"Don't go to that mosque, they're Wahabbi”. “I don't give Salaam to Deobandis”. “You can’t pray behind Brelwis”. “Sufis are dodgy man!” “Those Salafis insult the Prophet (pbuh)!” “They're all Bid'ati, they're all going to hell”. “That group is Mushrik, stay away from them”. “Shias are all Kafir!”
Hhmmm... Does any of that sound familiar to you? Welcome to the biggest disease facing the Muslim world. Forget cancer. Forget Aids. Forget TB. Forget drugs. Forget forced marriages. Forget dodgy political leaders. Forget everything else. The biggest disease which will make sure Muslims are not successful, which will make sure Muslims are always divided, which will make sure Muslims see each other as enemies and which will make Muslims fight, hate and argue with one another is none other than... wait for it... SECTARIANISM.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen Sectarianism is the biggest disease, the biggest evil and the biggest monster that is destroying us Muslims in the world today. It’s dividing us. It’s preaching hate against each other. It’s killing one another. It’s brainwashing generation after generation.
But what exactly is sectarianism, you're asking yeah?
Well let’s define it then shall we: According to encyclopedia.com it is: 'a narrow-minded adherence to a particular sect or party or denomination’. In a nutshell, that means it is when one group, sect or organisation within a religion hate and discriminate against another group, sect or organisation because of their beliefs.
So, you wanna know what sectarianism exists today within Muslims?
Well, nowadays Muslims of one group or sect don't go to the mosque of another sect or group. They don't even pray behind one another as they feel the other group are 'misguided' Muslims! Some go to the extent of not even giving Salaam to one another. You will see Muslims arguing over petty issues, on stuff which is not for the average Abdul or Aisha on the street to debate over, but differences that are for scholars to discuss amongst themselves with knowledge and respect.
Today Muslims label one another based on their creed or affiliation to a group or party. Labels such as Wahabbi, Ikhwani, Jamaati, Tablighi, Ahle Hadith, Brelwi, Sufi, Salafi, HT and I can go on and on. We try to suss a Muslim out and then if he or she doesn't follow our creed then we keep our distance from them and treat them as the enemy or the opposition! How sad or pathetic is that?!
It’s like United supporters hating Scousers or Arsenal fans who can’t stand Chelsea supporters. Or bitter rivalry between Celtic and Rangers fans. But, the massive difference is that this is football. You get that. But this is Islam. This is our Deen. It was for this Deen that the Prophet (pbuh) was stoned by children in Mecca and was badly injured. It was for this Deen many attempts were made to kill the Prophet (pbuh). It was for this Deen he had animal excrement thrown on him whilst in prayer. It was for this Deen his followers and supporters were tortured and killed. It was for this Deen he went through many periods of bitter starvation. It was for this Deen he had to leave his homeland and migrate to Medina to escape the persecutions in Mecca.
Yes! The Prophet (pbuh) did all this for you and me. To keep this Deen alive for his Ummah. He used to weep at night praying for his Ummah. And look at us. We use the name of the Prophet (pbuh) to divide one another, to curse one another, to condemn one another to hell, to accuse one another of Kafir or Mushrik. Just imagine for a second what the Prophet must be feeling when he looks how sectarian his Ummah has become. Did he go through all those sacrifices for this?
Where's it all come from?
This is the crack. Muslims become too attached to a particular scholar or group of scholars and any opinion/interpretation that is not consistent with that group is seen as hostile which ends up with the groups having hatred for another and then they go to the extreme of accusing others of being Kafirs or Mushriks or deviants etc! It then escalates to punch-ups or even killings like in Pakistan and Iraq! And it’s everywhere, from the Indian Sub continent to the Middle East. It has now spread to every corner of the globe.
Being part of a group or following a particular Shaykh is absolutely fine as long as you don't start hating and belittling those that have a different belief or mentality to yours. Scholars and students of a particular Madrassa or institution spread their version of Islam at their local or national mosques at Friday sermons, events and seminars. Emphasis is more on creed than educating the public with real issues that face them in the world today! Today, the sermons and debates are on Mawlid, Madhabs, Bidah, status of the Prophet (pbuh), attributes of Allah (swt), Prophets (pbuh) knowledge, visiting tombs, the number of Rakats in Tarawih and so on. Speaking about these issues isn’t the problem. The problem is how speakers teach their creed in a sectarian way, which creates hatred and disrespect for those who hold a belief contrary to their own. You can't learn traditional Islam from Khutbas, seminars or debates but by studying the Deen in detail with the scholars.
You will see every Tom, Dick and Harry divided and arguing with each other over these and many other issues. A person who doesn't know the basics of Islam will be giving Fatwa’s from Shaykh Google on these issues. For crying out loud, learn your Islam from a knowledgeable scholar and then concentrate on your practise of the Deen, rather than fighting over your differences! The scholars, Imams and preachers have to take a massive responsibility as they have the knowledge and the responsibility to teach Islam with wisdom and tolerance. There are amazing scholars out there but unfortunately there are too many 'Imams' who may have some knowledge but don't have the wisdom to understand what is relevant today, don't understand difference of opinion, don't really believe in unity and just wanna promote their interpretation of Islam and reject all others!
