Sunni fatwas on Shias

Sunni and Shia are different sects of Islam and the difference of opinions have resulted in many Fatwas, non-binding but authoritative legal opinion or learned interpretation issues pertaining to the Islamic law. Fatwas are based on the question and answer process found in the Quran, which seeks to enlighten on theological and philosophical issues, hadith, legal theory, duties, and the Sharia law.[1] Sunni fatwas have been used to justify the persecution of Shia throughout their history.[2][3][4]

Points of differenceEdit

While all sects of Islam recognise the Qur'an, they differ in which other authorities they acknowledge; in particular the question of the Succession to Muhammad separates the Sunni, who acknowledge the elected Rashidun Caliphs and their descendants, from the Shia, who acknowledge the Imams or descendants of Prophet Muhammad; these two branches are then subdivided by their views on the further course of the succession. Shia fiqh differs with Sunni fiqh on not only political issues, but also important theological issues. Various attitudes towards Shias can be found among the worldwide majority Sunni community.


The Sunni fatwas on Shias often involved legal opinions issued by an expert in the Sharia law. However, modern fatwas were also given by other Muslim authorities and these were recognized as long as they cite the legal sources used.[1] Some of the notable fatwas are listed below:

Ibn AbidinEdit

However, major Sunni scholars have declared the unbelief of Shias who hold certain beliefs. For example, Imam ibn Abidin, a source of authoritative fatwas for Hanafis writes:[5]

There is no doubt in the disbelief (kufr) of those that falsely accuse Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) of adultery, deny the Companionship of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr ( Allah be pleased with him), believe that Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) was an Imam... even if they believe in Allah, the last Prophet, and the perfection of the Quran (Radd al-Muhtar, 4/453).

Ahmad RazaEdit

According to Imam Ahmad Raza, the founder of the Barelwi-movement, most Shiites of his day were apostates because they repudiated necessities of religion. This includes, according to him, the following:[6]

a) to believe that Qur'an is incomplete.

b) to call it 'book of `Uthman'.

c) elevate Sayyiduna `Ali karram Allâhu wajhah and other imâms above the prophets .

d) if these imâms are held to be higher than even one prophet .

e) to allege that Allâh was regretful after issuing a command and hence remorsefully, changed His earlier ruling.

f) to allege that Allâh didn't realize the wisdom of a certain ruling (or the lack of it) and when He realized it, He changed the rule.

g) to allege that RasûlAllâh practised taqiyyah in the course of his tabligh.

Those who hold the above and other such statements that amount to disbelief are kâfirs by ijmâ`a. All dealings with them are similar to those with apostates. it is in Fatâwâ Dhahîriyyah, Fatâwâ hindiyyah, Hadiqatun Nadiyyah: [aHkâmuhum aHkâm al-murtaddîn] they are to be dealt with as apostates.

Other Sunni and Salafi scholars who have declared Shiites as deviants or apostates:

