Islam calls for unity and solidarity. Both Sunnis and Shiites are required to work together and try to overcome their points of difference or forget about them, simply because the Ummah is facing a plight and both parties are targeted by one enemy.
Here, we’d like to stress the fact that at a time when the enemy of Islam encroaches the Muslim Ummah, elements of enhancing unity should dominate and disputes between different Muslim groups and sects are to be avoided.
Hence, Muslims should beware of all routes and channels that may lead to divisions, differences and conflicts among them. They should abide by the Qur’an and Sunnah, which are the assured means of salvation. Almighty Allah says: (And hold fast, all of you together, by the covenant of Allah and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided. ) (Aal `Imraan 3: 103)
In our day and age, it is more important to stress points of agreement rather than points of disagreement and to try to bring a bridge between the Sunnah and the Shi`ah without compromising any Islamic values, because what unites Muslims is much greater than what disunites them.
In this regard, the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states:
It is important for the Sunnis to concentrate on the points of agreement, not difference, when having dialogues with the Shiites, especially that the points of agreement are on the fundamental issues of religion, while the points of difference have to do with the minor ones.
Points of Agreement
1. They believe in Almighty Allah, the Day of Judgment, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as the Seal of Prophets who was sent by Almighty Allah (to mankind and jinn) to complete the Heavenly Messages sent before him. Believing in all that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent with is part of having faith in all the Heavenly Books and all Allah’s Messengers (peace and blessings be upon them). Allah Almighty says: (The Messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers—
we make no distinction between any of His messengers—and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us)Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying) (Al-Baqarah 2: 285). These are the pillars of faith on which both groups agree on.
2. They believe in the Glorious Qur’an as Allah’s illuminating Book that guides to the right path. Allah Almighty says: (We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)) (Al-Hijr 15: 9). [Message in this verse refers to the Glorious Qur’an.] There is no difference between the Sunnis and Shiites concerning the Qur’an being Almighty Allah’s word. It is on this Book that religious scholars depend in holding comparative dialogues with people of other religions, concluding juristic opinions, guidance, etc. Allah Almighty says: (So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires, but beware of them lest they seduce thee from some part of that which Allah hath revealed unto thee. And if they turn away, then know that Allah’s Will is to smite them for some sin of theirs. Lo! And truly most men are rebellious. Is it a judgment of the time of (pagan) ignorance that they are seeking? Who is better than Allah for judgment to a people who have certainty (in their belief)?) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 49-50)
According to this verse, Allah Almighty warned the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) against succumbing to the desires of the People of the Book or other misled people when it came to judging between them, lest they might cause him to deviate from some part of what Allah revealed to him. This indicates that all that Allah has revealed should be followed by Muslims.
3. Both groups also agree that Muslims are to abide by the Five Pillars of Islam, i.e., to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is His Messenger, to perform the specified prayers, to give zakah, to observe fast in the month Ramadan, and to perform pilgrimage. The difference in opinion between the two groups regarding some rulings pertaining to these pillars is something that is quite normal. It is like the scholarly difference in opinion among the Sunni schools themselves, such as the Hanbali, Hanifi, and Maliki schools.
Relevant books on the different juristic points of view, like Nail Al-Awtar by Imam Ash-Shawakani (may Allah have mercy upon him), refer to eminent scholars of jurisprudence from among the Sunnis and Shiites on equal footing. Reading one of these books, one does not feel that there is a crucial difference between the Shiite schools and the Sunni ones. This does not apply only to the acts of worship, it includes also transactions.
It is true that the Shiites do not recognize the Sunni reference books on the Prophetic hadiths, such as Al-Muwatta‘ by Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad’s Musnad, Sahih Al-Bukhari, SahihMuslim, Sunnan Abu Dawud, Sunan Ibn Majah, Sunnan Ad-Daramy. However, most of the authentic hadiths referred to in these books were also regarded as authentic by the Shiites through one of two ways: regarding them as Prophetic hadiths reported by other chains of reporters agreed upon among them as trustworthy, or regarding them as points of view (not Prophetic hadiths) peculiar to their Shiite imams.
Anyway, the most important point to be taken into account is that there is a great deal of agreement between the Sunni jurisprudence and the Shiite one. This is because both depend on the same sources, the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and also because their aims in conducting research on religion are similar, that is, establishing Allah’s justice and mercy among people.
Furthermore, if we are to make serious researches on the Sunni opinions, we will find that some Shiite views that seem eccentric to us have been also adopted by some Sunni scholars.