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In the Name of God بسم الله

who is authoritative in Shia Islam?

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  • Advanced Member

Hi,

Often in Western media we will say Ayatollah so-and-so or Sheikh so-and-so says something in the name of Islam. Now I am not so naive as to think that just because one Ayatollah or Sheikh says it that 100% of Muslims agree with him. The problem is I have no way to know who is authoritative and representative and who is not. Do you see my problem? I know that I can't just assume that "they all agree with this guy." But when I hear a given statement I don't know if the person who says it is supported by 10%, 20%, 50%, or 100%. Maybe the media is only quoting the fringe cases, but I have no way of knowing that.

Certainly this is true in the Jewish world. You might read some extreme statement, and the person might even be an ordained rabbi, and yet it turns out that he has 15 students, including his own children, and nobody else listens to a word he says. Whereas someone else might be widely revered through the Jewish world but not given to making extreme statements and so you will not see him quoted on the evening news.

Now I will also be frank with you. I am sure that there are many fascinating differences between various Islamic leaders on details of Islamic religion and practice that have no bearing on the non-Muslim. I'm not talking about where two different ayatollahs disagree on the sharpness of the knife used to butcher a cow or a disagreement on what colors a headscarf can be. I'm interested in the differences in views about the topics that affect me, which is to say relations with the West (I live in the U.S.) AND/OR with Jews anywhere in the world.

Can you help me sort this out? Who is widely accepted? Who is a fringe case? Does it matter if a person is Iranian or not Iranian?

Here are some names in particular - are the statements of these people representative of a large part of the Shia Muslim world or not?

Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah

Sheikh Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah

Ayatollah Hussein Nuri Hamdani

Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani

But if there are others I should know about (either because they have less influence than you'd think, or more influence than you'd think) please let me know...

Thanks

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Depending on the topic, there are variances between the various Ayatollahs. So if a non-Muslim wishes to understand something, in my view, it would be best to consult a few. Ayatollah Sistani is probably the one held in very high regard.

The one problem with consulting their websites is that the English translation does not always represent the intent of the text in the original language.

But what exactly are you after ? Are you trying to understand Shia Islam in general or just the approach of the Ayatollahs to some specific issues ? It might be a good idea to try to understand Shia Islam first, even if you are interested only in specific issues. Without a proper background, individual opinions of the Ayatollahs may not be as representative of the faith as one might be inclined to think.

To understand Shia Islam, the best place to start would probably be an account of our Imams, in particular Imam Ali and Imam Hussain. Oddly enough, a biography of the Prophet may not serve the purpose because of the multitude of conflicting versions chronicling the same event or anecdote.

A good beginning might be the chapter on Imam Ali in the "The Succession to Muhammad" by W. Madelung of the University of Oxford. It is not perfect but not too bad either. It is not Imam Ali's biography but only covers the period of his caliphate, but you will get a good insight into his character, personality, fearlessness, compassion and his sense of justice.

His letter to Malik -e- Ashtar, his governor-designate to Egypt, might find you gasping for breath. I have presented that letter in post # 82 of the thread "What I have learnt from the Quran ? ".

Here is the link to that post :-

I'm interested in the differences in views about the topics that affect me, which is to say relations with the West (I live in the U.S.) and/or with Jews anywhere in the world.

Let me quote to you the remark of one Professor Reynold, quoted in the book "Ali the Magnificent" by Yusuf Lalljee :-

"As the news of his (Imam Ali's) assassination spread, the Jewish and Christian women and children of Kufa went into mourning as one does for one's father".

I leave it to you to work out what his attitude to them would have been.

P.S. Kufa is the little town in Iraq, where Imam Ali held his capital, and where he was assassinated.

Here are some names in particular - are the statements of these people representative of a large part of the Shia Muslim world or not?

Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah

Sheikh Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah

Ayatollah Hussein Nuri Hamdani

Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani

Fadhlallah is very different from everyone else and as far as I am aware somewhat a moderate. I don't think Rafsanjani is an Ayatollah. Nasrallah is not an Ayatollah either but has enchanted his countrymen. I do not know much about Hamdani. But as I said before, my own preference is for Sistani.

Does it matter if a person is Iranian or not Iranian?

I don't think it matters. In the past, the majority used to be Iraqis, but now most happen to be Iranian.

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Shi'a Islam (and Islam in general) has a vibrant intellectual history, meaning that there is no one authority or one single authoritative book. However you could compare views (say, between different Shia academics, authors, or religious scholars) to get a range of opinions. No one person's view will represent everyone's because there are different trends of thought among Shi'a people just as there are in every other group. We would be happy to help you out in figuring out if certain ideas are representative of most Shia people.Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein

Sayed Nasrullah and Rafsanjani are more focused on politics. Of course they are still educated as religious scholars but their focus is on political issues not philosophy or jurisprudence so they will probably speak more to political issues in most public addresses. You should also take into account the country that person is living in or speaking for; obviously Sayed Nasrullah will be representating a Lebanese viewpoint and Rafsanjani will be representing an Iranian one.

