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Oct 22, 2010, 1:42 PM

Some differences between the Islamic Schools of thought:

With all this said and done, there appears to be an area of ijtihadi differences between what we refer to today as "the people of the Sunnah" and those who follow the Ithna 'Ashari school of thought.

What appears here is that the Ahlu-Sunnah has placed a historical and scholarly emphasis on the hadith that was spoken or acted upon by Allah's dearest Prophet(s). Out of this prophetic paradigm emerges a practical set of behavior that delineates a believing Muslim's pragmatic practice of Islam. This paradigm has been established throughout the course of our Islamic history and civilization. The Zaydis and Ibadis have a similar grasp of this origination; through they may not have the depth and range of it found among the Ahlu-Sunnah. This may be due to some of the details that are peculiar to the early history of both the Zaydis and the Ibadis.

The Ibadis are not in objection of the Sunnah as a reference; on the contrary, they are in full agreement with it. The intervening variable in their peculiar history was that the channel of communication of the hadith within their school of thought was subjected to the brutal use of force by the Umayyads, which seriously hampered their ability of "history writing". The fierce use of force against them by the government went to the extent of labeling them as "heretics" or "heathens| - an accusation that almost place them outside the fold of Islam!

The Zaydi school of thought also adopts the hadith as the second reference after the Glorious Quran. The distinguishing feature here is that the followers of the Zaydi school of thought, because of their heroic opposition to the Umayyad and Abbadis rulers, would rely only on a hadith that is quoted or transmitted by the household of the Prophet(s). The Zaydis also had strict conditions for accepting and circulating a particular hadith within a social and political atmosphere that turned against them because of the influence of the Umayyad dynasty which was unrelenting in its persecutions of supporters of the Prophet's descendants. 

Nonetheless, these schools of thought do have a common feature which places the hadith of the Prophet(s) second only to the Quran. This may explain to a certain extent why there are "joined prayers" in "mixed mosques" throughout Yemen, Oman and North Africa where all these schools of thought meet and commingle.

As we see it, the Imamiyyah have a comprehensive and paradigmatic assembly of fiqh, theological doctrines and political discourses. At the pinnacle of this paradigm, and by divine decree, there stands the "infallible Imam." This peculiar Ithan 'Ashari definition of ismat (infallibility) is parallel with the infallibility of the prophets as understood by the rest of the Muslims." The only legitimate ruler is this type of Imam-and there were only twelve of them from the household of the Prophet(s).

This paradigm lay dormant in the course of over a thousand years until the advent of the Islamic Revolution under the capable and far-sighted leadership of Imam Khumayni(r). The Islamic Revolution, which was a first of our time, ushered in the concept of Wilayat-e-Faqih. Thus, there is now a full-fledged Islamic state with an Islamic leadership that has taken on the responsibility of substituting or "standing in" for the absent Imam, whose name is Muhammad the son of Imam Hasan al-'Askari (d.260H.).

This Imam, in accordance with Ithan'Ashari belief, is in ghaybah (hidden).

The Ithan ?Ashari and Zaydi schools of thought both agree that the leadership of the Muslim society and government belongs to the descendants of the Prophet(s). The details of this, though, are on the same between these two schools of thought. It appears that the majority of Zaydis do not attribute the same concept of ismat to the Imams as do the Ithna 'Asbaris. There also does not appear to be within the mainstream Zaydi school of thought a "divine decree" to have the Prophet's descendants assumes the leadership of the ummah. Therefore, according to Zaydi beliefs, even through the Imams from the Prophet's descendants are the most qualified to lead the Muslims, nevertheless, if there are others who the Muslims in their consensual majority agree to as leaders, they may do so with a degree of credibility.

Thus, the Zaydis have accepted the weight of a free and fair shura as a determining factor in deciding who the leader of the Muslims shall be even through, they state clearly and firmly, that the most qualified to lead the Muslims is one who meets the standards of leadership and is a descendant of the Prophet(s).

