Lessons from Holy Qur'an

Mankind may be bewildered with dissension

Lesson # 729 From Holy Qur’aan

Mankind may be bewildered with dissension

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verse – 65 of 165, Section – 8 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Say:  He is Able to send punishment upon you from above you or from beneath your feet, or to bewilder you with dissension and make you taste the tyranny one of another. See how we expound the Revelations so that they may understand.           Qul  Huwal-Qaadiru  ‘alaaa  ‘any-yab-‘asa  ‘alaykum  ‘azaabam-min  fawqikum  ‘aw  min  tahti  ‘arjuli-kum  ‘aw  yal-bisakum  shiya  ‘anw-wa  yuziiqa  ba’-zakum-  ba’-sa  ba’-z.  ‘Unzur  kayfa  nusarriful-  ‘Aayaati  la-‘allahum  yafqahuun.               

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We learnt in the previous lesson that Allaah Almighty is He Who delivers the human being from entire afflictions and the humankind inclines unto Him willing or unwilling during the time of helplessness, because his own strength and power becomes useless. Therefore it is natural, if the mankind thinks about any Supreme Power.


It was required that after the condition of helplessness he would have remembered also Allaah Almighty and comprehended that only He is Who delivered from affliction, but he does not do so. Moreover either he forgets Him totally, or attributes others too as partners unto Him.


It has been expounded in this verse that if you will not know Him by means of His help, then you should remember: He is Able to send punishment upon you also. Then either will He annihilate you entirely, for instance; by sending dust storm from the sky, rain of stones and thunder etc. earthquakes and floods from the land etc. with which previous nations were annihilated, or by sowing dissension and separating you in different sects, will cause you to taste the quarrel and enmity among you, and lose your ease and comfort. Consider thoughtfully now upon the subject of this verse.


Allaah Almighty addresses His Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him): Declare (upon them who disbelieve)! Allaah Almighty has Power to send punishment upon you. For example; dust from the sky, or earthquake from the land etc. or by separating in different sects that you begin to quarrel with one another mutually yourselves.


It is evident from this verse that what happens in the world is to drive the human being towards the Straight Path. Allaah Almighty created everything like air, water, rain, heat, cold, day and night etc. for advantage of the humankind and these entire things are infinite useful for him. He should know Allaah Almighty by observing these things.


After that Allaah Almighty sent His Messengers (peace be upon Them) from time to time to cause to engage the attention of human being towards these things and to know Him by thinking deeply in to them and they were given Scriptures, in which entire matters were admonished Them.


It has been explained by the religious commentators that many earlier nations were destroyed by dust/rain storm, thunder, flood or earthquakes etc. but now a days no nation is destroyed all at once by sending such punishments. However they will be suffering in restlessness and confusion due to mutual indisposition among them and sectarianism, and will be given chance to be correct by thinking.    


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

Everyone calls upon Allaah humbly and in secret

Lesson # 728 From Holy Qur’aan

Everyone calls upon Allaah humbly and in secret

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verses – 63 & 64 of 165, Section – 8 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

63.  Say: Who delivereth you from the darkness of the land and the sea? Ye call upon Him humbly and in secret, (saying): If He delivers us from this (fear) we truly will be of the thankful.


64.  Say: Allaah delivereth you from this and from all afflictions. Yet ye attribute partners unto Him.         

63.  Qul  many-yunajjii-kum-min- zulumaatil-barri  wal-bahri  tad-‘uu-naHuu  tazarru-‘anw-wa  khuf-yah.  La-‘in  ‘anjaanaa  min  haazihii  lana-kuunanna  minash-shaakiriin.


64.  QuLIllaahu  yunajjii-kum-min-haa  wa  min-  kulli  karbin  summa  ‘antum  tushrikuun.               



It was declared in the lesson of previous verse that the people will be raised after death and will they be restored unto Allaah Almighty, their Lord, the Just. He will inform them very, very soon about the consequence and the result of their deeds. This was indicated by the fact that when at last they have business with Him only, then why should they not recognize Him in the world, and own entire matters should be given in His charge?


The method of “How to know Allaah Almighty” has been explained in this verse because this thought rises very forcibly in the heart of mankind “While every work has been being completed with my own effort in the world, then what is need of mine to believe in Allaah Almighty”? This misunderstanding is base of human being’s ruin and it should be removed in this manner that “Certainly some such occasions come that the mankind loses his sense and understanding, and he does not know, “What should he do now”? The darkness overcasts upon his thought. These kinds of occasions come at the time of suffering in any sudden disaster, for instance; dust storm, attack of any beast on the land or in the sea or fight against any powerful enemy, in which the personnel become helpless. Whenever nothing remains in own control, then one feels humility and thinks about a Most Powerful, implores silently, earnestly and humbly before Him, and intends stably that “I shall be thankful forever, if am saved from this calamity”.


 This Strongest Power is Allaah Almighty and verily He is, Who saves at the time of every severity. Everyone should believe in Him and none should attribute any partner unto Him. It is commanded: Ask them! Whither does your heart intend when you do not have any power at the time of any severe calamity and whom you call beseeching earnestly and humbly? And you say: Save us from this affliction. We truly will be of the thankful always. This is Allaah Almighty. He is the Savior from every disaster and affliction. Moreover, when the calamity is over, you forget Allaah Almighty and consider your efforts or other things as your saviors and supporters.    


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

Surely God’s is the Judgment

Lesson # 727 From Holy Qur’aan

Surely God’s is the Judgment

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verses – 61 & 62 of 165, Section – 8 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

61.  And He is the Omnipotent over His slaves. He sendeth guardians over you until, when death cometh unto one of you, Our Messengers receive him, and they neglect not.


62.  Then are they restored unto Allaah, their Lord, the Just. Surely His is the judgment. And He is the Most Swift of reckoners.        

61.  Wa Huwal-Qaahiru  fawqa  ‘ibaadihii  wa yursilu  ‘alaykum  hafazah.  Hattaaa  ‘izaa  jaaa-‘a  ‘ahada-kumul-mawtu  ta-waffat-hu  rusuluNaa  wa  hum  laa  yufarri-tuun.


62.  Summa  rudduuu  ‘IlAllaahi  Maw-laa-humul-Haqq.  ‘Alaa  lahul-Hukmu  wa  Huwa  ‘Asra-‘ul-haasibiin.              



It was told in the previous verse that age of the mankind is a collection of some forms and some days. At night he goes to sleep and by the day he gets up and goes to work again. Neither getting up is in his control and nor the work of previous day remains in his memory during falling asleep. Only Allaah Almighty raises him and reminds the series of his last day’s works, and he goes to do those works, which were left by him incomplete before going to sleep. The aim to make known from it was that the sleep is also like a death but that is a long sleep. After that, Allaah Almighty will raise him again and remind his entire previous deeds and acts, and He will tell: Still you have to see the consequence of your works and deeds, and series of your worldly acts has remained incomplete to this respect. -Complete it now either by suffering full punishment as retribution of your worldly wicked and evil acts, or obtaining whole reward of your good deeds.


It is commanded that the human being executes his age some time in sleeping and sometime waking. He should reflect in it that neither sleeping is in his control, nor waking. Only Allaah Almighty it is Who causes to sleep and raises him again, and even that He reminds him also his daily tasks.  


The result, which comes out from it is that Allaah Almighty is the Omnipotent over His slaves every way and sends guardians over their deeds every day. Such a time will come when the Angels of death will come unto them instead of guardian Angels (peace be upon Them) of their works and they will perform their duty fully without any favor or short fall and the mankind will sleep until the Day of Resurrection.


When the long time of his sleep will end, then Allaah Almighty will rouse the human being from sleep and he will stand before his Real and True Owner. Then he will know completely that the Decision of his fate is only in the Hand of Allaah Almighty. There will be no late in the Court of Allaah Almighty. A record of mankind’s stirring deeds relating to his entire worldly life will be handed over to him in a moment. And then, when he will be assured: These are your deeds. By weighing, his good and bad deeds will be separated. According to the weight of every individual’s deeds, human beings will be sent on proper places, likewise for suffering punishment of wicked deeds in to the Fire of Hell and for enjoying rewards of good acts in to the Paradise.


