Are the Shia Considered Muslims ? A Balanced Answer


This question–about whether or not the Imami Shia are Muslim–is a very emotional one. The humble author of this article is not qualified to pass verdicts on such matters; however, this article will merely serve as a purview of all the various opinions cited by qualified Sunni scholarship, and to hopefully make sense of it all in a constructive manner.

The truth of the matter is that the answer to this question cannot be a simple “yes” or a “no.” Unfortunately, some “conservative” Sunnis will jump to declare all Shia to be Kufaar (disbelievers) and engage in Takfeer of all Shia they come in contact with. On the other hand, some “liberal” Sunnis will reflexively defend all Shia no matter how odious or deviant their beliefs are, including even their Ayatollahs and leaders. Indeed, to draw a hasty conclusion is not appropriate; Imam Ibn Abidin states:

“It is difficult to make a general statement and judge all the Shia to be disbelievers.” (Radd al-Muhtar, 4/453)

Some Shia are considered Muslims, and some Shia are considered Kufaar. Various Shia have different beliefs: some have beliefs which constitute Kufr, whereas others do not. Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari says:

According to the classical and the majority of contemporary scholars, there are two types of Shi’as:

a)Those that hold beliefs that constitute disbelief (kufr)…shi’as that hold such beliefs are without a doubt out of the fold of Islam.
b)Those who do not hold beliefs that constitute Kufr…Such Shi’as can not be termed as out of the fold of Islam, rather they are considered to be severely deviated and transgressors (fisq).

source: Sunni Path,

Shaikh Abdul Wahab al-Turayree, a professor of Al-Imam University, says:

We cannot say that all the Shî`ah are unbelievers. On the other hand, there are many sects of the Shî`ah who advance claims that are tantamount to unbelief. Anyone who believes such things would be an unbeliever.


Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid of says:

What we say about interacting with the Shi’ah depends on the situation. The innovated beliefs of the Shi’ah vary. If it [their belief] is something that does not put them beyond the pale of Islam…[it] is rather regarded [merely] as drifting away from the right path [as opposed to Kufr]…[in such a case] they are Muslims who have committed acts of innovation and sin that do not put them beyond the pale of Islam.


Therefore, depending on his beliefs, a Shia person can be Muslim or Kaafir. What then are the beliefs which constitute Kufr? There are quite a few beliefs which constitute Kufr that would take one outside the folds of Islam, but we shall herein only discuss those relevant to the Sunni-Shia dialogue.

(1) The superiority of the Imams over the Prophets.

This is perhaps the most important issue. It is in fact the crux of the debate between Sunni and Shia. The doctrine of Imamah (i.e. belief in twelve Infallible Imams) is what separates the Shia from mainstream Islam. Too often than not, Sunnis will argue that Shia are disbelievers because they curse the Sahabah or something else along those lines, but in reality, the focus of the debate should be around the issue of Imamah.

Shaikh Ahmad Rida Khan quoted by Sunni Path states:

Shi`ah fall into three categories:

1. ghâli (ghulât): they repudiate the necessities of religion…[They are Kaafir because they] elevate Sayyiduna Ali and other Imams above the Prophets…[They are Kaafir even] if these Imams are held to be higher than even ONE prophet….

Those who hold the above and other such statements that amount to disbelief are Kaafirs by Ijma (consensus). All dealings with them are similar to those with apostates. It is in fatawa Dharhiriyyah, Fatawa Hindiyyah, Hadiqatun Nadiyyah: they are to be dealt with as apostates.

Nowadays, most of the Rafidhis (i.e. Shia) fall into this category. Their scholars and commoners, men and woman–all of them seem to profess the aforementioned beliefs–except Allâh willing–otherwise.

source: Sunni Path,

Shaikh Ahmad Rida Khan has hereby stated that–according to him–most of the Shia alive today possess this belief and are therefore Kufaar. The author of this article agrees with him, but would like to point out that this may not be the case in the West: it seems that most Shia commoners living in North America and Europe have a more “filtered” version of Shi’ism, so whereas most Shia worldwide may hold such a belief, the Western Shia may differ in this. In any case, what we have established thus far is the fact that the belief that any of the Imams are superior to even one Prophet is Kufr.

It should be noted that this concept is not peculiar or particular to the Shia, but rather to any person in general. If, for example, a Sunni were to claim that Abu Bakr was equal to or superior to Prophet Musa, then this would be grounds for Kufr. Muslims believe that the Prophets and Messengers are the highest in ranks amongst humanity, and that no person can rival them in this honor, neither can they be superior to them nor can they even equal them in status. It is, after all, for this reason that the Ahmadis are declared to be Kufaar, namely because they believe in a person who has a rank equal to or higher than the Prophets.

