Being a paper delivered at the Annual Conference of the Association of Muslim Women of Africa (AMWA), held in Accra, Ghana from 30th April to 6th May, 2012
The Shiites: A Deviationist Sect Rampaging through Africa – the Case of Ghana
Shi’ah is the first perverted sect to appear in Islamic history. Its roots go as far back as the time of Uthman bin Affan, the third caliph of Islam. It developed as a reaction of the main opponents of Islam to the growing power and ascendency of the new faith. Initially, the sect was used by the Jews and the Persians to counter Islam’s relentless push against their power and influence in Arabia and the Middle East.
The first person known to have taught the early Shiite doctrines was a Jew named Abdullah bin Saba. He professed Islam but engaged in clandestine activities aimed at destabilizing the nascent Islamic power. He used as cover the love and support of Ali bin Abu Talib, the Prophet’s nephew, and was fiercely opposed to the caliph Uthman. His secret activities led to the uprising against Uthman, which culminated in the assassination of the caliph and the beginning of the internal strife that saw the overthrow of the rule of the Rightly Guided Caliphs.
Abdullah bin Saba was the first to preach Ali’s superiority over the rest of the Prophet’s companions and hence his suitability over and above Uthman, and even Abubakar and Umar, to be the leader of the Muslims. He propounded the Shiite doctrine of wasiy (the inheritor) and denounced the three earlier caliphs as having usurped Ali’s right to be the Prophet’s inheritor and caliph. Thus, Abdullah bin Saba the Jew laid the foundation of the most important doctrine of the Shiite belief, namely the imamah. And this fact is agreed upon by both Sunni and the Shiite scholars.
Since its founding, the Shiite sect has been a source of instability to the Muslim World. The Jews and the Persians, whose power had been eroded by Islam and who could not face the new faith on the battleground, found Shiism a convenient cover to fight Islam from within. Many subversive groups, such as the Isma’ili cult, used the cover of Shiism to destabilize the Muslims. Even today, non-Muslim powers invading Muslim countries, such as the United States in Iraq, found the Shiites as willing allies despite their protestations to the contrary.
After the Iranian revolution of 1979 and its subsequent disagreement with Western countries, the Iranian government has pursued a vigorous policy of spreading the Shiite sect as a political tool. One of the primary targets of this drive is Africa, especially West African countries where there are large concentrations of Sunni Muslims, including Ghana. In fact, Ghana has been a major target of Iranian efforts to spread Shiite teachings, thereby polluting the Muslims’ faith and causing disunity among them. The Iranian regime has employed various methods in its effort to achieve this objective. But before we examine these methods, let us discuss the main Shiite doctrines which make it a deviant and dangerous sect.
There are four major doctrines which set the Shiites apart from all other Muslim groupings and which show them to be furthest from the mainstream, orthodox Islam. To be fair to the sect in discussing these doctrines, we are going to limit ourselves to their own authorities and to sources that they wrote themselves.
- The Doctrine of Imamah
To the Shiites, imamah or leadership of the Muslim Ummah after the Prophet, is the most important pillar of religion equal to Kalimah al-Shahadah, testimony of faith, or even greater than it because without belief in imamah the kalimah itself would not be valid. Therefore, for one to be a true believer, one has to accept the superiority of Imam Ali over and above the rest of the companions of the Prophet and his unequivocal right, as well as that of his progenies, to lead the Muslim Ummah after the Prophet.
An imam is not merely chosen or elected by the Muslims to lead them but is appointed by Allah himself just as prophets and messengers are appointed. So Ali bin Abu Talib and eleven of his progenies were appointed by Allah as the twelve imams of Islam and this, according to Shiites religious authorities, was explicitly made known by the Prophet. The Shiites attribute supernatural powers to their imams whom they believe to be infallible and possess the knowledge of the unseen. Some contemporary Shiite scholars, like the Iranian spiritual leader Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini, even regard them as superior to all prophets and messengers of Allah.