Yes there are commonalities between Shia and a shared viewpoint as well, but realistically there are also regional priorities and concerns so you should take that into consideration, in that a Shia in Thailand may not identify as strong with, say a Shia leader in Saudi.

Basically u should avoid trying to get a 'single story' of Shia issues and intead view it like any other group with complex viewpoints from different angles

Also regarding Jews well as you know Israel is at war with Lebanon and invaded it again 3 years ago....... so you should not be surprised if there is animosity towards Israel especially expressed by Lebanese who have been defending their country for over 2 decades. It's not personal about being a Jew and doesn't have anything to do with religious bias, but it's just the reality of the situation.

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(bismillah) (salam)

sorry no answers but

this is an important question for people also living and dealing with ignorant or hostile people who spread stories.

If people slander shia then the people who do not know what they are talking about can have a gist of the percentage of people the person is trashing.

Like the bnp say 'send them all back'. But (off the top of my head) minorities including whites from europe make up less than 8% of the population! hardly a deluge.

My link

found the url just in case someone wants to see it. :)

Anyway if you dont want to give away the percentage of people that follow the sheikh who 'is anti semetic'

And further fuel the stories I understand B)

Edited by imanbeautysoap
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  • Advanced Member

Hi BostonJew,

In addition to what the sisters/brothers have already said, if you want to know the Islamic scholar opinion on an issue, you can't rely solely on the mainstream Western media. You can try to acquire a more balanced view by looking other news agencies such as Press TV or IRIB. It's even better if you can read the full transcript of a speech (if available) to get you understand the whole picture.

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  • Veteran Member
You can't rely solely on the mainstream Western media.

You cannot rely on them at all.

For example, just a few days ago, Iran asked for more time to respond to the US-Russia-France offer on uranium enrichment. One of the newspapers howled "Iran snubs offer".

Since when is asking for more time equivalent to snubbing ? But that is what the media does. It moulds public opinion to suit its own agenda.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Advanced Member

Hi,

Often in Western media we will say Ayatollah so-and-so or Sheikh so-and-so says something in the name of Islam. Now I am not so naive as to think that just because one Ayatollah or Sheikh says it that 100% of Muslims agree with him. The problem is I have no way to know who is authoritative and representative and who is not. Do you see my problem? I know that I can't just assume that "they all agree with this guy." But when I hear a given statement I don't know if the person who says it is supported by 10%, 20%, 50%, or 100%. Maybe the media is only quoting the fringe cases, but I have no way of knowing that.

Certainly this is true in the Jewish world. You might read some extreme statement, and the person might even be an ordained rabbi, and yet it turns out that he has 15 students, including his own children, and nobody else listens to a word he says. Whereas someone else might be widely revered through the Jewish world but not given to making extreme statements and so you will not see him quoted on the evening news.

Now I will also be frank with you. I am sure that there are many fascinating differences between various Islamic leaders on details of Islamic religion and practice that have no bearing on the non-Muslim. I'm not talking about where two different ayatollahs disagree on the sharpness of the knife used to butcher a cow or a disagreement on what colors a headscarf can be. I'm interested in the differences in views about the topics that affect me, which is to say relations with the West (I live in the U.S.) AND/OR with Jews anywhere in the world.

Can you help me sort this out? Who is widely accepted? Who is a fringe case? Does it matter if a person is Iranian or not Iranian?

Here are some names in particular - are the statements of these people representative of a large part of the Shia Muslim world or not?

Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah

Sheikh Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah

Ayatollah Hussein Nuri Hamdani

Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani

But if there are others I should know about (either because they have less influence than you'd think, or more influence than you'd think) please let me know...

Thanks

Salam,

You can not determine who is better in giving fatwa. It is simply you, that has to go to each ones biography, they all have websites, some of them have English translation. Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, is a Marja'a, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is the leader of Hezbollah, and not an enchanter as someone else mentioned in the post, but rather a Leader of a resistance group located in Lebanon. Each Marja'a differs in a way, and I don't, in my personal opinion suggest you ask anyone on who is better, or who the majority of muslims follow, because that is unknown, but rather you should look at the proof/referal (i.e Quran) they give you with the religious opinion they give you. Also just a response to someone who said Sayyed Mohammad Hussien Fadlallah is a moderate person, he is also a person seeking the unity of muslims, and not to bias to one or the other side. Just wanted to clear that up. Good luck and hope you find my answer somewhat helpful.

Also, wanted to add that with regards to some opinions regarding the west and jews, it is all related to a reaction. There is a cause and a reaction. Don't Look at one and ignore the other, cause you will be mis-informed.

Salam

Edited by Haidar Haidar Ya Sihyon
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