Q45: What is "Taqiyah"? Is it not lying and deception?
Today lots of Islamophobes and Muslim-haters say that the traditional Shia belief in Taqiyah makes us Muslims, Sunni and Shia alike, dishonest, untrustworthy people. Islam takes a hard line against lying in general and stresses the importance of truth and honesty. However, like other ethical systems, there are certain exception to rules in certain, often extreme scenarios.
The idea of concealing your faith, when your life, or your family's life is at risk is permissible. Just like the Jews tried to conceal their faith from the Nazi's in the 1930-40's to avoid being sent to the gas chambers. Taqiyah is a form of self defence, of self preservation and something I have discussed in more detail in a previous blog.
Taqiyah is the concealing of one's beliefs, beliefs that deep down you still hold and haven't abandoned but have been forced to conceal against your will. It is also discussed further by Ammar Nakshawani.
Q46: What is "Muta"? How can Shias justify temporary marriages?
Out of all the misconceptions about Shia Islam, all the discussions and questions, forget the events in history, the Ahlul-Bayt etc, most of the controversy seems to surround the concept of Muta - temporary marriage. I've often entered discussions with Sunnis on forums, on social networks and even in person and when it comes to discussing Shia beliefs, the insults on Muta just start to flow: "How does it feel to know you're mother was probably a prostitute before meeting your dad?" Therein lies the crux of the misunderstanding, our enemies have taken it to mean a form of prostitution when that it not the case at all!
Muta has a Quranic mandate and specific rules and regulation. It is something I've discussed on this blog already and something Ammar Nakshawani goes into in great depth.
Q47: Why do shias pay khums in addition to zakat?
Khums is one of the pillars of Islam ordained by Allah (SWT) and practiced during the time of the Holy Prophet. Khums means "one-fifth," and indicates that 20% of a person's excess income has to be dedicated according to the Holy Quran, for the following:
"Know that one fifth of everything that you obtain belongs to Allah, to the Messenger, to the near of kin, to the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer. This you must observe if you truly believe In Allah and in what We sent down on Our servant on the day when the true was distinguished from the false, the day on which the two armies met in battle. Allah has power over all things."(Surah 8, Verse 41)Khums consists of two equal parts: one being the share of the Imam, meaning that this part goes towards constructing mosques, Islamic schools, libraries, hospitals, orphanages and other things which benefit, defend and/or propagate Islam. The second part is the portion for the poor Syeds (descendants of the Holy Prophet), since they are banned from receiving zakat.
The interpretation by the Ahlul-Bayt of the arabic word "ghanimtum," used in the above verse is "everything that you obtain." That is to say whether from war, work, trade, or other sources. Many Sunni books mention that khums existed during the time of the Holy Prophet and was subsequently banned during the time of the first and second caliphs. The importance of khums for the Holy Prophet can be seen in his advice to the delegation of Bani Abdul Qays:
"Once a delegation of 'Abdul Qais came to Allah's Apostle and said, "We belong to such and such branch of the tribe of Rab'a and we can only come to you in the sacred months. Order us to do something good so that we may (carry out) take it from you and also invite to it our people whom we have left behind (at home)." The Prophet said, " I order you to do four things and forbid you from four things. (The first four are as follows): 1. To believe in Allah. (And then he: explained it to them i.e.) to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and (Muhammad) am Allah's Apostle 2. To offer prayers perfectly (at the stated times): 3. To pay Zakat (obligatory charity)4. To give me Khumus (The other four things which are forbidden are as follows): 1. Dubba 2. Hantam 3. Muqaiyat 4. Naqir (all these are utensils used for the preparation of alcoholic drinks)." (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 10, No. 501)Q48: What is "taqlid"? Why do Shias follow "Marjas" and "Mujtahids"?
Taqlid literally means "to follow." In Islamic terminolgy, "marja at-taqlid" means "to follow a source of emulation," when it comes to religious law and rulings. A marja is the senior-most mujtahid and a mujtahid is a person who is an expert on Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). It should be noted that taqlid pertains only to the realm of the shariah and the furu-e-deen; there can be no taqlid whatsoever in the matters of core beliefs (usul-e-deen). The Holy Quran states in relation to taqlid and mujtahids:
"(O Muhammad), even before you We never sent any other than human beings as Messengers, and to them We sent revelation. Ask the People of the Book if you do not know." (Surah 21, Verse 7)
"Nor should the Believers all go forth together: if a contingent from every expedition remained behind, they could devote themselves to studies in religion, and admonish the people when they return to them,- that thus they (may learn) to guard themselves (against evil)." (Surah 9, Verse 122)This is about creating groups of scholars, not priests or clerics. Mujtahids are not priests, there is no concept of priesthood in Islam. Instead, they are scholars engaged in ijtihad (intellectual struggle). Without these scholars we may well have some of the problems that plague modern Sunni Islam. Among the Ahle Sunnah it is now possible for any person to issue a fatwa on this or that aspect of Islamic law or morality. Self proclaimed sheikhs have proliferated. This problem does not exist in Shia Islam, where the ulema have to have studied for decades and win the respect of their peers before they can start issuing fatwas.