How many scholars or Imams do you know who call for Muslim unity? How many Imams today will sit and meet regularly with people from a different sect or group? How many Imams today will tell their followers to attend a mosque or event of another group or sect? How many Imams today will forget about their creed and work with other mosques, groups, sects or Jamaats on a common goal? You can probably count them all on one hand!
But what about the 73 groups?
Well many people use the Hadith that the Prophet (pbuh) said,
'The Jews split into 71 sects: one will enter Paradise and 70 will enter Hell. The Christians split into 72 sects: 71 will enter Hell and one will enter Paradise. By Him in Whose hand is my soul, my Ummah will split into 73 sects: one will enter Paradise and 72 will enter Hell.' Someone asked, 'O Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who will they be?' He replied, 'The main body of the Muslims (al-Jama'ah).' [Ibne Majah Kitab al-Fitan]
Now everyone uses this Hadith to promote sectarianism and accuse other Muslims of being deviant or going to hell. Yet the majority of groups today base their beliefs on the Quran, Sunnah and the consensus of the classical scholars. Yes, there are differences but it is not for us to fight each other but show respect to one another and spend life practising the Deen and not damaging it. Today, the Ummah is being ripped apart all over the world; Muslims suffering, dying, occupied, oppressed and demonised. The Deen of the Prophet is mocked and ridiculed today. Drugs are destroying our youth. Extremism is brainwashing our future generations. Yet, it is only issues like 73 groups and sects that concern us and our Imams!
We need a massive kick up the backside and wake up before it’s too late!
How on earth can we stop this??!!
Believe it or not the solution to wipe out sectarianism is quite simple:
1. Understand what Muslim Unity is.
Unity is not that all Muslims have exactly the same belief on every issue. Unity is for everyone to keep their own beliefs without compromise and then work together on common goals and real issues that face us today. Issues such as racism, challenging the BNP, Islamophobia, drugs, alcohol abuse, prostitution, sexual abuse, anti-social behaviour, media monitoring, political lobbying, Islamic identity, secularism, materialism, so on and so forth. Does it matter what Shaykh you follow? What Madhab you belong to? Or whether you celebrate the Mawlid or not, to tackle any of these issues? The answer is no, absolutely not!!!
2. When learning your Islam make sure it is from a fully qualified scholar.
Someone who has permission (Ijaza) to teach from his Shaykh or Institution. Make sure you are taught arguments for and against your belief so you can understand the reasons why others hold a different viewpoint.
3. Give Salaam to every Muslim you see regardless of who they are or what group or affiliation they have.
They're Muslim and that's all that matters. It is narrated on the authority of 'Abdullah bin 'Amr that a man asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) which of the merits (is superior) in Islam. He (pbuh) remarked:
"That you provide food and extend greetings to one whom you know or do not know." [Muslim]
4. Visit and attend mosques and events that are outside your school of thought/creed.
This will eradicate misconceptions and Inshallah create brother/sisterhood. This will lead to strong relationships based on Islam which can lead to different groups/mosques working together on events.
5. Attend Umrah/Hajj so you understand what real unity and real brother/sisterhood is.
You will see people from all colours, cultures, creeds and schools of thoughts united on one belief: There is no God but Allah (swt), and Muhammad (pbuh) is his Messenger. Nothing else matters. There is no room for sectarianism there. And there should be no place for sectarianism here in our daily lives.
6. Don't accuse any Muslim of being a Kafir.
This is a massive accusation and only the learned Ulema should ever discuss issues like this. The reason is because the Prophet (pbuh) said:
"If somebody accuses another of disbelief or calls him the enemy of Allah, such an accusation will revert to him (the accuser) if the accused is innocent." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
But is unity really achievable? Is tackling sectarianism impossible?
A lot of you are probably thinking the above sounds hunky dory but is it practical? Can you really work with people of all different creeds? Will Aqeeda never become an issue? Well, let me give you a practical example where people of all different groups, school of thoughts, colours, cultures and backgrounds work together for Islam. Where Aqeeda or creed is never an issue. Where everyone is allowed to believe their own understanding of Islam and follow a Shaykh of their choice. Where everyone is united on working on the common goals. Where people forget about sectarian issues and discuss real issues facing Muslims today. Where everyone is welcome to be a part of the team. Where unity and brother/sisterhood is promoted. This is an example of The Revival. We promote Muslim unity. We have a hatred for sectarianism. We remind people of the real issues that face us today.
So let me tell you that creating unity and eradicating sectarianism is definitely possible if you really want it to happen. Now ask yourself the question: ARE YOU SECTARIAN? And if you are, what are you gonna do to overcome it?