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Ups and Downs of Shiite/Sunni relations

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    Posted: 20 Apr 2013 at 01:09
Many people are familiar with Islam and two major divisions of Shia (Shiite) and Sunni. Division was over succession of prophet Muhhamad. Sunnis believe in succession of Rashidun Caliphs (Abubakr,Omar, Ottoman and Ali) but Shiite believe in succession of Ali and his male direct descendants(4th, 6th and 11th in different branch of Shiitism which makes them their Imams.)

The main focus of this thread is to find the ups and downs of their relationship and to find what, who and how intensified the hostility and where and when that happened. The second focus is also to know what factors calmed down the hostility.

Please come here and share your knowledge about the subject. You can also suggest your ideas how to resolve the hostility.


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I share my two cents here. (I had written a nice long article but erased it unintentionally so I will be precise here).

Ummayids and begining
The Shia history books blame the hostility on Ummayids and Muawiah (first Ummayid ruler) who opposed Caliph Ali and fought against him in battle of Siffin and also his son Yazid whose army slaughtered Caliph Ali's son, Husayn, and his family in battle of Karbala. From this moment on, followers of Caliph Ali joined with some opposition groups of Ummayid's rule created Shiite sect and the division started. (this is just a brief history lesson, so there won't be any religious preaching or discussion necessary here.)

Qarmatis
They were some fanatic Shiite who took control of eastern parts of Saudi Arabia in 10th century. They attacked Mecca, stole the holy black stone and asked for a huge payment for its ransom. It was considered a huge insult to many Muslims.

Safavids
They were sworn enemies of Ottomans and wanted to challenge them over the Muslim world leadership. They chose Shiite sect as their state religion which oppose the Sunni sect of Ottomans. They needed to have a strong Shiite base in their Sunni majority state, so they brought Shia clergy and scholars from every corners of the Muslim world specifically from Amel mountain in Lebanon and al-Ahsa region of Saudi
 Arabia to preach Shiitism. They created a privilege class for shiite clergymen and gave them extreme authorities. They started their conversion campaign with brute force and resorted to fanaticism. The conversion met with some success over the centuries of their rule and created a deep hostility among Shia/Sunnis. Some of their fanatic rituals still exist and most of them have been abandoned but they have created deep scars in Sunnis who still can not let it go. Some Sunnis still call Shiite as Safavids and consider them as infidels.

Islamic Republic of Iran and emergence of fanaticism in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.
Shiite clergies who kept their privilege status since Safavid dynasty, came to power in Iran in 1979. They dreamed about establishing a Shia Utopia by converting all their surrounding Sunni neighbors and guiding the Muslim world for the return of Mahdi (Shia messiah). This brought another round of hostility and conflict. Salafism (a sect of Sunni fundamentalists) got support and power in oil rich Saudi Arabia and dirt poor Yemen (a combination of money and desperate people). Constant war in the region and disturbance of super powers created a perfect situation for rise of fanaticism in Pakistan and Afghanistan where many madrasa (religious schools) taught fundamentalism and harsh views of religious to their students. These people were originally spiritually prepared to fight Soviets in Afghanistan but after the collapse of Soviet union they turned their attention to whomever they considered as infidels (Shiite Muslims, Hindus, Secular and liberal westerners). The rest of story is clear for all people... Taliban rule, twin towers and terrorism and proxy wars.
 
Unfortunately, fanatics from both sects (Shia/Sunnis) have gained power and intensified the hostility in recent years.

All opinions, ideas, stories and stands are welcome here. Specially Sunni side of the view. All others are welcome as well. Please tell us who, what and when thing got sour in your opinion. I hope for quality argument, good reasoning and fair criticism. I know there might be some errors in my argument and I will accept any rational criticism. 


Edited by Harburs - 20 Apr 2013 at 02:43
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Apr 2013 at 20:24
Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

I share my two cents here. (I had written a nice long article but erased it unintentionally so I will be precise here).

Ummayids and begining
The Shia history books blame the hostility on Ummayids and Muawiah (first Ummayid ruler) who opposed Caliph Ali and fought against him in battle of Siffin and also his son Yazid whose army slaughtered Caliph Ali's son, Husayn, and his family in battle of Karbala. From this moment on, followers of Caliph Ali joined with some opposition groups of Ummayid's rule created Shiite sect and the division started. (this is just a brief history lesson, so there won't be any religious preaching or discussion necessary here.)
 
Shias, modern 12vers that is, go even further. They claim that Ali and his descendants had the sole right for succession of the prophet, that Imamah was both a temporal and religious function at the same time.
 
