Interviews with Two Palestinian Shaykhs Who Converted to Shīʿism

In: The Shīʿīs in Palestine
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  1. The Imām Yūnis Badrān from al-Biʿna, east of Acre
  2. Shaykh Aḥmad Shahwān from Iksāl, a village south of Nazareth

1 The Imām Yūnis Badrān from al-Biʿna

I have translated the following interviews (parts a and b) with the Imām Yūnis Badrān from al-Biʿna into English, because his is the first case of a Palestinian imām converting to Shīʿism. The interviews, which are available on the internet,1 are in modern standard Arabic, with some words in colloquial Arabic. In the first interview (a) from 2006, Yūnis Badrān is asked about his conversion and in the second (b) from 2007, almost one year after his conversion, he explains his decision to renounce his conversion to Shīʿism.


25 October 2006

Ṣawt al-Balad [‘The Sound of the Village’] revealed that the Sunnī imām of a mosque in Galilee converted to Shīʿism.

We conducted the following interview in the offices of Ṣawt al-Balad with Shaykh Nūr al-Dīn al-Yaqīn Yūnis Badrān (aged 37), the imām of Nūr Mosque in the village of al-Biʿna in Galilee, about the announcement of his conversion to Shīʿism, which raised a number of questions, especially in this particular time. He answered our questions with the utmost courage, defending his conversion to Shīʿism and different Shīʿī attitudes such as infallibility of the twelve Imāms, his decision that he cannot turn back from, and several matters that are subjects of dispute and discussion between the Shīʿa and the members of the Sunna. The following is the interview we have recorded, word for word:

Interviewer (I): Without doubt, your decision to convert to Shīʿism was surprising and difficult, especially because you serve as imām in a mosque and you were born to a Sunnī family, and there are no Shīʿīs in your village or your region.

Yūnis Badrān (YB): To be honest, the decision was taken three years ago. The thinking was in that direction, from the time of my studies at the Faculty of Sharīʿa and Islamic Sciences at Umm al-Fakhm,2 at the beginning of the 1970s. The decision was difficult of course, especially since I am aware of the circumstances in which we live and the religious situation of our people. Nevertheless, the most important thing is that I was convinced in that decision totally, and the recent circumstances were a kind of opportunity, since our population in the world witnessed the truth of the Shīʿa after the last war, that they [the Shīʿīs] are Muslims like us, and this was made clear to the people. I felt that now is the proper time to declare the issue of my conversion to Shīʿism, which means my belonging to the Shīʿa. As an imām of a mosque, I send a message, which must be honest and come as part of my message, which I carry.

I: Why did this decision come at this particular time? Don’t you fear an angry reaction from the worshipers that you meet?

YB: A very strong reaction would be expected, if the greatest shaykhs of the Sunna and, above all, Dr. Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, had not declared that the Shīʿa are Muslims and that they are part of us, and that they have the same rights and duties that we have, and particularly because al-Qaraḍāwī represents a high authority for the Sunnī Muslims. The reaction, without doubt, will be calm, restrained, and understanding. That is why I do not fear the reaction. If it were not accepted, my conversion to Shīʿism would have to remain my secret, and I would keep it to myself. Shīʿism became for me like another Muslim school, like the Shāfiʿī, the Ḥanafī, and others.

I: How did people around you take this matter?

YB: The people who are closest to me, and my parents in particular, knew my open-minded mentality, and knew that I discuss any matter from a neutral side, even if I belong to one side and not the other. That is why my position was right or approximately right, and I am not clearing myself from errors. And with this, the matter was received among my family with understanding.

I: Did they convert to Shīʿism as well?

YB: They have no objection to converting to Shīʿism, as long as it does not contradict the basic laws, which are derived from the Book of God and the messenger (Muḥammad), may God bless him, and indeed, it is so.

I: Could we say that Shaykh Nūr [al-Dīn] is trying to seek the truth? And do you think that the Shīʿa is the surviving group3 and the other groups are astray, although among them are the members of the Sunna?

YB: I was a Sunnī defending the Shīʿa and today I am a Shīʿī and I am still defending the line of the Shīʿa, with the same methods. But the great trouble is the classification of who is from the people of “there is no God but Allāh and Muḥammad is His messenger,” and what opinion they claim and what ideas they imagine or what direction they think is better, whether they are the group that is astray or the surviving group. This contradicts what Islam stands for. I am honestly saying that everyone who says “there is no God but Allāh and Muḥammad is His messenger” will survive and belongs to the religion of Islam, and this is what we will be judged for, not for belonging to one school or another.

