Al-Qaradawi and Rafsanjani Call Upon the Nation to Unite and Reject Fighting

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History First vol. 1

The two Sheikhs agreed upon legitimacy of resistance and prohibition of the sectarian fighting

Cairo, - February 15, 2007

The two Sheikhs agreed upon legitimacy of resistance and prohibition of the sectarian fighting

His eminence Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), and his eminence Sheikh Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council in Iran call upon Muslims to seek unity and abandon disunity and fighting. The two prominent Sheikhs asserted the prohibition of fighting between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. Sheikh Al-Qaradawi stressed that Islam is above doctrine, and any country should be above sects. In addition, he refused classifying Muslims on the basis of race or sect to "Safawiyyin and Arabs". "If we reach out to Christians and hold onto inter-faith dialogues, why on earth don't we do the same to unite Muslims?" stated Sheikh Al-Qaradawi.

On his part, Sheikh Rafsanjani cautioned Shiites in Iraq against exploiting the situation there due to the exchange of status of "the ruler and the ruled" of Sunnis and Shiites following the overthrow of Saddam's government, by taking revenge. He asserted that if Muslims were united, there would have been no occupation.

These statements came during a special interview broadcasted on Al-Jazeera satellite channel in cooperation with the IUMS. The chief editor of Al-Jazeera channel, Ahmad Al-Sheikh, directed the interview, which covered four main points: the position toward the Companions [of the Prophet], the controversy of the preaching of one of the two sects in a country where the other sect prevails, the rights of the minorities of both sects and what is happening in Iraq in terms of the civil strife that were described by Sheikh Al-Qaradawi as "having a sectarian facet".

Not a Debate

Ahmed Al-Sheikh assured that the program was not a debate but more like a meeting to allow both sides to say what they have to say to the nation, following an agreement signed by a delegation of the IUMS with Shiite scholars during its visit to Tehran two weeks ago.

Throughout the interview, Rafsanjani seemed very reserved and very concerned about what he called the purpose of the meeting, which was the establishment of a rapprochement, while Al-Qaradawi called for honesty and for facing the problem openly.

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, who was talking from Doha, raised many points during the interview, especially the issue of "insulting the Companions". "I cannot shake hands with a Shiite if I say 'may Allah be pleased with Abu Bakr, `Umar and `A'ishah' while he says 'may Allah curse them,'" he stated. In addition, he indicated that some books of Shiite authorities insult the Companions; thus, he urged Rafsanjani and the Shiite scholars to issue a clear Fatwa to prohibit and forbid people from insulting the Companions.

Rafsanjani's response included an implicit refusal that the Shiites saddle the responsibility for this issue alone, "I see that Sunnis and Shiites together should issue the Fatwa, which prohibits insulting the Companions." Also, implying that Shiites refuse to insult the Companions, he added, "It is not proper to interpret some statements of some Shiite authorities and use them as a common basis for all Shiites. In Iran, we start our sermons praising the Prophet and his Companions."

Fighting in Iraq

The situation in Iraq was a hot issue during the interview; as Al-Qaradawi indicated that the killings in Iraq is happening on the basis of identity to coercively displace the Sunnis and usurp their mosques. He asserted that Iran has the keys to stop the sectarian violence in Iraq. "All admit that Iran can do a lot in Iraq; as it has the keys there ... It can do much to solve this dilemma."

He asked again about the reasons for the Shiite authorities not issuing a clear and explicit Fatwa to prohibit the sectarian killings and make resistance of the occupation obligatory, saying, "If the Iranian authorities issued a clear Fatwa prohibiting the sectarian killings, the problem would be solved ... Why didn't they issue a Fatwa clearly making resistance obligatory?"

As usual, Rafsanjani's response was that of a veteran statesman; he said, "I advise Dr. Al-Qaradawi to read the daily news and the statements of the Iranian authorities to know that the matter is different (than he thinks) in Iran ... Many authorities condemned and rejected what is happening in Iraq. We should indicate that those who started the sectarian violence in Iraq are those who killed the Iraqi Shiite, Muhammad Baqer Al-Hakim in the early stages of the American occupation of Iraq, after his return from Iran to Iraq."

As for the issue of the Fatwa, Rafsanjani said, "It seems that I have to repeat that we have prohibited this; all scholars and authorities in Iran consider these crimes as unlawful and major sins - We have supported resisting the occupiers and repeated this fact many times."

