Sparkbrook Central Mosque in Birmingham held an Intra-faith conference for Shi‘a-Sunni unity on Sunday, April 29th in conjunction with UK Islamic Mission. The panel included renowned scholars from different Muslim schools of thought.
The aim of the event was to underline the importance of unity in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah and to discuss the causes of division between the diverging sects and highlight practical solutions to overcome these differences particularly in the face of contemporary challenges that have arisen in the modern era.
Sheikh Umri began by explicating verse 46 of chapter Al-Anfaal where difference of opinion amongst mankind is actually validated by God as something expected of human beings due to their nature, In view of this Allah has urged us to be sincere and think positively of one another and has reminded us that our commonalities outnumber our differences so we must allow these to bring us together. He also called out the media for blowing up these differences and prompted us to be vigilant of the ploys of our common enemy.
Dr Muhammad Khalid hailed this conference for being a one-of-a-kind effort to promote long-term unity. He also advised us to keep away from scholars who claim there is no hope for Shi‘a-Sunni unity and acknowledged the fact that extremists exist on each side. However, any sectarian literature/speakers must be discouraged from poisoning minds. He reminded us that if God urges us to make peace with the People of the Book for the sake of humanity what must He expect from us with regards to our Muslim brethren?
Finally, Sheikh Shomali, who was the main guest, took the podium and recited a paragraph from the beautiful Munajat Sha‘baniyah to highlight the way Shi‘as converse with the Beloved. After that, he addressed the fact that all human beings are unique and different as a result of their upbringing and the experiences they have encountered and so differences of opinion are expected. He reminded us however of a hadith [narration] where we are enjoined to “Love for the sake of God and Hate for the sake of God”.
He spoke of using that as a “point of reference” in our social relations so that we must unite with those who do not threaten our core values of submission, love and dedication to God. The Sheikh Shomali brought to our attention the social problems that come as cultural baggage left over from modernity and liberalism, which many Muslims have so quickly and blindly embraced, including family break-ups and drug abuse which are shaking the health of our communities.
He urged us to unite against these forces and let God into our hearts so that they are transformed and become larger to accommodate our brethren in faith and equals in humanity. Below are some thoughts shared by a few people who attended the event:
Mahmooda Qureshi : “Much needed, long overdue, hope we can constructively put all the lessons learnt into practice.”
Abraar Hussain: “All Muslims are seen as the same by outsiders. We must distance ourselves from the extremists and highlight their disdain for Shia-Sunni unity and make clear that as a reason for our dissociation.”
Farzana Ali: “It’s very important to understand everyone’s point of view but we also must be vigilant of those purposely fuelling sectarianisms and avoid arguments but engage in constructive dialogue. Each person must start by improving their own self and being kind and loving so that we can unite.”