Which Group is The Right Group?
Seems like these days the Muslims now come in "All Flavors." There are so many different names of so many groups in the world today. But which are the "true Muslims?"
The groups carry names like: Sunnies, Salafies, Shi'ites, Ahmadiyah, Kadianis Sufis, Nation of Islam, Hanafi, Shafi, Wahabi, Moorish Science, Five Percenters, Aghakhanis, Ansar Allah, Modernists, Reformed Muslims - etc.
So many sects and groups - all claim to be the "saved sect of Islam", but which one is the real Islam? How do we know for sure?
NOTE: With all respect to those who ascribe themselves to various groups in Islam, this article is dedicated to solving serious issues effecting Muslims world wide. The conclusion is that anyone who can say, "I believe there is only one God, Allah and Muhammad is His messenger and servant" is in fact, a Muslim. It is only when they insist on adding an adjective to describe their particular "type" of Islam that the problems begin to surface. Please read on with this thought in mind - Allah says; ""It is He (Allah) who has named you MUSLIMS.." [Noble Quran 22:78]
Each of the "faith groups" mentioned have been labeled by different people as sects or deviant groups in degrees from border line to completely out of Islam.
Before we begin trying to gain an understanding of who is right or wrong on this issue it is quite advantageous to spend a moment in reviewing the meanings of the actual words which we will be using in our discussion.
We begin by looking to the meanings of key words from the Arabic language as this will assist us in making the right conclusions and avoid more confusion. The first of all the words to understand has to be "Islam" and then immediately following that, the word "Muslim." These words are not English and have to be understood in the Arabic. They do not translate into one word.
First word - "ISLAM." We should have been asking all along, "What does the term ISLAM actually mean, anyway?"
ISLAM comes from the root "slm" or "Salama". The word ISLAM in reference to the faith is understood in Arabic as the:
- Surrender: Give up evil and lusts - give in to the Creator
- Submission: Agree to the terms and conditions of being a servant of Almighty God
- Obedience: Comply with His Commandments to the best of your ability
- Sincerity: Do it all whether or not anyone else notices or cares.
- Peace: Accept what Almighty God gives you in this life in serenity.
All of which come about only by giving up the Free Will of the Nafs (self or ego) in favor of the Will of the Creator and Sustainer of All That Exists (ALLAH).
This would be similar to the teaching in the Lord's Prayer for the Christians, when Jesus (Peace be upon him) taught his followers a prayer asking for, "God's Will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven." [Matt. 6]
ISLAM is mentioned in the Quran as a "Deen" or way of life of an individual. A complete way of living in balance with everything else in the creation of Almighty Allah.
ISLAM provides inclusive instructions for everything including eating, sleeping, dealing in relationships, economics, politics, health, worship and even death.
The entire universe is "IN ISLAM" because it is all a part of what has been created and is being sustained by Almighty Allah.
Second word - "MUSLIM." Now let us consider the next logical question; "What does the term MUSLIM actually mean?"
Again, we must keep in mind that it is an Arabic word and is of course subject to the rules of the Arabic language. Actually, it is derived from the word ISLAM. Whereas, you might think of ISLAM as the verb or action and MUSLIM as the noun, or the one performing the action.
In English whenever we have a noun performing a verb, we add the two suffix letters; ER. But in the Arabic language many times you will find that the prefix letters of MU are used for the same purpose.
A few examples may help to better understand. We will compare the verb of each language to the one who is performing the verb:
|MU - prefix for the verb
|Performing the verbs in ENGLISH
||Performing the verbs in ARABIC
|A "MUSLIM" is one who follows or practices the action of "ISLAM"|
In English, when we understand the "ISLAM" is an action, we might say that anyone who "Islams" is an "Islam-ER." Right? We see in the chart above, in Arabic the "Mu" preceding a verb indicates the same thing. Therefore, we would understand that the one who is actively doing the verb of "Islam" [submission to God] is a "Mu"-Islam or "Muslim."
Now, we should ask, "How does a person become a MUSLIM?"
Only when a person is willing to submit to the Commandments of the Higher Authority from Above, meaning to obey Allah on His terms as much as possible does he/she become a "MUSLIM."
Allah Says in Quran, all of creation is in submission to Him (MUSLIM).
What if the sun asked the moon, "Hey moon! What kind of Muslim are you? A Shi’ah or a Sunni?" - Such an idea just does not make any sense.
And fortunately there are several clear evidences for us to determine the correct solution to this problem.
