There is the internal obstacle that is the result of denominational bias. This bias affects all groups of people. We must overcome this bias. Having faith in one’s creeds is laudable. It is also good to insist on these creeds.
Unity, which is among the greatest and the most important duties of all Muslims, is one of the issues that I will stress today. The week leading to Rabi al-Awwal 12 was named as Unity Week at the beginning of the Revolution. That was because according to famous traditions narrated by our Sunni brothers, Rabi al-Awwal 12 marks the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet (S). But according to famous traditions narrated by the Shia, the Holy Prophet’s (S) birth anniversary falls on Rabi al-Awwal 17.
At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian nation and government officials named the period between these two dates as Unity Week. They wanted Unity Week to be a symbolic representation of unity among Muslims. But it is not enough to choose names and talk about things. We must engage in action. We must move towards unity. The world of Islam is in need of unity today. There will be obstacles and sources of discord, but we must overcome these obstacles.
All great aspirations require serious efforts. No great aspiration can be achieved in the absence of serious efforts. Unity among Muslims is not an exception: It requires efforts. It is our duty to make efforts to create unity in the world of Islam. This unity can solve many problems. It can bring about glory for Muslim nations and communities.
Consider the current situation of the Muslim countries in the world. Look at the situation of Muslims, who currently make up one fourth of the entire world population. However, their role in world politics, even in their internal affairs, is far less important than the role of foreign governments and superpowers with evil intentions. The fact that I constantly advise our people and my audience against foreigners is not just because superpowers are foreigners. Rather that is because they have evil intentions. They seek to dominate us. They seek to humiliate Muslim nations and force them into complete conformity.
There are over fifty Muslim countries in the world. How can these Muslim countries stand up to these gross and evil intentions of domination? Is there any way other than unity? We must get closer. There are two major obstacles to unity and we must think of a way to remove them.
There is the internal obstacle that is the result of denominational bias. This bias affects all groups of people. We must overcome this bias. Having faith in one’s creeds is laudable. It is also good to insist on these creeds. But this faith must not cross the line between logical argumentation and aggressive rejection of others’ beliefs. Our brothers who are part of the Muslim Ummah must treat each other with respect. They have a right to adhere to their own beliefs, but they must respect others, their rights, and their beliefs.
Muslims must leave ideological debates to scholarly meetings. Ulama and scholars may engage in religious debates. But there is a difference between religious debates at scholarly meetings and an exchange of insults in public and in front of an audience who are not capable of scholarly analysis. Ulama and government officials must keep this under control. That is a duty that lies on the shoulders of all groups of Muslims, both Shia and Sunni.
Muslims must move towards unity. This ideological bias is an internal obstacle to unity. One external obstacle to unity is the efforts on the part of the enemies of Islam to foment discord. We must be totally vigilant against such efforts. These efforts are not a recent issue. They came into being the day the dominant political powers in the world realized that they could influence other nations.
But these goals are being currently pursued more vigorously than ever before. The modern means of communication have helped further their goals. These people try to foment discord. They coin incendiary slogans to create discord. We must be vigilant. Unfortunately, some people in Muslim countries act as a tool in the hands of the spiteful enemies who seek to harm us.
What happened in Lebanon and Palestine can teach us many lessons. Two years ago when the Lebanese resistance forces and the youth of Hezbollah inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Zionist regime, which was considered a victory for the world of Islam, the enemies immediately brought up the issue of Shia and Sunni and started to strengthen religious bias in Lebanon, in the Middle East, and in the entire world of Islam.
They pretended as if it was a new issue. That was because the Muslim Ummah had almost achieved unity thanks to that great victory. They sought to drive a wedge between Shia and Sunni Muslims. That goes back to two years ago.
Two months ago the Muslim Ummah gained another victory – that is, the victory of the Palestinian Resistance Movement over their Zionist enemies in Gaza. That was a great and glorious victory. What victory can be more impressive than defeating a powerful army that had managed to defeat three powerful armies between 1967and 1973? What could be more impressive than 22 days of futile efforts of a powerful army against the resisting youth and persistent soldiers of Gaza? The Zionist army was forced to retreat empty-handed.
In addition, the Zionist regime and its supporters, especially the US, were disgraced in the world. They were publicly disgraced. That was a great victory for all Muslims. It led Muslims to a kind of unity. This time they could not resort to the Shia-Sunni conflict. They brought up the issue of ethnicity this time. They started a debate, arguing that the Palestinian issue was an Arab issue and that non-Arabs had no right to get involved in the issue. The Palestinian issue is an Islamic issue. It is not peculiar to Arabs or non-Arabs.
If ethnicity was dragged into the matters of importance to the world of Islam, the greatest source of discord would be created. When ethnicity is dragged into the matters of importance to the world of Islam, Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, Indonesians, Malaysians, Pakistanis, and Indians will have to be separate from one another. What will remain of the Muslim Ummah if such a thing happens? Is it not a disaster for the Muslim Ummah and its collective capabilities?
These are the machinations of arrogant powers and, unfortunately, some people in the world of Islam have fallen for these machinations. They do not want to let the sweet memory of the victories in Lebanon and Gaza remain in the minds of Muslims. They found that situation unpleasant and, therefore, they thought up a source of discord to separate Muslims from one another.
The selection taken from the “Lessons from the Holy Prophet of Islam (S)” by Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.