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TAQRIB- A STUDY OF ATTEMPTS AT SUNNI-SHI'IA

RAPPROCHEMENT IN HISTORY
This study is largely based on materials from the book
Masalat at-Taqrib bayn as-Sunnah wash-Shiah
by Dr. Nasir Abdullah al-Qafari.
The idea of bringing the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shiah closer to one
another has enjoyed much popularity in South Africa in the past two
decades since the success of the Iranian revolution in 1979.
Actually, the idea of bridging the gorge that separate the Ahl asSunnah from the Shiah is much older than the revolution. The
banner of Taqrib (which literally means "to bring close") has been
raised at various stages in history by individuals, organisations, and
even governments. In this study the various endeavours towards the
realisation of this goal of Taqrib are identified, and an attempt is
made to explore the reasons why not one of those endeavours has
ever met with success.
1. ATTEMPTS AT TAQRIB IN HISTORY
The earliest attemps to achieve harmony between the Ahl as-Sunnah
and the Shiah seem to have been made in Baghdad during the 5th
century after the Hijrah (the 11th century CE). The western quarter
of Karkh in Baghdad was almost exclusively populated by the Shiah,
and ever since the Shii Buyid dynasty from Daylam came into
political ascendancy in 334/946 and reduced the Abbasid khalifah to
a titular head of state, the Shii population of Baghdad felt
encouraged to make their presence felt. In 351/962 graffiti cursing
the Sahabah appeared on the walls of Baghdad. In 352/963 overt
encouragement from the Buyid ruler Muizz ad-Dawlah allowed them
to organize, for the first time in the history of Baghdad, if not the
whole Muslim world, mourning processions on the 10th of
Muharram.1 Processions like these would almost invariably lead to
confrontation between the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shiah, since the
emotional frenzy of such processions would propel the Shiah to
publicly curse and execrate those amongst the Sahabah whom they
considered the enemies of the Ahl al-Bayt. The Ahl as-Sunnah,
infuriated by such vile treatment of the memory of the Sahabah,
would respond physically. The like of these processions can be seen

up to the present day in Pakistan, with consequences that do not


differ much from the results of the Baghdad processions of the
Middle Ages.
The next century witnessed no change. The Shiah continued to vent
their hatred of the Sahabah by publicly uttering curses upon them
something the Sunni refused to tolerate. However, there was one
noteworthy development. The violence that ensued from such
provocations would sometimes be followed with agreements to
maintain the peace. Ibn Kathir writes on the events of the year
439/1047:
Violence occured between the Rawafid (the Shiah) and the Ahl asSunnah, in which many lives were lost.2
Three years later, in 442/1050,
the Rawafid and the Ahl as-Sunnah made peace in Baghdad, and all
of them visited the graves of Ali and Husayn. In Karkh they (the
Shiah) invoked Allah's pleasure and mercy upon the Sahabah, and
made salah in the masajid of the Ahl as-Sunnah. There was a spirit
of friendliness and amicability between the two groups.3
However, one cannot blame historians like adh-Dhahabi and Ibn
Kathir for suspecting taqiyyah on the part of the Shiah, because not
long thereafter they reverted to their old habit of execrating the
Sahabah. The very next year, in 443/1051, the Shiah in Baghdad
erected structures upon which they wrote:
Muhammad and Ali are the best of humanity. Whoever accepts has
shown gratefulness. Whoever rejects is an unbeliever.4
Once again violence ensued. In 488/1095 Ibn Kathir records another
endeavour to establish harmony between the two groups.5 Yet once
again, when Baghdad was occupied and the khalifah imprisoned by
the Shii Arsalan al-Basasiri a mere two years later, it was the Shiah
of Karkh who aided him and fought in his ranks.6
In none of these early attempts to effect harmony between the Ahl
as-Sunnah and the Shiah in Baghdad do we find mention of the
names of any of the eminent ulama of either group, which creates

