Five different groups, one Islam: Can we please stop talking takfir?

There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide according to the latest report conducted by Pew Research Center (2010). Within that one figure lies a myriad of nationalities, cultures, ethnicities, languages and histories. What’s more, there remains an incredibly diverse community of religious practice within this one global figure.

However, this diversity is not always acknowledged or accepted by other Muslims. Whilst our own religious and spiritual practices should remain between us and God, many communities find themselves shunned and denounced as “heretics” – in other words non-Muslim – through a practice known as “takfir”.

The phrase “live and let live” really comes to mind here! Rather than focussing on their own practice and own beliefs, scholars, imams, political leaders and even individual local communities, feel that it is their right to demonise, shun and repeatedly criticise others with beliefs and practices different to their own. On the far end of the scale, this even manifests in blatant human rights abuses such as the right to freely practice one’s faith and the risk of being executed (yes really – find out more here).

This is a rather sad projection of self-criticism, the preference for dogmatic rituals over spiritual belief and an astonishingly high level of intolerance from within. It’s also a depressing sign of how such intolerance can mutate into legalised discrimination and even death. Yes, right here in the UK sectarian hatred has even resulted in death with the tragic murder of Asad Shah in Glasgow back in 2016.

Now, no one should ever be persecuted for their religious beliefs and in any case, I’d like also to ask my fellow Muslims: Are we really that different? Do we actually differ on the core principles and ideas? What do we in fact share in common?

To help answer these questions, I’ve put together a short snapshot of these various communities thanks to the participation of my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Here’s the real truth about their beliefs and the human faces behind them.

In the words of the late Jo Cox, take a look and think about this question: Do we have more in common or is there more that divides us?

Sunni Muslim

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  • Principle belief: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger
  • Holy Book: The Qur’an
  • Additional sources: Hadith
  • Common/core beliefs: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is The Seal [last] of the Prophets. The Mahdi (spiritual redeemer) is Prophet Jesus (pbuh). He will come back to Earth to save mankind from the Devil
  • Core practices: Five daily prayers (facing Mecca), Hajj (holy pilgrimage), Zakat (compulsory charity), fasting the month of Ramadan

Shia Muslim

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  • Principle belief: There is no God but Allah, Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger and Ali (as) is His wali (Vicegerent and successor)
  • Holy Book: The Qur’an
  • Additional sources: Hadith
  • Core beliefs: Ali b Abi Talib (as) (the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)) was the chosen Khalifa (ruler) following the death of Prophet Muhammad. Imam Mahdi has already been born and he will reappear at a time preordained by God
  • Core practices: Five daily prayers (facing Mecca) (prayed in sets of three or separately as five sets), Hajj (holy pilgrimage), Zakat (compulsory charity), fasting the month of Ramadan

Sufi Muslim

“Islam means ‘peace’. I follow the principle of ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’. It’s important to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves” (Dr Irfan Malik, UK) (6).jpg

  • Principle belief: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger
  • Holy Book: The Qur’an
  • Additional sources: Hadith
  • Core belief: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is The Seal [last] of the Prophets. By pledging allegiance to a Sheikh we are therefore aligned to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and can gain a spiritual connection. Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is the Mahdi and he will re-appear
  • Core practices: Five daily prayers (facing Mecca), Hajj (holy pilgrimage), Zakat (compulsory charity), fasting the month of Ramadan

Ahmadi Muslim

1.jpg

  • Principle belief: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger
  • Holy Book: The Qur’an
  • Additional sources: Hadith
  • Core beliefs: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is The Seal of the Prophets. Prophet Jesus (pbuh) died a natural death and hence cannot return. The Promised Messiah and Mahdi has arrived as is (the now deceased) Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). The present day Khalifa is Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba)
  • Core practices: Five daily prayers (facing Mecca), Hajj (holy pilgrimage), Zakat (compulsory charity), fasting the month of Ramadan

Quranist / Qur’an centric

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  • Principle belief: There is no God but Allah (Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is His Messenger)
  • Holy Book: The Qur’an
  • Additional sources: The Qur’an is the only authoritative law, all other references are supporting information
  • Core belief: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is The Seal of the Prophets. There is no Mahdi
  • Core practices: (Usually three) daily prayers (facing Mecca), Hajj (holy pilgrimage), Zakat (compulsory charity), fasting the month of Ramadan

So there we are folks. Not all that different are we? So please, let’s move forward. We must stand up and say no to hatred and division in all forms – regardless of a person’s spiritual/religious beliefs.

For Muslim readers specifically, I’d also like to highlight this crucial fact: you don’t have to agree on everything for that person to be Muslim. There are many interpretations of our holy text and people have different ways of expressing their faith. Only Allah Almighty can judge us.

And this is the crux of the issue: Muslims (which you may reject) don’t need or want your validation. They are happy in their faith. They simply want to stop being demonised, trolled and persecuted. So please, stop the demonising, stop the hatred, stop the division, stop the suspicion and stop the persecution.

Let’s instead work on coming together as one big Muslim family as part of a wider global interfaith family.  

Peace, salam 

Credits and acknowledgments

I’d like to thank all of the wonderful people who shared their personal spiritual stories with Voice of Salam to help make this blog possible. Barak Allah feekum (may God bless you all).

This post is also dedicated to the memory of the late Asad Shah. Rest in peace dear brother. 

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