Qu'est-ce que la fracture sunnite-chiite ?

Qu'est-ce que la fracture sunnite-chiite ?


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Bien que les deux principales sectes au sein de l'islam, sunnite et chiite, soient d'accord sur la plupart des croyances et pratiques fondamentales de l'islam, une amère scission entre les deux remonte à environ 14 siècles. La division est née d'un différend sur qui devrait succéder au prophète Mahomet en tant que chef de la foi islamique qu'il a introduite.

Aujourd'hui, environ 85 pour cent des quelque 1,6 milliard de musulmans dans le monde sont sunnites, tandis que 15 pour cent sont chiites, selon une estimation du Council on Foreign Relations. Alors que les chiites représentent la majorité de la population en Iran, en Irak, à Bahreïn et en Azerbaïdjan, et une pluralité au Liban, les sunnites sont majoritaires dans plus de 40 autres pays, du Maroc à l'Indonésie.

Malgré leurs différences, sunnites et chiites ont vécu côte à côte dans une paix relative pendant la majeure partie de l'histoire. Mais à partir de la fin du 20e siècle, le schisme s'est approfondi, explosant en violence dans de nombreuses régions du Moyen-Orient alors que des marques extrêmes de l'islam sunnite et chiite se battent pour la suprématie religieuse et politique.

Les suites de la mort de Mahomet

Les racines de la division sunnite-chiite remontent au VIIe siècle, peu après la mort du prophète Mahomet en 632 après JC. Alors que la plupart des disciples de Mahomet pensaient que les autres membres de l'élite de la communauté islamique successeur, un groupe plus restreint croyait que seul un membre de la famille de Mahomet, à savoir son cousin et gendre, Ali, devrait lui succéder. Ce groupe est devenu connu comme les disciples d'Ali ; en arabe le Ali chiite, ou simplement chiite.

"L'essence du problème est que Mahomet est mort sans héritier mâle, et il n'a jamais clairement indiqué qui il voudrait être son successeur", explique Lesley Hazleton, auteur de Après le prophète : l'histoire épique de la scission sunnite-chiite dans l'islam. "C'était important, car au moment de sa mort, il avait essentiellement réuni toutes les tribus d'Arabie dans une sorte de confédération qui est devenue la oumma - le peuple ou la nation de l'Islam."

Finalement, la majorité sunnite (du nom de sunna, ou tradition) l'a emporté et a choisi Abu Bakr, un ami proche de Mahomet, pour devenir le premier calife, ou chef, de la communauté islamique. Ali est finalement devenu le quatrième calife (ou Imam, comme les chiites appellent leurs dirigeants), mais seulement après que les deux qui l'ont précédé aient tous deux été assassinés.

Ali, lui-même, a été tué en 661, alors que l'âpre lutte de pouvoir entre sunnites et chiites se poursuivait. L'enjeu n'était pas seulement le contrôle de l'héritage religieux et politique de Mahomet, mais aussi beaucoup d'argent, sous forme d'impôts et de tributs payés par les différentes tribus unies sous la bannière de l'Islam. Cette combinaison d'argent et de pouvoir ne ferait que croître. Au cours du siècle suivant la mort de Mahomet, ses disciples avaient construit un empire qui s'étendait de l'Asie centrale à l'Espagne.

Bataille de Kerbala et son importance durable

En 681, le fils d'Ali, Hussein, a dirigé un groupe de 72 partisans et membres de la famille de La Mecque à Karbala (actuel Irak) pour affronter le calife corrompu Yazid de la dynastie omeyyade. Une armée sunnite massive les attendait, et à la fin d'une impasse de 10 jours avec diverses luttes plus petites, Hussein a été tué et décapité, et sa tête apportée à Damas en hommage au calife sunnite.

« Il était évident que les Omeyyades avaient l'intention de mettre un terme définitif à toutes les prétentions à la direction de la oumma en tant que descendance directe de Mahomet », dit Hazleton à propos de la mort de Hussein et de la mort de tous les membres survivants de la famille de Mahomet, à Karbala. "Mais bien sûr, ce n'est pas ce qui s'est passé." Au lieu de cela, le martyre de Hussein à Karbala est devenu l'histoire centrale de la tradition chiite, et est commémoré chaque année comme Achoura, la date la plus solennelle du calendrier chiite.

La division sunnite-chiite au XXIe siècle

En plus de Karbala, le podcast NPR Ligne de fond a identifié trois étapes clés qui accentueraient les divisions sunnites-chiites d'ici la fin du 20e siècle. Il y a d'abord eu la montée de la dynastie safavide au 16ème siècle, qui a transformé l'Iran (par la force) d'un centre sunnite en un bastion chiite du Moyen-Orient. Au début du XXe siècle, les Alliés victorieux ont divisé le territoire détenu par l'ancien Empire ottoman après la Première Guerre mondiale, coupant ainsi des communautés religieuses et ethniques séculaires. Enfin, en 1979, la révolution islamique en Iran a produit une marque radicale d'islam chiite qui se heurterait violemment aux conservateurs sunnites en Arabie saoudite et ailleurs dans les décennies à venir.

Au milieu de la politisation croissante de l'islam et de la montée des fondamentalistes des deux côtés du clivage, les tensions sectaires se sont intensifiées au début du 21e siècle, en particulier au milieu des bouleversements causés par les deux guerres du golfe Persique, le chaos qui a suivi l'éviction soutenue par les États-Unis de Saddam Hussein. régime sunnite en Irak et les soulèvements de masse dans la région qui ont commencé avec le printemps arabe en 2011.

Les divisions sunnites-chiites alimenteraient une longue guerre civile en Syrie, des combats au Liban, en Iran, en Irak, au Yémen et ailleurs, et des violences terroristes des deux côtés. Un fil conducteur dans la plupart de ces conflits est la bataille en cours entre l'Arabie saoudite sunnite et l'Iran chiite pour l'influence dans le Moyen-Orient riche en pétrole et les régions environnantes.

Malgré la nature de longue date de la division sunnite-chiite, le fait que les deux sectes aient coexisté dans une paix relative pendant de nombreux siècles suggère que leurs luttes ont peut-être moins à voir avec la religion qu'avec la richesse et le pouvoir.

"Aucun d'entre eux n'est représentatif de la grande majorité des musulmans sunnites ou de la grande majorité des musulmans chiites dans le monde", a déclaré Hazleton à propos des régimes fondamentalistes gouvernant à la fois l'Arabie saoudite et l'Iran.

« Quand la société s'effondre, vous vous rabattez sur d'anciennes formes d'identité, et les chiites et les sunnites sont des formes d'identité vieilles de 1 400 ans. »


Musulmans sunnites et chiites : la division de l'islam vieille de 1 400 ans expliquée

Les tensions entre l'Arabie saoudite et l'Iran se résument fondamentalement à deux choses : la bataille pour être la nation dominante au Moyen-Orient et le fait que les pays représentent les bastions régionaux de deux branches rivales de l'islam.

Le Royaume d'Arabie saoudite est dirigé par une monarchie sunnite connue sous le nom de Maison des Saoud, avec 90 % de la population qui adhère à la foi de leurs dirigeants. La République islamique d'Iran, quant à elle, est majoritairement chiite, avec jusqu'à 95 % de ses ressortissants appartenant à la confession.

Les deux pays sont d'importants producteurs de pétrole, mais alors que l'Arabie saoudite couvre une masse terrestre beaucoup plus grande, la population iranienne est plus de deux fois plus nombreuse.

Cependant, c'est la division théologique qui creuse vraiment le fossé entre les deux pays, chacun étant incapable d'accepter la légitimité de la foi dominante de l'autre nation.

Qu'est-ce qui a causé la division sunnite-chiite ?

Le conflit sunnite-chiite dure depuis 1 400 ans, remontant aux années qui ont immédiatement suivi la mort du prophète Mahomet en 632.

Le Prophète est mort sans avoir nommé de successeur, ce qui a conduit à une scission massive sur l'avenir de la religion en pleine croissance - principalement si le prochain chef de la religion devrait être choisi par une sorte de consensus démocratique, ou si seules les relations de sang de Mahomet devraient régner.

Les arguments sont compliqués mais se résument essentiellement au fait que les sunnites pensent que l'ami et conseiller de confiance des prophètes, Abou Bakr, a été le premier chef légitime des musulmans ou "calife", tandis que les chiites pensent que le cousin et gendre de Mohammed Ali a été choisi. par Allah pour détenir le titre.

