"Al-Ghadir" and its Relevance to Islamic Unity (1)

"Al-Ghadir" and its Relevance to Islamic Unity (1)

The distinguished book entitled "al-Ghadir" has raised a huge wave in the world of Islam. Islamic thinkers shed light on the book in different perspectives; in literature, history, theology, tradition, tafsir, and sociology. From the social perspective we can deal with the Islamic unity. In this review, the Islamic unity has been dealt with from a social point of view. Contemporary Muslim thinkers and reformists are of the view that unity and solidarity of Muslims are the most imperative Islamic exigencies at the present juncture when the enemies have made extensive inroads upon the Islamic community and have tried to resort to different ways and means to spread the old differences and create new ones. We are aware that Islamic unity and fraternity is the focus of attention of the Holy Legislator of Islam and is actually the major objective pursued by this Divine religion as firmed by the Qur'an, the "Sunnah", and the history of Islam. 

For this reason, some people have been faced with this question: Wouldn't the compilation and publication of a book such as "al-Ghadir" which deals with the oldest issue of differences among the Muslims- create a barrier in the way of the sublime and lofty objective of the Islamic unity? To answer this question, it is necessary first to elucidate the essence of this issue, that is, the Islamic unity, and then proceeds to examine the role of the magnum opus entitled "al-Ghadir" and its eminent compiler 'Allamah Amini in bringing about Islamic unity. 

Islamic Unity 

What is meant by the Islamic unity? Does it mean that one Islamic school of thought should be unanimously followed and others be set aside? Or does it mean that the commonalties of all Islamic schools of thought should be taken up and their differences be put away to make up a new denomination which is not completely the same as the previous ones? Or does it mean that Islamic unity is in no way related to the unity of the different schools of Fiqh (jurisprudence) but signifies the unity of the Muslims and the unity of the followers of different schools of Fiqh, with their different religious ideas and views, vis-a-vis the aliens? 

To give an illogical and impractical meaning to the issue of the Islamic unity, the opponents of the issue have called it to be the formation of a single Madhhab, so as to defeat it in the very first step. Without doubt, by the term Islamic unity, the intellectual Islamic 'Ulama' (scholars) do not mean that all denominations should give in to one denomination or that the commonalties should be taken up and the different views and ideas be set aside, as these are neither rational and logical nor favorable and practical. By the Islamic unity these scholars mean that all Muslims should unite in one line against their common enemies. 

These scholars slate that Muslims have many things in common, which can serve as the foundations of a firm unity. All Muslims worship the One Almighty and believe in the Prophethood of the Holy Prophet (s). The Qur'an is the Book of all Muslims and Ka'abah is their "qiblah" (direction of prayer). They go to "hajj" pilgrimage with each other and perform the "hajj" rites and rituals like one another. They say the daily prayers and fast like each other. They establish families and engage in transactions like one another. They have similar ways of bringing up their children and burying their dead. Apart from minor affairs, they share similarities in all the aforementioned cases. Muslims also share one kind of world view, one common culture, and one grand, glorious, and long-standing civilization. 

Unity in the world view, in culture, in the civilization, in insight and disposition, in religious beliefs, in acts of worship and prayers, in social rites and customs can well turn the Muslim into a unified nation to serve as a massive and dominant power before which the big global powers would have to bow down. This is especially true in view of the stress laid by Islam on this principle. According to the explicit wording of the Qur'an, the Muslims are brothers, and special rights and duties link them together. So, why shouldn't the Muslims use all these extensive facilities accorded to them as the blessing of Islam? 

This group of 'Ulama' are of the view that there is no need for the Muslims to make any compromise on the primary or secondary principles of their religion for the sake of Islamic unity. Also it is not necessary for the Muslims to avoid engaging in discussions and reasons and writing books on primary and secondary principles about which they have differences. The only consideration for Islamic unity in this case is that the Muslims- in order to avoid the emergence or accentuation of vengeance - preserve their possession, avoid insulting and accusing each other and uttering fabrications, abandon ridiculing the logic of one another, and finally abstain from hurting one another and going beyond the borders of logic and reasoning. In fact, they should, at least, observe the limits which Islam has set forth for inviting non-Muslims to embrace it: "Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner... "(1)

Some people are of the view that those schools of fiqh, such as, Shafi'i and Hanafi which have no differences in principle should establish brotherhood and stand in one line. They believe that denominations which have differences in the principles can in no way be brothers. This group view the religious principles as an interconnected set as termed by scholars of Usul, as an interrelated and interdependent set; any damage to one principle harms all principles. As a result, those who believe in this principle are of the view that when, for instance, the principle of "imamah" is damaged and victimized, unity and fraternity will bear no meaning and for this reason the Shi'ah and the Sunnis cannot shake hands as two Muslim brothers and be in the same rank, no matter who their enemy is. 

The first group answers this group by saying: "There is no reason for us to consider the principles as an interrelated set and follow the principle of "all or none". Imam 'Ali ('a) chose a very logical and reasonable approach. He left no stone unturned to retrieve his right. He used everything within his power to restore the principle of "imamah", but he never adhered to the motto of "all or none". 'Ali ('a) did not rise up for his right, and that was not compulsory. On the contrary, it was a calculated and chosen approach. He did not fear death. Why didn't he rise up? There could have been nothing above martyrdom. Being killed for the cause of the Almighty was his ultimate desire. He was more intimate with martyrdom than a child is with his mother's breast. But in his sound calculations, Imam 'All ('a) had reached the conclusion that under the existing conditions it was to the interest of Islam to foster collaboration and cooperation among the Muslims and give up revolt. He repeatedly stressed this point. 

In one of his letters to Malik al-Ashtar, he wrote the following: 

"First I pulled back my hand until I realized that a group of people converted from Islam and invited the people toward annihilating the religion of Muhammad(s). So I feared that if I did not rush to help Islam and the Muslims, I would see gaps or destruction which calamity would be far worse than the several-day-long demise of caliphate."(2)

In the six-man council, after appointment of 'Uthman by 'Abdul-Rahman ibn 'Awf, 'Ali ('a) set forth his objection as well as his readiness for collaboration as follows:" You well know that I am more deserving than others for caliphate. But now by Allah, so long as the affairs of the Muslims are in order and my rivals suffice with setting me aside and only I am alone subjected to oppression, I will not oppose (the move) and will give in (to it)."(3)

These indicate that in this issue 'Ali ('a) condemned the principle of "all or none". There is no need to further elaborate the approach taken by 'Ali ('a) toward this issue. There are ample historical proofs and reasons in this regard. 

Continue in the next article: ( "Al-Ghadir" and its Relevance to Islamic Unity (2) )

NOTES:

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1. (The Holy Quran 16:125)

2. (No.62 "Nahj al Balaghah")

3. (From Sermon 72, "Nahj al- Balaghah")