All religious groups, of course, try to portray an image of truthfulness; nonetheless, they have some doctrinal differences. While some have strictly adhered to the generally accepted Islamic Beliefs and Acts of Worship, others have in fact taken delight in plunging themselves into Magic and Sorcery (Occultism).
This is a clear indication that Muslims are more segregated than integrated. In fact, members of the True Faith are being divided on grounds of not only Religious Doctrines, Acts of Worship, and Moral Values, but also of ethnicity and secular politics and values. So the fact that there are sects in Islam is undoubted. It is proclaimed: “Of those who split up their religion (i.e. who left the true Islamic Monotheism) and became sects, [i.e. they invented new things in the religion (Bid’ah) and follow their vain desires], each sect rejoicing in that which is with it.” Q. 30:32 And it is stated in the Books of Hadith that The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The Jews and Christians were divided into seventy-one or seventy- two religious sects, and this nation will be divided into seventy-three religious sects—all in Hell, except one…”
It is heartening to note that the following Verse, which is mistaken for non-polarisation of the Ummah (Nation/followers) of Rassul-lullah (pbuh), is absolutely admonitory; it shows only Allah’s Expression of disapproval of a polarised Muslim Nation. The following Textual Evidence attests to this: “And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e.…Qur-an), and be not divided among yourselves…” Q. 3:103
Having understood that there are sects in Islam, we now try to point out some obvious sectarian differences. So as the outgrowth of deviant innovation, religious sects are principally characterised by innovative, deviant doctrinal statements and practices.
Some religious scholars have made doctrinal statements which are beyond all reason. They have in fact achieved notoriety for making public pronouncements that are too extreme. They are new and different; therefore, they have no basis in Islam. Examples of such sectarian doctrinal statements are: that attending the unusual, innovative commemorative service (Maulid Nabih—celebration of the birth day of The Prophet—pbuh) is more rewarding than visiting the Holy Ka’bah; that apart from Imam Ali, the other three Islamic rulers who came before him were not rightly guided; and that Ahmed Ghulam was a prophet-reformer.
But the best indicator that someone is a religious sectarian is to find out their group activities or practices, which are founded on Pagan Traditions. These include the following extremes: prostrating on saliva/mucus/phlegm; sitting round “sacred” white cloth and chanting in unison; burying animals alive; burying human statues as part of a ritual ceremony; burying or heating metals with magic symbols (”atumi”) on them; casting spells; spending spirit money; drinking magic potions; being in a state of invisibility magically or mysteriously or demonically; tying magic string round a cylindrical object (made from a human rib, wood, mirror, etc.—“akadi”/”kobri”); locking magic padlock (made from a human rib, mirror, etc.); reciting the Qur-an in the reverse (starting from the last Verse of each Chapter to the first Verse of that Chapter); prostrating (facing all the four cardinal points in succession); applying magic pomade; flying on animal skins/magic carpets; Soothsaying; “metamorphosing” or turning into cats, dogs, vultures, etc.—witchcraft/wizardry; practising conjuring tricks; praying in front of an image (statue or picture or mirror); wearing magic protective garments or amulets or rings as talismans; viewing magic mirror; applying traditional/magic eyeliner; invoking demons, “angels,” “spirits of the dead,” or pictures of cult figures (religious leaders or notorious ancestors); going against the generally accepted rule on starting and ending the Ramadan Fast with respect to sighting the Crescent Moon; offering white or black or red cock or ram or cat in sacrifice to the devils (demons), “angels,” etc.; practising Spiritual Healing and Occult Exorcism, as well as Monasticism.
Let’s not dispute the force of logic; technological advances in astronomy in respect of weather satellites and telecommunications have made it unnecessary for Muslims to worry about the then weather and communication problem connected with sighting the crescent Moon and disseminating information about it.
The then limited knowledge about the weather and the Moon?— “Narrated by Ibn Umar: The Prophet said, ‘We are an illiterate nation; we neither write, nor know accounts. The month is like this and this, i.e. sometimes of 29 days and sometimes of 30 days.’ ” Moreover, it is narrated by Abu Huraira: The Prophet or Abu-l-Qasim said, ”Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadan), and giving up fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast (and you cannot see it), complete thirty days of Sha’ban.”
This clearly points to the fact that, because the 9th and 10th of Dhul-Hijja are always the Days of Arafat and of Eid-ul-Adha Festival respectively, which are observed annually but universally and are based on the sighting of the almost always microscopic ( too small to be seen with the naked eye) new crescent Moon of the Month of Ramadan and of Shawwal), Muslims are now obliged to look to the Religious Authorities in Saudi Arabia for guidance on commencement and completion of the Ramadan Fast. I think this is worth accepting too, isn’t it?