It should be noted that all the Shia Maraje’ (top scholars) are agreed upon the fact that the Imams are superior to the Prophets, aside from Prophet Muhammad. For an indepth analysis of this Shia belief, please read this article: Imams Superior to Prophets.

However, although the Shia scholarship is agreed upon this doctrine, the laity amongst the Shia (i.e. the masses) may be unaware of this. In fact, it has been my observation that most Shia lay-persons and commoners in the West have no idea at all about this belief. Many of them are even shocked if someone were to claim that the Imams are superior to Prophets. It has happened on numerous occassions that a Shia lay-person would accuse a Sunni of lying if the latter were to state that the Shia believe that Imamah is superior to Prophethood. Indeed, I have no doubt that most Shia lay-persons who read this article will themselves deny this fact, and therefore I strongly urge them to read the link above so that they can have the definitive proof of the beliefs of the Shia scholarship.

In conclusion, the Shia scholars are Kufaar because they believe that their Imams are superior to the Prophets. This includes their Ayatollahs, such as Khomeini, Khameini, Sistani, etc. It should be noted that these Shia scholars base this position on the Shia religious texts, which are very clear on this matter. The Shia Hadith literature and classical books state–in no uncertain terms–that their twelve Imams are superior to the Prophets (aside from Prophet Muhammad).

However, the lay-persons, commoners, and masses of Shia–especially in the West–may not be aware of these religious texts, nor are they aware of the position of the scholars whom they supposedly do Taqleed upon. In a way, this ignorance is understandable. The masses of any faith are oftentimes not in tune with the actual beliefs written in the religious texts and held by the classical scholars. This holds true for Sunnis as well. For example, most Sunni lay-persons are completely unaware of the fact that music is Haram. However, the Sunni texts are clear on this matter and clearly state that music is Haram, and this is the view held by the Sunni scholars.

In other words, just because the Sunni masses believe one thing, this does not mean that this conforms to what the Sunni religious texts say or what the Sunni scholars believe. Likewise, just because the Shia masses in the West may not believe that their Imams are superior to the Prophets does not mean that this is what Shi’ism itself says. Most Muslim lay-persons may say one thing, but Islam can say another thing. Like I mentioned earlier, most Muslim lay-persons would say that music is Halal, but Islam actually says that music is Haram. Similarly, most Shia lay-persons would say that their Imams are not superior to Prophets, but Shi’ism actually says otherwise.

Any Shia person who understands this belief and adheres to it (i.e. the superiority of Imams over Prophets) is a Kaafir. It would not be an over-exaggeration to say that a Shia lay-person could become a Kaafir simply by reading this article and the one I gave the link to. The reason I make such a bold claim is that prior to reading these two articles, a Shia person may not have been aware of the fact that Shi’ism holds that Imams are superior to Prophets. But now I have shown him that indeed this is what Shi’ism says about this matter. If such a Shia reader were to now adopt this viewpoint, then indeed he would become a Kaafir.

In other words, a Shia person’s ignorance of his own faith could serve as a protection in the sense that such a person is not a Kaafir because he does not believe in those parts of his religion which constitute Kufr. I would say that the masses of Shia in the West are unaware of this belief of theirs, and are therefore considered to be Muslims. It is only those who are aware of such a belief and adhere to it that would be outside the folds of Islam. The Shia scholarship are Kufaar but we do not say that the Shia masses are.

(2) Claiming that a person after Prophet Muhammad received revelation from Allah like a Prophet.

This is another belief which constitutes Kufr. Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi was asked what were the agreed upon acts which would constitute exiting the faith. To this, he stated:

“Claiming that a person after the time of Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah is a real Prophet from Allah…Included in this is claiming that one has received revelation from Allah like a Prophet.”

source: Guiding Helper,

The reality is that the Shia believe that their Imams received revelation from Allah like Prophets. However, they will not readily admit this fact and will in fact seek out loopholes to defend their beliefs, playing word games, and such stuff. Hence, I do not find any need to dwell on this matter, since it is much easier to prove the first belief above. The only reason I am mentioning this here is that it should be established firmly that it is a belief of the Muslims that no divinely appointed figure exists after Prophet Muhammad, and the belief in Imams is in contradiction to this.

(3) The Quran is incomplete.

Publically, the Shia will vehemently deny that they believe that the Quran is incomplete. The truth of the matter is that many of the Shia Maraje’ (top scholars) do believe in Tahreef (tampering) of the Quran, but they hide this fact due to Taqiyyah and Kitman. And there may be many Shia people who do indeed hold such a belief but they hide this fact. If this is the case, then we cannot declare them to be Kufaar, as we were not sent to judge what is in the hearts and only Allah knows what are the true intentions of people. Shaikh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari says:

It should be remarked here that some members of the Shi’a community display outwardly not to have believes that constitute Kufr, but keep these beliefs in their heart, which they call Taqiyya.

