids or ghair muqalideen (غير مقلّدين) while they have also been called nonconformists and its doctrine has been termed ghayr muqallidism.[234][235] Such Muslims may defend this stance by pointing to the Quran such as Al Imran verse 103, which asks the Muslims to stay united and not to become divided.[236] The term ghair muqallid literally refers to those who do not use taqlid and by extension do not have a madhab.[237]

At least one in five Muslims in at least 22 countries identify as non-denominational Muslims. According to the Pew Research Center‘s Religion & Public Life Project the country with the highest proportion of nondenominational Muslims is Kazakhstan at 74%. It also reports that non-denominational Muslims make up a majority of the Muslims in seven countries (and a plurality in three others): Albania (65%), Kyrgyzstan (64%), Kosovo (58%), Indonesia (56%), Mali (55%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (54%), Uzbekistan (54%), Azerbaijan (45%), Russia (45%), and Nigeria (42%). Other countries with significant percentages are: Cameroon (40%), Tunisia (40%), Guinea Bissau (36%), Uganda (33%), Morocco (30%), Senegal (27%), Chad (23%), Ethiopia (23%), Liberia (22%), Niger (20%), and Tanzania (20%).[238]

Demographics

World Muslim population by percentage (Pew Research Center, 2014).

Main articles: Muslim world and Ummah

A comprehensive 2009 demographic study of 232 countries and territories reported that 23% of the global population, or 1.57 billion people, are Muslims. Of those, it is estimated that over 75–90% are Sunni and 10–20% are Shia[13][220][239] with a small minority belonging to other sects. Approximately 57 countries are Muslim-majority,[240] and Arabs account for around 20% of all Muslims worldwide.[241] The number of Muslims worldwide increased from 200 million in 1900 to 551 million in 1970,[242] and tripled to 1.57 billion by 2009.[citation needed]

The majority of Muslims live in Asia and Africa.[243] Approximately 62% of the world’s Muslims live in Asia, with over 683 million adherents in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.[244][245] In the Middle East, non-Arab countries such as Turkey and Iran are the largest Muslim-majority countries; in Africa, Egypt and Nigeria have the most populous Muslim communities.[246]

Most estimates indicate that the People’s Republic of China has approximately 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population).[247][248][249][250] However, data provided by the San Diego State University‘s International Population Center to U.S. News & World Report suggests that China has 65.3 million Muslims.[251] Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity in many European countries,[252] and is slowly catching up to that status in the Americas, with between 2,454,000, according to Pew Forum, and approximately 7 million Muslims, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in the United States.[13][253]

Culture

Main article: Islamic culture

Bismallah (“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”) in Islamic calligraphy form.

The term “Islamic culture” could be used to mean aspects of culture that pertain to the religion, such as festivals and dress code. It is also commonly used to denote the cultural aspects of traditionally Muslim people.[254] Finally, “Islamic civilization” may also refer to the aspects of the synthesized culture of the early Caliphates, including that of non-Muslims,[255] sometimes referred to as ‘Islamicate‘.

Architecture

Main article: Islamic architecture

The front of the Nur-Astana Mosque in Astana, Kazakhstan, the country’s largest mosque.

Perhaps the most important expression of Islamic art is architecture, particularly that of the mosque (four-iwan and hypostyle).[256] Through the edifices, the effect of varying cultures within Islamic civilization can be illustrated. The North African and Spanish Islamic architecture, for example, has RomanByzantine elements, as seen in the Great Mosque of Kairouan which contains marble and porphyry columns from Roman and Byzantine buildings,[257] in the Alhambra palace at Granada, or in the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

Art

Main article: Islamic art

Girih pattern with inlaid floral decoration from Shah-i-Zinda in Semerkand, Uzbekistan

Detail of arabesque decoration at the Alhambra in Spain.

Islamic art encompasses the visual arts produced from the 7th century onwards by people (not necessarily Muslim) who lived within the territory that was inhabited by Muslim populations.[258] It includes fields as varied as architecture, calligraphy, painting, and ceramics, among others.

