We are happy to announce the release of the translation of Shaykh Haider’s book Risalah Salam Madhhabi – A Memorandum on Intersectarian Harmony in Islam. This book is an open memorandum to all the Muslims of the world, whether Shīʿa, Sunni, Ibāḍi, Ṣūfi, etc. It is a memorandum of love and affection, of brotherhood and amity, of truth and sincerity; a memorandum of laying the facts bare and exposing the truth. It is one of critiquing oneself and others, turning a new page, and defining the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) and their followers. The book aims to reveal in it the thoughts, investigation, responsibilities, aspirations, visions, concepts, and inferences that are held by the adherents of this faction. The book summarizes their beliefs, jurisprudence, methodologies, relationship with others, viewpoints, achievements, and historical responsibility.
The Table of Contents, Introduction by Shaykh Haider, Translator’s Introduction and the Foreword by Sayyid Ali Imran can be read below.
Author: Shaykh Haider Hobbollah
Translated by Br. Muhammad Jaffer and Sayyid Ali Imran
Since the dawn of Islam, the Muslims had congregated around their Prophet to garner from him religious instruction and learn from the Divine inspiration which descended upon him. Along with the Divine Providence and the Muḥammadan grace, the message of Islam was forged by the efforts of these individuals surrounding the Prophet. The Muslim congregation was notably small in its size—an oppressed minority—facing all forms of oppression, tyranny, and transgression. Nonetheless it maintained its consolidation, with individuals mutually working together to embody the epitome of self-actualization, inter-cooperation, and collaboration—all in the spirit of brotherhood: a brotherhood which indeed left its impressions on the destiny of Islamic proselytization and crystallized the principles of unity and accommodation between Muslims until today; a brotherhood which emerged from individuals who had not long before been in the throes of conflict and discord. As God himself states in the Qur’ān:
هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَيَّدَكَ بِنَصْرِهِ وَبِٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِهِمْ لَوْ أَنفَقْتَ مَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا مَّآ أَلَّفْتَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ أَلَّفَ بَيْنَهُمْ إِنَّهُۥ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
“It is He who assisted the believers with his succor and harmonized their hearts; and should you have spent all of what was in the Earth, you would not have harmonized their hearts, but yet God harmonized between them. Indeed, He is the Mighty, the Wise.”
This harmony was in the wake of Islam’s values and teachings, which found their way into the hearts and souls of the Muslims to create a new generation: one that would not take long to transform the face of the world in a relatively short period of time. It was natural for some personal or impersonal dissidence to arise here and there between the Muslims, although the presence of the Messenger (p) and the monumental spiritual outpouring of ethical Islamic principles and Qur’ānic teachings dissolved many a strife. But nonetheless, humankind is predisposed to variation between its ilk, and thus this fated principle of divergence has taken its course among Muslims over their extended history. At this juncture, we are not invested in defining the causes and bases for the divergence that took place after the passing of the Holy Prophet (p) (whether it had been morally sanctionable, the result of independent reasoning (ijtihād) between the Muslims, collusion, a power struggle, etc.). However, what concerns us here is that the Prophet’s departure formed an important milestone in the timeline of Islam. Indeed, rapid was that snowball effect which precipitated a great schism within Islam’s adherents, eventually leading to entire schools of thought and movements that would brawl with each other and even shed one another’s blood in the name of the self-same creed.
We do not aim to place the responsibility of this rift upon anyone, but rather we aim to usher a dispelling of this state. Although we may disagree in our interpretation of the Qur’ān and Sunnah—disagreeing to the extent that one of us may look at its text and conclude that an action is obligatory while another may not, or one of us may look at a specific verse of the Qur’ān and believe it is a testament to the virtue of a specific historical personality while another may not, this is all but a natural affair. It is not only exclusive to Islam but is rather seen in the history of all religions because of the human mind’s limitations in uncovering truth.
