Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sects in Islam- Pixie's Perspective & Experiences

What you must know about me before you accuse me of any bias is that I first encountered Islam in the Sultanate of Oman, where I now happily reside. It is a Gulf country unlike its neighbors, having an Ibadhi majority (you’ve probably never heard of them as they call themselves, but the Sunni and Shia call them the Khawarij after events in Islamic history), and a Sunni population in the Balushi Al Batinah, Arab Sur and African and Arab Salalah [sometimes sufi here] areas of the country, and a Shia minority, mainly located in the capital Mutrah area. Here in Oman, we also have churches for Christians and Hindus. The Ibadhi rule our Shariah law, and the Islamic ministry is filled with their scholars giving their fatwas, and yet the religious freedom here and tolerance for all other schools of knowledge is quite unique in the Muslim world. Ibadhism is rigidly fundamental in how fiqh is deriven but as a practice as it exists in Oman, lacks the extremism which is to suppress other voices. Ibadhi Mosques and Bookshops have both Sunni and Shia books available. The same is NOT TRUE for Shia and Sunni bookshops and Mosques in the Sultanate. For one, if you have not been to Zanzibar or Oman, it is doubtful that you have ever heard of the Khawarij as they call themselves.
That is where I first saw Islam. Now, who I first knew as a Muslim:
You must know that the first Muslim who answered my questions about Islam was a Shia sister of the Jaffari school named Samia from the Shia quarter in Mutrah, Muscat, Oman. An Ibadhi sister named Intizar purchased my first Quran for me. An Sunni Omani man from Buhraimi on Oman’s border with the UAE, told me about women’s basic rights in Islam, and dispelled my Western brainwashed stereotypes of suppression of Muslim women.
Samia and Intisar both agreed on the basics of what one is required to understand in order to become a Muslim, and the rights of the Muslim woman, regardless of their highly differentiated vantages of history, and practice, at least, to someone who then knew nothing. Both said Allah is the only God, Mohammed was His messenger, as were many before him, the Qu’ran is perfect, Islam is the true messeage in its purest form.
I obviously agreed, because I converted.
I married a Saudi man from the South of the Arab peninsula who was Sunni, and as a Saudi, obviously studied on the writings of Abdul-Wahab on Tauhid (the Oneness of Allah). As I am also, and I agree 100% with what he wrote about Tauhid. People will label me a Wahabi for that. I am not, nor was Abdul-Wahab, the scholar. Do I agree with his politics and those who use his writings, and other writing besides those he had on Tauhid? Not in majority, no.
As I mistakenly said to one sister on blogger when I was too naïve on the subject of sects to know any better “you just became Shia because your husband is Shia!” so others will say to me, that is why I became a Sunni.
This is not so. But to that sister, forgive me my ignorance, and I ask Allah to forgive me.
My husband did not care what I became and never told me who I was, that I was praying Sunnah ect, so long as I stayed close to what the Prophet Mohamed followed and used my brain. That’s how I got to Islam in the first place wasn’t it? So that had to be the right way.
He has friends who are Shia and talks easily with all people and I followed his example in this in life [if not on blogger :Ooo]. I had never heard of Ibadhi anything then, or Sufis, or Ahmedis, and I knew the Qu’ran warned us against dividing ourselves into sects, so when a non-muslim or Muslim would ask me, “are you Sunni or Shia?” I would say, “We are not supposed to split ourselves up. I am just a Muslim.”
That was a more correct answer in its innocence and naivety, than my later ones in their ignorance and error, believe me. Alhamdulilah Allah has guided me to a straighter path than one of a parrot who repeats only what they have overheard.
I met sister Aalia from her blog Chasing Jannah, a Sunni who takes the Malaki school of thought in the majority of her fiqh but is not ruled by one school of Islamic jurisprudence. Her husband was Emirati and quite learned on the subject of jurisprudence and he introduced me to important things for Muslims just starting to go beyond the basics of the religion to know. For example, how a fatwa (religious ruling) cannot be derived from one piece of Islamic evidence, but the whole body of evidence and history in its entirety. He also educated Aalia, others, and myself on terms misused by Muslims, and the West, such as “fundamentalism”, “extremist”, “Wahabi”, “Qu’ran-only Muslim”, “Salafi”…
