As a former Shi’ite myself I always understood why former Shi’ites are shunned (and often completely denied) by the wider Twelver Shi’ite community, however what I never have nor will understand is why the Sunnis do not champion these people. Anyways, for this very reason I decided to write few lines about the man who has shaken the very foundations of Twelver Shi’ism.
Ahmad al-Katib (this is the nom de plume under which he publishes his writings, his real name is Abdul-Rasul) was born in Karbala, Iraq on 13 June 1953 in a devout Shiʿite home that was steeped in the intense atmosphere of the city. His father, Abdul-Zahra` (!) ibn Abdul-Amir (!) al-Hajj Habib al-Asadi, belonged to the Shiraziyya – the Shi’ite movement associated with the Karbala-based ‘Ayatollah’ Sayyid Muhammad Shirazi (1928–2002).
Al-Katib received a traditional Shi’ite Islamic education at the renowned Hawza (‘seminary’) of Najaf (where he was ‘Turbaned’), but because of his dissenting opinions regarding key aspects of Shi’ite doctrine he was attacked by many Shia clerics to this very day.
During the 1980s, al-Katib lived in Iran, where he not only founded and directed an Arabic-language radio station opposing and challenging Saddam Hussein’s regime during the dragged-out Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), but also continued his studies into the Shi’a Islamic heritage. Based on his research in Tehran and at the Hawza’s in Qom and Mashhad, he articulated a very critical rereading of received knowledge in the Shi’a tradition, questioning the core of its doctrinal positions.
Al-Katib’s critique hinges on his skepticism regarding the veracity of the notion of the so-called ‘Hidden Imam’. Al-Katib comes to the very conclusion (hold by Sunnis, Zaydis and all other non-Twelvers) that there is no hard evidence of the birth of this alleged Last Imam, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, also known as the Al-Mahdi.
In the course of his higher religious studies in post-Revolutionary Iran he began examining the roots and sources of the doctrine of the “Rule of the Jurisprudent” (wilayat al-faqih) and his research caused him to question the Shiʿite axioms upon which he had been raised. He came to believe that the concept of the imama (i.e. the belief in the line of imams descended from ʿAli ibn abu Talib chosen by Allah and endowed with supernatural characteristics such as clairvoyance and immunity from error and sin) was an innovation introduced by extremist circles within Shiʿa (ghulat) and that it ran counter to the statements made and positions taken by the early Imams. Al-Katib also concluded that the Twelfth Imam was invented by opportunistic followers of the Eleventh Imam after the latter died without an heir, thus leaving the doctrine of the imama at an impasse.
Al-Katib’s research has led him to the following two main conclusions: First, that the doctrine of the Rule of the Jurisprudent must come to an end so that the Muslims can re-embrace the principle of shura and the nation’s right to elect its leaders and limit their power; and second, that the historical conflict between Shiʿa and Sunna must be settled to make it possible for the Muslim nation to be reunited. Al-Katib laid out his research in his book “The Development of Shiʿite Political Thought: From shura to wilayat al-faqih”,2 which caused an uproar in Shiʿite circles when it was published in 1997. Al-Katib has since published many other books and articles and has given numerous press and television interviews.
Al-Katib’s position in Iran became untenable and in 1990 he moved to London, where he still lives and works. Not surprisingly, many Shi’ites have responded negatively to his ideas; as he told me: ‘there have been at least a hundred books written against me’. Quantity but not quality really, most of the refutations seem to be copy and paste jobs, the same poor arguments that have been refuted by Sunnis in the past.
Most of Ahmed al-Katib’s publications are only available in Arabic and Persian on his website, including some English translations.
Ahmad al-Katib has been lately very active Youtube with his own channel, the only shame is that no one has translating anything (except few excerpts of his statements about the fairy tale of ‘the broken rib of Fatimah’) of his beneficial lectures.
He has challenged many Shia grand ‘Ayatollahs’ to debates, all he received so far is hatred and Takfir. Ironically, in Shia circles, the complete opposite is claimed, namely that he was refuted in debates. Of course there is no such debate available, yet Ahmad al-Katib (unlike the hiding Shia Maraji’) visited Arabic TV channels (Mustakillah TV etc) numerous times and discussed his beliefs publicly.
Today, he prefers to refer to himself as a Muslim only. The truth is, whilst he does agree with a lot of Muslim-Sunni beliefs (respect for Sahabah, rejection infallibility for everyone except the Prophets and Messengers, rejection of saint/Imam worship under the guise of ‘Tawasul’, rejection of fairy tales like a hidden and non-guiding Imam, Fatimah and ‘Ali being beaten after the demise of the Prophet (s) and other Rafidi nonsense) yet he definitely brings his own package with his own set of beliefs. Thus, it is not surprising that he (as someone who still carries forms of Tashayyu’ within himself) opposes Ahlul-Sunnah on various matters. His real obsession though lies with the ‘Wahhabis’ whom he indiscriminately bashes whenever he finds a chance. To him all Ahlul-Hadith and Hanabilah are not revolutionary enough and not just the ‘Wahhabis’ and the Saudi state which he criticizes excessively whilst having a soft spot for Iran (to be fair, based on his creed he does lament the fact that the Rule of the Jurisprudent i.e. ‘Wilayah al-Faqih’ has lost its form and legitimacy and created a dictatorship that is detrimental to the interests of the people, the state and the religion).
All of this is kind of understandable, after all this man (whose real name is slave of Imam al-Rasul!) was a Twelver for throughout the most important periods of his life right until he became a Twelver Shia cleric. His hardcore Khomeinite phase of the past has clearly rubbed off on him, however, having said that, this man is undoubtly a Muslim who has freed himself from the darkness of Rafidism and its Shirk and Ghuluww in the name of the Ahlul-Bayt (a).
He has done more in combating the Shirk, Ghuluww and Bid’ah of Twelverism than many so called Sunnis (especially of the Quburi/grave-worshipping type). He’s good at what he does, namely deconstructing Rafidi Shi’ism, as for anything else should be taken with a pinch (or a lot) of salt from him.
The following books of his have been translated into the English language and are a must read for every truth-seeker as he has shaken the very foundations of Twelver Shi’ism with these books (that are unfortunately not made viral, neither by so called ‘Wahhabis’ and their petro dollars nor by other Sunnis).
Like minded people i.e. Shi’ites who have left behind the extremism and exaggeration (Ghuluww) of Twelver Shi’ism and who have been influenced by the likes of Ahmad al-Katib are the authors of shiareformist.wordpress.com . A group of former Twelver Shi’ites who have truly done a tremendous load of work and service for English speakers. Hopefully, instead of being demonised and shunned the truth-seeking Shia masses will make use of this knowledge otherwise they will end up like the vast majority of Twelver Shi’ites who are drown in Ghuluww and Shirk without even noticing it, wallahu al-Musta’an.