By Ejaz Naqvi
December 29, 2018
of my life-long dreams came true at the Sunni-Shia Unity Conference to launch
efforts to promote Intra-Faith dialogue on December 15, when a group of dedicated
local Muslims came together at a local Islamic center in San Jose, CA under the
auspices of the Intra-Faith Committee of Northern California Islamic Council.
The conference was a result of months of
background work by the committee I was fortunate to lead. We have one goal- to
bring Muslims from all sects together despite our differences. We realize we
will not solve 1400 years worth of differences, but we also appreciate the
common bonds we share: One God, the love for Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an.
We realize we have much more in common than differences.
We are also fully cognizant of our
divisions and differences, and that we can not pretend that there are no issues
between us. Having said that we felt we needed to first highlight our common bonds
and why we need to act as one Umma.
There are theological and social reasons
to act as one Umma.
Growing up, I was the only Shia student in
my group of very closely-knit group of friends of 7-8 in my medical school
years. We studied together, ate together, watched movies together and went out
together. We did everything together- except when it came time for Juma
prayers, or Ramadan and Muharram!
We felt a certain divide between us during
those times. We went our own ways to pray Juma salat and broke our fast during
Ramadan at separate times. Muharram was altogether a different story. For the
whole month, I would be attending the religious programs to commemorate the
martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his family. For the whole month, we would not
talk much about our activities as if we lived in different worlds. I could
never understand it then, and I still don’t understand it now. You see we did
all the secular and “Shaitani stuff” together. But the very thing that
unites us- our faith, is when we felt so divided!
As I grew closer to religion in the past 25
years or so, I still struggle with the thoughts of observing our religious
rituals and practices separately. There are religious and social inspirations
to be united. These two verses from the Qur’an send a strong message to us.
fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not
divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you; for
you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, you
became brethren… 3:103
And be not
like those who became divided and disagreed after clear arguments had come to
them. For such there is an awful doom. 3:105
We further drive the inspirations for our
work towards reconciliation as ordained by the following verse, and supported
by the Hadith:
are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two
(contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that you may receive Mercy. 49:10
Anyone who goes to make peace between two
persons, the angels of Allah send blessings upon him until he returns and he
will be given the reward of the Night of Destiny. Hadith of Prophet Muhammad
Our group has very simple objectives:
To promote peace, harmony and brotherhood
between various Muslims sects, in particular the Sunni and Shia Muslims, by
highlighting our common heritage and our common bonds.
To work towards institutionalizing dialogue
that is sustainable and relevant to Muslims in the Bay Area in particular and
North America in general.
To counter Islamophobia as one Umma.
We pledged to:
promote a culture of brotherhood and sisterhood as One Umma. Resist the forces
that may work to divide us.
Commit to a
culture of open-mindedness and honesty.
Commit to a
culture of respect for each other, while avoiding insulting each other. When we
do disagree, we will do so respectfully and in a civil manner.
Commit to a
culture of avoiding insulting the revered figures of all Muslims.
Commit to follow
the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad PBUH: “None of you has faith until he loves for
his brother or his neighbour what he loves for himself.”
Commit to a
culture of non-violence and respect for life.
We agree that
the Intra-faith dialogue is NOT about:
Telling who is
right and who is wrong.
accepting everything about the other faith traditions.
others to one’s faith
In addition to the religious reasons,
there are other social and practical reasons. We have to ask ourselves:
Is the Muslim
ban a Sunni Muslim ban, or a Shia Muslim ban?
Islamophobes snatch the Hijabs, do they do it because these women are Sunni
Muslim women, or Shia Muslim women?
When the Muslim
children are bullied in school(and there have been widespread reports to
indicate rising incidence), are they bullied because they are Sunni Muslim kids
or Shia Muslim kids?
I can go on and on, but you got the
The first thing that becomes obligatory to
scholars, Shia or Sunni, is removing dissension from the minds of Muslims.
Sheikh Abd al-Majid Salim Chief Mufti of Egypt d1954- in a letter that was sent
to Ayatollah Borujerdi)
Rose stems were handed out to the
attendees, with a Hadith attached
After a series of short speeches by
religious scholars, we had a panel discussion with Q&A from the audience,
followed by Zuhr Salat (early afternoon prayer). And yes, we prayed TOGETHER,
and ended the day with an audience breakout session. The 450 or so attendees
were given three simple questions to discuss and brainstorm among themselves.
What are 1-2 barriers to our unity and what
are YOUR 1-2 solutions/ideas to overcome these barriers.
What’s one thing you will do differently as
a result of this conference to bring peace and harmony TO YOUR
organization/centre as it relates to Shias and Sunnis. Be specific.
What is your advice for our committee
regarding next activity-Mawlid/Common Eid/Picnic/Common Juma/Weekend
These are also the questions; you may ask
yourself and your local community.
At the end we had the following requests
to the various groups.
Our request to attendees–
Invite at least
one family from the other Madhab to your house. Invite one family from the
other Madhab to your Masjid.
Our request to
board members of Islamic centres: Arrange 1 program to invite a center from the
Our requests to
Make one Khutba
in the next month on this subject to raise awareness.
invite one Shia scholar for Juma Khutba. The same goes for the Shia centre-
invite one Sunni scholar to do the same.
We realize the Muslim unity is not an
event- it is a process. We hope that we have taken that first important step.
We also hope to duplicate this in other areas, hence this post to raise
Will you follow suit?