the impression that the parties to the agreements were of the


common people. This considerably diminishes the value of such
incidents as endeavours towards Taqrib. Furthermore, they do not
seem to have been agreements to resolve theological or historical
differences. The most that can be said is that they were agreements
by common people to live together in harmony, and not to provoke
one another.
Upon further reflection, even if agreements like these could be read
as efforts to bring the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shiah closer to one
another, their success was bound to be sabotaged by one decisive
factor: fickleness on the part of the Shiah. In each of the three
cases mentioned above the brittle peace was shattered by the
Shiah themselves reverting to exactly what they had pledged not to
do. It is then only logical for us to assume, as did adh-Dhahabi and
Ibn Kathir, that the promises they gave were given in taqiyyah.
Abu Jafar at-Tusi (385/995 - 460/1068)
Certain writers7 speak of the Shii scholar Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn
al-Hasan at-Tusi (died 460/1068) as "the first person to have
attempted to bring the Shiah intellectually and psychologically
closer to the major body of the Muslims." The only basis for this
supposition is the fact that in his hadith collections Tahdhib alAhkam and al-Istibsar (two of the four canonical hadith compilations
of the Shiah) at-Tusi is found to narrate material in the isnads of
which Sunni narrators appear.
Yet, however praiseworthy or open minded this enterprise may
seem, scrutiny reveals it to be the result not of any noble intentions,
but rather of a chronic lack of consistency and exactness. His Shii
critics8 complain that in his theoretical works like his book
al-Uddah in usul al-fiqh he stipulates it as a condition of acceptance
that the narrator must be an Imami Shii, but when it comes to the
practical application of that theory, he is found to be extremely
inconsistent. A number of Shii scholars, like Muhammad Taqi alMajlisi,9 Hashim al-Bahrani10 and Yusuf al-Bahrani11 have levelled
accusations of negligence and carelessness against at-Tusi. The
claim that Abu Jafar at-Tusi was the forerunner in the field of Taqrib
is therefore a baseless one.

Abu Ali at-Tabarsi (? - 548/1153)


Another opinion12 points to the Shii mufassir Abu Ali al-Fadl ibn alHasan at-Tabarsi (died 548/1153) as the pioneer of Taqrib. The
reason adduced for this view is that in his tafsir, Majma al-Bayan, he
quotes Sunni authorities like Hasan al-Basri, Qatadah, ad-Dahhak
and as-Suddi, profusely, and he is careful to avoid any display of
extremist tendencies Shii tafsirs (like those of Ali ibn Ibrahim alQummi or al-Ayyashi). It is this feature of his tafsir that led to its
publication in Cairo under the auspices of the Dar at-Taqrib.
Majma al-Bayan, in this respect, is not unique amongst the tafsirs of
the Shiah. A hundred years earlier Abu Jafar at-Tusi wrote a tafsir
on similar lines, called at-Tibyan. At-Tabarsi was strongly influenced
by this work. Accordingly, he writes in the introduction to Majma alBayan:
It (at-Tibyan) is the book from which the light of truth is drawn, upon
which the freshness of veracity appears. It is the model whose light
I will follow, and upon whose footsteps I will tread.13
Even in a tafsir as recent as at-Tabatabai's Tafsir al-Mizan we find
evidence of this connection between at-Tibyan and Majma al-Bayan.
At-Tabatabai's reference to at-Tibyan is very minimal. A
contemporary study of al-Mizan ascribes it to the fact that the
author has referred extensively to Majma al-Bayan, which has to a
large incorporated at-Tusi's tafsir, and even surpasses it in linguistic
discussion.14
Since Majma al-Bayan is then for all practical purposes nothing
more than a replica of at-Tusi's tafsir, whatever applies to at-Tibyan
is applicable to Majma al-Bayan too. About at-Tibyan Sayyid Radiyy
ad-Din Ibn Tawus (died 656/1258) states as early as in the seventh
century, in his book Sad as-Suud:
I will mention what my grandfather has stated in at-Tibyan, which
taqiyyah forced him to confine himself to...15
There is none better than Ibn Tawus to inform us about the true
nature of at-Tibyan. Apart from being of the leading Shii ulama of
his day, he was also the grandson of the author, as is evident from