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

The term of life appointed for you will be accomplished

Lesson # 726 From Holy Qur’aan

The term of life appointed for you will be accomplished

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verse – 60 of 165, Section – 7 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

He it is Who gathereth you at night and knoweth that which ye commit by day. Then He raiseth you again to life therein, that the term appointed (for you) may be accomplished. Then afterward unto Him is your return. Then He will proclaim unto you what ye used to do.        Wa  Hu-wAllazii  yata-waf-faa  kum  bil-layli  wa  ya’-lamu  maa  jarahtum  binnahaari  summa  yab-‘asukum  fiihi  li-yuqzaaa  ‘ajalum-musammaa.  Summaa  ‘ilayHi  marji-‘ukum  summa  yunabbi-‘ukum  bimaa  kuntum  ta’-maluun.             

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The Extent of the Knowledge of Allaah Almighty was expressed in the previous verse, from which it was known that any human being has no power to frame laws, punish and command the people in the world but as much as Allaah Almighty bestows upon him in accordance with his extent. Even for making this authority useful, he stumbles everywhere.


Only Guidance of Allaah Almighty, which He has sent down through His Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him), can save him from destruction, otherwise he continues in close contact with digging an abyss of ruin only for himself being set apart from that Guidance. His tumbling down in that hole is beyond the question, if he does not catch the Guidance strongly.


The same subject has been admonished in this verse in such manner: the humankind should think! Where do his powers and abilities of working go, when he sleeps at night? At that time, neither can he think, nor work. It was discussed in the lesson of previous verse that the mankind is unable to know about his future.


It has been explained in this verse: Even he does not remember the work done by him last day, when he goes to sleep at night. Both things are known only by Allaah Almighty because neither slumber overtakes Him nor He needs a sleep. He is Attentive every time about every matter. Even that a human being has not control over himself that he may get up at his own after sleep. Only Allaah Almighty raises him, and until death likewise He will continue to raise the mankind in the morning and cause to sleep at night. After death, which should be considered as a long sleep, He will raise again on the Day of Resurrection and put before the human beings up their deeds, done by them during the life of this world. Let’s meditate a while in the abstract of this verse.

It is commanded: Allaah Almighty gathers your presence of mind from you at night when you go to sleep. Even you forget everything during sleep about that, which you commit by day time, but He knows your every commitment. Then He raises you again when the next day begins, so that you may complete your worldly life. At last the life is over and the mankind sleep in such a manner that he rises never. But Allaah Almighty will raise him again and put up before him his entire good and bad deeds and acts, which he performed and committed in his previous (worldly) life.


A wonderful map of human life has been drawn in this verse. Age of the mankind is surrounded in the time limit, in which he works in the day time and being tired, sleeps at night. He forgets his entire commitments of the day time. A time will come that he will sleep for a long time and never will rise again in this world. Then after a very long sleep, he will rise on a Day and his entire actions will come in front of him. And he will suffer the consequences of his all actions of the world and will remain living always.


Minhaa  khalaqNaa-kum. Wa fiihaa Nu-‘iidukum.   Wa minhaa Nukhrijukum  taaratan  ‘ukhraa” (From the (earth) did We create you. And into it shall We return you. And from it shall We bring you out once again): (The Quran 20:55).


 Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

There is not any leaf, falls but Allaah Almighty knows

Lesson # 725 From Holy Qur’aan

There is not any leaf, falls but Allaah Almighty knows

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verse – 59 of 165, Section – 7 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

And with Him are the keys of the Invisible. None but He knoweth them. And He knoweth what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falleth but He knoweth it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, naught of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a Luminous Book.      Wa  ‘indahuu  mafaatihul—Gaybi  laa  ya’-lamuhaaa  ‘illaa  Huu.  Wa  ya’-lamu  maa  fil-barri  wal-bahr.  Wa  maa  tasqutu  minw-waraqatin  ‘ilaa  ya’-lamuhaa  wa  laa  habbatin  fii  zulumaatil- ‘arzi  wa  laa  rat-binw-wa  laa  yaa-bisin  ‘illaa  fii  Kitaabim-Mubiin.            



Mafaatih – either this word is plural of Maftah. Maftah means Treasure. In this form Mafaatih means “The Treasures”. And it can be plural of Miftah also which means “A Key”. In this form mafaatih will be meant as “The Keys”. The word Miftaah is also used for “A Key”, plural of which is “Mafaatiih”.  


Gaybi – this word has already come in Chapter – 2 (Surah Baqarah). Every that thing which is out of sight and beyond the feelings of mankind, is called Gayb.


Kitaabim-Mubiin – (a Luminous Book), a table on which the destinies of the world since its creation are written, is called Kitaabim-Mubiin.


We have learnt in the previous verses that only He (Allaah Almighty) has right to decide, Whose Knowledge is too much vast and more than entire others, and Who is well Aware of all matters regarding the guilt, the wrongdoer, the peculiarity of the punishment, the time and the opportunity to punish the evildoer.


The principles and rules for thinking correctly about the Knowledge of Allaah Almighty have been described in this verse so that, it may be known that verily there is none who has more knowledge than Him, so complete Power of Decision, rewarding on good deeds and punishing due to wicked acts should be with Him only.


It is commanded that the things, about which you do not know because however you have limited sense and wisdom, therefore, many things are Invisible for you, Allaah Almighty knows about entire of them. All the treasures of Invisible are held with Him and the Keys to open those treasures are also in His Control. Therefore neither any person can touch them nor can anything be drawn out by anyone. While these treasures are with Him only then it is evident that He knows entire things in the land and the sea. Counting of the leaves of the trees, any smallest grain amid the darkness of the earth, even that everything wet or dry which exists in the world, is written very clearly and in detail in a Table on which the destinies of the world since its creation. The name of that Table is Kitaabim-Mubiin (Lawh-i-Mahfooz).


It is understood clearly through this verse that none of the creatures can know any Invisible Thing, until Allaah Almighty does not tell about it, because all the treasures of the Invisible are in in the Control of God Almighty and their Keys are also with Him. No person has ability to withdraw any a little thing opening any of them. However He can give anything to anyone at any time.


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

Creator is Best Aware of wrongdoers

Lesson # 724 From Holy Qur’aan

Creator is Best Aware of wrongdoers

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verse – 58 of 165, Section – 7 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Say: If I had that for which ye are impatient, then would the case (ere this) have been decided between Me and you. And Allaah is Best Aware of the wrongdoers.   Qul  ‘anna  ‘indii  maa  tasta’-jiluuna  bihii  laqu-ziyal-‘amru  baynii  wa  baynakum.  WAllaahu  ‘a’-lamu  bizzaalimiin.            

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It was admonished in the previous verse that disbelievers – the slaves of own desires and those, who enjoy pastime fearlessly, say impudence: Neither shall we accept and nor fear from threat. If you are really true then bring down punishment upon us at once.


As reply to their rudeness, Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) was commanded: Tell them “The punishment is not in My power. Allaah Almighty has kept it in His own Control. His Word can neither be false nor a lie and nor there is anyone better decider than Him”.


A secret has been described in this verse: What predicament of the world was, if the punishment would be in the power of any other than Allaah Almighty? Knowledge and endurance of the mankind, both are limited. If power of torment due to disobedience, is given to the human being, then he will never delay punishing anyone.


Contrary to this, Knowledge of Allaah Almighty has surrounded the entire circumstances completely. He is Aware entirely of the consequences of every action. One of His Attributes is “The Wise”. He has complete Knowledge regarding its advisability and proper time. He is For-bearer also, Who can loosen the defaulter. Along with it, He knows thoroughly the condition of the criminal. Peculiarity of the crime/sin and its quantity, all is clear on Him.


If the human beings were given the power of torment, then the world would have been destroyed very earlier. Among the mankind, the Messengers (peace be upon Them) have more knowledge, mildness and patience given by Allaah Almighty than the common people. While the Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) has been commanded: If I had that (torment) for which you are impatient, then would the case sooner than this have been decided between Me and you, in that case, what the mention of others?


Now listen to the meaning of the verse. Allaah Almighty addresses His Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) – Say to the deniers, who demand torment from you: If I had that for which you are impatient, then would the case (ere this) have been decided between Me and you, but the matter is in the Control of Allaah Almighty. He will send down punishment on you, whenever He will consider it reasonable.


Allaah Almighty has manifested the Position of His Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) in these verses that neither is it His duty to show favor of, flatter any mankind, displease upon someone and punish him, and nor to compel any person for embracing Islam.


His (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) duty is only to convey the Command of Allaah Almighty to the human beings, whenever it is revealed upon Him, and cause to know the people in a well manner through preaching, instructing and acting upon It Himself, that everything is in the Divine Power and Control of Allaah Almighty.  