Our Sunni-majority Mosque had a South African Imam [Sheikh Younas Kathrada] of the Hanbali way of deriving fiqh, but he’d tell you all the others too, if you asked. The majority of the Saudi women I knew were strictly Hanbali-Sunnis, and they didn’t know how look for daleel, they just wanted fatwas from KSA, regardless of the evidence. A lot of Shaffi and Hanafi sistas from Egypt and Syria were the same within their school of jurisprudence. Alhamdulilah for my Sheikh there having an email. He may have been strict, but he was one of the best Sunni Sheikhs I have ever met if you asked him beyond what he’d stated not always so pleasantly in the Khutbah. BTW, if you google Sheikh Younas, you’ll find all this nasty stuff about him sending some revert to make a bomb in Chechnya and hating the Jews, and really, that man HATED anyone who murdered innocent women and children and civilians going about their lives whether Muslim or Jewish, so never ever allowed violence in Islam against innocents. And he embodied the Islamic message that races and nations had no priority or status beyond their faith and good works.
I admit, I gravitate toward the Hanbali manner of jurisprudence, though I often disagree with the Saudi jurists. I find that the more literal, and more stricter interpretation, is safer. But I do not believe whatsoever in being ruled by one way of looking at Islamic evidence, and find the Saudi Hanbali tend to take one piece of daleel literally, disregarding the rest, and make a fatwa from that. I cannot. It strips Islam of its soul, its spirituality. And no, I am not a sufi. Islam has only one correct path, the path handed down to the prophets and exampled by Mohamed S.A.W.
I have a Shia friend named C whose husband is Afghani-Pakistani. The way she practices her Shiism, with no stone with the name of Hussain in her salat and no visiting of graves, and mainly just a political belief that Ali should have been Caliph before Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman, does not make me bat an eyelash. I always felt she was my sister, and I know my Masjid through one Shia brother out forcibly on the men’s side, but I would have physically fought anyone who’d try to out or touch my girl C. She’s on a straighter path than many so-called righteous Muslims at that Mosque.
I also met a group of highly educated Bahraini and Iranian sisters who were more strictly Shiite. They were Jaffari. Because I did not hate them and call them Kufar from Islam like many in my Mosque would, they gave me books on their Islamic histories. Unfortunately, I found that the life and actions of the Prophet Mohamed was not as emphasized in importance, as later historical events, which are lesser in importance in jurisprudence to me, and only important in a political historical sense. I did not become Shia because a great deal of literature is from the period of the Persian empire and influenced by its culture, such as the Imam Madhi birth story (pure fiction and wholly inaccurate). Yet I did find a lot of their {EARLY} history to have some bearing of truth to it, where Sunni history glossed over some corruption and bad decision making of those it supports. And yet, I could never ever adhere to the sect of Ahlu Al-Beit School [Shia] because I do not believe the Prophet Mohamed’s bloodline is superior to the knowledge and faith and good works of others on that merit alone, also I have found historically accurate documents that Ali made mistakes and things that the Prophet Mohamed told us not to do such as burn anyone to death regardless of their actions in life as an enemy of Islam. Additionally, and I DO believe these are bidas introduced to the followers of Ali’s house, not bidas Ali himself would ever have supported, may Allah reward him, such as asking for intercession from the dead, visiting graves with any purpose other than to pray for forgiveness Muslims buried in them, praying on a stone with Hussain’s named on it, hit one’s self or grieve on Ashura for Hussain… Also, I met one Iranian Shia lady who said to my face that Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, was a whore, astighfurallah.
I know not all Shia curse the Sahaba, not all Shia hit themselves or even grieve Ashura, or pray with stones with the name of Hussain on them. So I am deeply, deeply sorry if I have ever generalized. I have used the term wrong, and also understand, Shia themselves reject the Ahmadi sect from Islam for their acts of kufar. Just like I insist that my Sunni brothers and sisters who do mass duas together after salat in congregation are performing a bida, one you even see in the Masjid Al Haraam. Did Rasoolulah ever do that people? Other than for rain? Think, before you do.