the above quotation. At-Tusi was the father of his mother's


mother.16 Mirza Husayn an-Nuri (died 1320/1902) can therefore
rightfully remark:
He (Ibn Tawus) is better acquainted with what he says, for reasons
that are fully clear to all who are aware of his position.17
Furthermore, a closer look at at-Tusi's Tibyan or at-Tabarsi's Majma
al-Bayan will soon reveal the reason for saying that these two books
were written on the basis of taqiyyah. Mirza Husayn an-Nuri sums up
the situation as follows:
It is clear to him who looks attentively into the book at-Tibyan that
the author's style of writing in it is very much one of cajoling and
going along with the opponents. You see him confining himself to
the interpretations of Hasan (al-Basri), Qatadah, ad-Dahhak, asSuddi, Ibn Jurayj, al-Jubbai, az-Zajjaj and Ibn Zayd, while he
mentions nothing at all from any of the Shii mufassirun. He fails to
quote narrations from any of the Imams alayhim as-salam, except in
a few places where they are most probably quoted by the opponents
as well.18
It is indeed a cause for concern when a Shii known to hold the view
that the mere narration of a Sunni is unacceptable (narration here
meaning the transmission of the opinion of another) even though he
may be narrating from one of the infallible Imams, when such a
Shii writes a tafsir, fills it with the opinions (opinions, mind you, and
not narrations) of Sunni authorities, and practically ignores what his
own Imams have to say on the interpretation of the Quran. Even if
we wanted to believe that he merely intended to accommodate the
views of others, and not to deceive, this assumption is immediately
overruled by the fact that he practically excludes the legacy of his
own Imams in tafsir.
Thus, since the available evidence indicates that these two books
were written on the basis of taqiyyah, we are compelled to dismiss
the opinion that regards Majma al-Bayan of Abu Ali at-Tabarsi as a
pioneering effort in the field of Taqrib.
Even if it is argued that Majma al-Bayan, unlike its model, does
include narrations from the Imams of the Shiah, that would make

very slight difference to the situation, since what is quoted therein


from the Imams is far outweighed by what is quoted from Sunni
sources. The author of Luluat al-Bahrayn describes this imbalance
as follows:
(Majma al-Bayan) is a good tafsir, inclusive of all subjects, such as
language, syntax, etymology, meaning and revelation, except that
most of the narrated material in it is from the mufassirun of the
Ammah (the Ahl as-Sunnah). He doesn't quote the tafsir of the Ahl
al-Bayt alayhim as-salam, except in a few cases from the tafsirs of
al-Ayyashi and Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Qummi.19
2. ATTEMPTS AT TAQRIB
IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
The twentieth century witnessed a decided change in Sunni-Shii
relations. The focus of this new development was the Middle East.
Most of the countries in this region fell under direct Ottoman rule at
the beginning of the century, and all of them gained independence in
the wake of the abolishment of the Khilafah.
In regions where Sunnis and Shiis co-existed, but did not form part
of the Ottoman Empire, like the Indian subcontinent, the situation
remained to a large extent unaffected. It is worth noting that
despite the largely Sunni character of the Moghul Empire, the Shiah
in India wielded tremendous influence, and even ruled a number of
Indian principalities, like Awadh (Oudh) with its capital at Lucknow,
and the principality of Rampur. In south India the Shii legacy of the
kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda also persisted.
In Iran, the only country with a Shii majority, we see a unique case
of contradiction. The ulama of Iran were heavily involved in Taqrib
ventures elsewhere, and the government supported some of these
ventures financially. At home however, the conditions of the Sunni
minority remained much the same. No attempt was made to woo
them like their brothers in the Arab world were being wooed. On the
whole, they remained the oppressed, downtrodden community they
had been ever since Safawid times.

Taqrib efforts in the twentieth century came in the form of groups


working collectively, or of single persons advocating rapprochement
individually. In the ensuing pages we first look at collective efforts.
2.1. Collective endeavours
In the beginning of 1935 a person called Abu Abdillah az-Zanjani
came to Cairo. He held talks with Shaykh Muhammad al-Khadir
Husayn and Shaykh Muhibb ad-Din al-Khatib on the subject of mutual
co-operation between the Shiah and the Ahl as-Sunnah, and gave
them the good news that there existed in Iran an enlightened group
who were realising the mistakes of the past, especially with regard
to their traditional attitude towards the Sahabah. He went back to
Iran, ostensibly to start working towards his stated aim of SunniShii co-operation, but never returned. It later came to light that he
was in fact sent by the Iranian government for other reasons.20
Sometime later Iran sent another Zanjani to Cairo with a similar
purpose. This person, Abd al-Karim az-Zanjani was much more
straightforward about the mechanics of how to achieve Sunni-Shii
unity. He believed that unity is only achievable if the Ahl as-Sunnah
embrace the beliefs of the Shiah. His venture was therefore shortlived, and he too, like his predecessor and namesake, returned to
Iran.21
The ventures of the two Zanjanis were thus unsuccessful. There
were other efforts that lasted longer than theirs, and it is to four of
those ventures that we now turn.
2.1.1 Jamaat al-Ukhuwwah al-Islamiyyah
This group was founded by an Ismaili Shii from India named
Muhammad Hasan Azami. He came to Cairo in 1937 where he
established the headquarters of his group at Qubbat al-Ghuri.
Eminent thinkers like Shaykh Tantawi Jawhari, Mustafa Abd arRaziq and Abd ar-Rahman Azzam were supposedly members of the
Jamaah. Membership, the founder claimed, was restricted to
"followers of the true madhahib who do not contradict the
categorical text of the Quran, the authentic Sunnah, or the
consensus of the Ummah." He returned to Karachi in Pakistan in
1948.

