Last week Saudi Arabia announced the execution of 47 people; among them was Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, a significant cleric of Shia minority background. Iran has long been trying to prevent the death sentence of the Shia Sheikh al-Nimr, but could not succeed. This given execution sparked serious rage within the Shia circles. Two significant powers of the Muslim world, now find themselves in severe tension. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan closed their embassies in Iran while United Arab Emirates lowered the ranks to undersecretary level. In the following few days Saudi Arabia halted its Iran flights and banned its citizens to go to Iran. And finally it announced that it froze all commercial relations with Iran.
During this period Iran took some successive steps to decrease the tensions. President Rouhani stated that they want friendliness, brotherhood and good relations with all the countries of the region. He called for Iranian courts to try the convicts who attacked the Saudi Embassy. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also declared that Iran does not want new tension in the region and that the countries of the region should unite against terror. Saudi Arabia had placed the death penalty on hold for some time. What should have been done was to either pardon al-Nimr or change the death sentence to life in prison.
Today a mutual burst of rage has developed. What is certain is that this fervent spirit will damage both countries to a great extent. Both sides have undoubtedly been hurt. But what has happened has taken place and there is no going back. Increasing the magnitude of tensions and stirring the region towards more instability has no benefit for Muslims.
As a matter of fact, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia are countries that consider themselves with high levels of dignity and national sensitivities. The deep state of the world seems to be using these countries’ proud nature against them. This situation is similar to what is going on between Russia and Turkey.
The way not to fall for this trick is to maintain our presence of mind and sound judgment. The response to the crises can certainly be suspended for one or two months. After about 30-40 days the parties may come together for discussion and resolution. While the events are still very heated, decisions that will be taken in the process might not be reasonable. Our Prophet (PBUH) advises to go and take ablution when we feel rage. In the 134th verse of Surah Al ‘Imran God tells us that believers may be tested with rage, but that they should overcome it and forgive people instead. The Qur’an advises the following:
“Those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people – God loves the good-doers.” (Qur’an” 3:134)
In some dark gathering-places the Middle East there are groups that have reshaped the current borders with new maps and countries divided with new smaller replacing them. Libya, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Yemen are in reality divided into smaller territories. Egypt, Morocco, Tunis and Jordan are effectively living on the verge of civil war. The same dark clouds of fractureand division are over Saudi Arabia also. For this reason, patriots of both countries should try their best to prevent this game that has been put into action.
Muslims including members of Sunni and Shia schools of thought are brothers to one another both in this world and the hereafter. God wants us to unite and act in cooperation. The Sunni world should not exclude Iran, and on the contrary should embrace them. Iran should be the protector of all Muslims. Sectarian nationalism is the greatest obstacle against uniting of Muslims right now. Shias are not enemies of Sunni and Sunni are not enemies of Shia. Lack of love of a few radicals should not be attributed to all Sunnis. The responsibility of Saudi Arabia is to clear the notion of what it means to be a Muslim. It should declare that it regards all those who say ‘La ilahailla Allah’ [There is no god but Allah] as Muslims and brothers. As long as the crisis persists, Shia population living under the rule of Sunnis and in turn Sunni residents living under the rule of Shia will live in anxiety. Iran is home to 6 million Sunni, while Saudi Arabia hosts 4.5 million Shias. Sunnis enjoy all rights in Iran and have their representatives in the Parliament.
Iraq and Russia are eager to be the intermediaries in ending the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Turkey can also be an exemplary mediator as well. What these two countries are going through right now is not a crisis of their own, to begin with. This crisis involves the entire region, even the whole world. Right now heated war is widespread in the Middle East. Escalating this enmity between the two countries will make the world a more dangerous place. 25 percent of the world’s total oil reserves are on the lands of these two countries. The impact of this conflict will affect both the policies and economics of the world. For Syria and Iraq to attain peace, cooperation of both countries is imperative. Escalating the crisis will delay the peace, which would also mean more international terror, more refugees and more innocent bloodshed.
It is evident that the US, the EU and Russia do not have the power to end this tension on their own. In reality the active support of Muslims is essential. It is obligatory for Muslims to prevent this fight. God commands us to correct the tensions between Muslims. Muslims should not be a part of this fight, but only be on the reconciliatory sides. We should not forget that both sides are Muslims. We can never reckon what this sedition will turn into in the future. Hence Muslim scholars and the world Muslims should call the sides to peace.
Indeed it is not conceivable to approve either the executions or the attacks on the embassies. All top Iranian officials condemned the attack. Also 40 attackers have been arrested and President Rouhani in a letter asked the Judiciary to try the culprits as soon as possible. Administrators, prominent intellectuals and religious leaders of both countries should refrain from making declarations that might incite war. The immediate requisite of the Islamic world is solidarity and unity. Muslim leaders should be supportive of this. We should not forget that Muslims’ inter-fighting only allows Satan to rejoice. Muslims are obliged to make peace between their brothers. God tells us the following in the Qur’an:
“The believers are brothers, so make peace between your brothers and have fear of Allah so that hopefully you will gain mercy.” (Surat al-Hujurat, 10)
Adnan Oktar's piece in Iran Daily & The Hans India & Riyadh Vision: