Ayatollah Khamenei

Years before revolution we've tried to bring about concord between Shias and Sunnis

The issue of concord and harmony among the Islamic Ummah, during our time, is an important point. Not only in the years after the revolution, but also many years before the revolution, we were making efforts to bring about concord and harmony between Shia and Sunni to indicate the significance of Islamic unity to all Muslims. 

During the years before the revolution, when I had been exiled to the Baluchistan Province, I sent a message to the late Mowlavi Shahdad, a knowledgeable scholar and one of the renowned ulema of Baluchistan, suggesting that we get together in order to lay the foundations of a practical, feasible, and real model for unity between Sunni and Shia. He welcomed my suggestion; but, later the issues surrounding the [Islamic] revolution came up. At the first Friday Prayers Congress, that we convened after the revolution, a number of Sunni scholars, including the late Mowlavi Shahdad, were also present. While in that congressional hearing, there were some discussions about the above issue [Unity].

The differences of opinion between followers of the two Islamic schools of thought are something that naturally happen. There have been differences of opinion, among various Shia denominations and among various Sunni denominations, over the course of decades: such differences at the level of non-scholars have led to confrontations. But the case is different with regard to ulema and scholars, as they usually try to iron out their differences through discussions and debate. The ulema and scholars, and those who are characterized by goodwill and benevolence, have always tried to prevent the people from engaging in conflict and confrontations.

Another factor that later entered this equation [on uniting Sunni and Shia] was colonialism. We are not implying that all differences between Shia and Sunni have only been fomented by the colonial powers; their own sentiments [that of Muslims], as well as in certain cases of ignorance, prejudice, and misconception, have also contributed to their differences. However, the fact of the matter is that when the colonial powers emerged on the scene, they took the utmost advantage of these differences. 

This is the reason why the prominent Islamic personalities, who are renowned for their struggle against the colonial powers, have all placed great emphasis on unity of the Islamic Ummah. Sayyid Jamaluddin Asadabadi, his disciple Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, and others; Shia scholars such as the late Sharafuddin Ameli and others; they made every effort to prevent the differences of opinion from turning into a weapon, in the hands of colonial powers, against the Islamic world. The late magnanimous Imam Khomeini always stressed the need for Islamic unity.

The colonial powers have capitalized on and taken the utmost advantage of their differences, among them [those who take advantage] Britain is more skilled at doing so than others. The reason is that the British have been present in Iran, Turkey, the Arab countries, and the Indian Subcontinent for many years, and they know how to turn the Sunni populations against Shia, and they know how to turn Shia against Sunni. They know, very well, how to do this, and they have done it!

Ever since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the colonial powers have been stepping up their attempts at fomenting discord and schism between Shia and Sunni. We have been witnessing the signs of their attempts and giving due warnings. However, over the past years, considering that the Islamic Republic of Iran has accomplished a noble objective and conquered a high summit, which is the awakening of the Islamic world, the arrogant powers now have a stronger motive for the creation of discord and division among Muslims, and they will do anything to attain this goal.

Today, they are seeking to turn the Shia and the Sunni against each other in Iraq; they are also trying to do the same in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They will do the same [attempt religious divide] in our country and anywhere else if they can. We have been informed that their agents have even gone to Lebanon to set the Shia against the Sunni. Therefore, they are carrying out every effort to achieve their goals.

Those agents that seek to sow seeds of discord are neither Shia nor Sunni Muslims; they are not interested, either, in the Shia or in the Sunni; they have no respect for the sanctities of both Shia or the Sunni...

They talk about the al-Qaeda and Salafi terrorists in Iraq, while they, themselves, are the inciters. The U.S. and Israeli services are provoking the former Baathist elements in Iraq to bomb areas wherever they can. The most insecure Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, are the cities whose security-related responsibilities have been undertaken by U.S. security officials. There is more security in many Iraqi regions in which there are fewer U.S. forces and more Iraqi forces. Insecurity is fomented by the U.S. forces. They have an ulterior motive for doing so.

Ever since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the arrogant powers have been trying to portray our revolution as a "Shia revolution." But the fact of the matter is that our revolution is an Islamic revolution, relying on the Holy Qur'an; it is proud of hoisting the flag that represents Islamic values and promotes the divine precepts and spirituality; it has been a successful revolution, despite all the enmities.

The Islamic Revolution has imbued Muslims with a sense of Islamic dignity and taking pride in Islam. This is what they [the enemies] are opposed to. Otherwise, if our revolution had been a Shia revolution, we would have become separated from the Islamic world and had nothing to do with it. They would have had nothing to do with us either. They would have expressed no hostility towards our revolution. But they have noticed that our revolution is an Islamic revolution.

Imam Khamenei, Jan 15, 2007


  • Islam
  • Islamic Unity
  • Shia
  • Shiite
  • Sunni
  • Unity