However, the issue has become an ordeal because this natural variation has morphed into an unnatural one, whereby people disregard one another and Muslims distance themselves from each other. Rather, in some cases their blood is even shed owing to the negative viewpoint they carry of their brethren. Hence, the Islamic society is disintegrated, and the condition of Muslims is weakened by their internal strife and discord. Even more unfortunate is that the abundance of argumentation and polemics regarding these sectarian differences coupled with the continued development in these fields has wrought even more discord rather than providing positive intellectual reform! Indeed, there is no worth in these intellectual movements when no positive epistemological or practical reform is facilitated through them.
All of the above requires us to pause together in front of our conscience, our religion, our history, and our humanity to ask: what is our obligation? What can we do to transcend this sectarian hatred whose exponential growth we witness day after day in our current climate? How may we preserve the ummah and the society against the flotsam of sectarian strife and its manifestations? How can we erase this in the spirit of avoiding further degeneration into the abyss of sectarian schism? Every day we witness the mutual shedding of Muslim blood under the auspices of defending religion, creed, sect, and faction—to the extent that their internal conflict is even more heinous, cruel, and violent than their conflict with societies foreign to theirs!
The Shīʿi loyal to ʿAlī grapples with the Sunni loyal to Abū Bakr on issues that even the two personalities themselves never surmised! The Ḥanafī and the Ḥanbalī grapple with the Jaʿfarī to an extent hundreds of time more intense than al-Imām Ja’far ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq himself disagreed with Abū Ḥanīfa ibn Nu’mān! At the same time, how may we maintain for each adherent to this religion his own identity, uniqueness, beliefs, and thoughts? How may we combine between a fortified and deep relationship in brotherhood and an authentic preservation of the theological and jurisprudential conclusions and beliefs of our fellow Muslims?
To answer such questions, we require a great deal of discourse, however one of the prerequisites is to become more acquainted with one another via an inquisitive mind: in a way that each of us defines clearly for his compatriot his respective identity so that there is no need for vacillation or doubt. Another step is that everyone among us ought to extent his or her hand to the other in the spirit of meeting on the constructive disagreements we may have while leaving aside those which are not. Let us halt the spilling of blood and the picking at the historical scabs of the ummah. Let us halt the transformation of our present to our past such that we regress; rather, let us progress by reinterpreting our history to form a better present and future. Let us recognize the elements of reconcilability and love therein rather than focusing on the elements of alienation and division or making history a vain goal onto itself.
This book is the precise product of apprehending this enormous responsibility; this suppressed conscientious objection; this monumental crisis in which we live; this intense anxiety that looms on our horizon as a society; and this threat imposing on the very existence of Islam itself. We seek to convey that which God has commanded us towards and to assume some of the responsibility towards the world’s Muslims upon our shoulders: to speak the truth in times of crisis.
This humble book is an open memorandum to all the Muslims of the world, whether Shīʿa, Sunni, Ibāḍi, Ṣūfi, etc. It is a memorandum of love and affection, of brotherhood and amity, of truth and sincerity; a memorandum of laying the facts bare and exposing the truth. It is one of critiquing oneself and others, turning a new page, and defining the school of the Ahl al-Bayt and their followers (the Twelver Shīʿa school). We aim to reveal in it the thoughts, investigations, responsibilities, aspirations, visions, concepts, and inferences that are held by the adherents of this faction. We will briefly summarize their beliefs, jurisprudence, methodologies, relationship with others, viewpoints, achievements, and historical responsibility.
This is a memorandum to the other—every other—within the sphere of Islam to make clear our conceptions and views and to place ourselves on an authentic trajectory. We live in a historically defining moment in the lifespan of this ummah and we seek to answer the call of the moment with this book: to break the siege of history and embark on a new understanding of religion through which we can join hands and rebuild the majesty of a nation that has long formed an essential link in the history of human civilization.
