International Mother Language Day in Karbala

By Mohammed AlSafi

A workshop on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day was held in Karbala, Iraq with focus on the Arabic language and the Shabaki language as examples. (See Wikipedia for Languages of Iraq).

Sponsored by United Nations Mission and Vision Organization for Culture and Development 

International Mother Language Day in KarbalaThe workshop took place in Rotana hotel in karbala which was organized by Vision Organization for Culture and Development and it was sponsored by the United Nations Mission in the city of Karbala under the project Youth without limits 2015.

The organization hosted the renowned researcher Mr. Abdul-Zahra Agha of Hema Center for Studies and Dr. Ali Mohammed Yasin, a professor at the University of Karbala, and the representative of the United Nations mission UNAMI in Karbala as well as  Mr. Ali Kamona and a number of other researchers and social activists from Karbala and several other places.

The guests were welcomed by Mr. Mohammed Hossam speaking behalf Visions organization at the beginning of the workshop and he talked about the aims and projects of Vision Organization in the coming period, especially “Youth Without limits ” project, then Mr. Ali Kamona which considered this workshop as the first of its kind in Karbala city spoke about the importance of the celebration of the international days and take advantage of the activities of intellectual and cultural considering their significant impact on the community, and at the same time these activities give a message of love and peace to every one. He also spoke about the origin of the event and how it was taken as an international day since 1999.

Mother Language Day IraqAfter that Mr. Abdul-Zahra Agha started his talking with his great thanks to the organization for this hosting and caring about the Shabaki component and the importance of the real communication between the components of Iraq as a real project for a peaceful coexistence and save the great heritage of the Iraqi nation. He also spoke about of the Shabaki language roots and some of the vocabularies of the language and how the emergence of some of their intellectual and educational schools, his great fear was of the demise of their language especially after the occupation of the ISIS terrorist groups to their home in Nineveh plain, which led to the displacement of the majority of their population. Dr. Ali Mohamed Yassin criticized those who forgot to pay the enough attantion to this occasion from the governmental agencies and the academic specialists to celebrate the mother language day, while a group of young activists establish a cultural activity to celebrate their own language and their great heritage, and he talked about the importance of the Arabic language and the needs of today’s educational books of the schools for a development simplified to mimic the reality after the cultural and electronic invasion that our culture is witnessing these days.

After that the discussions and questions in the workshop started with the researchers by the participants, and then the civil activist Mohammed Maash of Visions organization for Culture and Development confirmed that we will formulate the discussions of this workshop to recommendations to give them to the representation of the United Nations mission and the stakeholders to leave the real impact on the society about the languages in all of Iraq and especially the Arabic and the Shabaki language.

Muslims & Contemporary Challenges

By Hussein Al-Rumaithi

The modern era has brought challenges upon all humans on the face of this planet, which makes the humanity in a constant state of examination and struggle to assure survival. The notion of survival is not necessary referred to physical existence or distinction, not does it exclude it from the picture. Humanity is facing challenges from a wide range of aspects like, poverty, stability, tolerance, civility and ultimately intellectual struggle to determine the best method that assures overcoming these challenges. However, Muslims in modern era are faced with same challenges, but the difference lays in the nature of the struggles they have to fight against, as they are the subjected to more focus and heavier responsibilities.

The current status of Muslims is linked to numerous variable and facts that are ranging from social, historical, political, cultural and mainly intellectual, dating back to centuries ago until present day. Nevertheless, acknowledging the struggles and addressing them needs thorough dissection and apprehension, which will lead to the ultimate state of prosperity and tranquility. Muslims can keep blaming the whole world for the calamities, and they can present different cases of conspiracy theories that will not change a single thing about their condition. However, by realizing the fact that change and advancement is entirely associated to their will and ability, Muslims shall be able to face the challenges and struggles of today’s era and learn from them.

They Holy Quran, the narrations of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household are full of encouragements and guidelines to face challenges and learning from them and passing the details of that experience to future generations. Therefore, it would be beneficial to identify some of the challenges and categorize their priority to address them accordingly.

Intellectual Challenges

Knowledge, intellect and comprehension are directly linked to the notion of gaining, wealth accumulation and advancement. Past civilizations have been able to transfer their legacy through a precise system of, comprehension, application, capitalization and recording, which enabled them to secure a place for themselves in the future. Even though some civilizations have not survived until present day, but their legacy is still evident and applied until this day, which makes their presence indirectly undeniable.

The Islamic world was superior in numerous fields that included science, education, engineering, astronomy, medicine and even finance, which helped Muslims become one of the strongest nations history has even known. However, corrupt political policies and miscalculated tendencies for expansion and conquer led them to lose the centrality and mandate they had once upon a time. In addition, there are many more factors that stopped the superiority of Muslims after a Golden era of advancement and innovation. However, the current state of inferiority that Muslims are experiencing is linked to lack of will and efforts and not the effectuality of ideology as some might argue.

The availability of knowledge, intellect, science and all the necessities for advancement are still available for Muslims, whether in their literature or in what other civilizations have developed. Therefore, the possibility of social and intellectual reform is always available if Muslims realize its necessity. There are numerous verses and narrations that encourage Muslims to seek knowledge from anywhere and anyone and use it to benefit themselves and others, which puts the notion of responsibility on their burdens.

Social Challenges

Due to the unsuccessfulness of overcoming the intellectual challenges, Muslims are facing a wide range of social challenges and struggles, which brings whole new levels of hardships. By reading the history of Islam and the way Prophet Mohammad introduced it in the Arabian Peninsula, any observer would agree that Prophet Mohammad’s primary goal was intellectual advancement and ultimately social reform. The Arabian Peninsula was among the worst of regions if compared to that era’s civilizations and nations, which includes the Persians, Romans, Egyptians and other empires. Therefore, the way Prophet Mohammad transformed that society and brought it out of its state, is without doubt magnificent and unbelievable. Prophet Mohammad, introduced notions such as, gender equality, justice, respect and ethic codes in a society that buried its females and raided one another for survival. He introduced those values in a society that had only 17 literates in the whole Arabian Peninsula and things like swords, harshness and philistinism were considered as virtues. Therefore, if Mohammad was able to change that society and transform it to one of the greatest civilizations, then it should not be impossible to use the same methods Prophet Mohammad used and apply them in modern day.

The current state of social conducts that is leading the Muslim societies has catastrophic in many ways, which has made it harder form Muslims to introduce their religion to the outside world, and make it adaptable. Unfortunately, the social status of Muslims in the current time is directly associated with their personal interpretation of religious fundamentals and definition. Therefore, majority of their social norms and conducts are sought to be Islamic in nature, which is far from reality. The cruel tribal codes and status of women in the society are part of this ongoing struggle to overcome the social challenges of modern era. In addition, the remaining notion of social fabric that is present in Muslims societies is linked to ethnic, tribal, sectarian and historical alliances, which is being governed by a systematic approach led by the states. Even the religious aspect of the social relations in the Muslims societies is not as strong as decades ago, as sectarian tensions have ravished such relations.

Therefore, Muslims are faced with an excellent opportunity to revamp and revive their social system, through a system that will prevent occurrence of future grievances. The current political turmoil in the Muslim World has damaged the social foundation of many societies, and made the remaining very fragile. As a result, Muslims and Arabs in general have gotten to a point where tactical maneuvers are not sufficient anymore, and they is a tendency to minimize loss of lives as much as possible. Therefore, Muslims will be physiologically and socially ready for finding a solution of their social struggles to have a stable and secure future.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Greatest Shia Scholars of All Time

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

The uniqueness of Shia traditional seminaries and schools of thoughts lays in the independence and continuous innovation being presented to the world, throughout history. Majority of people tend to think of Shia seminaries and religious schools as a place of radicalization, where the only subjects being taught are Quran and history of Prophet’s life. Many observers, who have visited the Shia seminaries in Najaf, Karbala and Qom have been shocked by the level of intellect and thoroughness, which these schools operate by. The numerous types of subjects and majors that are taught in the seminaries are limited to jurisprudence, Quran, Hadith and history. Students in Shia seminaries study the different philosophical schools of the west and the east, mathematics, science, biology and physics, which help the scholars understand the contemporary challenges of each era precisely and extract religious rulings according to the circumstances of modern age. Therefore, we tend to see some religious rulings and Fatwas have been changes according to time and position, which mandates different variables of their own.

However, after the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, the Shia community have introduced many great scholars, who have been very influential domestically and globally. These scholars developed and delivered new methods of discretion and interpretation, which has helped Shias and even other sects to understand their religion in a more effective approach.

