The situation for reasonable Shiite insides Iran who are tired of the with heresies and superstitions infested sect of Twelver Shiism (which has been condemned throughout centuries by Muslim scholars) is not easy. Criticising the ‘Ayatollahs’ and certain Shia beliefs and practices alone will get one in huge trouble, let alone declaring openly ones conversion to true Islam (Sunnism) or denouncing the core of Shiism.
A Shia intellectual and scholar, Dr. Seyyed Ali Asghar Gharavi caused a stir when he indicated that the Sunni belief in regards to Ali Ibn Abi Talib (the fourth righteouss Caliph to the Sunnis and first ‘infallible’ direct successor of the Prophet by the Shiites) is the correct one i.e. that leaders are NOT chosen by God, neither the Shia ‘infallibles’ nor any other ruler (except the Prophets). Dr. Seyyed Ali Gharavi studied in Iran and Lebanon and holds doctorate in Islamic philosophy. He is from a major religious Shiite family, his father is the late Ayatollah Seyyed Jawad Gharavi who was also known for his reformists thoughts and opposition to many Shiite beliefs, which he (just like his son) considered heretical and superstitious.
Ali Gharavi’s father was in fact a friend of Ayatollah Al-Borqei who mentioned him (Ayatollah Borqei) in his autobiography. Ayatollah Jawad Gharavi back in his times was already accused of ‘Wahhabism’ (merely for speaking against some Shia practices and beilefs he believed to be heresies!), and today it seems to the turn of his son, who has been imprisoned for writing a small academical article on the topic of Imamate.
Bahar published the article that sealed its fate on Oct. 28. In “Imam Ali, a Political Leader or a Religious Model?” the writer, Ali Asghar Gharavi, claimed that the religious role of the first Shiite imam was more important than his political role. He wrote, “He [Ali] is not just the political ruler for a few days of passing power in this world. Ali, more than being the commander of the faithful, is the imam and the role model for humanity.” The article appeared one day before the innovated ‘Eid Al-Ghadeer’ in Iran.
Iran on Monday arrested Ali Asghar Gharavi, the author of a controversial article seen by critics as questioning the beliefs of Shiite Islam, a prosecutor general said. “In regards with the banned newspaper (Bahar), the author of that article was arrested yesterday,” prosecutor Mohseni Ejeie was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. In late October, the pro-reformist Bahar daily published an opinion piece penned by Gharavi, which drew heavy criticism from the authorities.
Judiciary chief Ayatollah (of course an Ayatollah …) Sadegh Larijani has warned his department will “act with determination against those who falsify the history and try to undermine the fundamentals of the regime.” A single article has shaken the thrones of the Shia clergy and their whole belief system and they know very well that their whole existence is based on the heretical Shiite belief called ‘Imamate’, because with no Imamite, there is no justification for the innovated velayat-e faqih system.
The establishment in Iran is stressing the point that the velayat-e faqih [guardianship of the jurist] is in fact the continuation of the rulership [velayat] of Imam Ali. Knowing this fact, Gharavi still emphasized the point that Imam Ali was more of a spiritual leader than a political one. In other words, he has questioned the position of Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei as the political leader.” In one part of the article Gharavi wrote, “Imam Ali repeatedly mentions in Nahj al-BalaghaI [a book of quotations and sermons attributed to him] that political rule can only be achieved by people voting and paying allegiance.”
But what was the crim of Dr. Gharavi? In his article, Dr. Gharavi mentioned that leaders are appointed through Shura (Quranic Sunni belief) of the people not divinely. He discuses the verses that Shia use to prove the appointment of Ali Ibn Abi Talib and refuted them. His article angered many ‘Ayatollahs’ who asked the government to punish him and shutdown the newspaper (that’s their intellectual strenght when dealing with critics).
He was arrested on Sunday in Isfahan and transferred to a prison in Tehran. Not only that but even the newspaper, Roznameh Bahar, that published his article has been forced to shutdown. Note that Gharavi did not use any harsh words, let alone profanity, he simply criticised a Shiite belief that is already being criticised for ages by orthodox Muslims (i.e. the Imamite belief), yet instead of discussing with him, his opponents resorted to prosecution and even even shut down a newspaper (because of a single article!)
After his arrests, a few Shia scholars popped out and wrote ‘refutations’, knowing well that the arrested Gharavi can’t defend himself when being put in prison by the very same Mullahs. It is to no suprise that nearly all the other newspapers, TV and radio (which are in the hands of the Mullahs) started a war on Gharavi and repeated the lie that Gharavi ‘insulted and disrespected’ Shiism, in fact they went so far to speak for the whole nation and accused Gharavi of having insulted the whole Iranian nation (as if all Iranians are Shiites!).
‘Ayatollah’ Makarem Shirazi and ‘Ayatollah’ Hamadani are two major Shia Marja’s of Iran who literally called for the prosecution of Gharavi and everyone who dares to question Shia beliefs. Makarem Shirazi said (as reported by the state owned FARS news agency):
“نویسنده گستاخ در این روزنامه حرفهای بسیار زشتی نوشته بود، روزنامه توقیف شده است ولی نباید به این هم قناعت شود.”
