The Split of Muslims Into Shiites and Sunnis
We all need to understand the differences between Shiite and Sunni extremists, because it is complex. Each of them believe that the other sect is part of the "evil" they must destroy so that prophecy will be fulfilled. And, because the Shiites and Sunnis are the largest Muslim sects, we need to understand their history and beliefs.
We should start by looking at why the rebel Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr was able to gather a so-called "Army of the Mahdi" after American forces removed the Sunni Muslim Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, and why Sadr was able to muster them around the Shiite's holiest shrine, the golden-domed "Imam Ali Mosque" in Najaf, the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali.
Along with that, we should look at and understand why Sadr and his army have been so ready to fight to the death both the "infidel" American occupiers and the "infidel" Sunnis.
According to Reza Aslan (a Muslim Iranian-American Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and a writer whose books include No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam), the schism and conflict began in the year 680 in Karbala, where the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law Ali's son, Husayn, along with most of the prophet's family, were brutally massacred by the forces of the Syrian Caliph, Yazid I.
According to Aslan, that happened because when Mohammed's son-in-law Ali died, the caliphate (leadership) of the whole Islamic/Muslim community had passed to the then- governor of Syria, Muawiyah (Yazid's father). That was according to a power- sharing agreement meant to ensure that when Muawiyah died the caliphate would once again belong to the family of the Prophet Muhammad, and that Ali's son, Husayn, would become the Caliph. However, Muawiyah reneged on the agreement. After transforming the Muslim community into a united, expanding, dominant Arab-Muslim kingdom of enormous wealth and power, he then instead named his son Yazid heir to his throne.
Of course, there are other scholars who submit that even thought the massacre of Husayn (or Hussein) in Karbala is one of the most significant events of Shiite history, the schism in Islam is much older than that. They believe that the problems started when Muhammad was still alive and there was rivalry among his followers regarding future control of Islam. Believing that there must be a ruler, some thought that the next one should be an elder close to Muhammad, while others thought that Muhammad’s young son-in-law Ali should be the next ruler. There are even some reports that one of Ali's confidants wanted to just go and ask Muhammad about it while he was still alive, but Ali said no because if Muhammad rejected the idea Ali could never be the ruler.
Whatever the case, Muawiyah’s betrayal had dire consequences. Throughout the Islamic Empire, and particularly in Iraq and Iran, a large group of non-Arab Muslims banned together as the "Shiatu Ali" (the Partisans of Ali). They rose up in revolt, and they asked Ali's eldest surviving son, Husayn, to lead them in battle against Yazid, who they believed was a false Caliph.
But Husayn didn't make it, because Yazid's army intercepted and massacred Husayn and nearly every last member of the Prophet Muhammad's family. That's what split the Muslim community into two major factions. One was the sect now known as the Sunnis, who believed Yazid was the legitimate Caliph, and the other was the Shiatu Ali (who later became the Shiites), who believed that Ali's son Husayn should have been the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad's authority.
Four years after the massacre, some of the Shiatu Ali gathered secretly at Karbala to mourn the death of Husayn, and also to atone for their failure to protect him. Then more of the Shiatu Ali began gathering at Karbala, and gradually they became a new sect of Shiites and established the belief that Husayn willingly sacrificed himself in a "holy" war for justice against the tyranny and oppression of a false Caliph (Yasid). They exalted Husayn as a holy martyr, even though Husayn was merely the son of the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. They didn't realize that the "mantle" of religious authority does not pass from men to their relatives. It's not inherited. It is purely a gift from God only, and it is given only to called, spiritually anointed servants, prophets and messengers who are chosen by God.
Due to their misunderstanding, a huge gap between the Shiites and the mainstream "orthodox" Sunnis was created. And one of the big differences was the Shiite notion of atonement through sacrifice, because they came to believe Husayn's martyrdom at Karbala, like Jesus' sacrifice at Gethsemane, was predetermined by God. They celebrate his martyrdom every year with festivities that include passion plays about Husayn's "martyrdom," and they even conduct absurd demonstrations in which participants flog themselves or otherwise punish themselves in some way, thinking it's a religious act of contrition and atonement.
Most Sunnis believe such acts go against the original principles of Islam. They believe that Muhammad's Qur'an does not require any such acts to achieve salvation. They believe only God can forgive sins, and they reject the idea that Shiite Imams can act as intermediaries between Allah and those who worship Allah. In other words, Sunnis reject the idea that Shiite Imams and Ayatollahs are divine. And they are quite right about that, because they are not, just as Christian clergy and Catholic priests, bishops, cardinals and popes are not "divine beings." They are only human, and no human has ever been or ever will be divine or holy. Only God/Allah is the Divine Holy One.
