On Thursday, November 11, 2021, Ayatollah Reza Ramazani met with some of the professors and scholars of the World Council of Churches in Geneva and answered their questions in various fields.
In response to a question about the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, the Secretary-General of the AhlulBayt (a.s.) World Assembly said, “The main difference between Shiites and Sunnis is that Sunnis, in Sunni sources, refer only to the actions, words, and narrations of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h). While the Shiites also consider the words, interpretations, and actions of the Infallibles (a.s.). According to the Shiites, 14 Infallibles hold a special position of infallibility, like the Apostles of the Prophet Jesus (p.b.u.h) who are revered and holy in Christianity.”
“All the Infallibles are in the position of infallibility, and therefore, their words, deeds, and interpretations are proof for us. Accordingly, we believe that the connection with the position of infallibility in the year 11 AH, the year of the demise of the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h), not only did not end but after his demise, continues to this day,” he added.
“We believe that the commentators and interpreters of the Quran are the Infallibles, and since the status of infallibility continues to this day by an infallible Imam (Imam Mahdi (a.s.)), there is still a describer for the Quran. That is one who can interpret the Quran comprehensively, completely, and accurately. Others in their interpretation sometimes deal with one dimension and sometimes several dimensions of the divine verses, and the only person who is acquainted with all aspects of the Quran is the Infallible. We do not consider such a position of infallibility for other human beings,” Ayatollah Ramazani continued.
“Not all Catholics believe in infallibility for the pope. For example, in his book “Infallible? An inquiry”, Hans Küng denies the Pope’s permanent infallibility. However, he can be considered as a critical Catholic,” Ayatollah Reza Ramazani stated.
The main features of the teachings of the AhlulBayt (a.s.)
Stating that the teachings of the AhlulBayt (a.s.) can be summarized in three issues, the Secretary-General of the AhlulBayt (a.s.) World Assembly continued:
1. Their knowledge is accompanied by rationality;
2. It is associated with mysticism and spirituality;
3. Its basis is always justice.
“There are many Quranic verses in this regard. Including the verse: “لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ” (We sent aforetime our messengers with Clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance (of Right and Wrong)) (Quran, Surah Al-Hadid, Verse: 25). As a result, all the prophets came to manifest justice. They came to give everyone the taste of justice,” he also said.
The academic relationship between Shiites and Sunnis
Regarding the academic relationship between Shiites and Sunnis, Ayatollah Reza Ramazani said, “The first part is the interaction that has taken place between Sunni and Shiite professors, and the second part is a university for the approximation of Islamic denominations in Iran, most of whose students are Sunni. We have tried to express Shiite literature and culture correctly in this university. We also had these connections at higher levels. Such as the Grand Ayatollah Borujerdi, and Sheikh Shaltut, by whom Jafari Fiqh was made official. At present, in Iranian universities, Hanbali jurisprudence, Shafi'i jurisprudence, etc. are discussed in the fields of study and Osul discussions.”
In response to the question, “Given the existence of different ideas and the many efforts that have been made to create unity, why has no unity been achieved (between Shiites and Sunnis)?!” Ayatollah Ramezani responded, “We do not mean that two people, or two religions, or two groups have to have the same thoughts. Rather, we should try not to insult the essence of religion, which is human dignity, and those who have brought this essence with them. All divine prophets have been sent by God for love, peace, and the spread of justice.”
Shiite expectations of Christianity
In response to the question “What is your expectation from Christianity?”, Secretary-General of the AhlulBayt (a.s.) World Assembly stated, “We expect the religious leaders of Christianity and Islam to strive for the most important teaching of God, which is to preserve the status and dignity of man. They should strive to eradicate oppression and poverty from human society by promoting the true teachings of Islam and Christianity, and for all human beings to live together peacefully, with spirituality and morality. We must reach a stage where no one allows himself to insult the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran. The divine prophets, from Abraham to Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, should not be ridiculed. They must remain sacred to mankind. Because human beings are naturally inclined to the sacred things.”
More female students than male students in Iran
“In some fields this number is equal, and in others, the number of male and female students varies according to the field of study. The important point is that half of the world’s population is made up of women, and in education and research, women must be present. Therefore, in education and research, there should be no difference between men and women,” Ayatollah Ramazani said, responding to the question, “What is the reason for the increase in the number of female students compared to male students in Iranian universities?”
In response to the question, “Are there Shiites with radical ideas?”, Ayatollah Ramazani said, “There are radical ideas in all religions. Throughout the centuries, there have been also radical groups in Christianity and Judaism. The same is true in Islamic sects. For example, in our opinion, ISIL and people who have ISIL ideas are not Muslims at all. The beheading of thousands of people is not compatible with any basis of the Quran and the Infallibles (a.s.).”
Mysticism in Shiism
“Mysticism is a kind of knowledge of the heart in such a way that man feels the truth within himself and reaches a stage where he does not see anyone in the system of existence other than God as the greatest power and the greatest wisdom. Mysticism, in terms of thought and belief, leads to the fact that the whole existence is God, His power and wisdom, and all the divine names and attributes are present in the whole of existence,” added the Secretary-General of the AhlulBayt (a.s.) World Assembly in the end.
Speech by the President of Ahl al-Bayt International University
Also in this meeting, Dr. Saeed Jazari, President of the International University of AhlulBayt (a.s.), answered some questions of the students and researchers present at the meeting.
Emphasizing Shiite principles, he said, “Shiites, unlike most Sunnis, have important commonalities and principles with Christianity and the Church in interfaith interaction and dialogue. Basically, theological concepts in Shiite thought are based on principles that are also fundamental in the two important religions of Judaism and Christianity. Issues such as martyrdom, intercession, infallibility, Return, recourse, belief in the unseen, etc., are among the common elements of faith between thinkers of the Shiite and the church.”
“We believe that part of the distinction and difference between religions and their denominations is due to cultural foundations in different geographies, and some others are due to political thoughts. In fact, if these two issues are scrutinized, the interfaith dialogue will be an accessible topic,” added the president of AhlulBayt (a.s.) University.
“The twelfth Imam of the Shiites is called Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and we all believe that there is no separation between Imam Mahdi (a.s.) and Jesus (a.s.), and to bring salvation to humanity, Imam Mahdi (a.s.) will appear with the Prophet Jesus (a.s.),” Jazari said, referring to the fact that there are twelve Imams for Shiites.
“Christianity and Shia both believe in the resurrection, therefore, the issue of the Day of Judgment is also important to both religions. One of the points that can be mentioned about the resurrection is the issue of “Intercession”. This is a spiritual and mystical fellowship that some Sunnis do not believe in and reject. According to Shiite Islam, intercession is the same as mystical unity or communion,” he added.