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You said you do not like sectarian identification, what are you then?

You said you do not like sectarian identification, what are you then?


salaam alaikom, you said you have a particular aversion towards sectarian identification, but what about where the two faiths (I consider Sunni Islam and Shi’ism to be two different faiths) do not overlap? For example, the regard of the Mothers of Believers and the Companions in the two different faiths. Where do you find yourself, if you’re not affiliated with either?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

Yes, I did say that I do not like sectarian identification, because, as someone who has studied both, although one more than the other to be fair, I find that the issue is that Muslims constantly confuse the difference between Fiqh and Aqidah.

Aqidah, is theology. Fiqh is jurisprudence. These are two different disciplines, and while, it can be argued that certain forms of Aqidah will lend itself to certain forms of Fiqh (Athari Aqidah and Hanbali Fiqh, for example) the reality is that, Muslims, especially today, constantly confuse these two distinct issues.

I have heard more talk about “this school of law” and “that school of law,” when the conversation had very little to do with law. Attempting to understand God’s Will is very rarely the job of Fuqaha (those who deal with Fiqh); they only deal with God’s Will through attempting to make sense of His injunctions, but not greater issues like whether we can completely comprehend God’s logic, for instance.

Here’s another question for Aqidah: was Ali supposed to be the successor to The Prophet? This is not a question that Imam Jaafar or Imam Shafi’i would answer as “Fuqaha,” or through anything remotely related to “the law.” Did they have an answer, from their personal perspectives and understanding of Aqidah? Of course, but, that is not predicated on their perception of Fiqh, but their perception of Aqidah as it relates to Theological issues, not legal ones.

How could you explain Imam Jaafar, Imam Abu Hanifa, and Imam Malik all working together? The fundamentals of our legal procedures of Shariah were developed because of the work done by Imam Jaafar and Imam Abu Hanifa, while the basis of Hadith science is credited to Imam Malik, so, if these titans of Islamic thought were literally, working together, how can we explain our differences today? Honestly.

Therefore, I completely reject the idea that “Sunni Islam and Shi’ism are two different faiths,” because the historical record confirms this. Imam Jaafar and Imam Abu Hanifa were not conducting nice interfaith events with “free pizza” advertised so that students would show their faces, they were working together.

The only place where Aqidah and Fiqh can genuinely be said to interact, explicitly, is how Aqidah influences the jurisprudential tools available to the various schools of law. For example, because of the Theological construct of Imamah (Imamate), the concept of ijma, or rule/legislation by consensus is not possible within the Jaafari madhab. However, as to whether a woman can pray with nail polish on or if its permissible to eat nutella, the range of opinions are more-or-less the same, as are the conclusions from the various factions (within and between each school) that are more “conservative” or “liberal.”

Granted, there is an argument that one’s perception of Aqidah influences their rulings of issues of Ibadat (religious rituals), but those differences are generally minor, like how you hold your hands during prayer or conduct prayers. Those differences, however, also occur within schools that are from the same “sect.” So, Malikis pray with their hands by their sides, like Jaafaris; while strict Hanafis calculate prayer times significantly differently than the other three Sunni schools. Therefore, I find that argument to be rather unconvincing.

As far as where I find myself, as someone who shuns labels, I would say in a place where few would understand. When you study the wives or companions of The Prophet, historically, you come to demystify them. This is monumentally important, because by removing the myth that we put onto them, all you can say is: SubhanAllah, look at how grand Islam is, how Islam was able to change people so emphatically.

You come to realize how people’s particular sectarian label informs not their interpretations of events, but more sadly, their actual source material in attempting to determine what happened. That is the problematic outcome, because the academic question is no longer answered from the same data, but rather, from simply different discourses which have a particular interest in preserving themselves for various political and sectarian reasons. In other words, they prevent the Ummah from uniting.

All that being said, it really doesn’t matter what I say, because Muslims are unable to separate the Islamic disciplines that they are arguing about, and so the disputes are so intertwined in their minds, I would simply be called by colorful names or as some sort of “unorthodox” Muslim; the funny part is that my method of thinking is not new, and whether you look at Al-Azhar’s curriculum (teaching five schools of law) or at Zaydi Theological and Jurisprudential ideas, there is ample evidence should people simply learn about the mechanics of their religion, they would see just how unnecessary our disputes are.

Muslims today are simplifying their religion, they are removing Islam’s tremendous nuance and discretion, and we are actually changing The Islamic Tradition, and making our Islam so much smaller, so much more insignificant, because we are making it “a religion,” rather than “Islam.” We are falling into the archetypes of the religions before us, which The Qur’an warns of, and yet we do not pay attention, and this is what actually makes me sad. I literally have a tough time sleeping sometimes, just thinking about the destruction that Muslims are inflicting upon their Islam.

I pray that we are simply going through a rough patch with our Faith, which has happened before; I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of Islam being lost. We seldom recognize our strengths and all-too-often highlight our weaknesses; we constantly accuse but rarely embrace; how can we have an Ummah when polemics are passed off as “logic” and people of good conscious avoid giving an opinion out of fear of their ignorance, yet in doing so open the space for those who have neither the proper tact nor fear of ignorance?

We must engage with our Faith; we must understand and differentiate between the various levels of our Faith; we must practice our faith amongst each other before worrying about ourselves. We say we follow the example of A Prophet who did not stop people pelting him with stones, or throwing garbage on him, or to allow one’s fears, anger, or status prevent justice being done; where is the evidence of us actually following The Prophet?

Does anyone on this Earth know God’s true intentions or God’s plan for us? We say “Insha Allah” for a reason, and so, as far as I’m concerned, I care very little for someone’s Theological positions, because they do not matter to me, they only matter to Almighty God. The only time a person’s perception of theology is important to me, is when it affects me, which should happen very rarely. Thus, what do I care if someone says this or that about one of The Prophet’s wives, companions, or family? Do I think certain things that people say are ridiculous? Of course I do. But, as the saying goes, a person’s actions speak louder than words.

The common maxim in Arabic echoes this, ad-Deen mu’amala or “The [or one’s] Religion is [defined by one’s] Actions.” I wish we’d not just remember or reblog this, but act upon it.

Insha Allah, I hope that answers your question, and if you or anyone else has a question on this, or any other topic, please do not hesitate to ask me.

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