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Friday, February 1, 2019

Which Branch (Sect) of Islam to Follow: A Dilemma for the Reverts


Difference of opinion among men has always existed since time immemorial which has often caused wars, mistrust, disunity, discord, dissension and divisions in clans, societies, tribes and even religions. The three monotheistic Abrahamic faiths; Jewish, Christianity and Islam being no exception. While in all cases the main branch tree remains the same, the branches have grown out due to difference of interpretations of the Divine commandments and even due to political reasons as well.

I will not go into details of dissensions in other monotheistic faiths, but would suffice to say that like Christianity which is divided into Orthodox Roman Catholic and Protestant branches, Islam too has been divided in two branches; Sunni and Shia Sects. While majority of Muslims around the world, some 75-80% follow the Sunni Branch / Sect, the remaining follow the Shia Branch / Sect.

In fact by dividing us into segments is strictly in tangent to commandments of Allah:
 “And hold fast all together by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you) and be not divided among yourselves, and remember with gratitude Allah’s favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love so that by His grace ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of fire and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make his signs clear to you: that ye may be guided” (Quran, 3:103)
And divided we did as against the commandment of Allah. By the dissensions, we have weakened ourselves which is providing a ripe cue for the powers against Islam to take advantage of and harm the cause of Islam. It is worthwhile to mention here that when it comes to dealing the Muslims, all sects of other faiths gather under the flagship faith, while despite being threatened we continue to keep carrying different flags and never trying to shed our differences and be one.

The difference between the two branches is the discord over a religio-political leadership dispute about the rightful successor to Muhammad. While the former believe in the teachings of the Holy Qur'an and Hadiths and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the four caliphs that succeeded the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), the Shia Branch disputes the succession and consider Ali, the fourth caliph and cousin/son in law of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) as the rightful heir of the Prophet of Allah (ﷺ)and follow the Holy Qur'an, Hadiths and Sunnah of the Prophet of Allah (ﷺ), besides sayings of Twelve Imams and equate their sayings at par with that of the Prophet of Allah.

There are sub branches in both the main branches which basically differ on the interpretations of the commandments of Allah in the Holy Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet of Allah.




Now this poses a dilemma for the newly reverts as to which branch / sect of Islam to follow. Those who embrace Islam at the hands of clerics of either of the sects, generally follow the teachings believed by that particular sect. However, to many this poses a dilemma as to which branch is "The" right branch of Islam to follow. A revert is justified in getting puzzled  knowing that there are so many versions of Islam and how to make a decision?

The answer is both simple and complicated. Going by the simpler approach, one may only ask one question: Which sect the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) belonged to? Naturally the answer is very simple: There were no sects or divisions of Islam in the time of Prophet. All Muslims were equal and everyone proudly proclaimed the Shahada: So one should follow the path shown in the Holy Qur'an, which was practically demonstrated by the way the Prophet of Allah lived his life and said to explain many complex commandments of the Holy Qur'an. 

The Quran reminds us that, originally, humankind was one Ummah, but this unity was broken by various differences which the human beings created among themselves:
“The people were but one nation, then they differed. And had it not been for a previous command from your Lord, the matter would have been immediately judged between them for what they differed.”  [Holy Qur'an 10:19 ]
“And, (moreover), this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow (other) ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous.” [Al-Anana’am 6:153]
And by dividing ourselves, we have exactly done which was feared for us.

As for the more complex approach, one can read and consult thousands of books written is support of each sect and remain confused forever. We will drift too far if we start to get into the nitty gritties of these differences. But listening to Muslim scholars can ease our dilemma for they sum up the most complex of the problems in just few simple words.

Watch an enlightening video below by one of the most learned scholar of Islam today Dr Zakir A Naik explaining what a true Muslim should follow:

I hope by watching the video above, one may get to follow a common source of enlightenment: The Holy Qur'an and the authenticated Hadith and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). What came thereafter is all innovations, deviations from the true path as was observed and shown by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
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