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  • Raya Shokatfard


Updated: Jul 13, 2020

By: Raya Shokatfard

Researching the advent of various religions and the messages of prophets, one would notice that there are many differences in beliefs, practices and rituals.

One would wonder if God is one, why are there so many different religions and messages?

A closer objective look at the true message of God would reveal that the religion with God is one as stated by the Creator Himself in the Quran:

{The same religion has He (Allah) established for you (Muhammad) as that which He enjoined on Noah, that which We have sent by inspiration to thee (Muhammad) and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses and Jesus: Namely that you should remain steadfast in Religion and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah hard is the (way) to which you call them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him in repentance).  And they became divided only after knowledge reached them through selfish envy as between themselves.  Had it not been for a Word that went forth before from thy Lord for an appointed time, the matter would have been settled between them: but truly those who have inherited the Book after them are in suspicious doubt concerning it (Allah’s true religion).} (Ash-Shura 42: 13-4)

He also, brings to our attention that men, over time, have made innovation and changed religions to suit their own agendas, ideologies or political advancements. The Holy Books, for most part have been changed, tampered with and words changed from their original places.

God, the Exalted, says:

{Those Messengers We endowed with gifts some above others: to one of them Allah spoke (directly); others He raised to degrees (of honor); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit (Archangel Gabriel).  If Allah had so willed succeeding generations would not have fought among each other after clear (Signs) had come to them but they differed- some believing and others rejecting.  If Allah had so willed they would not have fought each other; but Allah fulfills His plan.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 253)

Then we come to the religion of Islam with Quran as the Holy Book of Muslims who believe it to be the only Holy Scripture unaltered to this day. As such, the adherents of the second largest religion in the world (1.6 billion) should be all united, believing in the same Book, the same Prophet and the same message. Right? Let us see…

Although the majority of Muslims believe that it is obligatory to follow God’s commandments in the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, the interpretations and chains and methods of acceptable documentations of hadith (sayings of the Prophet) vary within Islamic sects.

Main Causes

Political motives or various differences were the original causes of split between some factions of the Muslims. Later, as time passed, each party developed their own trusted sources through which they submitted or accepted the Prophet’s traditions. The Quran, however, remained the sole unquestionable source of authentic Divine revelation accepted by the masses.

The two main Islamic factions, the Sunnis and the Shias are both strong believers in the Quran and the Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet). However, the Sunnis strongly believe in the transmission of the Prophet’s narrations mainly through the companions of the Prophet, while the Shias mainly rely on the transmissions narrated through direct family of the Prophet and their progeny.

Problems have arisen over the centuries when chains of submissions have been lost, links missing, inauthentic and fabricated narrations submitted and at time, truth was mixed with falsehood. To save the Muslim Nation from falling into misguidance through unauthentic narrations, many scholars developed systems by which to sort out the authentic from less authentic or fabricated narrations. Centuries of hard work, resulted in some brilliant work done by famous compilers, like Imam Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others for the Sunni Muslims, and Shias likewise devised their own method of authentication.

In spite of attempts made by various scholars to sort out the narrations of the Prophet, there exist many innovations in the religion to this day. Many knowingly have changed original traditions, and some ignorantly changed or followed the wrong path.

Such people are considered adversaries of God in contrast with those who would give up anything in order to not oppose God and His Messenger.

{You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day loving one who opposes Allah and His Messenger.} (Al-Mujadilah 58: 22)

So, a sincere believer should refrain from reading the books of the innovators, listen to their talks and follow their ways, for every innovation in religion is bid‘ah (a cursed innovation). The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in many narrations:

Every innovation is misguidance and any misguidance is in Hellfire. (Ibn Majah)

What to do with the Innovators?

It is the view of some scholars that the people of innovation should be boycotted and avoided. They should not be argued or debated with, and one must refrain from befriending them. However, the more moderate scholars are of the opinion that such people should be treated kindly and gently while discussing with them the correct opinions with the best possible form of speech.

Shaykh Al ‘Uthaymeen noted that argumentation and debate in religion could be divided into two categories:

The First: Enjoining good and prohibiting falsehood is an obligation or recommended depending on the situation.

God says:

{Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching and debate with them with what is better.} (An-Nahl 16: 125)

The Second: when one uses egoism and stubbornness to defend falsehood. This way is prohibited in Islam and as per God’s statement:

{… Only the disbelievers argue about the signs of Allah.} (Ghafir 40: 4)

{… and debate with them with what is better. Indeed your Lord knows best about those who went astray from His path and He is most knowledgeable about those rightly guided.} (Ghafir 40: 5)

As for the ones practicing the correct way of the Quran and Sunnah, if most their efforts in bringing back to the right way those who follow falsehood failed, they should not be discouraged if their correct practice makes them look alien to their folks, friends and their society. Being a stranger, may be blessing for some, as the Prophet stated

Islam began as something strange and it will return again to become something strange, so give glad tidings to the Strangers. (Muslim)

He was asked: ‘Who are they, O Messenger of Allah?’ He responded:

They are people who believed; a few righteous individuals amongst many people; those who disobey them are many more than those who obey them. (Ahmad)


Published on Reading Islam on Sunday, 04 March 2012

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