I: And we are trying to inquire into the question of your joining the Shīʿa, since you are the first Shīʿī Muslim imām in the country. We felt that some of your brothers among the imāms object to your position. In addition, we know that there a lot of pressure was put on you to renounce the Shīʿa and to return to become a member of the Sunna.

YB: Yes, this is true. Nevertheless, it remains within a condition that I consider a sickness. As long as we suffer from it, not only at the level of a Sunnī who became a Shīʿī, but there were in the past and still are, similar sick conditions. As that of a member of the Islamic movement, who leaves the movement and is considered in the eyes of its members as if he left Islam, and people avoid praying behind him and are permitted to kill him, and many fatwās [judicial opinions] are passed against him from all directions. Or a Wahhābī who becomes a Sufi or a Sufi who becomes a Wahhābī, is treated as if he left the religion and the faith, with all the sorrow that accompanies such a change. It is as if his Islam stops when he leaves the movement, the school, or the ideology. It is considered like leaving Islam. The effort of some people to make me return to the Sunna can also be considered a sick condition that Muslims suffer from.

I: Is it true that some of the Muslim worshipers reject you as an imām after you became a Shīʿa?

YB: I did not hear this and even if it happened that one of the worshipers rejected me as an imām, I will fulfil my mission as usual, just like I would if a member of the Islamic movement refused to pray behind me.

I: Tell me honestly, how could you alter your faith?

YB: I did not alter and never will alter my faith in one God, and this is the true meaning of “there is no God but Allāh.” My belonging to the Shīʿa is an ideological tie not a religious one, which means that I would not say that one who is not a Shīʿī is an infidel. In addition, I did not say when I was Sunnī, that one who is not a Sunnī is an infidel.

I: What would you like to say to your opponents, who do not accept the Shīʿa, or otherwise said, what would you say to those who oppose the plurality of schools, opinions, and positions?

YB: I would say to them what the Prophet Muḥammad, may God’s blessings and peace be upon him and his family,4 said, “Beware of limiting what is widespread.”5 There is an adjustment to the human logic, that he should progress in his thinking with Islam, and then he will arrive at conclusions, which will change and vary from time to time and from one place to another. One should be careful of saying, “nothing is better than what has been in the past.” I support the idea, “do not impose your era on your children, since they were born in an era which is different from your time.”

I: Does what happened following the mad war [the Israeli-Lebanese 2006 war], influence the personal level of your conversion to the Shīʿa?

YB: Not at all. Some people told me, Brother! Some of us sympathize with a particular attitude or another. It is said that one of us may raise “noise and scandal,” but it is a matter that vanishes after it ends. Nevertheless, I say, I am not a person who would make “noise and scandal,” if the expression fits, and by doing so, modify the faith and alter the behavior and change the path. The source of my convictions is assured and remains where truth is.

I: Is it true that you try to establish a Shīʿī community in the village and the region?

YB: I do not believe in the issue of organizations and groups, and especially in the recent period and after several experiences. This is because the majority of society, without generalizing, people who are members of organizations, factions, or ideologies do not have the ability to understand a point of view and a different opinion and accept it. On the contrary, it is blind fanaticism. If there is no sincerity in your speech, it should be in your heart. In reality, both are far from the saying, “what I believe is true, but could be wrong and the belief of the other is wrong, but could be true.”6

I: What is your reaction to the opinion of the greatest Sunnī scholars, namely, that the Shīʿa are rāfiḍa, and that they believe that the Qurʾān was altered and diminished, and that the Companions of the messenger [Muḥammad], except some people, committed apostasy after the death of the messenger, and that the twelve Imāms of the Shīʿa are infallible, and that they know the unseen, and all the information that is derived from the angels, the prophets, and the messengers? That they are not like other human beings, as transmitted in the book, The Shīʿa and the mutʿa, by the author Niẓām al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Aʿẓamī?7