This view was not the original view of the early shias, it appeared around the middle of the 2nd century AH during the "Imamate" of Jaafar Al-Sadiq. He had nothing to do with it but when the last military revolt lead by an Alawi (member of the Ali clan) was quashed, he was the most senior of the Alawis and he banned his followers from revolting and that was the last revolt lead by an actual Alawi.
 
Now the sunnis, at least prior to Mawardi, saw the succession as a pure temporal issue. Religion as well as customary law when there is no religious rulings exist is enforced by the state but the successor, or caliph as the literal word means, has no special religious powers like the pope or the Imam. Thus in the sunni view anyone can be a "caliph" (king was suggested but Arabs back then lived in quasi-republics and detested hereditary rule).
 
Shias, 12vers that is, claim that the prophet gave Ali and his descendants (especially Hussain's descendants) exclusive hereditary rights to temporal and secular authority. Sunnis dispute this and indeed this claim only began to appear by the end of the 1st century AH and took theological hold after the Sunni brother of the 11th Imam refused Imamah, declared loyalty to the Abbasids and kicked the leaders of the shias out of Samarra.
 
Where does Muawiyah fit in all of this? When Othman was assassinated Ali employed his assassins in his army. Muawiyah,  who was a clansman of Othman, was angry. As the senior Ummayyad the vendetta was on his shoulders (Othman's sons were fighting in Persia and Turkestan back then) and he demanded the assassins be brought to justice. What shia and most sunni books about the conflict that follows forget is that Muawiyah never claimed power nor disputed it. He swore allegiance to Ali twice. Some of Othman's killers were brought to justice but in the end and an agreement to stop violence commenced. When Ali was assassinated Al-Hassan knew he had no right to power and made a deal with the quite old Muawiyah. You have the "Caliphate" until you die and then I will follow. Al-Hassan died 5 years before Muawiyah. Muawiyah decided to break convention and chose his son, Yazid, as his successor since all senior Sahabah were too old and too inexperienced to rule not to mention that the most senior of them, like Abdullah ibn Al-Abbas (the grandfather of all Abbasids) and Abdullah ibn Omar, outright refused to be engaged in the government.
 
As was expected people were outraged and not just the shias. Civil war ensued with Abdullah ibn Al-Zubair and his brother Musab (who married Al-Hussain's daughter Sakinah). Al-Hussain was promised support and once he reached Kufah his supporters fled the Ummayyad army and the rest is history.
 
Musab was killed by the first Alawi partisan who rebelled under the banner of the Alawis but was not an Alawi himself. Al-Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi. He massacred people left and right with tacit support from the most senior Alawi and the man almost all shias back then supported, Muhammad ibn Al-Hanafiyah, Ali's son from another wife. Without going into details Marwan ibn Al-Hakam ibn Abi Al-As, another Ummayyad clansman, saved the day after Muawiyah II died and there was no heir, the heirs were on the borders fighting, he died soon and his son Abdul-Malik ended all rebellions by the sword of another clansman of Al-Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi, Al-Hajjaj ibn Yousef Al-Thaqafi.
 
While some Alawis accepted Ummayyad hegemony others decided not. They helped the Abbasids in their coup and expected the caliphate to be given to them it wasn't.

Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

Qarmatis
They were some fanatic Shiite who took control of eastern parts of Saudi Arabia in 10th century. They attacked Mecca, stole the holy black stone and asked for a huge payment for its ransom. It was considered a huge insult to many Muslims.
 
 
There weren't some fanatics, they were the first fanatics to appear. The massacred their supporters before their opponents willy-nilly. There was no theological basis for their movement unlike other shia dynasties like the Hamdanis in Halab, Uqailies in Mosul and of course the Fatimids. 
 
Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

Safavids
They were sworn enemies of Ottomans and wanted to challenge them over the Muslim world leadership. They chose Shiite sect as their state religion which oppose the Sunni sect of Ottomans. They needed to have a strong Shiite base in their Sunni majority state, so they brought Shia clergy and scholars from every corners of the Muslim world specifically from Amel mountain in Lebanon and al-Ahsa region of Saudi
 Arabia to preach Shiitism. They created a privilege class for shiite clergymen and gave them extreme authorities. They started their conversion campaign with brute force and resorted to fanaticism. The conversion met with some success over the centuries of their rule and created a deep hostility among Shia/Sunnis. Some of their fanatic rituals still exist and most of them have been abandoned but they have created deep scars in Sunnis who still can not let it go. Some Sunnis still call Shiite as Safavids and consider them as infidels.
 
Modern shiism was invented by those same people Ismail and his successors brough especially the Ameli scholars.
 