The Sectarian Preaching

When the interviewer raised the issue of sectarian preaching, Rafsanjani said, "The best way to present a good line of thought or action is through good deeds. If it is meant to stop doing good deeds, it is not true. I think that preaching is the right of all; but, when it comes to raising the defects of others, we do not think so."

It seemed that Al-Qaradawi was not convinced by Rafsanjani's response, which did not handle the issue directly; thus, he said, "What is meant here is not concerned with doing good deeds, but changing the doctrine of people and proselytizing. We, the Sunnis, do not do that; I am in contact with many Sunni societies and associations in the Islamic world, and as far as I know, they have no activities in this field."

The head of the IUMS further said that Shiites must stop proselytizing Sunnis in Sunni-dominant countries. "If you go to a Sunni Muslim country and tried to promulgate your doctrine, you might win a handful but will surely instigate an entire population against you and sow dissention between Muslims," he asserted.

When handling the issue of accusing the other sect of disbelief, Al-Qaradawi called upon Sunnis and Shiites to stop this act, saying, "Some accuse Shiites of disbelief and some others accuse Sunnis of disbelief - We do not want to follow the extremists. We reject accusing others of disbelief. I can say that the Sunnis do not blame today's Shiites for the mistakes of some of their ancestors." Furthermore, he asserted that the Sunni Fatwas that accuse the Shiites of disbelief are very little and reminded them of the attitude of the majority of the Sunnis who supported Hezbollah during the Israeli aggression against Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Rafsanjani saddled the Sunnis with the responsibility for the deteriorative situation in Iraq and addressed Sheikh Al-Qaradawi saying, "You know where those who go to Iraq to blow Shiite shrines up are coming from." "I do not know where they are coming from. I have no intelligence bodies," Al-Qaradawi answered smilingly.

The Issue of At-Taqiyyah

When the interviewer raised the issue of At-Taqiyyah (which means concealing beliefs for fear of a destructive harm and associating with the disagreeing enemy peacefully while hiding hostility towards it; Sunnis are afraid of this Shiite belief), Rafsanjani defended it strongly, stating two points. The first point was religious; as he said, "This issue stems from the Qur'an, which urges us not to put all that we have in front of others. The nation's enemies are those who try to raise such issues." Sheikh Al-Qaradawi reminded him that this issue is mentioned in the Ever-Glorious Qur'an, but it was used with the non-Muslims and for a particular situation. The second point which Rafsanjani used was political; as he mentioned that some countries deliberately conceal some of their secrets to preserve their interests.

Al-Qaradawi then addressed the issue of the minorities, whereby he mentioned that there are 15 million Sunnis in Iran who did not have one minister. Rafsanjani responded by saying he had figures and a clear response which he did not want to mention to avoid turning the interview in the direction that is wanted by the Americans and to thwart the plans of the enemies.

Time did not permit to discuss the eight points, which were agreed upon during the meeting between the delegation of the IUMS and the Iranian Shiite authorities in Tehran. However, Al-Qaradawi mentioned one of these points: differences should not be exposed to the public, but they should be discussed among the scholars of the two sects to avoid confusion and sedition.

At the end of the interview, Al-Qaradawi stressed the need to adopt practical steps to achieve sectarian rapprochement. "We want to see the results of this interview. Muslims all over the world are waiting for this interview to lead to an improvement, especially in Iraq. They are waiting for the militia to stop, the return of the displaced Sunnis and their mosques, and an end to the Shiite proselytizing in Sunni countries - Islam is above doctrine, and any country should be above sects."

Scholar and Politician

Commenting on the interview, the Islamic thinker Fahmi Huweidi, member of the Board of Trustees of the IUMS, stated that Sheikh Al-Qaradawi adopted the way of frankness and openness that reflects the image of the zealous scholar who tries to heal the wounds of his nation. On the other hand, most of the responses and comments of Rafsanjani, ex-president of Iran, have implicit or diplomatic attitudes, reflecting the image of the politician or the veteran statesman.

Al-Jazeera satellite channel broadcasted this special interview in cooperation with the IUMS, which announced previously, through the words of its secretary general, Dr. Muhammad Salim Al-`Awwa, "We hope that this meeting will begin to solve the current crisis between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq."

Also, Dr. Al-`Awwa declared that this meeting is the first of several constructive steps, which the delegation of the IUMS had agreed upon with Iranian officials, to extinguish the fire of sedition and to strengthen the bonds of Islamic fraternity between Sunnis and Shiites.