Shi’a [ in islam ] – eBook



This book, which we have called Shi’ite Islam, seeks to clarify the true identity of Shi’ism which is one of the two major branches of Islam-the other being Sunnism. It deals in particular with the way Shi’ism originated and later developed, with the type of religious thought present in Shi’ism, and with Islamic sciences and culture as seen from the Shi’ite point of view.

Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai

[box type=”note” align=”aligncenter” width=”450px” ]Name: Shia in Islam
author: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai
Translated By: Sayyid Husayn Nasr[/box]

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7 Misconceptions About Islam




7 Misconceptions About Islam/1


7 Misconceptions About Islam/2


7 Misconceptions About Islam/3


7 Misconceptions About Islam/4


7 Misconceptions About Islam/5


7 Misconceptions About Islam/6


7 Misconceptions About Islam/7

Why did Islam expand and spread in Asia more than it did in Europe?

islam in asia

The topic concerning the development of Islam requires a lengthy answer and detailed discussion. However, we shall suffice to giving a brief answer to the above question as below: Islam emerged in Asia (Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula) during the 7th century A.D. It commenced with the revelation sent down to the Prophet Muhammad. Since Islam emerged in Asia, it spread across Arabic countries and Asia. There are multiple factors behind the fact that Islam did not spread in Europe. Those factors include the internal discord and conflicts among Muslims themselves and their failure to introduce the true and beautiful image of Islam to people in Europe.
To further explain, following the demise of the Holy Prophet (s) the Muslim army moved out towards the east and west of the Arabian Peninsula. The contingent that moved eastward was headed by Sa’d Waqas and the one that moved towards Syria and Palestine was headed by a group of renowned figures like Umar bin Al’As, Yazid bin Abi Sufyan, Abu Ubaidah bin Al-Jarrah, Sharhbil bin Hasanah and Khalid bin Walid. The Muslim army reached Persia but the army that moved westward did not make headway because Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan had signed a treaty with the Roman Empire that was meant to avoid launching any attack on either side. The Muslim could not advance westward because of the same treaty.[1]
In addition, the transition and conversion of the caliphate to monarchy by Muawiyah caused the West not to understand the true nature of Islam.

Thus, the people had no desire to welcome and embrace Islam there in Europe. One of the prominent German scholars says: “We should make a golden statue of Muawiyab bin Abi Sufyan and put it up in Berlin, the German capital because if it he did not inflict a mortal blow on Islam, Islam would have taken all over the world and we, the Germans, and people in other European countries would have been Arabs and Muslims.[2]

But during the government of Walid bin Abdul Malik, Muslims from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt and Africa crossed the Mediterranean Sea, reached Tariq Mount (Jabal al-Tariq) and conquered Europe as far as the Atlantic shores. In the year 711 A.D. Muslim conquered Spain and the message of Islam reached there and spread out also to other European countries.
Also, Muslims were able to cross Seyhoun and Oxus and were continuously delivering Islam to the people of the cities and countries. Eventually, the great Islamic empire came into being with its capital in Damascus, Syria.[3]
Therefore, in the year 78 A.H. the entire Europe and Africa had been conquered by Muslims. Islam dominated Europe until 398 A.H. when Abdul Malik Mansoor died and his brother Abdu Rahman titled Al-Naser Le Deenillah came to power. He also, like his father and brother, ruled Europe without any belief in the caliph of his time, Hesham bin Hakam.[4] He decided to eliminate the remaining caliphate norms and customs. For this reason, he asked Hesham to appoint him as his crown prince.
Many people were unhappy with his becoming a crown prince. That was why family and internal disputes began among Muslims engaging them and keeping them unmindful of the borders. Feudalism came into being within the Islamic state causing Muslims to fight one another while their enemies were watching them. The disputes among Muslims and the wrong policies adopted by Muslim rulers gave Christians the opportunity to expel them from Europe in the wake of several wars.[5]
However, in recent years especially in the present time, the Islamic culture has spread all over the world including Europe. We should not neglect the role of European countries’ propaganda machine and their highly advanced facilities in presenting a distorted image of Islam and in preventing the voice of Islam to reach people. The fact that they are trying to prevent Islamic influence is an independent topic that needs to be discussed in its own appropriate time and occasion.
Another probability that is necessary to mention is that the Romans believed in Christianity in that time. Obviously, according to them in that time, Christianity was considered to be a divine religion. With such a belief and conviction among the Romans, it was very difficult for Muslims to go into a war with them.
If Muslims were to fight Christians, they had to fight them on two fronts: One, the scientific and cultural front which would require Muslims to explain the righteousness of Islam and expose the deviation of the Christian religion from the right path, second, the military front to defeat the enemy militarily. Obviously, the Amawid government had not trained such people to defend their religion in these areas.
In addition, the teachings of the school of the Ahlulbayt, pace be upon them, did not advance to those regions due to the fact that the Amawid government was strongly opposed to them. Unlike Europe, Islam rapidly progressed in Iran and other countries in Asia because people got acquainted with this advanced school. Thus, not only did people embrace it but they also defended and disseminated its teachings here and there. Perhaps, the Abbasids’ motto (Reza is from the family of the Prophet) is the best evidence proving out point.