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

The Commandment rests not with any but Allaah

Lesson # 723 From Holy Qur’aan

The Commandment rests not with any but Allaah

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verse – 57 of 165, Section – 7 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Say: I am (relying) on clear proof from My Lord, while ye deny it. I have not that for which ye are impatient. The Commandment rests (not with any) but Allaah. He telleth the Truth and He is the Best of deciders.    Qul  ‘innii  ‘alaa  bayyinatim-mir-Rabbii  wa  kazzabtum- bih.  Maa  ‘indii  maa  tasta’-jiluuna  bih.  ‘Inil-Hukmu  ‘illaa  Lillaah.  Yaqus-sul-Haqqa wa Huwa  Khayrul- faasiliin.        

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It was told the Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) in the previous verse that He should say to the disbelievers: I can never be involved in the infidelity and ascribing plurality to Allaah Almighty, because those are the things produced by your own desires, and it is not acceptable to Me to follow your wishes, otherwise I shall also go astray like you.


 The Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) has been instructed in this verse that He should tell them: Quite clear proof exists with Me that “There is no Worshipped but Allaah and My Lord Almighty has revealed Holy Qur’aan upon Me (peace be upon Him), in which evidence to this effect exists that “Allaah is One and there is no partner to Him in any matter”.


These Arguments and Revelations are also placed in front of you as well as before Me (peace be upon Him). I believe that those Portents are true but you falsify them. I have Faith in them, so I will be given a reward, while you deny them, so you will be punished. You say rudely: We do not accept them, say your Allaah to bring down His punishment on us, if you are true (Let’s flee to Allaah).


My answer is: It is neither in My power to cause to punish you immediately nor that I punish you Myself. Its decision is in the Power of Allaah Almighty. He expounds the Truth and has the Decision Power to punish the disbelievers. It is clear that there is none better Decider than Allaah Almighty. He will afflict you in His punishment, whenever He will desire, However, it is impossible for you to be saved without Belief in accordance with His Word. Now the decision that: when and of which sort of the torment will be given, cannot be decided by anyone except Allaah Almighty. Now take a little thought in its meaning.


It is commanded: O Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him)! Say: Clear Proofs and Arguments of My Lord Almighty have reached and He has given Evidence in the Holy Qur’aan Himself that: Allaah is One. You have gripped up your loins to falsify these entire Proofs and say persistently: We do not accept it. Punish us.


Hear with your open ears now: It is not in My power to punish you. Certainly you will be punished due to disobedience, but you are making haste for which, it seems that you think; punishing you is in My power. Thinking so by you; is incorrect. Nor I have claimed ever. There is only Allaah Almighty, Who ordinates. He expounds His True and open Commands. He is empower only to punish the disbelievers and there is neither any better Decider than Him and nor can be anyone. I accept His decision happily, and surely at last, you would have to accept His Decision under compulsion.


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)


Sunni-Shia tensions contribute to multiple flash points in Muslim countries

Sunni-Shia tensions contribute to multiple flash points in Muslim countries

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An ancient religious divide is helping fuel a resurgence of conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim countries. Struggles between Sunni and Shia forces have fed a Syrian civil war that threatens to transform the map of the Middle East, spurred violence that is fracturing Iraq, and widened fissures in a number of tense Gulf countries. Growing sectarian clashes have also sparked a revival of transnational jihadi networks that poses a threat beyond the region.

Islam’s schism, simmering for fourteen centuries, doesn’t explain all the political, economic, and geostrategic factors involved in these conflicts, but it has become one prism through which to understand the underlying tensions. Two countries that compete for the leadership of Islam, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, have used the sectarian divide to further their ambitions. How their rivalry is settled will likely shape the political balance between Sunnis and Shias and the future of the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Yemen.

Alongside the proxy battle is the renewed fervor of armed militants, motivated by the goals of cleansing the faith or preparing the way for the return of the messiah. Today there are tens of thousands of organized sectarian militants throughout the region capable of triggering a broader conflict. And despite the efforts of many Sunni and Shia clerics to reduce tensions through dialogue and counterviolence measures, many experts express concern that Islam’s divide will lead to escalating violence and a growing threat to international peace and security.

Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived peacefully together for centuries. In many countries it has become common for members of the two sects to intermarry and pray at the same mosques. They share faith in the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings and perform similar prayers, although they differ in rituals and interpretation of Islamic law.

Shia identity is rooted in victimhood over the killing of Husayn, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, in the seventh century, and a long history of marginalization by the Sunni majority. Islam’s dominant sect, which roughly 85 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims follow, viewed Shia Islam with suspicion, and extremist Sunnis have portrayed Shias as heretics and apostates.

Source: Pew Research, The Future of the Global Muslim Population, 2011


A regional war in the Middle East draws ever closer.


Origins of the Schism

Mohammed unveiled a new faith to the people of Mecca in 610. Known as Islam, or submission to God, the monotheistic religion incorporated some Jewish and Christian traditions and expanded with a set of laws that governed most aspects of life, including political authority. By the time of his death in 632, Mohammed had consolidated power in Arabia. His followers subsequently built an empire that would stretch from Central Asia to Spain less than a century after his death. But a debate over succession split the community, with some arguing that leadership should be awarded to qualified individuals and others insisting that the only legitimate ruler must come through Mohammed’s bloodline.

A group of prominent early followers of Islam elected Abu Bakr, a companion of Mohammed, to be the first caliph, or leader of the Islamic community, over the objections of those who favored Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law. The opposing camps in the succession debate eventually evolved into Islam’s two main sects. Shias, a term that stems from shi’atu Ali, Arabic for “partisans of Ali,” believe that Ali and his descendants are part of a divine order. Sunnis, meaning followers of the sunna, or “way” in Arabic, of Mohammed, are opposed to political succession based on Mohammed’s bloodline.

Ali became caliph in 656 and ruled only five years before he was assassinated. The caliphate, which was based in the Arabian Peninsula, passed to the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus and later the Abbasids in Baghdad. Shias rejected the authority of these rulers. In 680, soldiers of the second Umayyad caliph killed Ali’s son, Husayn, and many of his companions in Karbala, located in modern-day Iraq. Karbala became a defining moral story for Shias, and Sunni caliphs worried that the Shia Imams—the descendants of Husayn who were seen as the legitimate leaders of Muslims (Sunnis use the term “imam” for the men who lead prayers in mosques)—would use this massacre to capture public imagination and topple monarchs. This fear resulted in the further persecution and marginalization of Shias.

Even as Sunnis triumphed politically in the Muslim world, Shias continued to look to the Imams—the blood descendants of Ali and Husayn—as their legitimate political and religious leaders. Even within the Shia community, however, there arose differences over the proper line of succession. Mainstream Shias believe there were twelve Imams. Zaydi Shias, found mostly in Yemen, broke off from the majority Shia community at the fifth Imam, and sustained imamate rule in parts of Yemen up to the 1960s. Ismaili Shias, centered in South Asia but with important diaspora communities throughout the world, broke off at the seventh Imam. Most Ismailis revere the Aga Khan as the living representative of their Imam. The majority of Shias, particularly those in Iran and the eastern Arab world, believe that the twelfth Imam entered a state of occultation, or hiddenness, in 939 and that he will return at the end of time. Since then, “Twelvers,” or Ithna Ashari Shias, have vested religious authority in their senior clerical leaders, called ayatollahs (Arabic for “sign of God”).

Many Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian converts to Islam chose to become Shia rather than Sunni in the early centuries of the religion as a protest against the ethnic Arab empires that treated non-Arabs as second-class citizens. Their religions influenced the evolution of Shia Islam as distinct from Sunni Islam in rituals and beliefs.

Sunnis dominated the first nine centuries of Islamic rule (excluding the Shia Fatimid dynasty) until the Safavid dynasty was established in Persia in 1501. The Safavids made Shia Islam the state religion, and over the following two centuries they fought with the Ottomans, the seat of the Sunni caliphate. As these empires faded, their battles roughly settled the political borders of modern Iran and Turkey by the seventeenth century, and their legacies resulted in the current demographic distribution of Islam’s sects. Shias comprise a majority in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, and a plurality in Lebanon, while Sunnis make up the majority of more than forty countries from Morocco to Indonesia.

