Ending Sectarianism & Differentiating between Sect & Sectarianismm
Translation by Mohammad Tarique Mumtaz ,India
What is the validity of Maslak (Schools of thought) before Islamic Law? Isn’t the existence of different Masalak proving to be a cause of confusion and disintegration in Islam? What do you think about those people who prefer Maslak to Mazhab?
Shaykh ul Islam:
Masha Allah! Good question! So far as the validity of Maslak is concerned, it has its validity in the basic teaching of Islam. It is competent and in agreement with Islamic Law and not at all against the Islamic temperament. Islamic Shari’ah (Law) has the capacity to accommodate the existence of different schools of thought. The proof of their existence traces back to the Quran and Sunnah. In other words the Quran and Sunnah have the justification for the existence of different schools of thought. For example in Surah al-Fateha Allah says:
|Translation: Show us the straight path, The path of those upon whom You have bestowed Your favours, Not of those who have been afflicted with wrath and nor of those who have gone astray. (The Quran, 1:6-7)|
Here a person is asked to invoke Allah to show him the straight path, but which straight path? The answer is the straight path of those people upon whom Allah has bestowed His favors. Here one thing is established that Allah has commanded us to look for and determine the straight path. Now it is quite obvious that the straight path is the path of the Quran and Sunah or of Allah and His prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. After one asks, “O Allah show me the straight path”, the specification of the straight path could have been made by mentioning that straight path is the path of the Quran and Sunnah or the path of Allah and His prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, or the obedience to His prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. By using such words the meaning of the straight path could have been specified in the Quran. The Quran defines and specifies the Straight path but not under the title of ‘obedience to Allah and his Messenger or the Quran and Hadith’, but under the title of the ‘rewarded persons’. That means the path of those persons whom Allah has bestowed His favor upon and neither of those who have been afflicted with wrath nor of those who have gone astray. So there are two aspects—– positive and negative. At one hand the path of those who have been afflicted with wrath of Allah is nullified and negated. Now the principle deducted from the teaching of these two verses is every Muslim must seek the straight path; and what is that straight path? Allah has specified it with the path of some persons; they are the persons upon whom Allah has bestowed His favors. This is the path Allah has set down. Now their path is not hewed out by themselves nor can it be so. Their path cannot be other than the path of Allah and His Messenger. But the holy Quran has personified it. The Quran has provided not only a conceptual definition of the straight path, it has rather personified it with human figure, figures of those upon whom Allah has bestowed His favors. So the second point that has got established is, we need to look for the paths of the favored persons of Allah and follow them; because the Quran has declared following them is the straight path. And the third point that has also got established is we need to determine as to who are those persons who became a victim of extremism and is misled. We must avoid their path as well; otherwise we might start following them. So we should look for the favored persons of Allah and follow them as well as determine the persons who went strayed and avoid their path.
It is in fact acting upon these commands of Allah that led to the foundation of Maslak. Who were the founders of Maslak? They were none other than the very persons Allah have bestowed His favors upon; like Imam Abu Hanifah. He followed his predecessors, the companions of the holy Prophet and their successors, the Tabe’in. They were the favored persons of Allah. They were the personalities whom Imam Abu Hanifa paid visits for receiving guidance. Likewise are Imam Shafa’i, a pioneering figure in jurisprudential schools of thought, and Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani and Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri, the pioneering figure in the spiritual schools of thought. They too didn’t invent something on their own. Rather every one of them compiled the teaching of the Quran and Hadith. Allah then bestowed His favors upon them and commanded the common Muslims to look for those favored servants of Allah and follow in their footsteps. So this became the basis for validity of all Maslak irrespectively; except those Maslak that are led misled like the maslak of the Khawarij, Mo’ta’zilah (the dissenters) and Marjia. These are the masalak (sects) contrary to that of Ahlus-Sunnah and Sava’d-al Azam the (majority sect). These are some of the Masalak that raised in the history of Islam and are misled and gone astray. The holy Prophet peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, is reported to have said, “It is obligatory on you to hold on to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of my rightly guided companions” So the act of collecting, compiling, and arranging those Sunnah by some personalities were given a technical name Maslak and there is nothing new in it. Allah states:
|And before you also We sent only men as Messengers towards whom We sent Our Revelations. So if you yourselves do not know (anything), then ask the People of Remembrance. (The Quran, 16:43)
Thus paying visits to scholars and asking from them became a command of the Quran; and gaining knowledge from anybody presupposes an act of following it. If one would neither accept nor act upon what will be taught or informed to him, then the
whole act of asking and obtaining knowledge would become absurd and meaningless. The Quran also states:
Here “uli l-amr” means those persons of authority whom Allah aza wa jall has conferred higher rank in religion, and who are these persons? These are those Arabic speaking personalities who delve deep into the bottom of any issue and bring out the truth from there. Then surely they must have known the truth. So at many places the holy Quran asks the common Muslims, who are not well versed with the knowledge of the Quran and could not even translate a single verse, to follow the scholars. For example, today we are here together and you are asking questions from me. Is it right or wrong? You people have good opinion about me and may Allah keep this favorable expectations unwavering. You have a good opinion about me that I would tell you the accurate thing and whatever you don’t know, I would inform you of it in the light of the Quran and Hadith. This is an action that is being repeated with scholars who proceeds in the ladder of time and age. Today you are asking question from me. Some of you would get satisfied with my interpretation and explaination and some may not. It is quite a natural process. Likewise there had been some major personalities from whom humble people like me have gained knowledge through their books. They too repeated the same act. They too read the Quran and Hadith and acted upon it; studied the creed and law of faith and became an eminent figure in the field of knowledge; they too compiled the scattered and different teachings of the Quran and Hadith. They devoted their life in compilation of these teachings and getting them compiled by their students. When all teachings were compiled together, they put forward the basic and the subsidiary tenets. They explained as to how an issue is to be studied and how its nature is to be determined. So when the academic and scholarly works were assembled, it came to be known as Maslak.
