WHAT IS ISLAM?
During my lectures as a Muslim teacher, the following questions were commonly raised:
What is Islam?
Islam is the Quran and Sunnat of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from age 40 when he became Prophet until age 63 when he died.
According to who?
The Sonnat of our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) is what he said, what he did, his behavior, his character, his Zaher (outwardly appearance), his beard, his turban, kufi hat, tasbih, modest, long, loose clothing, and his Baten (honesty, integrity, justice, kindness, modest lifestyle, flexibility).
What is Shea/Sunni?
Shea says Sonnat of our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) according to Imam Ali (RA) who was living with the Prophet (PBUH) from age 7, was the first person to accept Islam (after Khadijeh (RA), the Prophets wife) at age 10. He married the Prophets daughter, Fatima Zahra (RA) at age 25. He was with the Prophet (PBUH) in all battles and was chosen as the Prophets (PBUH) successor once at age 13 and again in Ghadir Khom after the Prophets last trip to Hajj in the year 10th AH, the year that the Prophet (PBUH) died.
The Sonnah of our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) according to Fatima Zahra (RA), Imam Ali (RA) and his descendants, the 12 Imams, one after another til the 12th Imam Mahdi (SA) (1-329 AH), and after them by Ahlul Bayt and their descendant called Seyed who have been the protector of the true religion from Day One. The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Hold on to the Quran and my Ahlul Bayt and you will not go astray."
Sunni says: Sonnat according to Imam, Hanafi (85-150 AH), Imam Maaliki (95-179 AH), Shafi (150-205 AH), Hanbali (164-241 AH), and recently, the Wahabi/Salafi movement in the Middle East follows Imam Ibn Taymimah (661-728 AH) and Abdulla Ibn Abdul Wahab (1115-1201 AH). The Sheas say that although all of these Imams were pious people, some of them were under the influence and control of their unjust, corrupt local governments, therefore, some incorrect Hadith and untrue Sonnats were relayed to justify the governments unjust position. The best way to understand this difficult question is to look around us now. Today, some corrupt and unjust Muslim rulers take the Bayt ul Mal (natural resources) of their country that belongs to all Muslim Ummah, and waste it on haram luxurious lifestyle of gambling, losing millions of dollars in Las Vegas, adultery, nudity, alcohol and riba. Their Muslim leaders inside the country do not say anything and with their passive acceptance, they contribute to the corruption. The same condition existed a few years after the Prophets death.
You can answer the following questions better if you know your Islamic history.
Which Islam? The Islam followed by Ali (RA) or the Islam followed by Moavieh and Yazid (Lanat O Allah Alahim).
Which Quran? The one followed by Ali (RA) or the Quran which was put on spears by Moavieh in the Saffin war to stop Ali (RA) from winning the war.
Which Muslims? Muslims who follow Ali (RA) (Sheayan) or Khavarej, who killed Ali (RA).
Which Salat? The one done by Hossein Ibn Ali (RA) in Zohr Ashura (61 AH) before he was martyred and decapitated by Shimr Ibn Zeljoshan from Yazids army OR the Salat done by Yazids army after they martyred 72 members of the Prophets (PBUH) Ahlul Bayt (immediate family).
To those who think bringing these questions up divides the Ummah, we say education and knowledge of our religion is necessary. Shea/Sunnis friendly dialogue keeps the Ummah in the straight path, creates a healthy, friendly competition that has made Islam the fastest growing religion in the world. Just like a friendly discussion of two Americans, one Republican and one Democrat. This healthy debate, and check and balance, has made America the most powerful nation in the world.
Our responsibility as American Muslims is to make America the moral leader of the world. That is why Allah (SWT) brought us to America from all over the world. Islam will rise from the West, Inshaallah.
In the 21st Century, Islam will grow very fast in America if we emphasize social justice, pious leadership and modesty. These principles of Islam were removed by corrupt khalifehs and now that we have freedom in America, we should emphasize it more and more.