How Muslim sectarianism affects politics and vice-versa

Source: The Economist

SAUDI ARABIA’S most senior cleric has bluntly said that that Iranian Shias are not Muslim at all. The kingdom’s grand mufti, Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh, was responding to a blistering attack on the Saudi authorities by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, over the handling of pilgrimage to Mecca. Because of a breakdown in Saudi-Iranian relations, triggered in part by a fatal stampede in Mecca a year ago, this will be the first year in three decades that Iranians have not taken part in the annual Haj or sacred journey to Islam’s Arabian birthplace, which started on September 10th. Ayatollah Khamenei said in the aftermath of the 2015 stampede that Saudi incompetence, including “locking up the injured with the dead”, had led to unnecessary deaths. At least 464 Iranians are believe to have perished. Negotiations on arrangements for this year’s pilgrimage broke down and Iran has said it is not safe for its citizens to go.

Vali Nasr, the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at America’s Johns Hopkins University, called it the worst crisis in Sunni-Shia and Saudi-Iranian relations in “quite a number of years” and a reminder that apart from all the strategic quarrels between the Sunni kingdom and the Shia republic, purely religious differences had a momentum of their own. For example, if devout Iranians felt the Saudis had needlessly delayed the burial of bodies after the stampede, violating Islam’s requirement for a quick interment, that would cause genuine anger. Meanwhile the Saudi cleric’s denunciation of the Iranians as non-Muslims could stir Sunni-Shia tensions everywhere from West Africa to Malaysia.

Theology can infect geopolitics, and vice-versa. As Mr Nasr points out, plenty of worldly factors are keeping the theological temperature high. They include the civil wars in Syria and Yemen where Saudis and Iranians actively back different sides; deep Saudi insecurity over America’s nuclear deal with Tehran and the prospect of an internationally respectable Iran; and the Iranians’ alarm over the rise of Islamic State which they see as one among many Sunni forces ranged them against them.

In the past, the Saudis had at times reacted stoically to Iranian challenges over issues to do with pilgrimage and the kingdom’s stewardship of holy places. Now the kingdom is lashing out, perhaps even goading Iran.

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6 replies

  1. Still I say that the Iranian / Saudi and Saudi / Iranian controversy is 99% political and not religious. It is a question of power. The Saudis feel that they should be recognized as the leader of all Muslims (because they are the ‘custodian of the two holy mosques’) and of course the Iranian do not agree. If the controversy was religious and not political would we not see efforts to ‘convert’ Shias to Sunnis and vice-versa? Can any one give me an example that any Sunni religious personality tried to convert a Shia with religious arguments? or vice-versa? It is all a power game. This year the Iranians did not come for Haj because the governments could not agree on ‘logistical and security’ arrangements, not because of religious disagreements. The Makkans over the centuries have welcomed all Muslims from all corners of the world and many have ‘habits’ which are not in accordance with Wahabi doctrines. (Only members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are officially excluded, because, again, the Ahmadi-Muslims are not prepared to obey Saudi Political Leaders)…

    • @ Rafiq
      I do not understand the way you see this conflict, of course this is the power game. but the root of this conflict come from judging each other’s faith. Saudi Araabia’s clerics accuse Muslim Shia are not Islam They are “kafir”.

      For example; The sunni’s clerics accuse Ahmadiyyah is not Islam, and Muslim Ahmadiyyah are not allowed to conduct pilgrim. They have been trying to ban Muslim Ahmadiyyah in Islamic countries. Even they kill some of Muslim Ahmadiyyah in some of Islamic country.

      The same as Muslim Shia (Iran), the root of conflict between both countries are religious matter,and then become political conflict.

  2. Mr. Rafiq is partially right when says that the conflict is a question of power . Mr. Ali is also right when truly analyze the root cause of the conflict I.e ; religious . But this is not that religion which all prophets propagated . Religion is the personal relationship between God and an individual . This relationship does not need state power . When huzoor SAW was not darogha ( Quran ) , how can others be ? The Muslim terminology ( not Islamic ) ” khudaee faujdar ( Allah’ s policemen who will get women ( hoor ) in the heaven ) is the root cause behind all conflicts and miseries .

    • I agree with your statement like this; . Religion is the personal relationship between God and an individual.====>

      Do you agree , Syed Attab Alam, that the worldly laws can be reformed?

      Such as;
      1 The system of government from the system Khalifah Q.2;30 to the system of democrasy?

      2. The system of execution like flogging, beheading etc. changed to the system of jail.

  3. Khalifa is a spiritual leader . Human being needs someone who guides them . There should be some one who unites the people religiously . 126 years are a very long period . Every thing changes in decade . But one does not find any change as far as teachings and path are concerned in ahmadiyyat . There is no deviation at all . It is because of khilafat . Every one has his own opinion and this difference of opinion creates different ism . I don’t say that all opinions are wrong but divides mankind while unified action makes development faster . Who will decide whether sunni is right or shias ? Will sunni accept shias clergy ? And vice versa . As far as governance is concerned , Quran left on people . It is people who are to decide which type of government they need . Abubakr was people’s choice . Umar was appointed after consultation .

    • @ Syed Aftab Alam…

      So I am glad that you agree with the system of democracy . it is cool.

      Please give me your thought about Syariah laws relate to the execution such; flogging, beheading, cut off hands, burqa, etc
      Can we reform these execution above?

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