[1] – Kufi, Ahmad bin Ali bin A’tham, Al-Fotuh, pg. 182 – 305, translated by Mustawfi Herawi, Muhammad bin Ahmad, Scientific and Cultural Publications 1374 (1995).
[2] – Salehi Najaf Abadi, Shahid Jawid, pg. 313, 8th edition.
[3] – Shakib Arsalan, Tarikh Fotuhat Islami dar Uropa (History of Islamic Conquests in Europe), Dawani, Ali, pg. 37, Bani Hashem Bookstore.
[4] – Ibn Hesham was a person other than the famous Hesham bin al-Hakam, the Amawid ruler. In fact, he had been “al-Moayyid billah”, one of the rulers of Andalusia. Al-E’lam, vol.2, pg. 310.
[5] – Ibid, pg. 295.

Is Islam a religion of peace and brotherhood, or a religion of war and violence?


Salm and Salam are the root words for the “Islam” which mean peace and tranquility.[1] The importance of peace and tranquility has been pointed to in the Quran numerous times.[2] For instance, as a verification of Islam being a religion of peace and tranquility, it says:
“یا ایها الذین آمنوا ادخلوا فی السلم کافة و لا تتبعوا خطوات الشیطان انه لکم عدو مبین” “Oh ye who believe! Enter into peace and tranquility altogether and follow not the footsteps of Satan; for he is to you a clear enemy”[3].
From the Quran’s point of view, endless and universal peace and the tranquility of societies are only reachable under the shadow of faith in God, and what connects different societies with all their differences in language, race, wealth and poverty and geographical locations, can only be the belief in God. The belief of Muslims that during the reign of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) there will be universal peace and social justice, is good evidence for such a claim.
The Quran even says: “But if the enemy shows a tendency to peace, do thou (also) show a tendency to peace…”[4]
Of course, all people are born with freedom of choice; some choose to be oppressors and tyrants, causing corruption, therefore it is necessary for a complete religion to have a solution and specific instructions and guidelines for confronting these obstacles that are preventing the guidance of humanity.
Sometimes, oppression and aggression reaches the point that the only thing left to do is self-defense and the usage of force, and that is why Islam has legislated jihad.
In other words, the Quran teaches us to be tough and aggressive with those who don’t follow logic and purposely prevent the prophet’s words from spreading and don’t allow others to be guided because of their enmity towards the truth. The Quran says: “Oh Prophet! Fight hard against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be harsh with them…”[5]. “The Muslim nation and Muslims must cause fear and intimidation in the hearts of their enemies, so that they don’t even think about invasion, treachery, and harming the Muslims.”[6]
Of course, Islam’s instructions on military alertness and the protection of the country’s borders[7] (which is another form of Islam’s emphasis on keeping peace and friendship and settlement) and its call on jihad for the sake of Allah (which in reality is one of the most important forms of Islamic worship and is the manifestation of true love to God and human fellowship, and is the opposition of corruption and impurity) completely differ from bloodshed, tyranny, panic, war and violence.
Concerning the importance of jihad, Allah (s.w.t.) says: “And do Jihad in (the way of) Allah, (such) a Jihad as is due to him…” [8]
Since jihad hasn’t been legislated for conquest and the expansion of one’s power, one can easily conclude that jihad is a way of freedom and self-defense and not a way of violence. Therefore, if the objectives of jihad are reachable in a peaceful manner, using force and military methods are forbidden. This is also the reason behind why it is wajib to invite the disbelievers to Islam before going to battle with them if a battle ever wants to begin (this shows that what is important for Islam is for the truth to be heard, not fighting and violence, or else, such a thing wouldn’t be wajib).
Therefore, Allah has made jihad wajib for the defeating of tyrants, the freedom of the oppressed and helpless, and in order to get the grounds ready for those who have been kept in ignorance and unawareness regarding divine teachings and how to prosper in this world and the next, to be able to learn about these things and become familiar with them.[9]