  1. Imam Malik - One of his most prominent students, al-Buwayti, asked if it was permissible to pray behind a Rafidi to which Malik responded in the negative. Malik defined a Rafidi as “whoever says ‘Abu Bakr and `Umar are not Imams”.[7]
  2. Ibn Hazm"Shia are not even Muslims", when Christians debating him brought a Shia book as reference.[8]
  3. Ibn Taymiya — He considered Shiites more heretical than Jews, Christians and many polytheists. Noting contemporary circumstances, he considered Shiites more harmful to the Muslim community than groups such as the Crusaders and Mongols.[9]
  4. Ibn Khaldoun"astray people", "Shia are the source of all deviant groups in Islam history".[10]
  5. Nizam al-Mulk — where he fully attacks the Rafida.[11] However, there are reports that says that he and Malik Shah I after a debate between Sunni and Shi'a scholars which was prepared by him by the orders of Malik Shah I resulted in converting both him and the king to the Shi'a Islam.[12] The story is reported by the son-in-law of Nizam al-Mulk, Mughatil ibn Bakri who attended the debate.
  6. Manzur Nu'mani — issued a fatwa in December 1987 declaring Shia kuffar (non-believers), which was endorsed by hundreds of prominent Deobandi scholars in India and Pakistan.[13]
  7. Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz — Several of his fatwas denounced Shiites as atheists and apostates,[14] and, among other rulings, forbade Sunni marriage to Shiites.[15]
  8. Yusuf al-Qaradawi — After saying he had previously been misguided to pursue Sunni-Shia rapprochement, Qaradawi went on to condemn Shiites as heretics in several fatwas and praised virulently anti-Shia Saudi Sunni clerics for being “more mature and far-sighted” than himself in generally judging Shias.[16][17]
  9. Ehsan Elahi Zaheer — Denounced the Shia as infidels and Zionist agents.[18]
  10. Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak — In a "vicious" fatwa against the Shia he concluded with: "the Sunni and Shia mathhabs (beliefs) are completely contradictory and cannot be reconciled; the talk of Sunni-Shia rapprochement is utterly false."[19]
  11. Abu Basir al-Tartusi — In his fatwa against Shia, he warned Muslims to "Interact with the Shii Rejectionists as you would with a person whose very existence is full of betrayal, treachery, fury and hatred against Islam and Muslims!"[20]
  12. Ali al-Khudair — In his Fatwa fi l-Shi'a, he says: "What we have today are the Rafidis [i.e., Twelvers], the Batini Isma'ilis, the Batini Nusayris, and the Batini Duruz. These four groups are the ones who deify the Al al-Bayt [i.e., the family and descendants of the Prophet Muhammed], they seek their intercession and are the worshippers of graves (quburiyyun). So these [people] are infidel polytheists (mushrikun kuffar) and are not Muslims. There is no difference [in status] between their scholars and followers (muqallidihim) or the ignorant among them (juhhalihim). They are all polytheists and are not Muslims and cannot be excused for their claim to be ignorant that they are worshipping other than God (la yu'dharan bi-l-jahl fi 'ibadati-him li-ghayr allah)."[21]
  13. Imam Ash-Sha'bi — "The Rafida are the Jews of this nation. They hate Islam as the Jews hate Christianity. They embraced Islam, not because they longed for it or because they feared Allah, but because they detested the Muslims and intended to overpower them."[22]
  14. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab — In one of his fatwas, he accused Shiites of shirk (polytheism) because of their cult of the saints, which included the adoration of figures such as Ali and Husayn and the veneration of tombs and shrines.[23][24]
  15. Shah Waliullah Dehlawi — He believed that the Shia interpretation and practices of Islam should be discarded, since they greatly misguide people.[25]

There are Sunni fatwas that were considered Sunni obligation to the "insult offered to the Sunni faith by the Shia religious literature."[26] This is demonstrated in the case of some Sunni fatwas issued in Pakistan, which were considered as defensive materials created for the purpose of defending the faith from the Shia.[26] The latter's mere existence in the country within the context of these specific fatwas was considered as an insult.

Other opinionsEdit

In 1959, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mahmood Shaltoot issued fatwa that Shia theology is a part of Islam. In 2016, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb reissued Shaltoot's fatwa on Shia Muslims, calling Shia the fifth school of Islam and seeing no problem with conversions from Sunni to Shia Islam.[27]

In 2004, both Sunni and Shia scholars released the so-called 2004 Amman Message, which established some form of standards to prevent or at least discredit and counter renegade interpretations such as those made by Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[28] This initiative outlined who are qualified to issue fatwas or legal opinions, promoting a more conservative framework over progressive interpretations. The Amman Message also asserted the common beliefs of the two Islamic sects.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani has noted that it is not the way of Sunnis to make blanket takfir of Shias. He writes:[29]

