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Sects in Islam

Many people talk about the 2 main sects of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shia.  In fact, it is MUCH MORE complicated than that!  Those 2 so-called “sects” are really just umbrellas for the real sects in Islam.  For example, the Shia are made up of 4 main sects including the majority which are popularly called “Twelvers” (the Imami’s) for their belief in 12 Imams or Leaders of the Muslim Ummah (community) which have to be descendants of Prophet Muhammad through his 2 grandsons, Hasan and Husayn.  Then there are the Ismailis.  Several sub-sects of the Ismailis exist including the Batiniyyah, popularly called the “Seveners”, (due to their belief in only 7 True Imams), the Musta’ali, and the Nizaris.    The third sect is the Zaidiyyah and the fourth sect is the Kaysanites.

Then amongst the Sunnis are different sects such as the Salafis, Barelvis, Deobandis, and the Sufis.  Besides the sects there are also different schools of Aqidah (doctrinal belief) such as the Ash’ari, the Athari, and the Maturidi.  Then there are also different schools of Usul al-Fiqh (interpretations of Sharia Law) called Madhabs… there are the Hanafis, Malikis, Shafi’is, and Hanbalis.  Mainstream Muslims follow one of these 4 traditional long-standing madhabs whereas the Salafis reject the madhabs and follow their own modern literalist interpretation of Qur’anic verses and Hadith taking them totally out of their historical context and purpose.  There are main 2 branches of Salafi thought.  The first being the Wahabi doctrine as practiced in Saudi Arabia and exported throughout the world through their billions of dollars in Oil Money used to build mosques, train Imams, and books that are distributed free in masse.  The second branch is the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.  The vast majority of the terrorist organizations today stem from these 2 groups as I will demonstrate below…

The modern Jihadist movement within the Salafi sect started in the 1950’s with a man by the name of Sayyid Qutb, who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  He wrote a whole 30-volume commentary on the Qur’an named ‘In the Shade of the Qur’an’.    Other notable books that he wrote include ‘Milestones’ and ‘Our Struggle against the Jews’.  Sayyid’s brother, Muhammad Qutb, moved from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and became a professor of Islamic Studies and published and promoted his brothers works.  One of Muhammad Qutb's students and ardent followers was Ayman Zawahiri, who went on to become a member of the organization, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and later a mentor of Osama bin Laden and co-founder of Al Qaida.  Another student of Muhammad Qutb was Osama bin Laden himself.  Sayyid Qutb’s writings also highly influenced Anwar al-Awlaki, who has inspired numerous Jihadists.  If you look at all 19 terrorists who committed the 9/11 atrocities, you will see that they all came from either Saudi Arabia or Egypt, the bastions of the Salafi ideology.

The founders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hamas were all originally members of the Muslim Brotherhood and all three organizations are all official offshoots of that umbrella organization.  Ahmed Yassin, the co-founder of Hamas, was a member of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and he formed Hamas as the “paramilitary wing” of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood.

The group, ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, was born out of Al Qaida.  Salafi Jihadists believe it is their duty to setup a Khilafah (Islamic State) by using Jihad.  Unfortunately, due to their lack of education in traditional Islamic jurisprudence, they totally misuse the word Jihad, its meaning and proper application.  Jihad is meant to be a defensive struggle for the sake of God in order to defend Muslims homes, land, and right to practice their religion.  During Jihad, a Muslims is not allowed to kill civilians, women, children, the elderly, or even a fruit-bearing tree!  Muslims are not allowed to destroy Churches or Synagogues and are only allowed to fight those who are perpetrating crimes against them.  They are obligated in a true Islamic State to defend their citizens, including the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) from any outside threat.  Unfortunately, Salafi Jihadists believe that everyone who does not ascribe to their version of Sunnism is a legitimate target regardless if they are a Shia, Sufi, Women, Children, Jews, Christians, etc.

Essentially, almost every major terrorist organization today with the exception of Iran and Hezbollah whom are Shia are Salafis, including the aforementioned groups and Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, and Al-Muhajiroon, etc..

The solution to this problem is not a reform of Islam as that is what Wahabism and Salafism are.  What we need is to go back to the traditional manner of Islamic scholarship.  In traditional Islam, a disciple is taught ALL the sciences of Islam via his Shaykh, who received ijazah (authorization to teach) from his Shaykh going back to the Prophet.  This true Traditional Islam, also called ‘Ahle Sunnah wa Jammah’, is practiced by the Sufis.  Many Muslims focus on Sharia and forget about the science of Tasawwuf.  Tasawwuf is the spiritual science of Purification of the Heart and Soul!  The word Sufi in fact is derived from the root letters of Tasawwuf, and means “the Practitioners of Tasawwuf” indicating its primacy in the Islamic faith!  What is religion after all without spirituality and purification of your inner-self/ego??  It is just laws and regulations regarding belief and outer actions.  The word Muslim means “one who submits to God”.  One does that by having proper Islamic beliefs and following Islamic law.  But the next step after that is to become a true Mu’min (a true believer) who has Ihsan, meaning perfection or excellence in taking one’s inner faith and showing it in both deed and action, and someone who has Taqwa (God consciousness) and Zhikr (the remembrance of God) 24 hours a day.  One of the ways that Sufis practice Zhikr, is by doing Chanting and Meditation.  Sufis are setup by Tariqa, orders that follow a Shaykh to learn from him all these practices, and the proper way to understand the religion by way of the Qur’an and Sunnah (example) of the Prophet as collected in the Sahih Hadith (collections of saying and actions of the Prophet).  One of these Tariqas are the Naqshbandi as taught by Shaykh Nazim Al-Haqqani and his successor, Shaykh Mehmet Adil, and their representatives like Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, whom represents the Tariqa for the USA. 

In summation, too often today, instead of going to a real Shaykh who has ijazah in all of these Islamic sciences, like Shaykh Nazim, Muslims just pick up the Qur’an and Hadith and come to their own interpretations of its verses instead of following the Traditional Sacred Knowledge that has been passed down via the Sufi Shaykhs and Madhabs.  We have Imams today who have no real knowledge of Islam, violate its laws and customs, and are taught by the Saudi Wahabi Doctrine.  This is the true cause of the problem. 







Picture on the left of "Sufi Meditation"
Courtesy of Naqshbandi Muhibeen