  1. Sheikh Al-Tusi. His full name is Abu Ja’afar Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Tusi, who was born in 996 in modern day Iran. He moved to Baghdad for the purpose of finishing his religious studies under the supervision of scholars like the Great Sheik Al-Mufid and Sayed Al-Murtatha. When Sheikh Al-Tusi realized that Baghdad was not a safe place anymore, due to political instabilities and conflicts, he moved to Najaf and established the seminary (Hawza) of Najaf, which is still active until present day. He is considered one of greatest scholars of Shia Islam and his books and opinions are being taught until this day by scholars. He mastered numerous subjects like, jurisprudence, philosophy, mathematics, theology and medicine.
  2. Sheik Al-Mufid. Sheikh Al-Mufid was born in a small town north of Baghdad named, Ukbara in 948. He migrated to Baghdad and studies alongside the prominent Shia Scholar Sheikh Al-Saduq. He is considered one of the forefathers of philosophical theology, and wrote numerous books in different subjects, which are considered very important resources for Islamic studies. Sheikh Al-Mufid lived during the Golden era of Islamic history and taught some of the Shia Islam’s most prominent Shia scholars.
  3. Sheikh Al-Saduq. Sheikh Al-Saduq is considered one of earliest scholars of Shia Islam during the beginning stages of Imam Al-Mahdi’s occultation. His full name is: Abu Ja’afar Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Babawaih Al-Qummi and he was born in 923, in the city of Qom, which was considered a center for religious studies and intellectual work. He is regarded as the father of Shia jurisprudence and tradition, which makes him an important part of legitimizing many narrations and traditions of Shia Imams.
  4. Mohammad Ibn Ya’qub Al-Kulayni. Born in modern day Iran in 941, during the minor occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, Sheikh Al-Kulayni is considered one of the main tradition and narrations compilers of Shia history. He is the author of “Kitab Al-Kafi”, which is the main book of “Hadith” narrations for Shia Muslims and many of Islamic beliefs and pillars are based on the narrations stated in his book.
  5. Baha’a Al-Din Mohammad Ibn Hussain Al-Amili. He is also known as Sheikh Al-Bahae’e, who was born on February 18th of 1547 in the Amil mount of modern Southern Lebanon. Sheikh Al-Bahae’e is known to be a scholar in jurisprudence, Islamic traditions, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and architecture, and he was also a prominent poet. He migrated to the city of Isfahan during the Safavid era, who ruled Iran for a long time, and Shiekh Al-Bahae’e is considered the founder of Isfahan’s religious school of jurisprudence and philosophy. He wrote 100 books and commentaries in Arabic and Persian, which are being used as primary resources in Islamic studies, and some of the most fascinating architectural and engineering wonders of Islamic era were built by him. From these wonders the famous “Naqshe Jahan Square”, “Charbagh Avenue” and “Manar Jonban” in Isfahan can be mentioned. The Manar Jonban are the famous shaking minarets, which are shakable by hand, without any destruction.
  6. Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Hurr Al-Amili. He is known as Al-Hurr Al-Amili, who was born on April 26th 1624 in Amil mount region of Southern Lebanon. He studied under the wing of his father, who was a prominent Shia scholar and other Shias scholars of that era, which enabled him to receive a permission to teach and transmit narrations. He is one of the authors of Shia Muslims great “Four Books” which is known as “Wasa’el Al-Shia” that has thousands of narrations from the Prophet and his holy household.
  7. Mohammad Baqir Al-Majlisi. His known as Allamah Al-Majlisi, who was born in the city of Isfahan, Iran in 1616. Allamah Al-Majlisi is considered one of the greatest Shia scholars after Sheikh Al-Tusi and Sheikh Al-Saduq, as his legacy is beyond the notion of jurisprudence and Islamic traditions. Allamah Al-Majlisi lived in the era of Saffavid dynasty, and held numerous official and unofficial positions, which transformed the era of traditional Shia seminary into a politically active institution, but with total independence from the political foundation. Allamah Al-Majlisi, studies under the wing of famous Mulla Sadra and other prominent Shia scholars, and he gathered the largest amount of narrations and traditions in Shia history in a book called: “Bihar Al-Anwar”, which translates to “Oceans of Lights”.
  8. Al-Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki. The term ‘Muhaqqiq” is an Arabic word, which means the “researcher” and this name was given to Al-Karaki due to his extensive and precise work in Islamic sciences and intellectual subjects. Muhaqqia Al-Karaki was born in southern Lebanon and studies under the wing of numerous prominent Islamic scholars. Ultimately he travelled to Iran during the Saffavid era and was welcomed by the King and assumed the post of Grand Jurist of Iran. Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki was the first Shia scholar who assumed such a position, and his opinions and intellectual works are taught and examined until this day in Shia seminaries.
  9. The Great Sheikh Murtadha Al-Ansari. He is also referred to as the Great Sheikh. Sheikh Al-Ansari was born in modern day Iran in Dezful, which is located in Khuzestan province in 1803. He started his studies in his hometown and then migrated to Iraq and resided in the city of Najaf. He studies under the wing of some of the most knowledgeable scholars of Shia Islam, like Ayatollah Mohammad Hassan Al-Najafi, Mirza Ahmad Al-Naraqi and Kashif Al-Gheta’a. After the death of his primary teacher, Sheikh Al-Najafi, who was the highest religious authority of Shia Muslims, he assumed that positions based on the suggestion of Sheikh Al-Najafi. His intellectual and jurisprudential work is considered as an essential part of seminary studies, which is one of the main pillars for any individual to become a jurist. Sheikh Al-Ansari’s pupils are considered among the greatest Shia scholars of all times, who include the Great Mirza Al-Shirazi (Tobacco Revolution) and Mohammad Kadhem Al-Khorasani, who wrote another religious book that is being taught until this day in Shia seminaries.
  10. Mirza Mohammad Hassan Al-Shirazi (The great Miraza Al-Shirazi). Mirza Al-Shirazi is considered one of the greatest scholars of Shia Islam, who actually used his religious authority to advert a political policy during the Qajar era. He transferred the Shi’s seminary from the city of Najaf to the city of Samara. The city of Samara is known to have a Sunni majority population, but Mirza Al-Shirazi was known for his tolerant and co-existential conduct toward other Islamic sects. Many of the modern day era scholars of Shia Islam are considered to be the followers of his school, and hundreds of Shia scholars have graduated from under his wing and his pupil’s classes.
  11. Sayed Abul Qasim Al-Khoie. Sayed Al-Khoie is considered one of the greatest modern Shia scholars who had thousands of pupils and his legacy is believed to be continuous for many future decades. He was born in Khoi, Iran, and he migrated to Iraq and attended the lectures of great prominent Shia scholars like, Sheikh Al-Nae’eni, Al-Kompani, Thia al-Deel Al-Iraqi, Mirza Ali Al-Qadhi and other Shia scholars. He assumed the highest religious authority for Shia Muslims after the death of Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakeem and taught thousands of scholars and jurists, who are still alive in present day.
  12. Sayed Mohammad Ibn Mahdi Al-Shirazi. Sayed Al-Shirazi’s legacy is without doubt beyond religious and Islamic studies and subjects, as this Shia scholar has written over one thousand books in a wide range of subjects. He wrote in politics, philosophy, management, sociology, psychology, ethics, history, finance, economic and many other matters that affected the lives of people. In addition, he has written the largest series of jurisprudential series in the history of Shia Islam, which is more than 135 volumes. He presented modern political theories for Islamic governance, which based on pluralism and democracy. Sayed Al-Shirazi was believer in the foundation of institutions and organized efforts, which he thought would be more effective for introducing Islam. He is considered the first Shia scholar to call for taking advantage of mass media production means, and his followers established the first Shia TV network in 2001.

There are hundreds of other scholars, who have enriched the Islamic history with their work, which many Muslims even are not aware of, but these scholars have impacted the Shia schools of thought in numerous ways, which is evident until present day.


Is There an Unaskable Question in Islamic Belief?

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Some Muslim scholars and Muslims as well, give the notion that Islam is very intolerable when it comes to certain subjects and issues, and they are considered taboos, which should not be talked about at any time. Topics like, God’s existence, essence, attributes, origin and other topics like historical events, theological debates, philosophy and authenticity of some Islamic figures. Therefore, the question that arises from this introduction would be: Is there any unaskable question in Islam? Are Muslims and even non-Muslims allowed to ask questions about the religion of Islam, which might be considered very sensitive? Nonetheless, if anyone is allowed to ask any question, are the answers available? Who are the individuals that have the answers to these taboo questions, and are they even legitimate questions?

Islamic Topics & Sensitivity

Unfortunately, Muslims have developed a series of topics and subjects for themselves and places them under the category of TABOO, which has opened a huge gap in their ability to outreach. By dissecting the historical narrations from the time of the Prophet and his holy household, we shall see that Islamic nation and non-Muslims were able to ask some of the most sensitive questions. Imam Ali, had numerous debates with the Jews and Christians, who were eager to ask some of the hardest and sensitive questions, and Imam Ali would answer the questions thoroughly and precisely. Imam Al-Sadeq is known for his debates with atheists and agnostics in the Mosque of Prophet Mohammad in Medina, as some of the tensest and deep theological and philosophical debates have been recorded from that era. Therefore, the issue of sensitivity was not even an issue for that period, which shows Muslims and non-Muslims were able to raise any issue, without any fear of being labeled as infidel or astray. Nevertheless, there must be a set of reasons and variable that transformed the Islamic nation to a nation, which fears to question, criticize, dissect and analyze.