I find myself now defending the acts of some of my shia sisters that may be expressed as mere sunnahs (and would only be made haraam if were stated as fards or necessary acts in Islam) because so many other Muslims are ignorant of WHY, when they themselves might not even know why what they do is right, astighfuraAllah.
On discussing why we had not converted to Shiaism, although we knew our shia friends in many ways to be better examples of Muslims than our Sunni and Ibadhi friends, a Sunni friend from Sur, Oman remarked: “While I did not agree with almost anything I read they gave me to read and to study, I will give the Shia one thing. At prayer time, their Mosques are full, while ours are empty.”
I told people I was “Ahlu Al-Sunna wa al-Jama’a” because to me, Sunni clearly means to follow the sunnah. But of course, Sunni, shia, and Ibadhi all claim to do that. But regardless of what you call me, I have decided to no longer call myself that, I will let my actions and faith define my doctrine, and will endeavor that those actions always go back to the Prophet Mohamed, what he enjoined, and what he forbid, and nothing, nothing else.
Which has ALSO made me question some things which I am told all those who are Sunni must believe. So because I live in Oman now, I must have gone all “Khawarij” and “out from Islam, i.e Ibadhi”.
Nope;D, I drive the Ibadhi Islamic Ministy in Oman insane with my request for Islamic translations to english, and proof of sahih chains of narrations, too.
As I study Islamic history more and more (I had always had a pretty good background on the Seerah and the benefit of pre-Islamic times due to studying early Christian politics and influences in pre-Islamic times) I question more and more these terminologies that divide and cage us.
Through-out ideo-political history, negative and positive terminologies have been used to hide and disguise the truth. In the world where I come from, the West, democracy and its pillars of- freedom of speech, human rights, pluralism, ect- have always been the pretexts for a Capitalistic agenda to justify exploitation of the poor and oppression of the weak minorities, even the exploitation of the female sex. The Western/European ideo-politico-cultural war against Islam has arrived with new terminologies, “terrorist” supplanting “defending his own land” and “fundamentalism” for “those actually trying to practice their religion by more than lip service” serving well to legitimize Western policies towards Muslim lands, while the term “democracy” legalizes this Alien’s political supremacy.
The same is so sadly true in the history of Islam. When the early divisions occurred: Ahlu Al-Sunna wa Al-Jama’a, Ahlu Al-haqqi Wal Istiqama, Ahlu Al-Bait, and Al-Khwarij, many titles were created and used with the object of stigmatizing others as heretics. As a result, the Muslim Ummah has only these names as criteria by which to distinguish the orthodox sects from the ones that take one away from Islam. VEEERRRRRRRRY confusing, to both born AND new Muslims, I assure you, since many people tend to just follow what they initially taught or hear, good and bad names have played important roles and have had very far-reaching effects in the overall history of Islam.
To be honest, as someone who has been labeled “Extremist”, “Wahabi”, “Shia-lover”, “Salafi terrorist”, “Feminist”, “Islamist”, and “Khawarij” all within a stint of five short years, and I guarantee you, I am not that big of a flopper, labels alone are no good at all to define someone’s doctrine, the core of their faith, and the method of their actions.
Islamic sects must be studied in terms of their own logics and entities intellectually.
To prove my point, just about anyone who knows what extremists are, will know that I am not one since I think the use of cosmetics around non-Maharam is halal, and that Wahabi is an incorrect term, that I love some of my Shia friends but that that sect isn’t my home, that to be a salafi is to use just the daleel from the Islamic historical period of the Salaf and anyone one doing so won’t blow themselves or civilians up, feminists believe in having all the same things as men and I believe in only having my Islamic rights as a woman, I guess Islamist means one wants an Islamic government but I would settle for an educated Muslim majority population before I’d be so naïve as to cry for that, and Khawarij means one who goes against the rightly guided Caliphs which I wasn’t around to have done so. So, as you can see, a label simply being good or bad isn’t enough to understand whether or not a doctrine is correct or not.
So… my endeavor into studying the sects begins.