Now the question is why to follow a particular Maslak. Quite logically it is not necessary the whole Ummah would get satisfied with the research or the compiled structure of knowledge of a scholar or a group of scholars. So some scholar differed with another and their research was accordingly different, though the basic sources were only the Quran and Hadith. Thus when different sets of research and knowledge came out in arranged and compiled form, some of the people of Ummah preferred one set of research and differed with another while the others preferred another sets of research. But all the sets of research centered round the Quran and Hadith. They are like canals emerging out of a river—-the river of the Quran, Hadith and Shari’ah. So the person who saturated themselves from one canal came to be known as the followers of a particular Maslak and those who saturated themselves with another canal came to be known as the followers of another Maslak and so on. All these canals, however, are emerging out of the same river of the Quran and Hadith. Thus according to Sha’ri’ah the existence of maslak is justified and it is permissible; and it is obligatory for the common Muslims having no access t the comprehensive and vast knowledge of the Quran and Hadith. It is obligatory for them to go to somebody and ask from him.
If a person asks different issues from different scholars and each scholar explain the issue with their distinguished principle, his life then, will become a bundle of conflicts and contradictions. He will incorporate conflicting ideas; and the discipline of the religion will not be manifested in his life. Since he need to consult a scholar for performing his particular action, because of lacking in comprehensive understanding of the Quran and Hadith, he had better ask one scholar instead of various scholars—the scholars who codified the religion of Islam. By consulting a scholar, he becomes a follower of that codified Maslak. For the common Muslims there is great peace and safety in it. In this way he saves himself from extremism, confusion, indiscipline and a life with conflicting idea.
Next, the significance of Maslak to me is absolutely scholarly and to me it is a secure way to safeguard the faith of the common Muslims in Islam and Imaan; so that they may not get confused. It is again not appreciable to create a hostile environment and make Maslak a basis of conflict and dispute. The purpose of a Maslak was to fashion a uniform system of knowledge for the Ummah and it had aspects of welfare for the Ummah. For example, a man comes here. He observes people offering Salah here in a uniform order; whereas at another place he finds fifty people in a row offering the same but every one of them are offering it in a different fashion. If a non-Muslim observes both the congregation of Salah and he is asked to give his impression on both the congregation, he would appreciate the congregation in which everybody is offering Salah in a uniform order. He would say that these are more organized people. They have adopted more uniform pattern of behavior; this congregation has a beauty and elegance. This is the elegance that needs to be developed in the Ummah in different strata of society from country to country. But this does not imply that it should be made a basis for dispute and enmity and create infightings and riots over it declare one another Kafir and Mushrik and expel one another from the ambit of Islam; and in this process disintegrate the whole Ummah. The Masajid being divided, fatawas being issued on loudspeakers, and the youth becoming disgusted with the whole experience of this mutual hatred–all these things to me is a service neither to Islam nor to any Maslak, nor to Ummah. It is fasad fil ardh (creating disturbance and riots on earth). It is a mischief. Removing these things away from Maslak, and staying away from them at one hand and at another striving towards the unity of the Ummah is indeed a noble deed. The Ummah is ought to be saved from these things.
So far I related to you only the one facet of sectarianism. It has another face too. Some people demonstrate their sectarianism openly and overtly, while some are sectarians on the sly. Go through my book on the top “Firqah Parasti ka Khatma kyun kar Mumkin hai” (Possibilities of Eradication of Sectarianism). Fortunately or unfortunately, whatever you may call it; it is the very book for which most of Fatawa were slapped on me. After the publication of this book a group of Ulama waged almost a war against me. These are the Ulama who prefer and love to perpetuate infightings in the Ummah. To me they are in fact not Ulama at all. Putting on the veneer respectability of Ulama, they distract the Ummah into dissension and mischief. I must recommend to you go through the book.
