One cannot view or analyze the recent tragic events in Bahrain-that would have led to greater disasters were it not for divine intervention, and then the timely intervention of security forces to bury the civil strife-without considering the volatile sectarian situation in the region. The incidents in Bahrain, despite being blamed on the political opposition, have a strong sectarian flavor. An extremist group is one that has fallen into the trap of abhorrent sectarianism, driven by militant leaders, who manipulate both religious texts and civilians.
Extremism is something that is not limited to religions, doctrines or sects; this is well known and something that can be seen around the world. Every religion, doctrine and sect suffers from extremists and radicals, who raise their voices, conceal the light of justice with their ignorance, and deny tolerance towards others, spreading fear and harm among the population. Therefore, the rational and balanced voices amongst the Jafari sect should be commended, as should their opinions and statements that call for coming together, rather than separation, particularly with regards to the manner in which the Companions and Wives of the Prophet are dealt with.
During the month of Ramadan, I followed with great interest, the series “Straight Talk After al-Taraweeh” on Al-Mustakillah TV which was broadcast from London and presented by the brilliant Tunisian, Dr. Mohamed al-Hashimi. This series dealt with the issue of Sunni and Shiite rapprochement, and featured figures such as Lebanese Shiite and Jafari scholar Sayyed Ali Al-Amin, and Bahraini al-Azhar researcher who specializes in the relationship between Ahl al-Bayt [family of the Prophet] and the Prophet’s Companions, Sheikh Hassan al-Hussaini. These two scholars refuted contentious issues with their knowledge and wisdom, putting forwards arguments and evidence. They showed that many [controversial] issues have no basis in the Quran or Sunnah, or even the teachings of Imam Ali, and therefore it is not possible to accept that those who do not believe in these baseless teachings are not true Muslims. This was an extremely important, in-depth, and meaningful series. I am certain that Ali al-Amin, with the wise and courageous positions he put forward during this program, has drawn a line in the sand for the Jafari sect in the Arab world, beginning a new history and realizing it from the Iranian hegemony that has existed since Khomeini took power. This does not represent [al-Amin] endorsing Khomeini’s opponents, but rather bringing to light many of the wise opinions and references put forward by Arab Jafari clerics in Iraq and Lebanon.
The episodes that were presented during Ramadan discussed a number of important topics in a daring but scholarly manner, and even resulted in senior Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani being forced to clarify the issue of takfir [act of declaring another an apostate or infidel] on his official website. Other serious and significant issues were also addressed, demonstrating that interaction amongst rational people is a positive thing. Only a few days after two Shiite sheikhs came out to criticize and insult Sayyidah Aisha [Prophet’s wife] and the Prophet’s Companions at a gathering of Shiites in London, Saudi Jafari Sheikh, Hassan al-Saffar issued a fiery sermon rejecting and denouncing this. This was a position that was later taken up by Saudi Sheikh Hassan al-Nimr, who also rejected what had taken place in London.
These kinds of rational sermons [denouncing insults to Ahl al-Bayt and the Prophet’s Companions] should support the Jafari doctrine being viewed as an Islamic doctrine, rather than an Islamic sect. The Jafari sect is a judicial doctrine that was put forward by Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, who himself taught the first Sunni Imam Abu Hanifa [from which the Hanifa doctrine gains its name] for a period of two years. During this period the two men [who would go on to set up conflicting Islamic doctrines] worked together side by side with mutual respect and dignity. This is how things were in the past, yet today the different [doctrinal] parties deal with one another through incitement, violence, and ignorance.
Therefore I welcome all the sane and rational voices that want to eliminate ignorance, extremism, hatred, militancy, prejudice and intolerance. There is no group that can say it is innocent of this, and no group has the right to claim that it is the only group that is right. This is a costly and arrogant attitude. It is dangerous to open the door to temptation, and we should make every effort to prevent this.