 1 / 17  Timeline: Origins of the Sunni-Shia Schism

Early Muslims split into two camps following the death of the Prophet Mohammed. This chronology explains how the sects evolved from 632 until the late twentieth century. (Photo: Abbas Al-Musavi/Brooklyn Museum

632 – The Death of Mohammed

Early followers of Islam are divided over the succession of the Prophet Mohammed, who founded the religion in Arabia. Prominent members of the community in Mecca elect Abu Bakr, a companion of Mohammed, with objections from those who favor Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law. Ali eventually becomes caliph, or ruler of the Islamic community, in 656, and is assassinated in 661 after a power struggle with the governor of Damascus, Mu’awiya. Mu’awiya claims the caliphate and founds the Umayyad dynasty, which rules the Muslim empire from Damascus until 750.

661-1258 – Umayyad and Abbasid Dynasties Target Shias

Umayyads, and later Abbasids, who replace the Umayyads and rule from Baghdad after 750, oppress and kill the successors of Husayn, known as Imams, who pose a political threat to Sunni caliphs. The sixth Shia Imam, Ja’far al-Sadiq, orders his followers to hide their true beliefs for the survival of the faith. Shia branches such as Ismaili and Zaydi emerge from different interpretations of succession for Imams. The Sunni caliphate becomes hereditary.


661 – The Early Shias

The partisans of Ali, or shi’atu Ali, grow discontented after the murder of their leader in 661. They reject the authority of the caliphs during the Umayyad dynasty, which rules over an expanding empire stretching from Pakistan through northern Africa to Spain. Shias argue that the legitimate leaders of Islam must be the sons of Ali and Fatima, Mohammed’s daughter. Husayn, one of Ali’s sons, eventually leads a revolt from Kufa, in modern-day Iraq.

680 – The Battle of Karbala

Yazid, the Umayyad ruler, dispatches an army to crush the Kufa revolt. A battle in Karbala, north of Kufa, ends with the massacre of Husayn and many of his companions. Husayn’s martyrdom and its moral lessons help shape Shia identity, and the sect grows despite the murder of its leaders. Husayn’s death is commemorated by Shias during the annual ritual of Ashura, which includes practices, such as self-flagellation, that are distinct from Sunni Islam.

939 -) Occultation of the Mahdi

Most Shias today are Twelvers. They believe that the line of Imams continued to the twelfth Imam, Mohammed al-Mahdi, or the guided one, who entered a state of occultation, or hiddenness, in 939. Shias expect the Mahdi to return at the end of time. Sunni Islam becomes a broad umbrella term for non-Shia Muslims who are united on the importance of the Quran and practices of Mohammed, though they may differ in legal opinion.

969 – Fatimids: The First Shia Dynasty

Ismailis, who break off from the Twelver line after the sixth Imam, take control of Egypt and large parts of North Africa and expand to western Arabia and Syria, creating the Fatimid dynasty. The Fatimids, who assume the titles of both imam and caliph, establish al-Azhar Mosque, which centuries later becomes the intellectual center of Sunni Islam. The Shia Fatimid caliphate fades in the twelfth century, and the Ismaili community spreads to Yemen, Syria, Iran, and western India.

1268 – Ibn Taymiyya in Damascus

By the ninth century, Sunnis adhere to four schools of Islamic jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, and Hanbali. Ibn Taymiyya, a religious scholar, moves to Damascus in 1268 and studies the Hanbali school, which condemns Shias as rafidha, or rejecters of the faith. He preaches a return to the purity of Islam in its early days. Ibn Taymiyya opposes celebrating Mohammed’s birthday and other practices that resemble Christian and pagan rituals. His ideas help shape Wahhabi and Salafi thought centuries later. (Photo: Bernard Gagnon)

1501 – Wahhabi Islam Emerges in Arabia

Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab establishes a religious movement on the Arabian peninsula in the eighteenth century steeped in the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam. Wahhabis, as his followers are known, preach a puritanical faith that puts them in conflict with other Sunnis as well as Shias. Wahhabi fighters desecrate the shrine of Husayn in Karbala and destroy Mohammed’s tombstone in Medina. They join Mohammed bin Saud to found the first Saudi kingdom, which is defeated by Ottoman forces in the early nineteenth century.

1703 – Sykes–Picot and the End of the Caliphate

The secret Sykes-Picot agreement is reached between France and the United Kingdom to divide the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, which has been in decline and weakens further during World War I. Colonial rulers elevate minorities to powerful positions in Iraq and Syria, a policy which later contributes to sectarian tensions in these countries. Tempering these tensions are new ideas of secularism and nationalism that sweep through the Turkish and Arab province of the former Ottoman Empire. The newly founded secular Republic of Turkey abolishes the caliphate in 1924. In the Arab world, identity politics stressing pan-Arabism and a unity among Muslims helps mute sectarianism, especially during the fight for independence against the European

1916 – Saud Dynasty Establishes a Kingdom

Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud and his army of Wahhabi warriors consolidate control of the Arabian peninsula and form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932. During the founding battles, fighters attack fellow Sunnis in western Arabia and Shias in eastern Arabia and southern Iraq. Wahhabi preachers go on to dominate the kingdom’s judiciary and education system, and their teachings are spread first in Saudi Arabia and then internationally as the country grows wealthy from its large oil resources. The rise of Wahhabi and the related Salafi branches of Islam fuels Sunni-Shia tensions today.

1932 – Ottomans Conquer Iraq

Safavids briefly gain control of Iraq, an Arab territory, but lose it in 1639 to the Ottomans, who claim the title of the Sunni caliphate in Turkey. The Ottoman–Safavid wars eventually establish the modern contours of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Shia Islam dominates Iran, and Shia Muslims in Turkey are killed or displaced, shifting the demography in favor of Sunnis, a development that makes both these countries far more homogenous than their neighbors.

1501 – Safavid Dynasty and the Rise of Shias in Persia

Ismail, leader of the Safavid dynasty, defeats the Mongols and brings the territories of former Persian empires under central authority, including modern-day Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. Shi’ism becomes the official religion of the Safavids and is often spread through force. As the Safavid dynasty declines in the eighteenth century, the power of Shia clergy in civil affairs grows in Iran.

1947 – Ba’ath Rule Begins in Syria

Syria’s first years of independence are riddled with coups until Ba’athists in the military seize power in 1963. The Ba’ath Party, popular in Iraq and Syria, promotes a secular, pan-Arab, socialist ideology and is hostile to Islamists. Hafez al-Assad, a Ba’ath leader and member of the heterodox Shia sect known as Alawis, takes power in 1970 and rules until his death in 2000, after more than a thousand years of Sunni dominance in Syria. His son Bashar continues to rule the country amid civil war in 2014.

1963 – Lebanese Civil War

Lebanon experiences a sectarian civil war that (with important exceptions at various times) pits the Christian minority that has held political power since independence in 1943 against the Muslim majority. Syria intervenes in the fighting in 1976 and Israel intervenes in 1982. After the Israeli intervention, Iran sponsors the establishment of a Shia Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, which over time becomes the most powerful force in Lebanese politics. Under pressure from Hezbollah, Israel withdraws its last forces from Lebanon in 2000. (Photo: AP)

1976-1989 Sectarian Harmony: The Azhar Fatwa

Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltut, the rector of Cairo’s al-Azhar Mosque, which Sunnis view as the preeminent religious institution, issues a religious ruling, or fatwa, that recognizes Shia law as the fifth school of Islamic jurisprudence. After decades of colonialism and then secular nationalism, many Sunni and Shia religious authorities throughout the Muslim world unite to confront these common threats. This harmony is tarnished as secular states weaken.

1947 – The Birth of Pakistan

India’s struggle for independence includes an Islamic awakening, resulting in the creation of Pakistan in the partition of India at the end of British rule. The Sunni-majority country is founded by a Shia, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who emphasizes the need for a secular Pakistan where all citizens are equal irrespective of “religion or caste or creed.” Pakistanis elect prime ministers from both sects. But the Islamization of the state, promoted by Saudi Wahhabi clerics, accelerates after army chief General Zia ul-Haq, a Sunni, seizes power in 1978. Sectarian violence escalates after the 1980s.


Modern Tensions

Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979 gave Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini the opportunity to implement his vision for an Islamic government ruled by the “guardianship of the jurist” (velayat-e faqih), a controversial concept among Shia scholars that is opposed by Sunnis, who have historically differentiated between political leadership and religious scholarship. Shia ayatollahs have always been the guardians of the faith. Khomeini argued that clerics had to rule to properly perform their function: implementing Islam as God intended, through the mandate of the Shia Imams.

