New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students

Posted in articles by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2007-09-24

        Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students of Sacred Knowledge

Hold fast to the Rope of Allah, all together, and be not divided. (Qur’an, 3:103)

Surely, those who have made divisions in their religion and turned into factions, you have nothing to do with them. Their case rests with Allah; then He will inform them of what they used to do. (Qur’an, 6:159)

In light of the Divine Word, we recognize that the historical nature of Sunni Islam is a broad one that proceeds from a shared respect for the Qur’an and Sunnah, a shared dependence on the interpretations and derivations of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), and a shared respect for the writings of a vast array of scholars who have been identified by their support for and affiliation with the Sunni Muslims and have been accepted as the luminaries of Sunni Islam - as broadly defined.

Likewise, detailed discussions in matters of theology are the specific domain of trained specialists, and proceed on the basis of well-defined principles and methodologies, which are beyond the knowledge of the generality of Muslims.

Our forebears in faith, with all the dedication, brilliance and sincerity clearly manifested in their works, have debated and discussed abstruse and complex issues of creed and practice, and have failed in most instances to convince their opponents of the veracity and accuracy of their positions.

The average Muslim is only responsible for knowing the basics of creed as they relate to a simple belief in Allah, His Angels, Scriptures, the Prophets and Messengers, the Last Day, and the Divine Decree.

Recognizing that the specter of sectarianism threatens to further weaken and debilitate our struggling Muslim community at this critical time in human affairs, and recognizing that Allah, Exalted is He, has given the Muslim community in the West a unique historical opportunity to advance the cause of peace, cooperation, and goodwill amongst the people of the world, we the undersigned respectfully:

- Urge Muslims to categorically cease all attacks on individual Muslims and organizations whose varying positions can be substantiated based on the broad scholarly tradition of the Sunni Muslims. We especially urge the immediate cessation of all implicit or explicit charges of disbelief;

- Urge Muslim scholars and students of sacred knowledge to take the lead in working to end ad hominem attacks on other scholars and students; to cease unproductive, overly polemical writings and oral discourse; and to work to stimulate greater understanding and cooperation between Muslims, at both the level of the leadership and the general community;

-Urge Muslims in the West, especially our youth, to leave off unproductive and divisive discussions of involved theological issues that are the proper domain of trained specialists, and we especially discourage participation in those internet chat rooms, campus discussion groups, and other forums that only serve to create ill-will among many Muslims, while fostering a divisive, sectarian spirit;

-Urge all teachers to instruct their students, especially those attending intensive programs,  to respect the diverse nature of our communities and to refrain from aggressive challenges to local scholars, especially those known for their learning and piety;

- Urge our brothers and sisters in faith to concentrate on enriching their lives by deepening their practice of Islam through properly learning the basics of the faith, adopting a consistent regimen of Qur’anic recitation, endeavoring to remember and invoke Allah in the morning and evening, learning the basics of jurisprudence, attempting to engage in voluntary fasting as much as possible, studying the Prophetic biography on a consistent basis,  studying the etiquettes that guide our interactions with our fellow Muslims, and the performance of other beneficial religious acts, to the extent practical for their circumstances;

- Finally, we urge the Believers to attempt to undertake individual and collective actions that will help to counter the growing campaign of anti-Islamic misinformation and propaganda that attempts to portray our religion as a violence-prone relic of the past unsuitable for modern society, and by so doing justify indiscriminate wars against Muslim peoples, occupation of Muslim lands, and usurpation of their resources.

Saying this, we do not deny the reality of legitimate differences and approaches, nor the passionate advocacy of specific positions based on those differences. Such issues should be rightfully discussed observing established rules of debate. However, we urge the above measures to help prevent those differences from destroying the historical unity and integrity of the Muslim community, and creating irreparable divisions between our hearts. Further, we do not deny the urgency, especially in light of the situation in Iraq, of efforts to foster greater cooperation between diverse Muslim communities. Hence, this document should not be seen as negating any statements, or declarations designed to foster greater peace and harmony between diverse Muslim communities. However, we feel, as Sunni Muslims, a pressing need to first set our own affairs in order.

In conclusion, having called our brothers and sisters to act on these points, we, the undersigned, pledge to be the first to actively implement them in response to the Divine Word:

Do you enjoin righteousness on the people and refuse to follow it yourselves and all along you are reciting the scripture!? Will you not reflect? (Qur’an (2:44)

We ask Allah for the ability to do that which He loves. And Allah alone is the Grantor of Success.


Abdelrahman Helbawi
Abdul Karim Khalil
Abdullah Adhami
Abdurraheem Green
Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
Abu Aaliyah Surkheel Sharif
Abu Eesa Niamatullah
Aisha Faleh AlThani
Anas Muhaimin
Anwar Muhaimin
Asma Mirza
Cheikhna B. Bayyah
Dawood Yasin
Ebadur Rahman
Faraz Rabbani
Fuad Nahdi
Gul Mohammad
Haitham al-Haddad
Hamza Yusuf
Hasan al-Banna
Ibrahim Osi-Efa
Jihad Hashim Brown
M. Abdul Latif Finch
M. Afifi al-Akiti
Mehdi Kader
Mokhtar Maghroui
Muhammad Alshareef
Muhammad Ash-Shaybani
Muhammad ibn Adam
Omar Qureshi
S. Abdal-Hakim Jackson
Saira Abu Bakr
Shamira Chothia Ahmed
Siddique Abdullah
Suhaib Webb
Tahir Anwar
Talal Al-Azem
Tanveer Hussain
Tawfique Chowdhury
Usama Canon
Yahya Rhodus
Walead Mosaad
Usama Hasan
Yasir Qadhi
Zaid Shakir

*Note: New Islamic Directions Supports the Amman Initiative to encourage greater respect and cooperation between Sunni and Shi’i Muslims


By MR on October 8, 2007 at 7:43am

MashaAllah! Alhamdulillah! Allah hu Akbar! Check out <a href="">The list of Muslim bloggers who endorse the Sunni Unity Pledge</a>.

By Mohammad on October 10, 2007 at 9:55pm

Why write a whole article about co-operation between Sunni's when you have Sunni's and Shiites in iraq killing each other? You have quoted the exact phrases that i follow in the Quran, i see no difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. I was born into a Sunni family, but when I'm asked whether I'm Sunni or Shiite, i go I'm Muslim. I would like someone to answer this question... Was there a Sunni and a Shiite at the time of the prophet? is there a phrase in the Quran saying ANYTHING about a Sunni or a Shiite? Was Imam Hanafi, or Imam Shaafii around at the time of the prophet?

By Tariq on October 11, 2007 at 7:18pm

Below is a reply from Imam Zaid: As-Salaam 'Alaikum Brother Mohammad, There are many documents such as the Amman Accords of two years ago urging greater cooperation between Sunnis and Shi'is. There are other accords which address the specific issue of sectarian violence in Iraq. NID as an organization and myself as an individual support all such efforts. Likewise, I do not like to refer to myself as a Sunni Muslim. However, just as there are Sunnis and Shi'is fighting each other, there are Sunnis fighting, killing, and defaming each other. This pledge is an effort to address that specific issue, and as it is mentioned in the last paragraph, it is not intended to negate or supersede any accords or agreements that are meant to address then larger issue of sectarian violence. It arose from a meeting of Sunni scholars and students who wanted to help reduce the levels of animosity in their ranks. It is nothing more or less. If someone launched an initiative to get the Badr Brigade and the Mehdi Army both who are Shi'i, to stop killing each other in Iraq, and the effort did not address the fact that they should both also stop killing Sunnis, would you reject or denounce that effort? I would support because it is a step in the right direction. Perhaps if they could see how un-Islamic and counterproductive it is for them to be killing each other, they could see how un-Islamic and counterproductive it is for them to be killing Sunnis. Many of the problems afflicting our Ummah are deep and complex and require pragmatic and incremental solutions. This is what this pledge is, a pragmatic and incremental step towards addressing unnecessary strife and disputation, in the Sunni context. May Allah bless us all with understanding. Imam Zaid Shakir