Les deux hommes ont finalement détenu le titre – Abu Bakr d'abord jusqu'à sa mort, et Ali quatrième après l'assassinat de deux califes précédents – mais le schisme a vraiment frappé qui devrait venir ensuite. Alors que les musulmans sunnites soutiennent que leur interprétation de l'islam suit la Sunnah (voies de Mahomet), les chiites soutiennent qu'Ali était le premier calife légitime et que seuls ses descendants pouvaient prétendre être les vrais dirigeants des musulmans.

La tension n'est pas apaisée par un Hadith dans lequel le Prophète a été cité comme disant : « Ma Ummah (communauté) sera fragmentée en soixante-treize sectes et toutes seront dans le feu de l'Enfer, sauf une. Inévitablement, les sunnites et les chiites prétendent être la seule secte islamique « pure ».

En quoi chaque groupe croit-il ?

Comme pour toute division qui dure plus de mille ans, la scission sunnite-chiite a conduit chaque dénomination à développer ses propres cultures, doctrines et écoles de pensée.

Alors que les adeptes de l'un ou l'autre groupe vont du modéré à l'extrémiste, les sunnites se concentrent largement sur le pouvoir de Dieu dans le monde physique, tandis que les chiites se tournent davantage vers les récompenses de l'au-delà et, en tant que tels, accordent une grande importance à la célébration du martyre.

Quelle est la répartition géographique des sunnites et des chiites ?

La grande majorité des musulmans dans le monde sont sunnites, représentant jusqu'à 85% des adeptes de la religion. Ils sont répartis dans le monde entier - du Maroc à l'Indonésie - et constituent la religion dominante en Afrique du Nord et au Moyen-Orient.

Conseillé

Seuls l'Iran, l'Irak, l'Azerbaïdjan et Bahreïn ont une majorité chiite, bien qu'il existe également des populations chiites importantes au Yémen, au Liban, au Koweït, en Syrie et au Qatar.

Bien qu'il soit membre de la minorité religieuse, le Royaume de Bahreïn, soutenu par les Saoudiens, est depuis longtemps dirigé par la Maison sunnite de Khalifa. De même, l'Irak a été dirigé par le sunnite Saddam Hussein pendant plus de 20 ans, au cours desquels il a brutalement opprimé les musulmans chiites.

Le conflit actuel en Irak est également alimenté par des rivalités sectaires, qui ont assiégé le président Bachar al-Assad et les membres de sa famille de la secte chiite alaouite, tandis que de nombreux groupes insurgés de son pays – y compris le groupe terroriste État islamique – sont des adhérents sunnites. .

Et bien sûr, la guerre civile actuelle au Yémen est devenue une guerre sectaire par procuration, l'Iran soutenant les rebelles chiites houthis qui ont renversé le gouvernement du pays dominé par les sunnites, tandis qu'une coalition dirigée par l'Arabie saoudite est depuis intervenue pour réinstaller la direction sunnite.


La fracture sunnite-chiite expliquée avec des cartes et des chronologies extrêmement utiles

« Si nous voulons comprendre le Moyen-Orient, si nous voulons comprendre pourquoi les conflits se déroulent comme ils le sont, et comment ces conflits peuvent être résolus, nous ne pouvons pas détourner les yeux du conflit chiite-sunnite, explique Vali R. Nasr, Doyen de la School of Advanced International Studies de l'Université Johns Hopkins dans une vidéo du Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

La vidéo fait partie d'un infoguide interactif produit par CFR, qui est un regard en profondeur sur les racines d'un fossé qui est au cœur de nombreux conflits violents qui engloutissent actuellement le Moyen-Orient.

"Le clivage chiite-sunnite est un clivage politique et religieux autour de qui était l'héritier légitime après le décès du prophète Mahomet au début de l'islam. Oui, c'est une histoire lointaine, remontant au septième siècle, mais pour des millions de musulmans à travers le monde , c'est ce qui les définit - le sectarisme », explique Ed Husain, chercheur principal adjoint pour les études sur le Moyen-Orient au CFR, dans l'aperçu.

Revenez sur les origines du schisme avec cette chronologie interactive :


Pour voir comment cet ancien différend s'est déroulé dans le monde moderne, cette chronologie commence avec la révolution islamique en Iran et va jusqu'à nos jours :

Où ces tensions sont-elles les plus répandues ? Jetez un œil à la carte pour voir les pays dominés par des conflits sectaires et cliquez sur les pays pour en savoir plus sur leur composition démographique.


Clivage sunnite-chiite

Les chrétiens ont leurs protestants et leurs catholiques, les juifs leurs orthodoxes et leurs réformés. Les musulmans sont également divisés en sunnites et chiites. Ce qui a commencé comme un différend sur qui avait le droit de diriger l'islam après la mort du prophète Mohammad en 632 après JC a conduit à des théologies et des visions du monde différentes pour les sunnites et les chiites. Le schisme a dressé les empires, les nations et les voisins les uns contre les autres par intermittence pendant 14 siècles. Dans les nombreuses guerres civiles au Moyen-Orient aujourd'hui, elle est tantôt un moteur, tantôt un facteur aggravant. Les luttes locales sont aggravées par la concurrence entre les puissances sunnites et chiites, l'Arabie saoudite et l'Iran.

La situation

Les tensions entre les rivaux régionaux se sont intensifiées depuis que l'Iran a négocié un accord international sur son programme nucléaire qui a libéré le pays de sanctions économiques paralysantes. Le prince héritier saoudien Mohammed bin Salman a menacé de se battre contre l'Iran et les dirigeants iraniens accusent les Saoudiens d'avoir contribué à fomenter des manifestations antigouvernementales qui ont commencé fin décembre. Le Yémen&# x2019s la guerre civile&# xA0a été intensifiée par les deux puissances soutenant les parties opposées le long des lignes sunnites-chiites.&# xA0Syrie&# x2019s&# xA0la guerre civile,&# xA0sparked par une révolte populaire contre le dictateur Bachar al-Assad en 2011, rapidement dévolue en une conflagration sectaire. Le conflit syrien, à son tour, a relancé les combats entre les sunnites et les chiites en Irak qui ont saigné ce pays au milieu des années 2000. à la majorité chiite dans un pays traditionnellement considéré comme une force puissante dans le monde arabe, les sunnites du Moyen-Orient ont exprimé leur inquiétude face à la montée de l'influence chiite. De nombreux sunnites craignent que l'Iran essaie d'établir ce que le roi Abdallah de Jordanie a appelé un croissant chiite, englobant l'Irak, la Syrie et le Liban. Le malaise suscité par le pouvoir chiite a été exploité par des groupes extrémistes, notamment l'État islamique djihadiste, dont l'idéologie est enracinée dans le mouvement wahhabite puritain de 200 ans de l'Arabie saoudite. Les wahhabites se considèrent comme sunnites, bien que de nombreux sunnites les considèrent en dehors du giron. Le schisme sunnite-chiite provoque également des violences entre musulmans dans des endroits tels que le Pakistan, le Nigéria et l'Indonésie. Environ 85 % des 1,6 milliard de musulmans dans le monde sont sunnites. Les chiites ne sont majoritaires qu'en Iran, en Irak, en Azerbaïdjan et à Bahreïn, qui est dirigé par la royauté sunnite. Là où les sunnites sont majoritaires ou dominent le gouvernement, les chiites se plaignent fréquemment de discrimination, et vice versa. Selon un sondage de 2012, environ 24 pour cent des non-chiites dans le monde rejettent les chiites en tant que compatriotes musulmans, le chiffre est de 7 pour cent pour les sunnites. 

L'arrière-plan

Les disciples de Mohammad se sont disputés pour savoir s'il devait être remplacé par un parent de sang ou par quelqu'un choisi par la communauté sur la base du mérite. En fait, son compagnon Abu Bakr a été choisi comme premier successeur, ou calife. Le prophète&# x2019s cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, le candidat de ceux qui deviendraient chiites, a été choisi le quatrième calife en 656. Après avoir été assassiné par un fanatique, les chiites ont suivi des dirigeants distincts, ou imams, de la lignée de Mohammad&# x2019s, qui ils croyaient avoir été divinement nommés. Le schisme s'est approfondi en 680 lorsque le calife sunnite&# x2019s armée a tué le troisième imam, Ali&# x2019s fils Hussein, un événement chiites marque dans un rite annuel de deuil. La plupart des chiites pensent qu'il y avait 12 imams légitimes, dont le dernier est entré dans la clandestinité au neuvième siècle et reviendra lorsque les sous-groupes du messie se seront séparés chez les cinquième et septième imams. En l'absence d'imam, les chiites pensent que les éminents universitaires sont largement habilités à interpréter les connaissances religieuses pour la communauté. Le sunnisme rejette les prétentions divines au nom de quiconque en dehors de Mohammad et des autres prophètes du Coran. De nombreux sunnites désapprouvent la pratique chiite de vénérer les proches de Mohammad&# x2019s &# x2014 faisant des sanctuaires de leurs tombes et les jours de fête de leurs anniversaires. Les sunnites croient que l'autorité religieuse vient directement du Coran et des traditions de Mohammad. Leurs savants ont moins de latitude pour interpréter l'Islam.

