Shiites have begun attacking Sunnis after they attack (and virtually demolish) an ancient Shiite mosque.
It's about time.
We do not want to advocate violence or cheer militant Muslims, but the Shiites in Iraq had been living with incessant attacks by Sunnis for too long. If the Shiites did not respond in some manner, the Sunni militants would continue to believe that they could get away with attacking Shiites. For the government to respond would have been difficult: it would be difficult to respond in such a way that Shiites would not see the government as supporting Sunnis or that the Sunnis would not see the government as placating to Shiite desires for vengeance.
Remember, also, that Saddam Hussein and his government was Sunni-dominated, and that this Sunni government perpetrated unspeakable crimes against Shiites. Remember, also, that this is a case of a majority being bullied by a minority. It is such a sad case of affairs.
However, We are biased. With regards to Iraq, We have no sympathy or concern for the Sunnis. They have become used to ruling, dominating, and lording over Iraq unjustly and without justification. The Sunnis were not the majority or even a
majority. Why should they be allowed to continue to harbor their delusions of grandeur and seek to make real their dreams of unfettered rule over subject majority populations? This is where democracy comes into play: neither majorities nor minorities are to tyrannize a state; the interests of both majorities and minorities must be taken into consideration and dealt with in the best way possible.
We are, in short, fed up with Sunni arrogance in Iraq.
However, one ought not to consider this issue outside the greater issue of conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. Ever since the faction of Shi'at 'Ali (Party of Ali) came into existence (although they never assumed such a name in an organized fashion), it has been opposed by the Sunnis.
"Shiite" is derived from "shee'ah
," which means "party" or "faction," referring to the phrase "shee'at 'alee
" or the party/faction of Ali ibn Abi Talin ('alee ibn/bin abee Taalib
). They refer to themselves as "ahl al-bayt
," meaning "people of the house," "al-bayt
"/"the house" referring to the descendants of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Those of ahl al-bayt
believe they are faithful to and properly respectful of the pure (ma'Soom
) descendants of Muhammad. "Shiite" is actually the English translation of "shee'ee
," which means "of or pertaining to shee'at 'alee
"Sunni" comes from the phrase "ahl as-sunnah wa-l-jamaa'ah
," meaning "the people of the sunnah
and the community." This means that rather than following the descendants of Muhammad, these people follow the example (sunnah
) of Muhammad and his companions (aSHaab
) as well as following the consensus (ijmaa'
) of the community (ummah/'ulamaa'/jamaa'ah
). Most Muslims interpret "jamaa'ah
" (literally, "union" or "congregation") to refer to the Muslim community (usually rendered as "ummah
"). Wikipedia suggests that the origin came in reference to the union ("jamaa'ah
") made between Mu'awiyah (relative of Uthman; Muawiyah claimed to be the caliph after Ali) and Hassan (son of Ali, who claimed the caliphate after Ali was assassinated). We, to be frank, have never heard of this origin for the term "jamaa'ah
" in the phrase under discussion: it is possible this is how it originally came about, but the current interpretation has certainly changed if such is the case. "Sunni" is a translation of "sunnee
," which means "of or pertaining to ahl as-sunnah wa-l-jamaa'ah
," focusing on the "sunnah
" aspect of this trend in Islam.
The feeling by Sunnis is that they follow the example of Muhammad and his companions and follow the consensus of the Muslim community, which were established by Muhammad as the foundation for Islam, while the Shiites have veered off and begun deifying Muhammad's descendants, ignoring a large amount of material upon which the Muslim community, including its jurisprudence, ought to be based. Shiites, on the other hand, feel that Sunnis have abandoned the example of and allegiance to Muhammad's descendants, whom Muhammad and God established as the guardians of Islam, teachers of Islam, and unquestionable leaders of the Muslims. They view the Sunni adherence to the sunnah of the aSHaab
and the ijmaa'
of the community to be deviations from the way Muhammad intended. They also view Sunnis as having forcibly rejected Muhammad's arrangements for the survival of Islam, fighting against, persecuting, and brutally oppressing true Islam and its true Muslims to the point of cold bloodedly killing Muhammad's descendants.
The impasse between Sunnis and Shiites is virtually unbridge-able.