The case with such people is that if they did have such beliefs that constitute Kufr in their heart but outwardly denied them, then even though according to Allah and in hereafter they will be regarded as non-Muslims, but we will judge them according to their outward statements and actions.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is reported to have said:

“I have been ordered to judge people according to their outward condition”

source: Sunni Path,

In common discourse, the Shia polemicists will vehemently deny such a belief, and it is only through a very tiresome process that we prove to them that Tahreef is a part of their faith. Therefore, once again, I would not advise bringing up this topic when discussing whether or not Shia are Muslim or not. Since the vast majority of Shia do not adhere to this belief, discussing this issue will only cause digression and tangential argumentation.

(4) Cursing the Sahabah.

Many hold the belief that cursing the Sahabah constitutes Kufr. However, this is an oversimplification of the issue, one which in fact weakens the position of the Ahlus Sunnah. A Shia propagandist would be very quick to show that in fact the Sahabah did fight amongst each other and one Sahabah would sometimes call another by a name, or the Prophet’s wives might do such a thing, etc. Therefore, we should be clearer and more specific instead of simply saying that cursing the Sahabah constitutes Kufr.

Mufti Ebrahim Desai’s student says the following:

The issue of abusing the Sahabah (Radhiyallahu anhum) takes on various forms. Hereunder follows some related points.

1. It is Haraam to abuse the Sahabah (Radhiyallahu anhum)

2. Normally, a person who does so is sinning, but would not be a Kaafir.

3. If, Allah forbid, a person falsely accuses Hadhrat Aaisha (Radhiyallahu anha) or any of the other Ummahaatul Mu’mineen of Zinaa, he is a Kaafir.

4. If, Allah forbid, a person says that most or all of the Sahabah (Radhiyallahu anhum) became murtad (renegade) after Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), or become sinners after him, such a person is a Kaafir.

5. If one considers it permissible to abuse the Sahabah(Radhiyallahu anhum), such a person is Kaafir.

6. If one regards it as a light matter to abuse the Sahabah (Radhiyallahu anhum), such a person is a kaafir.

We trust this answers your question.

And Allah Ta’ala knows best

Was Salaam

E. Vawda
for Daarul Iftaa

CHECKED & APPROVED: Mufti Ebrahim Desai

source: Ask-Imam,

Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid of says:

Some of the scholars explained in detail what is meant by hating the Sahaabah. They said: If a person hates some of them for some worldly reason, then that is not kufr and hypocrisy, but if it is for a religious reason, because they were the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), then undoubtedly this is hypocrisy.

Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:

If a person slanders them [i.e. the Sahaabah] in a way that does not impugn their good character or religious commitment, such as describing one of them as being stingy or cowardly or lacking in knowledge or not being an ascetic and so on, then he deserves to be rebuked and disciplined, but we do not rule him to be a kaafir because of that. This is how the words of those who were not regarded as kaafirs by the scholars are to be understood.

If a person curses them and slanders them in general terms, this is an area of scholarly dispute, depending on whether this cursing is motivated by mere feelings or religious doctrines. If a person goes beyond that and claims that they apostatized after the death of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), apart from a small group of no more than ten or so individuals, or that most of them rebelled and did evil, then there is no doubt that such a person is a kaafir, because he has denied what is stated in more than one place in the Qur’aan, that Allaah was pleased with them and praised them. Indeed whoever doubts that such a person is a kaafir is himself a kaafir, because this implies that those who transmitted the Qur’aan and Sunnah were kaafirs or evildoers and that the best of this ummah which is described in the verse “You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:110 – interpretation of the meaning] – the first generation – were mostly kaafirs and hypocrites. It implies that this ummah is the worst of nations, and that the first generations of this ummah are the most evil. No doubt this is blatant kufr, the evidence for which is quite clear.

Hence you will find that most of those who proclaim such views will sooner or later be shown to be heretics. Heretics usually conceal their views, but Allaah has punished some of them to make an example of them, and there are many reports that they were turned into pigs in life and in death. The scholars have compiled such reports, such as al-Haafiz al-Saalih Abu ‘Abd-Allaah Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Waahid al-Maqdisi, in his book al-Nahi ‘an Sabb al-Ashaab in which he narrated the punishments that befell such heretics.

In conclusion, there are some groups of those who slander the Sahaabah concerning who them is no doubt that they are kaafirs, others who cannot be judged to be kaafirs, and others concerning whom there is some doubt regarding that.

source: Al-Saarim al-Maslool ‘ala Shaatim al-Rasool, p. 590-591.