By Jason Quddus Mow on December 7, 2007 at 8:42pm

As Salaamu 'Alaikum Wa Rahmatullaahi Wa Barakaatuhuu Yaa Imaam Zaid Shakir wa Muslimeen in visual or otherwise audience. Mashaa'Allaah I love all Muslims. In need are we of joining in proper living, fiyd Deen Al Islaam; Deenuw WaaHidun (in the Religion of Al Islaam; One Religion). One concern here is this: Is a Shii'i a Muslim? Al Ahlil Bait Radhiy Allaahu 'Anhum Ajma'een will not judge any of us on Al Yawmil Aakhirah, nor was any human being (insaan) given wahi after Ar-Rasuulullah Sal Allaahu 'Alaihi Was Sallam, nor does Allaah have any Shirk (partner). Al Muslimeen Inna'Uuthubillaahi Min Kulli Shirk. The Muslims seek Refuge in Allaah from every Shirk. Laa Ilaaha Ill Allaahu, WaHdahu, Laa Shareeka Lahuu, Lahul Mulku, Wa Lahul Hamdu, YuHyee Wa Yumeetu, Wa Huwal Hayyu, Laa Yamuutu, Wa Biyadikhil Khairi, Wa Huwa 'Alaa Kulli Shay'in Qadirun. No God is there except Allaah, He is One, no partners has He, His is the Kingdom (dominion), and His is the Praise, He Gives Life and He Gives Death, and He is The Living One, and He does not die, and in His Hand is the Good, and He is over all things the All Powerful One. I believe Al Quraan, I am Commanded to not have anything to do with those who have tafarraqa (division or sect) of the Religion. I did not know, nor do I know now that a mushrik is to be called a Muslim. In my very limited and I hope not, but possibly partially erred knowledge, every Shii'a is a mushrik; clearly, therefore, not a Muslim. "A'uuthu Billaahi Min Qawlu Anaa." (This is from Sahih Hadeeth and I ask all of your forgiveness for mistakes here or wrongs altogether, but I did not yet memorize it or it's Isnad.) 'I seek Refuge in Allah from the word 'I'.' I have seen a problem among some of those called 'Ulama or 'Aalimeen having stated observations without producing proper daleel and I do not know of dhambin in a mere Muslim refuting politely an apparent untruth whilst sharing with his dear brother correct daleel. I am surprised to see since my younger youth, the continuing of the use of the terminology of Sunni in that that seems to produce a transient ammunition to the sectarians as it is not from the Sunna Ar Rasuulullaah (Sal.) inshaa'Allaah, nor, inshaa'Allaah, from his SaHaaba (Radh.). Anaa Muslimun Bi Ithnillaah, Fiyd Deenunw WaaHidun Bi Ithnillaah. I am a Muslim with the Permission of Allaah, in the One Religion with the Permission of Allaah, this term is Sunni is alien to me except the term 'Sunna' is not, but 'Sunna' is of Ad Deenul Islaam Fiyl Quraan wa Fiy Ahaadeeth. Al Muslimeen must have proper discrimination and separate from themselves that which is not acceptable in Ad Deen Al Islaam. May we share this Perfected Deen Al Islaam correctly and speak only Al Haqq as much as we can. I am grateful that those who call themselves 'Ulama among those who call themselves Ahlil Sunna among those who call themselves Muslimeen are enjoining union among Muslims for productivity instead of disorganized bickering. Proper akhlaq in communication, that is adhab, is perfectly necessary as it is part of our beloved Deen. I too need to learn more of my Religion and I enjoin the seeking of 'Ilm (Divine Knowledge) to each Muslim. As Salaamu 'Alaikum Wa Rahmatullaahi Wa Barakaatuhuu Yaa Muslimeen.

By Farhanahz on December 13, 2007 at 7:13pm

Assalaam aleikum Sheikh. This is an excellent step taken by all those involved. The only limitation I see is that there's no way for others who agree to sign it. Masalaama, Farhanahz

By Saleem Rida on March 27, 2008 at 11:49am

as-salamu `alaykum: Ustadh Zaid, do you consider Wahhabis and Salafis as Ahl al-Sunnah? wa salam `alaykum ya Imam Zaid M. Saleem Rida

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By Maraqi al-Falah on August 19, 2009 at 9:30pm

Salam `alaykum: This faqir feels that certain issues in the Zaytuna Institute are problematic. For example, many of those teaching at Zaytuna support minority fiqh as proposed by Dr. `AbdAllah bin Bayyah and Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Many of them have signed the Amman Declaration (a pledge simillar to Nadwa--which I am absolutely against) and a pledge of unity (signed by Sidi Hamza, Sidi Zaid Shakir, Sidi Usama Canon, and Sidi Yahya Rhodus). I plead to these five individuals--if not all the Zaytuna---if Shaykh Abul Huda al-Yaqu`bi (a khalifa of Sidi Zaid's first murshid, Shaykh `Abdar Rahman as-Shaghouri rahimahullah) has the courage to stand up to the Wahhabis and say they are DEVIANT and if `alaHazrat Imam Ahmad Ridha rahmatullahi `alayh had enough courage to stand up for the truth, why don't you? Why do you always speak about unity with those who despise the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu `alayhi wa salim and who deny his attributes of perfection? Why do you seek unity with those who call you Mushriks and who bash Ahl-e-Sunnat? Why do you seek unity with them? Why, we ask! If Shaykh Gibril can call them false and deviant, why can't you? Why do you sign pledges of unity with them to not refute them when in fact the Wahhabis are a DEVIANT SECT OF THE KHAWARIJ as mentioned by Imam Ibn `Abidin al-Shami in his Radd al-Muhtar? I ask you once again and implore you to your facilties of reasoning oh people of Zaytuna! May Allah give us tawfiq to follow the truth. Walhamdulillah rab al-`alamin Sag-e-Fikr-e-Raza `Abdur Rasool

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This is a great news to read and rather really relieving. It is very annoying when siblings fight and this is what I have felt when there was friction between the Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students. I believe that the student must be given freedom to study what they are interested in.

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