sulabh swatchh bharat

Sunday, 17-February-2019

Shia-Sunni Dialogue

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq is an outspoken advocate of Shia-Sunni unity as well as of Hindu-Muslim dialogue

The crucial need to improve Shia-Sunni relations is one of the major focuses of Kalbe Sadiq’s writings and speeches. In contrast to many other Shia ‘ulama’, Kalbe Sadiq uses the traditional institution of the majlis, lectures held in the month of Muharram to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, to repeatedly stress the need for better relations between Shias and  Sunnis. Often, his majlis are attended by both Shias as well as Sunnis. His lectures are not particularly Shia in any narrow confessional sense. He refers constantly to the Quran, and to those traditions attributed to the Prophet which both Shias and Sunnis accept, linking these two events of contemporary importance. 
Kalbe Sadiq repeatedly stresses that the majlis have two basic purposes: to inform and to reform. In other words, the majlis are intended to impart knowledge about the true meaning of Islam as well as to reform people’s beliefs and practices accordingly. Kalbe Sadiq’s majlis generally deal with issues of contemporary concern, such as Shia-Sunni strife, Hindu-Muslim conflict, modern education and women’s rights. The majlis invariably begin with a verse from the Quran related to a particular issue, which is then elaborated upon, linking the verse with the issue at hand. This discussion forms the major section of the majlis. In contrast to the majlis of many other Shia ‘ulama’, the narration of the sufferings of Imam Hussain and the family of the Prophet  (ahl ul-bayt) form only a part of Kalbe Sadiq’s majlis, often taking up considerably less than half the total duration of the lecture. 
Kalbe Sadiq’s case for Shia-Sunni unity, as expressed in his majlis, is based principally on arguments drawn from the Quran. He consciously avoids referring to theological differences between Shias and Sunnis, instead repeatedly evokes the Quran to stress Muslim unity. In one majlis he claims that Shias and Sunnis ‘share 97 per cent of their beliefs in common’, and that it is these common beliefs that should be the basis of Muslim ecumenism. He argues that all those who believe in one God, the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran, and who share the same creed of confession of the faith (‘There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God’) must be considered Muslims, irrespective of their other differences. He does not deny the differences between the Shias and Sunnis and between the different sects within each of these two major groups, but insists that these are relatively inconsequential. Hence, despite their differences, he says, they must identify themselves and each other simply as Muslims. He reminds his listeners that the terms ‘Sunni’, ‘Shia’, ‘Deobandi’, ‘Barelwi’, ‘Ahl-i Hadith’, names of various contemporary Muslim sects,  are not mentioned in the Quran, where ‘true believers’ are identified simply as ‘Muslims’. Hence, he says, Muslims, irrespective of the sects they belong to, must consider themselves as Muslims alone.
A central feature of Kalbe Sadiq’s discourse, including his case for Shia-Sunni unity, is the notion of adl or insaf (justice). He quotes the Quran as saying that God’s purpose in sending a succession of prophets, heavenly books and laws (shari‘at) was simply one: to eliminate injustice (zulm) and ensure the rights of all creatures of God. The purpose of religion is not simply to instruct people to worship God, but, equally importantly, to inspire them to promote love and justice in society. Islam, he says, teaches that the ‘rights of God’s creatures’ (huquq ul-‘ibad) are as important as the ‘rights of God’ (huquq allah). He goes so far as to say that if one is confronted with the choice between the two, one should choose the former, for ‘creatures of God need to have their rights respected’, while God is in need of nothing. God will not forgive one’s sins, he says, if one violates the huquq ul-‘ibad. On the Day of Judgment, one’s prayers and ritual worship will not be of any help to a person who tramples on the rights of others.