Home FAQ Religion & Belief Sunni & Shi’a

Frequently Asked Question

Religion & Belief Sunni & Shi’a

The word 'Shia' is from Arabic word, '.At -Tashayyo' which means to follow. This word has been used for the followers of the Prophets of Allah in the Holy Qur'an. ''And verily among his (Noah's) Shias (followers) is Ibrahim" (Qur'an 37:83). We are called Shia because we follow the Holy Prophet according to the way shown by Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and other sinless members of the family of the Holy Prophet. In fact, it was the Holy Prophet himself who named followers of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) as Shia. The famous Sunni Scholars, Allamah Ibn Hajar (in his book"As-Sawaiqul-Muhriqua") and Allamah Ibn Athir (in his book 'Nihaya') recorded that the Prophet said:"O Ali, verily thou wilt come in the presence of Allah, thou and thy Shias happily and Allah will be pleased with you". 'Ithna-Asher' is the Arabic for 'twelve'. As we believe in 12 Imams after the Holy Prophet, hence this name.
The word 'Shia' is from Arabic word '.At-Tashayo' which means 'to follow'. This word has been used for the followers of the Prophets of Allah in the Holy Qur'an :- a."Hadha min Shiatihi wa hadha min aduwwihi Fas-taghathahul ladhi min Shiatihi alal-ladhi min aduwwihi" (Qur'an, 28:15). This is from his Shias (followers) and that from his enemies. And he who was of his (Moses') Shias asked his help against him who was of his enemies. b."Wa inna min Shiatihi la Ibrahim'' (Qur'an, 37:83). And, verily, of his (Noah's) Shias (followers) is Ibrahim. We are called Shia because we follow the Holy Prophet according to the way shown by Hazrat Ali and other sinless members of the family of the Holy Prophet. In fact, it was the Holy Prophet himself who named the followers of Hazrat Ali as 'Shia'. The famous Sunni Scholars, Allamah Ibn Hajar Makki (in his book, 'As-Sawaiqul-Muhriqua') and Allamah Ibn Athir (in his book, 'Nihaya') record that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said :- 'O Ali, verily thou wilt come before Allah; thou and thy Shias, happily, and Allah will be pleased with you: Another Sunni Scholar, Imam Suyuti, records in his "Tafseer Ad-Durrul­ Manthur" that the Holy Prophet said pointing towards Ali : "He and his Shias are those who will be successsful in Quiyamat".
At present there are two sects calling themselves Shia: (a)Ithna-asheriya, and (b) Ismailiya. Ismailiya again are sub-divided between Bohras and followers of H. H. The Aga Khan. It is this later sub-sect which is commonly known as 'Ismailiya' in East Africa. There is one sect in Yemen, called Zaidiyya, which is often grouped under Shia Sects. But they follow Mutazilites in their beliefs and Imam Abu Hanifa in the matters of Sheriat. So they should be grouped under Sunni sects not shia.
'Ithna-asher' is the Arabic for 'twelve'. we believe in 12 Imams after the Holy Prophet, hence this name.
Any person, irrespective of his origin, can become Ithna-asheriya, if he sincerely believes in our tenents,
There is a tradition of our 4th Imam Ali Zainul-Abedeen, son of Imam Husain, describing the duties of a Muslim towards his fellows. That tradition is the cream of Islamic ethics. It is not possible to give that tradition, because space does not allow it. Its translation has been published as "Reciprocal Rights". (It is available from this Mission). http://wofis.com/book/88-Reciprocal Rights
Shirk, in short, is of two kinds: (1) Shirk in belief, and (2) Shirk in actions. Shirk in belief means believing that there is more than one God. We know that your belief is free from that type of Shirk. Shirk in action: One example, in Islamic Sheriat, of this type of Shirk is doing Sajda to other than Allah. But this entirely depends upon the order of Allah, and here we can not use our own judgment. For example, let us look at the above-mentioned example:- Allah ordered the angels to do Sajdah before Adam (a.s.); and when Satan disobeyed, he was not honoured as true "Muwahhid" (monotheist), but was branded as a "Mal'un': because he disobeyed Allah. Likewise, Hadhrat Yakub (a.s.) and his eleven sons did Sajdah to Hadhrat Yusuf (as); and they were not called "Mushrik''. But the same thing which was allowed for angels and Hadhrat Yakub (a.s.) is now absolutely forbidden in Islam, and if one does it now, he will be called a "Mushrik''. So, the Shirk in action can not be comprehended or adjudged by us. It rests on the order of Allah. Another example: There were hundreds of idols in Kaaba; and the Arabs worshipped them and kissed them and what not. And also in the walls of the same Kaaba was the "Black Stone': also honoured and kissed by the Arabs. The Holy Prophet destroyed all the idols; but did nothing against "the Black Stone": rather, he made it an object of reverence and kissed it. Now, the Christian writers allege that the Black Stone is a legacy of paganistic rites. But we know that kissing it and respecting it is not Shirk because it is done by the order of the Holy Prophet. Non-Muslims may not understand the difference between kissing an idol and kissing the Black Stone; but for the Muslims the difference is clear. The trouble is that many people rely upon their own judgment in deciding whether a certain action is Shirk or not. The result is that Sunnis, for example, think that doing Sajdah on a "Muhr" is Shirk; making Taazia is Shirk; kissing the Zarih of the Holy Prophet in Madina is Shirk. They do not understand