Allamah Tabataba’i says in rejection of Islam being pro-war and after violence, and pertaining to the reality and the reasoning behind jihad: “The whole purpose of jihad is the establishment of Islam and for the word of Allah to rise, therefore jihad is a type of worship that needs to be done with the intention of seeking nearness to Allah (because one of the conditions of something being worship is for it to be done with the intention of seeking nearness to Allah). Jihad hasn’t become wajib in order to take over others’ property and households , it has become wajib for the defending of human rights. Originally, defense has limits, while transgression is breaking the limits. Because of this, the end of the verse says: “لا تعتدوا ان الله لا یحب المعتدین[10]; Do not exceed the limits, for verily Allah does not like the transgressors.”[11]
Therefore, not only isn’t true Islam a religion of transgression, dispute, war and violence, but its instructions and rulings (in which one of them is jihad) have all been legislated for the purpose of helping mankind and for spreading peace and security as a result of godly ruling and the rejection of the ruling of taghut (Evil) and fighting against oppression and injustice. In short, jihad is a fair and holy war for reaching high godly goals.[12]
Thus, maintaining peace with enemies and those thinking of kufr, depends on them keeping the respect of the believers and also depends on the believers not losing their strength and might due to keeping peace with them. When sending Malek-al-Ashtar to Egypt to be in charge and run it, Imam Ali (a.s.) says: “If your enemy invites you to a Peace Treaty that will be agreeable to Allah, then never refuse to accept such an offer because peace will bring rest and comfort to your armies, will relieve you of anxieties and worries, and will bring prosperity and affluence to your people. But even after such treaties be very careful of the enemies and do not place too much confidence in their promises because they often resort to peace treaties to deceive and delude you and take advantage of your negligence, carelessness and trust [13].” [14]
On the other hand, the Quran says among believers, peace is the only way, and Islam calls upon brotherhood and reconciliation by asking the believers to have forgiveness, kindness and affection.[15]
Of course, the Quran scolds peace that is a result of fear, weakness and feebleness in which results in retreating from Islamic values and has warned those with weak faith who choose peace in order not to go to jihad and stay away from the hardships that accompany it in the warzone and says: “فلا تهنوا و تدعوا الی السلم و انتم الاعلون و الله معکم” “Be not weary and faint-hearted, crying for peace, when ye are the uppermost: for Allah is with you…” [16]
Therefore, according to what has been said till now, one can easily conclude that true Islam isn’t the main factor behind violence and terror in the world today, and Islam’s logic and teachings will never confirm such a concept. We accept the fact that Islam has been recognized as a complete religion with high godly goals, awakening and guiding Muslim and non-Muslim nations to stand up against oppression and tyranny.[17] It is clear that oppressors and tyrants and those after force, materialistic desires, and treachery especially Istikbar, consider true Islam[18] as the main barrier between them and the accomplishment of their wicked goals and will do anything to poison, abolish and paint a harsh and violent portrait of it and blame it for all the wars, violence and terrorist acts in the world, while they are the true ones who must be blamed, not the Muslims who are merely defending themselves.
Meanwhile, the believers must follow the teachings of the Ahlul-Bayt and show the real face of Islam and strive to neutralize the plots and conspiracies that have been made in order to abolish it, and show the world that true Islam differs from the harsh, violent and illogical terrorist groups out there, who in reality have been established and supported by Istikbar itself.

For more information, see the following sources:
1- Allamah Tabataba’i, Tafsir al-Mizan, v.10.
2- Morteza Motahari, Jihad va Mavarede Mashroo’iyyate an dar Quran.
3- Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, Porseshha va Pasokhha Darbareye Nezame Siyasiye Islam (Questions and Answers on the Political Structure of Islam, pg. 226-239.
4- Allameh Tabataba’i, Amoozeshe Din, pg. 259-264.

Also, see the following indexes:
1- Faith and enjoining good and…and Initial Jihad, Question 196.
2- Initial Jihad, Question 113.
3- Religion and Force, Question 293.


