Recognizing the factors of division

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

By: Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi

One of the very beneficial and effective steps that the Islamic Republic took was unity and the week of unity. This week is a week which has the most suitable days for the issue of unity to present itself. It is the days of the birthday of the Prophet of Islam (s); the person who brought the best religion to the world; the seal of the prophets; the person who is the person of acceptance for all of the Muslims in the world.

The issue that I have chosen to speak about in this limited time is the factors behind division. It is self-evident that if we do not find the factors behind division the slogans of unity will not go anywhere. Unity conferences are great; slogans of unity are great, but what is important is that in these conditions the main factors behind division must be recognized and destroyed. As long as this is not accomplished all other activities will only have a small effect. Before I enter the discussion, I want you brothers and sisters to grant me the permission to speak a little bit about the definition of unity and the issue of coming together. Many mistakes stem from here. The issue of unity and coming together can be explained in many different ways, most of them being incorrect. One meaning from amongst all of these meanings is correct and acceptable. Unity does not make sense if it means that Shias or Sunnis should leave their beliefs and surrender to the other side. Unity does not make sense if it means that the Islamic sects should only accept the commonalities that they have with each other and reject all of the differences. Unity does not make sense if it means that we should sit with each other and make peace, for instance we have ten commonalities and five differences and we will make a compromise – two or three of out beliefs will be rejected and two or three of your beliefs will be rejected being replaced by a unified belief. Unity would not be practical if it meant that we should have conference attended by Shia and Sunni scholars where they would sit down and logically discuss their differences while normal people would calmly sit in the audience choosing which side was more logical. But, the unity that we are after and the unity that we spend all of our energy to obtain has two principles: First, we must respect each other’s beliefs and second, we must try to cooperate along a path in which we have the same goals. We have many similar goals – protecting Islam, protecting the Quran, expanding Islam in the world, rescuing Jerusalem from the Zionists, and protecting the sanctity of Mecca, Medina, the Ka’aba, and hajj. Therefore, we need to unify our efforts along a path where our goals are singular – this is the meaning of coming together and unity which we are after and which we invite our brothers and sisters to follow. This is a very short definition or unity and coming together. The principle discussion is to try to recognize the general factors behind division. We know that if a person’s body is hurt from the outside the inside of his body will work to heal it. But, if the wounds on a body are from the inside his blood will become polluted – the blood will have to be filtered for him to heal. The issue of division in the Islamic world is a wound that stems from the inside – the factors behind it are internal. These factors must be recognized and fought against so that the blood of the Islamic world can become clean and free-flowing throughout all groups of Muslims so that we can be unified.

There are a lot of issues in regards to the factors of division and enmity. We will mention five factors so that our brothers and sisters think about them. There are more factors, but these five are the most important factors. I am certain that if people work against these five factors and if they are able to uproot them then the issue of coming together and the issue of unity will not be difficult.

The enemies of Islam always cling to differences. They consider it better to become victorious over Islam in this way than any other way. The reason for this is because Muslims will fight wars against each other and the enemy will not have any loses. The international community will not cry in defense of the Muslims either. Muslims will kill each other. I heard this sentence in the news today: “South Africa, while being independent, is distancing itself from independence.” Nelson Mandela is the African leader of the freed South Africa, but the African tribes have started fighting each other. The leader announced that there is evidence in hand which shows that the reason the African tribes are fighting is because of the conniving works of the whites in that area. This was a nation that was on the brink of independence, but the enemy used division to negate their movement.

We should talk about Islamic countries. You know that Afghanistan is an Islamic country and is on the brink of independence and Islamic government. But, the enemy has spent millions of dollars and has used spies to make the Afghan political parties attack each other. Brothers started killing each other. Sunnis killed Sunnis; Shias killed Shias; Sunnis killed Shias; Shias killed Sunnis. A society that was on the brink of independence and Islamic government fell because division was created. Another example of this is Lebanaon. Lebanon can be transformed into another Islamic country with an Islamic government because it has spiritual and material potential. But, when it is on the brink of such an action the secret hands of the enemy start working. The murder that is happening in Lebanon is not found anywhere else in the world. Everyone is fighting everyone. This is the political strategy of divide and conquer working at its best. Recently, western scholars studied Islamic movements, the revival of Islam, and Islamic revolution in various countries. After this research was conducted they stated that the only way to prevent Islamic revolutions is by creating divisions amongst the Muslims. Therefore, they have started to do this. In Pakistan a secret group was found who state everywhere that Shias are disbelieves (kafirs). They write this on vehicles, in government offices, and on walls in the city. 200 books against Shiaism have been published in Pakistan in a very short period of time. Where is the money for this coming from? Who is behind all of this? The same people who fear an Islamic revolution.