Taqiy al-Deen al-Subki said:

… This refers to one who slanders some of the Sahaabah. But if a person slanders all of the Sahaabah, then he is undoubtedly a kaafir. The same applies if he slanders one of the Sahaabah just because he is a Sahaabi, because this is demeaning the virtue of the Sahaabah and indirectly slandering the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). So undoubtedly the person who does this is a kaafir. Based on this, the words of al-Tahhaawi, “and hating them is kufr” should be understood as meaning that hating all of the Sahaabah is undoubtedly kufr, but if a person slanders a Sahaabi not because he is a Sahaabi but for some personal reason…

The reason for the scholarly dispute on this issue is if a person slanders a specific person it may be for some personal reason, or he may hate someone for a worldly reason etc. This does not imply that he is a kaafir. But undoubtedly if he hates one of the two Shaykhs because he was a companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), then this is kufr, and indeed hating any of the Sahaabah who was lower in status than two Shaykhs just because he was a companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is also definitely kufr.

source: Fataawa al-Subki, 2/575.

In fact, this has always been the position of the Ahlus Sunnah on the matter. Therefore, we should not misrepresent ourselves when we state that cursing the Sahabah is Kufr, but rather we should clarify this position and make it clear.

Based on the above, we see that it is Kufr to hate the Sahabah if any of the following conditions are met:

(a) One hates all of the Sahabah or at least the vast majority of them. (This could apply to the Shia, many of whom claim that the vast majority of the Sahabah apostatized.)

(b) One hates a Sahabi for the fact that he is a Companion of the Prophet. (This could apply to Non-Muslims, such as Abu Jahl, who would hate anyone who became one of the Prophet’s friends.)

(c) One hates a Sahabi for some religious reason such as believing that he usurped the divinely appointed role of Imamah. (This no doubt applies to the Ithna Ashari Shia. Notice how the Zaidis believe that Ali was better suited to be the Caliph than Abu Bakr, but they do not believe that this is a religious difference but rather a political one. Therefore, we do not pass a verdict of Kufr on them for this. The Ithna Ashari, on the other hand, claims that this is a religious issue, one decided upon by Allah Himself.)

(d) One who curses a Sahabi is sinning, but the one who thinks that it is permissible to curse Sahabah is Kaafir irrespective of if he himself does that or not. (This most definitely applies to the Shia, who believe that it is permissible to curse the Sahabah.)

The reason that these things constitute Kufr is because they are disbelieving in the verse in the Quran in which Allah says “You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind” (Quran, 3:110) and “And the first to embrace Islam, of the Muhajirs and the Ansars, and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever.” (Quran, 9:100) And many other such verses. Because these verses are stated in the general sense, we only say that it is Kufr to make general condemnations of the Sahabah. However, Abu Bakr and Aisha were mentioned in the Quran specifically, in verse 9:40 and verses 24:11-26 respectively. Abu Bakr was declared the companion of the Prophet, and Aisha was declared innocent of adultery.

Imam Ibn Abidin states:

“There is no doubt in the disbelief (kufr) of those that falsely accuse Sayyida Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) of adultery, deny the Companionship of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him)…”

And some scholars extend these verses to encompass other beliefs, such as negating those who say that Abu Bakr was evil or sinful (as the Prophet says in that verse that “Allah is with us”) or accusing Aisha of other things (because Allah says “Allah warns you not to repeat the like of it again”).

This debate is beyond the scope of this article and the abilities of this humble author. Indeed, I am simply trying to prove the point that it is a much more involved topic than simply saying “whoever curses the Sahabah is Kaafir.” Having said that, realistically the Shia scholars would be Kufaar based on their slander of the Prophet’s wives and Sahabah based on the above conditions. However, it is unclear as to what the average Shia lay-person believes on such a matter and whether or not he understands the gravity of his belief. It is likely that the average Shia lay-person will deny having hatred for the Sahabah in general, and therefore, this is a dead-end issue to debate.

(5) Other strange beliefs.

Historically, various Shia sects have held many strange beliefs, such as that Ali is God, or that Angel Jibraeel made a mistake, or that Allah lies, etc. However, because the mainstream Shia do not believe in these things any more, it serves no point to dwell on these matters. And there are many other beliefs which the Shia do believe in which commonly come up in this debate. However, I strongly believe that none of them are important to discuss except the first issue which I stated, namely the superiority of Imams over Prophets.

The Ruling

The question about Shia and their position as Muslims (or not) is a multi-factorial issue. The crux of the issue, however, is the matter of Imamah and its superiority over Risalah (Prophethood). This is the one issue that the Shia scholars do not shy away from. They will do Taqiyyah when it comes to Tahreef of the Quran, they will obfuscate when it comes to Imams receiving revelation, they will become catty when it comes to hating the Sahabah, play word games on other issues, etc. But the issue about Imamah is one that the Shia scholarship has clearly stated, and it is this issue which casts out the Shia scholars into the realm of Kufr. Having said that, the bulk of the Shia lay-persons (at least in the West) are unaware of this belief and therefore do not believe in it. As such, they are not disbelievers and we should regard them as Muslims.