This is a clear indication that any religious group that supports or accepts or considers the aforesaid pagan or extremely unusual or deviant practices as a standard practice is obviously sectarian.
The aforementioned are some of the unmistakable indicators of Religious Sectarianism and indeed uncountable potholes and road blocks found on the Devil’s accident-prone and Time-worn Highway.
Religious sectarians are Hypocrites in Faith because they enjoin evil and forbid good as well. These Scriptural Words have truly established a fresh connection between the two: “The hypocrites, men and women, are one from another; they enjoin (on the people) Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief and polytheism of all kinds and all that Islam has forbidden), and forbid (people) from Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do), and they close their hands [from giving (spending in Allah’s Cause) alms]. They have forgotten Allah, so He has forgotten them. Verily, the hypocrites are the Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah).” Q. 9:67
Now, it is obvious that the two terms “Hypocrites in Faith” and “Best Group in Faith” are antonymous. In most respects, the Doctrines and Customs of the former are at variance with those of the latter. The first group usually blends Monotheistic Beliefs and True Worship with polytheistic beliefs and False Worship, whereas the second Group strictly adheres to just Monotheistic Beliefs and True Worship.
“Hypocrisy in Faith” is truly central to perpetuation of Sectarianism in Islam. No wonder “Hypocrites in Faith” are advocates of Religious Sectarianism.
The “Best Group” is the direct opposite of the “Sectarian Seventy-Two.” While the outstanding Group, whose members are in the main stream, enjoins good and forbids evil, the double-faced, whose members have found themselves at the margins, forbids good and enjoins evil.
Consequently, there has been a long-standing religious conflict in Islam. In fact, sectarian differences are as fundamental a challenge in Islam as getting enough to eat or a place to sleep. For example, whenever any of the above-mentioned extremely unusual beliefs and practices clashes with the generally accepted Islamic Beliefs and Customs, the result is conflict, the pointless argument. The main stream Muslims and the sectarian Muslims usually clash over doctrinal differences, a fact which truly shows that we are more and more segregated.
At one time, even though there were individual deviants or hypocrites among the Ummah, there weren’t known religious groups. During the life-time of The Prophet (pbuh), there was nothing like Shi’a or Tijaniyya or Ahmadiya. Islam was by then viewed as a unified System, with one Central Government, regardless of the fact that there were individual hypocrites among The Prophet’s contemporaries. Indeed, those were the days when all Muslims looked to the Centre for guidance on issues pertaining to Islam in particular and Muslims in general.
But today, what we witness is a rising increase in religious groups, with their respective Centres, not forgetting some sub-divisions within them. For instance, Iran is the Centre for the Shi’a Group, the United Kingdom is the Centre for the Ahmadiya Movement and Senegal is the Centre for the Tijaniyya Movement. And indeed, we now have Tijaniyya/Faila Chief Imam, Shi’a Chief Imam, Ahmadiya Chief Imam, and Sunnah Chief Imam, all as National Imams. What’s next?
While some groups close the eyes to the wearing of dreadlocks, of shirts with pictures on them (especially in the Mosque), of ring as talisman, “muta”/marriage of convenience, listening to obscene music, watching sexy, insinuating movies, etc.; other groups strongly condemn such deviant practices.
It is interesting but sad to note that some group members don’t even pray in the same Mosque with other group members, especially when the Imam does not belong to the former group. Similarly, members of one religious group do not even honour invitations in respect of wedding, funeral, etc. from members of other religious groups.
This internal religious rivalry with its consequential damage to the Divine Religion is a serious issue. Such unfortunate situation has thwarted the progress of Allah’s Religion. It has turned the spotlight on Islam, giving some negative impressions about the Piety and Righteousness of sectarian Muslims in particular and Muslims in general.
And so, the fact that internal religious rivalry has drawn attention to such sectarian differences is beyond question. No wonder non-Muslims have had some reservations about Islam.
From the above, it is quite evident that religious sectarians are real enemies of Islam. No doubt, religious sects are the bane of our life.
Having discussed the existence of sects and their consequential damage to the True Faith of Islam, we now shift focus to the main stream Muslims, the outstanding, monotheistic Group. Their Doctrines and Practices and the generally accepted Islamic Beliefs and Customs are one and the same. In other words, this Group has no such extremely unusual beliefs and customs.
Such is indeed the Best Group in Islam, the Party of Allah, the Almighty. The Prophet (pbuh) emphatically stated: “…and this nation will be divided into seventy-three religious groups–all in Hell, except one and that one is the one on which I and my companions are today [i.e. following the Qur-an and the Prophet’s Sunna (legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements of the prophet (pbuh)].”