Historical & Political Factors:

The transformation of a Muslim individual into its current reality is rooted back to the history of Muslim empire and the political oppression, which was dominant during the era of after Prophet Mohammad. Many of the dynasties that ruled the Islamic nation developed a condition, which made the notion of questioning subjected to penalization and persecution.

The notion of penalizing the act of questioning and criticism was introduced during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Omar, when Muslims were banned from writing down, memorizing and teaching the narrations of the Prophet. During that period of time, these two Caliphs punished anyone who would talk about the narrations of Prophet Mohammad, or mentions them in the public. Even history books narrate that one of the close companions of Prophet Mohammad was lashed because he read some of the narrations of the Prophet in public. Therefore, by using compulsion and coercive force, the notion of intellectual development and traditional enlightening was banned for several years. As a result, the Muslims were exposed to numerous heresies, which even contradicted the Islamic pillars and teachings. During the time of Omar, Muslims developed new types of prayers that did not exist in the time of Prophet, and many of the teachings of Prophet Mohammad were altered. Therefore, the notion of opposing a direct order and teaching of the Prophet was legitimized and capitalized, and Muslims were not able to do anything about it as well. In addition, even when Imam Ali tried to correct some of the wrong deeds and annul the heresies, which were introduced during the era of the past three Caliphs, he was faced with protests and objection.

Nonetheless, during the Umayyad dynasty the notion of not questioning was taken to another level, when theologians affiliated with the state introduced new interpretations and definitions of Islam. These scholars introduced the ideology of necessitarianism, which developed a new meanings and definitions for many of what circumstances and actions that were taking place in that era. Necessitarianism is the notion that all things (good & bad) are the will of God, and humans have no control over them. Therefore, if a Muslim ruler happens to be a tyrant, it is the will of God, and Muslims cannot arise against him, as such an action would be considered arising against the will of God. In addition, this type of ideology would result in total authority for the ruling class to limit and minimize many of the Islamic teachings, and contain the Muslims masses to prevent them from any tendency to rise against the Muslims tyrant. Unfortunately the implications of this ideology was not only political, as it disseminated into a wider range of aspects and Islamic beliefs. This type of ideology fueled the radicalization of Muslims to an extent where, if someone was punished, persecuted or killed due to his/her belief about a specific issue, it was believed that his belief was responsible for his/her destiny and not the one who killed or persecuted him/her.

The other ideology that was introduced by the Umayyad and Abbasids, was the notion of Fatalism, which argued that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable, which made free will impossible. Therefore, these kinds of ideologies killed any tendency to question and criticize, since persecution and death was inevitable due to the notion of fatalism. The Islamic nation, which was known for its intellectual superiority and advancement was gradually transforming and becoming an irrational and illogical nation that would accept anything and anyone.

Contemporary Culture of Ignorance:

The current state of unnecessary submission that Muslims seem to be going through, is associated with numerous contemporary political and ideological religious variables, which prevents any notion of intellectual advancement and reform. The continuous confiscatory policies of the regimes in the Islamic world, has left a large portion of Muslims without any apprehension of their true religious duty, which is spread of equality, intellect, prosperity and fighting oppression. Therefore, a culture of ignorance has emerged and this situation is similar to a black cloud that is following Muslims regardless of their efforts to better their conditions. Unfortunately, even the Arab Spring was a re-action to a lengthy implementation of wrong policies, due to economic and social hardships, which created substantial grievances. Therefore, Muslims are still afraid to question and criticize their literature and taboo subjects, which is paving the way for radical groups to misuse this gap and recruit uneducated individuals for their purposes and agendas. Majority of Muslims are unable to determine whether a specific Islamic figure had a positive of negative impact on Islamic history, and most of them lack any knowledge about the pillars and foundations of their religion. The primary source of any information for majority of Muslims are the books and literature, which were written centuries ago, by the scholars associated with the regimes that were ruling the Muslims. Therefore, the possibility of advancement and reform is similar to running in a circle.

Resolutions:

The Muslims must come to a decision to separate their religious institutions from the states, and force them present the true teachings of Islam far away from the influence of political tendencies and agendas.  The notion of taking advantage of religion is an important tool for governments to seek legitimacy and containment means. Therefore, it would in the best interest of the religious foundation and the masses to separate religion from politics, which will enable the scholars to present different picture for Islam. Religious innovation would enable the Muslims to revive their faith and abide by its teachings, which would make them able to understand the necessities of their period and ultimately answer all the unanswered questions.

Islam has the answer to all questions and as any Muslims believes, it is a way of life that presents a solution for any equation and hardship. Therefore, by returning to the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet and his holy household, Muslims will be able to uncover new dimensions and approaches for many challenges, which the world is facing.

The Quran orders Muslims to ASK the people of knowledge if they don’t know. The notion of ASKING is not limited to any aspect of specific boundary, which encourages them to seek knowledge and advance themselves on all levels. In addition, the Quran and Prophet Mohammad have identified the people of knowledge for Muslims and gave a guarantee to Muslims that they will not go astray if they abide by them. Therefore, Islam has given Muslims a complete package, which enables them to fulfill their potentials and live up to their full abilities and wealth.

The Current Scholars of Shia Muslims

Who are the scholars that Shias around the globe follow?

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

In a previous article, the rationale behind the notion of following a scholar or an Ayatollah by all Shi’a Muslims was clarified and presented. In addition, the article presented a clear definition about the legitimacy, characteristics and details of a qualified jurist, who is eligible for this post according to the narration of Shi’a Imams and Prophet Mohammad. However, in this article we shall present the names of current prominent and legitimate scholars who are being followed by millions of Shi’as around the world.

As discussed in the previous article, the statement of Imam Al-Askari clarified the notion that the possibility of rouge and corrupt scholars is always present, and therefore, he have clear and specific guidelines for identifying such cases. Nevertheless, at the present time there are eight prominent scholars, who are being followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe, and these scholars are agreed to be the most pious and knowledgeable by all sides and schools of thoughts.

  1. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Ali Al-Sistani. He is the highest religious authority of Shi’a Muslims at the present time, who resides in the city of Najaf in Iraq. There is no official survey about the number of followers this scholar has, but it is believed that he has the highest number of followers in the world. Ayatollah Al-Sistani was born in Iraq, but he migrated to Iraq when he was a child and remained there ever since. He is considered one of the great pupils of late Ayatollah Khoie, who is still considered one of the greatest scholars Shi’a Islam has ever known.
  2. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Sae’ed Al-Hakeem. Ayatollah Al-Hakeem was born in the city of Najaf, Iraq in 1936. He attended the lectures of his late father, Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Ali Al-Hakeem, his late Grand Father, Ayatollah Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakeem, Ayatollah Ali Al-Hilli and Ayatollah Khoie. Currently, Ayatollah Hakeem resides in the city of Najaf and he is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
  3. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Al-Najafi. Ayatollah Al-Najafi was born in the city of Jalandhar in 1942 (British India & Current Pakistan). He migrated to the city of Najaf, Iraq in early 1960s and stayed there for the purpose of studying in the religious seminaries of Najaf. He attended the lectures of Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Al-Rouhani and Ayatollah Al-Khoie. He is still residing in Najaf, Iraq and his followers are millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
  4. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Ishaq Al-Fayath. He is from an Afghani origin, who was born in 1930 in Afghanistan. He migrated with his family to Najaf, Iraq when he was ten years old, and entered the Shi’a seminaries and started his long journey in religious studies. He attended the lectures of late Ayatollah Al-Khoie and many other grand jurists in the city of Najaf. Currently, he resides in the city of Najaf and has many followers around the globe.
  5. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Wahid Al-Khorasani. He is considered the leader of Qom seminary, although he does not have an official post. Ayatollah Khorasani has millions of followers around the globe, and his religious authority is compared similar to Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq. He was born in the city of Nishabur, Iran. He migrated to the city of Najaf in 1962 and attended the lectures of Ayatollah Khoie and returned to Iran in 1972.
  6. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Al-Rouhani. Ayatollah Rouhani is considered one of the few individuals who finished the high levels of Shi’a seminaries in his teenage years. He was born in the city of Qom, Iran in 1926. He migrated to the city of Najaf and attended the lectures of late Ayatollah Al-Khoie, Ayatollah Kompani, Ayatollah AboulHassan Isfahani and other Grand Ayatollahs. His extensive intellect and knowledge is acknowledged by many Shi’a scholars and he is considered one of the most knowledgeable scholars of modern era. Ayatollah Rouhani is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe, and currently he resides in the city of Qom.
  7. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Sadeq Al-Shirazi. Ayatollah Al-Shirazi is part of a family line that has given so many scholars and thinkers to the Islamic nation. His father and brother were Grand Ayatollahs as well, and he is considered one of the most knowledgeable jurists alive at the present time. He was born in city of Karbala, Iraq in 1942, and he attended the lectures of his late father, Ayatollah Sayed Mahdi Al-Shirazi, his late brother Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Al-Shirazi, Ayatollah Sayed Hadi Al-Milani and Ayatollah Sayed Mohammad Redha Al-Isfahani. Ayatollah Shirazi is followed by millions of Shi’a Muslims around the globe.
  8. Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani. Ayatollah Golpaygani is one of the oldest Shi’a scholars alive in the present time, as he was born in 1919, in the city of Golpaygan, Iran. He attended the lectures of Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi and many other great scholars. At the present time, Ayatollah Golpaygani resides in the city of Qom, Iran and he is considered one of the major religious authorities in Iran, who is being followed by many Shi’a Muslims.
  9. Grand Ayatollah Sayed Taqi Al-Qomi. He is the son of Grand Ayatollah Sayed Hussein Al-Qomi, who is known for his role in the Iranian constitutional revolution. Ayatollah Qomi was born in the city of Mash’had, Iran in 1923. He migrated to Iraq in 1936 and studied in the seminaries of Karbala and Najaf and attended the lectures of his father, and Ayatollah Sayed Hadi Al-Milani, Ayatollah Al-Khoie and many other scholars. Currently, he resides in the city of Qom, and has many followers around the world.

