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Muslims globally need a dialogue within
Amit Srivastava | 05 Jan 2014

In view of increasing sectarianism and tribalism spreading in Islamic societies all across the globe as evident by recent events in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and to some extent in the Saudi Arabia along with those in the host of other countries, there is urgent necessity of a consistent expanding dialogue among Sunnis and Shiites. There are other significant political conflicts brewing inside many Islamic societies not necessarily involving sect and tribal issues as are the case in countries like, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria and many other African countries. Many Islamic countries have overlapping problems.

 

I know that there are deep divisions among the two sects in Islam but a comprehensive dialogue is more the requirement of appropriately timely politics than that relating to religion, though without resorting to religion overcoming the political differences are difficult to work out. And there are reasons too to hope that such dialogue can take place and that can be successful as well: Islam is an absolute religion for both the sects with Unitarian Allah, same Prophets, same last Prophet of Islam and the same Koran.

To be frank I am not an expert on the issues about Sunnis and Shiites differing so much on some of their positions about the absolute, monolithic religion but I still believe that in order to reduce the violence and promote peace and harmony within Muslim-majority nations and also wherever Muslims are significant minority, the two sects need to talk with each other as comprehensively as possible in a frank manner to the broadest extent possible.

Now, Sunnis constitute about 70% of the global Muslim population and Shiites almost the rest as recognized by the Mecca. The Mecca does not recognize other Islamic sects like Sufi and Baha’i. Obviously, the numbers of Sunni-majority states is higher than those of Shiite states and Sunnis have higher economic clout globally as well. Therefore, the ball is permanently in Sunnis’ court.

In this regard it requires deep concessions from the highest Islamic institutions in the world to offer friendlier options to Shiite globally and one of them is exclusive Sunni, the other one dominated by them and they both are in the Saudi Arabia: the al-Saud monarchy and the Mecca. The highest Islamic University on Islamic laws, al-Azhar, is also in a Sunni dominated nation, Egypt. If I understand anything about Islamic world then I do know that Muslims’ sectarian, tribal and other problems can be resolved only by their own efforts and not by any help from any other nation, including by nudging and propping up mighty US.

In order to promote such talks Muslims all over the world shall have to take long-term stable positions: what they think about other sect of Islam, what they think about non-Muslims around the world and more importantly how long they want to live, decently. To be frank the world would not end because of Islamic beliefs, neither because of those of others’ but because of geophysical factors not permitting life any more.

Now if that be the case then Muslims are not going to die till the world lasts; if they accept that the end of this world depends on scientific predictions and not on their beliefs then they can live happily and peacefully. The declaration of arrival of Imam Mahdi depends exclusively on the Mecca and even if the holiest shrine and the biggest authority in Islam is convinced that the Imam has arrived, it may not declare publicly his arrival due to security reasons.   

The evolution of the Muslim-self is much related with how the community sees the outside world. Now if a majority believes in confrontation with the outside world; with people of other religions and atheists, then the world will be full of problems and violence in any time that can be conceived. Then Muslims, generally speaking, cannot remain in peace with each other either.

But if they want a symbiotic relation with the outside world then they can arrive at peace within due to religious diplomacy as per the Islamic law: al-Wala’ wal-Bara’; love to Allah, hatred towards others. I know this appears contradicting but the ‘hate’ can be converted in to rejection and the subsequent rejection can be contained to spiritual matters only and not over political and economic matters.

According to this law, in its minimalist extrapolation and extension, when Muslims can live peacefully with people of other faiths and even with atheists then they can easily live peacefully with their co-religionists of other sect. Umma would be strengthened then and principle of ijma’ could be fully followed. Muslims as a group can improve their positions by becoming more like Islamists-consumerists. In this context Prophet Mohammad calling Jesus as one of the Prophets of Islam is meaningful and has stabilizing effect, politically and economically.    

I fully know that except for very few, the world cannot be divided into Islamic and non-Islamic entities. This is true about most of Muslims for most of the time. It is indeed complex as different Islamic movements can take differing positions towards different people. In particular, they can differentiate differently among Jews, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.    

Please do not think that I am naïve. I fully know that Muslims have multiple problems with different civilizations: with Jewish Israel and the West over Palestine issue, with Hindu-dominated India in Kashmir, with Orthodox Russians in Chechnya, with Buddhists in Myanmar, with the West over veil and personal laws inside it, with interventionist policy of the US and the list goes on. But still Muslims need to understand that their conflicts within harm them more than those with the others. Their problems with each other are minimally as dividing and deep rooted as those with the non-Muslim outside world. The numbers of Muslims killed due to internal fighting far outnumber those due to fighting with the other outside world.  

Also, Muslims cannot always take absolute positions globally: they need to accept rational relativism and such requires understanding the beliefs and opinions of others, if not agreeing and accepting them; those that do not violate the fundamentals of Islam. I know this is indeed a difficult task, more so in this simultaneously contradictorily contracting-expanding topology of the world. The ever-increasing issues of rising conflicting and competing consciousness and the non-linearity as evident in the so called the ‘Butterfly Effect’ made possible in this world by social websites complicate issue further.

But no Muslim should believe that I do not understand them, be they Arab, continental, Central Asian, Western or East Asian. However difficult it may appear otherwise but I will still say that in the name of Allah and Prophet Mohammad Muslims should open a dialogue within, globally, to battle for peace and harmony within. I do not mind people calling me ‘innocent’ but I will still say that I do understand Islam to the extent possible considering my moderate means.