If one reads shia books written by Abbasid Iraqi scholars and those written by the Lebanese ones much later one can see the massive difference. Abbasids shias were not fanatic. Many saw sunnis as fellow muslims and did not say that all sahaba were infidels except those who supported Ali. The rituals existed but were more of a folk religion rather than having a theological basis. Even their view of the Imamah and its powers and roles was different than that of the Amelis.
 
The Amelis have a considerable catholic influence on them since their land was majority catholic. Early shias were iconoclasts. The Amelis believed in the icons and you see pictures of Ali and Hussain all over the place.
 
Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

Islamic Republic of Iran and emergence of fanaticism in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.
Shiite clergies who kept their privilege status since Safavid dynasty, came to power in Iran in 1979. They dreamed about establishing a Shia Utopia by converting all their surrounding Sunni neighbors and guiding the Muslim world for the return of Mahdi (Shia messiah). This brought another round of hostility and conflict. Salafism (a sect of Sunni fundamentalists) got support and power in oil rich Saudi Arabia and dirt poor Yemen (a combination of money and desperate people). Constant war in the region and disturbance of super powers created a perfect situation for rise of fanaticism in Pakistan and Afghanistan where many madrasa (religious schools) taught fundamentalism and harsh views of religious to their students. These people were originally spiritually prepared to fight Soviets in Afghanistan but after the collapse of Soviet union they turned their attention to whomever they considered as infidels (Shiite Muslims, Hindus, Secular and liberal westerners). The rest of story is clear for all people... Taliban rule, twin towers and terrorism and proxy wars.
 
You confuse here the rise of "Islamicism" with fundamentalism. All current movements, including the salafi movement, never existed before. It is a new phenomenon, a 19th century event.
 
With new ideologies, like socialism, anarchism, liberalism etc., infiltrating into the muslim world certain reformers sought to ideologise islam.
 
It sprung simultaneously across the Islamic world. From the Deobandis in India to the Tajdid movement in Egypt to Islamic Turanism in Turkey. Different parties sought to give Islam an ideological credit, which is wrong since Islam is a religion, while universalists wanted a good ol' days approach the modernists wanted a democratic quasi-liberal Islamic state. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is based on a plethora of evangelical groups of the 19th century, was the latest and the most far reaching of those since they went to the people rather than waste time in intellectual sophistry and never declared their actual aims to anyone except those who are members of the group. Their vision is to build a state from the bottom up unless they get power when they force themselves on everybody else and use religion to clamp down on opposition. 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Apr 2013 at 21:32
Salafism is a fundamentalist sect. Even their name Salaf is referred to the old way and origin not a new or modern reading of the religion. Turanism is more of a Pan-Turkist movement although it had some religious flavors in its early days.

Hezb u tahrir in Uzbekistan, Shia velayet faghigh in Iran, and Muslim brotherhood in Egypt and Syria are indeed Islamist movements. I am not sure about fanatic deobandis, or other crazy jihadists movements being anything close to Muslim brotherhood.

Al can you mention ups and downs of Shia/Sunnis in history , in your views and mention some flaws of Sunni or Shia dynasties or historical figures which may have intensified the conflict?

Do you see any antidote to this animosity? Middle east could be a paradise if neighboring countries could cooperate with each others instead of hating and fighting. Constant wars and hatred have ruined the region and many people are suffering when they could have some of the best standards of living in the world. Europeans learned their lesson after years of fighting and deep hostility why can't we learn this. Many middle eastern countries are rich and can invest in industrialization and education instead of pumping the money to weapon manufacturers buying expensive spare part eating machines and conspiring on their neighbors. It is really sad to sit and watch all this happening. The riches being dumped for expensive weapons and costly contracts and majority being in need of those money, good health, and well education. The opportunities are passing by, our young-hood saying farewell to us and next generation makes the same mistake again. It is a meaningless cycle.Unhappy


Edited by Harburs - 20 Apr 2013 at 21:34
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 2013 at 21:34
Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

Salafism is a fundamentalist sect. Even their name Salaf is referred to the old way and origin not a new or modern reading of the religion. Turanism is more of a Pan-Turkist movement although it had some religious flavors in its early days.
 
Salafism is not "fundamentalism" since it is not an ideology to begin with. Salafism is a puritanical movement that wants to return to orthodoxy. In that respect they are no much different than the mainstream. Certain members of the salafist movement decided to politicise their movement and here traditional salafists (usually calling themselves "scholarly salafists") distanced themselves from them since they view politics as not part of religion.
 