Although the Jamaah was supposed to include some of Egypt's


leading thinkers amongst its members, none of its publications
came from the pen of any of them. The two solitary publications
were both written by Azami himself. One, a book called al-Haqaiq
al-Khafiyyah anish-Shiah al-Fatimiyyah wal-Ithna Ashariyyah, was
more of an Ismaili propaganda than anything else. The other,
Haqaiq an Pakistan, dealt with the newly established state of
Pakistan. Besides these two books the group assisted in the editing
and publication of a number of Ismaili works like Tawil ad-Daaim
and Iftitah ad-Dawah, both by Qadi Numan, the chief judge of the
Fatimid ruler al-Mu'izz li-Dinillah.
What further counts against the credibility of this group as a serious
effort of reconciliation is the fact that besides its founder no one
else seems to have known anything about it. In Egypt Shaykh Abd
al-Aziz Isa, editor of the journal published by the Dar at-Taqrib,
denied any knowledge of the existence of such a group, while in
Pakistan, the other supposed home of the organisation, no trace
could be found of it.22
2.1.2 Dar al-Insaf
This group was found in Lebanon in 1366/1946. Its founder members,
Hashim ad-Daftardar and Muhammad az-Zubi, stated their objective
as being "to reach an understanding of the various sects of Isl m in
the manner of the Dar at-Taqrib in Egypt." Its only publication, a
book entitled al-Islam bayna as-Sunnah wash-Shiah, was written on
the faulty premise that the Rawafid are an extinct sect who used to
hate and curse the Sahabah, and that the Shiah of today love and
respect them all, Abu Bakr and Umar included. This shows once
again that the Sunni parties to this venture were simply ignorant of
Shiism, not having made a study of it from its original sources, and
that the Shii participants (if there were any) made good use of
taqiyyah.23
2.1.4 Dar Ahl al-Bayt
After the activities of the Dar at-Taqrib in Cairo (which comes up for
discussion in the next issue) came to a stillstand, there came to
Cairo a person by the name of Talib ar-Rifai al-Husayni who soon

started styling himself "the imam of the Shiah in Egypt". His


organisation, the Dar Ahl al-Bayt cannot be strictly classified as a
Taqrib endeavour. Its efforts centred around an issue which is very
often used by Shii missionaries in the accomplishment of their task:
the Family of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa-alihi wasallam.
Knowing fully well the potency of this issue with the Egyptian
public, Talib ar-Rifai chose this name for his organisation. Its
activities included the publication of Shii literature, the
commemoration of Shii festivals, and on the whole, the subtle
propagation of Shiism. As incentives he founded a welfare branch
that extends material aid to the poor, as well as a free dispensary.
Considering the fact that Egypt did not have any Shiah before the
founding of the Dar at-Taqrib, one is inclined to believe that Talib arRifai came to Egypt to consolidate the success of the Dar at-Taqrib
in its true mission, which is the conversion Sunnis to Shiism, and
not rapprochement between the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shiah.24
2.1.5 The Dar at-Taqrib in Cairo
Amongst all collective endeavours for taqrib, none reaches the
prominence as well as importance of the Dar at-Taqrib in Cairo. It
might even be said that the Dar at-Taqrib served as the inspiration
for other taqrib ventures. The Dar al-Insaf in Beirut clearly stated
that it aimed to follow the line set by the Dar at-Taqrib, while the Dar
Ahl al-Bayt of Talib ar-Rifai could very well be regarded as the
continuation of the work started by the Dar at-Taqrib. No study of
the taqrib phenomenon could therefore ever be complete without an
in-depth examination of the Dar at-Taqrib in Cairo. For all practical
purposes the Dar at-Taqrib may be considered the only serious
taqrib effort during the first half of this century, since all the other
efforts were much too short lived, in addition to the fact that the
scholars who participated in them did not enjoy the same esteem as
those who took part in the Dar at-Taqrib.
Beginning
The history of the Dar at-Taqrib goes back to the 1940s, when a
Shii scholar from Iran by the name of Muhammad Taqi al-Qummi
sent out an invitation to the ulama to participate in this attempt to
bring the Shiah and the Ahl as-Sunnah closer to one another. A