L'argument

Les frictions entre sunnites et chiites découlent sans aucun doute en partie d'une véritable offense aux croyances des autres. Pourtant, les conflits d'aujourd'hui sont largement alimentés par des agendas politiques. Le problème est moins de savoir comment les musulmans devraient observer leur foi que de savoir qui devrait avoir le pouvoir. Dans le cas des grands rivaux de l'Arabie saoudite et de l'Iran, le soutien ou le soutien perçu de l'un à d'autres sunnites ou chiites d'ailleurs tend à attirer l'intervention de l'autre du côté opposé. Même l'État islamique sans vergogne meurtrier a un objectif politique en ciblant les civils chiites. Il cherche à semer le chaos pour déstabiliser les sociétés dans la poursuite de son objectif ultime : un califat mondial.


Le monothéisme selon Freud : un regard comparatif

Si Achoura sonne une cloche pour le lecteur chrétien, il le devrait. Les similitudes entre Hussein et Jésus sont trop nombreuses pour être ignorées : tous deux étaient des hommes honnêtes et impuissants qui se sont soulevés contre le pouvoir en place et, par un acte de sacrifice, ont démystifié la prétention du tyran à la foi. Les deux décès ont été suffisamment tragiques pour déclencher des siècles de deuil et engendrer de nouvelles doctrines religieuses. L'histoire de Jésus et des Juifs, par conséquent, pourrait nous donner un indice concernant les racines du conflit actuel dans le monde islamique.

En 1939 à Londres, alors que la persécution des Juifs en Allemagne avait atteint un niveau sans précédent et que la Seconde Guerre mondiale allait engloutir l'Europe, le vieux Sigmund Freud, au cœur brisé, avait fui sa Vienne bien-aimée pour Londres pour passer ses dernières années en exil, assis jusqu'à écrire le dernier volet de son étude sur le judaïsme.

Dans la deuxième partie du livre, Freud réitère les idées fondamentales de Totem et tabou, décrivant comment le meurtre du père aux mains d'anciens frères a fondé la société humaine. Dans Moïse et le monothéisme, il considère également le parricide comme le fondement du monothéisme, affirmant que le dieu monothéiste est le père assassiné élevé au statut divin. Il fait également une brève comparaison avec l'Islam, affirmant que « le développement intérieur de la nouvelle religion, cependant, s'est rapidement arrêté, peut-être parce qu'il manquait de la profondeur qui, dans la religion juive, résultait du meurtre de son fondateur ». Les chiites ne seraient pas d'accord : pour eux, le meurtre d'Hussein et de sa famille à Karbala n'est pas moins convaincant que la crucifixion ne l'est pour les chrétiens.

Freud lit l'histoire des religions comme des chemins tortueux pour grandir. En plus du meurtre du père, les tensions et les guerres qui se produisent dans les premières phases des religions constituent des traumatismes d'enfance massifs chez une personne. Tout comme les traumatismes ont une période d'incubation et reviennent plus tard dans la vie, les traumatismes historiques des religions restent latents pendant de longues périodes, parfois des siècles. Nous réprimons les traumatismes pour rendre la vie supportable, mais le refoulé est voué à revenir. Ne faut-il pas attribuer une part des guerres de religion et sectaires dans l'histoire aux traumatismes qu'elles ont subis dans leur enfance ?

Le livre inhabituellement sombre de Freud nous dit que les cicatrices historiques et religieuses ne s'effacent pas facilement. Chaque développement majeur de l'histoire, à sa conception, a été marqué par des cicatrices. La cicatrice au cœur de l'Islam ne fait pas exception : le mécontentement créé dans le choura transformé en une égratignure par la guerre du Chameau, et une cicatrice profonde par Karbala. De tels traumatismes ne disparaissent pas simplement, mais ils peuvent être contrôlés, tout comme ce traumatisme a été contenu pendant des centaines d'années.

L'histoire des deux derniers siècles au Moyen-Orient se résume à des coups successifs à toutes les forces qui contiennent le traumatisme infantile de l'Islam. Le colonialisme brutal, les rois titulaires qui n'ont fait que flatter leurs maîtres occidentaux, un certain nombre de dictateurs laïques dont la brutalité aveugle a renforcé les religieux réactionnaires, ont gravement endommagé des siècles de coexistence pacifique à travers le monde islamique.

L'invasion désastreuse de l'Irak a été la goutte d'eau. Il a déchiré les derniers tissus qui maintenaient ensemble ce corps meurtri. Tout comme l'émergence d'Hitler a ruiné l'existence pacifique dans une Europe déjà souffrante et ouvert la cicatrice au cœur des sociétés judéo-chrétiennes qui avait pour origine la crucifixion de Jésus aux mains de ses compatriotes juifs, l'invasion de l'Irak par Bush a servi de le match dans un baril de dynamite.

Par conséquent, la tension chiite-sunnite est aussi inévitable et intégrante de l'islam que toute autre tension religieuse et sectaire fait partie intégrante de toute autre religion. Grâce à l'énorme quantité de violence dont le Moyen-Orient a été victime pendant des siècles, le traumatisme de l'enfance de l'Islam a explosé à sa surface.

La catastrophe se déplace selon des lignes sectaires, et les dirigeants mondiaux la regardent transpercés. De temps en temps, ils proposent des plans de paix cosmétiques, qui ne fonctionnent jamais, car ce genre de cicatrice ne sera pas guéri par des manœuvres politiques et une astuce sournoise. Seul un engagement fondamental en faveur de la paix de toutes parts peut y mettre un terme. En l'absence d'une coopération honnête entre les factions belligérantes, la cicatrice continuera à saigner, jusqu'à ce que le corps soit irrémédiablement mort.

Amir Ahmadi Arian est un écrivain et traducteur iranien, titulaire d'un doctorat en littérature comparée de l'Université du Queensland, actuellement inscrit au programme d'écriture créative de NYU. En Iran, il a collaboré avec divers journaux et magazines et publié plus de 200 articles sur la culture et la politique de l'Iran et du Moyen-Orient.


Sunnite - Chiite : Brève histoire

Les musulmans sunnites et chiites partagent les croyances et les articles de foi islamiques les plus fondamentaux. Les différences entre ces deux principaux sous-groupes au sein de l'Islam provenaient initialement non de différences spirituelles, mais politiques. Au fil des siècles, cependant, ces différences politiques ont engendré un certain nombre de pratiques et de positions différentes qui ont acquis une signification spirituelle.

La division entre chiites et sunnites remonte à la mort du prophète Mahomet, et à la question de savoir qui devait prendre la direction de la nation musulmane. Les musulmans sunnites sont d'accord avec la position adoptée par de nombreux compagnons du Prophète, selon laquelle le nouveau chef devrait être élu parmi ceux qui sont capables de faire le travail. C'est ce qui a été fait, et l'ami proche et conseiller du prophète Mahomet, Abou Bakr, est devenu le premier calife de la nation islamique.

Le mot « sunnite » en arabe vient d'un mot signifiant « celui qui suit les traditions du Prophète ».

D'un autre côté, certains musulmans partagent la conviction que le leadership aurait dû rester au sein de la propre famille du Prophète, parmi ceux spécifiquement nommés par lui, ou parmi les imams nommés par Dieu lui-même.

Les musulmans chiites croient qu'après la mort du prophète Mahomet, la direction aurait dû passer directement à son cousin/gendre, Ali. Tout au long de l'histoire, les musulmans chiites n'ont pas reconnu l'autorité des dirigeants musulmans élus, choisissant plutôt de suivre une lignée d'imams qui, selon eux, ont été nommés par le prophète Mahomet ou Dieu lui-même. Le mot « chiite » en arabe signifie un groupe ou un groupe de personnes solidaires. Le terme communément connu est abrégé de l'historique « Shia-t-Ali » ou « le Parti d'Ali ». Ils sont également connus comme les adeptes de « Ahl-al-Bayt » ou « Personnes de la maison » (du Prophète).

À partir de cette question initiale de leadership politique, certains aspects de la vie spirituelle ont été touchés et diffèrent désormais entre les deux groupes de musulmans.