Why Does a Shia Muslim Follow a Scholar?

Concept of TAQLEED

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Seeking the consultation of an expert has become a norm and a random measure, which any human would take, if he/she faces a problem that requires external help. A sick person would visit a physician, and someone who needs to repair his/her vehicle would seek the help of a certified mechanic. Therefore, this concept is something that humans have coped with and consider a necessity for life. Islam has given a substantial amount of importance to the concept of asking and consulting the knowledgeable and people of intellect and cognition. The 16th chapter of Quran in the 43rd verse say: “So, ask the people of knowledge if you do not know”. The 39th chapter of Quran in the 9th verse states: “Say, are those who know equal to those who do not know?” Therefore, there are numerous verses in the Quran and traditions and quotes by the Prophet and his holy household that suggest, Shi’a Muslims must always seek the help and guidance of a righteous Imam (leader).

Shi’a Muslims and Muslims in general believe that Islam is a way of life, and their religion has the answers to aspects of life, and therefore, due to the complexity of the literature and Islamic traditions, the necessity of experts in religion and theological subjects presents itself. During the time of the Prophet and his holy household, their presence filled the need for experts, since their absolute knowledge about the Quran and the real teaching of Islam was sufficient for their followers. In addition, Shi’a Muslims from all over the Islamic nation travelled to Medina and Mecca to meet the Imams and seek help for their questions and problems.

As discussed in previous articles, the notion of occultation is one of the mandatory beliefs of Shi’a Islam, which includes believing in the presence of the 12th Imam, who is Imam Al-Mahdi. Imam Al-Mahdi was born in 869, and in 941 his started his major occultation after a 72 years minor occultation. He is believed to be still alive, and present on this planet, and no one knows his real identity, although he lives among people and helps them all, when they seek his help. Therefore, some narrations suggest that when Imam Al-Mahdi returns and everyone finds out about his true identity, they all say: we have seen this man before. However, during the minor occultation, Imam Al-Mahdi communicated with his followers through four ambassadors, and those four ambassadors were chosen by the Imam, based on their piety and modesty. Prior to the beginning of Imam Al-Mahdi’s major occultation, which is still in effect, he wrote a letter to the Shi’a Muslims and announced the will of Allah, which mandated his being in an occultation, for a an unknown period of time, and he shall return at the end of time. Upon his return, Imam Al-Mahdi, shall fill this earth with justice and equality, after it has been filled with tyranny and oppression. However, the Imam orders his followers (Shi’a Muslims) to refer back to the narrators of Traditions (AHADEETH). Imam Al-Mahdi orders his followers to follow the scholars of his nation and seek their help in the issues of religion, and abide by their orders.

Imam Hasan Al-Askari, who is the father of Imam Al-Mahdi, in a long narration presents the characteristics of a scholar that Shi’a Muslims are supposed to follow and embrace. Imam Al-Askari states: “and whomever, from the jurists is maintainer of his soul, protective of his faith, opposing to his inclination, obedient to the orders of his master, therefore, it is for the ordinary people to follow him”. This narration by Imam Al-Askari, shows the necessity of the concept of following a scholars, which is called (TAQLEED) in Arabic.

However, Imam Al-Askari projected the possibility of rouge scholars exposing themselves as righteous individuals and asking random people to follow them. The Prophet of Islam, considers the notion of following a corrupt scholar, as being worse than a physical confrontation, since such an action would hurt physically, but following a corrupt scholar would result in annihilation and intellectual destruction. Therefore, Imam Al-Askari continues on with his tradition and gives the details about the characteristics of a righteous scholars, who is worthy of being followed and has the blessing of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household. Imam Al-Askari says: “and, that would not mean all Shi’a scholars, since the one who adopts the corrupts and undesired teachings of our enemies shall not be honored and followed. Therefore, do not accept anything from them, and they shall have no dignity. The large amount of admixture in our statements and teachings, would make some corrupt scholars to misuse, our words and distort the meanings of them, due to their lack of knowledge. Others, would lie and say what we have not said, so they can gain wealth or position from this world, which shall be their fuel in hell. Their lies and distortions, would expand and expand to an extent where Shi’a Muslims would consider their statements, as part of our legacy and traditions. These types of scholars are worse than the army of Yazid Ibn Muawiya, who killed Imam Hussein and his companions in Karbala”.

Therefore, the Imams of Shi’a Islam have clarified the path for their followers to determine their responsibility and tasks during the times of hardships and calamities. Following a scholar, would make life much easier for a Shi’a Muslim, since he/she does not have to spend years and learn the details and methods to understand the Quran. These righteous scholars and Ayatollahs spend decades in seminaries and religious schools, studying the knowledge of Quran and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household. Their studies would include subject and other fields like: Mathematics, science, biology, finance, philosophy, theology, politics and many other fields of knowledge that enable a scholar in comprehending the world in a more clear way.

However, history of Shi’a Islam after the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi is filled with examples of rogue and corrupt scholars, who led many people astray and away from the religion of Islam. Some scholars used this position as a mean of collecting wealth and prestige among the people, and others used it as a way to seek affiliation with the tyrants and oppressors. Nonetheless, the righteous and pious scholars of Shi’a Islam were always aware and cautious for these types of examples, and had a strict guideline, which they abided by. Therefore, every time they felt there was a need for a clear and public statement to expose a corrupt scholar, they did not hesitate to show their opinion and present the solutions for Shi’a Muslims.

The concept of Taqleed, is considered a logical and rational necessity, which is mandated by intellect and power of sense. Therefore, it cannot be considered as (Blindly following), since its purpose is to ease the responsibility of random people by seeking the help on an expert.

Science and Religion Are Compatible

 By Ali Reza

People in secular and semi secular societies nowadays believe that science is the only way of knowing and understanding the environment around us and our purpose . However nothing could farther than truth. Science bases its knowledge based on on empirical evidence and explanations that are examinable. Many religious claims cannot be examined using scientific methods therefore it is hard for science to replace ideologies and religions because domain of science is limited to such factual examinable evidence.

Religion Says God Created the World but Doesn’t Say How

Monotheistic scriptures such as Torah, Bible, and Nobel Quran claim God created the world but they don’t say how! Hence this is where science attempts to explains how the world was created or came together and doesn’t focus so much on wisdom of it (why it was created).

For example biological evolution on the surface may seem to be at odds with many religions. For example the origins of species where species may have come from single organism may be hard to digest for those religious denominations that take their texts literal but many religious scholar and denominations now agree with evolution at some level mainly because of the overwhelming evidence that makes a strong case for  evolution that cannot disputed.

Many religious texts also indeed agree with some sort of evolutionary creation of universe and earth because there are texts available that agree that creation has been taking a very low process that could have happened occurring over billions of years.

Creation in 6 Days 
Islamic traditions and scriptures similar to Bible claim that God created the world in 6 days. This is a mistranslation of text because in Quran the word “yaum” has been used in Arabic. In language of Arabic, the word yaum could mean day but it could also mean duration or phase.

In fact, Shia’s 6th Imam, Imam Jafar Sadiqh (a), who is respected by all Muslims and regarded to be a true scholar of knowledge,  confirmed that meaning of that verse is 6 “God’s day” or in other words it is indeed 6 phases and he confirmed process of creation took a very long time. (more to come about this in an upcoming post).  Imam Sadiq lived centuries ago around 770 or 702–765 C.E so this acknowledging slow process of creation isn’t something new in Islamic faith.

