Subhanallah !, how come everywhere I turn, I always come across people going on, don’t associate with that person or that group of people because they are this and that or their aqeedah is this and that. Why can’t we learn to accept each other simply as Muslims and nothing else? Don’t we all profess the Shahadah, isn’t this the basis of our aqeedah? Don’t we all claim to follow the Quran and Sunnah? Don’t we all belong to this same Ummah, Ummah Muhammed (saw)? Why are people so bent on dividing this Ummah and creating partisanship of all forms? Hasn’t Allah (swt) told us in the Quran to hold on to the rope of brotherhood and not be divided amongst ourselves?
And hold fast, all together by the ROPE which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour 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. (Quran 3:103).
Born and bred a Muslim, in my early years of learning, I learnt there are no groups or sects in Islam unlike Christianity with so many denominations. My IRK Teachers in school emphasised the uniqueness of this, that Islam is one, our Aqeedah is one and the Quran is One and the same world over. So, a Muslim can go to any town, city or place in the world and find Muslims as one and the same, worshipping One and the same Allah (swt), praying towards the same Qiblah the same way, reading from one and the same Quran, following the same Prophet Muhammed (saw) and loving and caring for each other as if they are of the same blood and flesh.
I was later to be faced with a shocking realisation that the Utopic Islam I learnt about in school does not actually exist in reality. I came face to face with divisions in Islam or should I say Muslims, when I started higher learning. During my school days, I never really got to meet lot of Muslims because I lived away from my family and I was never allowed to go out except to school and come back at the dot of home time. Even then, I had to fight my way into being allowed to attend Quran lessons at a next door mosque.
At University, I got to meet many Muslims from different background. I got introduced into the Students’ Society, made many new friends and so was my shocking awakening into the divisions among Muslims. With my Utopic mindset of Islam, I found it difficult to negotiate my way within the differing voices of the new Muslim people I met. I got to know of Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyyah and Sufi Muslims, all following different Aqeedah as opposed to what I learnt in my school days. There was a major division within the Society that divides the Students alongside issues I never really understood up till today. From what I gathered, one of the group is being too strict as far as practising Islam is concerned while the other does not give much thought into how student members chose to practise their deen as long as they are Muslims and establish the pillars as much as they are capable of.
Each of the groups seemed to want to attract students to their side and as far as I was concerned, I chose not to be influenced when I realised what was going on. Not being influenced does not mean not participating, I participated in all the Students activities as much as I could but when it comes into issues that divide them, I tend to switch off. Why did I switch off, it’s simply because I see no big deal in people having different opinions as long as the opinions are within the limits of Islam. Many things went on for which I made up my mind, never will I allow people to influence my thoughts about Islam.
As times goes on, I became more aware of Islam and Muslims, through learning and getting to know of Muslims from different parts of the world, the great divisions between Muslims and their beliefs in the deen became clearer to me. Islam to me is a religion that unifies but practically, it seems to be a disunifying entity amongst the Muslims. The two major divisions in Islam, Sunni and Shia are each divided into different Sects or Madhhabs, each with their numerous groups and so on.
As a Sunni Muslim, what Madhhab do I follow; I really do not know because my learning is from people who never really state any connection or affiliation with any Madhhab. All I know is they took from all the Scholars of the Sunni irrespective of their Madhhab. So, you can say I do not follow a particular Madhhab or I follow all the Madhhabs and ultimately I can say, I am upon the Aqeedah of Ahlul Sunnah wa Jamma’ah, trying my best to practise Islam according to the Quran and Sunnah. No, I am not a student of knowledge, I am just an ordinary Muslimah, like every other Muslim trying to get a clearer understanding of the deen and practise in a way pleasing to Allah (swt) with Jannah as the ultimate goal.
What is laughable is the way Muslims disparage each other. A scenario lately is someone told me not to take from someone else because they are not from the people of knowledge, even though the said person has been teaching Islam for many years, having learned from Teachers who are regarded as scholars in Islam. Incidentally, years back, another person told me not to associate with this particular person (now disparaging another) because they are not upon the truth or misguided. Subhanallah! How do you square up this situation? You can say these are different individuals from different groups each claiming Quran and Sunnah, yet disparaging the other. So, what is someone like me to do, as back in those days, I switch off.
With my awareness of the various divisions between Muslims, each with a tendency to lay claim to their ways as the “only way”, even if they all claim they follow Quran and Sunnah. With experience, I learnt to stay aloof all these chaos, while still being resolute in my beliefs as a Muslim and my thoughts about Islam being the religion Allah has perfected despite the imperfections of the Muslim.
This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (Quran 5:3).
Furthermore, I still cherish the thoughts of Muslims being of one and the same body, even if the opposite is the truth these days because Allah (swt) never lie when he said “
And verily this Ummah of yours is One Ummah and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore fear Me (and no other). (Quran 23:52 & 21:92)
Also, the prophet clearly said in his last sermon that ..Every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood… (Sahih Al-Bukhari: Hadith 1623)
Ultimately we as Muslims are named so by Allah himself, so who is better in naming than Allah (swt).
“It is He (Allah), Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation)” (Quran 22:78).
“[Our Sibghah (religion) is] the Sibghah (Religion) of Allâh (Islâm) and which Sibghah (religion) can be better than Allâh’s? And we are His worshippers. [Tafsir Ibn Kathîr.]” (Quran 2: 138).
When I see many different groups of Muslims calling themselves names different from “Muslim” and exhorting each other to do the same, I tend to wonder what happens to being just “Muslim”. What is in the name, does it make them any level higher than being Muslims? If it does, only they can tell. I for one know of no name better than “Muslim” that Allah (swt) himself has given us and all other names are just those used to emphasise the divisions amongst the Ummah.
Not that I advocate “everything goes” as long as it’s got the label Muslim/Islam or Quran/Sunnah. It’s a fact that the Prophet already told us that this Ummah of ours will be divided into 73 groups with just one of them for Jannah, meaning those adhering to Quran and Sunnah. Since most of these different groups lay claim to Quran and Sunnah while still nit-picking at each other. What is one to do but to use their intellect in negotiating these mazes, with loads of bid’a abound, all in the name of Quran/Sunnah.
Just as I do not reject any Muslim upon Quran and Sunnah, neither do I take everything they say hook, line and sinker nor follow blindly. Alhamdulillah, the Quran is an open book accessible to everyone as Allah (swt) wills with translation of the meanings in many different languages and Tafsir, so are the books of Sunnah and those written by Scholars. We can all learn from the sources of our deen and seek understanding from trustworthy Teachers.
For me, Islam is perfect despite the imperfection of the Muslims and I wish us Muslims could dwell more on what unites us rather than what divides us. Has anyone got a guarantee or a sure ticket to Jannah, if not, why point fingers?
Irrespective of what the realities are these days, I still hold the same thoughts as in those days, “Muslims are one and the same, worshipping One and the same Allah (swt), praying towards the same Qiblah the same way, reading from one and the same Quran, following the same Prophet Muhammed (saw) and loving and caring for each other as if they are of the same blood and flesh.”