Moderate Shi'a

Shī‘a terms

  • Shi'a Islam
  • Moderate Shi'a
  • Real Shi'a
  • Shi'a of Ali
  • Shi'a of Uthman
  • Shi'a of Mauwiyah

According to some, a moderate Shi'a is a Sunni term for the Salaf who loved Ali.[citation needed] When Sunnis use this term, they mean to differentiate between the Salaf who were the partisans of Ali, and the present day Shi'a, labeling the present day Shi'a as extremists Rafidis. However, it is worth noting that Sunni Islam in general does not consider Shi'a as heretical or "extremist rafidis" [q.v.], as evinced by the declaration by al-Azhar University in the 20th century that the 4 Sunni madhhabs and the 12-er Shi'a madhhab are all legitimate paths of Islam.

A Sunni site,, states:

Perhaps through innocent ignorance of the sciences of hadith, or perhaps through deliberate blurring of the facts, this contributor confuses between the moderate Shi`is of the pious Salaf who - like the Kharijites, Qadaris, Nasibis [haters of Ahl al-Bayt], or Murji'a - may or may not be accepted along with Sunnis by the imams of hadith as trustworthy narrators. The moderate Shi`is of the Salaf were those who LOVED `Ali more than any other Companion but APPROVED of Abu Bakr and `Umar as Imams before any other Companion. For love Allah plants in the heart and it cannot be controlled, as al-Shafi`i said with the subtleness of the wise in his Diwan:
I call upon my Lord to witness that `Uthman is of high merit And that `Ali's high merit is shared by none.

So to love `Ali more than any other Companion is a position Sunnism does not reject even today although an ignoramus may label it as heretical. It rejects only the aberrant extremes of the Shi`a who go against `Ali himself and the Ahl al-Bayt (not to mention Allah Almighty and His Prophet) in spewing hatred for the Two Shaykhs and the remainder of the Companions. This is not accepted.[1]

al-Dhahabi, a 14th century Sunni Shafi'i Islamic scholar writes [2]:

To prefer `Ali [to `Uthman] is neither Rafd (rejectionism) nor a bid`a (heretical innovation), for several of the Companions and Successors did [3]. Both `Uthman and `Ali possess great merits and precedence and are among the foremost martyrs. However, the vast majority of the Community agree to give precedence to `Uthman [4], and this is our position also; and better than both of them without doubt are Abu Bakr and `Umar. Whoever differs with this is a hardened Shi`i [5]. Whoever disrespects the Two Shaykhs [Abu Bakr and `Umar] while accepting the validity of their imamate is a disgusting Rafidi [6]. As for those who both insult them and reject the validity of their imamate, they are extremist Rafidis - may Allah lead them to perdition!"[7]

Another contemporary Sunni text writes:

Some of our narrators were accused of being Shi'ah, but we cannot understand this in the modern sense of the term. That meant that they thought that some of the immediate descendants of 'Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, were the best people to be khulafa', even if they completely accepted the first four khulafa' ar-rashidun, may Allah be pleased with them, and even the Ummayads et al. Some of them adopted what we would regard as unorthodox theological positions. They lived prior to the time when the great intellects of our ummah had worked out what we today call 'aqidah, and they worked it out because of the different confusions and controveries [sic] that some of the earlier generations encountered.[8]

Shi'a view

Shi'a view this distinction to be nonfactual. Shi'a view that the Shi'a Salaf were in fact rejectors of the Sunni Caliph's authority in addition to believing that the Ali should have been the given full authority. Shi'a view that violent circumstances and threat duressed them from airing their views in open, and in when they actually did so, Sunnis choose to disregard those testimonies.

Thus, Shi'a view this line of thought to be a case of Sunnis trying to find a definition of the early term "Shi'a" that is not at odds with the other Sunni doctrines.

There is no precedent in Shi'a scholarship or discourse to divide people into "moderate Shi'a", "real Shi'a", etc. The term "Shi'a" itself was used as early as Ali ibn Abi Talib and, according to some hadith, during the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

Differences between the "Sunni" and "Shi'a" views of Islam likely emerged generations after the Prophet Muhammad due to the fact that major theological questions (such as free will versus predestination) were more publicly debated during those times. This has nothing to do with being "moderate Shi'a" or "not Rafidi". During the time of the Companions of the Prophet, the community was focused less on controversial questions of theology.


  1. ^ Answer to fiqh-question
  2. ^ Siyar A`lam al-Nubala', Chapter on `Ali - may Allah be well-pleased with him. Notes are provided by
  3. ^ See al-Haytami, Fatawa Hadithiyya (p. 155) and Ibn Hazm's al-Fisal and al-Muhalla as quoted in al-Ghumari's al-Burhan (p. 85-88). This fact shows the weakness of the report from Imam Ahmad in al-Khallal's al-Sunna (2:392) whereby "There was no disagreement among the Companions of Allah's Messenger that `Uthman is better than `Ali.
  4. ^ As in Abu Hanifa's al-Fiqh al-Akbar and al-Tahawi's Aqida.
  5. ^ Al-Qanuji (d. 1307) said in Abjad al-`Ulum (3:163): "Among the sayings of Zayn al-`Abidin the son of Muhammad al-Bakri (d. 991) the son of Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Bakri al-Misri al-Shafi`i: `Abu Bakr is better than `Ali, however, love and attraction are a different matter.' And this is my belief also." Al-Qari said in Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar (p. 140): "It is patent that to prefer `Ali to the Two Shaykhs contravenes the doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a according to what the totality of the Salaf follow."
  6. ^ Imam Ahmad is related to define the Rafidi as "He who insults Abu Bakr and `Umar" in al-Khallal, al-Sunna (3:493).
  7. ^ Al-Qari said in Sharh al-Shifa' (2:92): "Al-Nawawi said that cursing the Companions is one of the most depraved acts (min akbar al-fawahish), while the author (`Iyad) counts it among the major sins (kaba'ir). Such offense is punished with corporeal punishment according to the vast majority, while according to some of the Malikis and Hanafis the offender is executed. In some of the books of the latter, it is stated that to insult the two Shaykhs (Abu Bakr and `Umar) constitutes disbelief (kufr)." Al-Nawawi said in Sharh Sahih Muslim: "Know that to insult the Companions is prohibited and constitutes one of the major grave indecencies (al-fawahish al-muharramat) whether with regard to those of them involved in a dissension or other than them, because they entered those conflicts on the conviction of their ijtihad and interpretation."
  8. ^ Bookwright: translators of classic works on Islam from Arabic and more

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