Adventurous Ammena said...

sis.... I miss you!! Dya think theres anyway we could hook up in the airport without us checking out on our way back from Pakistan?? insha'Allah.. thanks for this post sis I wanted to request if you could send me the proof of the bidah of congregational duaa... I read it ages ago but I would like to be able to read about it again and show people around me insha'Allah. You have my email insha'Allah, take care hun fi amenallah

Maryam said...

Jazakallakhair sister for this very interesting post. We hold a lot of the same way of thinking, subhanallah. I too am a revert, and have always labeled myself "muslim". I believe that this is the way we have been ordered by Allah to consider ourselves, that no other label is necessary, and that only educated and friendly discussion should teach us the differences between each others' interpretations and views on the deen. NOT labels, as they are narrow, inaccurate, and encourage only ignorance and prejudice...and of course, division where there should be unity.

May this ummah wake up and be united, and live with compassion and forgiveness for each other's differences. Ameen!

Boxie said...

Inshallah your studies will go well. That was a long good post :)

Yasmin said...

Alhamdulillah, very good post. I feel we definitely should try to understand the different sects of Islam and not to criticize them without knowledge. We all have our different thoughts and madhhabs that we follow. At the end of the day we are all Muslims and that's what I consider myself. I don't say I follow any particular scholar or manhaj, I just try my best to strictly follow the sunnah and quran and I guess that is mostly everyones goal, they just give it different names.

Anonymous said...

Assalaam Alaikum Pixie!!! It's Umm Layth aka Sugarplum.. I think I understand how you feel. This is very thought provoking mashaAllah. <3

Stephanie said...

Oh, I really think this was such an interesting post. I enjoyed reading what you had to say about the experience of discovering the sects of Islam as a new Muslim. My journey was similar in some ways, and different in others.

I would like to point out something about the prayer stones which you mentioned, just because I felt you (as even many people who use the stone) may not have understood the subject of Turba. The dry mud on which many (but not all) "Shia" rest their head is (to my knowledge) referred to as turba, which I think means sand,dirt or clay or mud. Anyways, my point is, that it isn't important that the name of the prophet's grandson is on the stone or so much as where it is from. The importance of the stone is that it is made from the earth and it is just as equal to use a leaf or flower. For me, the most simple, striking hadith to support this:
Saheeh Bukhari
The Prophet declared that the best place for prostration was the earth, or upon something that grows from the earth.

Just like many Muslims will purchase a prayer rug from a special mosque to pray on, the turba is often made and distributed at special mosques such as Karbalah. There is a belief that the angles brought the sand of Karbalah to the prophet, and he spoke of it often.

After reading your post I thought it would be interesting to look at my own turbas and see what was on them! : )
1. A picture of a mosque and the words in Arabic "Allah is great", and then on the bottom the words in Arabic "Turba of Karbalah."
2. The word in Arabic "Allah" in the center with 14 other words surrounding it that I can not read.
3. Another stone that I believe has the Arabic words "Allah, Mohammad, Ali" and then something about the prophet's love for Hussein. I can't be sure, as my translator is asleep. : )
4. I also have a stick and a beautiful gray, flat stone I found on the beach. These of course do not have anything written on them.