Making images of human beings and animals is frowned on in many Islamic cultures and connected with laws against idolatry common to all Abrahamic religions, as ‘Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood reported that Muhammad said, “Those who will be most severely punished by Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be the image-makers” (reported by al-Bukhaari, see al-Fath, 10/382). However this rule has been interpreted in different ways by different scholars and in different historical periods, and there are examples of paintings of both animals and humans in Mughal, Persian and Turkish art. The existence of this aversion to creating images of animate beings has been used to explain the prevalence of calligraphy, tessellation and pattern as key aspects of Islamic artistic culture.[citation needed]

Calendar

Main article: Islamic calendar

The formal beginning of the Muslim era was chosen to be the Hijra in 622 CE, which was an important turning point in Muhammad’s fortunes. The assignment of this year as the year 1 AH (Anno Hegirae) in the Islamic calendar was reportedly made by Caliph Umar. It is a lunar calendar with days lasting from sunset to sunset.[259] Islamic holy days fall on fixed dates of the lunar calendar, which means that they occur in different seasons in different years in the Gregorian calendar. The most important Islamic festivals are Eid al-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر‎) on the 1st of Shawwal, marking the end of the fasting month Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha (عيد الأضحى) on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah, coinciding with the pilgrimage to Mecca.[260]

Criticism

Main article: Criticism of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since Islam’s formative stages. Early written criticism came from Christians, prior to the ninth century, many of whom viewed Islam as a radical Christian heresy.[261] Later there appeared criticism from the Muslim world itself, and also from Jewish writers and from ecclesiastical Christians.[262][263][264]

Objects of criticism include the morality of the life of Muhammad, the last law bearing prophet of Islam, both in his public and personal life.[264][265] Issues relating to the authenticity and morality of the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book, are also discussed by critics.[266][267] Other criticisms focus on the question of human rights in modern Islamic nations, and the treatment of women in Islamic law and practice.[268][269] In wake of the recent multiculturalism trend, Islam’s influence on the ability of Muslim immigrants in the West to assimilate has been criticized.[270]

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The Jihad culture of death. British Muslims need to stand up and be counted!

Remembering all victims of the 7/7 Bombings

Today as we remember the innocent victims of the 7/7 bombing my thoughts are with the families of those so callously murdered that day and the many injured, both physically and mentally who will live with the terrible events of that day for the rest of their lives.

The 52 victims were of diverse backgrounds; among them were several foreign-born British nationals, foreign exchange students, parents. Christian alongside Muslins and other faiths died for the twisted ideology of a few sick individuals. More than 700 more were also injured in the attacks.

Three of the bombers were British-born sons of Pakistani immigrants; Lindsay was a convert born in Jamaica. All had lived in our country and enjoyed our freedom and democracy and this made their betrayal all the more hard to stomach.

The investigation into the bombings found that both Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer had previously spent several months in Pakistan where it is very likely that they were in contact with Al-Qaeda and went through extensive extremist training. Regardless of where these animals were radicalised It is a sad truth that throughout history all terrorists fundamentally see themselves as altruists believing that they are serving a “good” cause designed to achieve a greater good for a wider constituency—whether real or imagined—which the terrorist and his organization or cell purport to represent.

For decades the IRA and other Republican terrorists waged a indiscriminate savage war against the British government and people and the British population were sadly familiar with the slaughter of the innocent and murder of members of their security forces on an industrial scale. That doesn’t mean we were immune to the almost daily attacks during the height of the troubles, but we learnt to live with it and day to day life continued in spite of the shock and horror of these terrorist outrages. The British people have long been able to move forward after such attacks and this resolve must surely send a message to all terrorist throughout the world. You can attack us, kill our people and hurt us but we will never give in to your demands and we will hunt you to the ends of the earth.

Hell has no fury like a vengeful British public.

