With the name and praises of Allah, the All-Knower, the All-Wise
Summary of Main Points
Summary of Main Points
- Sectarianism is forbidden in Islam, yet various groups emerged relatively early in Islamic history.
- In response, the Companions (ر) and their followers (who represented orthodoxy) remained steadfast on what they had inherited directly from the Prophet (ص) and this inherited tradition eventually came to be known as Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah.
- As a matter of historical fact then, Sunnism is the only traditional and valid interpretation of Islam and all others are not. It is thereby sufficient for one’s salvation and nothing beyond is required in terms of a person’s system of belief. This is a critical point.
- Unfortunately, Sunni scholars then divided into various subgroups themselves and in judging their opponents ex-communicated from Sunnism or even as disbelievers, pushed their differences onto the pubic too. The public then exacerbated the divisions, leading to centuries of intra-Sunni disunity and sectarianism, which today is quite evidently a source of much fitnah and a significant barrier to the ummah’s progress.
- Not much thought or effort has been made in solving these differences and reuniting Sunnis. It is not even a passing consideration for most, despite the Qur’anic injunction to be united. The pathway to reunification presented in this article entails the following:
- There are various categories of beliefs and practices. Some are compulsory, some essential, and some are speculative. A person’s Islam and Sunnism are determined by the first two (respectively), so disbelief and/or deviation can only result from a violation of these two, not the third.
- The beliefs and practices the main Sunni subgroups (that is Ash’aris, Salafis, Deobandis, and Barelwis) form their individual identities and define themselves with (and differ over) are of the third category.
- They are therefore superfluous to one’s Islam and Sunnism, so there is no need to identify with any of these subgroups, since they are not salvific. Meaning, one does not need to be an Ash’ari, Salafi, Deobandi, or Barelwi to be Sunni, which is actually what is important. This is the crux of the matter and applies to all, scholars and the public.
- To foster greater intra-Sunni unity, the public at large and the more non-sectarian/reasonable scholars of each Sunni subgroup should therefore avoid proliferating controversial speculative issues and propagate only the obligatory and essential beliefs and practices.
- As for the approach of some scholars whereby they call for unity between the various Sunni subgroups, but only without compromising their beliefs and practices and for common causes, this does not address the underlying problem and can never be a long-term solution to the prevailing discord.
In this article, I will explore a possible method of achieving intra-Sunni creedal unity amongst those who affiliate themselves to Ahl al-Sunnat wa al-Jamaa'at in general, but are subsequently divided by internal sectarian differences. Working from within the Sunni paradigm, I will begin by...