YB: As to their saying that Shīʿīs believe that the Qurʾān was altered, this is totally wrong, and I recall the name of a Sunnī who said: “I object to the saying that Shīʿīs believe that the Qurʾān was altered.” Nevertheless, I say that there are meanings which came down to verses from the Qurʾān, which were not explained or clarified, but the Shīʿa believe that the Qurʾān, which is in our hands in its binding, is the one that came down to the messenger Muḥammad, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him. As to their claim that the Shīʿa believe in the apostasy of some of the Companions, I say why not? There were indeed the wars of the apostasy, in the time of Abū Bakr the righteous, against people from the Companions who committed apostasy and left Islam. As for the twelve Imāms, the issue of infallibility is possible for any person, but it is certain in the case of prophets of God and his messengers. Don’t you see that a baby in his creation is infallible from several sins and mistakes, and does not have any thought of lies, conspiracies, or crimes? He is a clean and pure creation. If infallibility is given to someone whose mind is not perfect, why wouldn’t it be given to someone who was given intelligence? And if we mean by that the twelve Imāms, who are from the family of the āl al-bayt [ahl al-bayt], why should we doubt such a thing about them? Some of us acquit his brother of several crimes and immunize him from them, and it used to be the same with the Companions of the messenger of God, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him and his family, who were not from his close family. As for the unseen, there are some matters that are known only to God, and there are some matters that God reveals to whom He wishes. As for the saying that they are not like the rest of humanity, I say, like the prophet who is a human being but not like the rest of humanity and these Imāms are part of the messenger of God.

I: Don’t you think that insisting on converting to the Shīʿī school may provoke a fitna that we do not need, especially given that the society does not lack fitnas, difficulties, and problems in this period?

YB: I say with complete honesty that this is how they are between them [the Islamic movements]. They are not capable of treating the epidemic sicknesses that abound among them and that they have created, or that have been created for them by their precedents. If a different opinion appears, they disregard the conditions of splits and divisions and each one and each school and each faction and each movement and each group, and you have a lot of this phenomenon without limits, each of them comes to tell you that you are the reason for the fitna and they forget that their movement became two movements or more. Their opinion became two opinions or more and their group became two groups.


5 August 2007

The Imām from al-Biʿna who changed his religion to Shīʿism regretted

From Amīn Bashīr, reporter of Panet and the Panorama newspaper8

First report: The Panet site reporter and Panorama Newspaper revealed that Shaykh Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān from al-Biʿna renounced his decision to convert to the Shīʿī school and will remain a Sunnī. Shaykh Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān, the imām of Nūr Mosque in al-Biʿna took this decision a couple of days earlier, but the Panet site revealed Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān’s decision today, a number of days after his decision. As follows, the contents of the news transmitted to us by the reporter of Panet and the Panorama Newspaper’s Amīn Bashīr this afternoon, includes new information concerning the decision of Shaykh Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān. It is published for the first time: Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān (38 years old) works as the imām of Nūr Mosque in al-Biʿna village and he is a graduate of the Daʿwa and Islamic Sciences College in Umm al-Faḥm. The ideology that he presented concerning his conversion into Shīʿism during his sermon last Friday had a great influence on the Muslims in the village and out of it.

These words were transmitted with the speed of lightning and talks began here and there, concerning his qualifications to be an imām to the Muslims in the village, since they are in the Sunnī school. Some of the people presented complaints to the department of religions in the ministry of interior affairs, refusing to accept that the imām is a Shīʿī and Sunnīs pray behind him.

We are the only newspaper publishing this complete interview concerning the certitude that Shaykh Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān is Sunnī and did not alter for a day the school that he was born to, and that he refuses every accusation that was pointed at him and that he considers it a misunderstanding.

Imām Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān said: everything that was heard concerning the whole process of thinking that I have proposed is strange for people who thought that this proposition of thinking is an attempt to alter the religion that we hold. As if I embraced a religion that is different from the one I hold now. This comes from ignorance, which caused confusion. Nevertheless, I proposed that thinking to broaden the horizons of the brain. Even if such a thinking was proposed, it should not be objected to or scorned, especially because in the last war [Lebanon 2006] people asked if the Shīʿa are [part of] Islam or not.

Nevertheless, we have heard Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, who said it does not harm the Islamic Resistance (muqāwama)9 that they are from the Shīʿa, since the Shīʿīs are from the people of “there is no God but Allāh,” and they are a part that is not separate from the Muslim community, and they agree with us on many fundamentals and differ from us in some branches.10

Nūr al-Yaqīn Badrān added: I consider what Shakyh al-Qaraḍāwī transmitted, based on the law, different from the thinking of ordinary people, that the Shīʿa are Muslims. I wanted to make forward progress, and I said: there was no ideology of Shīʿa, or even of Shīʿī tendency among us, and I said that especially when that ideology was not proposed in the background of the war [in Lebanon, 2006], but rather given the interest in the faith of the family of the messenger of God Muḥammad, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him.