The events of 'Ashoora serve to pacify the Shiites (by reminding them, as it were, that any effort to support true Islam would fail) and to mobilize them into a frenzy of hatred against Sunnis and others who oppress Shiites (by reminding them of the great atrocities perpetuated against Shiites by Sunnis and others over the ages). The history of Shiism has been one of atrocity after atrocity against them, persecution after persecution, sorrow after sorrow.
Yet, there is only so much a people will be willing to tolerate. We are sure leaders such as as-Sistani would prefer the Shiites to suffer through their persecutions, as they have done so for centuries, but We would not be surprised if some have come to the point of rejecting any such message of restraint. Shiites have been restrained quite enough.
Just as Sunni militants targeted Shiites, killing many innocent Shiites, We see no reason why Shiite attacks against Sunnis may not kill innocent Sunnis. Average Sunnis have certainly not done enough to rein in their Shiite-attacking militants. Such tit-for-tat would be wrong, but would it be unjust? The Shiites, to begin with, never did anything to enrage the Sunnis into massacring them.
Ah, but here We are wrong. The Shiites have done something to enrage the Sunnis: they continue to exist. Despite Sunni efforts of many centuries, the Shiites continue to exist. Imagine their audacity! How insulting!
One commenter on this thread
at the Ace of Spades Headquarters
remarked that he/she was frustrated by people calling nearly every place as "the holiest place of Islam." The Grand Mosque of Mecca, the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in
Jerusalem, the Mosque of Imam Ali in Najaf, the Mosques of Hussein and Abbas in Karbala (and Karbala in general), the Askari Mosque in Samarra - it does seem easy to label a number of structures as the "holiest" in Islam. In reality, thought, there is a hierarchy.
The Askari Mosque contains the tombs of the tenth and eleventh imams of the Twelver Shiites. These were Ali al-Hadi ('alee al-haadee
) and Hassan al-Askari (Hassan al-'askaree
). The latter is the father of the twelfth imam; Shiites believe the twelfth imam is alive but in hiding. There is a shrine to the twelfth imam in the complex so that Shiites can have a place to go where they may communicate with him while he is in hiding. So, although this complex does not have the significance or holiness as Najaf (especially the Imam Ali Mosque) or Karbala (especially the complex containing the mosques of Hussein and Abbas), it is nonetheless of great spiritual importance.
Many Shiites were enraged with Muqtada as-Sadr (muqtada aS-Sadr
) for desecrating the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf when he used it as a base for insurgent activity. Some did applaud him for resisting the infidels (while as-Sistani cooperated with them), but his actions were nevertheless unacceptable by traditional Shiite standards. As-Sistani was staunchly opposed to this act by as-Sadr. (Another way to look at it is that as-Sistani is considered to be the master of Najaf; because of this he is the supreme Shiite leader that he is. By violating Najaf, as-Sadr could have also been undermining as-Sistani, which would be typical of as-Sadr but still unacceptable by most Shiites.) When as-Sistani rushed from London (where he was undergoing medical treatment), he demanded as-Sadr to leave the Mosque. Of course, as-Sadr could not refuse: such a public challenge to as-Sistani would have led to as-Sadr's fall from grace in the Shiite world.
Furthermore, Shiites attach a great amount of importance to these places where their imams are memorialized. Shiites believe that one may communicate with them (and ask for their intercession) at their tombs. Such an importance or significance exists only among certain Sunni populations (especially with regard to saints' tombs). Indeed, many Sunnis would find the Shiite focus on ziarat
(literally, "visiting," meaning visiting various important shrines) by Shiites to border on polytheism or unacceptable bidaa'
(innovation). Many Shiites actually believe that ziarat
is how Muslims are to wage jihad: spiritual warfare, in a way.
This significance can be exemplified in one interesting aspect of Shiite buildings of worship. There are, generally, two types of buildings. One is a mosque, which is a place for Shiites to congregate for prayer and other communal observances. The other is an imambargah
, which is where Hussein is commemorated. This may include items representing Hussein's last battle (a decorated horse, for example) or a casket (taboot
) or other such marker representing Hussein. As a Shiite explained, this marker allows local Shiites to "visit" Hussein without spending so much money and time going to Karbala. It is like being able to visit the tomb of Hussein in one's neighborhood.
We hope this will open the eyes of Sunnis that they must prevent their militants from bothering the Shiites. If not, then We hope the Shiites will find a way to protect themselves, whether by preventing attacks or deterring them. inna naHnu-l-a'lamoon