Sectarian violence has been on the rise in the past few decades across the Muslim world. There has been an increased effort to create sectarian divisions and instigate mischief between the two major schools of thought in Islam, Sunni and Shia. Takfiri (a Muslim who accuses another Muslim or an adherent of another Abrahamic faith of apostasy) Wahhabi extremists, part of this recent push for division, need little reason to attack Shias physically and verbally and to cause bloodshed among believers of the same religion. However, it is to be noted that sometimes we as followers of the AhlulBayt (as) can unintentionally invite such destructive anger by exhibiting unwise behavior. For example, there are some among us who outwardly insult and use derogatory words to attack certain personalities in Islamic history who are venerated by the Sunni school of thought. Some of us do not exercise discretion when it comes to slandering and offending some companions of the Holy Prophet (s) whom we believe have deviated from the true path of Islam and who have committed great injustices to the Messenger of Allah (swt) during and after his demise. In fact, the accusation of slandering the companions of the Prophet (s) has been one of the most commonly used justifications for violence against Shias.
We believe in the permissibility in reciting “la’n” – which means to invoke the removal of mercy by Allah (swt). The idea of la’n which is commonly translated in English as “cursing” is often misinterpreted to mean “sebb”– slandering or vilifying–which is incorrect and impermissible. La’n here should not to be understood as gaining evil, rather, as losing the blessings of God. God has created everything in the universe, including the living and non-living creatures. By His mercy and compassion, He (swt) provided every creature with its share of sustenance, nourishment, and provisions, although it is not incumbent on Him to do so, and He reserves all the right to take away the blessings that He bestowed.
The act of “sebb” is an inappropriate behavior in any and all cases such that the Prophet (s) is reported to say, “A slanderer shall never enter paradise.” This includes name-calling and the use of adjective words to defame others. People from all cultures and religions agree that it is insulting and inappropriate to engage in sebb and it is overall an indication of ill ethical behavior. Similarly, none of the Prophets, messengers, successors, or saints ever engaged in any type of slander or behavior of that type. In fact, they often faced people from all walks of life who defamed, cursed, and insulted them in harsh ways. However, they always met that behavior with patience and clemency.
A believer should imitate the way of the Prophet (s) and Infallible Imams (as) and exercise wisdom and discretion when expressing their beliefs and conveying their emotions regarding certain truths which are controversial in Islam. As followers of the school of AhlulBayt (as), we recognize that the authentic historical facts have clearly revealed the bitter truths regarding the real intentions which certain companions have committed against Islam, and the conspiracy which took place to eradicate Islam and its pure teachings. We hold highly the righteous and pious companions who fully supported the Prophet (s) until the very end who were steadfast on the pure Islam and did not deviate from the teachings and instructions of the Messenger (s). The truth however, according to historical facts and authentic narrations agreed upon by major authors of Islamic history books, is that certain companions went back on their pledge of allegiance to Imam Ali (as) as successor to the Prophet (s) and usurped his divine right of caliphate which was bestowed to him by Allah (swt)on the Day of Ghadeer. The lovers and devotees of the Prophet’s (s) purified household condemn and disassociate ourselves from those who committed injustices and transgressions against the Prophet (s) and his family and we pray that Allah (swt) removes His divine mercy from them.
However, we should exercise discretion while taking into consideration the time and place of invocation. We should be extremely careful not to exhibit unIslamic behavior that may backfire negatively on us and invite unnecessary anger from those who respect these figures. For the sake of maintaining peace and unity amongst Muslims, we should not incite the anger of others by speaking inappropriate words that will neither advance Islam nor will it convince or open others eyes to the path of truth. This practice will only beget harsh criticism by those who are waiting to attack the Shia and find any excuse to commit further Shia genocide in countries like Pakistan and Iraq.
Furthermore we should be careful not to invite a similar act of slander upon our own distinguished infallible personalities. For example if a person A curses the parents of person B, and person B returns that offense by cursing the parents of person A, there will only be mischief and anger heightened by the reciprocation of offense. Person A will bear some responsibility for the disrespect caused to his own parents. After all, the Prophet (s) has said, “Calamity of a person is from his own tongue.” Let us think of the repercussions of our actions and let us aim to protect own divine personalities by protecting our tongues and calculating our actions wisely in the public arena.
Instead, we should spend more effort calling people to sirat al mustaqeem (the straight path), which is a very important task and glorious mission, according to the prescription of Allah (swt): “Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided.” [Quran 16:125] We should take example in the Holy Prophet (s) who earned the divine label of one who possesses excellent conduct in morals (makaarim al-akhlaaq).
As true believers, we should carry respectful, intellectual, and scientific dialogue when we present comprehensive research about the facts and history of Islam. It is more useful to participate in peaceful and intelligent discourse to demonstrate a point through logical reasoning and not pure emotion. Most importantly, our actions, behavior, and conduct are the best testimonies and sources of attraction to the path towards Allah (swt), as Imam al-Sadiq (as) has said, “Be an ornament to us, and do not become a disgrace for us.”