The first evidence to mention in Islam is the actual teachings of the faith are preserved in their original language and texts. Allah sent down the Quran (Recitation) to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) in the Arabic language, through the angel Gabriel, who memorized it and taught it to his companions who also memorized it and then passed on this tradition from generation to generation, to us today. The Quran is the same in every single mosque on earth and no one has ever changed a single word of it in 1,400 years.
Certainly one of the most important beauties of Islam is the preservation of scripture, The Quran [which is still being memorized and recited in the exact form and language [Arabic] as it was over 1400 years ago)
The second evidence is the authenticity of references known as Hadith [verified teachings of Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him)] the teachings of Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) are also available to us today and have been preserved by his followers and passed on along with the chain of narrators to insure the reliability and authenticity of each one.
The third point, Islam provides a totally complete and balanced way of life for all of the creation of the Almighty. Islam comes as more than just another faith or religion. Islam offers a path to the unity of all people and provides for them instructions from the Almighty Above in how to solve all of their problems and differences.
Let us now look to the actual teachings of these two Holy Sources [i.e.; Quran and Hadith] to learn what Islam teaches about the subject of dividing up into various groups or sects. As we have already established, Islam is based on two evidences:
1. The Quran
2. Sunnah [The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him)].
Let us begin first with the Quran. Allah talks about those who divide up Islam into sects or groups in the Quran:
"And how would you disbelieve, while unto you are recited the Verses of Allah, and among you is His Messenger [Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him)]? And whoever holds firmly to Allah, (i.e. follows Islam Allah's Religion, and obeys all that Allah has ordered, practically), then he is indeed guided to a Right Path.
O you who believe! Fear Allah (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared. [Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always], and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) with complete submission to Allah.
And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e. this Qur'an), and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah's Favor on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic Faith), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.,) clear to you, that you may be guided.
Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma'ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.
And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment." [Noble Quran 3:100-105]
"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." [Noble Quran 6:159]
Let us examine some important facts. Think for a moment and then ask yourself this question:
"Do the words; 'Islam' and 'Muslim' appear in the scripture of Islam [Quran]?"
We as Muslims, have been instructed in the Quran itself to resolve any of our differences according to these two sources or otherwise to be considered as non-believers, by our Lord. As He has mentioned in the Quran:
"But no, by your Lord, they can have no faith until they make you [Muhammad] as a judge between them in all their disputes, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept with full submission [Islam]." [Noble Quran 4:65]
It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed in plain error." [Noble Quran 33:36]
Now let us return to what Allah said in His Book, The Quran, Allah has called those who follow His Straight Path (Al-Mustaqim) of Islam: "Muslims". He also says that we should not die except as "Muslims" followed by the statement ordering the believers not to divide up into groups:
"Truly the only acceptable Way of worship to Allah is submission, obedience in peace to His Commandments (ISLAM)." [Noble Quran 3:19]
"And whoever seeks a way of life and worship to Allah (DEEN) other than being in submission and obedience to His commandments (ISLAM), it will never be accepted of them." [Noble Quran 3:85]
"O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared. and do not die except as being in submission to the Will of God and obeying His Commandments (MUSLIMS).
And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e. this Qur'an), and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah's Favor on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic Faith), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.,) clear to you, that you may be guided." [Noble Quran 3:102-103]
"And whoever Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to the way of submission and obedience to Allah's Guidance (ISLAM); and whoever Allah wills to misguide, He makes his breast constricted as though he is climbing up in the sky. Thus Allah puts the wrath on those who believe not." [Noble Quran 6:125]
"Is he whose breast Allah has opened to the way of submission and obedience to Allah's Guidance (ISLAM), so that he is in the light from His Lord (like the one who does not believe)? So woe to those whose hearts are hardened against the remembrance of Allah! They are in plain error!" [Noble Quran 39:22]
"And who does more wrong than the one who invents a lie against Allah, when he is being called to the way of submission and obedience to Allah's Guidance (ISLAM)?" [Noble Quran 61:7]
"Verily, my Salat, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the Alamin.
He has no partner. And of this I have been commanded, and I am the first of those who are being in submission to the Will of God and obeying His Commandments (MUSLIMS)." [Noble Quran 6:162-163]
"And the foremost to embrace the way of submission and obedience to Allah's Guidance (ISLAM) of those who migrated (from Makkah to Madinah) and the Ansar (helpers from Madinah) and also those who followed them exactly (in faith). Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success." [Noble Quran 9:100]
"And I am commanded in order that I may be the foremost of those who submit themselves to Allah as being in submission to the Will of God and obeying His Commandments (MUSLIMS)." [Noble Quran 39:12]
"And strive hard in Allah's Cause as you ought to strive. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in a way of life and worship to Allah (DEEN) any hardship: it is the a way of life and worship to Allah (DEEN) of your father Ibrahim. It is He Who has named you being in submission to the Will of God and obeying His Commandments (MUSLIMS) both before and in this (Quran), that the Messenger [Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him)] may be a witness over you and you be witnesses over mankind! [Noble Quran 22:78]
"Certainly, the Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, obedient men and obedient women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, charitable men and charitable women, fasting men and fasting women, chaste men and chaste women, pious men and pious women (remembering Allah with their hearts and tongues), for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward." [Noble Quran 33:35]
Let us now look to the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) who told us:
"Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the Sunnah (Hadith), and if you follow these you will never go astray."
In Khutbatul-Wada' (also known as The last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) stated:
"Muslims will divide into 73 groups. All will be in Hell, except one. The one me and my companions are on today."
That is the universal group of Islam leading life based on Quran and Sunnah. The Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) never said that he was a Salafi or Sunni or Shiite and we are suppose to do what our Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) did which is Call us Muslims and Muslims only.
Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) said in one Hadith:
"Both legal and illegal things are evident but in between them there are doubtful (suspicious) things and most of the people have no knowledge about them.
So whoever saves himself from these suspicious things saves his religion and his honor. And whoever indulges in these suspicious things is like a shepherd who grazes (his animals) near the Hima (private pasture) of someone else and at any moment he is liable to get in it.
(O people!) Beware! Every king has a Hima and the Hima of Allah on the earth is His illegal (forbidden) things. Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body if it becomes good (reformed) the whole body becomes good but if it gets spoilt the whole body gets spoilt and that is the heart". [Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol.1, Hadith No.49]
Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) told us in a Hadith (teachings and sayings); He had prayed and asked Allah for three things, but he was only granted two of them. He tells us:
"I asked Allah that my nation (the Muslims) would not be destroyed by being out numbered. And Allah granted that prayer.
I then asked Allah that my nation (Muslims) would not be destroyed from poverty. And Allah granted that prayer.
I asked Allah that my nation (Muslims) would not be destroyed by being divided and fighting amongst themselves. Allah did not grant that prayer."
Additionally, the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"Muslims will divide into 73 groups. All will be in Hell, except one. The one me and my companions are on today."
Notice, he said the "saved sect" would be those who remained on what he and his companions were on, meaning, "Quran and Sunnah." We see clearly from the above that Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala has named us as "Muslims" alone.
Additionally, when we consider that the deviant groups always have to have a name of some kind in order to distinguish themselves from the others, we begin to see the pattern. If someone feels that it is necessary to describe himself as a certain kind of "Muslim" then this is his or her problem.
Now of course one could say that: "I am a tall Muslim." or "He is a small Muslim." and then this type of description is for the purpose of identifying physical characteristics.
Additionally, a person might use someone's country or nationality to describe a Muslim for the purpose of determining their heritage such as a "Pakistani Muslim" or an "Arab Muslim."
These types of descriptions do not put a person out of the fold of Islam.
Where the problem comes in is when the adjective related to the word "Muslim" or the word "Islam" has to do with FAITH or BELIEF.
We must understand that Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala has made it perfectly clear both in the Quran and in the sayings of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) that the religion of Islam was perfected and completed during the lifetime of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and that no new religion would come until the Last Day and that those who followed Islam were called by Allah, MUSLIMS.
In one Hadith of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) drew a straight line in the dirt with a stick. He said, "This is the straight path to Allah [meaning the Way of Islam]." Then he drew angles right and left off of the straight line and said, "These are the deviant groups (or sects of Islam) and each one has a devil calling to it."
He mentioned that there would always be a main body of Muslims who would be on the straight path until the Last Day.
