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Jakarta Post

MUI softens stance on '€˜heretical'€™ Shia

  • Haeril Halim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 23, 2016   /  07:10 am

After years of being labeled heretical following an edict on Shia issued by the East Java branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in 2012, the headquarters of the Islamic organization in Jakarta is set to partly repair the '€œinfidel'€ image of Shiite Muslims by preparing a new edict that will recognize several groups in Shia as being part of mainstream Islam.

MUI edict division head Huzaemah Tahido Yanggo said the central MUI could not annul the local edict, which made a general claim that Shia was '€œdeviant'€ to Islam. Her office, however, is currently preparing a fatwa that will confirm only several groups in Shia practice deviant beliefs, while others are still compatible with Sunni Islam, the denomination endorsed by the MUI.

The cleric said there should not be a general edict on Shia because one of its main groups called Zaidiyyah or Zaidism practiced similar religious dogmas to the Sunni sect, which holds the Prophet Muhammad'€™s first caliph as his father-in-law and closest friend, Abu Bakar.

Meanwhile, Shia, which separated from Sunni over the leadership of Islam following the death of Prophet Muhammad, was considered '€œheretical'€ for its decision to reject the Sunni leadership. Shia only recognizes the direction of Ali ibn Abi Thalib, the prophet'€™s son-in-law and cousin, as legitimate.

Huzaemah further said the MUI were currently focused on examining the heresy of 20 sects under Shia Imamiah, which encourage believers to condemn the leadership of three honored caliphates and the Prophet'€™s closest friends: Abu Bakar, Umar and Usman.

'€œIn addition, the Imamiyah also allows contract marriages, a teaching rejected by Zaidiyyah. Some groups related to Imamiyah are also close to Sunni, which is why we are still working on confirming the edict that should be announced soon during this month or next month,'€ Huzaemah told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

She said that internationally, the Rafidah, another Shia faction, also practiced religious teachings in conflict with Sunni beliefs, the former believing that '€œMuhammad was just a '€˜physical'€™ prophet, while the real one was Ali.'€

The to-be announced edict seeks to confirm whether Zaidiyyah is part of mainstream Sunni Islam, while at the same time it also wants to confirm whether Imamiyah and Rafidah are deviant.

Huzaemah said that in his visit to MUI'€™s office in February, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar, who is considered to be one of the most moderate Sunni clerics in Egypt, told MUI clerics that Shia was not '€œheretical'€, but only several related groups practiced deviant teachings.

Although the MUI appeared to soften its stance on Shia, it emphasized that it would not review its heretic edict on another Islamic minority group, the Ahmadiyah, because the latter believed that there was another prophet sent by God after Muhammad.

Huzaemah encouraged people not to hate the followers of Imamiyah and Rafidah after the prospective edict'€™s issuance, adding that Muslims should respect differences.

Approximately 80 percent of the world'€™s Muslims adhere to Sunni teachings, while nearly 20 percent of Islamic followers are Shia. Meanwhile, only a small percentage of Muslims follow Ahmadiyah'€™s teachings worldwide.

Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy deputy chair Bonar Tigor Naipospos lambasted the MUI'€™s initiative, which he said would sharpen differences among Shia followers.

The rights campaigner further said the edict would be used as a new tool for intolerant groups to pressure Shia followers to change their beliefs.

In what appeared a desperate move due to government inaction, members of the Shia community from Sampang, in Madura, East Java, who have suffered religious persecution following the 2012 edict, called on the UN to address their plight, including the latest mass religious conversion that had been forced upon them by Sunni clerics in the region.

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