For the exam you need to be able to explain key differences between the Sunni majority and Shia minority. One major distinction is that Shia Muslims must follow Ten Obligatory Acts. The first four are the same as the Five Pillars of Islam and Jihad applies to all Muslims. It is the final five in the list, which do not apply in the Sunni tradition:
- Salah (Prayer)
- Sawm (Fasting)
- Zakah (Almsgiving)
- Hajj (Pilgrimage)
- Jihad (Struggle)
- KHUMS – 20% tax on early earnings given in addition to Zakah
- AMR-BIL-MAROOF – commanding what is just and directing others towards good
- NAHI ANIL MUNKAR –forbidding what is evil
- TAWALLA – love towards good
- TABARRA – hatred for those who oppose Allah
Main differences between Sunni & Shia in relation to the Ten Obligations
- Salah – Some differences between how the feet are positioned and when bowing (sujud) a Shia Muslim will rest their head on a wooden/clay tablet. Wudu (washing) is also considered to be part of the prayers and not just preparation. Prayer is to cancel sin, worship Allah and remind Shias about their insignificance in relation to Allah. Being humble and extremely disciplined about prayer is vital for a Shia Muslim.
- Sawm – For a Shia Muslim fasting has two main purposes. Firstly, to give practical help to the poor as Shia Muslims will understand how the poor and hungry feel. Secondly, fasting is part of fulfilling obligations 7 and 8. It will help them be stronger at rejecting evil (munkar) and at doing good (maroof).
- Zakah –The first Imam Ali stated that the purpose of Zakah is to test the rich and provide for the poor and if all people paid their Zakah, no one would be poor. Shis Muslims are very specific on what Zakah can be paid on. It can be paid on silver or gold coins, cows, sheep, goats and camels as well as wheat, barley, dates and raisins. Such a specific approach to Zakah has made it more complicated for Shia Muslims to calculate in the modern world.
- Hajj – Very similar to Sunni Muslims. The journey brings a Shia Muslim closer to Allah and encourages them to examine their behaviour for the better in preparation for the Day of Judgment. The Twelve Imams spoke regularly of the importance of Hajj.
- Jihad – Jihad is one of the Ten Obligatory Acts of Shia Islam but it is important to all Muslims. Muhammad said, ‘The person who struggles so that Allah’s Word is supreme is the one serving Allah’s cause’ (Muhammad – Hadith)
The word Jihad means to struggle or make an effort. The word is often used incorrectly in the media, which simply presents Jihad as a violent crusade against the West. Jihad can be divided into two categories:
Greater Jihad – The inner struggle to live a good Muslim life eg follow the Five Pillars or forgiving someone who has wronged you. A recent internet campaign ‘My Jihad’ has sought to highlight how each individual is struggling with their own Jihad:
Lesser Jihad – ‘The best Jihad is one in which your horse is slain and your blood spilled’ (Muhammad – Hadith) Quotes such as these are often used to justify violence against non Muslims in the name of Jihad. The Lesser Jihad can have a violent or military dimension and may be referred to as a ‘Holy War’. However, this force can only be used if certain conditions are met. These conditions are:
- To defend Allah
- To gain freedom from oppression and restore peace
- Fought until the enemy lays down their weapons
- Women and children should not be harmed
- Prisoners should be treated well and never executed. Women should not be abused or raped
Groups such as ISIS use the concept of the Lesser Jihad to justify their terrorist activities. However, as can be seen by the conditions above, their actions cannot be considered Jihad as they frequently harm women and children and execute prisoners eg Alan Henning, an aid worker who was helping in Syria.
Other obligatory acts
6.Khums – This tax is unique to Shia Muslims and is a 20% tax on spare annual income. It should be split six ways: Allah, Muhammad, relatives of Muhammad, orphans, the needy, anyone who is away from home and has no money to return. A Muslim cannot pay Khums directly to Allah so this portion went initially to Muhammad and then his relatives as well as the first 11 Imams. It is now paid to Shia religious teachers and spent accordingly.
7.Amr bil Maroof – Doing what is good
Maroof means anything that is considered acceptable according to Shari’ah law. In simple terms this may mean carrying out obligations such as prayer or only eating Halal meat etc. However, a Shia Muslim has a responsibility to promote good and if possible try to intervene against injustice eg stop bullying or campaign for human rights.
8.Nahi Anil Munkar – Forbidding what is evil
In line with the above obligation a Shia Muslim should avoid things which are considered Haram (unacceptable) and stand up against evil in the world.
9.Tawalla – Love towards good and those on Allah’s path
Acting with love towards fellow Muslims. Some Shia would see this obligation as towards all Muslims whereas others may reject associating with Sunni Muslims as they are seen to be on a different path.
10.Tabarra – Hatred towards those who oppose Allah
This is probably the most controversial of all obligations placed on Shia Muslims and is often viewed as being at the heart of the divisions within Islam. It can be traced back to the original Sunni/Shia split where some Muslims believed the leaders after Muhammad should be elected (Sunni Majority) whilst others believed the next leader should be related to Muhammad (Shia Minority) Shia Muslims believe they have been treated badly since this split and some reject any links to the Sunni branch. This division can often play out in bloodshed around the world. For example, in Afghanistan the Sunni Taliban attacked the Shia Afghanis and killed nearly 8000 people. Shia shrines have also been attacked and many pilgrims killed. Could unity be achieved if Tabarra was not such an important obligation?