Fatwa of Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot

There is one fatwa that has become notorious in the Sunni-Shia dialogue, namely the religious edict passed by Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot of Al-Azhar who claimed that the Jaffari Madhab was an acceptable “fifth Madhab.” Invariably, this fatwa will be recycled in the Sunni-Shia debates. However, this fatwa has absolutely no value because it was categorically denounced by the Sunni scholarship en masse. One scholar’s errant opinion cannot refute the Ijma (consensus) of the scholars, but rather it is disregarded as baseless. Shaikh Faraz Rabbani responded to this claim of a “fifth Madhab” by saying:

“Jafari fiqh is not accepted as a sound school of law by Sunni scholarship.”

souce: Sunni Path,

Sidi Musa wrote a refutation of this bogus fatwa entitled “Myth of the Fifth Madhab”, saying:

“There is no fifth madhhab in addition to the four madhahib of Ahl Al-Sunnah…there is no madhhab in addition to the four madhhahib of Ahl Al-Sunnah that is permissible for Muslims to follow…Can one, for example, follow the madhhab of Twelver Shi`a? …The answer is, quite clearly, no.”

In the second introduction to “The Reliance Of The Traveler” it is stated in regards to any so-called “fifth Madhab”:

“Ibn Salah reports that there is scholarly consensus on its [sic] being unlawful to follow”

The Shia propagandists will chime in that the fatwa advocating the “fifth Madhab” was passed by the prestigious Al-Azhar University. What they fail to mention is that after that errant fatwa passed by that one Shaikh, Al-Azhar University passed another fatwa many years later rebuffing the earlier fatwa. In fact, it is well-known that Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot was influenced by a Shia lobbyist of Dar al-Taqrib named Muhammad Taqi al-Qummi; although we respect the scholars, everyone makes mistakes and it is not acceptable to follow a scholar who has an errant opinion on a matter. Shaikh Nuh Keller called it “madness” to follow such a fatwa advocating a “fifth Madhab”.

Disbelievers or People of Deviation

There is no valid opinion amongst the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah that would place the Shia in any fifth Madhab, but rather there are only two opinions on the matter. Each and every Shia person is either part of the :

1) Kufaar (disbelievers)


2) Ahlul Bidah (People of Innovation or Deviation)

There is no other option. It should be noted that Ahlul Bidah can be broken down further into two arbitrary groups, namely:

1) Those members of Ahlul Bidah who are simply ignorant.


2) Those members of Ahlul Bidah who are obstinate in their deviation.

The second group should be shunned. As for the first group, however, we should seek to soften their hearts so that they educate themselves about the Straight Path and they abandon the Deviated Path. Shaikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid of says:

Softening the hearts of some people is more effective than shunning… shunning may make a person more rebellious and stubborn, and prevent further opportunities to advise and call him; in that case it should not be done…Do not forget to advise him (the sinner or innovator)…Seeking to soften his heart with gifts, smiling at him and speaking kindly to him may be more effective than shunning him, so do that. If he refuses that from you, and does not respond to you, then there is no sin on you and you are not to blame for that…The believer looks at what is in the best interests (of Islam). This does not contradict the idea of hating the kaafirs, innovators and sinners for the sake of Allaah and loving the Muslims for the sake of Allaah. Attention must be paid to what is in the general interest; if shunning is better then they should be shunned, but if the objectives of Islam dictate that ongoing da’wah efforts should be made rather than shunning, then that is what should be done, following the teaching of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). And Allaah is the Source of strength.

Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah said:

Softening people’s hearts may be more beneficial in some cases than shunning. And shunning is more beneficial in some cases then softening hearts. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) softened the hearts of some people and shunned others.

source: Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 28/206

Therefore, the former group (the ignorant) should be softened and the second group (the obstinate) shunned.


Amongst the Ahlus Sunnah, three opinions exist amongst the scholarship:

1) Those who say: “The Shia are Kufaar.”
2) Those who say: “The Shia are Muslim.”
3) Those who say: “Some Shia are Muslim and others are Kufaar.”

However, the reality is that all three opinions are basically saying the same thing, and the difference in opinion is only lexical. It depends on how one defines the word “Shia.”

For example, Opinion 1 is held by Mufti Ebrahim Desai of Darul Iftaa who says:

“Shi’as are not Muslims.” (

Mufti Ebrahim Desai defines the word “Shia” as a hypothetical and conceptual entity, as one who follows the beliefs of Shi’ism based upon their texts and the opinions of their classical scholars. In other words, XYZ beliefs are Kufr, and XYZ beliefs are a part of the faith of Shi’ism; therefore, anyone who does not accept the XYZ beliefs is not a real Shia.

