Please introduce yourself.
I am Ashkan Sohrabi from Kurdistan province.
How did you convert to Shia Islam?
We had Shia acquaintances in Tehran who came to our house from 2007 onwards. I gradually found out that some Muslims are Sunnis and some others are Shiites. After that, I started reading and studying Sunni and Shiite books. I also read their Quran commentary books and books on the tenets of their beliefs.When I acquired enough information about Shiism, and weighed it up against the Sunni Islam, it became clear to me that Shia Islam is the true Islam and the one that reveals the reality. This is how I chose the Shia Islam. Later I completed my studies. Of course, Shia friends played an important role; I asked them my questions.
What do you think is the prominent feature of Shia Islam?
When you look at the Shiites, you see the true Islam. They have a specific definition for every social and cultural issue, or any other type of issues for that matter. What distinguishes Shias is the compassion, kindness, and respect that they have for other religions, even for non-Muslims, as compared to the blind prejudice of Sunnis, who consider other religions to be infidels and deserving death.
Another important issue is that Shiites do consider religion to be separate from politics. The other day, I was talking to a Sunni man who said: “Once, a man went to Imam Shafi’i’s slave and asked him a question. The slave answered the question and the man left. Then the slave went and told the story to Imam Shafi’i. Imam Shafi’i said: “Your answer was correct”, but anyway he cut his tongue. Why? Because he believed that the slave was no scholar, so he had no right to talk about religion! No one has the right to speak except for the scholar! No one has the right to do research and give an answer to questions! Well, this is not the case in Shia Islam. Many who research and write religious articles are not seminary students or sholars.It is narrated in a hadith from Shafi’I that “Whoever does not pray must be killed!” God Himself doesn’t make religion obligatory (لَا اکرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ), while His servant does!
There are many other such issues in which Sunni scholars disagree with one another, each saying something different, while it’s not so in Shia Islam; the religion that the Shias represent is one. The next point is how can I follow someone else, while the children of the Prophet (PBUH) are more worthy to obey?! The Prophet (PBUH) in the Ghadir hadith introduces Imam Ali (AS) as his successor and says: “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the gate to it. Whoever wants to enter the city, must enter through the gates.” When the Prophet (PBUH) has introduced his successor with such a mass of evidence, how can I accept and follow a path in which not the departure point, nor the destination is clear?
Can you tell us about one of the dialogues you’ve had with others?
One of the Sunni scholars who is still in touch with me was quite antagonistic to me. He once asked: “Why don’t Shiites pray with their hands tied?” And I said: Why do you pray with your hands tied? What is the reason and philosophy behind it?” He answered: “There are two reasons; first, When Imam Ali (AS) was stabbed in the stomach, he put his hand on his stomach to stop the bleeding so that he could finish his prayer! The second reason is that we do it out of respect and humility!I told him: “Now I refute both your reasons.”First, the Sunni scholars themselves believe that Imam Ali was stabbed on the head, not the stomach! Even if we assume that it was the stomach, then that one time, he had to keep his hand on the stomach, and this is not something he did as a rule. Ali (AS) followed the Prophet (PBUH) in everything and the Prophet (PBUH) never did that. So why are you doing this?!Your second reason is also not convincing. There is more respect conveyed in standing straight and lowering the hands. So, you have no particular reason, you see? The Maliki Sunnis do not tie their hands, too. Then he replied: “But this is now a tradition, if we suddenly stop following it, people will talk.”Well, you see, in the end all they have to say is that it is a tradition! They admit that the Prophet (PBUH) did not perform his prayers that way. But whoever has made up such a tradition and why, no one knows!