Ex-Imam of Makkah backtracks; no longer considers Shias as ‘heretics’

Backtracking on his view which considered Shia Muslim scholars non-Muslims, a prominent Saudi cleric has publically gone against the mainstream belief peddled by many clerics in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

During an interview with Saudi broadcaster MBC, Adel al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, said despite his previous opinion on Shia scholars being ‘heretics’, he changed his mind after reading a book by a former Shura Council member and a professor of Sharia at Umm al-Qura University, Hatem al-Awni, which discussed the issue of ‘heresy’.

According to The New Arab, Kalbani intended to publish an article in which he announced his view of Shia scholars but failed to do so after government pressure. The report quoted him as saying, “I no longer declare apostasy on those who believe in one God, eat our [halal] meat and prostrate toward our Qibla [direction of Mecca].”

The remarks of the ex-Imam assume importance, as Riyadh continues its mission to adopt a “moderate” state-sanctioned interpretation of Islam.