number of Sunni ulama from Egypt and Zaydi ulama from Yemen
responded to his invitation. One of the early participants, Shaykh
Abd al-Latif Muhammad as-Subki, a member of the Hayat Kibar
al-Ulama (Council of Senior Ulama) in Egypt, relates the beginning
of the Dar at-Taqrib in the following manner:
The one who worked for the establishment of this group was a Shii
shaykh who has been living in Egypt for some time. A group of
respected ulama of Egypt responded to his invitation. It wouldnt
have been becoming of any Muslim to ignore a call for renewing
Muslim unity which the Quran itself calls for...
I was attracted by this call. I was honoured by being made a
member amongst those great men. So what has our group achieved
after about four years? In the beginning it held meetings
consecutively, sometimes for the purpose of meeting one another
and electing a head, a representative and a secretary; sometimes to
receive a guest from the East who was visiting the headquarters;
and sometimes to listen to letters being read out from various
quarters, amongst them letters from Najaf, the centre of the Shiah,
in which the writers requested for an address to be delivered at the
ceremonies being held to commemorate Imam Husayn. In that same
session it was suggested to us that the group must approach alAzhar with a demand that Shii fiqh be taught side by side with the
madhahib of the Ahl as-Sunnah. This suggestion was quickly
suppressed because it was premature, as some members had
murmured.
Thereafter the meetings stopped, and the groups activities became
confined to the publication of a journal by the Dar at-Taqrib called
Risalat al-Islam.25
The Dar at-Taqrib spent lavishly. Shaykh Abd al-Latif as-Subki
writes:
It made me doubt and every other innocent member has to doubt
with me that the Dar at-Taqrib was spending freely without us
knowing where the money was coming from, and without any of us
being asked to contribute membership fees to pay for an elegant
headquarters expensively fitted and furnished. It spent on its
journal, paying the people in charge of it, the writers of articles as

well as maintaining a high level of quality in the appearance of the


journal. These, and other, expenses required a very generous source
of income, so from where did it come, and at whose expense?25
It would later come to light that al-Qummi was not alone in this
venture. He had the full support and backing of the leading Shii
ulama of Qum and Najaf. The contemporary Lebanese Shii scholar,
Ahmad Mughniyah, writes that "neither al-Qummi nor anyone else
could have conducted an operation of this kind on his own,
independent of the maraji (leading Shii mujtahids) and without their
agreement."26
There thus seem to be grounds for the assumption that al-Qummis
coming to Egypt and founding the Dar at-Taqrib was premeditated
and planned by the Shii ulama of Najaf in Iraq and Qum in Iran.
Having previously seen how Shii missionaries used to come to
Egypt for the ostensible purpose of taqrib, it is not at all far fetched
to see al-Qummis establishment of the Dar at-Taqrib and his
invitation to the ulama of Egypt to join it as yet another link in the
same chain.
The founding of the Dar at-Taqrib was therefore a unilateral venture
by the Shiah, which the Ahl as-Sunnah were in due course invited to
join. Seeing as the venture was supported entirely by funds from the
Shii side, without the Sunni participants ever being asked for any
kind of contribution, the possibility must not be dismissed that the
Dar at-Taqrib was essentially working for the advantage of Shiism.
Slogan
Al-Qummi initially made it clear that the Dar at-Taqrib was striving to
bring the Shiah and the Ahl as-Sunnah closer to one another without
prevailing on any of the two to abandon its madhhab. He writes:
Our call is that the people of Islam unite upon the fundamentals of
Islam, those fundamentals without which nobody can be a Muslim,
and that they look at issues beyond that without any wish or desire
to split or overpower, but rather as people who search for truth and
correct knowledge. If they are then able to reach consensus,
through fairness and clear proof, upon an issue which they once
disagreed upon, then so be it. Otherwise, let each of them retain his