Under Khomeini, Iran began an experiment in Islamic rule. Khomeini tried to inspire further Islamic revival, preaching Muslim unity, but supported groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Pakistan that had specific Shia agendas. Sunni Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, admired Khomeini’s success, but did not accept his leadership, underscoring the depth of sectarian suspicions.

Saudi Arabia has a sizable Shia minority of roughly 10 percent, and millions of adherents of a puritanical brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism (an offshoot of the Sunni Hanbali school) that is antagonistic to Shia Islam. The transformation of Iran into an overtly Shia power after the Islamic revolution induced Saudi Arabia to accelerate the propagation of Wahhabism, as both countries revived a centuries-old sectarian rivalry over the true interpretation of Islam. Many of the groups responsible for sectarian violence that has occurred in the region and across the Muslim world since 1979 can be traced to Saudi and Iranian sources.

Saudi Arabia backed Iraq in the 1980–1988 war with Iran and sponsored militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan who were primarily fighting against the Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, but were also suppressing Shia movements inspired or backed by Iran.

The transformation of Iran into an agitator for Shia movements in Muslim countries seemed to confirm centuries of Sunni suspicions that Shia Arabs answer to Persia. Many experts, however, point out that Shias aren’t monolithic—for many of them, identities and interests are based on more than their confession. Iraqi Shias, for example, made up the bulk of the Iraqi army that fought Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, and Shia militant groups Amal and Hezbollah clashed at times during the Lebanese civil war. The Houthis, a Zaydi Shia militant group in Yemen, battled the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Zaydi, several times between 2004 and 2010. Then, in 2014, the Houthis captured the capital Sana’a with ousted president Saleh’s support.

Source: Pew Research, The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity, 2012


For their part, both mainstream and hard-line Sunnis aren’t singularly focused on oppressing Shias. They have fought against coreligionists throughout history, most recently in the successive crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia’s battles against al-Qaeda and related Sunni militant groups. Sharing a common Sunni identity didn’t eliminate power struggles among Sunni Muslims under secular or religious governments.

But confessional identity has resurfaced wherever sectarian violence has taken root, as in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion removed Saddam Hussein, a dictator from the Sunni minority who ruled over a Shia-majority country. The bombing of a Shia shrine in Samara in 2006 kicked off a cycle of sectarian violence that forced Iraqis to pick sides, stirring tensions that continue today.

In the Arab world, Shia groups supported by Iran have recently won important political victories. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has ruled since 1970, relies on Alawis, a heterodox Shia sect that makes up about 13 percent of Syria’s population, as a pillar of its power. Alawis dominate the upper reaches of the military and security services in Syria and are the backbone of the forces fighting to support the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq unseated Saddam Hussein and instituted competitive elections, the Shia majority has dominated the parliament and produced its prime ministers. Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia and political movement, is the strongest political actor in Lebanon. Shia militants in Yemen, tenuously linked to Iran, have become the country’s dominant power. Iran’s regional influence has swelled as its allies in these countries have accumulated power.

Sunni governments, especially Saudi Arabia, have increasingly worried about their own grips on power, a concern that was exacerbated with the protest movement that began in Tunisia in late 2010. The Arab Awakening, as the uprisings are known, spread to Bahrain and Syria, countries at the fault lines of Islam’s sectarian divide. In each, political power is held by a sectarian minority—Alawis in Syria, where Sunnis are the majority, and a Sunni ruling family in Bahrain, where Shias are the majority. The civil war in Syria, which is a political conflict at its core, has exposed sectarian tensions and become the staging ground for a vicious proxy war between the region’s major Sunni and Shia powers. In Yemen, Houthi rebels have expanded their territory south of Saudi Arabia, providing Iran a potential beachhead along the strategic shipping routes in the Red Sea. Some analysts view the Syrian conflict as the last chance for Sunnis to limit and reverse the spread of Iranian power and Shia influence in the Arab world.

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Timeline: Modern Sunni-Shia Tensions

Iran’s Islamic revolution, which brought Shias to power in 1979, and the Sunni backlash have fueled a competition for regional dominance. This timeline highlights Sunni-Shia tensions in recent decades. (Photo: Henri Bureau/Corbis)

Iran’s Islamic revolution, which brought Shias to power in 1979, and the Sunni backlash have fueled a competition for regional dominance. This timeline highlights Sunni-Shia tensions in recent decades. (Photo: Henri Bureau/Corbis)

JANUARY 16,1979

Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Tehran in 1979 after fourteen years of exile. AP Photo

Iran’s Islamic Revolution

Iran’s ruler, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, flees the country after months of increasingly massive protests. Exiled Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returns and leads an Islamic republic based on a constitution that grants him religious and political authority under the concept of velayat-e faqih (“guardianship of the jurist”). Khomeini is named supreme leader and starts to export the Islamic revolution, which is viewed with suspicion by Sunni rulers in countries with significant Shia populations, such as Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.

DECEMBER 24, 1979  Soviet Army Invades Afghanistan

Soviet forces invade Afghanistan after the communist government in Kabul requests military aid to fight Islamist rebels. The insurgents, known as mujahadeen (“those who fight jihad”), attract mainly Afghan fighters and are augmented by thousands of foreign Sunni fighters, including a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden. Weapons and cash for the mujahadeen are supplied through Pakistan by Saudi Arabia and the United States. The war, which is framed as a resistance to Soviet occupation, raises the profile of fundamentalist Sunni movements.

JULY 5, 1980  Shia Protests in Pakistan Exposes Sectarian Tensions

Tens of thousands of Shias protest in Islamabad against the imposition of some Sunni laws on all Muslims. Pakistan’s president gives Shias an exemption, but the sectarian confrontation becomes an important political issue in the country. Sunni groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, funded by Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, kill thousands of Shias over the next three decades. Smaller Shia sectarian militant groups such as Tehrik-e-Jafria also emerge but are responsible for fewer attacks.

SEPTEMBER 22, 1980  Iraq Sparks a War with Iran

Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, a Sunni ruling over a majority-Shia country who fears the spillover effects of the Iranian Revolution, sends his troops to occupy part of an oil-rich province in Iran. The move sparks an eight-year war, resulting in roughly one million deaths. Iraq is backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States, the latter responding to hostility from Tehran’s new government following the Islamic revolution and taking hostage of U.S. diplomats.

FEBRUARY 28, 1991  Saddam Crushes Shia Insurgency After Gulf War

Riots erupt in the Shia cities of Basra and Najaf after U.S.-led allies drive Iraqi troops from Kuwait and rout them on the battlefield in the first Gulf War. The Shia protestors are in part motivated by a perception that they will receive U.S. backing if they turn against Saddam. U.S. officials say this was never promised. Saddam’s forces mount a brutal crackdown, killing tens of thousands of Shias, shelling the shrines of Najaf and Karbala, and razing parts of Shia towns.

AUGUST 8, 1998  Taliban Massacres Shia in Mazar-e-Sharif

Taliban militants, Sunni fundamentalists who seized power after the defeat of Soviet forces, capture the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northwest Afghanistan. TheTaliban kills at least two thousand Shias in Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamiyan in 1997 and 1998. The offensive in northwest Afghanistan, backed by Pakistan, helps the Taliban consolidate power in the country. Militants kill eight Iranian diplomats based in Mazar-e-Sharif, prompting Tehran to deploy its troops to the border, but United Nations mediation averts a confrontation.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001  Al-Qaeda Strikes the U.S., Killing Thousands

In response to the attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. forces pursue al-Qaeda leaders and militants to their bases in Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban government. U.S.-led international troops help set up a new order in the country. The toppling of the anti-Iranian Taliban government in Afghanistan, followed shortly thereafter by the U.S. invasion of Iraq that brings down another Iranian foe, Saddam Hussein, fans Sunni fears in Jordan and Gulf states of a Shia revival.

MARCH 19, 2003  U.S. Forces Topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq

A coalition led by the United States invades Iraq and ends Saddam’s regime and centuries of Sunni dominance in Iraq. Sectarian violence erupts as remnants of the deposed Ba’ath party and other Sunnis, both secular and Islamist, mount a resistance against coalition forces and their local allies, the ascendant Shia community.  Shia militias also emerge, some of which also oppose the U.S. military presence. Foreign Sunni militants, many affiliated with al-Qaeda, flock to Iraq to participate in what evolves into a sectarian war. Iranian influence in Iraq grows dramatically as Tehran backs Shia militants, as well as the Shia political parties that come to dominate the electoral process.

