People don’t want to look at their religious opinions nor those of others with an open mind
Dr Khalid Zaheer
Sectarianism is an undisputed evil. The Qur’an mentions it in a way that it is beyond doubt a condemnable phenomenon. Addressing the prophet, the Qur’an says: “You have nothing to do with those who broke into religious factions; their matter will be in the hands of God; He will then inform them about what they used to do.” (6:159) The Qur’an also urges believers to remain united and not break into religious groups thus: “And hold fast to the rope of God and don’t break into religious groups.” (3:103)
Despite these clear verses, however, some Muslims still shamelessly ascribe themselves to one religious sect or another, claiming that the sects they belong to are not the ones that were condemned. Quite obviously, if one is not even aware of the fact that what one is doing is a crime, the chances of correcting it are bleak, if not completely non-existent. The fact is that it is these very sects that have resulted in the disunity of Muslims and them getting weakened.
‘I am convinced of the veracity of my views, but I concede the possibility that they could be wrong; and I am convinced of the incorrectness of the views of others, but I do concede the possibility that they could be correct’
What are the causes of sectarianism? It is primarily an inclination among Muslims to get emotionally attached to their religious views that causes sectarianism to be commonplace. People don’t want to look at their religious opinions nor those of others with an open mind. They take refuge in exposing themselves to a one-sided propaganda which gives them an unjustifiable confidence that while their religious view is all correct, the view of others is wrong. Had Muslims of later times followed the view of one of the most outstanding Muslim scholars, Imam Shafi‘i, they wouldn’t have ever steeped into the kind of religious bickering they have fallen into: “I am convinced of the veracity of my views, but I concede the possibility that they could be wrong; and I am convinced of the incorrectness of the views of others, but I do concede the possibility that they could be correct.”
Some sects are based on a peculiar view of history. Certain historical incidents and personalities other than the messenger of God have become the ultimate reason for them to differ with others in a manner that no reconciliation with other Muslims seems possible. This they do despite knowing that the Qur’an urges the believer to focus his attention on his own performance rather than unnecessarily fighting over the question as to who was right and who was wrong in the past. God Almighty says: “They were a group who have gone. For them is going to be the result of what they earned, and for you is going to be a recompense for what you will. And you are not even going to be asked about what they used to do.” (2:134)
It is primarily the manner religious scholars present the message of Islam that causes sectarianism to be rife. And it is only they who can get rid of this evil. If religious scholars focus their attention on the following matters, they can help remove sectarianism from the Muslim society:
Common Muslims should be asked to focus their attention on understanding the Qur’an and staying firm with the teachings more than anything else. The above-quoted verse (3:103) is clearly suggesting that the only way Muslims can avoid sectarianism is by holding fast to the Qur’an (the rope of God) together.
Muslims need to be informed that all people who claim to be Muslims ought to be considered Muslims unless rulers declare them to be otherwise. Calling Muslims with views different from one’s own as non-Muslims is a crime. Indeed, we do have a right to disagree politely with others on what their religious views are.
It needs to be clarified that religious differences are natural. There is nothing wrong with people holding different views. We all learn our religious views from our respective environments. Instead of blaming others for holding certain views, one should try to understand them in the light of their arguments.
The common man should be encouraged to form religious opinions on the basis of his honest intellectual understanding in the light of the arguments that support that understanding.
It should be emphasised that a believer should take pride in being called a Muslim. He should not allow the name of any other religious group to accompany his name. God has described the believers in His message as Muslims. (22:78)
If all Mosques are brought under the administration of Muslim rulers and no religious educational institution is allowed to operate as an institution belonging to any particular sect, sectarianism will disappear soon.
“The article was published at dailycapital.pk on 10-APR-15. We are reproducing here by permission”