Opinion 2 is held by Shaikh Faraz Rabbani:

“Notwithstanding the known disagreements between Sunnis and Shia, traditional Sunni scholarship has considered the Shia to be Muslim” (

Shaikh Faraz Rabbani is defining the “Shia” in a practical and worldly sense, referring to anyone who calls himself a Shia. This particular fatwa was “politically correct” and in fact Shaikh Faraz Rabani’s disciple, Sidi Salman Younas, clarified:

“Shaykh Faraz’s position is that a Shi`a is a disbeliever if he denies any of the necessary aspects of the religion, without sufficient shubha. Otherwise, he will not be considered as such.” (Sidi Salman Younas)

In fact, the Sunni Path website clarifies elsewhere:

According to the classical and the majority of contemporary scholars, there are two types of Shi’as:

a)Those that hold beliefs that constitute disbelief (kufr)…shi’as that hold such beliefs are without a doubt out of the fold of Islam.
b)Those who do not hold beliefs that constitute Kufr…Such Shi’as can not be termed as out of the fold of Islam, rather they are considered to be severely deviated and transgressors (fisq).

source: Sunni Path,

In other words, the difference of opinion is simply lexical, revolving around how the term Shia is used. Even those who declare that “Shia are Kufaar” are simply using a different definition of the word “Shia.” For example, above we have seen how the Ask Imam site says that “Shia are Kufaar” in one fatwa, but we find in another fatwa on the same site that the clarification is given:

“All the Shiites are not regarded as Kaafir…If a Shiite does not believe in the above (beliefs) and respects all the Sahabah, then he will not be regarded as a Kaafir.

source: Ask Imam,

And this is also the opinion of Mufti Taqi Usmani, who–like Mufti Ebrahim Desai–is Deobandi. Mufti Taqi Usmani is quite explicit in his fatawa Uthmani that the way of the scholars of Dar ul Uloom is to consider a Shia to be Muslim unless he holds certain beliefs which constitute Kufr.

Therefore, the most appropriate way to phrase the position of the Shia is the third way, which is to refrain from blanket statements and to say that some Shia are Muslim and others are Kufaar. This removes ambiguity and is most precise. Blanket statements such as “the Shia are Kaafir” or “the Shia are Muslim” cause confusion; even though the person who says such statements might know what he is really saying, the reader will be confused into thinking something else. Furthermore, such a person risks the chances of being misquoted.

Some people mistakenly bring up quotes from past scholars and take them out of context in order to somehow prove that certain classical scholars passed blanket Takfeer on the Shia. Indeed, these quotes are using the word “Shia” in the same way as Mufti Ebrahim Desai used it, namely as one who adheres to the tenets of Shi’ism which includes XYZ beliefs. Oftentimes, when the context of the quote is shown, then this will clear up the matter. Many people have falsely claimed that all four Imams have passed Takfeer on the Shia, but this is not a blanket Takfeer and is only in regards to those who hold XYZ beliefs. Indeed, Ibn Abidin stated in his Radd Al Muhtar, which is the central reference for fatwas in the Hanafi Madhab, that none of the four Imams passed blanket Takfeer on the Shia.

Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah is known as being one of the harshest against the Shia, and indeed he did justifiably criticize those Shia who have beliefs which constitute Kufr. And yet, Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah refrained from doing blanket Takfeer on the Shia. Unknowingly, many persons pass around the following quote:

Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said about the Raafidah, “They are more evil than most of the people of desires, and they are more deserving of being killed than the Khawaarij.” [Refer to Majmoo’ul-Fataawaa (28/482) of Ibn Taymiyyah]

And yet, this is taking the quote out of context, because what Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah said is not in regards to all Shia or even all Rafidhis, but only those who have specific beliefs which he mentions:

“Whosoever claims that the Sahabah became apostates after the Messenger of Allah (except for a small group that did not reach ten odd people in number) or that they majority of them were disobedient sinners, then there is also no doubt about the Kufr of this one.”

It is not a blanket Takfeer of all Shia but rather of “this one” with those beliefs. Indeed, in no uncertain terms, Shaikh Ibn Taymiyyah says:

“And regarding the Salaf and Imams, they did not sway from their rejection of Takfeer upon the Murjiah and Shia and others like them. Nor do the texts of (Imam) Ahmad (bin Hanbal) differ in that he did not make Takfeer upon them…and regarding the Khawarij and the (Shia) Rawafid, there is dispute and hesitation regarding Takfeer upon them from (Imam) Ahmad (bin Hanbal) and others besides him.”

source: Majmoo` Fatawa

Sidi Salman Younas, a disciple of Shaikh Faraz Rabbani, says the following when someone asked if Shia are Muslim or Kaafir:

“We asked Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf about this question and he pointed out the things Shias do that make them Kaffir, and he followed up with how we have Shias here in the U.S who are utterly unaware of major Shia beliefs (such as cursing the Khulafa); thus this fatwa (of Kufr) will not apply to them. Whether you label this Taqiyya or not, the point still remains that we do not judge their inner (selves).”