And he said: There is no kind of focus or interest of the Sunnīs on the family of the messenger of God. But, I think that not being interested, as if someone who is not interested specifically in the family of the Prophet is an infidel; is a rejected thinking, to declare any person an infidel (takfīr), since the messenger Muḥammad, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him, said: “I was ordered to fight against people until they witness that there is no god but Allāh, Muḥammad is the messenger of God”, and if they said it [the shahāda, testimony of faith], they protect themselves from me as a Muslim in their blood and property, except from their duty and judgment before God.”11

Imām Nūr al-Yaqīn continued, saying, based on this claim: I would like for people to not be afraid to hold beliefs here and there, and I have learned that the honorable al-Azhar12 is teaching the Shīʿī school, so there is nothing to prevent our proposing it to people. Because people do not have the ability to deal with this proposition, and because people refrained from regretting their words, I left the followers of the Sunna and the community and embraced Shīʿism; the gap between me and the people became very large and almost reached accusations of heresy. So, I wanted to repeat, it is not that I denied the Sunna of the messenger of God, and I did not deny anything from the book of God or respect for the Companions of the messenger of God. Nevertheless, people understood it like this, and that is how they grasped the matter. As the messenger of God said, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him: “I have been ordered to be polite with people” and I said that I remained Sunnī. If this matter is so, I return to the Sunna, although in my proposition of thinking, I was not denying the people of Sunna and the community, but I remained truly a part of the Sunna, as the qāḍī of Syria, who is a Sunnī, said: “I am Shīʿī in my loyalty [to the family of the prophet] and Sunnī in my pattern of behavior.”13

Imām Nūr al-Yaqīn stressed that the word Shīʿa raises a kind of unrest among people: And because of this concept, I emphasize that I am Sunnī from the people of the Sunna and the community, and if you want me to say that I renounce it, then I do renounce it and I am Sunnī and this is not extraordinary.

And concerning his meeting with officials from the Bureau of Internal Affairs, Imām Nūr al-Yaqīn said: The department of religions in the [Israeli] Ministry of Interior called me and I met some of them. They told me that they read what was published, citing me in the newspapers. They asked about my inclination, if I am Shīʿī in my inclination. I stressed that I remained Sunnī in my school and never regretted it. I only proposed this matter as a way of thinking. Nevertheless, people misunderstood it. That is why I regretted this thinking, which people found suspicious. Then they assured me, since I remained what I was before, that “you can continue in your work as a Sunnī imām of the mosque”.

2 Shaykh Aḥmad Shahwān from Iksāl

I have translated the following interview with Aḥmad Shahwān from modern standard Arabic. This interview, from November 2010, appears on several Arabic websites:14

Shaykh Aḥmad Shahwān: Our number is growing and there is no connection with the Shīʿa of the Arab world

Khulūd Maṣālḥa, Bukrā site—archive published 20 November 2010

Shaykh Shahwān (71 years old): I chose the fundamentals of my religion!

Concerning the issue of conversion to Shīʿism, Shaykh Aḥmad Shahwān from Iksāl village near the town of Nazareth said: “In the year 1998, I converted from the Sunnī school to the Shīʿī school. This was after I heard a number of records and lectures from Shaykh Aḥmad al-Wāʾilī15 on several religion occasions.

And he added, “during a period of time, I recorded all the lectures of Shaykh al-Wāʾilī and listened to them two or three times, and then I realized that I am a Muslim, but far from the roots of Islam. Then I decided to embrace the Shīʿī school, although there is nothing wrong with the Sunnī school and the Shāfiʿī one in particular.16

On the Shīʿī school, Shaykh Shahwān said, “my conversion to Shīʿism came after I was convinced that it is the pure source and that his claim [that of al-Wāʾilī, who was considered a descendant of the Prophet Muḥammad], is that of his father and that of his grandfather, and that of the messenger of God, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him.”

And he added, “according to the books of history, Shīʿism is Islam itself and the righteous Muslim must follow Shīʿism and be loyal to ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib. In addition, Shīʿism is a pillar from the pillars of authentic Islam, its basis was established by the Prophet Muḥammad, may God’s peace and blessing be upon him, during his lifetime and he confirmed it before his death on the day of Ghadīr Khumm, when he declared that the wilāya [guardianship is] to ʿAlī after him.”17

And he said, “the other Muslim factions are invented and were founded by the leaders and the sultans and others, in order to disregard Islam, which the Prophet Muḥammad intended in the beginning, and it is said that they [the factions which are not Shīʿa] were invented some 150 years after Islam!”