Les musulmans chiites croient que l'imam est par nature sans péché et que son autorité est infaillible car elle vient directement de Dieu. Par conséquent, les musulmans chiites vénèrent souvent les imams comme des saints et effectuent des pèlerinages vers leurs tombes et sanctuaires dans l'espoir d'une intercession divine. Les musulmans sunnites rétorquent qu'il n'y a aucune base dans l'Islam pour une classe privilégiée héréditaire de chefs spirituels, et certainement aucune base pour la vénération ou l'intercession des saints. Les musulmans sunnites soutiennent que le leadership de la communauté n'est pas un droit d'aînesse, mais une confiance qui se mérite et qui peut être donnée ou retirée par les gens eux-mêmes.

Les musulmans chiites ressentent également de l'animosité envers certains des compagnons du prophète Mahomet, en raison de leurs positions et actions au cours des premières années de discorde au sujet du leadership dans la communauté. Beaucoup de ces compagnons (Abu Bakr, Umar, Aisha, etc.) ont raconté des traditions sur la vie et la pratique spirituelle du Prophète. Les musulmans chiites rejettent ces traditions (hadith) et ne fondent aucune de leurs pratiques religieuses sur le témoignage de ces individus. Cela donne naturellement lieu à des différences de pratique religieuse entre les deux groupes. Ces différences touchent tous les aspects détaillés de la vie religieuse : prière, jeûne, pèlerinage, etc.

Les musulmans sunnites constituent la majorité (85%) des musulmans du monde entier. Des populations importantes de musulmans chiites se trouvent en Iran et en Irak, et de grandes communautés minoritaires au Yémen, à Bahreïn, en Syrie et au Liban.

Il est important de se rappeler que malgré toutes ces différences d'opinion et de pratique, les musulmans chiites et sunnites partagent les principaux articles de la croyance islamique et sont considérés par la plupart comme des frères dans la foi. En fait, la plupart des musulmans ne se distinguent pas en prétendant appartenir à un groupe particulier, mais préfèrent s'appeler simplement « musulmans ».


Le clivage sunnite-chiite entre islam et islam expliqué

Les musulmans du monde se divisent en deux grands camps, les sunnites et les chiites, parfois comparés aux catholiques et aux protestants du christianisme. Mais la similitude est superficielle. En termes de population musulmane totale dans le monde, les sunnites et les chiites ne sont pas d'accord sur le pourcentage que chaque groupe possède, les sunnites représentant 80 à 90 % du total et les chiites 10 à 20 %.

Après la mort de Mahomet en 632 de notre ère, la lutte pour savoir qui devrait lui succéder a rendu l'Islam très turbulent au cours du demi-siècle suivant. En fait, trois des quatre premiers successeurs de Mahomet ont été assassinés. La division sunnite-chiite remonte à ce premier conflit.

Ali, le cousin et gendre de Mahomet, a été choisi par l'ensemble de la communauté comme son quatrième successeur. Mais une minorité a affirmé que Mahomet avait nommé Ali et sa lignée familiale pour lui succéder, et qu'Ali aurait dirigé dès le début si les familles puissantes ne l'avaient pas écarté. Cette minorité est connue sous le nom de chiite, de l'arabe shi c à c Ali, ou "partisans d'Ali". Les sunnites, leurs opposants, ont rétorqué qu'en laissant décider une majorité de dirigeants musulmans, ils suivaient la volonté de Mahomet. sunna, ou « façon » de choisir.[1]

Après l'assassinat d'Ali en 661, la scission n'a fait que s'élargir. En 670, le premier fils d'Ali, Hassan, est assassiné. Puis en 680, dans ce que les deux parties conviennent d'être un acte de trahison, le représentant du calife sunnite a décapité le fils restant d'Ali, Husayn, à Karbala, dans l'Irak d'aujourd'hui. Il a tué la plupart des compagnons et de la famille de Husayn avec lui, y compris son fils en bas âge, Ali.

Compte tenu de cette histoire, sunnites et chiites divergent naturellement sur diverses questions théologiques et pratiques. Une pratique déterminante des Twelver Shias, par exemple, est leur commémoration rituelle annuelle du martyre de Husayn et de ses compagnons. La scission sunnite-chiite est également marquée par de vifs désaccords sur

  • Comment le schisme s'est déroulé, y compris quels personnages sont des héros
  • Quels hadiths sont acceptés
  • Questions de droit, telles que le mariage et le divorce
  • L'autorité des successeurs légitimes de Mahomet, qu'ils soient califes (sunnites) ou imams (chiites)[2]
  • Le déroulement de l'histoire et le rôle du Mahdi, libérateur eschatologique des maux extérieurs

Mais malgré leurs nombreuses différences, sunnites et chiites s'accordent sur la centralité de Mahomet et du Coran dans leur foi. Par conséquent, ils ont des vues similaires sur la plupart des bases :

  • Les « cinq piliers » ou pratiques essentielles de l'islam : le credo, les prières rituelles, l'aumône, le ramadan et le pèlerinage à la Mecque
  • Les prophètes et les écritures avant Mahomet
  • La nature de la relation du croyant avec Dieu[3] [3]
  • Que le salut se gagne par les bonnes actions et la loyauté envers la communauté musulmane
  • L'importance vitale du dernier jour

Les médias d'information font souvent état de violences entre sunnites et chiites dans des endroits comme l'Irak et le Pakistan. Une telle violence est tragique et ne doit pas être minimisée, surtout avec la menace d'un Iran nucléarisé (chiite) et d'une Arabie saoudite (sunnite) devant nous. Mais les musulmans qui se plaignent que ces reportages déforment l'image ont en partie raison parce que le modèle commercial de nos médias « à la fois suppose et intensifie la polarisation »,[4] et la plupart des sunnites et des chiites coexistent pacifiquement. Il est tout aussi vrai, cependant, que la rivalité sunnite-chiite restera un déstabilisateur partout où l'une ou l'autre secte est considérée comme une menace dans le monde musulman. C'est-à-dire tant que les deux versions de l'islamisme – chiite et sunnite – sont bien vivantes.[5] Et ni l'un ni l'autre ne montre actuellement aucun signe de ralentissement.

[1] Les deux points de vue ont été observés dans l'Arabie préislamique, même si les deux sont toujours présents dans les tribus de l'Arabie saoudite aujourd'hui. Dans une majorité de tribus, les clans étaient représentés par un conseil de chefs qui choisissait le cheikh tribal. Une minorité de tribus, en revanche, a adopté une approche héréditaire du leadership tribal. Ainsi, il semble que la minorité de l'Arabie préislamique (qui estimait que la succession tribale devrait être héréditaire) est devenue la minorité islamique (chiite), après la mort de Mahomet.

[2] Les sunnites considèrent leurs califes comme des dirigeants politiques divinement ordonnés, tandis que les chiites considèrent également leurs imams comme des guides infaillibles en matière spirituelle.

[3] Cela ne s'applique que superficiellement aux Ismaili Shia (Seveners). En fait, les deux plus grandes sectes chiites (douze et cinq) ont sans doute plus de points communs théologiquement avec les sunnites qu'avec les ismailis.

[4] Ross Douthat, « Comment Trump a piraté les médias sous nos yeux », New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/opinion/trump-facebook-cambridge-analytica-media.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage Consulté le 21 mars 2018.

[5] L'islamisme est une tentative de retour aux racines militantes et politiques de l'islam.


Le schisme « toxique » de l'Islam

Incarnée dans la rivalité entre l'Arabie saoudite et l'Iran, la division sunnite-chiite est un schisme qui menace de déchirer le monde islamique. Bien que ses origines remontent aux débuts de l'Islam, sa toxicité actuelle est un développement récent.

Révérence chiite : portrait de l'Imam Husayn ibn Ali, fils d'Ali ibn Abi Talib, dans une rue de Kashan, Iran.

Les mots sunnites et chiites ne sont apparus dans la conscience publique qu'à la fin des années 1970. Avant cela – sauf chez les sunnites et les chiites eux-mêmes – les termes étaient largement confinés au monde raréfié des facultés d'études islamiques. Mais en 1978, il est devenu évident pour les journalistes aux prises avec les premières étapes de la révolution islamique en Iran que le clergé chiite, qualifié de « corbeaux noirs » sans importance par le Shah qui allait bientôt être renversé, était en fait très important. Peu d'analystes politiques – y compris ceux de la CIA et du MI6 – en savaient beaucoup à leur sujet.

Depuis, nous sommes passés d'un extrême à l'autre. Aujourd'hui, beaucoup trop de commentateurs considèrent le clivage sunnite-chiite comme la cause première de toutes les difficultés auxquelles sont actuellement confrontés le Moyen-Orient et une grande partie du reste du monde islamique. Cette explication est facile, si commode. Elle n'est pas non plus réservée aux néo-conservateurs ou aux entrepreneurs identitaires de droite en Occident, qui aiment écrire sur une lutte darwinienne pour l'âme de l'Islam qui correspond à leurs propres idées préconçues sur la nature essentiellement violente de la religion. Indeed, Barack Obama is on record as stating that ‘ancient sectarian differences’ are the drivers of today's instability in the Arab world and that ‘the Middle East is going through a transformation going on for a generation rooted in conflicts that date back millenia’.

