Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Almost every sect in Islam, historically, has declared every other as Kafir and non-Muslim. Different sects may not be wearing such Fatwas on their sleeves these days, but, most have not clearly distanced themselves from their past history. Many save the worst condemnation for those closest in belief to them, lest the others gain favor in the eyes of the public. I am not going to document that reality here, I am going to just accept it on face value, and philosophically and religiously expose the fallacy of such professions, beliefs, claims or insinuations.
Any Muslim, be he or she a Sunni, a Shiite, an Ahmadi or an Ismaili or anyone who chooses not to have any such label, who believes that God prohibits alcohol, will not fall prey to the general 10% risk of alcoholism and all the catastrophic consequences that go with it.
Any Muslim, be he or she a Sunni, a Shiite, an Ahmadi or an Ismaili and anyone who chooses not to have any such label, who believes that God prescribes chaste life, will not fall prey to HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and broken homes, and all the catastrophic consequences that go with these maladies.
Laws of nature or the Laws of God, don’t seem to make any distinction based on the sect of the person.
Any Muslim, be he or she a Sunni, a Shiite, an Ahmadi or an Ismaili or anyone who chooses not to have any such label, who starts lying or cheating and keeps on doing it, will eventually become a liar or a cheat.
Our goodness or evil is not just defined by our denomination, even though it may have some small role depending on what the sect or denomination is believing, doing or emphasizing.
Depending on our sect or our belief in any infallible divinely inspired leader or a scholar, we will falter, every time the leader falls down or gives us a wrong idea. This is where rubber meats the road and ideas and beliefs begin to affect our actions and our lives.
Take the example of the magical belief in Jinns, those who believe in them for one reason or the other, fall prey to all the psychological diseases and irrational and superstitious thinking that follows suit. I suggest, a couple of articles: Jinns and Demons: A Rational Islamic Perspective, Possessed by Jinns: Many Medieval Muslim Scholars Need Exorcism and Reading the Quran and the Bible Literally Means Demons and Jinns Will Rule Humans.
I believe the term Jinn has been used for different meanings in the holy Quran and the Hadith, but, the most common meaning is powerful men. In Sura Saba we read:
On the day when He gathers them all together, He will ask the angels: Was it you that these people worshipped? They will reply: Holy art thou! Thou art our Protector against them. They worshipped Jinns; it was in them that most of them believed. (Al Quran 34:40-41/41-42)
Every one knows from daily life experiences that most people, at least most Muslims, don’t believe in imaginary beings instead of God, but, they do believe in powerful men, sometimes the so called scholars, who distract them and misguide them.
No where the Quran says that we will be questioned about our choice of religious leaders, but we are reminded time and again that we will be accountable for those of our ideas that materialize into actions and deeds.
Our ideas and beliefs have magical powers only as far as they affect our actions and our life.
I believe that the most fundamental or profound verses of the Quran in relation to our accountability here and in the Hereafter are:
Then whoso does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoso does an atom’s weight of evil will also see it. (Al Quran 99:7-8/8-9)
In the grand scheme of things every action carries a reward or a punishment, based on the intentions behind it. But, God of Islam is the Most Merciful and the Most Forgiving, so He multiples the goodness at least ten fold and punishment carries only a single multiple, according to a verse in Surah Anaam.
Belief in One God and our accountability in the Afterlife have very profound influence on our thinking and actions. But, no other set of ideas or beliefs, neither has an overriding influence on our earthly lives nor on our salvation in the Hereafter, as it would be very much against the concept of a Just and the Most Merciful God. He has said in the above quoted verses from chapter 99 that He will take the totality of our actions in judging us and the final verdict will be rendered based on our scales:
Then, as for him whose scales are heavy, he will have a pleasant life. But as for him whose scales are light, hell will be his nursing mother. (Al Quran 101:6-9/7-10)
Even the belief in the holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, is not absolutely necessary for salvation, in all circumstances, according to the holy Quran. So, we can stop quibbling and debating about our pet ideas and beliefs and live a more tolerant and brotherly life among the Muslims. Salvation cannot be monopolized as the Quran states:
Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 2:62/63)
Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:69/70)
As to those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians, and the Magians and the idolaters, verily, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection; surely Allah is Witness over all things. (Al Quran 22:17/18)
If we allow religious leaders or writers to act as argumentative lawyers, then any good lawyer, using legalistic jargon, can construct a myopic and narrow exclusive reality, to the exclusion of other sects or groups. We should be wise enough to look through such intolerant and myopic leaders.
If the following poetic parable about Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt (19 October 1784 – 28 August 1859), who was an English critic, essayist, poet, and writer, is conveying a very important truth, the emphasis on sectarianism in many if not most Muslim societies cannot be true:
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.
I conclude my presentation to my Muslim brethren and sisters, with a heartfelt appeal, to create a more inclusive faith and vision and live a more blessed and loving life and suggest three additional articles to achieve such a goal: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran, ‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin May Enhance Feelings Of Spirituality and Forty Hadiths or Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about Compassionate Living.