that so far as our actions are concerned, they have to be governed by the commands of Allah, the Holy Prophet (saw.) and Masumeen (a.s.) After this short explanation, let me tell you that this Dua الهی عظم البلاء has been recorded by Sheikh Mufeed (a.r), through his chain of narrators from Hadhrat Seheb-ul­ Asr (a.s.). Sheikh Mufeed died in 423 AH. Then Sheikh Tabrasi (who wrote Tafseer Majmaul-Bayan and died in 548 A.H.) narrated another incident concerning the same Dua. The incident is as follows:- Abdul Hasan Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Abil-Laith (who was a well-known pious man) was in danger of his life and had fled to the graves of our 7th and 9th Imams (a.s.) and hidden there. Then Hadhrat Saheb-ul-Asr came to him and taught him this Du'a and by reciting it, he was spared his life and the danger passed away. When the Imam (a.s.) was teaching him this Du'a, and came to the words یا مولای یا صاحب الزمان he pointed to his own chest. The Dua printed in 'Mafatihul Jinan' (on page 115-116) is narrated from Sheikh Kaf'ami (who died in 895 A.H.). There are a few differences in the 3 narrations, but they are immaterial. I remember some one had written to me from Zanzibar that this Du'a is narrated by an "unknown'' person. In view of above-mentioned details it is obvious that the narrator was "unknown'' to only those "who do not know". It is not correct to say that there is no tradition to show that we can ask from Masumeen (a.s.). There are some traditions, one of which quoted here from Bihar-ul-Anwar:- Imam Jafer Sadiq (as.) told his companion, Mufazzal bin Umar: "If you have any "Hajat" (need) towards Allah and are unable to fulfil it then pray 2 Rak'at Namaz; after Namaz say Takbir 3 times; then recite Tasbih of Bibi Fatima (a.s.), then go into sajda and say 100 times یا مولاتی یا فاطمه اغیثینی My Lady, 0 Fatima, Help me); then put your right cheek on earth and say likewise (100 times), then go into Sajdah and say likewise 110 times; then mention your need, and Allah will fulfil it". He is the same Mufazzal who had written the book ofتوحید مفضل from dictation of the same Imam (a.s). If seeking any help from anyone other than Allah is Shirk, then no prophet and no Imam could be called Muwahhid. There are scores examples even in the Qur'an where prophets sought others' help. Hadhrat Isa (a.s) said مَنْ أَنْصَارِي إِلَى اللَّهِ (Who are my helpers in the cause of Allah?) (61:14) The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) sought help of the Muslims of Madina and they are called انصار (Helpers) in the Qur'an. Also, we know that Imam Husain (a.s.) several times asked the army of Yazid to help him (Istighathah). Was it, God forbid, bad to seek the help of those unbelievers? Our Imams (a.s.) had to contend with various types of 'Fitnah' in their days. There were some persons who thought that the Imams were Khalique and Razique; others said that they were the 'Rabb' (god). While refuting such falsehoods, our Imams (a.s.) had to emphasize their total dependence on Allah in all matters. On the other hand, there were a great many people who did not know how high was the position of Muhammad and Aal-e-Muhammad (a.s) before Allah. When talking to such persons, (if the circumstances allow and there was no danger to them from such statements) the Imams (a.s) described their exalted position. For example. Sheikh Karajiki (died 449 A.H.) has narrated that once Imam Abu Hanifah (founder of the Hanafi school of law) took his food with Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.); at the end of the meal, Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) said: ''All thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of the universe; 0 Allah! it is from Thee and from Thy Rasul". Abu Hanifa said: "O Abu Abdillah! you ascribed a partner to Allah?" Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) said: Woe to thee! Verily Allah says in His Book: وَ ما نَقَمُوا إِلاَّ أَنْ أَغْناهُمُ اللهُ‌ وَ رَسُولُهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ (And they did not become (your) enemy, but just because Allah and His Apostle had made them rich from His bounty). (Qur'an, 9:74) And He says in another Place. وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ رَضُوْاْ مَا آتَاهُمُ اللّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَقَالُواْ حَسْبُنَا اللّهُ سَیُؤْتِینَا اللّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ (If only they had been content with what Allah and His Apostle gave them, and had said, 'Sufficient unto us is Allah; Allah and His Messenger will soon give us of His bounty"). (Qur'an, 9:59) Abu Hanifah said: "By Allah, it is as though I had never before read or heard these two Ayats from the Book of Allah". Imam (a.s.) said: "No; surely you had read them and heard them. But Allah has revealed about you and your like and He said: أَمْ عَلى‌ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفالُها (or are their hearts locked up by them?) (Qur'an, 47:24) And also He has said: كَلَّا بَلْ رانَ عَلى‌ قُلُوبِهِمْ ما كانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ By no means! But on their hearts is the stain of (ill) which they do. (Qur'an. 83:14) Your 'old man' should not try to refute this Hadith by saying that this episode, perhaps, is not authentic; because, even if we totally reject this episode, there is no way to reject the argument given in this Hadith because that argument is based upon Qur'an and Qur'an cannot be rejected.