What truth is there in such statements? In order to answer that question, we need to establish how most Muslims became either Sunni or Shia and examine why the split is still theologically significant. Is the Sunni-Shia divide really a driver for conflict or is it in reality a convenient cloak for political disputes? I believe that the latter is the case and that we hinder our attempts at analysis by using the divide as an explanation for modern conflicts.

The origins of the split may go back to the final hours of the Prophet Muhammad's life in 632. When those close to him realised he was dying, they were forced to confront the question of who would lead the Muslim faithful after his death. The Muslims, followers of the new religion Muhammad believed had been revealed to him by God, now dominated Arabia. Yet there were different factions within the Muslim community and its roots were still shallow in many parts of the peninsula. Whoever became the new caliph, as the leader of the community came to be styled, would be faced with pressing political decisions, as well as the need to provide spiritual guidance. Moreover, his authority would never be able to match that wielded by Muhammad, since the caliph would not be a prophet.

Ali bin Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin, who had also married his daughter, Fatima, believed that the Prophet had designated him as his successor. But other leading companions of Muhammad considered Ali unsuitable. He was 30 years younger than Muhammad and therefore much younger than many of the Prophet's leading companions. Some questioned the reliability of his judgment. Perhaps most crucially, he was perceived as too close to the Muslims of Medina, the Ansar. These ‘Helpers’ were the inhabitants of Medina who had given refuge to the Prophet and his followers after they left Mecca in 622. As such, they were not members of the aristocratic Meccan tribe of Quraysh, to which Muhammad had belonged. Ali was repeatedly overlooked as the leadership passed in turn to three much older companions of the Prophet: Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman. Ali accepted this state of affairs with grudging resignation but never abandoned his belief that the Prophet had intended him as his successor.

During the 24 years in which Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman ruled the polity which Muhammad had established, it turned into an empire that conquered Greater Syria, Iraq, Egypt and much of the Iranian plateau. This success was nearly its undoing. Mutinous tribesmen, dissatisfied with their share of the booty from the conquests, murdered Uthman and it was only at this point, in 656, that Ali was acclaimed as caliph.

Ali's rule was contested from the outset. Civil wars inside the Muslim community began within months. The Prophet's widow, Ayesha, stirred up a rebellion against Ali under the leadership of two other eminent companions of the Prophet, Talha and Zubair, both figures of sufficient stature to be considered potential candidates for caliph. Ali defeated them and they were both killed on the battlefield, but then he had to fight the powerful governor of Syria, Mu'awiya, who was a kinsman of the murdered Uthman. There was a pause for negotiations but, before this dispute could be resolved, Ali was assassinated in 661 and the caliphate was taken over by Mu'awiya, who founded the Umayyad dynasty, which ruled until it was overthrown by the Abbasids in 750. Their caliphate lasted until 1258, although they had to bow to the control of families of warlords from 945 onwards. Most Muslims accepted Umayyad and then Abbasid rule, but the office of caliph decayed into little more than a symbolic source of legitimacy. Whatever power the caliph may (or may not) have once had to define Islamic teaching had drained away by the middle of the ninth century.

The civil wars that shattered the Muslim community's unity during Ali's caliphate were a scandal and left a trauma. Islam was meant to bring peace and justice. Instead, it had been torn apart by violence leaving a legacy of bitterness and mistrust, as well as calls for vengeance. Some of Muhammad's closest companions had led armies against each other. As a consequence of this discord, two competing narratives of the early history of Islam emerged, which led directly to rival conceptions of how the truths of Islam should be discerned.

All Muslims accept the Quran as their starting point. The question is: how can Muslims discern the teaching and practice of their faith when the text of the Quran does not provide a clear answer to questions about doctrine and practice. Most Muslims looked to the Prophet's companions as the source of his wisdom, his customs and his practice of the faith. But this was problematic for those who believed Muhammad had intended Ali to follow him. This group saw the overwhelming majority of the companions as people who had betrayed the wishes of the Prophet after his death, when they rejected Ali. It followed that, however close those companions may have been to the Prophet during his lifetime, they were unreliable transmitters of the faith.

Ali's followers clung instead to a belief in the Prophet's family as the source for the true teaching of Islam, especially Ali and his direct descendants through Fatima, the Prophet's daughter. In each generation, the head of the House of Ali became known as the Imam (not to be confused with the more general title given to a prayer leader by Sunni Muslims). He was deemed to be sinless and to have a direct connection with the Divine that meant his interpretation of the faith would always be the true one. Such ideas were anathema to the majority of Muslims, who believed Ali had not been chosen by the Prophet as his successor.

These are the two communities we now call Sunni and Shia. Sunnis are those who revere the companions of the Prophet and see them as the transmitters of his practice or custom (sunna in Arabic) Shias are the partisans of Ali and his descendants through Fatima (Shi'ah means faction or party). The differences between them go back to their incompatible interpretations of the early history of Islam and each can find justification for its position in the historical sources. The Shia see Sunnis as betrayers of the true Islam, while Sunnis see the Shias as a group who have brought factional strife into their religion. Although most Shia clerics discourage this today, there have been many periods of history when Shia have cursed Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman as well as other important Sunni figures such as the Prophet's widow Ayesha. For their part, many Sunni scholars throw up their hands in horror at the Shia veneration for the Imams, which they see as a form of idolatry.

As long as the basic point concerning these rival narratives of early Islamic history and their theological significance is understood, there is no need to delve any deeper into the struggles between medieval dynasties in order to understand the tensions between Sunnis and Shias today. It is sometimes implied that those struggles have continued into modern times, but this is entirely wrong. What has survived into our own time is the existence of rival – and, to an extent, incompatible ­– teachings as to how the doctrines and practice of Islam should be discerned.

Today, up to 90 per cent of Muslims are Sunnis. Among the Shia minority, an overwhelming majority are ‘Twelvers’. ‘Twelver Shi'ism’ teaches that the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, went into hiding in the late ninth century in order to escape murder at the hands of the Sunni Abbasid caliphs. He remains alive to this day but is hidden, or absent, from the world. He will reappear at the end of time to initiate a millenarian era of justice which will precede the struggle with the Antichrist and the Last Judgement. One consequence for Twelvers of the absence of the Imam until the end of earthly time is that their religious scholars have gradually taken over the Imam's role in expounding the doctrines and practice of the faith. Iran and Azerbaijan are Twelver countries, while Twelvers constitute a majority in Iraq and Bahrain and are the largest single religious sect in Lebanon. There are also significant Twelver minorities in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia and among the Muslims of India.

When people talk of the Sunni-Shia divide as an issue in international politics, they are generally alluding to the divide between Sunnis and Twelvers, since that is the divide that appears to have political significance today. Other Shia groups, such as the Ismaili followers of the Agha Khan, tend to have little significance in the politics of most Muslim countries, while others, such as the Alawis of Syria (who are an offshoot of the Twelvers) or the Zaydis of Yemen (who are not) are only of political importance in the particular countries where they are located.

It is often forgotten that the Sunni-Shia divide only became explosive internationally from the 1970s onwards. Before then, Twelvers had come to be accepted by many Sunnis almost as an additional law school alongside the four great law schools of Sunni Islam. Sunnis accept these four law schools, the Malikis, Hanafis, Shafi'is and Hanbalis, as equally valid in their teaching of the practice of the faith. Twelvers are sometimes described as followers of the Ja'fari law school, named after the sixth Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq (died 765). It is worth noting in passing that, as well as being a Shia Imam, he was also hugely respected by Sunnis as a teacher of Muslim doctrine and practice. Malik bin Anas and Abu Hanifa, the founders of the Maliki and Hanafi law schools of Sunni Islam, were among his pupils.

None of this means that tensions between Sunnis and Shias had been absent. After the creation of the modern state of Iraq, for instance, there were bitter struggles over whether the Sunni or Shia interpretation of the early history of Islam should be taught in schools. The majority Shia felt excluded from Iraq's predominantly Sunni elite (although between 1945 and the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958 there were four Shia prime ministers). Yet in many countries, including Iraq and Syria, secular politics based on nationalist and socialist ideas seemed to be the way forward. This made questions of sectarian identity among the Muslims there less important. When India was partitioned in 1947, Pakistan was conceived as a homeland for a new nation that would have Islam as the cornerstone of its national identity. Intra-Muslim sectarianism played no part in its creation. Frequently overlooked today (and sometimes airbrushed from history) is the fact that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a Twelver Shia. So were the Bhutto family.