So, now let us consider that same concept and apply it to the various groups, all of them come along claiming to be the "saved sect." If it was not revealed during the time of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and it was not something done by his companions, may Allah be pleased with them all, then why would we want to incorporate it into our Deen [way of life in Islam]? While Allah has already made it clear in His Book:
"Certainly, the only way [Deen] acceptable to Allah is the submission to Him in Islam." [Noble Quran 3:19]
And again Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala says:
"Alyawma Akmaltu Lakum Deenakum Wa Atmamtu Alaykum Ni'mati Wa Raditu Lakumul-Islama Deena"
"On this day have I perfected your way of life (sometimes translated as [religion]) for you, completed My Favor upon you and have chosen for you ISLAM as your way of life." [Noble Quran 5:3]
Sheikh Mohammad Jibali, a learned teacher of Islam, mentioned a Hadith of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) to me some time back, wherein the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) tells us it is forbidden for us until the Last Day to call ourselves by any names except "Abdullah, Abdur Rahman and Muslim."
These words should have a profound impact on the believers today as much or more than those who heard them one thousand four hundred years ago. Today more than ever before we have seen what these names and groups have produced in the way of division, hated and violence.
There is a famous story I like to use to help give a clear picture of what petty things can do to separate and divide the Muslims that might be appropriate to use here in helping to establish a better understanding. The story goes something like this:
"What Color Was The Dog?"
Once there was a community of Muslims who were small in number yet large in belief and strong in action. So much so that, the non-believers could not defeat them in battle even though they had the Muslims out numbered.
One day a young man from the enemies pretended to enter into Islam and he went to the big teacher [learned man] in one part of the city and listened to his teaching of the Quran. The subject happened to be on the chapter of the Quran called Al-Kahf [The Cave, - #18].
When the teacher completed his talk he offered a chance for the brothers present to ask some questions. When it came the turn of the non-believer, he asked the teacher the question:
“Sir, in the story of the 'sleepers' in the cave, there is mention of a dog. And I was wondering if I might inquire as to what color the dog might have been? I hope you don’t mind my asking, especially if it is something that maybe you don’t know the answer to.”
Immediately the teacher says to the young man, “That’s no problem at all, everyone should know that the dog was YELLOW.”
The young man said, “Are you sure? I mean, could it have been another color?”
“No.” replied the old teacher, “It was definitely YELLOW.” Once again the young man thanked him and went on his way.
The next night the young enemy acting as though he was still seeking knowledge went to the other side of town and sat in another gathering of knowledge and they too were discussing different things about verses in the Quran.
So when it came time for the teacher to give each person attending, the opportunity to ask a question, the imposter posing as a Muslim raised his hand and then asked the question, “In the chapter about the “Cave”, the sleepers are mentioned in different numbers but each time there is a reference to their dog as being counted along with them. Now I was wondering whether or not anyone of knowledge has ever made any reference to what the color the dog might have been?”
The teacher immediately said, “Yes! The dog in this story in the Quran was BLACK.”
The young non-believer man was pleased and continued, “Sir, are you quite certain that the color of the dog mentioned in the story was BLACK?”
“Young man,” he quickly replied, “I'll stake my reputation on that as a fact.”
“Thank you, sir." said the non-believer.
The next night the non-believer still posing as a Muslim went back to the first teacher and then when it came time for the questions and answers he raised his hand and asked, “Teacher, you have so much knowledge and I am only a small beginner, I was just wondering, could you maybe remind me about the answer to the question the other night about the color of the dog in the cave in Surah Al-Kahf?” (Quran: Chapter 18).
The teacher said, “There is no doubt whatsoever amongst the great scholars of Islam on this question. The dog was YELLOW. And anyone who says other than this has no knowledge.”
With that the young man spoke up again and said, “Sir, what would you say if someone else said that he would stake his reputation of being a scholar in Islam on the fact that the dog is not yellow, but rather that the dog is most certainly BLACK?”
The teacher quickly replied, “Then his reputation is not that of a scholar but one of a fool.”
Now the next time the enemy went to the teacher who believed the dog was BLACK, he told the teacher that the teacher on the other side of town was calling him names and saying that he had no knowledge of Islam and that for sure that the dog was YELLOW.
The teacher became angry and shouted, “You tell him, that I said he is the one without knowledge. I am the one who graduated from the greatest of schools of Islam, while he is but a fool.”
The plan was working. Before long the community was divided into two groups. Each group was claiming that their teacher was the one with the correct answer. Fighting broke out in the streets and the Muslims began attacking each other all over the city. Everyone became involved to the extent that there was not a single person who was excluded from this terrible situation. Screaming, shouting, hitting and fighting were everywhere.
And then it happened. The Kafir went back out to his people and told them, “Let us go to fight them now. You will now find them most easy to defeat.”
And that is exactly what they did.
May Allah save us from such Fitnah [tribulations]. Ameen.
Sheikh Yusuf Estes