We seek expert guidance in every aspect of our lives - accountants for our taxes, doctors for our health, dentists for our teeth, mechanics for our cars etc - and yet when it comes to religion, our faith, our way of life, we don't need any guidance? As Shias we can take advantage of a group of people who have studied Islam thoroughly and in great depth and are offering their services, their wisdom and knowledge in the form of taqlid.
Q49: What are the concepts of tawalla and tabarra?
Both of these concepts have simple definitions and are the opposite of each other. Tabarra draws the most criticism due to the amount of Shias that abuse it and go too far with it. Tawalla is the practice of loving and praising those people whom Allah (SWT) is pleased with. For Shias that consists of the Holy Prophet, the Ahlul-Bayt and some great companions who helped spread, protect and save the religion of Islam. The concept is based around the Quranic ayat:
"That is (the Bounty) whereof Allah gives Glad Tidings to His Servants who believe and do righteous deeds. Say: "No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin." And if any one earns any good, We shall give him an increase of good in respect thereof: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Ready to appreciate (service)." (Surah 42, Verse 23)Allah (SWT) states that the only recompense the Holy Prophet asks for is the love of his next of kin, his Ahlul-Bayt. Tabarra is the opposite sentiment. It is the practice of dissociating ourselves from the enemies of Allah (SWT) and the Holy Prophet and the Ahlul-Bayt. We ask Allah (SWT) to withdraw his blessings from those who have wronged Him, His Holy Prophet and the Ahlul-Bayt.
Two relatively simply concepts, but tabarra has been abused to include the cursing of certain people, certain companions, which many Shia scholars have condemned. There is no mandate from Allah (SWT) or the Ahlul-Bayt that instructs Shias to curse anyone. There is a clear difference between asking Allah to withdraw his blessings and asking for Him to send curses on people. The later is surely a wrong practice and one that right draws great derision from non-Shias. As always, Ammar Nakshawani is able to explain in more detail.
Q50: Is Shia'ism a product of Abdullah ibn Saba - a Jewish convert to Islam?
We end the 50 Questions about the Shias with arguably the most ridiculous of claims - the concept of Shia'ism is the product of Jewish convert. In Ahle Sunnah tradition Abdullah ibn Saba was a Yemenite Jew who embraced Islam very late in life. During the rule of Imam Ali (as), he is alleged to have introduced a number of concepts, later ascribed to both the Shias and the Ghuluww (those who exalt and deify Imam Ali (as)). He and his followers are also accused of killing the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, and dividing the Muslims into two sects.
Yet, neural Western historians, non-Muslims like George Hodgson and Bernard Lewis conclude that he probably did not exist and even if he did, he certainly wasn't responsible for all the intrigues, plots and religious conspiracies that have been attributed to him by some anti-Shia scholars.
The chain of narration about Abdullah ibn Saba goes back to Sayf ibn Umar. He has been discredited by the likes of Hakim al-Nishaburi and Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. In his acclaimed book "The Succession of Muhammed," Professor Wilferd Madelung writes how "few if any modern historians would accept Sayf's legend of ibn Saba." Similarly, renowned Egyptian Sunni historian, Dr Taha Hussein has said that the "fabrication" of Ibn Saba was done by the enemies of the Shias and that the insertion of a "Jewish element" was aimed at discrediting that Shias. He noted that the absence of any record of Ibn Saba being present at the Battle of Siffin suggests that he is a fictitious person. For the last time, here's Ammar Nakshawani with a detailed dissection about the man.
That finally concludes the 50 Questions about the Shia. What started in January and I hoped would finish over a few weeks has taken over eight months to complete! Fortunately the questions I've addressed during Ramadhan happened to coincide with Ammar Nakshawani discussing the same topics in great detail. I hope people are able to read the questions with an open mind and not resort to typical criticisms and rejections. I am extremely interested to hear what people think about all these points, whether it makes any sense, whether it clears any confusion or in fact generates more questions.
You are always welcome to leave comments and you can also follow me and get in touch via Twitter - @truthaboutshias. Many thanks for reading.