However, the existence of maslak (schools of thought) is established as a necessity of the religion. It is a way to safeguard the belief of the common Muslims and to adopt the discipline of the religion.
Now addressing the nest part of your question, I must say that whatever is being done in the name of Maslak, Maslak, in fact, never came into existence for that purpose. In Baghdad there was a place Azimiyah. There is the mosque and shrine of Imam-e-Azam Abu Hanifa radi Allah Tala. Whenever Imam Shafa’i went to Baghdad, he used to pay a visitation to the shrine and offered prayer there. According to the jurisprudential research of Imam Shafa’i, there is Raf-e-yadain during Salah. But according to the jurisprudential research of Imam Abu Hanifa there is no Raf-e-yadain during Salah. There Imam Shafa’i offered Salah without Raf-e-yadain and according to another narration Imam Shafa’i did not say “Amin” loudly. The students of Imam Shafa’i asked him why he acted against his own jurisprudential research while offering Salah, particularly when he himself is a founder of the school of thought. At this Imam Shafa’i replied that he was satisfied with and confident of his research. But he felt ashamed of acting on his research before such a great Imam of the Ummah. That means there has been different maslak, there has been different researches; but at the same time there has also been an atmosphere of mutual respect and decorum, tolerance and amity. So we should abstain from creating mischief. I want to tell you that there are two types sectarianism. One is explicit and overt sectarianism and the other is disguised and veiled sectarianism. The explicit sectarianism talks quite openly about differences of Malsk, of clashes. These less intelligent people attack directly in a way that the audience would immediately get it that the speaker is a sectarian one. But those who are more cultured, more civilized, more educated and more advanced, they apparently denounce sectarianism. They pass contemptuous remarks against sectarianism. They talk about the unity of the Ummah, they talk about Islam. So the educated Muslims like you and I appreciate them, and say that they are good Ulama (scholars), they are talking about the unity of the Ummah, they are not talking about the sects and Maslaks, they are rather talking about Islam. So we listen to them with rapt attention and when we listen to them, what they say? They say, “Whatever I told you are Din. Except this, those and those things are shirk, those and those things are Bid’ah, those and those things are Kuf’r, those and those things dismiss you from being a Muslim. When you listen to his or my or anybody’s teachings for years, you will be taught that whatever I said is Din, it is Tauhed, it is Imaan, it is virtuous acts, it is Sunnah, and the rest is shirk, Kuf’r and Bid’ah that would lead to hell-fire. Listening to these kinds of teachings for years make an impact on your mind.
To me Firqaparasti (sectarianism) has nothing to do with any Maslak. Keep in mind Maslak (school of thought) and Maslakparasti (sectarianism) are two different things. Existence of Maslak is appreciable and good for the Ummah. But Maslakparasti in the form of sectarianism that creates confusion and dissension in the Ummah and that becomes a reason for mischief and turmoil, is contemptible. Considering only oneself Muslim and on the straight path and treating others as Kafir, Mushrik, and Bid’ati is a mental disposition. When anybody develops this kind of outlook and thinks that all the Muslims around him are committing Shirk and Bid’at and thus they would go to Hell-fire, what is left, according to him, is that only a handful of people are Muslims and an overwhelming majority of the Ummah would deserve the torments of the Hell-fire on account of committing Shirk and Bid’ah! When such mental aptitude develops, it is called Firqaparasti (sectarianism); and this mentality is, in fact, more dangerous that considers others Mushrik and declares a Muslim Kafir, and instead of guiding them towards Jannah, push them into the Hell-fire. So the educated Muslim must be vigilant whether Firqaparasti is being indirectly injected. These are the two forms of sectarianism and both are proving fatal for the Ummah.
As regards last part of your query that is about preferring Maslak to Din (religion), it is a great injustice. Maslak is there to serve Din. Din is not there to serve Maslak. Din is superior. The Messenger of Allah has brought Din. The Quran says,
Translation: “Today I have perfected your Din (Religion) for you.” (The Quran, 5:3)
Here Allah does not say, “Today I have perfected your Maslak (School of thoought) for you.” He said, “I perfected your religion….and have chosen for you Islam (as) Din (a complete code of life). (The Quran, 5:3)
Therefore Din is the served one, and all the Masalak, Fiqihi Madhab(jurisprudential schools) and Roohani Salasil(spiritual methods) are the servants of Din—all of them came into existence to serve Din, and in that way the Ummah could go on the straight path with peace of mind and devotion. Therefore in all the circumstances, they will be subordinate to Din: Allah says:
He (Allah) has named you Muslims (The Quran, 22:78)
Allah has given us the name of Muslim; and all other names are subordinate to the name of Muslim. All the spiritual and jurisprudential schools of thought are subordinate to Din-e-Islam. Giving an upper hand to Maslak over Din is like preferring one’s own created thing to the creation of Allah.
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