FEBRUARY 14, 2005  Assassination of Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

Former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri is killed in a car bomb after spearheading an effort to raise international pressure on Syria to withdraw its forces, which have been in Lebanon since 1976. His assassination is seen as a Syrian plot supported by Syria’s Lebanese allies, including Hezbollah, and leads to massive demonstrations that convince Syria to withdraw. The assassination and subsequent mobilization pit the Lebanese Sunni community, whom Hariri had come to represent, against Hezbollah and Lebanese Shias, who remain allied with Syria. Lebanese Christians split, with some supporting the Hariri camp and others supporting Hezbollah.

FEBRUARY 22, 2006  Bombing of Shia Shrine Escalates Iraq Violence

Sectarian killings become normal in Iraq, with both Sunni and Shia militias targeting civilians across the country. The bombing that destroys the golden dome of al-Askari mosque in Samarra, home to the tombs of the tenth and eleventh Shia Imams, triggers a more intense wave of violence that almost doubles the monthly civilian death toll in Iraq to nine hundred.

DECEMBER 30, 2006  Saddam’s Execution Inflames Sunnis

Saddam Hussein, responsible for the deaths of thousands of Shias and Sunnis in Iraq, is executed amid taunts by witnesses who chant the name of Shia cleric and Mahdi army militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The unruly scene, captured on video, elevates Saddam’s status as a martyr among many Sunnis in the region and underscores the new reality of rising Shia power in Iraq.

FEBRUARY 11, 2011

Protests Erupt in the Middle East, Exposing Sectarian Fault Lines

A wave of pro-democracy protests sweeps across the region, starting with the overthrow of Tunisia’s president, and then Egypt’s on February 11, eventually spreading to other Arab states in what is known as the “Arab Spring” or the “Arab Awakening.” Iranian officials welcome the fall of long-term U.S. allies like Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, and unrest in Bahrain, home to an oppressed Shia majority. As protests reach Syria in March, Tehran backs the government, which is dominated by Alawis, a heterodox Shia sect, while the opposition is dominated by members of the majority Sunni community. Dormant sectarian tensions in Syria are revived and a regional sectarian showdown begins.  (Courtesy Reuters)

AUGUST 30, 2012   Egypt’s Morsi Visits Iran

President Mohamed Morsi’s trip to Tehran, the first visit by an Egyptian leader since Cairo’s recognition of Israel in the 1980s, signals the potential for a new relationship between Iran and Sunni Islamists. Iran tries to rebrand the Arab uprisings as an “Islamic Awakening”  and an extension of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. But the visit by Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, exposes Islam’s deep cleavage. He praises Islam’s first three caliphs, whom Shias reject, and says opposing the Assad regime is a “moral obligation,”remarks that Iranian officials criticize.

OCTOBER 1, 2012  Hezbollah Commander Killed in Syria

Civil war divides Syrians largely along sectarian lines, with Sunnis supporting rebels, and Alawis, Shias, and other minorities backing the Assad regime. Foreign Sunni fighters trickle and then flood into the country, and signs of increased involvement from Iran and its Lebanese proxy militia, Hezbollah, emerge. The death of Hezbollah founding member Ali Hussein Nassif comes months before the group publicly acknowledges its role in the war. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries fund rebels, turning the fighting in Syria into a regional proxy war.

APRIL 8, 2013

8 April 2013 – Al-Qaeda’s Iraq Affiliate Expands in Syria

The Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country, extends its activities into Syria, creating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Known for its brutality against Shias and most Sunnis who oppose it, the group proves to be too extreme for al-Qaeda and is eventually expelled from the network. ISIS attacks in Iraq and Syria add an additional layer of sectarian violence to the region, and its control of territory in both states threatens to dissolve borders and fracture countries in the Middle East. (Yaser Al-Khodor/Courtesy Reuters)

20 April 2014 – Anti-Shia Sentiments Spread to Indonesia

Asian Muslims, influenced by the sectarian violence in the Middle East and Pakistan, aim to avoid potential tensions by suppressing the growth of their tiny Shia communities. Indonesian clerics and radical Islamists hold an “Anti-Shia Alliance” meeting in the world’s largest Muslim country, which is more than 99 percent Sunni. Malaysia, where Sunnis are also dominant, has implemented laws forbidding the propagation of the Shia faith.

JUNE 10, 2014  Shia Militias Mobilize as ISIS Advances in Iraq

ISIS militants and other armed Sunni groups seize Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, with little resistance from the Iraqi army. The Sunni insurgency, brewing for years in response to what it sees as exclusionary policies of Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, expands toward Baghdad and the borders with Syria and Jordan. ISIS threatens to destroy sacred Shia shrines, prompting a call to arms by Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Shia civilians respond to a mass recruitment drive that swells the ranks of militias and elevates sectarian tensions.

Practicing the Faith

Sunnis and Shias agree on the basic tenets of Islam: declaring faith in a monotheistic God and Mohammed as his messenger, conducting daily prayers, giving money to the poor, fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca.

There are divisions even over the precepts of Islam, but the main difference relates to authority, which sparked the political split in the seventh century and evolved into divergent interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law, and distinct sectarian identities.

Shias believe that God always provides a guide, first the Imams and then ayatollahs, or experienced Shia scholars who have wide interpretative authority and are sought as a source of emulation. The term “ayatollah” is associated with the clerical rulers in Tehran, but it’s primarily a title for a distinguished religious leader known as a marja, or source of emulation. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, was appointed by an elected body of Iranian clerics, while maraji (plural of marja) are elevated through the religious schools in Qom, Najaf, and Karbala. Shias can choose from dozens of maraji, most of whom are based in holy cities in Iraq and Iran. Many Shias emulate a marja for religious affairs and defer to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran for political guidance. For Sunnis, authority is based on the Quran and the traditions of Mohammed. Sunni religious scholars, who are constrained by legal precedents, exert far less authority over their followers than their Shia counterparts.

Both sects have subdivisions. The divisions among Shias were discussed above. Four schools comprise Sunni jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki, and Hanbali, the latter spawning the Wahhabi and Salafi movements in Saudi Arabia. Sunnism, a broad umbrella term for non-Shia Islam, is united on the importance of the Quran and practice of Mohammed but allows for differences in legal opinion.

Dear Karbala, dear Najaf, dear Kadhimiyah, and dear Samarra, we warn the great powers and their lackeys and the terrorists, the great Iranian people will do everything to protect them.


Sectarian Militants

Communal violence between Islam’s sects has been rare historically, with most of the deadly sectarian attacks directed by clerics or political leaders. Extremist groups, many of which are fostered by states, are the chief actors in sectarian killings today.

The two most prominent terrorist groups, Sunni al-Qaeda and Shia Hezbollah, have not defined their movements in sectarian terms, and have favored using anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist, and anti-American frameworks to define their jihad, or struggle. They share few similarities beyond the use of violence. Hezbollah has developed a pragmatic political wing that competes in elections and is part of the Lebanese government, a path not chosen by al-Qaeda, which operates a diffuse network largely in the shadows. Both groups have deployed suicide bombers, and their attacks shifted from a focus on the West and Israel to other Muslims, such as al-Qaeda’s killing of Shia civilians in Iraq and Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian civil war.

Conflict and chaos have played a role in the reversion to basic sectarian identity. In Iraq, for instance, remnants of the Ba’athist regime employed Sunni rhetoric to mount a resistance to the rise of Shia power following the ouster of Saddam. Sunni fundamentalists, many inspired by al-Qaeda’s call to fight Americans, flocked to Iraq from Muslim countries, attacking coalition forces and many Shia civilians. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who founded al-Qaeda’s franchise in Iraq, evoked ancient anti-Shia fatwas, or religious rulings, to spark a civil war in hopes that the Shia majority would eventually capitulate in the face of Sunni extremist violence. The Shia community absorbed thousands of deaths before fighting back with their own sectarian militias.

Syria’s civil war, which exceeded the casualty toll of Iraq’s decade-long conflict in its first three years, has amplified sectarian tensions to unprecedented levels. The war began with peaceful protests in 2011 calling for an end to the Assad regime, which has ruled since 1970. The Assad family and other Alawis have stirred resentment by Syria’s majority Sunnis after decades of repression and a sectarian agenda that elevated minority Alawis in government and the private sector. The 2011 protests and brutal government crackdown uncovered sectarian tensions in Syria, which have rippled across the region.

