Now gather ‘round
And I’ll run it down
Ok, most of you know that I'm not Shi'ite, by technicality and default, I am a Sunni (although I personally identify with the term "Muslim", as I believe this is the correct and legitimate name for followers of the Prophet s.a.w - and not the previous two).
I have been a Sunni all my life, (with what you can call a brief flirtation with Salafism in my more rebellious and confused teen years), for the most part of my years, I've been very much closed-minded to Shia Islam, both intentionally and unintentionally through ignorance and the fact that I just accepted the propaganda and misconceptions that we are fed.
As you know, the average Sunni doesn't know jack [Edited Out] about Shia Islam, and has hardly ever had contact with an actual Shi'ite in real life. I was pretty much like this- give or take with a basic understanding of what they believe, mixed in with some of the usual cliche criticisms we throw at them.
I guess it all changed when I got to know a Shi'ite girl some years back for the first time, knowingly at least. Of course the discussion of sectarian differences came into play and from such heated discussions, or arguments if you will, I began to see an alternative narrative to what I was used to - especially in regards to the key events surrounding the Prophet's death. The whole rift with Abu Bakr and Fatima, the divisions amongst the Sahabah in who they supported, the incident at Fatima's house, her death and secret burial, the battle of the Camel, etc.. and the whole Ghadir Khom event prior to all this too.
It was both very intriguing, yet at the same time frustrating, that I couldn't really find a satisfactory Sunni refutation for many of these points - and I was under the assumption because we were the right sect, that our evidences would be so manifest - yet little did I realise, that even within our own sources, especially Bukhari, there was much evidence for what Shi'ites believed had happened. It seemed to be painting these saintly images of key Sunni figures, in perhaps ways that didn't always match up with other hadiths. There was certainly something dodgey going on, especially at the time of the Prophet's death. I didn't admit it of course, but deep down I knew I didn't have anything against what she had thrown my way.
In anycase, I chose to stick with what I believed, as it just was my comfort zone, and I buried what I had come to know in the far depths of my mind. I had since cut off contact with that person for whatever reason, but as it happened, I don't even know why, these questions resurfaced and I began to revisit a lot of the issues we used to speak about, in my own time - yet this time, I began to look at things objectively and without the biased lens I had been looking through previously. It was also only then, did I remember that person confidently telling me that she was certain I'll be Shi'ite one day - I remembered laughing at such an idea, as at the time, it was literally 100% an uncertaintiy and unthinkable. Still, I tried to brush these thoughts away.
However, the more I looked into things, the deeper I got, and it got to a stage where I knew I was lying to myself by believing in the narrative I was most familiar with - I guess a person truly knows something is right or the truth, if they try to fight against it - and I did try for a few more years to suppress this different perspective I had begun to see. I began to frequent this site as an observer primarily, although much of what I know was still from those initial conversations I had, and other research, external to this site.
I think when I really began to form a more solid opinion or stance was when I looked at the incident of Karbala and the matrydom of Imam Hussain in detail - I had always just known the surface details and never felt any real emotion (I just didn't get why Shias got so emotional over this), but I realised, any objective and neutral person could see who was on the side of good and who was on the side of tyranny and injustice - for too long we as Sunnis are too scared to take a side if a conflict involved two "Companions", likewise with the Battle of the Camel.
In anycase, when I read more of the dreadful treatment of the female and children survivors of that incident, I really started asking myself - if the Shias claim they support the Prophet and his family... just who the hell have we been supporting all this time?
It's been a gradual process of unravelling and basically turning a lot of what I believed upside down, as well as changing the ways in which I had previously looked in adoration at some Companions.
What I can say is this much:
- Although the Prophet s.a.w didn't explicitly say who his "Khaleefah" would be, I do believe that Ali ra was the rightful sucessor, and that his claim was usurped, and that there is far greater evidence pointing to his claim than anything of the sort in light of Abu Bakr's claim.
- The Ahlul Bayt, were indeed wronged and oppressed, especially by people who claimed to love the Prophet s.a.w - there is no denying this.
- For the most part, it is the Shias who have also been oppressed by the Sunnis, and it continues to this day.
This being said, although I believe in the rightful claim of Ali r.a, I still have these inherent reservations when it comes to fully embracing the whole Imamat concept and Infallibility, and of the Hidden Imam.
I understand the Quranic verse of purification, but I still don't know if this is explicitly saying that the specifically defined Ahlul Bait are Infallible. I've been one who only viewed the Prophet s.a.w as Infallible - although I do understand that only his true sucessors could be Infallible like him, with an esoteric understanding of the Quran.
I guess, being from a Sunni background, I find it difficult to embrace this deep idealism, as Sunnis are more familiar with a sort of realism, that suggests, the Khulafah, although not neccessarily pious or infallible, are the right people for the job, and the most qualified in practical terms.
It is from this perspective, I acknowledge that Abu Bakr - minus his grave wrongdoings, as a Caliph, had to fight against many internal initial threats to the early Islamic community, such as the false prophets who began to emerge, and those who refused to pay zakat, etc.... and importantly, in terms of the religion of Islam - it's military expansionism, which would be followed on by suceeding caliphs.
In hindsight, how could we know how things would have turned out, if a younger Ali became first Caliph? Would he have ordered the military expansion that the previous Caliphs did, if in the same position? Beause we know his time of Caliph, unfortunately was mostly preoccupied with internal fitnah first from Aisha and then from Muawiyah. How would sucessive Imams carried out their role of leaders of the Ummah - were the Imams supposed to be Caliphs simultaneously?
I guess, like many Sunnis I still have this worldly justification for ourselves, in our military success and expanionism, and sheer numbers (and more ethnic diversity in comparison)- I know numbers do not equate to being on the truth, but it sure is comforting when you know you're a majority. I wouldn't expect anyone to understand that, well maybe ex-Sunnis, and I'm sure many Shias have at some point or another reflected on the larger number of Sunnis and had some anxiety or doubts at some point in time. I do however, find it interesting, being a minority on this forum, it makes a change being a minority for once.
Speaking of, it would be most interesting to see how Sunnis who became Shias managed with these issues, I'm sure being formerly sincere Sunnis, they had to reconcile some of these same points - in addition to praying in a slightly different way...... how did it feel praying differently to what you believed was the correct way? I'd also find that seemingly difficult to get used to.
I haven't really told anyone I know personally about these growing inclinations I have, apart from one relative, and perhaps hinted it to a few people, but no real concrete steps as yet. I am still hoping to learn more as I continue my research.
Sunni Islam is not enough alone that is for sure, there are a lot of holes it seems - though many simply are in blissful ignorance - I wish I could find a sort of solution or closure to this, maybe it is possible to still be Sunni whilst accepting that Ali should have been Caliph?... I'm not sure I'd formally declare myself as Shi'ite, as I still have issues seeing myself as Sunni still. Ideally I'd like to have the truth, and I do hope I find that equilibrium, because right now, I'm in a somewhat state of limbo.
Well that was good to get out of my system. It would be most interesting to hear from former Sunnis but any thoughts or opinions are welcome.