It is obvious that the Best Ummah—Nation, the original Group comprising The Prophet (pbuh) and his pious companions, as well as those who have followed their monotheistic footsteps, is one. The Qur-an insists: “And verily this your religion (of Islamic Monotheism) is one religion, and I am your Lord, so keep your duty to Me…” Q. 23:52
It is encouraging to note that this Group displays five obvious characteristics that distinguish it from the seventy-two sects. First of all, its adherents have firm lifelong conviction that the promise of Allah is true. They fear Allah’s Punishment by strictly avoiding all impious and unrighteous practices but hope for His Reward, Paradise, by competing for excellence in praise-worthy qualities like prayer, Fasting, “Zikr,” compassion, patience, and generosity.
They are sincerely patient and resolute in their Faith and Deeds of Faith. These are monotheistic and morally upright Muslims, the embodiment of all that is spiritually and morally refined. The Final Message vividly explains: “You [true believers in Islam Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad—Pbuh) and his Sunnah] are the best of people ever raised up for mankind…you believe in Allah…” Q. 3:110
Secondly, as good-doers, they often enjoin others to practise virtue. They do encourage them to keep Faith with Allah by being duty-bound to adhere to Piety and Righteousness. Allah states: “You [true believers in Islam Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad—pbuh) and his Sunnah] are the best of people ever raised up for mankind: you enjoin Al-Ma’rut (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordered)…” Q. 3:110
Thirdly, having avoided evil themselves, they usually forbid evil to others. They discourage other people from breaking Faith with Allah or plunging themselves into religious prohibitions. It is emphatically stated: “You [true believers in Islam Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad—pbuh) and his Sunnah] are the best of people ever raised up for mankind…and forbid Al-Munkar (Polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden)…” Q. 3:110
We have to reiterate that Faith is often shown in forbidding evil with our hands, tongues, and hearts. Ibn Mas ‘ud (RA) relates that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “No Prophet that Allah sent before me in a nation but had from among his nation disciples and companions, who went by his way and obeyed his orders. These were followed by successors who professed what they did not practise and practised what they were not ordered. He who struggles against them with his hand is a believer; he who struggles against them with his heart is a believer; and he who struggles against them with his tongue is a believer. Beyond that, there is not a grain of Faith.”
Fourthly, members of this Group are required to win non-Muslims over. They more often than not try to propagate Islam (Submission to the Will of Allah) by perpetuating the Islamic Monotheistic Beliefs and Acts of Worship, as well as Moral Values. It is emphasised: “Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam)…And it is they who are the successful.” Q. 3:104
The fifth and final characteristic that makes this Group easily identifiable is a strong bond of love among them. Each has a deep affection for the other. In fact, they are bonded into a closely-knit Group, with shared spiritual, moral, emotional, material support and responsibility. No doubt, Believers are famous for their deep, sincere sense of love, but not notorious for wickedness, envy, hatred, covetousness, and the like.
Love forms an integral component of Faith. It is the core around which other righteous deeds revolve. This is so because no one can be an inmate of the Good End—Paradise—without Faith; and none can possess Faith without love, according to The Prophet (pbuh).
It is truly shown in consistent but sincere sympathy, care, respect, peace, and understanding, among other things. No wonder compassion, kind-heartedness, etc. are the praise-worthy qualities of the Best Group. What a companionable company! It is explained: “The believers, men and women, are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another…Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.” Q. 9:71 Moreover, Abu Huraira (RA) relates that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “By Him Who has my soul in His Hand, you will not enter Paradise until you have faith; and you will not attain faith until you love one another. Shall I tell you about something that, if you do, will bring about love amongst you? Spread greetings (with peace) amongst yourselves.”
Indeed, obedience to Allah and His Messenger is the basis of the five main features of the outstanding Group.
Notwithstanding the fact that Muslims have been torn asunder, Islam itself is unquestionably time-tested, one, and intact. Islamic Monotheistic Beliefs, Acts of Worship, and Moral Values are always valued and respected for being in existence for centuries. Indeed, the main stream Islam is by far the undoubted Religion of all the Prophets of Allah.
No doubt, the intellectual Base of the faithful, the Holy Qur-an, is still authentic and in one piece; therefore, the Party of Allah is a unified and time-tested System of not only Monotheism, but also of Righteousness: “And verily this your religion (of Islamic Monotheism) is one religion and I am your Lord, so keep your duty to Me.” Q. 23:52 Further, “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” Q. 3:85
Well, I would like to get the message across that reform, not deviant innovation, is needed in key areas such as child up-bringing and education, marriage, Zakat, leadership, business, politics, and above all our relationship with Allah the Almighty.
And of course, because it is not all Muslims who have strictly adhered to the Dictates of the Qur-an or have clung to the Rope of Allah, it is as plain as the nose on your face that reconciling our differences based on either strict or flexible (when necessary), but not liberal, interpretations of the “Shariah” (Islamic Law) will be an integrated solution and indeed a welcome restorative.