The Shiites, on the other hand, believe that the Qur'an "speaks" to them in a way that is not understood by Sunnis. Like the early Christians who sifted through the Hebrew Scriptures looking for anything that might possibly be interpreted as a referral to Jesus, the early Shiites sifted through the Qur'an looking for references to justify their beliefs. They gradually came to believe they are the recipients of a secret knowledge passed down from God to Muhammad, from Muhammad to his son-in-law Ali, from Ali to Husayn, and then down to the rest of the "holy" Shiite Imams and Ayatollahs. But that is simply not true.
Sunnis correctly believe an Imam is simply the person who stands at the head of the mosque and leads the congregation in prayer, while the Shiites believe the Imam and the Ayatollah are divinely guided leaders and embody the living spirit of the Prophet Muhammad and Allah. The Sunnis consider that to be heresy. In fact, the Sunnis believe it is blasphemy to consider any human being divine, because only Allah (God) is divine and holy. And they are quite right about that.
The Shiites counter that they do not believe the Imam is equal to God. But they do believe that, like Christian Saints, the Imam is above the rest of humanity and may even be prayed to. They believe the Imam's authority is derived from his connection to the Prophet Muhammad, and they believe the line of Imam's will ultimately culminate with the expected one who would be known as the Imam Mahdi. But they are wrong about all that as well, just as some Christians are wrong in praying to those regarded as saints. We should not pray for the ears of men, nor should we pray to men. As Jesus said, we should pray in secret to our God who hears us in secret.
Now, many Muslims believe the Imam Mahdi will be a messianic figure who will return at the "end times" after a "final war of good against evil" to usher in a time of peace and justice. Like many Christians who believe in the "second- coming" of Jesus, they believe it will be an "apocalyptic" event preceded by wars, earthquakes, famines, and false prophets.
The truth, however, is that while the terrible tribulation we are suffering through was foretold, and while wars and the seven plagues and many other terrible things have certainly occurred prior to the coming of this son of man, as was prophesied, the "Apocalypse" is misunderstood.
Apocalypse means the uncovering, revealing and unveiling of the real meaning of prophecy, and it’s about the judgment from God and the Spirit of truth. But the judgment is about the truth prevailing over false beliefs and myths, and the weapons of God are not carnal or lethal.
In spite of that, many Muslims believe they can judge, and that there must be a "Great Jihad" and the utter destruction of their enemies. They believe that following the Jihad the Mahdi will be the harbinger of the return of Jesus, and that then both prophets will rule the world together. But they grossly misinterpret and misunderstand real prophecy, because God wants us all to love one another and share the throne in God's New World Kingdom, where only God in heaven reigns Supreme over heaven and earth. The person who fulfills prophecy is not a king or ruler, but a fellow servant, from your midst, and of your brethren.
It should be understood that the Christ and the Mahdi are one and the same, and the two titles are but two of many for the Oversoul which has guided all divinely inspired human beings on earth. The Oversoul is the Ancient One who is with God in heaven. And now, anyone on earth who claims to be the Christ or Mahdi or Avatar or Buddha or Saoshyant, etc., is a pretender. And anyone claiming to know where "He" is in this world has been misled and does not know the real truth. The Ancient One-Oversoul-Christ-Avatar-Buddha-Mahdi is in ALL of us, but we have to receive the ultimate gift of revelation from God to realize it.
Unfortunately, not very many members of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have realized that. And Sunni and Shiite Muslims differ in their beliefs about the nature and role of the Imam Mahdi. The biggest difference is that the Shiites believe that the Mahdi's role would be to avenge the unjust killing of Husayn and his followers by the Sunni authorities at Karbala. That is why the rebel Shiite warmonger Muqtada Sadr was able to gather his "Mahdi Army"after the fall of the tyrannical Sunni dictator, Saddam Hussein, and take control of the sacred cities of Kufa, Karbala, and Najaf in Iraq. Sadr exploited traditional Shiite beliefs by masquerading as the herald of the coming Mahdi, and by fighting the "prophesied Jihad" ("holy war") prior to that coming. But Sadr is in fact a false prophet, just as surely as certain people masquerading as Christians and Jews are false prophets.
Anyway, the conflict and civil war between proud and militant Sunnis and Shiites is partly because of all that history, and partly because the tyrannical dictator Saddam Hussein was a Sunni who oppressed, persecuted and even murdered many of the Shiites. Shiites want to take revenge, not only for Husayn's murder, but for Saddam Hussein's murderous tyranny.