Why has Sunni-Shia sectarianism become so toxic? There are several reasons. The first is the tolerance of anti-Shia hate speech by the Saudi Arabian government, which, especially after it accrued massive oil revenues from 1973 onwards, has sought to export its brittle Wahhabi ideology. Saudi Arabia might see itself as promoting Muslim solidarity as a rallying point for conservatives against Arab nationalism, socialism and democracy, yet its founding ideology, Wahhabism, demonises the Shia (and Sufis) as idolaters. The second reason is the Iranian revolution of 1979. This was ‘Islamic’, although not primarily in a sectarian sense. Ayatollah Khomeini's ambition was to persuade all Muslims – Sunnis as well as Shias – to line up behind him. (That was his motive when issuing a death sentence on Salman Rushdie, for example). The spread of Iranian revolutionary ideas was seen as a threat by Saudi Arabia and all other western-aligned, conservative states with Muslim populations. As the decades passed, Saudi Arabia and Iran would both try to co-opt Sunni and Shia communities to their side in their struggle for regional power. Iran's greatest success was in the mobilisation of the Twelvers of Lebanon and the formation of the political and paramilitary organisation, Hezbollah. It also did what it could to stir up trouble for Saudi Arabia among the Twelvers of the oil-rich eastern province of the kingdom, who were always looked down on with suspicion by the Saudi monarchy and suffered discrimination. In Pakistan, as a result of Saudi influence during the military rule of General Zia ul-Haq from 1977-88, a form of strict Sunni Islam became the governing ideology of the state. This excluded the Shia and led to the sectarianisation of Pakistani politics

The third reason is the decay of Ba'athism, the ultra-secular Arab nationalist movement that came to power during the 1950s and 1960s in Syria and Iraq through a series of military coups and intrigues. Although Ba'athism pledged to remove religion from politics entirely, the manner in which Ba'athist regimes came to power ended up having the opposite effect. Military dictators have to build up power bases with patronage. Men like Saddam Hussein in Iraq (a member of the Sunni minority) and Hafez al-Assad in Syria (a member of the Shia Alawi minority) promoted family members, childhood friends from their own town or village, people from their own tribe and province and, almost inevitably, co-sectarians. It should be no surprise that Saddam's Republican Guard were recruited from (Sunni) tribes near the president's home town, or that the Alawis of the mountains where Hafez al Assad grew up supplied a disproportionate number of his secret policemen.

In both countries, democratic life ended in the late 1950s or early 1960s and the dictators were as brutal as expediency required. No wonder, then, that toxic sectarian politics should have found fertile soil in each of them. In Syria, this occurred when militant Sunni Islamists, who denounced Alawis and Ba'athists as apostates, took on the regime in Hama in 1982 and subsequently infiltrated the abortive revolution after 2011. In Iraq, Shia opposition to Saddam led to the growth of religion-based political parties linked to Iran, while the re-introduction of democratic elections after the 2003 invasion led to the flourishing of sectarian parties. The perfect storm created in both countries incubated ISIS with its extreme anti-Shia rhetoric. In Iraq, some Sunnis who felt excluded from the new order were tempted to fight under its banner, which also attracted a number of talented former army officers. In Syria, where those killed by ISIS are only a fraction of the number killed by government forces, some Sunnis could see ISIS as the lesser of two evils.

Yet sectarianism is a blind alley. The ideals of the Arab Spring in 2011 and similar movements were non-sectarian. The sectarian identity entrepreneurs who have set up groups like Al Qaidah and ISIS may succeed in manipulating enough people in their communities to destabilise the region for years to come, but in the end the ideals which shook the Arab world in 2011 showed that the people of the region wish to travel in a different direction. Those ideals such as democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and the wish for a modern, corruption-free economy (all summarised by the protesters by the one word karamah, ‘dignity’) still bubble away beneath the surface.

John McHugo is the author of A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi‘is (Saqi, 2017).


Contenu

Most of Islamic history was transmitted orally until after the rise of the Abbasid Caliphate. [note 1] Historical works of later Muslim writers include the traditional biographies of Muhammad and quotations attributed to him—the sira et hadith literature—which provide further information on Muhammad's life. [1] The earliest surviving written sira (biography of Muhammad) is Sirat Rasul Allah (Life of God's Messenger) by Ibn Ishaq (d. 761 or 767 CE). [2] Although the original work is lost, portions of it survive in the recensions of Ibn Hisham (d. 833) and Al-Tabari (d. 923). [3] Many scholars accept these biographies although their accuracy is uncertain. [4] Studies by J. Schacht and Ignác Goldziher have led scholars to distinguish between legal and historical traditions. According to William Montgomery Watt, although legal traditions could have been invented, historical material may have been primarily subject to "tendential shaping" rather than being invented. [5] Modern Western scholars approach the classic Islamic histories with circumspection and are less likely than Sunni Islamic scholars to trust the work of the Abbasid historians.

Hadith compilations are records of the traditions or sayings of Muhammad. The development of hadith is a crucial element of the first three centuries of Islamic history. [6] Early Western scholars mistrusted the later narrations and reports, regarding them as fabrications. [7] Leone Caetani considered the attribution of historical reports to `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and Aisha as mostly fictitious, preferring accounts reported without isnad by early historians such as Ibn Ishaq. [8] Wilferd Madelung has rejected the indiscriminate dismissal of everything not included in "early sources", instead judging later narratives in the context of history and compatibility with events and figures. [9]

The only contemporaneous source is The Book of Sulaym ibn Qays (Kitab al-Saqifah) by Sulaym ibn Qays (died 75-95 AH or 694-714 CE). This collection of hadith and historical reports from the first century of the Islamic calendar narrates in detail events relating to the succession. [10] However, there have been doubts regarding the reliability of the collection, with some believing that it was a later creation given that the earliest mention of the text only appears in the 11th century. [11]

Feast of Dhul Asheera Edit

During the revelation of Ash-Shu'ara, the twenty-sixth Surah of the Quran, in c. 617, [12] Muhammad is said to have received instructions to warn his family members against adhering to their pre-Islamic religious practices. There are differing accounts of Muhammad's attempt to do this, with one version stating that he had invited his relatives to a meal (later termed the Feast of Dhul Asheera), during which he gave the pronouncement. [13] According to Ibn Ishaq, it consisted of the following speech:

Allah has commanded me to invite you to His religion by saying: And warn thy nearest kinsfolk. I, therefore, warn you, and call upon you to testify that there is no god but Allah, and that I am His messenger. O ye sons of Abdul Muttalib, no one ever came to you before with anything better than what I have brought to you. By accepting it, your welfare will be assured in this world and in the Hereafter. Who among you will support me in carrying out this momentous duty? Who will share the burden of this work with me? Who will respond to my call? Who will become my vicegerent, my deputy and my wazir? [14]

Among those gathered, only Ali offered his consent. Some sources, such as the Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, do not record Muhammad's reaction to this, though Ibn Ishaq continues that he then declared Ali to be his brother, heir and successor. [15] In another narration, when Muhammad accepted Ali's offer, he "threw up his arms around the generous youth, and pressed him to his bosom" and said, "Behold my brother, my vizir, my vicegerent . let all listen to his words, and obey him." [16]

The direct appointment of Ali as heir in this version is notable by the fact it alleges that his right to succession was established at the very beginning of Muhammad's prophetic activity. The association with the revelation of a Quranic verse also serves the purpose of providing the nomination with authenticity as well as a divine authorisation. [17]

Muhammad not naming a successor Edit

A number of sayings attributed to prominent companions of Muhammad are compiled by Al-Suyuti in his Tarikh Al Khulafa, which are used to present the view that Muhammad had not named a successor. [18] One such example, narrated by Al-Bayhaqi, alleges that Ali, following his victory in the Battle of the Camel, gave the statement "Oh men, verily the Apostle of God (Muhammad) hath committed nothing unto us in regard to this authority, in order that we might of our own judgement approve and appoint Abu Bakr." Another, recorded by Al-Hakim Nishapuri and also accredited to Ali, states that when asked if he wished to name his successor as caliph, Ali responded "the Apostle of God appointed none, shall I therefore do so?" [19] It is also claimed that when Caliph Umar was asked the same question, he replied that if he gave a nomination, he had precedent in Abu Bakr's actions if he named no one, he had precedent by Muhammad's. [18]

Hadith of Position Edit

Prior to embarking on the Expedition to Tabuk in 631, Muhammad designated Ali to remain in Medina and govern in his absence. According to Ibn Hisham, one of the earliest available sources of this hadith, Ali heard suggestions that he had been left behind because Muhammad had found his presence a burden. Ali immediately took his weapons and followed in pursuit of the army, catching up with them in an area called al-Jurf. He relayed to Muhammad the rumours, to which the latter responded "They lie. I left you behind because of what I had left behind, so go back and represent me in my family and yours. Are you not content, Ali, to stand to me as Aaron stood to Moses, except that there will be no prophet after me?" Ali then returned to Medina and took up his position as instructed. [20]

The key part of this hadith (in regards to the Shia interpretation of the succession) is the comparison of Muhammad and Ali with Moses and his brother Aaron. Aside from the fact that the relationship between the latter two is noted for its special closeness, hence emphasising that of the former, [21] it is notable that in Muslim traditions, Aaron was appointed by God as Moses' assistant, thus acting as an associate in his prophetic mission. [22] In the Quran, Aaron was described as being his brother's deputy when Moses ascended Mount Sinai. [23] [24] This position, the Shia scholar Sharif al-Murtaza argues, shows that he would have been Moses' successor and that Muhammad, by drawing the parallel between them, therefore viewed Ali in the same manner. [22] Of similar importance is the divine prerogatives bestowed upon Aaron's descendants in Rabbinical literature, whereby only his progeny is permitted to hold the priesthood. This can be compared to the Shia belief in the Imamate, in which Ali and his descendants are regarded as inheritors of religious authority. [25]

However, there are a number of caveats against this interpretation. The scholar al-Halabi records a version of the hadith which includes the additional detail that Ali had not been Muhammad's first choice in governing Medina, having instead initially chosen an individual named Ja'far. [note 2] It was only on the latter's refusal that Ali was given the position. [26] It is also notable that the familial relationship between Moses and Aaron was not the same as that of Muhammad and Ali, given that one pair were brothers while the other were cousins/in-laws. [27] Additionally, the Quran records that Aaron had failed in his duties during his brother's absence, having not only been unable to properly guide the people, but also joining them in performing idolatry. [28] [29] [27] Finally, Aaron never succeeded his brother, having died during Moses' lifetime after being punished by God for the latter's mistakes. [27]

Event of Ghadir Khumm Edit

Les hadith of Ghadir Khumm has many different variations and is transmitted by both Sunni and Shia sources. The narrations generally state that in March 632, Muhammad, while returning from his Farewell Pilgrimage alongside a large number of followers and companions, stopped at the oasis of Ghadir Khumm. There, he took Ali's hand and addressed the gathering. The point of contention between different sects is when Muhammad, whilst giving his speech, gave the proclamation "Anyone who has me as his mawla, has Ali as his mawla." Some versions add the additional sentence "O God, befriend the friend of Ali and be the enemy of his enemy." [30]

Mawla has a number of meanings in Arabic, with interpretations of Muhammad's use here being split along sectarian lines between the Sunni and Shia. Among the former group, the word is translated as "friend" or "one who is loyal/close" and that Muhammad was advocating that Ali was deserving of friendship and respect. Conversely, Shi'ites tend to view the meaning as being "master" or "ruler" [31] and that the statement was a clear designation of Ali being Muhammad's appointed successor. [30]

Shia sources also record further details of the event. They state that those present congratulated Ali and acclaimed him as Amir al-Mu'minin, while Ibn Shahr Ashub reports that Hassan ibn Thabit recited a poem in his honour. [30] However, some doubts have been raised about this view of the incident. Historian M. A. Shaban argues that sources regarding the community at Medina at the time give no indication of the expected reaction had they heard of Ali's appointment. [32] Ibn Kathir meanwhile suggests that Ali was not present at Ghadir Khumm, instead being stationed in Yemen at the time of the sermon. [33]

Supporting Abu Bakr's succession Edit

Among Sunni sources, Abu Bakr's succession is justified by narrations of Muhammad displaying the regard with which he held the former. The most notable of these incidents occurred towards the end of Muhammad's life. Too ill to lead prayers as he usually would, Muhammad had instructed that Abu Bakr instead take his place, ignoring concerns that he was too emotionally delicate for the role. Abu Bakr subsequently took up the position, and when Muhammad entered the prayer hall one morning during Fajr prayers, Abu Bakr attempted to step back to let him to take up his normal place and lead. Muhammad however, allowed him to continue. [34]

Other incidents similarly used by Sunnis were Abu Bakr serving as Muhammad's vizier during his time in Medina, as well as him being appointed the first of his companions to lead the Hajj pilgrimage. However, several other companions had held similar positions of authority and trust, including the leading of prayers. Such honours may therefore not hold much importance in matters of succession. [34] [32]

Incident of the pen and paper Edit

Shortly before his death, Muhammad asked for writing materials so as to issue a statement that would prevent the Muslim nation from "going astray forever". [35] [36] However, those in the room began to quarrel about whether to obey this request, with concerns being raised that Muhammad may be suffering from delirium. When the argument grew heated, Muhammad ordered the group to leave and subsequently chose not to write anything. [37]

Many details regarding the event are disputed, including the nature of Muhammad's planned statement. Though what he had intended to write is unknown, later theologians and writers have offered their own suggestions, with many believing that he had wished to establish his succession. Shia writers, like Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid, suggest that it would have been a direct appointment of Ali as the new leader, while Sunnis, such as Al-Baladhuri, state that it was to designate Abu Bakr. The story has also been linked to the rise of the community politics which followed Muhammad's death, with a possible suggestion that the hadith shows that Muhammad had implicitly given his acceptance and permission to how the Muslim euh chooses to act in his absence. It may therefore be linked with the emergence of sayings attributed to Muhammad such as "My euh will never agree on an error", an idea perpetuated by theologians like Ibn Hazm and Ibn Sayyid al-Nās. [37]

Saqifah Edit

In the immediate aftermath of the death of Muhammad in 632, a gathering of the Ansar (natives of Medina) took place in the Saqifah (courtyard) of the Banu Sa'ida clan. [38] The general belief at the time was that the purpose of the meeting was for the Ansar to decide on a new leader of the Muslim community among themselves, with the intentional exclusion of the Muhajirun (migrants from Mecca), though this has since become the subject of debate. [39]

Nevertheless, Abu Bakr and Umar, both prominent companions of Muhammad, upon learning of the meeting became concerned of a potential coup and hastened to the gathering. When they arrived, Abu Bakr addressed the assembled men with a warning that an attempt to elect a leader outside of Muhammad's own tribe, the Quraysh, would likely result in dissension, as only they can command the necessary respect among the community. He then took Umar and another companion, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah, by the hand and offered them to the Ansar as potential choices. He was countered with the suggestion that the Quraysh and the Ansar each choose a leader from among themselves, who would then rule jointly. The group grew heated upon hearing this proposal and began to argue amongst themselves. Umar hastily took Abu Bakr's hand and swore his own allegiance to the latter, an example followed by the gathered men. [40]

Abu Bakr was near-universally accepted as head of the Muslim community as a result of Saqifah, though he did face contention as a result of the rushed nature of the event. Several companions, most prominent among them being Ali ibn Abi Talib, initially refused to acknowledge his authority. [38] Ali himself may have been reasonably expected to assume leadership upon Muhammad's death, having been both the latter's cousin and son-in-law. [41] The theologian Ibrahim al-Nakhai stated that Ali also had support among the Ansar for his succession, explained by the genealogical links he shared with them. [note 3] Whether his candidacy for the succession was raised during Saqifah is unknown, though it is not unlikely. [43] Abu Bakr later sent Umar to confront Ali to gain his allegiance, resulting in an altercation which may have involved violence. [44] Six months after Saqifah, the dissenting group made peace with Abu Bakr and Ali offered him his fealty. [45] However, this initial conflict is regarded as the first sign of the coming split between the Muslims. [46] Those who had accepted Abu Bakr's election later became the Sunnis, while the supporters of Ali's hereditary right eventually became the Shia. [47]

Subsequent succession Edit

Abu Bakr adopted the title of Khalifat Rasul Allah, generally translated as "Successor to the Messenger of God". [48] This was shortened to Khalifa, from which the word "Caliph" arose. The use of this title continued with Abu Bakr's own successors, the caliphs Umar, Uthman and Ali, all of whom were non-hereditary. [49] [50] This was a group referred to by Sunnis as the Rashidun (rightly-guided) Caliphs, though only Ali is recognised by the Shia. [41] Abu Bakr's argument that the caliphate should reside with the Quraysh was accepted by nearly all Muslims in later generations. However, after Ali's assassination in 661, this definition also allowed the rise of the Umayyads to the throne, who despite being members of the Quraysh, were generally late converts to Islam during Muhammad's lifetime. [51]