A. There are two main groups: The Sunni and the Shi'a - we are Shi'a.
The word 'Shi'a' is from Arabic word At-Tashayo, which means 'to follow: Thus the word, Shi'a, means "follower". We are called Shi'a because after the Holy Prophet we follow Sayidana 'Ali and other sinless members of the family of the Holy Prophet.
Ithna-'ashar in Arabic means twelve. As we believe in 12 Imams (successors of the Holy Prophet of Islam), we are called Shi'a Ithna-'ashariya.
. We know by our instinct that there are some matters over which we have no authority, concerning which we have no choice, like birth, death, happiness, unhappiness, affluence, poverty; etc. Such matters (which we may call our conditions) are totally in God's hands, although man has to fulfil his duties in that area too, at least in preliminary stages. Also there are our "actions" which we instinctively know are done with our own will and choice, like speaking truth or lie, helping someone or refusing him help, etc. Some Muslims think that man has no authority on this matter too. Others believe that man is totally independent in his actions and Allah has nothing to do with it. But we, the Shi'a Ithna-'ashariyah, believe that man, in his actions, is neither compelled by Allah nor independent of Allah's control; the reality lies in between these two extremes. To explain it fully, I would like to give you an example. Suppose there is a man whose hand is totally paralyzed; he by himself cannot move even a finger. A doctor has fitted a device on his hand which, when activated by a remote-control, restores the hand to normal condition and allowing the man the use of hand in whatever way he likes. The doctor has kept the remote-control in his custody. He has switched that control on, and it is the man who decides whether to use his newly-found power and strength for good cause or evil; the doctor does not Interfere, although if he wanted he could switch it off. Now, the good or bad actions done by that person are not done by the doctor's will and choice; but at the same time they are not totally independent of the doctor. In the same way, we do whatever we do by our own free will and choice but the power to do so is given us by Allah who may "switch it off" any time He pleases.
We believe that the Qur'an is the word of Allah which was revealed to His last Prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) as a miracle and guidance for the mankind. It is truth, around which falsehood cannot reach. It is the foundation of Islamic Shari'ah. It is the Complete Book of God - nothing has been added to it, nothing has been removed from it, nothing has been changed in it. Even non-Muslim scholars admit that the Qur'an is free from all types of interpolation, change and defect - since the days of the Prophet to this day. In this respect, it differs from previous revealed books which have been extensively changed and altered.