This is the position of imamah which makes it the most important doctrine of faith according to the Shiite belief and which set their followers as distinct from the rest of the Ummah. What is more, for anybody to be a true follower of the Shiite path, one is required to reject and renounce all those who do not profess this faith. This last point is what informs their second doctrine, i.e., their stand on the companions of the Prophet.
- Their Doctrine on Sahabah
The Shiites maintain a very negative, aggressive and contemptuous attitude towards the generality of the companions of the Prophet, may Allah be pleased with them. Their books, ancient, modern and contemporary, as well as their vile utterances on the pulpit and in the media, are full of hatred, malaise, resentment and vilification toward that exemplary generation of men and women who supported the Prophet and aided him in conveying the message of Islam.
According to the Shiite doctrine on Sahabah, the companions of the Prophet, all but three, committed apostasy after the Prophet and are therefore considered unbelievers. Clearly, this is a declaration of war on Islam because if the Sahabah, who conveyed the message of Islam and taught the Qur’an and Sunnah to the subsequent generations, are unbelievers then the validity and authority of Islam is seriously called into question. For how can we attest to the validity and authority of the Qur’an and indeed the Sunnah of the Prophet if those who transmitted same were unbelievers?
Shiites’ slanderous vilification of the Sahabah does not stop here; they consider them as wicked, most malicious and worst kind of unbelievers because, according to them, they abandoned the Prophet’s explicit instruction and denied Ali his right to lead the Muslims, that is, they disbelieved in imamah. For this reason, the Shiites contend, one’s faith would not be valid and acceptable in the sight of Allah until after renouncing the companions and rejecting them.
Followers of the Shi’ah sect reserve special malice and hatred against the most prominent companions of the Prophet, namely Abubakar and Umar, the first and second caliphs respectively, and their daughters, Aisha and Hafsah, wives of the Messenger of Allah and Mothers of the Faithful. They especially attack Umar whom they call the Pharaoh of this Ummah probably because of his illustrious role in destroying the Persian Empire for which act the Iranians would never forgive him. They also savagely attack Aisha, the most beloved wife of the Prophet, whom they continue to libelously slander, repeating the false allegations of the hypocrites against her, although the Noble Qur’an has explicitly exonerated her.
It is clear that the Shiites’ attitude towards the Sahabah is a grand conspiracy against Islam. They try to attack and damage the first generation of Muslims so that they could cut the Ummah from its roots. In doing so, they meretriciously take the cover of love for and loyalty to the family of the Prophet, peace be upon him. But how can they divide between the companions of the Prophet, the Sahabah, and members of his household, Ahlul Bait? How can one love Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter, while at the same time pouring venom on Aisha, his beloved wife? Or how can one be loyal to Ali, the Prophet’s nephew, while reserving the most venomous rancor and hatred for his closest friends, in-laws and followers, Abubakar and Umar?
The position of the companions in Islam is clear. They are the first to follow the Prophet and accept the faith, and they bore the burden of its propagation and spread. They sacrificed their lives and wealth, abandoned home and family, and endured persecution and hardship in order to see to the success of the new faith. They learned the Qur’an and Sunnah in theory and practice and passed same to the next generation of Muslims. The Sahabah are, therefore, the foundation on which rests the edifice of Islam. Without their role, without their efforts and sacrifices, Islam would not have survived to reach us. No wonder Allah has praised them in many verses of the Qur’an. In surah al-Taubah, he says:
And the first to lead the way of the Muhajirun and the Ansar and those who followed them in goodness – Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success. (9: 100)
It is clear from the above and many similar verses that the Shiites are in very grave error when they condemned the generality of the companions as apostates and that their hypocritical love and loyalty to the Prophet’s family will not help them.
- Falsification of the Qur’an
Another doctrine which shows clearly that Shiism is nothing but a grand conspiracy against Islam is the doctrine of the falsification of the Qur’an. According to this belief, the Qur’an that we have in our possession today is incomplete. It is full of contradictions, interpolations, inaccuracies and inconsistencies. And who is responsible for this wanton falsification of the Qur’an? The Shiites say it is the Sahabah, the Companions who were the custodians of the Book and who preserved and compiled it after the Prophet. They say the Sahabah embarked on this slanting of the Qur’an in order to cover their scandalous and disgraceful acts which are graphically exposed in the Qur’an and to hide the outstanding traits and qualities of the family of the Prophet, including Ali’s right to be the Imam after the Prophet, which are also explicitly set out in the Book.
This doctrine runs counter to the Qur’an which affirms its immutability and challenges mankind to ponder and consider its contents if they could find any contradiction:
Will they not then consider the Qur’an carefully? Had it been from other than Allah, they would have found therein much contradiction. (4: 82)
The doctrine also denies Allah’s promise to guard his Book against any human interference:
Verily, we, it is we who have sent down the Reminder (i.e., the Qur’an) and surely we will guard it (from corruption). (15: 9)
Indeed, Allah has protected his Book so that “it is unassailable Scripture. Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it. It is a revelation from the Wise, Owner of Praise.” (41: 42)
- Taqiyah or Hidden Identity
The last doctrine that we shall consider for its relevance to our discussion is the belief in taqiyah, i.e., dissimulation or hidden identity. Taqiyah is the act of hiding ones true feelings, intentions, belief or identity often by lying to people or deceiving them. This is the bait that the Shiites use to catch new prey.
The Shiites routinely hide their true identity and intentions toward others. They say they practice taqiyah under duress or in the face of threatening damage. But you find them practicing it even among themselves and in the absence of any danger. In any case, it is very difficult to comprehend how the Shiites can claim to be the followers of Imam Hussain, the master of martyrs and the leader of revolutionaries, while they practice taqiyah and believe in it and sanction it for themselves.
But the apparent contradiction disappears if we consider the origin and true nature of the Shiite belief. Shi’ism, as we noted earlier, is a reaction to Islam’s supremacy by older civilizations, especially the Jewish and the Persian, who had hitherto considered the Arabs backward and barbaric. When Islam transformed the life of the Arabs and turned them into a formidable power, these nations could not do anything in the face of this power but go underground. So from the beginning, Shi’ism took the form of a secret, clandestine movement aimed at subverting Islam and destabilizing the Muslim Ummah.
Shiite religious authorities have made taqiyah a cardinal tenet of their faith. They invent lies and attribute them to the leaders of Ahlul Bait in order to justify it. Their foremost authority in Hadith, Muhammad bin Ya’qub al-Kulaini, reports that Abu Ja’far, the fifth Shi’ah imam, has said, “Taqiyah is my religion and the religion of my forefathers and there is no faith for him who does not practice taqiyah.” However, a look at the life of Abu Ja’far and his forefathers, the imams, will show that these pious, sincere and courageous men were far away from taqiyah. They were not deceptive, they were not cowards and, indeed, they were not hypocrites. Rather, they were, as the Qur’an describes them, “humble toward the believers, stern toward disbelievers, striving in the way of Allah, and fearing not the blame of any blamer.” (5: 54)
Successive Shiite generations have found in taqiyah a tool for promoting their sect and spreading its teachings among other unsuspecting Muslim groups, especially the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah. Presently, the Iranian government has elevated it to the status of official policy, clothing it with the garb of foreign aid and humanitarian activity.
Methods of Spreading Shi’ah Doctrines
The Shiite doctrines as described above will naturally not be acceptable to the generality of Muslims, especially Sunni Muslims. Therefore, the Shiites need special methods of spreading them and making them acceptable to other Muslims. There are two methods that they use to achieve this goal. One is the use of taqiyah, whereby they mask their true identity, hiding under the cover of love for Ahlul Bait. This cover, however, is easily blown apart the moment their stand on Sahabah is exposed. For, certainly, there is no Islam without Sahabah and no one can possibly be loyal to the family of the Prophet while at the same time condemning and renouncing his companions.
The other method is to use development and humanitarian projects to buy their way into the hearts and minds of people, much as the Christian missionaries do in poor countries. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, the Iranian government has increasingly used this method, making it an integral part of its foreign policy. Propagation of Shi’ah faith is packaged in foreign aid and humanitarian projects worth billions of dollars and targeted at poor African countries with sizeable Muslim populations. Nigeria and Ghana seem to be at the centre of this effort due to their rich Islamic history and culture, large Sunni Muslim populations and the relative poverty in both countries. But while Nigeria has many well-entrenched Islamic institutions and is therefore able to resist this encroachment, Ghana has few. This makes Ghana even more vulnerable and susceptible to Iranian schemes and intrigues.
Introduction of Shi’ism to Ghana
Although like most West African countries Ghana has a thriving Lebanese community part of which is Shi’ah, the introduction of Shi’ism into the country is credited to the Iranians and the process began in the early 1980s, after the Iranian revolution. According to both Sunni and Shi’ah sources, the period from 1985 witnessed a noticeable presence of Shi’ism in Ghana, due to Iranian government’s efforts. Followers of the sect are found in many parts of the country including Accra, Tamale, Kumasi, Nema and many other towns and cities. Presently, their number is said to reach a million, although there may be some exaggeration in this estimate.
Channels of Spreading Shi’ism in Ghana
Groups of mostly elites and professionals champion the cause of spreading Shi’ism in Ghana, using a variety of channels and activities. Some politicians and local community leaders also contribute to this effort, though some of this latter group may not be Shi’ah adherents themselves. Propagation of Shiite belief is aimed at different classes of society, especially the poor and the middle income earners, and all age-groups with emphasis on the youth. There is concentration on certain areas and tribes, with the followers of the Sufi orders as the most vulnerable. With resources from Iran and tacit official approval from Ghanaian authorities, different activities are carried out toward spreading Shi’ism among the Ghanaian Muslims. Some of the activities are outlined below:
Shiites in Ghana have a number of educational institutions that play a vital role in propagation of Shiite doctrines. They include:
- Ahlulbait Foundation
This is an educational and relief organization based in Accra. Its activities are financed by the Iranian government and its current director is an Iranian named Gulam Rida Rahmani. Its main project is the establishment of the only Shi’ah university in Ghana:
- Islamic University College, Ghana. This is the foremost educational institution owned by the Shiites in Ghana. Based in Accra, it oversees most of the Shi’ah activities in the country. It was established in 2000 and has different departments, including one for post-graduate studies. Its student population has grown from 35 in 2000 to 1800 in 2011, six thousand of which are Sunni students. What is more disturbing, among these students there are children of prominent Sunni scholars and leaders. The university has an attractive scholarship scheme which caters for the children of the poor.
- Imam Hussain Foundation
It is a propagation and relief foundation also based in Accra. Directed by one Abdussalam Binsi, it works in tandem with the former and is also solely financed by the Iranians. According to the foundation’s website, it was founded in 1988 and has executed the following projects:
- Constructed the al-Rasul al-Akram Mosque which is the first Shi’ah mosque in Ghana.
- Built the Ahlulbait Institute, a school modeled on the Shi’ah hauzah that has graduated many students from Ghana as well as the neighboring countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Benin Republic.
- Built Imam Sadiq School, a primary school for both sexes.
- Founded Imam Mahdi School, also a primary school for both sexes. Located in one of the towns neighboring Accra, the land was donated to the Shiites by the community leaders.
- Bought 14 plots of land, each measuring 2000 square meters, in suburban areas of Accra for future projects.
- Embarked on a project to build 14 mosques in different towns and cities, five of which have neared completion.
The site concludes by boasting that the foundation has been able to guide thousands of people “to the truth” both from Ghana and neighboring countries, including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire.
Social and Humanitarian Activities
Ghanain Shiites engage in social and humanitarian activities as a way of attracting people to their faith. They have established a number of centres towards this end. They include:
- Two centres for training in sewing at Kaokod and Temali. These are directly financed by the Iranian embassy in Accra.