...we only declare someone who denies something necessarily known of the religion to be a kafir--and this is not the case with common Shias. Someone who says 'There is no God but Allah, Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah' is a Muslim. Shia Muslims, who make this declaration of faith are therefore MUSLIM.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Tucker, Spencer (2015). U.S. Conflicts in the 21st Century: Afghanistan War, Iraq War, and the War on Terror: Afghanistan War, Iraq War, and the War on Terror. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 305. ISBN 9781440838798.
  2. ^ Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims, by V. G. Julie Rajan, p.159
  3. ^ Doctrine of Terror: Saudi Salafi Religion, by Mahboob Illahi, p.191
  4. ^ International Religious Freedom (2010): Annual Report to Congress, pp.124-5
  5. ^ Are Shi'as considered Muslims?: Archived 2012-08-05 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Fatwa on Sunni marriage with shia:[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ THE BIOGRAPHIES OF THE ELITE LIVES OF THE SCHOLARS, IMAMS & HADITH MASTERS: Biographies of The Imams & Scholars, by Zulfiqar Ayub, p.25.
  8. ^ See al-Millal wa al-Nahl الفصل في الملل والنحل 2/213
  9. ^ V. G. Julie Rajan (30 Jan 2015). Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims. Routledge. p. 159. ISBN 9781317645382.
  10. ^ Shi'ah tenets concerning the question of the imamate.
  11. ^ See his book Siyasatnama, chap 41.
  12. ^ Mughatil ibn Bakri, In search of Truth in Baghdad (در جستجوی حق در بغداد), also appearing under the title "راهي به سوي حقيقت", ISBN 964-93287-8-5, p.134-136. Link to item in publisher's catalog: [1] Archived 2014-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Muhammad Moj (1 Mar 2015). The Deoband Madrassah Movement: Countercultural Trends and Tendencies. Appendix I: The Deobandi Stance vis-a-vis Muslim Groups Other Than The Barelwis: B. The DMM on Shia Muslims: iii. Changes in the Quran: Anthem Press. ISBN 9781783084463.
  14. ^ Vali Nasr (17 Apr 2007). The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 236. ISBN 9780393066401.
  15. ^ Anders Jerichow (1997). Saudi Arabia: Outside Global Law and Order : A Discussion Paper (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780700709595.
  16. ^ Hassan Hassan (28 January 2014). "Hatred, violence and the sad demise of Yusuf Al Qaradawi". The National. Retrieved 28 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "THE GULF AND SECTARIANISM" (PDF). European Council on Foreign Relations. November 2013. pp. 3, 11. Retrieved 28 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Moghadam, Assaf, ed. (21 Jul 2011). Militancy and Political Violence in Shiism: Trends and Patterns. Routledge. p. 166. ISBN 9781136663536.
  19. ^ Emile Nakhleh (29 Dec 2008). A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America's Relations with the Muslim World. Princeton University Press. p. 29. ISBN 9781400829989.
  20. ^ V. G. Julie Rajan (30 Jan 2015). Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims. Routledge. p. 122. ISBN 9781317645382.
  21. ^ V. G. Julie Rajan (30 Jan 2015). Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims. Routledge. pp. 121–2. ISBN 9781317645382.
  22. ^ Israel Friedlaender (1908). "The Heterodoxies of the Shiites in the Presentation of Ibn Hazm" (PDF). Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 29: 19. Retrieved 20 May 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  23. ^ Nabil Mouline (1 Jul 2014). The Clerics of Islam: Religious Authority and Political Power in Saudi Arabia (illustrated ed.). Yale University Press. p. 70. ISBN 9780300178906.
  24. ^ Robert Lacey (30 Jun 2011). Inside the Kingdom. Random House. p. 43. ISBN 9781446472361.
  25. ^ Saifudheen Kunju. "SHAH WALIULLAH AL-DEHLAWI: THOUGHTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS". Retrieved 26 May 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  26. ^ a b Rajan, V.G. Julie (2015). Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims. London: Routledge. p. 252. ISBN 9781138789975.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Esposito, John; DeLong-Bas, Natana (2018). Shariah: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780199325054.
  29. ^ Sunnipath's stance on Shia: Archived 2012-03-01 at the Wayback Machine