Tens of thousands of Syrian Sunnis joined rebel groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, the Islamic Front, and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which all employ anti-Shia rhetoric; similar numbers of Syrian Shias and Alawis enlisted with an Iran-backed militia known as the National Defense Force to fight for the Assad regime. Foreign Sunni fighters from Arab and Western countries joined the rebels, while Lebanon’s Hezbollah and some Shia militias from Iraq such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah backed the Syrian government. Even Afghan Shia refugees in Iran have reportedly been recruited by Tehran for the war in Syria, pitting them against Sunni foreign fighters who may have forced the Afghans into exile decades earlier. Syria’s civil war has attracted more militants from more countries than were involved in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Bosnia combined.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq, decimated by the “Awakening” of Sunni Iraqis who joined the fight against extremists, the U.S.-led military surge, and the death of Zarqawi, found new purpose in exploiting the vacuum left by the receding Syrian state. It established its own transnational movement known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group expanded its grip on Sunni provinces in Iraq and eastern regions in Syria, seizing Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June 2014. It defied orders from al-Qaeda’s top commanders to curtail its transnational ambitions and extremism, which led to ISIS’s expulsion from al-Qaeda in February 2014. ISIS rebranded as the Islamic State in July 2014 and declared its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as caliph. The group’s highly publicized killing of Western hostages triggered a campaign of air strikes by the United States and its regional allies Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Extremist groups have come to rely on satellite television and high-speed Internet over the past two decades to spread hate speech and rally support. Fundamentalist Sunni clerics, many sponsored by wealthy Sunnis from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, have popularized anti-Shia slurs. Shia religious scholars have also taken to the airwaves, mocking and cursing the first three caliphs and Aisha, one of Mohammed’s wives.

Sectarian rhetoric dehumanizing the “other” is centuries old. But the volume is increasing. Dismissing Arab Shias as Safawis, a term that paints them as Iranian agents (from the Safavid empire) and hence traitors to the Arab cause, is increasingly common in Sunni rhetoric. Hard-line Sunni Islamists have used harsher historic terms such as rafidha, rejecters of the faith, and majus, Zoroastrian or crypto Persian, to describe Shias. Iranian officials, Iraq’s prime minister, and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, routinely describe their Sunni opponents as takfiris (code for al-Qaeda terrorists) and Wahhabis. This cycle of demonization has been exacerbated throughout the Muslim world.

For Sunni extremists, new technologies and social-media channels have revolutionized recruitment opportunities. Fundamentalists no longer have to infiltrate mainstream mosques and attract recruits surreptitiously, but can now disseminate their call to jihad and wait for potential recruits to contact them. These channels aren’t as useful for recruiting Shia militants, who benefit from state support in Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and can openly advertise their calls for sectarian jihad.

The Sunni-Shia Divide

  • Sunni Majority

Countries where the Muslim population is majority Sunni

  • Shia Majority

Countries where the Muslim population is majority Shia

  • Hotspots

Countries with sectarian tensions



Source: Mapping the Global Muslim Population (October 7, 2009), Pew Research Center

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Terrorist violence in 2013 was fueled by sectarian motivations, marking a worrisome trend, in particular in Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan.


Flash Points

Sunni-Shia tensions contribute to multiple flash points in Muslim countries that are viewed as growing threats to international peace and security. The following arouse the most concern among regional specialists:

Rising Militancy

Notable concern about the role of sectarian violence increased in 2013. Extremists were“fueled by sectarian motivations” in Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan, according to the U.S. State Department. After years of steady losses for al-Qaeda–linked groups, Sunni extremist recruitment is rising, aided by private funding networks in the Gulf, particularly in Kuwait, with much of the violence directed at other Muslims rather than Western targets. Shia militants are also gaining strength, in part to confront the threat of Sunni extremism, miring many Muslim communities in a vicious cycle of sectarian violence.

U.S. officials such as FBI director James B. Comey have warned that the war in Syria, which attracted thousands of fighters from Europe and the United States, poses a long-term threat to Western interests. The eventual outflow of these militants, battle-hardened and with Western passports, is viewed as a potential “terrorist diaspora” that could eclipse the global terror networks that emerged after the Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Saudi-Iranian Rivalry

Saudi Arabia and Iran have deployed considerable resources to proxy battles, especially in Syria, where the stakes are highest. Riyadh closely monitors potential restlessness in its oil-rich eastern provinces, home to its Shia minority, and has deployed forces along with other Gulf countries to suppress a largely Shia uprising in Bahrain. It also assembled a coalition of ten Sunni-majority countries, backed by the United States, to reverse the growing influence of Houthis in Yemen. Saudi Arabia provides hundreds of millions of dollars in financial support to the predominantly Sunni rebels in Syria, while simultaneously banning cash flows to al-Qaeda and extremist jihadi groups fighting the Assad regime.

Iran has allocated billions of dollars in aid and loans to prop up Syria’s Alawi-led government, and has trained and equipped Shia militants from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan to fight with various sectarian militias in Syria. At the same time, the widening proxy battle may also be stirring concern among leaders in Riyadh and Tehran about the consequences of escalation. The two sides have repeatedly postponed efforts to establish a dialogue for settling disputes diplomatically. Iran is fighting the Islamic State in parts of Iraq, while Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority countries joined a U.S.-led air campaign against the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

Humanitarian Crisis

The ongoing civil war in Syria has displaced millions internally, and almost three million civilians, mostly Sunni, are now refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey. The influx of more than a million Syrians into Lebanon, a state with a historically combustible religious mix that experienced its own fifteen-year civil war in the 1970s and 1980s, has burdened its cash-strapped government and pressured communities hosting refugees. Jordan and Iraq are still struggling to provide housing and services to an impoverished and traumatized population. Turkey has the greatest capacity to provide humanitarian aid, yet Ankara must increasingly balance “the public’s sympathy for and unease toward refugees,” the International Crisis Group reports.

Fractured States

Syria’s civil war, as well as Iraq’s sectarian conflict, is threatening to redraw the map of the Middle East bequeathed to the region by British and French colonial authorities. The Assad regime in Syria has consolidated control over the Mediterranean coast, the capital of Damascus, and the central city of Homs, which together comprise a rump state that connects with Hezbollah strongholds, threatening the territorial integrity of Lebanon. Other parts of the country are contested or controlled by various rebel and Islamist groups, including ISIS, which seeks to dominate the eastern regions of Syria that link to its territory in Iraq. And Kurdish groups in northern Syria, which, like their Iraqi cousins, have long campaigned for basic rights denied under the Ba’athist government, are on the verge of gaining de facto independence. Yemen, which was unified in 1990, is at risk of re-fracturing into two countries, largely along sectarian lines.

The United States spent more than one trillion dollars to stabilize Iraq, but the country remains in a precarious state. Sectarian tensions are mounting in Iraq as the newly ascendant Shia majority struggles to accommodate the Sunni minority and deal with the Kurdish Regional Government in the north of the country while confronting extremist Sunni groups. Most politicians and activists in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon reject attempts to redraw the map of the region, but the vanishing borders and emergence of new areas of influence based on sectarian and ethnic identities are a growing existential challenge.

Sunnis had no other option but to defend themselves and use arms. We reached a point of to be or not to be.







  • Geneive AbdoFellow, Middle East Program, Stimson Center
  • Deborah AmosMiddle East Correspondent, National Public Radio
  • Reza AslanAssociate Professor, University of California, Riverside
  • F. Gregory Gause IIISenior Fellow, Brookings Doha Center
  • Bruce HoffmanDirector, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University
  • Ed HusainAdjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, CFR
  • Vali R. NasrDean, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

For further detail,

please visit:   http://www.cfr.org/peace-conflict-and-human-rights/sunni-shia-divide/p33176#!/?cid=marketing_url-taboola-sunni_shia_infoguide

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

The Messengers are not followers of any mankind

Lesson # 722 From Holy Qur’aan

 The Messengers are not followers of any mankind

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verse – 56 of 165, Section – 7 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Say: I am forbidden to worship those on whom ye call instead of Allaah. Say: I will not follow your desire, for then I would go astray and I would not be of the rightly guided.   Qul  ‘innii  nuhiitu  ‘an  ‘a’-budal-laziina  tad-‘uuna  min  duuNIllaah.  Qullaaa  ‘attabi-‘u

‘ahwaaa-‘akum.  Qad  zalaltu  ‘izanw-wa  maaa  ‘ana  minal-  Muhtadiin.       