Turanism is a pan-Turkic movement. I was talking about Islamic Turanism, the Grey Wolves type of Islamicism. This was first espoused by the Young Turks movement.
Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

Hezb u tahrir in Uzbekistan, Shia velayet faghigh in Iran, and Muslim brotherhood in Egypt and Syria are indeed Islamist movements. I am not sure about fanatic deobandis, or other crazy jihadists movements being anything close to Muslim brotherhood.
 
Hizb Al-Tahrir is a small organisation with no influence whatsoever. They have a lot of money but their view, almost purely political and self constructed, are too dreamy and naïve.
 
The Deobandis are not fanatics. Actually they are considered heretics by Salafists (they follow Ashari and Maturidi theology which is heretical in the orthodox Sunni view) and are in all appearances a sufi movement. Deobandi movement is an educational movement. Its political activism made it a magnate and a recruiting place for political groups that are associated with but do not share the actually ideology of the deobandis. The Taliban, the quintessential "Deobandi" organisation is at odds with their theological and legal teachings but nevertheless most Talibs were recruited from their schools.
 
The MB exists everywhere in the Arab world and in Turkey. They are primarily strong in Egypt, Palestine, Yemen, Libya and Jordan. Other places they are weaker than Salafists or have no presence at all like in Syria. 
 
Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

Al can you mention ups and downs of Shia/Sunnis in history , in your views and mention some flaws of Sunni or Shia dynasties or historical figures which may have intensified the conflict?
 
Where to start and where to finish. If you want the turning points there are several ones where you could see a drift the never heals and resulted in massacres to no end.
 
First was the slave revolt in Sawad known as the Zanj rebellion. This was a slave revolt on economic conditions in the plantations of Southern Iraq that used religion, shia pretender, to rally the troops. Thousands were massacred and this put the first major rift in force.
 
Then there was the Qaramitah and the famous episode.
 
Then there was the rule of the Buwayhis who introduced the shia rituals of Ashura and forced people to perform them sunni, shia or even Christian and jew.
 
Then the Seljuq revenge from the shia and Ayubid revenge from the Fatimids in Egypt.
 
Then the massacres of Baghdad in the 1240s when probably 10s of thousands of shia were massacred.
 
Then the Mongol invasion which saw shias joining them en masse across the Levant especially in Syria.
 
Then the Mamluke revenge which eliminated shias from the entire levant region (and there were many) except Lebanon because local rulers protected them.
 
Then the Jalairis and their rule in Iraq.
 
Then the Conquests of Taimur who was not very much in love with shias.
 
And finally Shah Ismail's conquest of Baghdad and the destruction of the tombs.
 
And Wahhabi invasion of the 1810s and the destruction of shia tombs which was the first modern sectarian conflict (it froze for almost 200 years after Shah Abbas).
 
Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

Do you see any antidote to this animosity? Middle east could be a paradise if neighboring countries could cooperate with each others instead of hating and fighting. Constant wars and hatred have ruined the region and many people are suffering when they could have some of the best standards of living in the world. Europeans learned their lesson after years of fighting and deep hostility why can't we learn this. Many middle eastern countries are rich and can invest in industrialization and education instead of pumping the money to weapon manufacturers buying expensive spare part eating machines and conspiring on their neighbors. It is really sad to sit and watch all this happening. The riches being dumped for expensive weapons and costly contracts and majority being in need of those money, good health, and well education. The opportunities are passing by, our young-hood saying farewell to us and next generation makes the same mistake again. It is a meaningless cycle.Unhappy
 
It will never end as long as minorities keep circling the wagon whenever an event happens outside their country and they defend their co-religionists even if they are clearly in the wrong.
 
Take Syria for example. 4 Years ago Maliki called Syria a "Haven" for terrorists (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/26/world/middleeast/26iraq.html?_r=0). Now Syria is a "haven" for freedom. Why? The Syrian revolution. He has publically said that the 45% shias of Iraq (this is their actual percentage not the fantastic numbers of 60 or 65% usually thrown) had a "right" to rule Iraq but the 80% sunni majority of Syria don't have such a right because they would be a "threat" to minorities. Except for some ultrasecularists and a very small minority of religious leaders shias across the Arab world have been almost unanimous in their support for the Assad regime. And remember this support was long before the revolution became militarised. Now that blood is spelt this has opened a wound that will never heal in the near future.
 
This is not to say the other side has no problems. The distrust towards the minority, viewing them as a fifth column even when they proved they were loyal beyond anything else is not helping. If a sunni does something wrong, let us say spy for Iran (as the case now here where a spy ring was caught some weeks ago) he is an isolated man. but if one of them was a shia the entire sect is viewed as a fifth column.
 
