A Shi’te man is proposing to me and...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

A Shi’te man is proposing to me and I am a Sunni, will our marriage work?


I am a Sunni girl and had a marriage proposal from a Shi’te man of the Ja’fariyyah madhab. He seems right for me but I am scared of having differences when it comes to educating our kids about what to believe. Please help me.


My perspective on the Shi’te revolves around the need to acknowledge the Shiites as a progressive sect with which we can cooperate at present even if we differ on certain issues. This is because a Muslim is concerned with searching for wisdom and implementing it even if it were issued by someone with whom he differs on some issues.

The difference between the two sects is not of the nature that should result in disunity in light of the critical circumstances Muslims are experiencing at present. This is especially so since many of the Shiite scholars do not adopt matters in the Shi'a heritage upon which Sunnis do not agree; rather, numerous Shiite scholars renounced many of these views. Therefore, it is not right to judge a person based on what is expressed in some of the books of his sect if he does not adopt the opinions therein himself.

There is no objection if a Shiite worships God according to the teachings of his sect; the Shi'a jurisprudence is progressive because the Shiites are by definition a progressive sect since they believe reality to be part and parcel of their fiqh. However, there are those who dig in old Shi'a books and emerge with differences between the Shiites and Sunnis; this is a huge mistake and an injustice to those who do not uphold the views expressed in these books. The Grand Mufti affirmed that any attempts to destroy Sunni-Shiite relations only serve goals which seek to shatter Muslim unity and weaken their strength.

It is permissible for a Shiite to worship God according to his fiqh which does not contravene the opinion of the majority and there is no objection to it. The late Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut, issued a religious verdict stating that the Shi'a is one of the sects of the Islamic community with its own accepted fiqh and is among those acknowledged by al-Azhar.

The Islamic community is one whole; there is no difference between Sunnis and Shiites as long as both sects turn to the same direction in prayer. As for the issue of slandering the Companions of the prophet and the rightfully guided Caliphs, especially Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Aisha, the mother of believers, the issue as a whole is foreign to the Shiite methodology; they are old and extrinsic matters that have no existence whatsoever in the acknowledged books of Shi'a. He added that the claim that the Qur`an has been altered is erroneous and has been repudiated by the Shiite imams.
He continued to say that the Shiite position on the infallibility of the Twelve Imams is the same as that held by Sunnis regarding the pious friends of God—that God protects them from erring and going astray—they do not mean the infallibility accorded to the prophets. Moreover, unlike the Jews who observe the concept of Bada` (the claim that God is ignorant of future events and only knows of them after they occur), the Shiites maintain the concept of Bada` which corresponds to the Sunni concept of al-Qada` al-Mu'alaq (conditional destiny that could be changed by supplicating God) and abrogation.

It is important to note that there is a difference between colligating the two methodologies and between following them. We call to unity by colligating the two methodologies and rectifying their worship according to the endeavors of their followers. But we do not, in anyway, call upon Sunnis to follow the Shi'a methodology, There is a world of difference between the two.

The difference between Sunnis and Shi'ites is limited to a few issues, the most important of which is that of the imamate [leadership]. Sunnis believe that the issue of the Muslims' leader [imam] is from among the ancillary branches of religion and that Muslims choose their leader through election and consultancy. They also believe that, unlike Prophets, the leader is fallible. On the other hand, Shi'ites believe that the issue of imamate is from among the fundamentals of religion and that the imam is not chosen by the majority, his imamate is explicitly stated in legal texts [Qur`an], and he is infallible.

The Shi'a sect is divided into many extremist and moderate groups. The Twelver (Ithna 'Ashriya) and Zaydiya groups are an essential part of the Muslim community [umma] and the difference between them and between the Sunnis is of no significance. The madhabs [schools of jurisprudence] followed by these two groups are not only taught in the noble Azhar but are sometimes resorted to in issuing fatwas (religious edicts).

Based on this, it is permissible for this Shi'ite man to marry this Sunni girl if he is from among the moderate Shi'a groups referred to above. This is because both of them share the same beliefs even if they differ over some subsidiary issues and rulings upon which there are differences of scholarly opinions.

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