The second factor is the failure of understanding the culture of unity. Unity needs a culture and will not be possible until we reach that culture. Unity needs an expansion of breasts and people need to concentrate on common goals. If we do not reach this culture we will not reach unity. If I am fanatic and consider what I believe in to be the only truth and if I do not respect your thoughts then the possibility of unity is not present. Our beliefs are certain and respectful for us and your beliefs are certain and respectful as well. If I abuse your beliefs and if you abuse our beliefs we will not reach unity. If we see someone eating poisonous food screaming at them will not have much effect – rather we must make them understand that their food is poisonous. When we work and make Muslims understand how dangerous the defeats due to division have been we will make them realize the importance of coming together. If Israel, a minority, was able to place itself in the heart of the Islamic world in six days (something that the crusaders were not able to do over a period of 200 years) it is time to realize that we need to be placed in the brink of unity.

The third factor is important. It is the factor of putting tribal or racial issues before Islamic beliefs and teachings. The enemies of Islam are trying to raise the issues of tribalism. They have worked for many years on the issue of tribalism and Arab nationalism. They have been able to separate some Muslims from all of the other Muslims in this way. There are 150 million Arabs in the world; they have separated them away from the one billion Muslims in the world. Palestine, which was a Muslim issue, was transformed into an Arab issue and defeat followed. If we allowed these tribes to become overshadowed by Islam; if we allowed Islam to come first the conditions of Muslims, unity, and coming together would be very different today.

The fourth factor behind division is the Islamic factors entering international political groups. Before the fall of communism, the world was divided into two poles; the east and the west. Some Muslims of the world, instead of creating a third pole for themselves, decided to go under the banner of the east and others decided to go under the banner of the west. They became toys for the political groups to play with. They could have become an important international factor. An important part of the world’s sensitive centers are in the hands of Muslims. Muslims have a very rich heritage which is taken from the Quran and the Noble Prophet (s). But, there have been some mistakes made or treasons committed by the heads of Islamic states which have caused some to fall under the banner of the Russians and some to fall under the banner of the Americans and English. These two poles used the Muslims in their war against each other. There are many examples of this type of politics in the modern day for us to examine. The scholars must wake up the Muslims in this regard. They must warn them that they should not leave the evil rulers alone and allow them to put themselves under the political banners of superpowers. They should want everyone to fall under the banner of unity. The factor behind division is that when so and so country is under the political banner of America and other countries are under the political banner of Russia it is impossible for these countries to be unified – no matter how much we scream UNITY UNITY.

The fifth factor of division is that Muslims do not have enough knowledge about each other. Sometimes Muslims use books that are published by the enemy in order to learn about each other. Sunni brothers, if you want to learn about the beliefs of Shias learn them from Shias. We are better than anyone else to speak about our beliefs. Why do you try to learn our beliefs from the mouths of the enemy? Likewise, the beliefs of Sunnis must be learned from Sunnis – not from the enemy. If we did this many of our problems would be solved.

There is an example of this that whenever I remember I become terrified. One of the times that I visited Hijaz I met with the Saudi Arabian minister of religious issues. When introductions were being given in the meeting the first sentence mentioned was: “I heard that you have a scripture different than our scripture.” He heard this from our enemies; not from us. I had an answer prepared and said: “If you come to Iran to see it would be great. If you cant come you can send a representative – we will pay the expenses of the travel. We will arrive at the airport in Tehran and from there we will go into the streets of Tehran. We will stop at whatever mosques you want and you can look to see what Quran they have. We will stop at any house you want and we will examine their Qurans. If our Quran is different, even by one letter, with the Qurans in other Islamic countries then you will have a right to say what you are saying.”

When people stay away from each other and listen to the enemy this will be the result. As must as a say that the stone that the Shias place in their mosques is because prostration must be performed on the ground they say that in so and so book it was written that they are idol-worshipers. We scream and say that the first-tier scholars of the Shia have believed that the Quran has not been distorted from the beginning of Islam until now. If one believed in distortion it would be very rare. The first-tier scholars of the Sunnis believe the same thing, but there are rare scholars of both sects that claim the Quran was distorted – these words should not be listened to. Whatever we say they say that it was written in so and so book that the Shia believe in distortion.

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Who Created God?

Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi

Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi

Written by Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi

Question:

Who created God? This is a strange question, but the well-known English philosopher Bertrand Russell has stated in one of his books, “During my youth, I believed in God and thought that the proof ’cause of all causes’ was the best evidence for it. All that I see in the world has a cause, and if we follow the chain of causes, ultimately we will reach the first cause, and this first cause is who we call God. But later, I completely turned away from this belief, because I thought if everything has a cause and creator, then God must also have a cause and creator.”

Answer:

It happens that this is one of the most famous and elementary objections of the materialists. More clearly, they say, “If God created everything, then who created God?” It is not clear to us how long Russell encountered this objection, but since this question occurs to many youths, it must be accurately studied.

There are several fundamental points that exist here, and by paying attention to them, the answer to this objection will become clear:

First, if we accept the materialist belief and also claim what Russell has claimed, will we be free from this objection? Clearly not, because the materialists also believe in the principle of causality. They consider everything in the natural world to be the effect of another thing. Therefore, we can ask them the same question about matter. If everything is the effect of matter, then what is matter the effect of?