Thank you for spurring me to refresh my understanding of a practice I sometimes mindlessly obey, but should always understand! : )

As you said, it is important for all of us to understand why we do something as to avoid practicing something that is wrong. "Wrong" is so subjective, but I feel that if I studied something until I felt content then make a decision, I do not feel I am wrong and only our God can know my intent.

Thanks again!!
Further interesting discussion on the turba: http://al-imam.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=931

Pixie said...

Ammena: How many hours are you in the airport for???

We can try maybe.

Pixie said...

Maryam: Ameen to your dua!

Pixie said...

Boxie: Did you read it, or did the computer;p

Pixie said...

Umm Layth: Wa alaykom e salaam!!!!

I hope you are well, inshaAllah.

Don't worry, I'm the same Muslimah I always was, just more informed:D

Pixie said...

Steffanie: I totally agree that it can be argued a sunnah. But not with ANYTHING other than the name of Allah is on it. No MOhamed, no Ali, no Hussein. Are we Christians now, like them with their crosses?

You know I am on the other side of that argument, that turbah is unecessary,;p :D that everything clean is halal for salat, including but not especially earth, palm fronds, dirt ect... but honestly, logically, that argument can be made and not entirely dismissed. So I have to tell Sunni not to call every Shia they see with a turbah a bida maker or kufiroon.

At the same time.

One cannot call anything a sunnah that Rasoolulah did not do, or an action he did not praise, including getting dirt from karballa ect. Actually grave and place where blood was spilled are not clean earch ect....

But using a palm frond mat? Praying on a dirt floor? Heck, you want to use a stone without the name of anyone or anything but Allah? I too can logically agree with that, though I personally don't.

But I put my foot down on some things;)

But the thing is, alot of people don't know why other groups do what they do. So they are unable to talk with them.

aisha said...

assalaamu alaikum,

jazak Allah khair for this insightful post. i have been a reader for quite some time and it has been so inspiring to watch the transformation of this website. from only fashion posts to serious discussion and research, i applaud your determination and intelligence, mashAllah.

thanks again


Stephanie said...


I hear you! I mean, I don't think that you should do what I do just because I do it, but I totally appreciate the fact that you at least try to understand why I do it and then decided that it isn't something horrible, just different in tradition or interpretation. What a glorious existence our God has made for us in which there are options and choices for our intellect to ponder! I think we can all agree our life would be boring, null if we all looked, smelled, dressed and acted exactly the same things : )

I am not sure if anyone has said this to you lately, but I appreciate you!


Boxie said...

Both :)

Adventurous Ammena said...

on the way back? five!

Hadiyah said...

Asalamu alaikum. I was wondering if your opinion has changed since you wrote this. I think people confuse "believers" with every type of Muslim that would ever come into existence and this is wildly incorrect. You're not a believer just because you call yourself a Muslim and you do not have to unite with everyone who calls themselves Muslim. The khawarji have been called "the dogs of hellfire" by our own prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and that if he lived to see them, he would kill them himself. I'm sure you are familiar with this.
So I wonder why you think that having hatred for, and dividing yourself from those who have distorted the religion, introduced innovations, and encourage deviance, is not part of Islam. If you do in fact still feel this way.

Like you, I was introduced to Islam by people from various sects. I was in a college community where we had Muslims from all over and like most colleges, the MSA promoted this idea of unity that cannot be found in Islam. Alhamdulillah I discovered the truth before I got sucked into believing it is ok to be friends with people who support those who would even call A'isha (radhi allahu anha) a whore. Guilty by association, in my opinion. I don't care if you are a totally political shia (as you mentioned) who just believe that Ali should have been the successor. It's about belonging to a party that supports all of these deviant acts. I don't want to associate with people who have different aqeedah and shias and sufis have entirely different aqeedah than Muslims should have.