Both the Sunni and Shiite factions need to realize the extent to which they have been misled, because even though they have legitimate grievances, they are both incorrect and wrong to a certain extent. They are both wrong particularly about killing, because Muhammad said killing is always evil, especially indiscriminate killing. Both Sunnis and Shiites misunderstand prophecy, just as many Jewish and Christian factions misunderstand prophecy.
All Jews, Christians and Muslims need to understand that the so-called "mantle of divine authority" did not pass from David or Jesus or Muhammad to anyone else by blood line or inheritance or discipleship. It just does not happen that way. It is not passed on or inherited from men. It's given as a gift from God only, given to individuals who are truly called and anointed by the Holy Spirit and then chosen by God when they have proven they are worthy. For while many are called, few are worthy to be chosen by God, who knows all.
The Shiites need to realize that their Imams and Ayatollahs are not "holy" men, just as no other religious clergy are "holy" men. They are not authorized by God to dictate the affairs of their people. They should be modern servants of God/Allah, who desire that all men and women be equal partners, and that all human beings be united, empowered and liberated from the rule of self-important individuals.
Religious patriarchs do not understand that. For example, on June 13, 2009, the "Supreme Ayatollah" of Iran endorsed the re-election of President Ahmadinijad, validating it as a "divine assessment," in spite of the fact that the election results were unclear and questionable, and it is quite obvious that huge numbers of Iranians wanted change and freedom from suppressive rule. And it was shameful that the government immediately began to use violent and even deadly force to squash dissent and protest, and sensor the news on television so that the country would not see the police riots in the streets, which injured many and even killed some demonstrators.
Americans should understand that the U.S. is partially responsible for what Iran has become, and why its Muslim leaders are against America and Israel. During the Second World War, the Americans supported the Shah of Iran, who was able to maintain and expand his power with significant financial and military help from the U.S. But, many Iranians were negatively affected by the Shah’s abuse of power and they resented U.S. support of the Shah. That resentment grew after the U.S. CIA engineered a kind of coup in 1953, playing a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Massadegh. The U.S. Government’s actions were mainly to protect the interests of American oil companies and to address other strategic concerns, but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is very understandable that many Iranians continue to resent America’s intervention and meddling in their internal affairs (which were recently revived by the Bush Regime).
The Shah, with American support, enacted various controversial policies, including the banning and suppression of any dissent or opposition. By 1978 the Shah’s forces had silenced as many as 2,200 political prisoners, many of whom were tortured. By 1979, political unrest became so great that it was transformed into an outright revolution which forced the Shah to leave Iran after 37 years of rule. Soon thereafter, the revolutionary forces led by Ayatollah Khomenei transformed the government into an Islamic republic.
Khomenei had been living in exile in Paris, and had promised that if and when he could return as the Supreme Ayatollah in Iran it would be a democratic, parliamentary country, and that the job of clergy would not be theocratic but would merely provide counsel. But, after the revolution, Khomenei betrayed his supporters and he ordered the killing of many of those who had started, fought and won the revolution for him. Thus, by deception and then murder, Khomenei established a Shiite theocracy with him as the "divine ruler" (Supreme Ayatollah). And the present one, Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Khomenei in 1989, has been spouting radical anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric ever since.
Americans should now realize why, because his feelings about the U.S. are somewhat valid. He is well aware of the long history of self-interested U.S. meddling. He is well aware that the American media had been predicting the defeat of Ahmadinijad and was creating expectations of it before the last election. And he is also well aware that the U.S. CIA has been working covertly in Iran to provide considerable support to radical Iranian groups that have been trying to bring about the downfall of Ahmadinijad and Ali Khamenei.
That’s been documented. The renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed his findings on the Bush Regime’s covert operations inside Iran, which were and still are waged by U.S. operatives in Iran to stir up foment and provide support for the anti-Iran terrorist organizations Jundallah and MKO.
However, even though there are some very valid reasons for Ali Khamenei’s feelings because of troublesome U.S. and Israeli actions, the Shiite Supreme Ayatollah does not understands the will of Allah. He wants to pontificate, impose his own will, and assume "divine" authority. And in that sense, he is like the Christian Popes who used to rule by Theocracy.
That is why Salman Rushdie wrote "Satanic Verses" criticizing the Qur’an. But, Rushdie merely pointed out the same verses that are misunderstood and used by "Jihadist" Muslims to justify their killing their fellow man and even committing indiscriminate mass murder. And it could be said that there are Satanic verses in the Hebrew Torah and Tanach, and in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, which have been used by proud, militant Jews and Christians to justify their killing their fellow man. We need to face those facts, and be fair and reasonable.