The Saqīfa of Banī Sāʿida18 is the catastrophe of Islam!

And Shaykh Shahwān added, talking about the pledge of allegiance to Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq as caliph, he said, “the Saqīfa of Banī Sāʿida is the catastrophe of Islam, since the Companions were assembled on the Saqīfa of Banī Sāʿida to choose a caliph in the absence of the respectable members of the tribe of Hāshim, such as ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib and ʿAbbās b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib, who were preparing the Prophet for burial when the summons to the Saqīfa came. The Saqīfa meeting ended with the selection of Abū Bakr b. Abī Quḥāfa as caliph, according to the meeting of those assembled in the Saqīfa from the Muhājirūn and the Anṣār.19 After the Saqīfa, a group of the Companions, such as Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, ʿAmmār b. Yāsir, al-Miqdād b. ʿAmr, and al-Zubayr b. al-ʿAwwām20 began meeting in ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib’s house, to oppose Abū Bakr’s selection.”

And Shaykh Shahwān added, “the Saqīfa was gathered although it was known that the caliphate was meant for ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib. Is it logical that our noble messenger would leave a land which he built for 23 years without a leader?”

The Shīʿa in Palestine … There are Shīʿī imāms of mosques and the majority are in Dabūriyya!

Concerning the arrival of the Shīʿa to the land of Palestine, knowing that the Muslims in Palestine are from the Sunna, he said, “at the end of the 2000s a group of intelligent young people started returning to the basics of religion, and converted to Shīʿism, some of them attorneys, doctors, teachers, and the like, and most of them are conscious, educated young people.”

And he added, “at the end of the 2000s the Shīʿī school spread in all of Palestine, in Gaza, Nablus, Jenin, Acre, Haifa, and the villages inside the borders of 1948.”

According to Shaykh Aḥmad Shahwān, the majority of the Shīʿa are in Gaza.

Concerning the Shīʿa in the villages inside the borders of 1948, Shaykh Shahwān said, “the greatest percentage of the Shīʿa today is located in the village of Dabūriyya.”

And he added, “there are hundreds of intelligent young people who embraced the Shīʿī school and there are even imāms of mosques who converted to the Shīʿī school. But, we cannot reveal their names.”

The controversy between Sunna and Shīʿa goes unnoticed.

Concerning the attitude of the population of the village toward his being Shīʿī, Shaykh Shahwān said: “the population of the village in Iksāl knows that I am a Shīʿī and they do not harm me, since everyone has his own religion and is backed by God”.

He added, “Sometimes we have different opinions concerning some matters. Nevertheless, the disagreement does not damage amicability, especially since I belong to the Jaʿfarī school of the Shīʿa, which is a bit similar to the Shāfiʿī school of the Sunnīs, to which most of the Palestinians in the country belong.”

And he said, “of course there are things which anger me in fact and which I do not accept, in addition to the disagreement concerning the rule of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, such as the doubt concerning the conversion to Islam of Abū Ṭālib, the uncle of our messenger [and the father of ʿAlī], as some believe that he died an idolater. This is a matter that we reject.”

And he added, “of course we disagree, me and the people of my village on the question of combining the prayers, since it is permitted for us in Shīʿism to combine the maghrib and ʿishāʾ prayers.”21

He said, in Ramaḍān I break the fast only after it is dark, while the people of my village break the fast at the time of the call to pray the maghrib prayer, knowing that it is not dark yet at this time. So, after the call to pray maghrib, I wait for the indication from the television channel al-Manār,22 then I break the fast.”

The mutʿa [temporary] marriage … is it different from the misyār [travel marriage]?

Concerning the mutʿa marriage, which is prohibited according to the Sunnī school, Shaykh Shahwān said, “the mutʿa marriage was not prohibited in Islam. Nevertheless, [the second caliph] ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb forbade it. I do not know why only the Shīʿa, the source of Islam, exclusively kept the mutʿa marriage. Knowing that there is the misyār marriage (the marriage of a Muslim during travel) in Islam, why not discuss it, since it is congruent to the mutʿa, only with a different name?”