In recent years, many similar statements observing that evolution at some level exists has been issued by religious scholars and the tenets of their faiths are compatible with this idea.

Scientists and well knowledge scholars of faith and theologians have written eloquent articles about their wonder at the history of earth and universe attempting to explain that there is see no conflict between science and faith in God and religion. Only religious denominations that deny evolution and scientific discoveries tend to be among those denominations that have strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.

Science and Religion Are Compatible

It is among many scholars’ of faith and science expert opinion that science and religion are fully compatible but they are based on different aspects of human experience, intellect and understanding.

Science tends to explain matters based on measurable evidence when examining different subjects. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend on such empirical evidence because religion attempts to explain supernatural world which cannot be investigated by science. Hence science and religion can not be incompatible because science and religion are separate and address different questions of humans.

In fact many believe and science and religion are complementary as complete each other. Science is so much focused on explaining the “hows” or “whys” but religion is focused on the ultimate purpose and wisdom of creating, many believe that both could lead to perfection of humanity and human experiance.

Journey of a Muslim Convert to Shia Islam


This entry below is a contributed content written by brother in faith Robert Silva who is a revert to Shia Islam. The author’s views below are entirely his  and may not reflect the views of Shia Wisdom. 


By Revert Brother Robert Silva
Jafar-Residi

Today is the last day of Rabi Al-Thani, and it is my privilege to share my thoughts on Islam, and especially my own journey to the Deen of Allah (swt). Anything Good I May Say Comes From Allah (swt), and the Mistakes Are My Own.
A brief bit of background on me: I was raised Roman Catholic.  I attended Catholic school as a child but went on to public high school.  There was no particular emphasis on religion in my home growing up. My mother took us to church, and although sometimes he went, my father’s beliefs remain a mystery to me.  He seemed to be at best mixed in his views.  As I got older, I explored other belief systems and religions.  I read and explored Buddhism and  especially the Zen school.  I felt that these still left a lot of unanswered questions for me.  I came back to Christianity at the age of 25.  I couldn’t explain exactly why, but there felt to be some sort of a pull, although I had rejected as man-made many of the practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church.  I began attending weekly services at a small Episcopal church near where I grew up.  I remained there for several years.  I was active in the church and found myself believing that I had a call to vocation.  I began the discernment process and started down the road to becoming a priest.

 

I can say that they draw toward the Protestant expression of Christianity was very much impacted by a growing dissatisfaction toward emphasis on man-made rules, rituals, and traditions.  I began to read the Bible intensively and I set out to live my life based upon the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him).  The more I read, the more clearly the message seemed to be that there is one God who alone deserves the worship of humanity and that we have a responsibility to keep His commandments, as well as a responsibility to feed and clothe the needy.  The further I went, I found thinking that confused me.  I could not get past the notion of vicarious atonement (why would God have to become human and die in order to forgive man’s sins?  If God is all powerful, there is no need of that.) I also could not understand the doctrine of a trinity.  How could there be one God but three distinct “Gods” at the same time? I would later discover a simple and beautiful answer to that which I will share now:

 

Surat Al-‘Ikhlāş (The Sincerity)

English Tafsir (translation): Pickthall

Say He is Allah the One!
Allah Eternally besought by all!
He begetteth not nor was begotten.
And there is none comparable to Him.

The more I became exposed to the Qur’an and the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the more drawn I was toward this belief system of simplicity in its message.  The more I read and learned, the more I came to understand that it is all encompassing and that the message of Islam seemed to be built upon prior revelation and earlier beliefs.  As I compared the teachings of Islam to the teachings of Jesus (pbuh), I found that they were not contradictory at all.  In fact they seemed to come from the same source.  Where things diverged was when it got into the stories of the crucifixion and resurrection.  I later found a direct response to this in Qur’an, where Allah (swt) directly says not to refer to the trinity and that Jesus himself was never crucified.  For the purposes of this discussion, I cannot explore that path further, as it will certainly take a great deal of time and citation; however I can say that Surah Maryam (Mary) speaks on this matter clearly, and clearly states that the Prophets sent to the chosen people of Israel from the time of Abraham to Jesus, peace be upon them all, to the final Prophet and Messenger to humanity, Muhammad (pbuh) came from the same God and with the same message: there is no god but Allah.  This understanding of Qur’an as being the last revelation to humankind was essential to me.  As I read the English rendering of it and pondered it’s meaning, I found that it confirmed that the source of the revelations was the same.  The Torah of the Jews and the Gospel of the Christians came from the same source.  The progressive revelation was made only to correct where humanity had gotten it wrong and either corrupted the text or innovated in practice.  This began to make so much more sense with the concerns that plagued me about why the practices of christians as a whole were so divergent from the teachings of Jesus (pbuh).

Before I go further, I need to clarify a few important terms and points.  The first point is why Muslims use the word Allah for God.  One of the most important things to mention about Islam is the simple profession of faith that there is nothing worthy of worship beside Allah (swt) and that Muhammad (pbuh) is the Prophet and Messenger of Allah.  Unlike the word for deity in other languages, Allah is the perfected Arabic word for God.  It cannot be pluralized and it has no gender.  In English, the word “God” could be used to denote the God of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, or it could be referring to pagan deities.  In English, the word “god” can be pluralized and can also have gender.  Arabic also has the word “ilah,” which is the equivalent of the English word “god.”  It is important to know that Arab Jews and Christians also use the word Allah.  After using the word Allah, often you will see (swt); this stands for Subhanau wa ta’ala, which in English is Glorified and Exalted be He.

Another peculiarity of a writing by a Muslim is the fact that anytime the name or office of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is mentioned, it is followed by (pbuh), which means Peace be upon him.  It is incumbent on the Muslims to say this whenever the Prophet (pbuh) is mentioned.  This is true of all Prophets, including the Biblical Prophets from Adam to Jesus (peace be upon them all).

So what then is Islam?  Having touched on my journey toward it, I suppose it is important to explain what Islam is in the first place.  Islam is the obedience and submission to Allah (swt) in peace and sincerity.  Simply speaking, it is living our lives as our Maker intended for us to.  This leads to an interesting point with the word Muslim.  Unlike in English, where we add the suffix “er” to an action in describing one who does said action (for example one who travels is called a traveller), in Arabic, the prefix “mu” is done to accomplish the same thing.  So like traveller, one who travels, roughly rendered in Arabic would be musafir.  This is important because one can say “I’m Catholic” or “I’m Protestant,” but this is a label for their identity based on a number of factors, of course including belief.  Islam is different because in order to be a Muslim, you have to do what is required of you according to the commandments of Allah (swt).  This to be a Muslim, one needs to do Islam.

Another key point in understanding Islam and Muslims is that Islam is not a religion in the sense that English speakers understand the word.  The word religion is the closest fit to the Arabic word “deen.”  It does not completely render the meaning of the word, however.  Deen is a complete way of life.  Our Deen is not based upon what we believe alone, but that we combine correct action in accordance with the sources of Islam: Qur’an and Sunnah.  Now it is important to point out that different schools of Islamic thought differ on the Sunnah.  Although I originally came to Islam through the Sunni Hanafi school.  Since then, I have become a follower of the Ja’fari (also known as Twelver Shi’a) school.  Ultimately, I prefer to simply call myself a Muslim.

I do have to  digress for a moment to discuss what led me to the Twelver school of Islam.  So what was it that drew me to the school of Ahul Al Bayt?  I have tried many times to explain this, but it is difficult to explain. Before I started the process of trying to attend seminary, a priest who was a friend of mine, Reverend Mark Galloway said to me “If God wants you, He’ll get you.”  Those words were uncannily accurate.  I went through a year of “discernment” to determine whether or not I believed that I was being called to the priesthood.  Toward the end of that year, I remember vividly praying and being in a state of intense emotion to the point of tears and begging God to guide me.  Alhamdulillah, He did.  Not long after, I was reading a Norton Anthology of literature and it included the (translated) verses of Qur’an that I mentioned earlier, which dealt with `Isa ibn Maryam (pbuh) and Maryam (as). I had not sought these out, but rather had stumbled upon them.  Truth be told I was just leafing through the book and came across them. As a person who does not believe in coincidence, I was now paying attention.  I began to investigate and came across many excellent websites that made the case for Islam very powerfully.  Unfortunately these sites also warned against the Shi’a and argued that the belief of the Shi’a was kufr and that the Shi’a were a deviated sect.

At that point, I did not investigate further, but I went down the road of the Hanafi school of thought.  I practiced fairly strictly for a time, but lapsed a bit.  I am sad to say that I had been lax in my prayers and had not attended Jumah in some time.  In 2014, Alhamdulillah, I did attend Friday prayers and again, I was stricken by the masterful work of Allah (SWT) I had been lax for a while and randomly went back.  I was completely unaware of what I would learn next.  What I learned was that Ramadan would start the next Saturday.  I made resolution to fast Ramadan (2014/1435) was my first successful Ramadan alhamdulillah.

