Qatif region, which is located on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, is a unique and remarkable example for tolerance and peaceful coexistence between this nation’s people and groups; Sunnis and Shiites. Qatif region consists of several cities, towns and villages, and has a civilization that extends to more than five thousand years. It is considered one of the most prominent regions that have diversity and solidarity in its population structure which includes both Sunnis and Shiites. Coexistence, national unity and connections between citizens despite of the doctrinal difference are all derived from human values, honesty, brotherhood and respect for the others.
Visitors of Qatif region would find Sunni mosques inside it and in different neighborhoods side by side with Shiite mosques which shows tolerance and away from incitement, extremism and sectarian tension which are promoted by some people. Mosques in Qatif and Saihat cities, for instance, serve all employees who come from outside the region as well as the residents, and people are used to such kind of tolerance.
Jafar AlShayeb, a member in Qatif Municipal Council, confirms that people of Qatif lived for a long time with harmony and coexistence between the different social components without any type of disintegration or disharmony. “Since ancient times, Qatif society was distinguished by its tribal and doctrinal diversity, but this did not ever affect the harmony between people. Shiite judges were used to judge between the disputing parties who were of different religious sects and they accept his judgment. People were used to save their money and valuables with the different others. As the society was opened to diverse cultures and civilizations and due to the constant communication with other societies for commercial exchange, those factors influenced their acceptance to each other despite of the differences.”, said AlShayeb.
He added that “many citizens remember their ancestors’ stories and their communication and intimate relationships with different tribes that inhabited Qatif region. They confirmed that religious differences did not deprive them from dealing positively with each other”.
Ali Buflasah, 76 years old from AlZour village in Qatif, cleared that this village was inhabited by Sunnis and Shiites and they did not have any problems with each other. He added “we were used to go our acquaintances in Sanabis, and when it gets too late, we spend the night with them and eat with them from one plate”.
He, also, stressed that Sunnis from AlZour, Anak and Dareen share Shiites their religious events and eat with them the “Mahmous rice” which is a famous rice recipe cooked every year during Ashura season in Muharram.
Sa’eid AlKhabbaz, a member in Qatif Local Council, emphasized that peaceful coexistence was a distinctive feature that characterized the inhabitants of Qatif for years. Even when there were “tribal” raids against Qatif, “Banu Khalid” were like the safety valve for the southern side of Qatif.
Jalal AlHaroun, a researcher and a historian, mentioned that, in the past, Qatif Oasis was consisted of three cities and seventeen different villages. Some of those villages were inhabited by Shiites of different sects and social statuses, and besides them villages that were inhabited by Sunnis of different sects and social statuses as well. That diversified social structure included, also, minorities of non-Muslims from different races who dwelled in Qatif for trading.
AlHaroun confirmed that all of those people had lived in peace and harmony in this oasis regardless of their races and doctrines. Our ancestors did not have any kind of disputes that were based on racism or sectarianism. They were used to visit each other in occasions and events, and gather for congratulating or consoling their acquaintances of other sects.
Moreover, he does not believe that the contemporary Qatif’s social structure differs much from the ancient one. People can live in peace if they promoted unity and national cohesion; not only in Qatif region but in all Saudi regions as well.
Mohammad AlMahfoudh, an intellectual and an Islamic thinker, said that history shows that the relationship between Qatif’s Sunnis and Shiites was based on mutual respect, harmony and social participation.
He added that such peaceful coexistence between people of this region was the result of their willingness and the awareness of their prominent figures. For many reasons, this state of coexistence had faced some difficulties; therefore, it is important to confirm the significance of coexistence through more communication and recognition of others.