Unfortunately in this region minorities rather than integrate and try to defend themselves and assert loyalty through ad campaigns they do the opposite. Despite damning evidence and the fact that most of the ring were Sunni Saudis plus a Sunni Iranian the fact that one was a shia made shia "ïntellectuals" cry foul, accuse the government of vilifying shias and worst of all,  defend the mullah regime and paint a rosy picture of it. And some of these "intellectuals" are well known secualarists who oppose Islamicist ideologies.
 
In Lebanon a Hizb official said publically that the Hizb will ally itself with Israel if a sunni regime takes control of Syria.
 
In Kuwait shias held a mourning tent for Imad Mughniyyah, the Hizb terrorist who kidnapped a Kuwaiti plane, slit the throats of Kuwaiti citizens and threw their bodies from the plane in front of the cameras of the world.
 
All these actions feed into collective psyche that these minorities are bad and add wood to the fire. Ravens of hate use these to fill people with hatred so a place like Egypt where Iran used to have an approval way up in the 80s is now view in a negative way as bad as Israel.
 
 
What would end all this? Nothing. Sectarianism still exist in Europe where more muslims go to mosques than Christians go to church. It can be reduced though and this needs a effort from both sides. A majority that punishes who break the peace and a minority that engages in public life and realise that allowing Ashura rituals is much less important than tackling job discrimination.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Apr 2013 at 12:30
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:


The Deobandis are not fanatics. Actually they are considered heretics by Salafists (they follow Ashari and Maturidi theology which is heretical in the orthodox Sunni view) and are in all appearances a sufi movement. 

Orthodox Sunni view is the Ashari and Maturidi schools already. Together they make up %80 of all muslims. Maturidi and Ashari schools see Salafi school as also a legitimate sunni school.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Apr 2013 at 17:51
I appreciate your thoughts and views but I think both sides of the stories are to blame not only one side. There is always a reaction in response to an action. People should stop being played by fanatics or corrupt leaders. Any rational person likes peace and benefits which come with it(Win-Win situation). People need to learn about expense of certain policies which are going to affect them directly or indirectly. They need to be reminded if you don't like something happen to you, your children, economy and so on then do not support or implement such policies (activities) which will bring disaster and miseries upon other people. If a Syrian Shia citizen supports killing of Sunni civilians by Shabiha in Syria he/she should expect himself or someone dear to him being killed by explosive devices or passing bullets. same story, If a Sunni citizen in Iraq or Pakistan supports extremist Sunni groups who blow up innocent people for being Shia have to expect for retaliation. This bloodshed stops we ordinary people (Sunni/Shia) stop supporting regimes, politicians, movements, or groups who promote violence. We need to inform people and corner these promoter of violence and hatred.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Apr 2013 at 18:40
Originally posted by Paradigm of Humanity Paradigm of Humanity wrote:

Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:


The Deobandis are not fanatics. Actually they are considered heretics by Salafists (they follow Ashari and Maturidi theology which is heretical in the orthodox Sunni view) and are in all appearances a sufi movement. 

Orthodox Sunni view is the Ashari and Maturidi schools already. Together they make up %80 of all muslims. Maturidi and Ashari schools see Salafi school as also a legitimate sunni school.
 
Sorry to disappoint you but there were no Asharis before Abul-Hasan Al-Ashari c. 300 AH nor Maturidis before Al-Maturidi also c. 300 AH. All great Sunni scholars before and after were what is now considered "Salafis". Theirs is theologically the Orthodox view.
 
Why Ashari became the canon? Nizam Al-Mulk and the Seljuqs. The Nizamiyyah movement was primarily Ashari although many Orthodox Sunnis  came from the Nizamiyyah system.
 
The Maturidis are an Ottoman imposition since they were closely linked with Sufis.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Apr 2013 at 19:48
So was all major schools of fiqh appeared between 100-200 AH. That doesn't mean they are not orthodox. Teologic schools appeared as Islam's answer to newly met Greek philosophy. That's simply as it is. There was no such questions before translations and teaching of Greek philosophy. Is something good because Allah orders it (Ashari)? Or is Allah orders it because it's good (Maturidi)? Trivial and pointless details, chosing any of them cannot bring person nearer to Allah. Only deeds and dedication can.

I'm a bit skeptical about connection between old and modern Salafism. Some prefer to call the latter "Wahhabism" and they are particularly hostile towards it. 

And for Sufism... Sufism existed where Islam existed, not just Ottomans. Critising Sufism because of ignorant people who turn tombs into wishing wells are wrong. Being Salafi doesn't help some ignorant fool who points above when talking about Allah. These are minor shirk and it probably exists in every Muslim in some form (money, women, child, ego?) except those very near to Allah. 
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