Muslim First, Sunni, Shiite, Ismaili and Ahmadi Second
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
President Trump wants to build a wall between USA and Mexico to physically separate out the two nations. Every, parochial leader of individual sects erects similar conceptual walls among the different sects.
But, the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, said to tear down these walls among the Muslims, when he said that all Muslims are brothers and sisters and like a body, when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts.
When bombs are dropped by Saudi Army in Yemen and demolish the Shiite homes, the walls among many Sunni and Shiite Muslims through out the world go higher. The same happens after every battle in the civil war in Syria. The dividing walls go higher after every fiery speech by a myopic Muslim leader, to the detriment of the whole nation, until we all become prisoners of the walls with barbed wires of our sects, with very little loving contact with those outside our sect.
We all live within the confines and four walls of our sects knowingly or unknowingly.
These walls cannot be brought down unless there is a shared identity among the Muslims and they all feel hurt when any among them is persecuted, put down or humiliated by any country or any powerful leader or cleric.
The walls that exist among us are because we are very unforgiving of each other when it comes to matters of faith or belief.
Why don’t we feel the pain of other sects as much as we do of our own sect? If we did there will be very little talk of sects in Islam. There will be less talk of what separates us and greater emphasis on what unites us.
Is there a Muslim who has not missed a congregational prayer? Is there a Muslim who hasn’t ever told a lie, cheated someone? Is there a Muslim who has not been diplomatic to the point of hypocrisy? Is there a Muslim who has always stood against the powerful oppressor and helped the oppressed? Is there a Muslim who has never been arrogant? Is there a Muslim who has made a list of all the dos and don’ts in the Quran and the Hadith and then followed them to the letter? There are some 700 or so of dos and don’ts, a task humans can undertake but never accomplish.
Who has not sinned? We all take faith in constant mention in the holy Quran that Allah is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful. Those who have read the Bible also in addition to the holy Quran are reminded of a parable of Jesus, may peace be on him, in the Gospel of John:
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:1-11)
When one of the Muslims dies, we stand up for his or her funeral prayer. We don’t ask about his or her deeds, about his or her short comings. We don’t become Masters of the Day of Judgment and leave that to Allah. We seek forgiveness for his or her sins. But, one deficiency we never fail to remember. We ask about his or her faith? We want to make sure that he or she belonged to the right sect. What a double standard!
Why such emphasis on every little detail of faith? I know all Muslim sects have been guilty of this. I am not here to assign blame, but to lay intellectual ground work for a brighter future.
Where did the Quran say that Allah will forgive short comings in deeds but will not forgive any deviation in matters of faith?
The Quran says in Surah Al Asr, chapter 103, highlighting the interplay between our ideas and beliefs and our deeds and our success and ultimate salvation:
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. By the fleeting Time, surely, man is in a state of loss, except those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to accept truth, and exhort one another to be steadfast.
The Quran lays equal emphasis on beliefs and deeds. Undue emphasis on faith is a Christian feature not a feature of Islam. It is Christianity that suggests that just believe that Jesus died for our sins and you will be saved and the Protestants pushed it to its ultimate limit by postulating what is called Sola Fide.
Sola Fide (Latin: by faith alone), also known as justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine commonly held to distinguish many Protestant churches from the Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The doctrine of sola fide asserts God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith alone, excluding all “works“. All mankind, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God’s wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone (solus Christus), grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received solely through faith.
There is another Protestant Christian doctrine called Sola Gratia, minimizing the role of our deeds in our lives. During the Reformation, Lutheran and Reformed theologians generally believed the Roman Catholic view of the means of salvation to be a mixture of reliance upon the grace of God, and confidence in the merits of one’s own works performed in love, pejoratively called Legalism. These Reformers posited that salvation is entirely comprehended in God’s gifts (that is, God’s act of free grace), dispensed by the Holy Spirit according to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ alone.
Consequently, they argued that a sinner is not accepted by God on account of the change wrought in the believer by God’s grace, and indeed, that the believer is accepted without any regard for the merit of his works—for no one deserves salvation, a concept that some take to the extreme of Antinomianism, a doctrine that argues that if someone is saved, he/she has no need to live a holy life, given that salvation is already “in the bag”.
So undue emphasis on belief rather than deeds is hallmark of Christianity. In Islam if there has to be a greater emphasis, it is on deeds. Beliefs without deeds are meaningless. That is called hypocrisy, in Islam we have to put our money where our mouth is.
There is a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari: There was a man who had heartlessly murdered ninety-nine people. Then, he felt remorse.
He went to a learned man and told him about his past, explaining that he wished to repent, reform, and become a better person. “I wonder if Allah will pardon me?” he asked.
For all his learning, the scholar was a man who had not been able to digest what he had learned. “You will not be pardoned;’ he said. “Then I may as well kill you, too,” said the other. And kill him he did.
He then found another worthy individual and told him that he had killed a hundred people. “I wonder,” he said, “whether Allah will pardon me if I repent?” Being a truly wise man, he replied, “Of course you will be pardoned; repent at once. I have just one piece of advice for you: avoid the company of wicked people and mix with good people, for bad company leads one into sin:”
The man expressed repentance and regret, weeping as he sincerely implored his Lord to pardon him. Then, turning his back on bad company, he set off to find a neighborhood where righteous people lived.
On the way, his appointed hour arrived, and he died. The angels of punishment and of mercy both came to take away his soul. The angels of punishment said that as a sinful person he rightfully belonged to them, but the angels of mercy also claimed him, saying, “He repented and had resolved to become a good man. He was on his way to a place where righteous people live, but his appointed hour had come.” A great debate ensued, and Gabriel was sent as an arbitrator to settle this affair.
After hearing both sides he gave this verdict: “Measure the ground. If the spot where he died is closer to the good people, then he belongs to the angels of mercy, but if it is nearer to the wicked people, he will be given to the angels of punishment.”
They measured the ground. Because the man had just set out, he was still closer to the wicked. But because he was sincere in his repentance, the Lord moved the spot where he lay and brought it to just outside the city of the good people.
That penitent servant was handed over to the angels of mercy.
God of Islam is very forgiving when it comes to our shortcomings and I believe this is not only true for our deeds but also for our beliefs and I have plenty of theological evidence for that. Stay tuned for those references.
In USA there are two political parties, the Republican party and the Democratic party. Often the politics of USA are very partisan, especially in recent times. But, during the best decades in USA there was a lot of bipartisanship on good causes that has led to USA being the superpower, since the second world war. When the Americans want to unite, the leader says, I am American first and Democrat or Republican second.
I say, I am a Muslim first and an Ahmadi second. Are you ready to say with me that you are a Muslim First, Sunni, Shiite, Ismaili and Ahmadi Second? If you are then I prophesize that the Muslims will not be killing each other in decades and centuries to come and will be living like brothers and sisters and sorting our theological differences through peaceful dialogue. Are you ready?