During that time, I felt a huge urge to read about the Shi’a and I began to do so.  I was still somewhat on the fence, but I came across so many arguments that made sense, whether it be about the succession to the Prophet (PBUH) or the concept of the Imamate, whether about things like combining prayers, or making salat on a turbah, it all made so much more sense.  In addition to this Islam seemed to be easier to practice.  Indeed it was not intended to bring hardship to believers.  Properly understood, everything in the Shi’a theology and practice was completely compatible with my understanding as a Hanafi (which I was at the time).  The proverbial icing on the cake was when I learned that Imam Ja’far al Sadiq was Abu Hanifa’s teacher, subhanallah!  I also read teachings from Shi’a Ulema that said the Sunni were Muslims, but more in the exoteric sense only.  The Shi’a taught that one does not declare takfir on a Muslim, and yet the loudest voices from the Salafi and hardline Sunni brothers was that the Shi’a were kafir.  Auzubillah!  I also began to consider how many wildly unislamic movements and militants came from the Salafi influenced climate that has dominated the Muslim world since the rise of the house of Saud.  How many militant Shi’a movements are there? None that I am aware of.  All of them fight in defense almost exclusively.  As an American I was taught that Hezbollah were terrorists, and yet when did they fight?  Only when provoked as in Lebanon.

I feel that in His infinite love and mercy, Allah (SWT) always answered my du’a for guidance.  He guided me to credible and reasonable writings on Shi’a Islam and the more I read, most especially the Lantern of the Path by Imam Sadiq (AS) I felt that this could not be anything but truth.

As I had mentioned earlier, the sources of Islamic law is the Qur’an and the Sunnah.  The Qur’an is the recitation of revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  It is important to note that the Qur’an is only in Arabic.  Any translation to another language is no longer Qur’an.  It is called Tafsir.  This is important because it protects the text from being manipulated or from errors in translation and copying.  Even a cursory study of the history of the Bible reveals very surprising and worrisome facts about centuries of accumulated errors in translation and copying.  Qur’an as it is now is the same as when it was revealed 1435 years ago.  Viewed in that light and considering that Qur’an was revealed as a guidance to humanity, that it was sent to confirm what was right in the scripture of the People of the Book and to correct what was erroneous, it was compelling to me when I realized that the  word Bible is Koine Greek for “the book.”  Incidentally the Qur’an refers to the believers in previous scripture as “People of the Book.”

Although I cannot explore interfaith relations as well as I would like to for the purposes of this discussion, it is important to note that Muslims hold the scripture of the Christians and Jews in high esteem and believe that it too was sent from the same God.  We believe in it as it was revealed to them and we believe that there is no contradiction between the original revelation and Qur’an.  In light of that, irrespective of the horrors in the world today, we believe that all religion belongs to Allah (swt) and that there can be no compulsion in religion.  Just as Jesus (pbuh) said: judge not lest ye be judged, so too does Islam say that the only one worthy of judging is the only God worthy of worship. 

In light of the common source of revelation, it is important to point out that the story of Creation is essentially the same, although there are key distinctions.  Unlike the Jewish and Christian texts that put God in the creation as he walks the Garden looking for Adam, and unlike the Jewish and Christian texts that allege that the devil is a fallen angel, Qur’an says very clearly that Adam (pbuh) is deceived by the whisperings of the rebellions Jinn Iblis, who never had the power to make him sin, only the guile to lead him astray.  The Qur’an affirms that nothing happens unless it is willed to happen by Allah (swt) and that our finite human intellect cannot comprehend the plans of Allah (swt) much less His nature.  Key distinctions, however from the Jewish and Christian texts is that the creation of the universe happened in six periods.  For a better understanding of this, I would like to refer to the following article, which I believe demonstrates a reasonable reconciliation between science and faith.  The following article is called Creation in Six Days and is written by Harun Yahya.  It can be found on www.miraclesofthequran.com.  It is worth mentioning that brother Yahya and I do not agree on all things.  Indeed, he takes many positions with which I disagree, but the reconciliation of scientific inquiry and revealed scripture was among many things that drew me to Islam and led me to conclude that it is without a doubt the truth.  Following is a brief excerpt from the article by Harun Yahya.

CREATION IN SIX DAYS

Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then settled Himself firmly on the Throne… (Qur’an, 7:54)

One example of the harmony between the Qur’an and modern science is the subject of the age of the universe. Cosmologists estimate the age of the universe as 16-17 billion years. The Qur’an states that the entire universe was created in six days. These two time frames, which may seem contradictory, are actually surprisingly compatible. In fact, both these figures concerning the age of the universe are correct. In other words, the universe was created in six days, as revealed in the Qur’an, and this period corresponds to 16-17 billion years in the way that we experience time.

In 1915 Einstein proposed that time was relative, that the passage of time altered according to space, the speed of the person travelling and the force of gravity at that moment. Bearing in mind these differences in the passage of time, the period of time in which the universe was created as revealed in seven different verses of the Qur’an is actually highly compatible with scientists’ estimations. The six-day period revealed in the Qur’an can be thought of as six periods. Because, taking into account the relativity of time, a “day” refers only to a 24-hour period experienced on Earth under current conditions. Elsewhere in the universe, however, at another time and under other conditions, a “day” could refer to a much longer period of time. Indeed, the word “ayyamin” in the period of six days (sittati ayyamin) in these verses (Qur’an 32:4, 10:3, 11:7, 25:59, 57:4, 50:38, and 7:54) means not only “days,” but also “age, period, moment, term.”

In the first period of the universe, the passage of time took place much faster than that with which we are familiar today. The reason for this is that, at the moment of the Big Bang, our universe was compressed into a very small point. The expansion of the universe and increase in its volume ever since the moment of that explosion has extended the borders of the universe to millions of light years. Indeed, the stretching of space ever since that moment has had very important ramifications for universal time.

The energy at the moment of the Big Bang slowed down the flow of time 1012 (one million million) times. When the universe was created the speed of universal time was higher up to a million million times, as time is experienced today. In other words, a million million minutes on Earth is the equivalent of just one minute in universal time.

When a six-day period of time is calculated according to the relativity of time, it equates to six million million (six trillion) days. That is because universal time flows a million million times faster than time on Earth. Calculated in terms of years, 6 trillion days equates to approximately 16.427 billion years. This is within the estimated range for the age of the universe.

6,000,000,000,000 days/365.25 = 16.427104723 billion years

Allah, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sustaining. He is not subject to drowsiness or sleep. Everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them but they cannot grasp any of His knowledge save what He wills. His Footstool encompasses the heavens and the earth and their preservation does not tire Him. He is the Most High, the Magnificent.
(Qur’an, 2:255)

On the other hand, each of the six days of creation equates to very different periods, as we perceive time. The reason for this is that the speed of the passage of time declines in proportion to the expansion of the universe. Ever since the Big Bang, as the size of the universe doubled, so the passage of time halved. As the universe grew, the speed at which the universe doubled increasingly slowed down. This rate of expansion is a scientific fact acknowledged the world over and described in the text book The Fundamentals of Physical Cosmology. When we calculate every day of creation in terms of Earth time, the following situation emerges:

  • Looked at from the moment when time began, the first day of creation (first phase) lasted 24 hours. This period, however, is the equivalent of 8 billion years in Earth terms.
  • The second day of creation (second phase) lasted 24 hours. This, however, lasted half as long, in our terms, as the preceding day, in other words 4 billion years.
  • The third day (third phase) lasted half as long as the second day, in other words 2 billion years.
  • The fourth day (fourth phase) lasted 1 billion years.
  • The fifth day (fifth phase) lasted 500 million years.
  • And the sixth day (sixth phase) lasted 250 million years.
  • Conclusion: When the six days of creation, in other words the six phases, are added together in Earth terms, the resulting figure is 15 billion 750 million years. This figure displays an enormous parallel with modern-day estimations.

This conclusion is one of the facts revealed by 21st century science. Science has once again confirmed a fact revealed in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago. This harmony between the Qur’an and science is one of the miraculous proofs that the Qur’an is the revelation of Allah, the Creator, the Omniscient.

I cite this article because I believe that Islam is the only way of life that encourages both belief and reason.  Muslims are commanded to use reason and intellect.  We are not told to simply take things on blind faith, but rather encouraged to explore and learn more about them.  There should never be a debate about creation versus evolution, because if the same God can create, then surely that same God allows for his creatures to evolve and to change.  In fact Surah 59:24 confirms exactly that.  Below is the English rendering of that verse by Yusuf Ali:

He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

As I have attempted to explain, the source of all revelation is the same and there is no contradiction between belief and science.  Science, we must remember is the product of fallible and finite human constructs.  Although great progress has been made, we must never make human achievement as a deity unto itself.  Likewise, we must never discount reason and intellect. 

As for the Sunnah as the second source of Islamic law, I found that sufficient evidence could be found from Sunni sources to prove the succession of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS).  In addition to this, I found that certain historical figures and sahaba were not as pious as I had been led to believe.  Frankly, the more I learned about Mu’awiya and Yazid, the more shocked I was.  How could we say these men were holy simply because they were in close proximity to the Prophet (PBUH)?

The answer to the issue with the misconceptions that my Sunni brothers followed could be found in the quintessential Sunni source, Sahih al Bukhari:

Saeed Ibn Al Musayeb said his father said, the Prophet said, “Some of my companions (Sahaba) will go to a river in Paradise, but they will be taken away, so I will call on God, “My companions (Sahaba),” but I will be told, “You do not know what they did after you. They turned back on their heel”

When I considered that, I felt that though there were righteous and pious companions, without a doubt, we cannot accept all of them without a critical consideration of their lives.  Under similar scrutiny, all Shi’a beliefs about the Ahul Al Bayt were absolutely consistent with the Qur’an and plain reason.  Whether this be the record of their pious lives, or the notion of intercession (remember the Imams (AS) were all martyred.  In light of what I had learned, I had no doubt to the best form of Islam and the most reliable examples.  We do not follow the Imams (AS); we follow the Prophet (PBUH) through the sterling example of and the wise teachings of the Imams (AS), all of which is absolutely consisent with the Holy Qur’an.


Why Most of Shia Imams are Buried in Iraq?

Iraq & Shi’a Muslims

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

When the name IRAQ is mentioned majority of people tend to think of ancient Mesopotamia, Babylon Gardens, Hammurabi’s code of laws, the Akkadians and many historical realities, which chose this place to exist. However, there are other notions that are revived every time the name of Iraq is mentioned, which distort the image of this beautiful nation and its long history of tolerance and diversity that accepted numerous ethnic and religious groups alongside each other. The one fact that makes Iraq a unique place with all its minorities and different ethnicities, is its majority population, and their acceptance of others along with their continuous struggle against tyrants and regimes.

Iraq’s majority population are Shi’a Muslims, and it has been like that for centuries, which gives this groups a historical depth and root within the sociological foundation of this country. However, the majority of Iraq’s population wasn’t always the Shi’as, and there are numerous historical, political and religious aspects, which caused this demographic transformation. The actual map of this nation has been subjected to many changes throughout history, but there were always political and geographical facts that mandated certain realities upon this part of the world that could not exclude specific parts.

Iraq of Basra & Iraq of Kufa

The southern city of Basra was founded in 636 as an encampment for Arab for tribesmen and armies of the Islamic state, and gradually it became a civilized position due to its location, which was near the Persian Gulf. Throughout the Islamic history Basra witnessed numerous battle and confrontations, and was the host to the first Islamic civil war, which was raged by Ayesha (wife of the Prophet) against Imam Ali (the rightful Caliph of Prophet Mohammad, SAWS).

Kufa, which is located in central Iraq was founded in 637, and it was founded as a military camp and command center during the Caliphate of Omar Ibn Khattab. However, Kufa came to be known for its Arab tribes, who were loyal to Imam Ali, which was considered a hub for Shi’a Muslims. When Imam Ali became the Caliph, he transferred his capital from Medina to Kufa, and chose this city as the center of his Caliphate. During this era, many of the followers of Imam Ali migrated to this country and resided in different parts of this land, and Iraq officially became to be known as the center for Shi’a Muslims. This was a huge factor for later Sunni dynasties to assign their most brutal governors for Kufa and Basra, since they had realized, these places (Basra and Kufa) would become the spark locations revolts and uprisings.

Shi’a Imams & Iraq

  • Imam Ali (a): Imam Ali moved the capital city of Muslim Empire from Medina and Kufa as mentioned above, which was a huge factor in many of his followers migrating to this place. In addition, the centrality of place made Iraq a strategic place politically, socially and militarily, since it was close to Persia, which was the newly conquered nation under the Muslim’s rule. It was close to the Levant and it was considered as central defence location against possible Roman invasion from the north. Ultimately, Imam Ali was assassinated in Kufa, while he was praying and he was buried in modern day city of Najaf, which was the outskirts of Kufa during that time.
  • Imam Al-Hussein (a): Imam Al-Hussein, who is the third Imam of Shi’a Muslims came to Iraq after the ruler of his time, Yazid Ibn Muawiya, who was known for his corruption and was hated by majority of Muslims, decided to either assassinate him or force him to give allegiance. Therefore, Imam Al-Hussein decided to leave Medina and go to Mecca for Haj, which later he found out that Yazid would not hesitate in violating the holiness of Mecca for the purpose of killing him. Finally, Imam Al-Hussein left Mecca for Iraq after he received thousands of invitations from dignitaries of Kufa. Prior to his arrival, the army of Yazid surrounded Imam Al-Hussein in a place called vally of Karbala, which is modern day city of Karbala. In a historic battle, Yazid’s army, which exceeded thirty thousand troops stood against Imam Al-Hussein and his seventy two companions. The battle of Karbala represented the victory of blood over sword, and how a small group are glorified through their ultimate sacrifice, and how a large group are doomed and cursed in history for carrying the most vicious crime in history of mankind. Imam Al-Hussein and his companions were slaughtered in Karbala and later on they were buried in that location. Karbala became the aim for all Shi’a Muslims from all over the world, and visiting the shrine of Imam Al-Hussein became the ultimate goal of each Shi’a Muslim, which gave Iraq as a country and Shi’a Muslims in this country an extra importance.
  • Imam Al-Kadhem (a): Imam Al-Kadhem is the seventh imam of Shi’a Muslims, and he is known for spending the lengthiest time in the prisons of the Abbasid dynasty under the rule of Harun Al-Abbasi. Imam Al-Kadhem was exiled from Medina, his birth city and brought to Baghdad, by the order of Harun. Harun’s strategy was keeping the Imam of Shi’a Muslims under his supervision would prevent any attempt for revolt and uprising, since the Shi’as were afraid for the life of their leader. Finally, Harun could not accept the presence of Al-Kadhem anymore and ordered his assassination by poison, while he was in prison. He was buried in Baghdad, and the area around his shrine became a a destination for Shi’as from around the world.
  • Imam Al-Jawad (a): He is the ninth Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the shortest-lived Imam. Al-Jawad is the grandson of Imam Al-Kadhem and after the death of his father, Imam Al-Redha, who was assassinated by Al-Mammoun (son of Harun) in Iran, he was summoned to stay in Baghdad. After a while he was allowed to go back to Medina and he devoted his life to education and helping the needy. When Al-Mammoun passed away, the next Abbasid king (Al-Mu’tasem) summoned him to Baghdad again, and forced him to stay there. Al-Mammoun had forced Imam Al-Jawad to marry his daughter, and later on  Al-Mu’tasem ueged Imam Al-Jawad’s wife, Um Al-Fathl (daughter of Al-Mammoun) to poison the Imam and end his life. Imam Al-Jawad was buried next to his grandfather, Imam Al-Kadhem in Baghdad and Shi’a Muslims around the world had another reason for visiting this holy site in Baghdad.
  • Imam Al-Hadi (a): He is the tenth Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the son of Imam Al-Jawad. During the era of Mutawakkil Al-Abbasi, the governor of Medina sent a letter to Mutawakkil and explained the popularity of the Imam and how the people were gathered around him. Mutawakkil feared that such a notion would encourage uprising and unrest against his survival, therefore, he ordered his governor in Medina to exile the Imam to Samara, which was the new capital of the Abbasids. Mutawakkil placed the Imam under house arrest and limited his access to the outside world, and only few people were allowed to see the Imam and interact with him. Mutawakkil tried to assassinate the Imam, but his fear of unrest and angering the Shi’a Muslims prevented him. Ultimately the next Abbasid king, Al-Mu’taz decided to assassinate Al-Hadi and end his life, since even though Al-Hadi was under house arrest, his popularity was growing even among the army leaders. Therefore, Al-Mu’taz ordered his guards to poison Imam Al-Hadi and bury him in Samara as well. Samara became another destination for Shi’a Muslims and the list of Shi’a holy sites expanded, and Samara was added to Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad.
  • Imam Al-Askari (a): Imam Al-Askari is the eleventh Imam of Shi’a Muslims and son of Imam Al-Hadi and father of last Imam of Shi’a Muslims, who is in occultation, Imam Al-Mahdi. Imam Al-Askari almost spent his entire life under house arrest, which many Shi’a scholars consider this era a preparation for the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, since Imam Al-Askari was preparing the Shi’a Muslims for the notion of not being able to see their Imam. Al-Askari spent majority of his life in Samara, and his daily life activities were limited to minimal and interaction with the outside world was only possible under the supervision of guards. The criticism of Imam Al-Askari against the Al-Mu’tamid (the Abbasid King) and the corruption of his officials very worried about the impact of such statements. Al-Mu’tamid was known for favoritism and corruption during his reign, which made him one the worst rulers of the Abbasid dynasty. Finally, Al-Mu’tamid got to a point, where he could not accept the existence of Imam Al-Askari, and house arrest was not sufficient anymore. Therefore, he ordered his guards to poison Imam Al-Askari and bury him beside his father, Imam Al-Hadi in Samara. Imam Al-Askari’s burial in Samara made the number of Shi’a Imams buried in Iraqi a total number of six Imams, which is the highest number any other country has.
  • Imam Al-Mahdi (a): He is the last of Imams in Shi’a Islam, and currently he is in occultation, which it shall end at the end of time, when the world is filled with oppression and tyranny. Imam Al-Mahdi’s return would restore order and hope in the world and end all calamities for humans. However, his birth in Samara (Iraq) and his occultation from the same place, gave Iraq an added importance for Shi’a Muslims. Shi’a Muslims also believe that Imam Al-Mahdi will choose the city of Kufa as the capital city of Muslim world. Therefore, Iraq is the future command center for Imam Al-Mahdi and the ultimate destination for all Muslims to come and visit.