[1] Kitab Al-Ain, v.7, pg.267. Also, see indexes:
– The concept of Islam in verse 19 of surah Ale-Imran, Question 956.
– The Quran and the meaning of Islam and Muslims, Question 829.
[2] Naml: 32-44.
[3] Baqarah: 208.
[4] Anfal: 61.
[5] Tahrim: 9.
[6] Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, Porseshha va Pasokhha Darbareye Nezame Siyasiye Islam (Questions and Answers on the Political Structure of Islam), pg. 233.
[7] واعدوا لهم ما استطعتم من قوة … Anfal: 60
[8] Hajj: 78.
[9] ”Ma’refat” Magazine, no. 102, article “Goals and Wind in Islam”, Hamza Ali and Hadifesh.
[10] Baqarah: 190.
[11] Allamah Mohammad Hussein Tabataba’i, Al-Mizan, Al-A’lami Press, Beirut, v.10, pg. 63.
[12] For further information, see: Morteza Motahhari, Jihad va Mavarede Mashroo’iyyate an dar Quran.
[13] Nahjul-Balagha, letter 53.
[14] Hossein Eskandari, Ayehaye Zendegi (The Signs of Life), v.1, pg.300.
[15] Hujurat: 9-10.
[16] Muhammad: 35.
[17] The occurrence of the Islamic Revolution of Iran and the spreading of Imam Khomeini’s high goals and slogans, have played a major role in this issue.
[18] What is meant by Islam here, is the true Islam that Prophet Muhammad brought and invited to, and in other words, the school and teachings of the Ahlul-Bayt, which can never stay calm and quiet regarding the oppression of tyrants.

What is the difference between Islam and Iman?


In verse 14 of Suratul Hujurat, we read:

قَالَتِ الأََعْرَابُ آمَنَّا قُلْ لَمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَ لٌكِنْ قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَ لَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الإِِيْمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ

“The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and faith has not yet entered into your hearts.”

The question that arises here is: What is the difference between ‘Islam’ and ‘Iman’?

According to this verse, the difference between them lies in that Islam possesses the external form such that whoever recites the shahadatayn1 enters into the category of Muslims, after which all the Islamic rulings shall become applicable with respect to him.

But «man is an issue, which is internal (to man), and is associated neither with his tongue nor his exterior, but rather his heart.

There could be various motives for Islam – even material and personal benefits, yet Iman always stems from knowledge, awareness and spiritual motives and it is due to this Iman that taqwa (piety) manifests itself. This is witnessed in an eloquent statement of the Noble Prophet (S):

اَلإِسْلاَمُ عَلاَنِيَيَّةٌةُ وَ الإِيـمَانُ فِي الْقَلْبِ‏.

“Islam is (a) proclaimed (issue), whereas Iman is housed in the heart.”2

In another tradition, Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) has said:

اَلإِسْلاَمُ يُحْقَنُ بِهِ الدَّمُ وَ تُؤَدَّى بِهِ الأََمَانَةُ وَ تُسْتَحَلُّ بِهِ الْفُرُوجُ وَ الثَّوَابُ عَلـى الإِِيـمَانِ.

“By means of Islam, the blood (of man) is safeguarded, trusts are returned, matrimony becomes lawful; but rewards are on account of «man.”3

And it is for this very reason that in some traditions the concept of Islam has been confined to the vocal testimony, whereas Iman has been emphasized as being testimony in conjunction with deeds.

اَلإِِيـمَانُ إِقْرَارٌ وَ عَمَلٌ وَ الإِِسْلاَمُ إِقْرَارٌ بِلاَ عَمَلٍ.

“True faith is to testify and to act while submission (al-Islam) is to testify prior to acting.”4

This meaning is also seen under the discussion ‘Islam and Iman’; Fudhail ibne Yasar states: I heard Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) say:

إِنَّ الإِيـمَانَ يُشَارِكُ الإِِسْلاَمَ وَ لاَ يُشَارِكُهُ الإِِسْلاَمُ إِنَّ الإِِيـمَانَ مَا وَقَرَ فِي الْقُلُوبِ وَ الإِِسْلاَمَ مَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَنَاكِحُ وَ الْمَوَارِيثُ وَ حِقْنِ الدِّمَآءِ.

“Verily, «man teams up with Islam but Islam does not team up with «man. Indeed, Iman is that which settles into the heart whereas Islam is that, which governs the rules of marriage and inheritance, and safeguards the (shedding of) blood (of man).”5

Nonetheless, this difference in meaning is applicable only when both these terms are used alongside each other, however if they are used separately, it is possible that Islam may refer to the same thing, which is referred to by Iman; i.e. each of these two terms may be used synonymously.6
1. ‘The two testimonies’ – testifying to the Unity of Allah (s.w.t.) and the Prophethood of the Noble Prophet (S). (Tr.)
2. Majma’ul Bayan, vol. 9, pg. 138
3. al-Kafi, vol. 2, Chapter Inna al-Islam Yuhqanu bihi al-Damm, no. 1 and 2
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid., no. 3
6. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 22, pg. 210

What purpose does Islam seek to achieve by Jihad?


