Following Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632 C.E. the issue of who would be the next successor arose, dividing Muslims into two different sects: Sunnis and Shi’a. However, this divide did not come without some misconceptions. It is important to educate and inform others in order to eliminate and diminish these misconceptions.
Misconception 1: Shi’a consider Ali as their God
Response: This is not true and it is disbelief for a Muslim to believe such. During the time of Ali ibn Abi Talib, there was a group called Gholat who “exaggerated” the status of the Imams as manifestations of God. They viewed Ali as their “Lord” and when he heard of such act, they were punished.
Misconception 2: Shi’a have a different Qur’an
Response: There is only one form of the Qur’an. It is God’s words and cannot be altered or changed as someone pleases. The Qur’an is word that is protected only by God. There may be other book sources that Shi’a use such as Nahjul Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), which is a compilation of letters, sermons and teachings from Ali, but it is not the Qur’an or an addition to it.
Misconception 3: Shi’a pray to Karbala
Response: Muslims pray towards the Ka’ba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Karbala, along with Najaf, Samarra and Baghdad are home to some of the Shi’a holy sites in Iraq. Although it is a source of visitation by Muslims worldwide and a sacred city for Shi’a Muslims, Karbala is not the direction Muslims pray to.
Misconception 4: Shi’a have love for Ali and not for the Prophet
Response: Ali is part of Prophet Muhammad’s family as his cousin and son-in-law. To love Ahlul Bayt (People of the House) means to love the Prophet’s family, and the Prophet as well. Muhammad is not only the Prophet but also the Messenger of God and Imam for Muslims. He is designated a special status within the hearts of Muslims and his family is loved as well, especially among Shi’s Muslims.
Misconception 5: Shi’a do not pray the 5 prayers
Response: It is obligatory on every Muslim to pray the 5 prayers. Some Shi’a do combine the prayers together, such as the noon and afternoon prayers and the evening and night prayers.
Misconception 6: Shi’a hate non-Shi’a Muslims
Response: We have a tendency to fear or despise what is not like us. I cannot speak on behalf of everyone but there are some Shi’a who do not get along with Sunnis, similar to Sunnis who do not get along with Shi’a. Though, this is not a generalization of the entire population of either Sunnis or Shi’a. The differences in ideology are not always respected by one another and hate may unleash. However, we do aim to live in unity as Sunnis and Shi’a and as Muslims, we should respect one another to prevent further division.