It is because in their eyes Imamate is synonymous with ruler-ship; and, as such, depends on acceptance of people. Allah or Rasul, in Sunni theology, have no role in it. A famous Sunni writer had once written in India, "I accept that it was the Prophet's ardent wish that 'Ali should be his immediate successor. But also it should be accepted that the Ummah decided otherwise': So this is their way of thinking. For details, see my book, Imamat, available from the Mission. (https://wofis.com/book/67-IMAMAT%20The%20Vicegerency%20of%20the%20Prophet(s))
If you mean books which we believe to contain only correct ahadith, as the Sunnis do about their Sihah Sitta (six correct books), or at least about Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, then the answer is 'NO: We do not believe that any book written or compiled by a non-Ma'sum is completely free of errors. But if you mean, important collections of the ahadith of the Prophet (s.a.w.a) and Ma'sumeen, then, yes, we have scores of such collections, most Important of which are the Four Early Books, and Three Later Books. FOUR EARLY BOOKS: Compilation of the words of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Imams (a.s.) had started from the very beginning, though unfortunately the early writings are lost. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) (57 A.H.-114 AH/676 C.E.-733 C.E.) and Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) (83 A.H.-148 A.H/702 C.E.-765 C.E.) the 5th and the 6th Imams, were able to spread their teachings far and wide. There were four thousand disciples gathered around the 6th Imam alone. Many disciples of these two and the succeeding Imams noted down whatever they heard from the Imams. Such collections were called usul (Roots; foundations). From those Usul, the Four Book's were compiled. FouRBOOKS: 1.Al-Ka.ft: By Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, (died in 329 A.H./ 941 C.E.). As mentioned above, there were thousands of Usul in hand when the Shorter Occupation (Ghaybat Sughra) of the 12th Imam began in 260 A.H. There was no printing press in those days. The danger was imminent that those Usul would be lost for ever, as anyone having one or more usul was reluctant to lend it to others. Also there was need to arrange those scattered ahadith subject-wise to facilitate their use. The Shi'a scholars asked al-Kulayni to fulfil this difficult task. Thus after twenty years of continuous effort, al-Ka.ft was compled. 2.Man la yahdhurhul-faqih by Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Babwayh, popularly known as Shaykh Saduq. He was born after du'a of the 12th Imam in about 306 A.H.-919 C.E. and died in 381 A.H./991 C.E. His memory and his zeal in collecting ahadith were unmatched. He travelled far and wide in search of hadith. He has left a lot of collections of ahadith, but the above-mentioned book occupies a special place in Shi'a hadith and jurisprudence. 3.Tahdhibul Ahkam: By Abu Ja'fer Muhammad ibn al-Hasan at-Tusi, popularly known as Shaykh Tusi. (Born 385 AH/995 C.E. and died in 460/1067). 4.Al-Istibsar, by the same author. This too like Tahdhibul Ahkam is a critical study of ahadith. Except al-Ka.ft, all three books are confined to the ahadith concerned with.fiqh (jurisprudence). It was a strange coincidence that all the above muhadditheen (Traditionists) were named "Muhammad" and had the same patronymic "Abu Ja'far': The Shi'as, unlike the Sunnis, do not call any of the above books, "Sahih': If a hadith is found in any of them, it does not necessarily mean that it is correct. Its acceptance or rejection depends on three tests: Conformity with the Qur'an and the known facts and reliability of its narrators. In the same way, if a hadith is found in some other book and passes the test, it will be accepted. THE THREE LATER BOOKS: In later period, 3 other books of ahadith became very popular. Unlike the former four books, these are not based on direct transmission; they are collections of ahadith gathered from various early books. These are: 1.Bihar-ul-anwar: By Muhammad Baqir Majlisi (popularly known as 'Allamah Majlisi). (Born 1037/1628; died 1110/1699). He realised that hundreds of books which were known to exist a few centuries earlier, had become extinct. He feared that if the remaining books were not preserved they too would be lost. The four earlier books dealt mainly with .fiqh; but there was a large number of ahadith on other subjects which was scattered throughout the Shi'a World. So he decided to collect those books and arrange their ahadith subject wise. He collected the whole treasure in twenty five volume - which now printed with typed letters has spread to one hundred and ten volumes. 'Allamah Majlis wrote in his Muqaddamah (Preface) that his immediate aim was to preserve those ahadith without looking at their degree of reliability; and If God gave him time he would later separate the authentic from unauthentic. Unfortunately he died when only sixteen volumes were finalized. The remaining volumes were completed from the collected material by his trusted disciple and helper, Mirza 'Abdullah Afindi. 2.Al-Wafi, by Muhammad ibn Murtaza, commonly known as Muhsin Paiz (born 1010/1599; died 1091/1690). This book combines the ahadith (subject-wise) of the earlier Four Books, with comments and notes about each hadith fixing the degree of its reliability. 3.Wasa'il-ush Shi'a: By Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Hurr (born 1033/1625. died 1104/1693). This book collects all ahadith on jurisprudence from the early Four Books as well as other sources. It will be noted that these three authors too had the same name, Muhammad. They are called "Three Later Muhammads': as the authors of the earlier Four Books are jointly called, "Three Earlier Muhammads:' It has been noted above that, unlike the early Four Books, these three books are not based on direct transmission. They are compiled from early books. Their importance however lies in the fact that they are of immense help to scholars who can get it in one place all relevant ahadith on a given subject, instead of hunting for them in scores of books.

Ask your Question Here: