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News Code: 1423


Shia and Sunni Scholars in Unity of Ummah Conference

The Conference of ‘Unity of Ummah’ in London

The Conference was inaugurated by a Message from His Eminence Ayatollah Sobhani 

A conference called ‘Unity of Ummah’ that was held in the Islamic Centre of England on Sunday expresses that political rivalries are at the root of the conflicts in the region not religious differences. 

In this conference that was held in the Islamic Centre of England, Muslim scholars from both Shi’a and Sunni schools agreed on taking practical steps towards harmony, community cohesion and coexistence. 

The conference commenced on the first day of the ‘Week of Unity’ that was founded by the late Imam Khomeini in early days of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 with the aim of strengthening the unity of Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. 

In the inauguration remark, Ayatollah Sobhani via a recorded video, called on all Muslims, especially the Ulama to adhere to the majority of shared values rather than focusing on differences. 

Other scholars also emphasised on the importance of uniting around shared values. Sayed Hashem Moosavi the director of the Islamic Centre of England identified sectarianism as a key challenge in the Islamic world and one of its most important crises. By quoting from HE Ayatollah Khamenei, he reiterated that the enemies of Islam endeavour to incite internal conflicts within the Islamic world. 

He briefly reviewed the history of the concept of unity amongst the Islamic schools from the sub-continent to Iran and to Ottoman Empire. He praised Sayed Jamal al-Din Asad Abadi’s efforts in this respect. 

He argued that Taqwa (piety) is the key precondition for ‘holding fast to the covenant of Allah’. (And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited. 3:103) 

He also emphasised that disunity is the cause of dishonour according to the Quran. 

He quoted Ayatollah Khamenei’s declaration (fatwa) on banning the curse of other faiths and declaring it haram (forbidden). He stated that even cursing unbelievers is haram, let alone cursing other Muslims. 

Shaykh Imran Hosein in his talk praised Imam Khomeini for pointing his finger at the United States as the great Satan and the main cause of all the chaos in the Islamic world. 

He suggested that the West is imposing its values arrogantly as a set of superior principles with the help of IMF and UN. Shaykh Imran Hosein who is well known as a Muslim eschatologist (those who study the final events of history) suggested that the key condition in achieving unity is reciting and then following the Quran. 

Sayed Abedi distinguished between two types of unity; ideal unity and pragmatic unity. He believed that the ideal unity, meaning that all Muslims begin to follow one single school of thought and jurisprudence is not realistic. Instead he suggested that Muslims should follow the pragmatic unity, which is defined as coexistence in a unified family against the enemies of Islam. 

Dr Mohammad Khalid argued that the idea of unity is very much neglected within the Islamic societies. He proposed that the way to understand any concept, is to understand it opposites, or in other words, understand concepts through their opposites. By this, he argued that Muslim societies must understand the danger of disunity to then fully acknowledge the importance of unity. He then discussed the importance of unity by describing a series of ‘catastrophes’ that are caused by disunity, including Muslims’ decline, contempt as well as disappointment and confusion of the masses. He also described Takfir (declaring someone as unbeliever) as one of the major catastrophes caused by disunity. 

Sheikh Bahmanpour explained that the differences within the Islamic schools are not as great as some believe and in comparison, is much less than internal differences in other faiths. He showed that even during the life of the Prophet Muhammad (S) Muslims had different views on how to practice their faith. Those different understandings in his view were accepted by the Prophet as something normal and acceptable. He advised Muslims of all schools to refrain from sectarian attitudes and pointed out that actions that may look ordinary to us, may be seen as a sectarian action from the others’ point of view. 

He explained that the western media in their approach to the conflicts in the Middle East always tend to analyse the events through the prism of sectarianism. He suggested that it would be lazy to analyse every development in the region only by attributing it to sectarianism. He claimed that most of the conflicts have social and political roots instead of religious ones. 

Shaykh Haneef also asserted that there are more diverse denominations within other faiths such as Christianity and Hinduism, but we don’t see conflicts similar to what we witness amongst Muslims. He partly blamed the media and also the western power for inciting those conflicts. 

As practical steps, the conference was concluded by declaring four suggestions: 
Putting aside differences
Focusing on shared values
Rejecting Takfir
Reminding all Muslims that they belong to one family

The conference was continued by a question and answer session where the scholars and the audience participated in a dialogue.