‘The ‘Gustakh’ (Persian religious term, referring to people who do not give due respect to religious sanctities) author of this (Bahar) newspaper uttered very terrible words in and (thus) the newspaper has been shut down, but we shouldn’t be satisfied with that (this is not enough).’ He further said “Some people shouldn’t think that since there is a new government they can say anything they want”.
Another frightened ‘Ayatollah’:
‘Ayatollah’ Hossein Nouri Hamedani, who has a substantial following as a marja – source of emulation –joined in the condemnation of the article, asking (as reported by Qomnew.ir),
“Why should a newspaper permit itself the temerity and audacity to insult and malign sacred religious beliefs, the Ghadeer, the imamat, and the guardianship [of the supreme leader]?”
Arresting someone for criticising Shiism (in an academic article) and shutting down the entire newspaper is not enough to this ‘Ayatollah’, he wants more prosecution, probably to intimidate futures ‘Gustakhs’. Shia are so proud that Iran is majority Shia, of course it’s gonna be majority Shia if doubting the Imamite belief itself in a respectable way will get you into so much trouble.
The shutting of the paper is an unlawful and unethical measure especially when the newspaper even released an apology and three refutations of Mr. Gharavi’s article. This did not stop the Iranian regime and the Shia clergy to prosecute everyone who was involved in the release of a single article, most probably to give out a message for future thinkers, of how the Shia clergy will deal with those who dare to question the Shia creed.
Mr. Gharavi’s article did not contain religious insults or slander, or even negate the necessities of religion, to deserve being labeled criminal and be banned. It is noteworthy that the article was written by a Shiite. Even if we suppose that it may have been written by a Sunni person then how does one reconcile the fact that just a few months ago, prior to the June presidential elections, the sitting president had gone to the Sunni provinces of Iran to get the votes of this 10-15+ percent minority and support in the June elections and through this act recognized their civil rights while the right of the Sunnis to express their thoughts and opinions through an article results in the closure of the newspaper where it was published?
Some government officials who tried to rationalize the malicious closure of Bahar and stamp it as a peaceful act have said such articles incited the religious and sectarian differences. But a close look at what has been happening to the Sunnis reveals the source of the differences and conflicts: They do not have the right to have their own mosque in the capital of their own province and they face layers of political and security restrictions! It is these discriminatory and insulting acts that fuel religious and sectarian differences and not the publication of an article that happens to be different from the official Shiite narrative.
There are so many resemblances between Shiism and Catholicism – especially the clerical caste, saint worship etc. – that one shouldn’t be really suprised that the Shia clergy act similar to the medieval Catholic priests and church who suppressed their opponents within the Catholic church in the name of Inquisition i.e. combating heresy, a scenario quite similar to what Shia thinkers and reformists face in Iran today.
For a Muslim, there is no doubt that the Catholic church is based on the essence of heresies and those Christian reformers in the medieval times who tried to purify it (from at least some heresies) were no doubt closer to the truth and original Christianity than the Catholic church who (according to Islam) distorted the true message of Jesus (peace be upon) much more than the protestants for example.
The situation of Shia reformists in Iran is quite similar (and there are many in Iran, not just Gharavi who happen to be a known Shia intellectual in Iran, Isfahan), for they too are the real victims and real reformers who have realised and acknowledged that the current Shia twelver sect is nothing but a sect infiltrated with the most hideous heresies and innovations. They too are being suppressed and silenced by the (Shia) clergy who are in fact the true propagators of heresies (just as the Catholic church) even if they claim to combat heresies (just as the Catholic church). They too are being thrown into the dungeons of the Shia church for merely writing academical articles in refutation of Shia Twelver beliefs whom they believe (just as the Sunnis) of not being the true beliefs of the Shias (supporters) of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, in this case, the belief in the ‘Imamate/Wilayah’ of Ali Ibn Abi Talib (upon which many other misguided Shia bliefs, including the Takfir of the Prophet’s companions are based upon).
Throwing Mr. Gharavi into the dungeons of the regime and THEN releasing some ‘rebuttals’ by a number of Shia scholars is an easy task (how shall someone reply from his cell anyway, where he is most like being terrorised and tormented for questioning Shiism?!) and apparently in accordance to the Shia religion, as for Islam, it even encourages the discussion with non-Muslims (let alone Muslims):
Say: “O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn back, say ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will).
Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided. (Qur’an, 16:125)
Refuting, discussing and arguing (in the best manner) is what Islam teaches and encourages (for the educated, not laymen) even with the Christians and Jews, let alone with fellow Muslims. The Safavids of today are only exposing themselves and proving their desperation if they deal so harsh with a single academical article. They are only proving that they are no different to their mass-murdering forefathers, who (by force and mass-executions) turned a majority Sunni Persia into Rafidi Persia with similar methods.
