Publications & Statements by Imam

05/08/07: Code of honor should unite Shia, Sunnis

Detroit News

May 8, 2007

Faith and policy

Code of honor should unite Shia, Sunnis

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi

"The faithful are indeed brothers. Therefore make peace between your brothers."

-- Quran 49:10

Muslims regardless of their school of thought are targets of nonstop Islamophobic prejudice. The fear that the daily tragic news from 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 . 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 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 .

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 . 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 " made by King Abdullah of .

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 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