own view without imposing it upon others. Let them think good of
one another, because differences on issues other than the
fundamentals of religion do not affect Iman, and do not cast anyone
out of the fold of Islam.27
The sentiments expressed here are the essence of any taqrib effort.
It is generally suggested that there is enough common ground
between the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Shiah to achieve the kind of
working
solution
described
here.
That,
however,
is
an
oversimplification of a problem that has roots much deeper than
what the credulous onlooker may see, or may want to see.
This line of thought presupposes that the Ahl as-Sunnah and the
Shiah share a common set of fundamentals, represented in belief in
Allah, the Ambiya, revelation, the hereafter, etc.. It overlooks the
fact that the Shiah have beliefs which to them are on exactly the
same plane of importance as the abovementioned fundamentals.
The reference, of course, is to their belief of Imamah, the rejector of
which is exactly the same as one who rejects Nubuwwah. It is at
this kind of juncture that the entire taqrib operation becomes a
unilateral process instead of a bilateral one, with Sunnis expected
to make room for the Shiah, without the Shii having to budge one
inch.
With the passage of time the Dar at-Taqrib came to display a bit
more of its true colours. In the third year of publication the journal
Risalat al-Islam carried an article by one of the leading Shii ulama
of Iran, Muhammad Salih al-Hairi, under the caption "A Practical
Method of Taqrib". In it the author demands that the Ahl as-Sunnah
start referring to the eight hadith sources of the Shiah, that a chair
be established at al-Azhar for the teaching of Shii fiqh along with
Shii aqaid, and that the Ahl as-Sunnah admit and accept the
doctrine of Imamah.28
The publication of an article of this nature was not at all strange,
since Muhammad Taqi al-Qummi had himself the previous year
written an article in which he openly asked the following question:
"So what will it be for them (the Ahl as-Sunnah) to accept that which
is beyond the fiqh (of the Shiah) just like they have accepted the
fiqh (of the Shiah)? After all, what difference is there between the

usul (primary issues) of knowledge and the furu (secondary issues)


of knowledge?"29
By posing this question al-Qummi revealed the idea that lay at the
crux of the Dar at-Taqrib. It was there not to bring about
rapprochement between the Ahl as-Sunnah, but to draw the Ahl asSunnah into the web of Shiism.
Publications
Another area in which the true intentions of the Dar at-Taqrib
became apparent was that of its publications. The publications of
the Dar at-Taqrib were almost all, without exception, classical Shii
works. It started with the compendium of Najm ad-Din al-Hilli (died
676AH) on Shii fiqh, called al-Mukhtasar an-Nafi. This work was
published by the Ministry of Awqaf on the recommendation of the
Dar at-Taqrib. Other works published were the following:
Tadhkirat al-Fuqaha
by Ibn Mutahhar al-Hilli (died 726AH)
Wasail ash-Shiah
by al-Hurr al-Amili (died 1104AH)
Mustadrak al-Wasail
by Mirza Husayn an-Nuri at-Tabarsi, the author of the infamous book
Fasl al-Khitab in which he attempts to prove that the Quran was
interpolated
al-Hajj alal-Madhahib al-Khamsah
(hajj according to the five madhahib)
Tafsir Majma al-Bayan
by Abu Ali at-Tabarsi (died 548)
Hadith ath-Thaqalayn
by Muhammad Qawam ad-Din al-Qummi, a contemporary scholar
As a further measure of conferring legitimacy on his publications, alQummi got Egyptian scholars to write the forewords or do the
editing of these books. Some of them, like Dr. Hamid Hifni Dawud, a

lecturer in linguistics at Ayn Shams University, or Dr. Muhammad


Abd al-Munim Khafaji, a litterateur who wrote the foreword to a
Shii hadith work like Wasail ash-Shiah and at-Tabarsis Mustadrak
al-Wasail, were in no way qualified to express an opinion about the
books they were writing forewords to.
In light of the mounting evidence about the real role the Dar atTaqrib had come to play in Egypt, many of those who joined the
group in full sincerity came to regret their involvement, and started
to withdraw. Some of them left in silence and others announced
their withdrawal.
Dr. Muhammad al-Bahi, for example, was a man who welcomed the
establishment of the Dar at-Taqrib at its inception. He is described
in Risalat al-Islam as "an alim, a researcher, one of those who are
free in thought and believe in the idea of taqrib."30 However, after a
period of involvement he loses hope in the Dar at-Taqrib and
expresses his thoughts about it in the following words:
A movement was established in Cairo for the purpose of bringing the
Shiah and the Ahl as-Sunnah closer to one another. But instead of
concentrating its efforts on calling towards that which the Quran
calls for...it is concentrating all its energy on bringing alive the fiqh,
usul, tafsir etc. of the Shiah, and publishing articles which call for
not discriminating between Muslims.31
Shaykh Abd al-Latif as-Subki, after four years of involvement with
the Dar at-Taqrib, realises al-Qummis true aims, and withdraws. He
publishes the reasons for his withdrawal in the Majallat al-Azhar.
Shaykh Taha Muhammad as-Sakit and Shaykh Muhammad Arafah,
another member of the Council of Senior Ulama, both sever their
ties with the Dar at-Taqrib. Soon the Dar at-Taqrib dwindled into a
mere skeleton of what it once had been, with only a few persons left
who were kept behind by their dependence on the income provided
by the Dar at-Taqrib. The only sign of activity that remained was the
publication of Risalat al-Islam. And in time that too, became part of
the past.
Assessment

