Wahda (Islamic Unity) in Iran

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Sunni and Shia praying together. It was not allowed in the past. After the Islamic Revolution this Fatwa changed by Iranian leaders as an instance of Wahda.

You’ve probably heard the name of Mohammad (or Muhammad). It’s said to be the most popular name in the world and even in some parts of the western world (in its different spellings). Simultaneous with the news about global Islamic protest against Macron, the Muslims are celebrating the birthday anniversary of Prophet Mohammad these days. The recent performance of the French officials in supporting insult and indecency against the Islamic beliefs made all the Muslim world from Bangladesh to Morocco nervous again. Of course, I think this is more a game of power and politics than a matter of political philosophy. But I think the so-called ‘separation’ is more a result of this type of secularism (Laicite) in its French meaning.

Iranians protest in front of the French Embassy in Tehran (Source: wanaen.com)

Anyway, the Muslims are not always as such united as they appear from outside. We have Islam in very diverse forms: Turkish and Syrian form, East Asian type, Arabic Wahabism, extremist Takfiris, etc. The dominant Faith in Iran is Shia Islam (Read more). They are similar in their holy book -the Quran- their holy land -Mecca- and their holy prophet -Mohammad. However, they are different regarding their sacred persons, referent texts, methods of text hermeneutics, and their interpretations of Sharia (way of Jihah, pray, etc.).

Sunni and Shia relations in Iran

Now let’s see it from the viewpoint of Iran, where it’s now the center for Shiism and Islam is not only the main religion there but is the political ruling system in the country. It’s important because not even all the Shia branches are the same! In the Shia belief system, the Islamic mainstream community is known as biased after prophet Mohammad from what he instructed people before his death and it continued until now. Because of that, traditionally, Sunni and Shia leaders express their grudge against each other and their sacred persons -successors of the prophet.

But especially after the foundation of the Islamic Republic in Iran, the leaders started emphasizing the concept of Wahda. Wahda means ‘unity’ and stressing our similarities than differences and becoming one whole against the world oppressors. This concept roots in various parts of the Quran.

وَٱعْتَصِمُوا۟ بِحَبْلِ ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًۭا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا۟ ۚ وَٱذْكُرُوا۟ نِعْمَتَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَآءًۭ فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِۦٓ إِخْوَٰنًۭا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍۢ مِّنَ ٱلنَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah1 and do not be divided. Remember Allah’s favor upon you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts, so you—by His grace—became brothers. And you were at the brink of a fiery pit and He saved you from it. This is how Allah makes His revelations clear to you, so that you may be ˹rightly˺ guided.

THE HOLY QURAN, 3:103. Translated by:
 Dr. Mustafa Khattab

To make this symbolized, Iranians officially call the week between the day of birthday (Mawlid) for prophet Mohammad in the Sunni texts (28th of Oct) and in the Shia texts (3rd of Nov) the Week of Wahda. Also, new institutions such as “The World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought” and “International Islamic Unity Conference” are founded to promote the concept. Moreover, any type of public event or publishing insulting the Sunnis and their persons became religiously banned (Haram) by most of the Iranian Shia Marjas and legally prohibited (still very few people do and say things and hold events in their private).

Mustafa Prize for science and technology in the Islamic world. An initiative by Iran for Wahda from 2015.

The idea of Wahda is not completely fulfilled inside Iran, although it’s officially expressed. There are limitations in the country for the Sunnis in their political and religious activities. They can’t take official positions easily -even in the regions who they live as the majority- and in some of the main cities, they can’t have their own special mosques. It’s sometimes said to be because of their past activities against national security but I think that can’t be a good excuse.

Jameh Mosque of Makki, Zahehad, Iran. The largest mosque of Sunnis in Iran.

We see many wars inside North Africa and the West Asia Islamic region these days. These new wars are no longer by the direct presence of western countries but everyone knows these are proxy wars planned and funded by the world powers (Just see what the US president admits about spending 7 Tr$ in the region and funding ISIS). This is why Iranians believe that Wahda still can be the best policy in the region. The Muslims may obey the Quran and while compassionate to each other, move against the world oppressors and enemies of humankind’s values.

مُحَمَّدٌ رَسولُ اللَّهِ ۚ وَالَّذينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدّاءُ عَلَى الكُفّارِ رُحَماءُ بَينَهُم ۖ 

Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Those who are with him are firm and unyielding towards those who deny the truth but compassionate towards one another…

THE HOLY QURAN, 48:29. TRANSLATED BY:
 Wahiduddin Khan

In recent years, the conflicts between Iran and the Gulf countries have upraised again. When I speak to my non-Muslim friends, many of them think these conflicts are just Sunni-Shia religious contests. They are surprised when I tell them they are absolutely wrong! It’s obvious that all is about politics, not religion. The recent normalization of relations with Israel (against Palestinian Muslims) from some of the Arab countries after many years is another sign of proof. Iranian foreign relations are other examples:

  • Confronting Israel and supporting the sovereignty of Palestine (whose major population are Sunnis)
  • Supporting Syrian government (again Sunni) in front of Takfiris (extremist Jihadists funded by western allies)
  • And maintaining good relations with China and Russia (whose majority do not practice any of the Abrahamic religions) in front of western powers.
You Came to Me (2010) by Sammi Yusuf, the British-Persian singer. Sami Yusuf is well-known for his borderless Islamic songs.
Muhammad The Messenger of God (2015) Trailer. Iranian Movie about prophet Mohammad.

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