Of course, al Queda is far worse because its members commit indiscriminate mass murder, beheadings, etc. And the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have proven themselves to be murderous thugs who kill innocent people to gain power and control, and falsely claim to be servants of Allah.
But, Americans should remember that the U.S. is largely responsible for the rise of the Taliban to power in the first place, along with the rise to power of Osama bin Laden and al Queda. That was back in the late 1980s when the U.S. provided financial and military support to the "Mujahadin" (which means Islamic Freedom Fighter) who were fighting Russian military imperialism in Afghanistan. And, while the U.S. support enabled the Mujahadin to drive the Russians out, it enabled the Taliban and al Queda to take over afterward. That’s when the "Mujahadin" in Afghanistan stopped being freedom fighters, and instead became cruel, murderous oppressors of their own people.
Even so, Americans should realize that the Reagan Administration was foolish in doing what they did in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, and the U.S. Government is still being foolish. It needs to stop causing so many civilian deaths and maimings by senseless bombing and strafing in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and stop ignoring local customs in their rude invasions of households in their searches for Taliban and al Queda criminals.
As long as U.S. forces are in Afhghanistan they must gain the total support of the civilian population by showing respect and rectifying the mistakes made by past policies, and reform the policies and "rules of engagement" that have caused inexcusable "collateral damage" and death and causing deep resentment and horror in the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Israeli-Palestinian-Muslim-Christian conflict and the Sunni- Shiite conflict
We will be able to establish lasting peace only when all Jews, Christian and Muslims understand that they were meant to be and actually are a family of religions; that there is indeed One God, One Holy One, the Supreme Universal Consciousness.
Whether they call God Yahweh or Jehova or Elohim or "Father in heaven" or Allah, God is the Great Spirit-Parent by any other name, and God wants us all to love one another as brothers and sisters, and to treat others as we would have others treat us if we were them. They must obey God's Will, reconcile their differences, make amends, and make peace, or they will continue to suffer the pain of disobedience and the consequences of their misguided, egocentric, ethnocentric folly and iniquity. God wants them to love even their enemy, and realized that their enemy is a reflection of themselves.
As for the Sunni-Shiite civil war, that will cease as soon as they both start following the teachings of their prophet and those who preceded him, and stop choosing isolated words and phrases from the Qur'an to try to justify their evil, murderous activities. They must start acting like real Muslims instead of criminals and murderers. And that also goes for others who do the same thing in other countries where misguided Islamic sects work iniquity and cause conflict, division, violence, death and destruction. They are bigots, hypocrites and murderers, and their followers should ignore them and repent.
However, we understand and sympathize with most Arabs and Muslims, and especially Palestinians, because they have very legitimate grievances against England, the U.S.A., and Israel. Palestinians have been terribly and outrageously wronged ever since 1917, and the injustices increased enormously in 1948 when the modern State of Israel was established. The injustices increased more since the 1967 war, and even more recently in all outrageously unfair criminal violence, killing and destruction the Israeli military has inflicted. Two wrongs do not make a right, and violence and toughness only begets more reciprocal violence and toughness.
Of course, U.S. and Israeli offenses do not justify the murderous activities of misguided Muslim extremists. There is no excuse for murderers. The only time killing is justified is when it is to protect the life or lives of those in imminent danger of being killed or cruelly oppressed and persecuted.
In other words, all sides in these battles have been wrong in certain respects. And it is crucial that Israel repent and stop the offenses, incursions and atrocities she has been committing for so long against her neighbors, and make amends. And radical, violent, murderous "Muslim" hypocrites must also repent and stop their evil warfare.
The "Christian" Right in America must also repent and start acting like real and true Christians instead of divisive bigots, hypocrites, and militaristic, imperialistic theocrats, who not only want to rule America and the world, but also blindly support Israeli Zionism even though it is grossly unfair to Arabs and Muslims.
The message from the Spirit of truth will provide significant help to expose and stop them, but it will also take authoritative good Jewish and Christian and Muslim voices to speak up to help tell the truth to expose the bigotry, hypocrisy and error of the false and spiritually blind shepherds who divide and lead their blind flocks astray into offensive and even violent conflict. Only the message and enough good people speaking up to validate the message will reduce the followers of the false, misguided Jews and Christians and Muslims. For once they are fully exposed, they will eventually have no followers at all.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that most Muslims simply want the West to respect them as much as most of them respect the West. That will require many Christians and Jews to admit to their prejudices, religious bigotry, and hypocrisy, while it will require many Muslims to admit to theirs as well.
So, all good people must stand up and speak up, and spread the word about the message from the prophesied Spirit of truth and all other sources of truth. That's the only way things will change.