Why are Shiites hostile to Sunnis?

The Details of the Question

- Will you please explain the questions below in terms of History and Religion/Creed?
- Why do Shiites curse Hz. Umar and Hz. Aisha in prayers?
- Why do Shiites celebrate the martyrdom of Hz. Umar by Abu Lu’lu and why do they regard him as "sacred"?
- Shiites accuse Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar of sodomy. What is the reason for this hostility of Shia to the Companions?
- Do they not know that this mischief was caused by Abdullah b. Saba?
- What is the reason for the attribution of prophethood to Hz. Ali?
- Is hostility to Hz. Umar something that occurred after the Sassanid conquest by Umar?
- They say that some of the verses of the Quran were lost by Hz. Umar. Why do they hold that view?
- In short, what is the reason for that hostility?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Sects (madhhabs) of both creed and fiqh are not religions; they are ways of understanding the religion. Shia is one of them.

In the history of madhhabs, Shia is the common name of those who believed that Hz. Ali and his Ahl al-Bayt were the people who deserved caliphate the most, who claimed that Ali was the "legitimate" caliph based on the Quran and appointment and that the caliphs after him should come from his descendants.

The tribal management approach introduced during the Umayyad period caused many Muslims to move away from the government in power; some of those groups assumed a fatalistic understanding and preferred to be patient, thinking that the bad things that happened to them was the predestination of Allah.

However, some of the dissatisfied groups preferred to revolt against the government. In order to legitimize their rebellion and to reach larger groups, they claimed that Hz. Ali and his descendants had the right to be the caliph, that the Umayyads usurped their right, and that they were struggling to make Hz. Ali and his descendants the caliph.

On the other hand, some of the descendants of Hz. Ali like Zayd b. Ali, who were not pleased with the Umayyad government, actively led those revolts from time to time, causing the social basis and acceptability of such claims to increase.

Every revolt that took place based on that mentality and the blood that was shed in those revolts caused the opposition groups to lose their spiritual ties with large sections of the public due to supporting the government on the one hand, and to elevate Hz. Ali and his descendants more and more every day by establishing a bond based on destiny with them on the other hand. Thus, Muslims started to separate and evolved into a bipolar structure, with the broad Sunni mass on one side and the opposing Shiite group on the other.

As the political struggle continued through that bipolar structure, the language used by the two groups against each other became more severe day by day, and in parallel with that severity, the opposing Shiite groups carried the understanding of "the imamate of Hz Ali and his descendants", which they initially used only to legitimize their political opposition, to the religious field over time, developing an alternative understanding of religion, which would be called Shia.

The groups belonging to that understanding of religion that was built on the idea of "the imamate of Hz Ali and his descendants" also built a retrospective history from the place where they stood. In this understanding, which was built on a dualist structure like "Hz. Ali and his opponents" and "supporters of the good and the evil", Hz. Ali and his descendants represented the good, supporting the truth, and brightness while the other Muslim groups, which they placed in a position against Ali, represented darkness, evil and supporting the devil.

In this dualist perception of history, Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar were regarded as the main actors who deprived Ali of his right to the caliphate and hence they were described with some negative attributes. Most of the Companions who, according to them, did not defend Ali’s right to the caliphate, were also placed on the negative pole. Praising or faultfinding expressions toward a few Companions are also a result of that bipolar perception of history.

Therefore, there is such a historical, political, cultural, sociological, psychological and sectarian background behind the negative viewpoints toward Hz. Umar and the Companions.

On the other hand, it is necessary to state that this political, historical and sectarian viewpoint toward the Companions, which emerged in Shiite groups, did not cover all Shiite groups and was not defended with the same harshness in all periods of history.

Some Shiite groups such as Zaydiyya tried to remain out of the perception of the history built by Shiite groups and tried to develop a more neutral and moderate perception of the Companions.

In some Shiite groups such as Imamiyya, in which a negative perception of the Companions emerged, the dose of the negative perception of the Companions increased or decreased depending on the political relations with Sunnis. There was quite a lot of softening in the perception of the Companions in the periods when the relations with the Sunnis were better but a more negative understanding of the Companions emerged during the times when the relations were tense.

Besides, the Imamiyya sect was divided within itself regarding the issue; while the Usuliyya group, which represents a more rational tradition, tried to assume a moderate perception of the Companions, a relatively more negative language was preferred in the Akhbariyya group, which assumed a line based religious texts and tradition.

The issues you mention in the question have no historical reality and consistency. As a matter of fact, scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah have given the necessary answers to the claims you mention in every period of history.

To sum up, the negative perception developed in some Shiite groups toward the Companions is generally a product of the understanding of Middle Ages politics and the understanding of legitimizing political opposition through religion.

The duty of today’s Muslims is to make their own internal investigations by considering that the origin of some faiths that prevent Muslims from living together and in brotherhood may have been shaped by the political, social and cultural conditions of the period.

For additional information, will you please click on the links given below;

Are Shia, Shiism and Alawites of Ahl as-Sunnah and jama’ah?

Shia and their claims about Hz. Ali’s caliphate...

How can it be proved whether Ahl as-Sunnah or Shia is right about Imamate?

I do not understand why some of the narrations originating from Shia are included in some Sunni Works.

Why do Shiite scholars not accept hadiths reported from Abu Hurayra?

What are the evidences of Shia for their claim that Hz. Ali should have been the first caliph and how can these claims be answered?

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