Their ascendancy had been preceded by a civil war among the Sunnis and Shi'ites known as the First Fitna. Hostilities only ceased when Ali's eldest son Hasan (who had been elected upon his father's death) [52] made an agreement to abdicate in favour of the first Umayyad caliph, Muawiyah I, resulting in a period of relative calm and a hiatus in sectarian disagreements. This ended upon Muawiyah's death after twenty years of rule, when rather than following the previous tradition of electing/selecting a successor from among the pious community, he nominated his own son Yazid. This hereditary process of succession angered Hasan's younger brother Husayn, who publicly denounced the new caliph's legitimacy. Husayn and his family were eventually killed by Yazid's forces in 680 during the Battle of Karbala. This conflict marked the Second Fitna, as a result of which the Sunni-Shia schism became finalised. [50]

The succession subsequently transformed under the Umayyads from an elective/appointed position to being effectively hereditary within the family, [53] leading to the complaint that the caliphate had become no more than a "worldly kingship." [51] The Shi'ite's idea of the succession to Muhammad similarly evolved over time. Initially, some of the early Shia sects did not limit it to descendants of Ali and Muhammad, but to the extended family of Muhammad in general. One such group, alongside Sunnis, [54] supported the rebellion against the Umayyads led by the Abbasids, who were descendants of Muhammad's paternal uncle Abbas. However, when the Abbasids came to power in 750, they began championing Sunni Islam, alienating the Shi'ites. Afterwards, the sect limited the succession to descendants of Ali and Fatimah in the form of Imams. [41]

With the exception of Zaydis, [55] Shi'ites believe in the Imamate, a principle by which rulers are Imams who are divinely chosen, infallible and sinless and must come from the Ahl al-Bayt regardless of majority opinion, shura or election. [56] They claim that before his death, Muhammad had given many indications, in the Event of Ghadir Khumm in particular, that he considered Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, as his successor. [57] For the Twelvers, Ali and his eleven descendants, the twelve Imams, are believed to have been considered, even before their birth, as the only valid Islamic rulers appointed and decreed by God. [58] [59] Shia Muslims believe that with the exception of Ali and Hasan, all the caliphs following Muhammad's death were illegitimate and that Muslims had no obligation to follow them. [60] They hold that the only guidance that was left behind, as stated in the hadith of the two weighty things, was the Quran and Muhammad's family and offspring. [61] The latter, due to their infallibility, are considered to be able to lead the Muslim community with justice and equity. [62]

Zaydis, a Shia sub-group, believe that the leaders of the Muslim community must be Fatimids: descendants of Fatimah and Ali, through either of their sons, Hasan or Husayn. Unlike the Twelver and Isma'ili Shia, Zaydis do not believe in the infallibility of Imams nor that the Imamate must pass from father to son. [63] They named themselves Zaydis after Zayd ibn Ali, a grandson of Husayn, who they view as the rightful successor to the Imamate. This is due to him having led a rebellion against the Umayyad Caliphate, who he saw as tyrannical and corrupt. The then Twelver Imam, his brother Muhammad al-Baqir, did not engage in political action and the followers of Zayd believed that a true Imam must fight against corrupt rulers. [64]

One faction, the Batriyya, attempted to create a compromise between the Sunni and Shia by admitting the legitimacy of the Sunni caliphs while maintaining that they were inferior to Ali. Their argument was that while Ali was the best suited to succeed Muhammad, the reigns of Abu Bakr and Umar must be acknowledged because Ali had recognised them. [63] This belief, termed Imamat al-Mafdul (Imamate of the inferior), is one which has also been attributed to Zayd himself. [65] [note 4]

The general Sunni belief states that Muhammad had not chosen anyone to succeed him, instead reasoning that he had intended for the community to decide on a leader amongst themselves. However, some specific hadiths are used to justify that Muhammad intended Abu Bakr to succeed, but that he had shown this decision through his actions rather than doing so verbally. [18]

The election of a caliph is ideally a democratic choice made by the Muslim community. [66] They are supposed to be members of the Quraysh, the tribe of Muhammad. However, this is not a strict requirement, given that the Ottoman Caliphs had no familial relation to the tribe. [67] They are not viewed as infallible and can be removed from office if their actions are regarded as sinful. [66] Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali are regarded as the most righteous of their generation, with their merit being reflected in their Caliphate. The subsequent caliphates of the Umayyads and the Abbasids, while not ideal, are seen as legitimate because they complied with the requirements of the law, kept the borders safe and the community generally united. [68]

The Ibadi, an Islamic school distinct from the Sunni and Shia, [69] believe that leadership of the Muslim community is not something which should be decided by lineage, tribal affiliations or divine selection, but rather through election by leading Muslims. They see the leaders as not being infallible and that if they fail to maintain a legitimate government in accordance to Islamic law, it is the duty of the population to remove them from power. The Rashidun Caliphs are seen as rulers who were elected in a legitimate fashion and that Abu Bakr and Umar in particular were righteous leaders. However, Uthman is viewed as having committed grave sins during the latter half of his rule and was deserving of death. Ali is also similarly understood to have lost his mandate. [70]

Their first Imam was Abd Allah ibn Wahb al-Rasibi, who was selected after the group's alienation from Ali. [71] Other individuals seen as Imams include Abu Ubaidah Muslim, Abdallah ibn Yahya al-Kindi and Umar ibn Abdul Aziz. [72]


Ömer Taşpınar

Nonresident Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe

Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, in their excellent book, “Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East,” provide a compilation from politicians, journalists and experts who never tire of repeating this mantra of timeless Sunni-Shiite hatred. For instance, US senator Ted Cruz has suggested that “Sunnis and Shiites have been engaged in a sectarian civil war since 632, it is the height of hubris and ignorance to make American national security contingent on the resolution of a 1,500-year-old religious conflict.” Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the US senate, has observed that what is taking place in the Arab world is “a religious conflict that has been going on for a millennium and a half.” US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, a former senator himself, has also embraced this narrative: “First is a Sunni-Shiite split, which began as a struggle for political power following the death of the Prophet Muhammad. That’s going on around the world. It’s a huge factor in Iraq now, in Syria and in other countries.’’ Even New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman asserts that the “main issue in the Middle East is the 7th century struggle over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad – Shiites or Sunnis.”

To be sure, this schism has deep historical roots. The rift indeed began shortly after the death of Prophet Mohammad and was centered on the question of rightful succession. Yet, linking the past to today begs a simple question: are Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon still fighting the same war going back to the early years of the faith? Is religion at the heart of their conflict? La réponse courte est non.

Religion only is a small part of a much bigger and complex geostrategic and political picture. The bleeding in Syria or Yemen would not stop if Sunnis and Shiites would suddenly agree on who was the rightful successor of Muhammad. Looking at the sectarianized conflicts of the Middle East through the lens of a 7th century conflict is therefore both simplistic and misleading.

En rapport

How the Iran-Iraq war will shape the region for decades to come

The Iranian revolution and its legacy of terrorism

Syria and the Six-Day War: A 50-years perspective

This lazy narrative of a primordial and timeless conflict needs to be replaced by serious analysis. And that should be one that looks at what the Sunni-Shiite sectarian contest has become in the 21st century: a modern conflict in failed or failing states fueled by a political, nationalist and geostrategic rivalry.

The sectarianized wars of today’s Middle East have their roots in modern nationalism, not in Islamic theology. These sectarian conflicts have become proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two nationalist actors pursuing their strategic rivalry in places where governance has collapsed. What is happening is not the supposed re-emergence of ancient hatreds, but the mobilization of a new animus. The instrumentalization of religion and the sectarianization of a political conflict is a better way of approaching the problem, rather than projecting religion as the driver and root cause of the predicament.

Sunnis and Shiites managed to coexist during most of their history when a modicum of political order provided security for both communities. In other words, the two communities are not genetically predisposed to fight each other. Conflict is not in their DNA, and war is not their destiny.

The same goes for the nationalist rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The regional conflict between Tehran and Riyadh is neither primordial nor intractable. As late as in the 1970s, Iran and Saudi Arabia were monarchic allies against the nationalist republicanism of Egypt under Nasser. In short, Sunnis and Shiite are not fighting a religious war. Instead, Iranian and Arab nationalisms are engaged in a regional rivalry – particularly in Syria and Iraq – where governance has collapsed.

It is quite possible that the rise of identity politics in the West has blinded most American and European policymakers, analysts and journalists, who now focus almost exclusively on Islam without paying much attention to political, economic and social drivers of tension and conflict in the Middle East. Their false diagnosis will only fuel false prescriptions.

It is time to stop for the West to stop its obsession with Islam and begin focusing on the political, institutional and geostrategic factors behind sectarianism.


Voir la vidéo: Rahul Asks Dr Zakir, Why are Shia Muslims given Less Importance by Other Muslims?


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