He said, “anyway, the mutʿa marriage has its basic rules and conditions and the Twelver Shīʿa base it on the generous verse: ‘And lawful to you are all others beyond these, provided that you seek them in marriage with gifts from your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy of marriage from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.’23

The holidays and holy places …ʿāshūrāʾ in Ashkelon!

As for what concerns the holy places for the Shīʿa, Shaykh Shahwān said, “of course we cannot travel to Iraq, Lebanon, or even to Iran for pilgrimage to the holy places, since these countries, as is well known to you, are known to be enemies of Israel.”

And Shaykh Shahwān adds: “instead, at [the anniversary of the time] of the battle of Karbalāʾ and the martyrdom of Imām Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī, we go to Ashkelon and there, it is said, there was the head of Imām Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī. The site is near the hospital of Barzilai and the Israeli authorities preserve it in a way that is, in fact, surprising. Its historical value is even noted with an inscription.”

As to the rituals to revival the memory of ʿāshūrāʾ and the martyrdom of Imām Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī, Shaykh Shahwān said, “we revive the memory according to the followed rituals, such as crying for neglecting to save Imām Ḥusayn. Nevertheless, we do not beat ourselves until we shed blood, although it is practiced in other Shīʿī schools.”

The connection with the spiritual authorities takes place … in the ḥajj

Concerning our question of whether the Shīʿīs in the country organize themselves in the form of a group, Shaykh Shahwān said, “we work separately and with independent reasoning and we do not organize in a group.”

Concerning the connection with religious authorities for studying, Shaykh Shahwān said, “in case we want to delve deeply into religious matters, which is our duty as Shīʿīs, we connect with the amīr, which is a responsible rank for the Shīʿa, by electronic mail and my children help me with that.”

Concerning the meeting with the umarāʾ [pl. of amīr], Shaykh Aḥmad said, “we do not meet the umarāʾ, but when we go to ḥajj we meet them. I met them and presented to them the picture of the situation and they were glad that the Shīʿī school is back in the land of Palestine!”

And he added, “in the past, we used to meet in Dabūriyya, but our only meeting nowadays takes place in Ashkelon. It happens once in the year.”

Concerning the spiritual authorities whom Shaykh Shahwān follows, he said, “I follow the grand Āyatullāh [the highest Shīʿī rank] ʿAlī al-Ḥusaynī al-Sistānī,24 who is one of the authorities of the Shīʿa in Iraq.”

Shahwān: We have no involvement in politics and we do not follow orders from Hizbullah.

Answering our question concerning the political approach of the Shīʿa in the country, Shaykh Aḥmad Shahwān said, “we, as a result of our sensitive situation, do not speak about political matters, even with spiritual and the religious authorities. We do not know if the case of the situation of the Shīʿa in Palestine of 1948 was discussed or not, but until now there has been no connection with us from Hizbullah or another party.

And he said, “even if some party contacted us, we would refuse to cooperate with them. This is because we do not have the ability for conflict. We focus only on religious matters.”

Concerning the contradiction in which a Shīʿī person lives, since most of the states which embrace Shīʿism belong to enemy states and there is an obligation for members of the Shīʿa to be organized and follow the orders of spiritual and religious authorities, Shaykh Aḥmad said, “the honorable Shaykh Naṣrallāh is a sayyid [i.e. a descendant of the Prophet Muḥammad] and he is responsible for the Shīʿa in Lebanon. As for us, we do not have a sayyid or higher authority, so we do not follow orders from anyone here.”

Concerning the explosions [of al-Qaida terrorists] in Iraq Shaykh Shahwān said, “I am completely sure that a Muslim, whether he is a Shīʿī or a Sunnī, should not harm his Muslim brother. What is happening in Iraq is an American conspiracy. The Shīʿīs and the Sunnīs are innocent of it on the day of judgment.”

My wives and my children are not Shīʿīs!

The only thing left to say is that Shaykh Shahwān has two wives and fifteen children, but not all of them follow the Shīʿī school.

The two wives still belong to the Sunnī school of religion. Eight of the fifteen children follow the Shīʿī school of their religion.


See the original interview in the present form online, for example: A Sunnī site: A Shīʿī site:


Umm al-Fakhm is located in the Haifa District, overlooking Wadi Ara, 20 kilometers northwest of Jenin.


The term al-firqa al-nājiya (‘the surviving group’) derives from a well-known tradition in the Sunna, that Islam will split into seventy-three factions, all of whom will end in hell except the “surviving group,” which follows the right path. See, for example, ʿAlī b. ʿAbd al-Malik al-Hindī, Kanz al-ʿummāl fī sunan al-aqwāl wa-l-aʿmāl (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1971), 1:117–118.