It is as though we have taken the warning of developing into these different sects (shia and sufi to name the most common) to mean that no one is supposed to be against these sects and that just isn't the case. We aren't supposed to unify with those who have gone astray. They weren't supposed to create the sects they have. That is what it means when it is said to not make divisions. It means don't create your own party that deviates from the Quran and Sunnah.

You're correct in saying that all of these sects will say they are upon Quran and Sunnah and that is why I personally go the step further to distinguish myself as 'salafi', which is not the misnomer you say it is. Calling yourself 'salaf' would be, as this refers to those pious predecessors who are dead and gone. A salafi simply follows what they were upon. Does this mean that I have created a division and gone against what the prophet warned about? Absolutely not. I have not gone and created something that wasn't there before. I am (and I believe you are as well) simply sticking to what Islam originally was. It seems that our only difference is that you feel that it is okay to unify with those who have disobeyed Allah and His messenger, and I feel that it is part of iman to hate these groups. So I am asking if you still feel the same way and if not, insha'Allah perhaps you will reconsider.

Anonymous said...

Aslaam alaykom Hadeyah,

I do believe if we see a Muslim, regardless whether they call themselves Ibadhi, Shia, or even Salafi doing any bidah, we should warn them of it in the way they are most likely to listen.

We are to be kind even to our enemeies ect. , as Muslims, and gentle with them, so that they might listen to us. Not so that we drive them away. Our example should be good enough it is obviously the truth, and if they would still turn from it, that is between them and allah and I have no worry then of them.

I agree, Rasoolulah sallalahu alahi wa salam cursed the Khawarij but just because a scholar labels someone khawarij doesn't necessarily make them khawarijj as Rasoolulah meant the term. To be Khawarij means you can't just have divided from a Caliph who is not rightly guided. It means you have to have left behind the sunnah and qu'ran in principles.

as for shia, Shia did not begin as a bida innovator people. Though many things the majority of shia are now upon are such (and that is just a historical fact not from a sunni perspective but from a historical and literature background. I will speak with people about those things that are false in the hadith histories and of course understand why they believe as they do before telling them they are wrong for it. But not all shia have innovations. SO I can't group everyone.

I agree, it confuses and divides Muslims that we should all have labels. But I do believe "salafi" should be used as a condition of on's madhab not a term for what one is, or it is another division cause, despite the good intention behind it ect. . People have to understand where madhabs and Islamic jurisprudence come from to stop their division and realize who is really upon something false ect. . Without being able to authenticate and understand daleel it's hard to get an accurate picture of your beliefs or anybody else's for that matter.

I myself couldn't marry a man who was shia in any other way but a political affinity. I still believe this. I would fight every day of my life against Islam being linked to a bloodline when that CLEARLY goes against the basic principles of Islam.

Ibadhi depending on their aqeedah and what they believe of in their manner of jurisprudence, as sunni and ibbadhi generally only differ in jurisprudence which is where either side will have considered the other to have made a bida to salat for example. It is easier for me to pray among, as they have almost no differences from Malaki sunni beyond refraining from saying "ameen".

Anyways, I don't "hate" ANYONE. I hate bidas that are followed in deliberate ignorance. Many Sunni (not just Sufi) have as much so we can't say those who curse the companions are alone in such though theirs might be more obvious.

I am Muslim and Sunni in the manner of Ibn Abbas, not Muawiyiah. I don't wish to change this about myself to become someone condescending of others without listening to their reasoning first and not warning in the gentle manner of Rasoolulah sallalhu alahi wa salaam.

And I do not follow blindly so-called "Salafi" scholars who do not consider all the daleel to a fatw that they themselves will admit is valid and authentic when you question them about it.

I do believe Muslims should be united but since there are many hypocrites among us that would rather follow something false or Islam for gain I do not believe there ever will be. Doesn't mean I should stop teaching patiently and have an adittude of "get thee gone from me" and cover my ears "nanananana" "you're wrong" or why would anyone listen to my naseeha you know?

-Pixie, too lazy to sign in.