On Saturday 27th February 2016, the Centre for Intra-Muslim Studies held an event entitled ‘The succession to the Prophet in the light of Ahl al-Sunnah and Shia perspectives’. The aim of the event was to explore similarities and differences of position on the topic of the Prophet’s (pbuh) succession. With a view to encourage harmony and understanding between the schools of thought, a joint statement was prepared on behalf of both, Sunni and Shia Schools of thought.
From amongst the discussions, a number of issues emerged that offer genuine ground for unity despite the differences between the two positions of Ahl al-Sunnah and al-Shia.
1) Despite his differences of opinion, Imam Ali ultimately accepted the situation as it unfolded after the passing of the Prophet, offering his cooperation, support and help to the Caliphs.
2) This offer of Imam Ali was for the broader sake of religion and the general interests of the Ummah. Imam Ali’s perseverance for the sake of unity was identified as arguably one of his greatest virtues. The need to adopt this spirit in the modern era was agreed upon by all.
3) Imam Ali is accepted as imam and khalifah al-Rashid by Ahl al-Sunnah, offering further basis for unity and harmony despite the diversity within the Ummah.
Summary and points of differences
1) According to the stance of the Shia school of thought, Imam Ali was appointed as the successor by the Prophet to lead the Ummah after him.
2) The conventional approach of Shia scholars to justify this position is to argue that numerous texts from the Quran and Sunnah, either directly or indirectly, indicate Imam Ali’s successorship.
3) These evidences are found extensively in Sunni sources, however it was acknowledged that as individual evidence the meaning and implication of each of these texts has been challenged. Accordingly a non-conventional Shi’a approach was introduced that argued for a holistic approach to the evidence. This approach argues that reading all the relevant texts alongside agreed historical information, cumulatively, identifies that Imam Ali was intended as successor to the Prophet.
For more on the topic, please watch the full video below.