The Islamic Jihad can be classified into three categories.

The ‘Initiating’ and ‘Liberating’ Jihad

Allah has prescribed a set of orders and chalked out programmes for the development, freedom, comfort, happiness and prosperity of man, and has entrusted unto His prophets the responsibility of communicating these to the people. Now, if an individual or a group of individuals regard the communication of these orders detrimental to their personal lowly interests and endeavour to obstruct the prophets in fulfilling their divine responsibilities, the prophets possess the right to remove the obstructions lying in their path, initially by utilizing peaceful means and if not possible, then by use of force, in order to acquire for themselves the freedom to propagate (the commandments of Allah).

In other words, in every society, people have the right to listen to those who invite them towards the path of Truth, and possess freedom to accept their invitation. But if some individuals deprive them of their legitimate right and inhibit them from hearing the truth and becoming freed from their mental and social captivity and slavery, the followers of these divine programmes possess the right to utilize every means at their disposal in order to achieve this freedom. It is here that the necessity of the Initiating Jihad in Islam and other divine religions becomes manifest.
Similarly, if some individuals were to compel the believers to revert to their original religion, every means could be employed for repelling such compulsions too.

The ‘Defensive’ Jihad

At times it so happens that a battle is imposed upon an individual or a group such that they find themselves as the object of a calculated and/or a surprise attack. In such an instance, all divine and man-made laws permit the persons attacked to defend themselves and employ every available means to protect themselves. This kind of Jihad is referred to as the defensive Jihad; the battles of Ahzab, Uhud, Mutah, Tabuk, Hunain and some other Islamic battles are examples of this category of Jihad which were defensive in nature.

Jihad for the ‘Eradication of Polytheism and Idolatry’

Although Islam invites the people to select this religion – the last and the most exalted of all religions – nonetheless, it also respects the freedom of belief and it is for this reason that it grants the communities, which possess divine books, sufficient opportunity so that, after study and reflection, they may accept the religion of Islam. But if they do not do so it looks upon them as a confederate and by placing some specific conditions, which are neither intricate nor difficult, endeavours to have a peaceful co-existence with them.

However, the issue of polytheism is different since it is neither a religion nor a doctrine and so it cannot be looked upon with respect and esteem – rather, it is a kind of superstition, deviation and foolishness. In reality, it is a kind of mental and moral sickness, which ought to be uprooted.

The use of the terms ‘freedom’ and ‘respect’, in connection with the views of others, is applicable if the views or the beliefs are at least based upon a foundation. However, deviation, superstition and sickness are not something that can be treated as respectable, and it is due to this that Islam has ordered idolatry to be uprooted from the human society, even at the cost of warfare; if idol temples and their evil influences cannot be brought down and destroyed by peaceful means, then they should be uprooted by means of force.

From what has been mentioned above, the answer to the venomous propaganda of the Church becomes plainly evident since a sentence more explicit than:

لاَ إِكرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ

“There is no compulsion in (acceptance) of the religion.”

which appears in the Qur`an, cannot be found in this regard.

Of course, for the purpose of distortion, these people focus their attention upon the battles of Islam; however, a study of these battles clearly reveal that while some of these were purely defensive in nature, others – that belonged to the category of initiating Jihad – were not initiated with the objective of conquering lands and forcing the people into the religion of Islam but instead, for overturning incorrect and oppressive regimes, and providing opportunity to the people to freely study and review the religion and modes of social lifestyle.

Islamic history is a living testimony to the above, since it has been observed repeatedly that when the Muslims conquered cities they would grant freedom to the followers of other religions (just as they would do to the Muslims) and these people even performed their acts of worship and observed their religious ceremonies unhindered. If a limited tax, by the name of Jizyah, was taken from them, it was for the purpose of providing social security and covering the expenses of the security forces, since their lives, properties and womenfolk were under the protection of Islam.

Those people who deal with the history of Islam, are aware of this reality and even the Christians, who have written books on Islam, have acknowledged this issue. For example, in the book La Civilisation des Arabes we read: “The Muslims were so lenient towards the other communities that the religious leaders of these communities had the permission to organize their own religious gatherings.”

In some historical accounts it has been reported that a group of Christians, who had arrived in the presence of the Noble Prophet for the purpose of research and investigation, performed their religious ceremonies in the Mosque of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) in the city of Madinah – freely and unchecked!