Speaking for a large segment of the school of the Ahl al-Bayt, we announce publicly our open memorandum to the world and our fellow brothers of other Muslim schools of thought: a memorandum which invites toward correspondence, communication, peace, safety, and civilized life; a memorandum that inspires us to grant each other rights, respect, appreciation, and optimism; in order that we may build homelands that are fortified from the interior, not shaken by the windy storms of evil, death, and strife. It is a message that will inspire many but may also upset others here and there; especially as we express our clear viewpoints that may be personally disagreeable, even perhaps to some among the Shīʿa. However, we only seek to contextualize ourselves and our beliefs in the wake of the categorizations of today.
It is a memorandum of love, by God’s permission: a memorandum for sectarian harmony—for our homeland, our nation, our society, and our civilization; and God is over what we say a witness!
Ḥaydar Muḥammad Kāmil Ḥubbullāh
Ramaḍān 10th, 1436 A.H. | July 28th, 2015
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم والصلاة والسلام على محمد وأهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين
In the Name of God the Beneficent, the Most-Merciful. May salutations be upon Muḥammad and his Blessed and Pure Holy Progeny.
It indeed gives me great pleasure to translate this short treatise on Islamic intersectarian harmony written by Shaykh Ḥaydar Ḥubbullāh, one of the eminent scholars within the Ḥawza seminary of Qum. In the current environment in which we live, strife with sectarian conflict and polemics, Shaykh Ḥaydar’s work presents an incisive analysis into the key issues that have impeded the unification of Muslims for centuries and presents concrete and practical solutions to overcome these challenges. Given that Shaykh Ḥaydar has remained a relatively less known figure in the English-speaking world, it would behoove us to introduce a brief biographical sketch of this personality to acquaint the reader with his background. After this, I would like to make some remarks about the English translation that lies before you. Finally, I would like to extend my acknowledgements and gratitude to those who aided this translation endeavor.
Shaykh Ḥaydar Muḥammad Kāmil Ḥubbullāh was born in 1973 in Southern Lebanon to a religious family and completed his primary and intermediate education in his locality. He matriculated into the Ḥawza seminary in the city of Tyre in 1988 and studied the introductory and intermediary levels of seminary training with several reputable scholars. In 1995, he immigrated to the Islamic Republic of Iran to complete his higher-level seminary studies; in doing so, he attended the advanced fiqhī and usūlī discussions among many highly reputable ayatullāhs and marājiʿ (sources of emulation), including the likes of Sayyid Maḥmūd Hāshimī ash-Shāhrūdī, Shaykh Jawādī Āmulī, Shaykh Bāqir al-Irwānī, Ayatullāh Waḥīd al-Khorāsānī, and Sayyid Kamāl al-Ḥaydarī. He subsequently received dual master’s degrees in reputable Iranian universities in the fields of both Qur’ānic/Ḥadīth sciences and Islamic fiqh and usūl al-fiqh. Recognizing the need to expand his expertise beyond solely the Islamic sciences, he went on further to obtain a doctorate in Comparative Religion and Christian Theology. He remains a very active academic figure as the chief editor of two ongoing journals: al-Nuṣūṣ al-Muʿāṣirah (Contemporary Texts) and al-Ijtihād wa al-Tajdīd (Religious Interpretation and Reform). In addition to writing several authoritative works in fiqh, ḥadīth, and usūl, Shaykh Ḥaydar has supervised several doctoral dissertations in Iranian universities; he is also a strong advocate of intersectarian studies as he is actively involved in projects to codify all authentic Prophetic ḥadīth across all sects and to consolidate all Imāmi hadith on jurisprudence into a single corpus. Among his excellent works in the vein of sectarian unity is the volume before you, which has thus far already been translated into Persian and Urdu.
Translation is always a delicate art and requires carefully wording the author’s imports while preserving an idiomatic flow to the text; we hope that our translation will meet this prerequisite for the reader. Throughout the text, we have endeavored to include our own footnotes when deemed necessary for further understanding or for reference to relevant source material that may benefit the reader. Wherever possible, we have strived to make sure these are resources that are in English and freely available online, predominantly through the site www.al-Islam.org. We have also attempted to include Arabic terms in parentheses or italics where deemed necessary and have utilized a standard Hans-Wehr transliteration for Arabic terms. We have not italicized proper names given that these are not technically Islamic terms. Of course, should there be any shortcomings in translation, we accept full responsibility for these limitations and would highly appreciate any feedback from the readers.
