Shi’ites and Sunni & Protestants and Catholics

For a while I kept wondering what the heck was going on in Iraq. Why were the Shi’ites and Sunni killing each other? Aren’t they both Muslim? What barbaric behaviour to kill your own compatriots, not because they are a different religion, but just a different sect! But then, one night as I lay awake in bed, I thought of Europe in the 14-1800s. Dozens of wars were fought between different countries in Europe because one side was Protestant and one side was Catholic. Heck, the British suffered through a few civil wars over different sects of Christianity. So, I guess it’s not so strange to see them fighting this way.

However, while they are not alone in fighting others of the same basic faith, I still wonder what the heck is the big deal? Why can’t people just let others have their own opinion and if they are so wrong, let them just rot in hell. For example, in one of Usama bin Laden’s letters to America, he claims that one of his tenants in the Jihad against America is that America should convert to Islam. Why should America convert to Islam? Because we are following Satan by not being Muslim? Ok, if you want to convert us, instead of sending planes of terrorists, send missionaries. While Christian misionaries may have done some really shady things in the past, currently churches just send missionaries to spread the Gospel around the world. As far as I know, they just go to other countries and tell them about God. (my mom never let me go on a missions trip since they are usually to really dangerous parts of the world) Or one can be a domestic missionary and tell others about God within their own hometown.

Personally, I believe that if you truly believe in something you should let people know about it, but don’t try to force it on them. I tried that back in high school with disastrous results. Basically, I ended up realizing that the best you can do is tell people whatever you want them to know and then let them figure out for themselves if it’s what they want. Even more important, I realized, is not to bring it up. If someone were to ask me what I believed, then I would offer my opinion. Doing more than that is asking to irritate others and make them hate your point of view. (This doesn’t only apply to religion, no one likes to be told they are wrong about anything from their diet to their sleeping patterns to religion) So, let bin Laden send “armies” of missionaries to convert us to Islam, if that’s TRULY what you believe and not a cover to get others to join your cause.

But if we reject Islam, then leave us be. To bring it back to my own experience, I feel that, a relationship with God is a personal thing. So if someone asks me what I believe and then tells me it’s a bunch of bollocks, then that’s fine. I do not consider it my responsibility to ensure the other person believes that I believe. If, as Christianity teaches, they will go to Hell for not believing me, that’s their problem, not mine. I think bin Laden should be the same with the United States and Europe. If we are going to hell if we don’t believe in Islam, you have to know you can’t bomb us into believing in Allah – so just let us go to hell. Are you REALLY that caring about our souls that you want to ensure we make it to paradise?

And to bring it back to the topic of the post, if the Shi’ites believe that the Sunni are so wrong they are going to Hell, how is killing them going to help? Aren’t you accelerating their decent into the fiery pits? (or whatever Muslims believe Hell is like) And do you really believe that the Sunni will turn to your religion because you scare them into it? If the Jews wouldn’t reject their beliefs in the face of the genocide, what makes you think the Sunni will change their mind in the face of terrorism?

Again, they should just take to the airwaves and appear on Tv programs and radio programs and explain why the Sunni are wrong. Then let the Sunni tell the Shi’ites why they are wrong. Some people will convert to either side, but if there was one way that was obviously right, there wouldn’t be sects, would there? And that’s why I feel that all the fighting is pointless.

Look at Christianity, for example, there are Baptists, Anabaptists, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Lutherans, and at LEAST half a dozen more. They all believe in God and the Holiness of Jesus, but differ in how we should please them best on Earth. Should we baptise by immersion, sprinkling, or a blast from a hose? Do we pray to Mary or just Jesus? and so on and so forth – and we have the same book to start from! But, at least in this time period, we have decided that we will just squabble about our differences, but won’t kill each other.

I decided it was better to educate myself than speak about what I didn’t know. Afterall, the differences between the Christian sects are, in my opinion, pretty petty. They are mostly just ritualistic differences, not differences about the important things. For example, it’s not like the Lutherans say that Jesus said we should kill the homless. They just differ in what they do in church. So, I checked to see what the heck was the reason for the fighting amongst the Shi’ites and Sunni. Of course, I went to the best source for all information, Wikipedia. Here’s what the article said in the section on the differences:

The principal issue upon which Islam’s first major sectarian split occurred centers on the question of leadership. According to Sunni thought, Muhammad died without appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community. After an initial period of confusion, a gathering of Muslims at Saqifah accepted Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law, as the first Caliph. Sunnis consider Abu Bakr to have been Muhammad’s closest friend. Sunnis believe this process was conducted in a fair and proper manner and accept Abu Bakr as a righteous and rightful Caliph. The second major sect, the Shia, believe that the Prophet had appointed his son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor years earlier during an announcement at Ghadir Khom. Shi’a regard the election of Abu Bakr as illegitimate and accuse the companions involved of ulterior motives ranging from enmity towards Ali to outright hypocrisy. Though both Sunnis and Shias believe that Muhammad delivered a major speech at Ghadir Khom, Sunnis interpret any references to Ali as mere praise, and do not view them as constituting his appointment as a successor.

So, this makes me think their differences should be even MORE reconcilable! It’s not even a difference with respect to ritual! It’s just a fight over who was the leader of the Muslims in the 1300s! Is that a reason to be fighting in 2005? I think not!

But I invite any comments on the subject. My comments are moderated, so it may take a while to appear on the website, depending on when I log in and check. Also, I probably won’t approve anything hateful or that I deem inappropriate; it is, afterall, my blog – but that doesn’t mean I won’t post opposing points of view (especially if I’m asking for contributions). Just be nice.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me