By Dr. Zakir Naik
There are many non-Muslims who have studied Islam. Most of them have only read books on Islam written by biased critics of Islam. These non-Muslims have a different set of twenty common misconceptions about Islam. For instance, they claim to have found contradictions in the Qur'an, they contend that the Qur'an is unscientific etc. In this issue I shall deal with why are Muslims Divided into Sects?
Question: When all the Muslims follow one and the same Qur'an then why are there so many sects among Muslims?
Answer: It is a fact that Muslims today are divided amongst themselves. The tragedy is that such divisions are not endorsed by Islam at all. Islam believes in fostering unity amongst its followers.
1. The Glorious Qur’an says: And hold fast, All together, by the rope Which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; [Al-Qur’an 3:103]
Which is the rope of Allah that is being referred to in this verse? It is the Glorious Qur’an. The Glorious Qur’an is the rope of Allah to which all Muslims should hold fast together. There is double emphasis in this verse. Besides saying Hold fast all together, it also says, Be not divided.
2. The Glorious Qur’an says: As for those who divide
Their religion and break up Into sects, thou hast
No part in them in the least: Their affair is with Allah:
He will in the end Tell them the truth Of all that they did. [Al-Qur’an 6:159]
In this verse Allah (swt) says that one should disassociate oneself from those who divide the religion and break it up into sects.
But when one asks a Muslim, who are you, the common answer is either I am a Sunni, or I am Shia. Some mention subjects and call themselves Hanafi, or Shafi or Maliki. Some say I am a Deobandi, while some others say I am a Barelvi. Some say I am a Bohra and some others call themselves Aga Khani or Ismaili.
One may ask such Muslims, Who was our beloved prophet (Pbuh)? Was he a Hanafi or a Shafi, or a Hambali or a Maliki? No! He was a Muslim, like all the other prophets and messengers of Allah before him. It is mentioned in chapter 3 verse 52 of Al-Qur’an that Jesus (Pbuh) was a Muslim. Further, in chapter 3 verse 67, Al-Qur’an says that Ibrahim (Pbuh) was not a Jew or a Christian but was a Muslim.
3. If anyone poses a Muslim the question who are you, he should say I am a MUSLIM, not a Hanafi or a Shafi. No verse of the Qur’an encourages a Muslim to call himself a Hanafi or a Shafi. In Surah Fussilat chapter 41 verse 33:
Who is better in speech Than one who calls (men)
To Allah, works righteousness, And says, I am of those
Who bow in Islam (Muslim)? [Al-Qur’an 41:33]
The Qur’an says: “Say I am of those who bow in Islam. In other words, say, I am a Muslim.”
4. The Prophet (Pbuh) dictated a letter, to be sent to the Emperor of Persia, inviting him to accept Islam. In this letter he mentioned the verse of the Qur’an from Surah Al- Imran chapter 3 verse 64: Say ye: Bear witness That we (at least) Are Muslims (bowing To Allah’s Will). [Al-Qur’an 3:64]
5. We must respect all the great scholars of Islam, including the four Imaams, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi, Imam Hanbal and Imam Malik. They were great scholars and may Allah reward them for their research and hardwork. One can have no objection if someone agrees with the views and research of Imam Abu Hanifa or Imam Shafi, etc. But when posed a question, who are you, the reply should only be I am a Muslim.
6. Some may argue by quoting the Hadith of our beloved Prophet from Abu Dawood Hadith no 4579. In this Hadith the prophet (Pbuh) is reported to have said, My community will be split up into seventy-three sects.
This Hadith reports that the prophet predicted the emergence of seventy-three sects. He did not say Muslims should be active in dividing themselves into sects. The Glorious Qur’an commands us not to create sects. Those who follow the teachings of the Qur’an and Sahih Hadith, and do not create sects are the people who are on the true path.
According to Tirmidhi Hadith no 171, the Prophet (Pbuh) is reported to have said, My Ummah will be fragmented into seventy-three sects, and all of them will be in hell fire except one sect. The companions, asked Allah’s messenger which group that would be. Whereupon he replied, It is the one to which I and my companions belong.
The Glorious Qur’an mentions in several verses, Obey Allah and obey His Messenger. A true Muslim should only follow the Glorious Qur’an and the Sahih Hadith. He can agree with the views of any scholar as long as they conform to the teachings of the Qur’an and Sahih Hadith. If such views go against the Word of Allah, or the Sunnah of His prophet, then they carry no weight, regardless of how learned the scholar might be.
If only all Muslims read the Qur’an with understanding and adhere to Sahih Hadith, Inshallah most of these differences would be solved and we could be one united Muslim Ummah.
(The author is the president of Islamic Research Foundation, mumbai. Email: [email protected], http://www.irf.net)