The Dangers of the First Way

The First Way, which is to make general statements like “the Shia are Kufaar”, is dangerous because it hardens the hearts of the Shia lay-persons, many of whom are genuinely good people and may just be ignorant. They need Dawah and Naseeha, which require softness. Condeming them as Kufaar will only make their hearts turn harder and they will turn away from us. The truth is that they are not Kufaar, but rather only misguided by their Kaafir scholars. We should differentiate between the ignorant masses and the evil Shia leaders.

By distinguishing the masses from their Ayatollahs, we are driving a wedge between the two groups. And this is what we want to do: our Shia bretheren have been under the brain-washing and programming of their Ayatollahs, and we have to save them from that. If we group them both together as Kufaar, then we are increasing the love between the two and increasing the power and status of the Ayatollahs. In reality, we should create disunity and disharmony in their ranks, driving the people away from the Shia leaders. It is the Shia leaders, not the masses, who propagate such deviant beliefs, who hate the Sahabah, who organize Shia death squads in Iraq, etc.

Many people have criticized the Ahlel Bayt website for the fact that we refer to the Shia as “brothers” but there is nothing wrong in this, because we are addressing the lay-persons and the commoners from amongst them, not their leaders. We seek to soften their hearts so they harken to the truth and reject their blasphemous leaders.

The Dangers of the Second Way

The Second Way, of making general statements like “the Shia are Muslim”, is obfuscation of the truth. It denies the reality that in fact we believe that Shi’ism is Kufr, all of the scholars of Shi’ism are Kufaar,and that even the remaining group are Ahlul Bidah. This confusion will cause problems, such as Sunnis marrying Shia, or Sunnis thinking that they can adopt Shi’ism as a possible “Fifth Madhab”, or the Shia feeling that their way is approved by the Muslims. On the Day of Judgement, these same Shia will point fingers at us and ask us why we did not warn them of the Kufr of their beliefs.

Furthermore, it is very necessary to expose the Kufr of the leaders of Shi’ism. They have declared war on the true Islam, both by pen and by sword. Unity with them is not possible, and it is a part of their creed to accept the Ahlus Sunnah externally but to oppose us internally. If we allow ourselves to be fooled by false slogans of “Muslim unity”, we will only be left to one day deal with the Shia leaders stabbing us in the back, as has been the case historically and even today in Iraq.

The Third Way

There is much confusion as to the correct position of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah with regards to the Shia, and a lot of this has to do with the lexical distinctions made by various scholars. However, despite the seemingly contradictory statements, almost everyone (apart from some exceptions) is saying the same thing. I believe that the third way is the best way, and that the first two ways cause confusion. The third way, of saying that some Shia are Muslim and others are Kaafir, is the best methodology. One should be clear that Shi’ism is Kufr, and that some Shia are not Kufaar simply because they are ignorant of the beliefs of Shi’ism which constitute Kufr. In “Hayate Shaikh” by Sayyid Muhammad Shahid Saharanfuri, we read:

“Hazrat Gangohi used to say that because of the ignorance of the masses, they are (only) faasiq (sinful), (even though) their Ulama are kaafir.”

Yet, despite our lenience towards the masses, we should be very clear in saying that Shi’ism is Kufr and call the people away from it and those who propagate such Kufr.

The principle of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah is to pass condemnation in general terms, refraining from passing condemnation on people in specific. Therefore, we should make the general statement that “Shi’ism is Kufr”, but we should refrain from saying “that Shia person is Kaafir.” This is stated by Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah:

“With regard to a specific evildoer, we should not curse him, because the Prophet forbade cursing ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Himaar who used to drink wine, even though he had cursed the wine-drinkers in general; however cursing a specific person if he is an evildoer or promoter of bid’ah is a point of dispute among the scholars.”

Shaikh Ibn Uthaymeen said:

The difference between cursing a specific person and cursing those who commit sin in general is that the former (cursing a specific person) is not allowed, and the latter (cursing the people who commit sin in general) is allowed. So if you see an innovator, you do not say, ‘May Allaah curse you,’ rather say, ‘May the curse of Allaah be upon those who introduce innovations,’ in general terms. The evidence for that is the fact that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) cursed some people among the mushrikeen and followers of jaahiliyyah and said: “O Allaah, curse So and so, and So and so, and So and so,” he was told not to do that when Allaah said (interpretation of the meaning):

“Not for you (O Muhammad, but for Allaah) is the decision; whether He turns in mercy to (pardons) them or punishes them; verily, they are the Zaalimoon (polytheists, disobedients and wrongdoers)”

[Quran, 3:128]

source: al-Qawl al-Mufeed, 1/226.

