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Assalam u Alaikum There is a controversy surrounding this film. A senior member of Shiachat has shared his thought provoking views on his blog. I found his views to be balanced and well articulated. I encourage others to review the article and share their stance in a respectful manner. Please avoid posting content promoting the movie. This thread intends to raise the bar of intellectual honesty and truth seeking. As such, we expect that members will offer relevant comments with merit. ++++++ By Sayyid Ali @Ibn al-Hussain I’m sure by now many have seen the recent trailer for the film on Lady Fatima (s). Since the trailer's release, a number of people have messaged me personally asking “what I think”. To most of them I simply responded, there is not much to say at this point, it’s too late. The film will be released, and we can only brace for impact. Certain friends from Pakistan are already very concerned at the possible outlash they may face once non-Shi’a – extremists or not - in Pakistan learn about the film and how it depicts the caliphs. My views and approach to these discussions can – generally - very easily be gauged from the type of content I write and publish on Iqra Online. Four-to-five years ago, around the same time that the idea for this film was only just being publicized, I had written an article on the figure of Sulaym b. Qays so a very limited aspect of the discussions around him and the book could be accessible in English and in the hopes that it would generate some conversation regarding the book – which is one of the most important sources for many of the details that will depicted in the upcoming film. Although, I would update the article now with some more findings, as well as generally edit the paper as the writing style has changed a lot in the last few years, I'll share what I had written for those who haven’t seen it: https://www.iqraonline.net/sulaym-bin-qays-the-thin-line.../ The paper is very limited as far as it only concerns the discussion regarding Sulaym himself – whether he even existed or not - and does not deal with the rest of the issues regarding the book’s transmission, interpolations in the text, and as well as general textual criticism that can be done on its bizarre reports. Nevertheless, the problems with this book are well known and affirmed by too many researchers. If it is not the character of Sulaym himself, then there is a plethora of other issues that you still have to address. Ultimately, you have to answer whether such a source can be used as a means to develop a reliable historical narrative or not. — But I think what is more pertinent to address are not the filmmakers and producers. Their views and sectarian agendas have widely been known for years; in fact, they openly acknowledge this. I do not believe they do this all based on whims, rather there definitely exists material in our corpus that they rely on. Those who think otherwise are poorly read and should go and maybe spend some time getting familiar with what is contained in our books, instead of always assuming it is just the books of others that contain problematic material. It was not a coincidence that during the time of Ayatullah Borujerdi when work on proximity with the Ahl al-Sunnah of Egypt was being done, that the Ayatullah had pushed for a ban on a few volumes of Bihar al-Anwar regarding the first three caliphs, because a lot of content exists there. Hence, for a number of years now, whether it be through the writings I’ve published, or through conversations I’ve had, I’ve tried to push for some sort of integrity and consistent standards in how we make use of sources and develop narratives, which we then use to push people to behave in a certain way or alter their understanding regarding religion, tashayyu‘, identity and so on. The issue I have with these groups is not that they are necessarily using material that does not exist, but in fact, the methodology (or the lack of it) they are employing by which they make use of these reports. In this vein, I believe the more important discussion needs to be held with the rest of the community, and where they stand in terms of being coherent and consistent with their beliefs or understanding of history, particularly the history of the Prophet (p) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a). Perhaps, moving forward and when coming up with responses to the very definite lash back we will encounter from the non-Shi’a communities, it may be wise to think about the following points so as to not be caught for being hypocritical and exhibiting double-standards: 1. Those who will be against the film for reasons such as 'it attacks the sensitivities of the Ahl al-Sunnah', or that 'it harms unity', do they not commemorate Fatimiyyah, not once, but twice a year (some places even three occasions)? Often these speeches are uploaded onto YouTube, in various languages. These videos have eulogies at the end which include references to the attack and as well as indirect or direct references to those who attacked the house. Maybe, think about this phenomenon that has been readily accessible by the Ahl al-Sunnah for years, and these videos have been used by anti-Shia polemicists for a long time. If one is ignorant of how aggressively anti-Shia polemicists in the last few years have been thriving on ammo that we have been providing them, then that is even more embarrassing. 2. There are some in the community who often say, "the era of dissimulation is over" (ironically similar to what the producers of this film have been saying for years), but yet will cite the need for dissimulation here for pragmatic reasons (i.e. unity). At the end of the day, they should let us know whether the era of dissimulation is over or not? Need serious consistency on this. If dissimulation is still to be done in some areas, then do not preach such dramatic clichés that "the era" is over when you will conveniently hide behind it elsewhere. 