- A number of dispensaries in Kwami, Mamobi and other towns.
- They also have a program of giving out soft loans to farmers. The program started in northern Ghana but gradually spread to other parts of the country. It was very popular and attracted a lot of people to Shi’ism.
Shiites in Ghana are making use of different kinds of media to spread their doctrines and gain followership. They include:
- NET 2 Channel on which they maintain a regular weekly programme every Friday evening.
- Daily Graphic newspaper on which they have been mounting pressure to allow them use its pages regularly to propagate their doctrines.
- Magazines that they publish such as al-Kauthar and the Pen.
- A number of websites including that of their university: islamicuniversity-ghana.com.
The Iranian government has a great vision for spreading shi’ism in Ghana. They have the following projects which they hope to execute in the short and medium term:
- They try to establish good relations with official Islamic organizations, such as FOMWAG, in order to use them in achieving their aims.
- They have acquired a number of plots of land which they hope to use for future projects.
- They plan to have a Persian language unit opened at the University of Ghana, Legon. They are putting subtle pressure on the university towards this end by repeated visits and by promising to sponsor students wishing to study in the unit.
In the face of this apparent onslaught on Ghana by the Iranians, what is the response of the Muslim people of Ghana?
As in other African countries, Sunni Muslims in Ghana are rejecting this encroachment and offering resistance at different levels. The resistance is less noticeable on the part of the authorities, however. Government seems all too willing and ready to grant every request of the Shiites, allowing them to acquire land, build institutions and open schools at will. Perhaps Muslim scholars should endeavour to educate government officials on the implications and consequences of allowing the Iranians to gain a foothold in the country.
Implications of Spreading Shi’ism
There are serious implications and grave consequences for allowing Shi’ism to spread in any country, especially in a country with a sizeable Sunni population. These include:
Shi’ah is a deviationist sect which is built on distorted Islamic precepts. Therefore, its spread will corrupt the aqidah of Muslims thereby producing negative results as bid’ah can never produce positive results. Therefore its spread here will have a long term negative effect on the Muslims of Ghana.
The spread of Shi’ism will cause division and disunity among Muslims, thereby weakening their social base. It will also spread corruption and immorality through the practice of mut’ah, or temporary marriages, and other vices.
Iranians are using Shiite groups in other countries as a tool of political control. Through them, they interfere in the internal affairs of nations, subverting their governments and compromising their independence. They often stir up internal strife between different segments of a country, then come round and supply weapons to the warring factions in much the same way as the colonial governments do. Their shameful role in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and recently in Syria is enough to buttress this point.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The spread of Shi’ism in Ghana has become a serious problem needing urgent solution. All hands must be on deck to stop this cancer threatening the body of the Ummah. Local, regional and international forces must be marshalled to confront the phenomenon head on. Towards this end, the following steps are recommended:
- Establishing schools, including a modern university, that will cater for the educational needs of Muslims.
- Enhancing da’awah activities by employing modern media and mass communication. In this regard, a TV channel and radio stations owned and run by Sunni Muslims are imperative.
- Setting up dispensaries and clinics in various towns and cities, including the rural areas.
- Establishing a college or centre for the training of da’awah workers who understand the workings of a modern society, are well-versed in Islamic Studies and are, therefore, able to face the challenges at hand.
- Organizing an umbrella body that will bring together all Sunni scholars and da’awah activists in order to coordinate efforts and benefit from each other’s experiences.
- Organizing regular workshops to acquaint da’awah activists and members of the public with the doctrines, beliefs and ways of the Shiites.
- Establishing libraries in major population centres that will hold books written on Shi’ism and how to repudiate their doctrines.
- Translating important books into English and other local languages.
- Increasing regional contact and cooperation between concerned groups in West Africa.
- Organizing quiz and competitions between primary and secondary students on the subject of Sahabah, their virtues and their position in Islam.
- Finally, providing humanitarian and relief services to the needy in order to neutralize similar efforts from the Shiites.