Ultimately it turned out that the reason for which the Dar at-Taqrib
was founded, and the philosophy upon which it was built, became
the cause of its failure and downfall. Had there been a serious and
earnest desire from the Shii side to reconsider its own history and
heritage, this venture might have been a stepping stone to SunniShii co-operation and rapprochement. However, in each and every
venture undertaken by it, the Dar at-Taqrib showed that it had no
objective other than to further the cause of Shiism in established
Sunni societies. Not a single iota of the Shii view of history or
theology was ever brought under scrutiny. Not one of the beliefs
cherished by traditional Shiism was ever challenged.
Admittedly, there definitely was movement in operations of the Dar
at-Taqrib. However, whatever motion there was took place
exclusively in one direction: It was the Ahl as-Sunnah who had to be
brought closer to the Shiah, while Shiism remained where it was.
This was the downfall of the Dar at-Taqrib: Its assumption that
Shiism is Truth, while what the Ahl as-Sunnah possessed was
merely a corrupted form of True Islam.
If Taqrib, or rapprochement means the mutual act of coming
together, it goes without saying that any endeavour of
rapprochement that is founded upon the preconceived notion of one
party as the sole claimant to Truth is bound to come to nought.
There can be no clearer demonstration of this observation than the
case Dar at-Taqrib in Cairo.
______________________________
NOTES AND REFERENCES
While this article is largely drawn from the book Masalat at-Taqrib
bayna Ahl as-Sunnah wash-Shiah by Dr. Nasir al-Qafari, other
sources have also been consulted.
1. Ibn Kathir: al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah part 11 vol. 6 p.259 (Dar arRayyan, Cairo 1988)
2. ibid. vol.12 p.56 (Maktab al-Maarif, Beirut 1980)
3. ibid., Ibn al-Jawzi: al-Muntazam vol.8 p.145, adh-Dhahabi: al-Ibar
vol.3 p.199

4. Ibn al-Jawzi: al-Muntazam vol. 8 p. 149, Ibn Kathir: al-Bidayah


wan-Nihayah vol.12 p.62
5. Ibn al-Jawzi: al-Muntazam vol.9 p.89, Ibn Kathir: al-Bidayah wanNihayah vol.12 p.149
6. al-Khatib al-Baghdadi: Tarikh Baghdad vol.9 pp.401-402
7. Abu Zahrah: al-Imam as-Sadiq p. 453
8. Rasail Abil Maali, cited in al-Imam as-Sadiq p.451.
9. ibid. p. 449
10. Tanbihat al-Adib fi Rijal at-Tahdhib, cited by Yusuf al-Bahrani in
Luluat al-Bahrayn p. 65
11. Yusuf al-Bahrani: Luluat al-Bahrayn pp. 297-298
12. Mahmud Basyuni Fawdah: at-Tabarsi mufassiran p. 10.
13. Majma al-Bayan vol.1 p.10
14.Ali al-Awsi: at-Tabataba"i wa-Manhajuhu fi Tafsirihi al-Mizan pp.
65-66 (Munazzamat al-Ilam al-Islami, Teheran 1985)
15. Sad as-Suud cited in Mirza Husayn an-Nuri at-Tabarsi: Fasl alKhitab p. 17
16. Luluat al-Bahrayn p.237
17. Fasl al-Khitab p.17
18. ibid.
19. Luluat al-Bahrayn p.347 [It is also not wholly inconceivable, if
one takes into consideration the development of tafsir amongst the
Shiah, that at-Tabarsi's reason for including so much Sunni material
into his tafsir was the lack of Shii material of a similar standard. In
the Sunni and Mutazili traditions tafsir was by that time (the 6th
century AH) a well established discipline with various specialised
fields, while the tafsirs of al-Qummi and al-Ayyashi (which along
with at-Tusi's Tibyan forms the bulk of at-Tabarsi's Shii source
material) were basically narrations from the Imams, and therefore
represent only a single branch of the discipline of tafsir. Moreover,
narrations impugning the integrity of the Quran abound in these two
sources, which places a serious question mark over their own
reliability as sources for the interpretation of the Quran. In any
event, this issue merits further research.]
20. Muhibb ad-Din al-Khatib, Nashat at-Tashayyu wa-Tatawwuruhu
pp. 4-6, and Majallat al-Fath: vol. 17 p. 709
21. ibid. See also Abd al-Karim az-Zanjani, al-Wahdat al-Islamiyyah
(at-Taqrib baynal-Muslimin) p. 59
22. Dr. Nasir al-Qafari, Masalat at-Taqrib bayna Ahl as-Sunnah
wash-Shiah vol. 2 pp. 171-172
23. ibid. p. 173