This time he uses a Shīʿī blessing, and adds a blessing on Muḥammad’s family, i.e., to the ahl al-bayt.


This is a ḥadīth transmitted by Abū Hurayra, saying that the Prophet Muḥammad criticized someone who prayed for mercy only for the prophet and himself and not for anyone else, he said to the man:

“You have diminished a widespread matter”, i.e., you have limited a blessing which is for many people. See Badr al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-ʿAynī, ʿUmdat al-qārī fī sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 2003), 3:263.


This is a well-known saying of Muḥammad b. Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī, the third-/ninth-century Sunnī scholar.


Niẓām al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Aʿẓamī is a Sunnī shaykh who attacked Shīʿī tenets in the introduction of Muḥammad Mālallāh’s book entitled al-Shīʿa wa-l-mutʿa (Cairo: Dār al-Ṣaḥwa al-Islāmiyya, 1986).


The muqāwama is the Arabic name of the ‘resistance axis’ against Israel, which includes Hizbullah; Iran, which is its founder and sponsor; and the Syrian Baʿath regime.


Islamic laws can be divided into fundamental laws, which are called uṣūl (sing. aṣl, roots) and apply to all Muslims, and laws that developed later, called furūʿ (sing. farʿ, branches), which are ancillary and differ from one school to another.


This is a well-known ḥadīth from Abū Hurayra, see, for example, in Yaḥyā b. Sharaf al-Nawawī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim bi-sharḥ al-Nawawī (Cairo: al-Maṭbaʿat al-Miṣriyya bi-l-Azhar, 1929), 1:206.


Al-Azhar in Cairo is the most important Sunnī institute nowadays. In the early 1960s, the shaykh of al-Azhar, Maḥmūd Shalṭūṭ, issued a fatwā declaring the Jaʿfariyya the fifth school in Islam. This decision was confirmed in 2016 by al-Azhar’s most senior authority, Aḥmad al-Ṭayyib on Al-Neel TV, see


This phrase, which was said in 2006 by the muftī of the Syrian regime Badr al-Dīn Ḥassūn, was published in several Arab newspapers in November 2006, see:


The main source of the shaykh’s interview can be found online, at

See also


Aḥmad al-Wāʾilī l-Kinānī (1928–2003) was a talented lecturer in Najaf in Iraq.


Among Muslim Palestinians, the Shāfiʿī school is the most commonly practiced of the four Sunnī schools.


The pond of Khumm is where, according to Shīʿī faith, one year before his death (that is in 10/631), the Prophet Muḥammad appointed ʿAlī as his successor. Sunnīs disregard this ḥadīth, as they consider it unreliable. See L. Veccia Vaglieri, “G̲h̲adīr K̲h̲umm,” EI2 (1991), 2:992–993.


The Saqīfa of Banī Sāʿida was the place in Medina where the first caliph Abū Bakr was nominated by the Muhājirūn (the Muslims that emigrated from Mecca to Medina) and the Anṣār (the local Muslims from Medina who backed Muḥammad). This dramatic act, which took place after the death of the Prophet Muḥammad, was never considered legal in Shīʿism. According to Shīʿīs, ʿAlī was appointed by the Prophet Muḥammad during the latter’s lifetime in Ghadīr Khumm.


Concerning the affair of the Saqīfa after the death of the Prophet Muḥammad, see, in detail, Wilferd Madelung, The Succession to Muḥammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 27–67.


These figures are considered ʿAlī’s most loyal followers. See al-Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, 4:151.


The five mandatory prayers in Islam are fajr (in the early morning before sunrise), ẓuhr (around noon), ʿaṣr (in the afternoon), maghrib (after sunset), and ʿishāʾ (night). Shīʿīs allow the combining of the second and third prayers, and the fourth and fifth prayers; thus, the five obligatory prayers are prayed in three sessions.


Al-Manār is the Shīʿī Hizbullah television channel in Lebanon.


Qurʾān 4:24.


ʿAlī l-Ḥusaynī l-Sistānī (b. 1930) is still the highest Shīʿī authority in Iraq; he teaches in several ḥawzas in Najaf. He inherited the position of Āyatullāh l-ʿUẓmā from Abū l-Qāsim al-Khūʾī in 1992.

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