Growing up in Loyalist Belfast during the worst years of the troubles I have seen things that no child should ever have to witness and I have lost count of how many bombs, bullets, murders and terrorist attacks that have affected me directly. As a child I was always fearful of the IRA and lived in a constant state of alertness for the next IRA attack and every car that backed fired was a bomb going off and I would “hit the deck”

Death stalked the streets of Belfast & Northern Ireland day in and day out and there was no escape from the madness that surrounded and engulfed us.

The communities from The Shankill , The Falls and surrounding areas arguable suffered most during the Troubles , as not only were we on the “frontline” of the sectarian divide , but the paramilitaries from both sides lived and operated among us. I have lost count of how many people I grew up with whom have been murdered, imprisoned or had their life’s destroyed as a direct result of the Troubles.

When I had finally had enough of the madness of Belfast I moved to London and began to build a better life for myself and was able to look forward to the future. Most of the people I met were friendly and accommodating and I made friends fast and learnt a bit about the world. However there was always an element of suspicion and mistrust in some people and this was largely because of my thick Belfast accent. I have lost count of how many times I have been in pubs or clubs in London and people have heard my accent and automatically came to the conclusion that I was either a member of the IRA or I sympathised with their cause.

This was extremely annoying to me and as I am very proud of my Protestant culture and heritage.

I was born British into a British country and I am extremely proud of my British & Unionist heritage That doesn’t mean I hate Catholics or wish harm on them, I don’t, it means I have a different point of view and democracy is all about freedom of choice and my choice is to maintain the Union with the UK and embrace and celebrate my loyalist culture and traditions.

I remember once I was working part time as a barman in a private members club in central London and the membership was largely made up of retired British army personnel. One day whilst working I noticed a guy at the end of the bar whom had no legs from the knee down. When I went to serve him, he started to abuse me and told me that his legs had been blown off in a bomb attack in Belfast and he hated all “Paddy’s”.

Not my problem I told him.

When he heard that I was from the Shankill Road his attitude changed and he even left me a large tip.

Another time there was a huge leaving do for someone high up in the British Army and the day before all these security force persons arrived and swept the place, I suppose making sure there were no bombs or terrorists hiding in the loo. When one of these guys heard my accent he came over and had a casual chat with me. Five minutes after they had completed the sweep the bar manager came over and told me to go home as I wasn’t needed anymore. I knew this to be a lie, as I had been called in last minute. The next day I got a call to say I wouldn’t be needed that day and furthermore they never used to again. I was a victim of discrimination due to my accent and there was nothing I could do about it.

The point I am trying to make is that at the minute there is a sense of suspicion and mistrust surrounding all Muslims and many British Muslins feel isolated and ostracised. I know from first hand experience what it feels like to be judge on your culture (Belfast Accent) and face prejudice on a regular basis.

British muslim’s need to stand up and be counted and let the rest of the UK know that they abhor the extremists and they will do everything in their power to steer their young away from the preachers of hate and bring these scum to the attention of the authorities.

At the minute the silence from the Muslim community is deafening and its up to their leaders to lead the way and show their communities that they are proud to be British and stand along side us in the fight against the merchants of death. the  mistrust that many hold against the Muslim community .

I can understand the mistrust and suspicion many white British people feel towards Muslims and Islam.  This is largely due to the actions of a few twisted individuals whom follow the Jihhad culture of death and can’t wait to claim their 72 Dark-Eyed Virgins when they arrive in heaven.

Jihhad Bride

If there is a god and any justice the only thing waiting for them in heaven will hopefully be a nine hundred pound ugly transvestite, will long black teeth and short curly beards and a taste for sadistic torture and all of eternity to torment these scum of thee earth

To beat terrorism we must stand as one and send a clear message out to the Jihad death merchants and the message is this.

You will never defeat us and no matter how long it takes we will destroy you and your erase your twisted ideology forever!

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The Rise of Islam and Racism – Documentary . IS – ISLAMIC STATE

Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in these documentaries are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in Islamic State. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

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ISIS – “Islamic” Extremism?

The following documentary  contains scenes of a graphic nature which some viewers may find distressing.

Discretion is advised

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