The Ahlu-Sunnah who concedes that the Islamic leader should be from the Quraysh, as a matter of principle, has not followed through on this criterion. We see, in the course of Islamic history that rulers who were not from Quraysh assumed the leadership of the Islamic unmmah with the acquiescence of Ahul-Sunnah under the pretext that the shura determines who the ruler is!

The Ihadis had no precondition for the Islamic leader except having gained the allegiance and loyalty of the Muslim public. On the basis of this type of shura- not a governmental orchestrated shura-the Muslims gain their legitimate leader. They did not have stipulations pertaining to lineage or family ties either.

It appears that the theoretical basis for selecting or electing the Islamic leader (whether in the from of the Imam or the Khalifah) has been, in a sense, bypassed by the contemporary adherents of the different Islamic schools of thought. All schools of thought appear to have worked their way into a practical application of their overall "thesis" of who the correct and most qualified leader is.

Considering the reality of the global situation today, we believe that the Muslims, with their varying schools of thought, are in need of each other to formulate a compatible scholarly opinion and conceptualizations of an institution that looks for the most-qualified Muslim leader. It is hoped that through the legal Sharia channels, such an individual can become the occupant of the highest office in the Islamic world-with all the humility and meekness that goes with it.

Some Obstacles on a Course of Islamic Reconciliation

As we said above, all Islamic persuasions and schools of thought agree to the fundamentals and bases of Islam. There are issues, of course, around which there is the practice of free thought permitted within the legitimate parameters of ijtihad. Sometimes, these extrapolations themselves are perceived as a barrier to Islamic solidarity and conformity. What has transpired in Islamic history is that a particular school of thought will only recognize its own personalities, narrators of hadith and fuqaha? to the exclusion of all others. In this sense, Islamic history itself has more than one narrative and more than one analysis. This aspect of Islamic history is not to be seen in a negative light; it only becomes negative when a particularized version of history is considered as the only version, to the exclusion of all other sincere and time-honored renderings of the same history. The effects are more devastating when based on a particular reading of history, other Muslims are considered either "lesser-Muslims" or even, God forbid non-Muslims!

The fault line within the Islamic ummah pertains to doctrines, politics, narration of the hadith and fiqh. Obviously, most divergent intra-Islamic opinions can be traced to some political developments early on in Islamic history.

With the possible and arguable exception of the Imami Ithana Asharis, the other three blocs of Muslims (i.e., the Sunnis, Ibadis and Zaydis) do not have scriptural texts naming particular individuals as being "God-appointed" leaders of the Muslims, after Prophet Muhammad(s). No one comes close to the Prophet(s) in his sublime and unequaled character, particularity as it pertains to scriptural disclosure and law-giving. In the three Islamic blocs mentioned above, there is no explicit naming of the leader of the Muslims who will assume the "imamah" in the absence of the popular will by divine feat. Popular participation via a full shura is understood to be part of the process. The freedom is a guaranteed Islamic freedom. Despite this fact, these three blocs of Muslims still have their differences of understanding and differences of interpretation pertaining to the events that transpired after the demise of our dearest Prophet(s).

This pertains to the era known as al-khialfah al-rashidah. The details referred to here are known by all close observers and ardent students of that pivotal period in Islamic history. Generally speaking, the Zaydis and Ibadis see nothing binding on them from that interpretive time. They do not hold those referred to as al-sahabah to have "any halos around their heads" so to speak, as it the case with the majority of the Ahlu-Sunnah, who postulate the eminence of the sahabah, especially thoseof them who become khulafa' or rulers. Even, within some Sunni discourses, the rank of virtue is a time and sequential rank which holds the first khalifah to be the highest followed by the subsequent khulafa' in descending order: Umar, Uthma and Ali (a). Some, if not most, Sunnis consider the method in which these khulafa' assumed power to be legitimate and workable patterns to assume power. Out of this comes a set of political principles through which Islamic rulers are legitimized...

To be continued