Views of Imam Khomeini, Ayat. Khamenei on Islamic Unity
As you know, we are celebrating Islamic Unity Week that bridges the two dates of the month of Rabi al-Awwal regarded as the blessed birthday of the Messenger of Mercy, Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny).
Sunni Muslims on the basis of narrations of the Prophet’s companions who had no previous acquaintance with him until at least he reached the age of 40 and declared his universal missions of Islam, claim he was born on 12th Rabi al-Awwal. Shi’a Muslims, who regard family accounts of the Bani Hashem and the Ahl al-Bayt to be more reliable, maintain that the Seal of Messengers was born on Rabi al-Awwal 17th. Thus in order to create harmony between the two and bring them together on the single platform of solidarity, the Father of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (God bless him) took the dynamic initiative in 1979 of declaring Islamic Unity Week, which over the past 38 years has gathered momentum to become an international fixture every year in most countries of the world.
In this episode, we will highlight the views of Imam Khomeini, and his worthy successor, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, on Islamic Unity.
Imam Khomeini was indeed one of the greatest reformers the Islamic Ummah had seen. As a devoted servant of the Prophet of Islam and his Infallible Ahl al-Bayt, he spared no efforts to remove divisions from amongst Muslims and to knit their ranks as a monolithic Islamic Ummah. He would always emphasize on the practice and behaviour of the Prophet and the ayahs of the holy Qur’an in this regard, such as ayah 103 of Surah Aal-e Imran that calls on believers to hold fast to the Rope of Allah, without which the talk of unity amongst Muslims is meaningless. The holy Qur’an calls believers “brethren to each other”, and accordingly Muslims must unite by removing all superficial differences, like that of colour of skin, ethnicity, language spoken, and social status. Likewise, the Late Imam used to say that whatever the schools of jurisprudence Muslims follow, they should come to terms with each other, for the sake of Almighty God, whether they are Sunni or Shi’a Muslims, and without geographical barriers and the imaginary political boundaries separating them.
When all Muslims believe in the One Single Creator of the universe, regard the Prophet of Islam as the Last and Greatest of all Divine Messengers, have the same single Qur’an in their midst, face the holy Ka’ba as the focal point of the daily ritual prayers, observe the month long obligatory fasts in Ramadhan, and perform the Hajj pilgrimage in the same month of Zilhijja on the same days. Thus, in view of these undeniable facts, why should Muslims become victims of the divisive propaganda of the enemies of Islam and drift away from each other.
This was the logic of Imam Khomeini who used to say: "God willing, the day will come when all Muslims will melt in each other to become brothers and root out all forms of corruption and oppression from their lands, especially the cancerous tumour called Israel, which is in occupation of Palestine and the sacred al-Aqsa Mosque in Bayt al-Moqaddas. It was the Late Imam’s cherished goal “God Willing, we will go together and hold the prayer of unity in holy Qods.”
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, as the worthy successor of Imam Khomeini (peace upon them), regards Islamic unity as the most vital issue. He points to ayah 24 of Surah al-Hadid of the holy Qur’an in which Allah Almighty says “Certainly We sent Our Prophets with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice.”
On the basis of this ayah, says Ayatollah Khamenei, Muslims ought to join ranks for elimination of oppression and the creation of a healthy global Islamic community that is free of divisions, and flourishes in accordance with the rules of Islam. This is possible for a monotheist society, since as God Almighty says in the holy Qur’an, mankind evolved from one single pair of humans, that is, Adam and Eve. from Him. Therefore, from the viewpoint of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, if the Ummah wants to make progress in science, culture, ethics, economy, spirituality and all spheres of life, it should unite and solidify its ranks. One of the important ways in overcoming the problems of the Islamic world and achieving political, cultural and economic independence is the formation of a united Islamic Front. The Leader says: Muslims should unite and not be hostile to each other and the axis of all should be the holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam, on which the dynamics of the shari’ah or Islamic code of laws is based. Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to the establishment of two important bodies as proofs of practical steps taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran to foster Islamic solidarity. These two are: “The International Assembly of Proximity of Islamic Schools of Jurisprudence” and the “Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly”.
Ayatollah Khamenei says the ulema play a crucial role in promoting Islamic unity and preventing the Ummah from dissensions. Many of the disputes can be resolved if both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims get together to pray in a single congregation. He warned against divisions by suspicious elements among both the Sunnis and Shi’a Muslims, especially by those who insult the religious sanctities of the other. He said: Insult to our Sunni brethren including unsubstantiated accusations against any of the wives of the Prophet of Islam, is forbidden.
This was a dynamic move by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and brought praise from Sunni scholars. For instance, the Sheikh of Egypt’s al-Azhar Ahmad at-Tayyeb, in a statement announced that the Fatwa was issued at the right time to prevent sedition. Ahmad at-Tayyeb wrote: I praise and congratulate Imam Khamenei for the fatwa on prohibiting the insulting the Prophet of Islam’s wives and companions. This is a fatwa that has been issued with proper knowledge and a deep understanding of the perilous nature of those who create sedition, and is a proof of practical measures for the unity of the Muslims.
Ayatollah Khamenei emphasizes the prime position of the Infallible Imams of the blessed Ahl al-Bayt of the Prophet who are revered by all Muslims, as pivots of Islamic unity, by pointing to ayah 46 of Surah Anfal, which reads:
“And obey Allah and His Prophet, and do not dispute, or you will lose heart and your power will be gone.”