Finally, I would like to extend my acknowledgements for this humble work. I dedicate this translation endeavor to our Twelfth Imām (may Allah hasten his re-appearance), who would most certainly expect us to be united as an ummah. I would also like to thank my dear wife Fatemah for being very supportive and understanding as I often spent several hours at a time busy at this translation. I would also like to thank my mother Latifa for her insightful comments in discussion about this work. Next, I would like to thank Sayyid Ali Imran for his vital support through the project in editing the text of this translation and for his gracing this text with a foreword of his own; in fact, his translation of the section on the Ṣaḥābah was adapted into this translation work. Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank you—dear reader—for your role in advance in reading and hopefully implementing this text in your life to bridge the gaps in our Muslim community. “And my success is only through God; upon Him I rely and towards Him I turn.”
Dr. M.H. Jaffer
14th Rajab al-Murajjab 1443 A.H. | February 16th 2022
وَٱعْتَصِمُوا۟ بِحَبْلِ ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا۟ ۚ وَٱذْكُرُوا۟ نِعْمَتَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَآءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِۦٓ إِخْوَٰنًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ ٱلنَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
[3:103] And hold firmly to the rope of Allah and do not be divided. Remember Allah’s favour upon you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts, so you—by His grace—became brothers. And you were at the brink of a fiery pit and He saved you from it. This is how Allah makes His revelations clear to you, so that you may be guided.
I first came across the name of Shaykh Ḥaydar Ḥubullah in 2012, when I happened to read one of his articles translated in English. The overwhelmingly exhaustive research, distilled coherence, depth of discussion, and the presentation of arguments were quite striking to me. I hadn’t been fortunate enough to come across such lucid and developed ideas until then. I did not know who this Shaykh was but eventually came to know he was one – of thousands – of teachers in the seminary of Qom.
On May 5th, 2016, as a matter of happenstance, a colleague of mine from Kuwait hosted a private gathering at his house in Qom, inviting the Shaykh as a guest. I was still unfamiliar with the works of the Shaykh and had only recalled the article I had read few years earlier. As we began to discuss different topics in that gathering, I was astonished to see his grasp on various subjects. Still, my initial recollections from that gathering did not spike my interest in his works entirely, as I had come across many scholars in the seminary with a formidable grasp of their subjects of interest.
That gathering however, did result in some further readings of his works, with his novel ideas and rejuvenating approaches becoming much clearer for me. Two books that had an immediate impact on my time in the seminary were his Naẓarīyyah al-Sunnah and Ḥujjīyyah al-Sunnah. The former is a work of intellectual history, analyzing the phenomenon of solitary reports and how different trends and groups throughout Shiʿi history dealt with this phenomenon, while the latter is an extensive work addressing pertinent issues of theology and legal theory pertaining to the Sunnah. These were exactly the discussions I had aspired to be acquainted with when I came to the seminary; discussions that are perhaps difficult and challenging, ignored and only implicitly addressed.
As opportunities arose, I eventually began to regularly attend Shaykh Ḥaydar’s classes and benefited immensely from his precision, ideas, and humble persona during my time in Qom.
Shaykh Ḥaydar is one of the few gems who has rigorously and critically engaged with not just the Islamic and Western intellectual traditions, but philosophical schools from both, along with having exhaustively engaged with the Abrahamic textual tradition. He remains somewhat of an anomaly, in being able to bring together the rich Islamic textual tradition with the ever expanding intellectual sciences.
Shaykh Ḥaydar’s grasp on both areas allows him to offer an entirely novel framework of thinking about religious discourse, combining discussions from philosophy of religion, legal theory, Qur’ānic and Ḥadīth sciences, providing reasonable practical solutions to live a religious and spiritual life in the modern era.