Therefore, we should say that “Shi’ism is Kufr” (general statement) instead of pointing to individual Shia lay-persons and saying “you are Kaafir” (specific statement). The exception to this, of course, are those Shia leaders who propagate their views; it becomes necessary to condemn them publically so that people are warned to stay away from them. This condemnation would also apply to those non-scholars who become their foremost propagandists and who debate with us in an obstinate way, exceeding the limits. Mufti Mohammad Sajjad stated:

Q. Is there any difference between scholars of Imami Shias and their laymen, as Mufti Rasheed Ahmed Ludhanvi (rahimuhullah) didn’t distinguish between them?

A. If they, the laymen, hold the same beliefs as their scholars then there is no difference between them and their ruling is the same [i.e. they are disbelievers].

Therefore, it is important to notify the people of the Kufr of these Shia scholars, leaders, and self-appointed propagandists. We read:

Question: Is it permissible to mention peoples’ names and characters when one wants to criticise them and their thinking?

Response: If someone writes something that contradicts the pure Sharee’ah, and distributes that material, or if he propagates that view in the media, it becomes compulsory to refute him and expose the falsehood of what he says. There is nothing wrong in mentioning that person’s name or in warning people about him if he calls to innovation, shirk, or if he calls people to what Allaah has prohibited or to disobedience. Until this day, there are knowledgeable and believing people from the callers to the truth and bearers of the Sharee’ah fulfilling this obligation, sincerely for Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) and for the benefit of His servants, rebuking the wrong, inviting to the truth, warning others against those who propagate falsehood and destructive rhetoric.

And Allaah is the Expounder of (all) success.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz
Fataawa Islaamiyyah - Volume 4, Page 279


A very clear explanation of the status of the Imami Shia has been given by a student of Mufti Ebrahim Desai, who said:


Are all shia Kafir? If not what makes them kafir or how can i identify if he is kafir?


Firstly, hereunder are the criteria for declaring someone a non-Muslim:

–When a person openly calls himself a non-Muslim, i.e. he accepts that he is a Christian, Jew, Hindu, etc.

–When a person negates, through his words or actions, something unanimously proven through Quran and Hadith. He will not be regarded a Muslim even though he claims to be one.

Jawahirul Fiqh Vol:1 Pg:23 (Maktabah Darul Uloom Karachi)

Secondly, although the Shias claim that they are Muslims, most of them have beliefs that negate the clear cut principles of Islam…[such as] they regard the status of their twelve Imams to be higher than the status of the Ambiya (Alaihim Assalaatu Wassalaam).

Aaapke Masaail aur Unka Hal Vol:1 Pg:188 (Maktabah Bayyinat)

Thereafter, Shias are categorised into three groups in regards to the ruling they fall under:

(1) Those about whom it is certain that they negate the principles of Islam. Such Shias will be regarded as non-Muslims even if they do claim otherwise…

(2) Those who do not negate any principles of Islam, but have a difference of opinion with the Muslims on saying that Ali (Radiyallahu Anhu) was the most superior amongst all the Sahabah (Radiyallahu Anhum). Such Shias will not be regarded as non-Muslims, but they will still be regarded as fasiqs (those who transgress the laws of Islam openly)…

(3) Those whose beliefs cannot be confirmed. They will not be regarded as Muslims nor will they be regarded as non-Muslims. As a matter of precaution, inter-marriages with them will not be permissible and the meat from the animals slaughtered by them will not be Halal.

Jawaahirul Fiqh Vol:1 Pg:59-63 (Maktabah Darul Uloom Karachi)

As far as ties with Shias are concerned, it is not permissible to have close friendship with them. However, Islam encourages Muslims to have good conduct with them, and show good character.

And Allah knows best

Ml. M. Jawed Iqbal,
Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah

source: Ask-Imam,

In conclusion, we say that Shi’ism is Kufr, and there is no doubt about this; if one properly follows Shia doctrine, then such a person is a Kaafir. Based on this, we say that the Shia leaders, scholars, and learned ones–including their propagandists–are Kufaar. As for the Shia lay-persons, then we generally refrain from passing Takfeer on them as a matter of precaution due to their ignorance which oftentimes saves them from Kufr. Therefore, we should make general statements such as “Shi’ism is Kufr” and “the Shia leaders, scholars, and learned ones (including their propagandists) are Kufaar” but refrain from specifically condemning individual lay-persons who are ignorant of certain Shia doctrines. We should shun the former (i.e. the learned ones) but we should soften the latter (i.e. the ignorant ones).

Article Written By: Ibn Al-Hashimi, | Email : ahlelbayt[a] | English Version