The Courage to write
It’s taken me a lot of courage to put this post together. Not only did I have to challenge my own views but the views of those around me as well.
When you first become a Muslim often you’re asked: “what type of Muslim are you?” And your response more likely then not is “… the normal kind.” Then you start to find out about all the different sects. Shia, Sunni, Naqshabandi, Deobandi, Salafi etc. It can really pickle your mind, especially when you’ve gone into Islam just wanting to be, Muslim.
Over the years, Shia have always been made out to be the bogeymen of Islam to me. This could well be due to the people I was learning about Shia from. Sunni’s mean well, and of course, they want to keep people on the straight path, but a lot of misinformation and discrimination can occur in our approach.
My First Shia experience
It wasn’t until I worked for a well-known Islamic bank that I met my very first Shia. I say it like it’s a novelty but it was to me. And guess what, she was normal. No welt marks on her skin from beating herself. She was just a Muslim. I didn’t even notice she was Shia until I met her in the prayer room one afternoon and I noticed she prayed on a little round stone. Some of the actions were a bit different but I didn’t think anything of it. I hadn’t been Muslim long enough to question the fiqh of other people’s prayer. So I asked my manager and he said, “oh yeh, she’s Shia. I like her and she’s a nice person but she’s Shia.” I found it so strange.
As time has gone on, I’ve met a few more Shia along the way and again, lovely people. Back in 2014, I was invited to a Shia mosque in Birmingham but because of the stories I had continued to hear, I declined.
The Shia Muslims Nextdoor
For 10 years I have lived around the same place. For near enough that amount of time, there has been a Shia institute right on my doorstep and I didn’t know. It was through my husband’s curiosity that we visited. I had no indication that they were Shia at all. The building was beautifully restored in the style of the area and the souls that occupied it were equally as beautiful. I remember the Jummah we attended there. Everything was pretty much the same bar the prayer at the end. To wish everyone a blessed week and protection with Allah for the week to come – I found that part so beautiful.
It was at a Jummah just like that one that I met the woman that changed my life but I’ll speak about her in a separate post.
Shia, But that’s Bidah…
As we continued to visit Al Mahdi Institute, I began to learn more about Shia Muslims and their differing beliefs. I have also had the chance to visit another large Shia mosque in Birmingham.
But what was the point in me writing this article? To show that no matter the sect, we all read the same book. When you travel somewhere with an open heart, people will welcome you no matter your religious differences. Imagine if they would have treated me with the same disdain that most people treat them? This would be a very different article.
Yes, there have been some debates, mainly had by my husband with the worshippers at Al Mahdi Institute but they have always been in a respectful manner. No one has left “in their feelings” as yet.
I am a Sunni. I follow the Sunnah of our Beloved Prophet (saw) but a Shia Muslim would say the same. I’m not here to debate that but to simply convey the message. When we celebrate our similarities we can discuss our differences with more ease and less ego. Let me tell you, going in all guns blazing shouting bidah has never brought anyone to the straight path but caused alienation.
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