During the Safavid era, after a genocide of the Sunni population of Khorasan/Persia, Shah Ismail (the Safavid) arrested the Sunni Mufti of these lands, the Allamah Taftazani, and urged him (Taftazani) to leave Sunnism and embrace Shiism. Taftazani gave a condition. He said that Shah Ismail should bring his Shia scholars, and if they can refute him (Taftazani) then he is ready to become a Shiite, but if he (Taftazani) refutes them, then they (including Shah Ismail) have to become Sunnis. Shah Ismail consulted with the Shia scholars but they refused and said: “There is no discussion with these people”. Thereupon Shah Ismail ordered the worst form of execution for Taftazani (and other Sunni scholars).
(‘Tarikh Rashidi’, page 367-368, by Mirza Mohammad Haidar)
This is why Mohammad Aref Espanagheshi (Iranian historian) writes: “Every Sunni scholar in those times (Safavid era) who challenged the Shia scholars for debates and discussion was facing execution. This is why some Sunni scholar kept silent (did not speak out) and other left the country.”
(‘Inqilab Al-Islam bain Al-Khawaas wa Al-Awaam’, page 48 by Mohammad Aref Espanagheshi)
And today, the descendants of the Safavids, the ‘Ayatollahs’ also claim to be upon the truth and the religion of Islam and Ahl Al-Bayt, yet the way they deal with their opponents WITHIN themselves is not much different to the classical Safavids, except that ordering mass-executions of Sunni scholars and Shias who question Shiism are not as easy today as back then. Nevertheless, as we can see in the case of Mr. Gharavi, the ‘Ayatollahs’ try everything to suppress the voice of any opposition, they are in fact afraid of an awakening amongst the Shias of Iran. Yes, an awakening, and it is not an exaggeration to claim so, for what is going behind the scenes is much bigger than most of us (particularly non Persian speaking ones) could have ever imagines. Ali Asghar Gharavi is NOT an isolated case (as been mentioned before), Iran is full of his likes, who try to reform Shiism from within (some leaving it completely, others opposing literally every heresy and superstition that Shia scholars today propagate as the ‘school of thought of Ahl Al-Bayt’. Amongst them are the likes of Ahmad Kasravi, Musa Al-Musawi (Iranian), Ahmad Al-Katib (Iraqi of Iranian origin),Ustad Qalamdaran, Ayatollah Al-Borqei (Iranian), Mostafa Husseini Tabatabai (Iranian), Shaykh Al-Muayyad (Iraqi) and many others.
Here his article that has shaken the thrones of the Rafidi Shia Mullahs
(That’s a translation of just some of his points, i.e. not the complete translation of the original article):
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. [Maida:3]
– The verses before and after shows that Allah (swt) gives the Prophet (saw) the responsibility to convey the message, nothing should stop him from doing his job and He shouldn’t worry about the opposition from the disbelievers. From the way and style of the verse it becomes clear that the “completion of favor” is the divine revelation (Quran) and Islam. Meaning, now that revelation has been conveyed to the people without any defects, the favor has been completed.
– If the verse “Convey that which we have revealed upon you” [Madia: 67] was about introducing Ali (as) for caliphate, Allah would have mentioned it clearly right here in the verse. Allah is wise.
– Ali (as) himself in Nahj al-Balagha emphasize that a political government comes through Bayah and vote. For example Amir al-Muminin says to Muawiah in letter 6 of Nahj al-Balagha:
Verily, the people who payed allegiance to Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman, have payed allegiance to me based on the same principles as the allegiance to them. So anyone who was present has no right to go against his pledge of allegiance, and anyone who was absent has no right to oppose it. And verily Shura (consultation) is only the right of the Muhajirs and the Ansar. So if they decide upon a man and declare him their Imam, then it is with the pleasure of Allah.
The words of Ali clearly shows that caliphate is not something divine, rather the political successors of the Prophet (saw) must be appointed through people.
– Ali (as) never talks about his divine appointment and his appointment by the Prophet (saw). Even when he wants to defend his right for caliphate, he emphasizes on his merits and his suitabilities and informs the people about these points so that they don’t make mistake in appointing their leader. In entire sermons of Nahjul Balagha “awareness and selection (of leader)” is so clear that it leaves no doubt what opinion of Ali (as) was about a government.
– The behavior of Ali (as) towards the three caliphs especially Abu bakr and Omar, as mentioned in many history books, clearly shows that he didn’t consider them to be people who would disobey the command of the Prophet (saw) and usurp the government. The cooperation of Ali (as) with Khulafa, which he himself have mentioned many times is so compassionate that leaves no room for doubt.
For example in the book al-Gharat al-Thaqafi Shi’i Amir al-muminin Ali (as) says: “When the Prophet (saw) completed his mission, Allah took him from this world, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, then the Muslims appointed two worthy men (Abu Bakr and Omar) as his successors and those two leaders acted upon the book and the Sunnah and did not deviate from the Sunnah and ways of the Prophet (saw). Then Allah took their souls. May Allah have mercy on them.”
– If Amir al-Muminin was divinely appointed after the Prophet (saw), would his courage stop him to unleash his sword to implement the order and justice of Allah? Was it not expected from the gate of knowledge to explain the truth in time when needed?
…and the article continues