The enormous amount of importance that Iraq has in Shi’a literature is unlike any other place on the face of this planet. This is why, we witness many of the Salafi groups, who are the back bone of all terrorist groups are eager to kill as many as Iraqi Shi’a Muslims in Iraq, and cause as much pain and destruction in this country. Regardless, of who believes in what, the importance of Iraq as a strategic location has been identified by all sides and groups, which has cost Iraq and its people a high price.

Current Turmoil of Middle East & Emergence of Ideological Identities

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Originally the Middle East has been the home to many ethnic, religious, political and social divisions that outlined the current political map of this region. A combination of numerous historical and political diversifications resulted in these divisions and led them to adopt different approaches according to the experiences and circumstances. Therefore, the current tensions and conflicts unfolding in the Middle East are the outcomes of lengthy accumulations dating back to many centuries ago.

A sizable portion of Muslims and Middle Easterners in general tend to adopt the idea that due to conspiracies and hidden agendas the Middle East has been the aim of many super powers, ever since the expansionist policies started being implemented. Therefore, for the sake of containment and maximizing wealth extraction, colonial powers like the British Empire adopted the policy of “Divide and Rule”, to prevent the emergence of unified fronts and strong oppositions.

Personally, I tend to ignore any notion of conspiracy and the allegations of hidden agendas, since any observer would affirm that POLITICS has no religion and no faith. Common and mutual interests are the factors mandating the implementation of political policies around the world, and as far as each side is able to deliver their portion of partnership, the relationship would remain binding and enforced. However, the intention of this article is not dissecting the policies and events that resulted in those divisions, or whether there are conspiracies being architected by hidden powers. The intention of this article is presenting the unfolding of current divisions taking place in the Middle East, which are very unique due to their new nature and outcomes.

Introduction and preliminary background

The ruling elites of the Middle East have depended on a combination of redistribution of wealth and ideology to contain their masses and acquire legitimacy, in the post-colonial era. Therefore, due to revamping of global political affairs, these systems were not able to maintain their competitiveness and their ability to develop new means of governance. As a result, the political shifts that took place during the cold war era and post-cold war era, forced the Middle Eastern states to adopt old fashioned methods of governance and containment, which included coercion and compulsion. Therefore, the priorities of the states became matters like, political survival, mass containment, favoritism and reaffirming legitimacy through coercive means. Due to these realities, the basic necessities like security, housing, economic reforms and employment were famine and unavailable, which resulted in emergence of radicalism and constant instability.

Finally, the phenomenon of Arab spring ravished the Middle East, and what was sought to be due to economic, transformed into full-scale political uprisings, which were demanding political reforms and civil liberties.

Emergence of New groups and divisions:

The uneven experiences of what is called the Arab Spring introduced new sets of ideologies and schools of thoughts, which don’t even have any roots on the historic grievances of this region. Fairly quick and blood-less revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt in new identities, which the Middle East is not even familiar with, and has made them very unpopular even though they might be rational and legit in concept.

  • EGYPT & TUNISIA
  • Arab-Feminism: Emergence of Arab-Feminism as a way to express the long journey of Middle Eastern and Muslim women with oppression and marginalization. The phenomenon originated in Egypt, when few women decided to adopt un-orthodox methods in expressing their de-satisfaction with the status of women in their society. Few women chose to use nudity and what was considered as obscenity, as a way to express their feelings. Therefore, the later-on efforts to revive any notion of Arab-Feminism were faced with sever opposition and diligence.
  • Neo-Modernization ideologies: Emergence of Neo-Modernization ideologies in the Egypt and Tunisia were the outcome of ambiguous agendas for reform. Apparently, the masses in Tunisia and Egypt did not expect a rapid fall of their regimes, and this rapid change in the system resulted in a political vacuum, which pushed many sides to expedite the presentation of their visions for the future. Therefore, everyone acknowledged the necessity for reform and modernization, but the means and methodology for this reform was questionable and cautiousness was the evident policy of all political actors. Therefore, all the presented road-maps for reform and modernization were seeking external models for the purpose of implementation in Egypt and Syria, and the social, political and historical nature of these countries was not taken into consideration.
  • Islamic-secularism: Emergence of Islamic-secularism is directly linked to the previous point, which resulted in those two countries being ruled by Islamist parties. Along with majority of the Middle Eastern masses, the Islamist parties were not in a position to believe the possibility of them being the rulers of Egypt and Tunisia. In addition, nor the masses in Egypt and Tunisia were going to accept full scale of Islamic systems in their country, due to the secular nature of the previous regimes in these two countries, which lasted for decades. Therefore, those Islamic parties developed a system based on selective extraction from western ideologies and Islamic concepts. As a result, the Islamist were trapped in a state of contradiction within their own principles and ideology, and due to lack of experience their effort to succeed in governance failed dramatically in Egypt and on a lesser scale in Tunisia.

Rest of the Middle East

Due to the bloody and destructive nature of the conflict in Libya, Syria and recently in Yemen, rest of the Middle Eastern states realized the necessity to introduce some sorts of liberties and economic reforms to anticipate the possibility of uprisings in their countries. However, due to emergence of global social media phenomenon and the impossibility to limit and contain the deliverance of information, the states had acknowledged the impossibility of preventing influence of other uprisings on their own masses. Therefore, bogeys like sectarianism and ethnic tensions were mobilized in a way that prepared the Middle Eastern masses to adopt new norms and ideologies.

  • Isolationism: the idea of isolationism has never been part of Arab and Muslim mentality, due to the commonalities that exist among the nations of this region. Even, during the era when pan-nationalism and Arab nationalism was the prominent ideology in the Middle East, the notion of “UNITY” or some sort of unified aspect was desired. Therefore, the Middle Eastern governments were able to indirectly convince their masses to accept the idea of isolationism for the sake of securing their stability and economic superiority. Lebanese citizens started requesting for some sort of isolationism to prevent the leakage of the Syrian conflict into their country, and the Iraqis are welcoming the idea of separation and isolation as an alternative to secure their borders and societies. The Gulf States are currently less enthused about the idea of a unified currency or a Gulf Union similar to the EU, and the idea of collective security is finding less sponsors than few year ago. Due to this reason, we witnessed the Kuwaitis did not join the Saudis when they interfered in Bahrain, and the Emiratis started to actually point fingers at other Gulf States for incidents and events taking place in the Middle East. The Qataris chose to take their own path and enter an adventure by funding different radical groups in different troubled regions, and at the same time they were investing billions of dollars on a global scale to promote their own country as a rising regional power and a global soft power.
  • Neo-Radicalism: this phenomenon might seem disturbing due to the term “RADICALISM”, but its existence is linked directly to the political developments taking place in the Middle East. Neo-Radicalism is referred to adoption of radical approaches by the Arab and Muslim masses in general, which includes all aspects. The radicalism discussed here, includes al ideologies and tendencies, and it is not conclusive to Islamic radicalism, as the radicalization of the Arab and Muslim masses is developing very drastically. This phenomenon even includes the Egyptians and the Tunisians as well, which has transformed the Middle Eastern masses into a fire under ashes that is ready to be blazed with the smallest breeze.

The reality, which the western powers are mandated to acknowledge is the fact that Middle East is passing through a renaissance, and this renaissance will bring drastic and unpredictable changes to the region. In addition, the global powers must realize that Middle Eastern masses have become very segregated due to these developments and the commonalities, which unified the Arabs and Muslims are no longer evident and feasible. Therefore, the policies of common-interest and collective security are no longer legitimizing their alliance with the Middle Eastern regimes. The world in general would not accept authoritarian regimes and eventually these systems will either diminish or transform, so it would be in their best benefit to enforce new policies, which would enable the masses of Middle East to make the process of transition as fluent as possible.