24. ibid. pp. 177-178


25. Majallat al-Azhar vol. 24 pp. 285-286
26. Ahmad Mughniyah, al-Khumayni Aqwaluhu wa-Afaluhu p. 27
27. al-Wahdat al-Islamiyyah, aw at-Taqrib baynal-Madhahib pp. 64-65
28. Risalat al-Islam, vol. 3 p. 403
29. Risalat al-Islam, vol. 2 p. 169
30. Risalat al-Islam, vol. 8 p. 107
31. Muhammad al-Bahi, al-Fikr al-Islami wal-Mujtamaat al-Muasirah
p. 439
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#2 [Taqrib--Study of attempts for sunni-shia unity: post #2] baqar
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Interests:The true message of the Ahlul Bayt (as)
Posted 25 April 2003 - 03:23 PM
Shia Sunni unity is essential for Islam and for humanity.
But it requires a few things : maturity, tolerance and openmindedness.
Neither Shias nor Sunnis have these things.
Shias have no control over their tongue or emotions when it comes
to the enemies of the Ahlul Bayt, real or preceived.
Sunnis deliberately suppress things. As for example, as I have
mentioned in the other thread, if you go to their gatherings, you will
find them talking about 'Kitab and Sunna' as if Ahlul Bayt had no
importance in the eyes of the Prophet. They will NEVER mention the
Hadithay Saqlain, (about Kitab abd Ahlul Bayt), which has more
credence EVEN inSunni books. They deliberately try to misrepresent
and suppress facts.
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#3 [Taqrib--Study of attempts for sunni-shia unity: post #3] salmany
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Posted 25 April 2003 - 03:29 PM
Sallam
Brother after reading my post you may understand why.
What is the difference between following the Sunnah and following
Ahly Bait? Or do you imply the Ahly Bait and Sunnah are 2 different
things?
Also you know very well the position of Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Hussain
,Hazrat Fatima, Hazrat Hasan etc in the eyes of sunni. Just because
we dont make a circle around them and say thats the only people we
talk about doesnot mean we ignore them.
Sallam
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#4 [Taqrib--Study of attempts for sunni-shia unity: post #4] baqar
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Interests:The true message of the Ahlul Bayt (as)
Posted 25 April 2003 - 04:13 PM
(salam)

The difference between the Ahlul Bayt and the Sunna is the same as
the difference between a teacher and a book. The Ahlul Bayt are the
human face of Sunna and therefore more easily accessible in case
of doubt and difficulty. They have the capacity to explain and
expound upon the Sunna. The reverse is, however, not true.
But Muslims have unfortunately espoused the Sunna or what little
they understand of it, and completely abandoned the Ahlul Bayt,
finding innumerable excuses to try and do without them. I am not
talking about you personally, but about Muslims as a whole.
And please don't tell me how much the Sunnis love the Ahlul Bayt.
You may be one of the exceptions. One Muslim friend even told me
once : Imam Hussain and Yazid were two princes, they fought, one
lost and the other won. And he was not particularly a Wahabi.
What Shias and Sunnis need to do is to get their scholars to sit
together and discuss their hadithes and history in an open minded
spirit.
Until then, all the cut and paste being done on this forum is a
COMPLETE waste of everyone's time.