This is in reference to the rejoinder by letter-writer A. Faizur Rahman (June 25). Profound is the confusion that threatens the foundations of society, and more so with respect to Islam and the causes for its many divisions. If expressing a historical viewpoint is treated as prejudice and if a wrong precedent becomes a fait accompli and taken as correct, then so be it. It is true that when Prophet Muhammad died in 632 A.D., his will as to who should lead the Muslim community after his death was not clearly and legally established. Lying on his deathbed, he had asked for writing material: “Bring ink and paper so that I may lay down in writing for you that which will always guard you from error.” But ‘Umar said: “The pain is confusing him, we have God’s Book; this is sufficient.” Thus his companions quarrelled over whether they should fetch the writing material, and the Prophet sent them away. Soon thereafter, even before the burial rites had been completed, at the instigation of ‘Umar, Abu-Bakr, the Prophet’s father-in-law, was chosen to be the first Caliph during a stormy community gathering. From the beginning, protests were raised by influential Muslims belonging to different tribes against this way of selecting the Leader, and it was recalled that the Prophet had on a different occasion publicly designated his cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat ‘Ali, as his successor.

What has been expressed by Mr. Rahman is another viewpoint. As a non-Muslim I have no intention even to a slightest degree to hurt the sentiments of the followers of Islam. My statements are based on the early Muslim records as to what was the root cause for its divide. During the past 1,450 years, more than 100 sects and sub-sects have emerged which clearly shows that there is no possibility of Sunnis and Shias ever uniting and living in harmony. Historically speaking, more blood has been shed by Muslims killing each other than through fighting with followers of other religions in their bid to achieve power and domination. Is this then the result of sticking to “one thing which if you adhere to, you will never go astray: the ‘Book of Allah’.” My learnings through interfaith dialogue spanning over three decades tell me that the phenomenon of divine Revelation and its resultant influence is progressively challenging humanity to construct a new pattern for sustaining life on our planet. The rising fires of religious prejudice clearly call for decisive action against fanaticism and intolerance. To this end, the article by Shahjahan Madampat (“The lost moral of Islam’s divide,” June 21), is thought-provoking/enlightening.

A.K. Merchant,

New Delhi

(Correspondence on this subject is now closed.)

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