This is precisely what he has managed to do in his Memorandum on Intersectarian Harmony. Sloganeering around intersectarian unity climaxed in the 20th century, even finding noticeable support in segments of the higher echelons of Muslim seminaries, yet sectarian violence and propaganda has arguably only worsened in the 21st century. As Shiʿa-Sunni relationships worsened in the Muslim world, particularly in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan, some prominent students of knowledge from Oman approached Shaykh Ḥaydar asking him to write a treatise addressing and clarifying various points of contentions between the two schools of thought.
Topics such as justice and cursing of the companions, intercession, certain jurisprudential positions, corruption of the Qur’ān, and other similar topics that often make up the bulk of polemical discussions and sectarianism. Unfortunately, exhaustive, and critical engagement with these subjects is rarely seen by either sect, with neither willing to critically reflect on their own positions and stances. Eventually, these discussions make their way onto various media platforms in very desacralized forms – to only further fuel discord. In this context, calling for unity without addressing and clarifying these concepts for the masses is tantamount to carrying water in a sieve.
In line with what Shaykh Muḥammad Ḥusayn Kāshif al-Ghiṭā’ (d. 1373/1953) had done in Aṣl al-Shīʿa wa Uṣūluhā or Shaykh Muḥammad Riḍā Muẓaffar (d. 1964) in his ʿAqā’id al-Imāmīyyah, Shaykh Ḥaydar chose to write a book outlining the beliefs of the Shi’a, but also offer brief socio-cultural observations on some matters. The difference between the two aforementioned works and the Shaykh’s Memorandum is that the latter also offers critical observations on some of the stances taken by the Shiʿa themselves and gives them food for thought.
One of the most fascinating sections of the book is the Shaykh’s discussion on the Companions of the Prophet (p). Given the highly sensitive nature of the topic, the balanced approach he has taken to deal with the subject is to be applauded. Laying down the premise of granting the right of ijtihād in historical matters and reinforcing the notion that incorrect ijtihād does not constitute disbelief, he clarifies the Shiʿi position on the companions. While not shying away from the honest truth that Shiʿi jurists have generally considered it permissible to curse some companions who are highly revered by the Ahl al-Sunnah, the Shaykh also brings to light the extent of cursing that was pioneered by the Umayyads, in particular, that of Imam ʿAlī (a). The solution, as he articulates it, may lie in a call to self-reflection. Sunni scholars should strive to uncover a shrouded history, in reassessing the tragedies that befell some companions of the Prophet (p) on showing mere loyalty to Imam ʿAlī (a), while the Shīʿa should take into consideration several reports from the Imams (a) of the Ahl al-Bayt in which companions of the Prophet (p) are highly praised.
In essence, these critical observations open a pathway to work towards a society of Muslims where Shīʿa, Sunni and as well as other sects, can live with one another with mutual respect and understanding of one another, while not feeling any moral or religious obligation to provoke and incite one another on the basis of their faith.
The common Shīʿī and Sunni understanding of unity and coexistence is one based on expediency, particularly political expediency, and not a genuine unity that can be arrived at by revisiting certain cultural practices and being more nuanced with some of the theological positions. Unity based on political expedience is often witnessed in the annual Unity Conference that has been held in Tehran since 1987. After being given the privilege to attend this conference three times, I found that the topics of discussions were far more concerned with the politics of the Middle East. While those matters are not of any less significance, there is simply no discussion that I witnessed addressing the crux of many sectarian issues, which are often theological in nature.
The Shaykh believes there are a significant number of Muslim scholars, either Sunni or Shīʿa who theologically and practically believe in a genuine form of unity and coexistence amongst the Muslims. This work in essence is a brief expression of the stance of such scholars. The book however does not suffice with simply explaining points of contention, rather the Shaykh concludes his work with several practical solutions.
This is a unique work written at a level comprehensible for the laity and it will surely open the mind of the reader willing to look at things from a different perspective.
Sayyid Ali Imran
10th Shawwal, 1443 A.H. | May 11th, 2022