Code of honor should unite Shia, Sunnis

By: Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi

"The faithful are indeed brothers. Therefore make peace between your brothers." -- Quran 49:10



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Muslims regardless of their school of thought are targets of nonstop Islamophobic prejudice. The fear that the daily tragic news from Iraq may ignite clashes of opinions urgently requires responsible engagement by the highest Islamic leaders.

This Thursday at 4 p.m. will be an unforgettable moment for Muslims in Michigan. Religious leaders from both the Shia and Sunni communities and members of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan will meet at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights to sign a Muslim Code of Honor. The code commits its signers to reject extremism in all its forms.

Hundreds of great scholars from Shia and Sunni backgrounds have struggled to unify Muslims.

That's why there is no place for calling others nonbelievers when they do believe. All Muslims regardless of their different interpretations of the khelafa (successorship of the prophet) share a belief in the unity of God, the prophethood of Mohammad, the authenticity of the Quran and the certainty of the Day of Resurrection. There is no disagreement over the principles of prayer, Ramadan fast, charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.

Let us behave like the prophet with compassion, courtesy, sincerity, humbleness, patience, dignity, fairness and understanding, recalling that our prophet created the bond of brotherhood among citizens and immigrants in Medina. Despite their differences, he took serious steps against prejudice based on nationality, race and culture.

Differences in opinion are not only allowed in Islam, but critical thinking is vital in dealing with new developments. When thinkers disagree with piety and sincerity, and if the goal is solving problems, variation in thinking leads every side of a debate closer to the truth.

There are many different approaches and many similarities between the five major Islamic schools of thought on jurisprudence. One of the most frequent arguments between Shia and Sunni is the question of khelafah vs. imamate(the selection of religious and political leaders). This is something to be discussed among those interested in theology and history, but diversity is our strength.

Religious extremism, ignorance and hunger for domination have been exploited for many centuries in the Islamic world as part of the divide-and-rule policy. The code of honor prevents any inflammatory language for the sake of petty political and personal gains. We should all pledge to avoid negative labeling that could result in false alarms such as "the Shia Crescent" made by King Abdullah of Jordan.

We are Muslim first. At the time of the prophet, there was no Sunni-Shia issue. We are all Sunni if that means we try to follow the Sunna (tradition) of our holy prophet. We all are Shia if it means to love Imam Ali and the prophet family.

I am looking forward to the day when the highest leaders of the three Abrahamic faith traditions in America sign a similar interfaith code of honor. While our country has had its international image damaged, it's the duty of all people of faith to demonstrate God's wisdom and let this country become a source of hope for humanity. Let Americans build bridges, not walls.

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, a Shia, heads the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.


More Than 20 Leaders Will Sign Historic Document at May 10th Press Conference

(Detroit - 5/8/07) -- On Thursday, May 10, more than 20 prominent Shia and Sunni Detroit area Muslim leaders will hold a press conference where they will sign a historic "Intra-Faith Code of Honor" as a demonstration of their commitment to speak out against communal divisions and all forms of sectarian division and violence.

The reconciliation effort, which was initiated in February by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, was prompted by spiraling violence in Iraq and several incidents of vandalism in Michigan.

At the press conference, the Detroit Muslim leaders will publicly endorse the Code of Honor, commit themselves to upholding it, and encourage their congregations to honor the terms set forth in the document. Among the code's guidelines are banning the practice of takfir, judging other Muslims as nonbelievers, and forbidding hateful speech about the beliefs and revered figures of other branches of Islam.


WHEN: Thursday, May 10th, 4:00 p.m.

WHERE: Islamic House of Wisdom 22575 Ann Arbor Trail Dearborn Heights, MI 48127

In a statement released today, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan said:

As Muslim Americans who live and struggle for a dignified existence for Islam and Muslims in a spirit of peaceful coexistence and respect for all, we believe that the practical challenges of the future supersede the ideological differences of the past. In recognition of our communal duty to promote goodness and peace, we remain eager to offer any help we can and to join hands with all those who wish well for the Family of Believers (ummah) in stopping the senseless, inhumane violence in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. In our view, we must begin by preventing such tragic sectarianism from spilling over into our Muslim communities in the United States. As a first step toward this goal, we agree to live in peace and respect each other in accordance with a 'Muslim Code of Honor.' We remain committed to this Muslim Code of Honor not only during times of agreement and ease but, more importantly, when faced with contentious issues and in times of mutual disagreement.

Among the prominent leaders scheduled to attend will be Dr. Sherman Abd al-Hakim Jackson (Univ. of Michigan Ann Arbor), Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini (Islamic Center of America), Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi (House of Wisdom), Imam Muhammad Musa (Muslim Unity Center), Imam Husham Al-husainy (Karbala Islamic Educational Center), Hajj Ghalib V. Begg (Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan), Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin (Muslim Center of Detroit), Imam Abdul Latif Berry (Islamic Institute of Knowledge) and Dawud Walid (Council on American Islamic Relations - Michigan).

The Detroit "Code of Honor" event follows similar events in recent weeks in Los Angeles and Chicago. Other events are expected in cities across the country in the coming weeks and months.

[CONTACT: Victor Ghalib Begg, Chair of Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, 248-334-9225 or 586-808-2864; Edina Lekovic 213-383-3443, communications @]