Caliphate will unite Sunni and Shia in Iraq
An opinion poll published on 7th March by the Washington Post and ABC News showed 80% of Americans believed civil war in Iraq was likely, and more than a third that it was very likely. For those reading the daily news reports from Iraq as well as US and UK newspapers the fear of civil war remains high.
However, these fears are nothing new. Its two years since 180 Muslims were killed in bomb attacks at Kerbala and Baghdad on the religious festival of Ashura to mark the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. Similar statements were raised then about a civil war yet they have failed to materialise.
If the West is to be believed Sunni Shia tensions have been simmering for decades in Iraq, and have now boiled over after the Iraq war. The US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, said that the US-led invasion in 2003 had opened up tensions in Iraq. He said. "We have opened the Pandora's Box and the question is, what is the way forward?"
If we look historically to relations between Sunni and Shia in Iraq we don't see any "Pandora's Box" of tensions. Rather we see both sets of Muslims have always lived together side by side, worshipping in the same mosques and inter-marrying. Despite differences of opinion over some Islamic issues both Sunni and Shia both see themselves and each other as Muslims first.
The Western media continually labels mosques and neighbourhoods in Iraq as being either Sunni or Shia. Yet this distinction is a misnomer. A mosque is a House of Allah, and cannot be described as a Sunni or Shia mosque. This is why the attack on Al-Askara mosque was just as upsetting to Sunni as it was to Shia.
The Shia Imam Muqtada al-Sadr said after the attack, "My message to the Iraqi people is to stand united and bonded, and not to fall into the Western trap. The West is trying to divide the Iraqi people."
During the April 2004 assault on Fallujah, the besieged Sunni city was assisted by Shia and Sunni from across Iraq, who brought medical and food aid for their brothers. They chanted, "No no Sunni, No no Shia, Yes yes Islam". In Baghdad, Sunni and Shia filled the Amm al-Qura mosque, while 200,000 gathered in Baghdad for a demonstration against the assault.
The west likes to cite the Sunni Shia differences as evidence that only a secular solution is the way forward for Iraq. The Library Journal's review of Olivier Roy's mid-nineties book, 'The Failure of Political Islam' echoed the views of many in the West, "the attempt to create a universal Islamist state is doomed to failure because of the conflicts between Sunni and Shia forms and other ethnic differences in the Islamic world"
Both Sunni and Shia are Muslim and have more in common with each other than differences. Both agree on the fundamental tenets of the Islamic belief and that the Qur'an and Sunnah are the principle sources of Islamic law. The main Shia school of thought (madhab) is the Jafari one. This was founded by Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq the sixth Shia Imam, who was also the teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa the founder of the largest Sunni madhab.
The political rule of a future Caliphate is neither Sunni nor Shia, rather it is Islamic. The head of state may adopt legislation from many different schools of thought, whether Sunni or Shia. The people will obey these laws as the law of the land. The Head of State however, will not adopt legislation covering personal worships and beliefs unless they have a societal impact such as Zakat. The Caliphate is not a police state that will intrude in to peoples' homes investigating what beliefs they hold.
The only solution to sectarian violence in Iraq is to establish a Caliphate that will unify all Muslims, whether Sunni or Shia, Arab or Kurd.
Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr, uncle of Muqtada al-Sadr declared while under house arrest because of his opposition to Ba'athism and non-Islamic rule in Iraq, "The only thing I have sought in my life is to make the establishment of an Islamic government on earth possible".
Before his execution at the hands of Saddam in 1980, he said "It is incumbent on every Muslim to liberate themselves from this inhuman gang, and to establish a righteous, unique, and honourable rule based on Islam".
Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere should heed these words and work together to bring about the "honourable rule based on Islam".