Based on this, and keeping in mind that the chain of cause and effect cannot go on forever, all the philosophers of the world, including materialist and religious philosophers, believe in an eternal being, a being that always existed. However, the materialists say that the eternal being of the universe is matter or the combination of matter and energy. And theists say the central source is God. In this manner, it becomes clear that Russell has no choice but to believe in an eternal being, even if it is matter.

Secondly, can this eternal being have a cause? Certainly not. Why? Because an eternal being always existed, and a thing that always existed does not need a cause. Only that being is in need of a cause which did not exist at one time and then came to existence. Ponder over this.

As a result, everyone is in agreement about the existence of an eternal source. And the firm proofs for the invalidity of an infinite series of cause and effect has obliged all philosophers to admit that there is an eternal origin. Therefore, contrary to what Russell has imagined, the disagreement among theist and materialist philosophers isn’t that one accepts the cause of all causes and the other does not. Rather, both equally believe in the first cause and cause of all causes.

So where is the disagreement then? It must clearly be stated that the only difference is that theists believe that the first cause has knowledge and willpower, and they name him God. But the materialists imagine it to be without knowledge and willpower, and they name it matter.

Now how did a matter so clear remain unknown to Russell? We can only say that he was an expert in mathematics, natural sciences, and social science, not in primary philosophy, such as recognition of existence and its source and effects.

From what was stated, we also come to the conclusion that religious philosophers do not only use the proof of “cause of all causes” to prove the existence of God, because this only proves the existence of a primary cause. In other words, it proves the existence of an eternal being in whom the materialists also believe. The important issue for the religious philosophers after proving the existence of the first cause is to prove that He has endless knowledge. This matter can easily be proved by studying the order of creation, its secret wonders, and the calculated laws which govern over the skies, Earth, and various living beings. Ponder over this.

This was the first necessary discussion in answer to this objection. The other necessary matter is that this objection is based on the belief that every being is in need of a cause and creator. This law is not universal and is only true in those cases where a thing previously did not exist and later came to existence. Ponder over this.

To shed further light on this point, we say that there are beings that exist now which previously did not exist, such as the solar system and living beings, both plants and animals. Their history shows that their existence is not eternal. Based on their differences, they did not exist a few million or a few billion years ago, and then they came into existence. Evidently, for the coming about of such beings, a cause or causes are necessary. Clearly, the separation of the Earth from the sun, based on Laplace’s hypothesis and others formed after him, was due to particular causes, whether we are completely aware of them or not. Similarly, the coming about of the first sprout of plant life, then animal, and then human life are all indebted to causes. Therefore, scientists are continuously striving to find these causes. If their existence was not due to causes, there is no reason for them to come about a million or billion years ago. Why didn’t they come about in twice as much time or half as much? The selection of these particular times is the best proof for the fact that the conditions and causes of their coming into being were only certain at those times.

But if a being is eternal, whether we call that eternal being God or matter, it does not need any causes. It does not need a creator or a god, because there is no history of His coming about, and so that the place of cause and creator is empty in this history. The existence of an eternal thing takes rise from its essence, not from outside its essence so that it will be in need of a creator. Think over this.

You, I, the Earth, the sky, the solar system, and so forth are in need of a creator, because our existence is not eternal and not from within ourselves. The first cause and cause of all causes is not such, because His existence is from His self.

A Clear Example

Philosophers have mentioned examples to explain this philosophical statement and make it more understandable. For instance, they say, “When we look inside our work room or living room, we see that it is illuminated.” We ask ourselves, is the illumination from the room itself?

Then we immediately say no, because if the illumination came about from the room itself, the room would never get dark. But sometimes it is illuminated, and sometimes it is dark. Therefore, its illumination is not from itself. And we quickly come to the conclusion that the brightness of our room or house is from the light particles that shine in it.

Then we immediately ask ourselves: where does the brightness of light particles come from?

With a little thought, we come to the conclusion that the brightness of a light particle is of itself and comes about from within its essence. Light particles have not borrowed their property of brightness. Nowhere in the world can you find light particles that are dark and then take brightness from something else. No matter where light particles are, they are bright. The brightness is a part of their essence, and it is not borrowed. It is perhaps possible for light particles to be destroyed, but it is not possible for them to exist but be dark. Contemplate this.

Therefore, if someone says that the brightness of every area and locale in the world is an effect of light, and then asks where the brightness of light is from, we immediately say that the brightness of light is a part of its essence. Similarly, when it is said the existence of everything is God’s, and then someone wonders whose the existence of God is, we immediately answer it is His own and from within His essence.


The author of over a hundred books and articles on religious and social topics, including a commentary on the Holy Qur’an, Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi is followed as a Religious Authority by millions of Shias around the world today. He lives and teaches in the holy city of Qom, Iran.