Yemen pre-War was the poorest Arab country with high child mortality rates and the severest water scarcity. Violence escalated to war in 2015 pitting Iranian-supported Houthis controlling north Yemen against Saudi-led US-supported forces who hold the South.
More than 10,000 people have been killed, WHO announced in May the world’s worst cholera outbreak with 1,400 children dead, while coalition air strikes hit hospitals, schools and funerals that likely represent war crimes.
The war is intractable without hope of resolution unless Saudi Arabia and Iran compromise in the wider interests of the Muslim Ummah.
Ongoing Syrian civil war similarly strains the Ummah resulting in hatred, violence, loss of life, witnessing terrible devastation and the worst refugee crisis since World War 2.
For Yemen Houthis should be included in any reconciliation government, while any Syrian solution logically requires removal of the immoral and brutal Assad regime.
Conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, although political in nature have fanned sectarian passions, not only in the Middle East but on a global scale highly detrimental to the unity of the Ummah.
This analyst believes that the solution to these conflicts must be based on Islam’s calling: “Believers are but a single brotherhood: so make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers” (Qur’an 49:10).
A great majority of Sunni scholars accept that Shia, particularly Twelver Imami Shia, are Muslims. Shaykh al-Azhar Shaltoot, former rector of Islam’s leading institution, ruled this. Similarly in 2005, 200 of the world’s most influential Muslim scholars released the Amman Message calling Sunnis and Shias towards tolerance and unity.
Ayatollah Khomeini emphatically downplayed Shia-Sunni differences. Unfortunately, after his death, the Iranian conservative establishment weakened his pan-Islamic movement while blinkered sectarian Shia spirit rose in facing US and Saudi threats to Iranian interests.
Main doctrinal differences from Sunni Islam are Shia belief in infallible leadership of their 12 Imams and reported disappearance of the twelfth Imam.
Shia’s severe criticism of Prophet’s (s) close companions, Abu Bakar (r) and Umar al-Khattab (r) , seems untenable considering Imam Ali’s (r) sons, Hussein (r) and Hassan (r), pointedly named their own sons, Abu Bakar and Umar, indicating respect for their predecessors.
Imam Jaafar Sadiq, Twelver Shia’s sixth Imam was the teacher of Hanafi and Maliki jurists. Imam Abu Hanifa spoke very highly of him. Imam Jaafar disavowed those who regarded Abu Bakar (r) and Umar (r) as enemies.
Muslim scholars on both sides have encouraged reconciliation.
Shia academician, Kazemi Moussavi, suggested that if there is any possibility for Sunni-Shia understanding, it lies in a new generation of mujtahid emerging scholars who can combine traditional knowledge with modern scholarship to revive Islamic values. “This would leave behind historical differences and generate a natural dialogue in which sectarian differences fade.”
Zafarul Islam Khan believes “With some hard-work, far-sightedness and mildness, we can unite Shia and Sunnis, provided our Islamic scholars, Ulema and jurists strive to get out of their limited constituencies.”
While some Sunni ‘Ulama promote approaches within the ‘Sunna wal Jamaah’ tradition and caution against Shia doctrines. However, contributions of Shia Muslims to Islamic revival in contemporary times must be acknowledged, led particularly by Iranian successes in modern Islamic governance, science & technology achievements; enhanced civilian wellbeing, and better civic political representation specially in comparison with oppressive Sunni middle-eastern regimes.
Apart from Sunni-Shia discord, further divisions amongst Gulf nations, all should be quickly resolved as otherwise they are a no-brainer recipe for disaster as they only benefit enemies who successfully instigated clashes pitting one against another towards mutual destruction.
Reconciliation is the solution to resolving not only Syrian and Yemeni wars but also sectarian violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and recently Australia.
If achievable, then opportunistic powers – Russia, the US, NATO – could be asked to leave Muslim conflict zones so leading Muslim countries could collectively promote peace and reconciliation. This is surely an urgent humanitarian objective and a religious obligation.
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