3. While the film will appear to anachronistically pin modern-day terrorism onto an early event in Islamic history, a very naïve approach to understanding historical events, but how much of this rhetoric and these approaches already exist and are spread from our pulpits all year long? All sorts of anachronistic interpretations are being done by different speakers pushing different agendas (perhaps sometimes unintentionally – who knows at this point). Maybe we need to be consistent in calling all these fallacies out. Just because other interpretations are not provocative towards other sects and do not put our lives literally in danger, does not mean they do not do other types of damage to the collective understanding of the community by altering their perceptions of what happened, and then these perceptions are played on to push certain agendas and make people behave a certain way. These could be interpretations that are done to push feminist agendas by portraying Fatima (s) or Zaynab (s) in certain ways, or political agendas by portraying the - exceptional - role of Imam Husayn (a) in a certain way, pushing the “end of times” and “the reappearance is near” rhetoric by using weak sources accompanied with fallacious applications of these reports on events and contemporary personalities, or any other agendas or ideologies that are superimposed onto historical events and personalities to construct a narrative. These narratives are used to hype up people in the communities, make them behave a certain way, when in reality the sources for these ideas are either very problematic or the narratives suffer from an unexhaustive look at as many dimensions as possible to arrive at the best possible understanding. Some of these narratives have been fed to the communities for so many decades that it is suffocating to even think about how to go about correcting them. On top of that, what we hear at times is to not brush these false interpretations and the movements originating in these incorrect explanations because they are good and have supposed benefits for us as a community. This is while on the other hand it is preached that Islam is all about the “method”, it is about “how” you get to your conclusions, and not “what” conclusion you arrive at! Please make up your mind, or at the very least do not attribute these movements and false conclusions to Islam and tashayyu'. I pray we can one day be identified – from the inside and as well as by outsiders - as a community that lives up to some of the more fundamental teachings of the Prophet (p) and of the inheritors of his (a) knowledge, the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt. When will we make our communities be known as communities that study and engage with the sirah of the final Prophet (p) and know how to apply it in today's times? When will we begin engaging and teaching our communities about Quranic exegesis beyond some rudimentary explanations here and there? How is it possible for a community that claims to follow the Prophet (p) and the Ahl al-Bayt (a) to be so detached from the Quran and have no affinity with it besides being able to just read it? When will we begin exploring and teaching the plethora of narrations regarding Allah, His Attributes and other theological teachings in order to help develop a stronger monotheistic worldview, which is so imperative in today’s day and age? When are we going to start prioritizing the recitation and study of the reliable supplications by the Imams (a), instead of only going to them when engaging in a marathon on Laylatul Qadr? There is too much to explore, but our priorities seem to be in making sure Wikipedia lists us for the largest annual gathering. When an entry on Wikipedia seems to be the greatest concern for some in the community, that is a sign of serious intellectual poverty. 4. While there is no doubt that the vast majority of Shi'a scholars have accepted the event of the attack and burning of the door as well as the subsequent martyrdom of Lady Fatima (s) due to it, and I do not think the popularity of this position will be jeopardized any time soon, I believe communities need to be educated that there does exist an alternative narrative which is - historically speaking - justified. Denying certain details is not grounds for excommunication like we saw in the case of Sayyid Fadlullah - perhaps the worst case of negative propaganda witnessed against a Shi'a scholar, by scholars themselves, in recent times. Coincidentally, I am reminded of similar propaganda campaign that was done against Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin in the 1930s, who was also a victim of a similar onslaught from scholars in Najaf when he wrote a treatise against the practice of self-flagellation when he was calling the practice out for giving a bad impression of our religion. In any case, you can’t preach that historians will arrive at different conclusions because historical study is often subjective and different scholars have different approaches, but then at the same time excommunicate a scholar for then using their right to investigate the sources for an event and arriving at a different conclusion! 5. As alluded to earlier, much of the details for the event come from a single book, the Kitab of Sulaym. Some partial details exist here and there in some other works, often also questionable (for example Dala'il al-Imamah). If any other sect used a similar book like Sulaym’s to establish some historical event, let alone its detail, I believe we would have turned them into a laughing stock. But instead, we have been bringing people up with the notion that the details of the attack are so well established, "all over Sunni books" (even though the Sunni books don't contain any such details, and if any specific detail is indeed found, it is generally a dubious book for them), "they have tawatur (widely transmitted)" and so on, not acknowledging that in fact, the sources for the details are extremely scarce and limited. Please note my repeated mention of the word “details of the event”. No Muslim historian denies the existence of an altercation because Imam Ali (a) had refused to give allegiance after the demise of the Prophet (p). The discussion is on whether the details regarding the burning of the door, being whipped, or slapped, or having a miscarriage etc. can be reliably verified or not - details that will emotionally charge up any Shi'a if proven to be true. Given that the narrative pins the murder of Lady Fatima (s) on an individual or a group of individuals, a good litmus test may be to see whether the evidence we have at hand would be enough to find someone guilty or not even within a Shi’i court. If you were the one who was being charged for murder, and the accuser was using these sources as evidence, please consider what you would hope the judge’s verdict would be. Please consider the ethical implications of accusing someone of murder with such dubious evidence, even if they were usurpers of the caliphate that rightfully belonged to Ali (a). Inconsistent propagation of beliefs and ideas is a tragedy we've been facing for a while now. Unfortunately speaking out and offering alternative narratives and explanations is very difficult in our communities as you will often be shred apart by those whose livelihood is tied to these events and as well as the laity who does not know any better and cannot be blamed. I do pray that this film will actually become the catalyst for not what it intended, rather for us in the community to engage in a more nuanced discussion regarding these matters instead of beating around the bush.
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