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The Messenger of Allaah Almighty (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) was instructed in the previous verse that He should treat the Believers cheerfully and it was told: Do not keep any dealing connection with those, who want to be great and are haughty in the intoxication of their wealth and property, even that they wish not to sit along with the poor and insolvent people. You have admonished them, what You desired. Turn away from them now, if they do not hear. And convey the good news of Allaah’s Forgiveness and Mercy to those poor people, who come unto You, act upon Your Sayings happily after listening, and admonish them the teachings of Islam and Holy Qur’aan.


The Duty of the Messenger of Allaah Almighty (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) has been expound in this verse more clearly and commanded: Say these despotic and haughty people who are like Pharaoh and Haman! I have not come in the world for your flattery that I would do according to your instructions and regard your willingness. Neither have I any avarice from you and nor I desire any service from you. I observe that your desires are just like animals. I shall renounce from the Straight Path, which Allaah Almighty has shown Me, if I too follow your desires, and will go astray in the dark like you. Take a thought now in the meanings of this verse.


It is commanded! Say {O Muhammad (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him)} these stupid people who do not hear your Sayings: My wisdom and that Light, which Allaah Almighty has produced in My Heart by Inspiration, does not permit Me entirely that I begin to call your gods like you leaving Allaah Almighty, worship them and ask them for boon. These are your self-made, false and deceiving words. Your evil desires have compelled you to accept them. I would not have to follow your desires. I shall also go astray if I shall follow your sayings giving up the Revealed Instructions by Allaah Almighty, and then there will not remain any sign of the Straight Path.


It is known very clearly from this verse that the Spiritual Guides should never flatter the rich and effectual class of the people. Moreover, the Truth should be spoken out clearly, inconsiderate, unhesitatingly and without any partiality. They should be made courageous who believe in the Truth, whether they are poor and insolvent, and the religious teachings should be taught to them. The Provider of everything to everyone is only Allaah Almighty and the entire are indigent of His only, then why should not everything be begged from Him, only He must be obeyed and His consent be gotten. You cannot obey Him if you follow someone else.   


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)

Lessons from Holy Qur'an

Mankind’s heart-breaking thing

Lesson # 721 From Holy Qur’aan

Mankind’s heart-breaking thing

Surah ‘Al-‘An-‘aam (Cattle) – Chapter – 6)–Stage – 2

Verses – 54 & 55 of 165, Section – 6 of 20 (Part – 7)


In the name of Allaah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

54.  And when those who believe in Our Revelations come unto Thee, say: Peace be unto you! Your Lord hath prescribed for Himself mercy, that whoso of you doeth evil through ignorance and repenteth afterward thereof and doeth right, (for him) lo! He is Forgiving, Merciful.


55.  Thus do We expound the Revelations that the way of the unrighteous may be manifest.

54.  Wa  ‘izaa  jaaa-‘akal-laziina  yu’-minuuna  bi-‘AayaatiNaa  faqul  Salaa-mun- ‘alay-kum  kataba  Rabbukum  ‘alaa  Nafsihir-Rahmata,  ‘annahuu  man  ‘amila  minkum  suuu-‘am  bi-jahaa-latin  summa  taaba  mim- ba’-dihii  wa  ‘aslaha  fa-‘annaHuu  Gafuurur-Rahiim.


55.  Wa  kazaalika  Nufassi-lul- ‘Aayaati  wa  litas-tabiina  sabiilul-mujri-miin.   

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Haughtiness and vainglory of the infidels was described in the previous verse that they do not like even to sit near the poor people. There is no such mankind’s heart-breaking thing more than it that he is considered as humiliated, and the person, who considers himself a humiliated, is also like him “a human being” in all sorts, who insulted him. Wealthy people of Makkah used to consider themselves superior to the poor and insolvent people in their hearts as well as they used to say them “Of Low Status” also face to face by their tongues recklessly. This is a very big fault to insult and hate anyone. Certainly they, who were poor but faithful to Islam, used to grieve extremely.


Therefore, the Messenger of Allaah Almighty (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him) has been instructed particularly that those people (the poor) should be satisfied and consoled, and pleased with glad tiding that they have deserved Mercy of Allaah Almighty after embracing Islam. Even that whoso of them commits evil through ignorance and repents afterward thereof, then he will be forgiven. Allaah Almighty knows the condition of their hearts and intention that intentionally they do not disobey their Lord Almighty. So their mistake and error is excused and their penitence is accepted.


Now, let’s take a thought in the summary of this verse. It is commanded: O Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him)! When those who believe in Our Revelations come unto Thee, welcome them with good benediction and say: “Salaamun ‘Alaykum” (Peace be unto you), then cause to hear them happy news, “Your Lord has prescribed for Himself Mercy, that whoso of you will do evil through ignorance (because a believer does not commit any sin intentionally) and repent afterward thereof, Allaah Almighty will forgive him on his penitence. You will find Him as a Forgiving, Merciful on apologizing and promising not to commit the evil in future.


Then Allaah Almighty says: As you see, We expound the Revelations. It is importunity of Our Grace of Mercy and Guidance, and it aims that the way of the evildoers and wicked people may be separated totally from the good persons, and there should not remain any doubt among the both ways.


Deep Thought and Reflection upon the Previous Verses

Here we should stop a while and think upon that, what would we have to learn from which has been being described in the previous verses. At the time of revelation of these verses, the wealthy people of Makkah had laid down terror on the poor and insolvent people, and it was a way to put the society that the standard of honor and nobility had become the wealth and property. The rich people wished to keep the remaining people under their control duly pressed and drive them in accord with their own command. Condition of other countries outside the Arab was worse than them. All human beings were actually slaves and maids of the rich and rulers. They used to use them entirely like the animals and consider: Pleasure and comfort is only our right, because we have all things like wealth, property, dignity and magnificence. Therefore, entire people are our servants. They should move on our signals and accept that thankfully, whatsoever we give them for eating and drinking, wear that dress, whichever we provide them. In the Arab, this condition was a little less than other parts of the world, however it was.


The aim of Islam was to establish the equality among the entire humankind, so it was incumbent to lead the people in such a manner in the beginning that tyranny and oppression is eradicated and every human being reap the advantage from the blessings of the world to the extent of their necessities. And all the people help him collectively in fulfilling his requirements. None should consider any other person lower in rank and nor anyone should be insulted or hated.


It has been instructed to the Messenger (grace, glory, blessings and peace be upon Him): You have not come in the world to serve the rich and haughty people, so don’t favor them of any particular sort. Allaah Almighty has fixed the standard of nobility, sincerity of the heart and being thankful to Lord Almighty. These etiquettes can be in the poor people too, so say them never ‘get out’, if they come, thinking: what would be of Islam; Islam will be honored in the world if the wealthy people will embrace It. “We have not set the respect of Islam depending on any particular class of the people. Moreover, We have made Islam the source of respect for the entire human beings”.           


If the poor people will bow towards Allaah Almighty and will be His grateful servants, then they will be certainly honored due to Islam i.e. Islam is not needy of the mankind for own respect, but the humankind are indigent of Islam for getting real honor.   


We would have to learn from this lesson that we should never determine the wealth and property as source of nobility and respect. Islam has not determined collection of wealth as our mission. Those people who have been running after collection of the wealth, they have been spoiling the society. That person or group of such people is enemy of the humanity, who desires to collect much wealth and wants to become owner of luxurious apparatus of the world itself, and wishes other people to work on the emphasis of his wealth, agreeably to his desire. Moreover he is not an independent mankind. He is a slave of his mean wishes. Original face of Islamic Society is to console, sympathize and desire of pleasing one another mutually. Say every person, who is seen first “’As-Salaamu- ‘Alaykum” (Peace be unto you). Saying these words to anyone is a declaration of this wish, “I want to see you healthy, happy, in ease and comfort”. Then this sympathy should be proved in the form of love and sacrifice with own dealing.


Transliterated Holy Qur’an in Roman Script & Translated from Arabic to English by Marmaduke Pickthall, Published by Paak Company, 17-Urdu Bazar, Lahore, Lesson collected from Dars e Qur’aan published By Idara Islaah wa Tableegh, Lahore (translated Urdu to English by Muhammad Sharif)