Non-Sectarian Islam: The Proportionate Faith

Aerial View of Mecca
The Hajj is a symbol of universal brotherhood and every time we visit Mecca or look at a picture of Kaaba or face towards it for Salat, it should remind us of this fundamental non-sectarian Islamic teaching

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The Muslim Times is the Mecca for interfaith tolerance and non-sectarian understanding of Islam.

Almost every sect in Islam, historically, has declared every other as Kafir and non-Muslim. Different sects may not be wearing such Fatwas on their sleeves these days, but, most have not clearly distanced themselves from their past history. Many save the worst condemnation for those closest in belief to them, lest the others gain favor in the eyes of the public. I am not going to document that reality here, I am going to just accept it on face value, and philosophically and religiously expose the fallacy of such professions, beliefs, claims or insinuations.

Any Muslim, be he or she a Sunni, a Shiite, an Ahmadi or an Ismaili or anyone who chooses not to have any such label, who believes that God prohibits alcohol, will not fall prey to the general 10% risk of alcoholism and all the catastrophic consequences that go with it.

Any Muslim, be he or she a Sunni, a Shiite, an Ahmadi or an Ismaili and anyone who chooses not to have any such label, who believes that God prescribes chaste life, will not fall prey to HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and broken homes, and all the catastrophic consequences that go with these maladies.

Laws of nature or the Laws of God, don’t seem to make any distinction based on the sect of the person.

Any Muslim, be he or she a Sunni, a Shiite, an Ahmadi or an Ismaili or anyone who chooses not to have any such label, who starts lying or cheating and keeps on doing it, will eventually become a liar or a cheat.

Our goodness or evil is not just defined by our denomination, even though it may have some small role depending on what the sect or denomination is believing, doing or emphasizing.

Depending on our sect or our belief in any infallible divinely inspired leader or a scholar, we will falter, every time the leader falls down or gives us a wrong idea. This is where rubber meats the road and ideas and beliefs begin to affect our actions and our lives.

Take the example of the magical belief in Jinns, those who believe in them for one reason or the other, fall prey to all the psychological diseases and irrational and superstitious thinking that follows suit. I suggest, a couple of articles: Jinns and Demons: A Rational Islamic Perspective, Possessed by Jinns: Many Medieval Muslim Scholars Need Exorcism and Reading the Quran and the Bible Literally Means Demons and Jinns Will Rule Humans.

I believe the term Jinn has been used for different meanings in the holy Quran and the Hadith, but, the most common meaning is powerful men. In Sura Saba we read:

On the day when He gathers them all together, He will ask the angels: Was it you that these people worshipped? They will reply: Holy art thou! Thou art our Protector against them. They worshipped Jinns; it was in them that most of them believed. (Al Quran 34:40-41/41-42)

Every one knows from daily life experiences that most people, at least most Muslims, don’t believe in imaginary beings instead of God, but, they do believe in powerful men, sometimes the so called scholars, who distract them and misguide them.

No where the Quran says that we will be questioned about our choice of religious leaders, but we are reminded time and again that we will be accountable for those of our ideas that materialize into actions and deeds.

Our ideas and beliefs have magical powers only as far as they affect our actions and our life.

I believe that the most fundamental or profound verses of the Quran in relation to our accountability here and in the Hereafter are:

Then whoso does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoso does an atom’s weight of evil will also see it. (Al Quran 99:7-8/8-9)

In the grand scheme of things every action carries a reward or a punishment, based on the intentions behind it. But, God of Islam is the Most Merciful and the Most Forgiving, so He multiples the goodness at least ten fold and punishment carries only a single multiple, according to a verse in Surah Anaam.

Belief in One God and our accountability in the Afterlife have very profound influence on our thinking and actions. But, no other set of ideas or beliefs, neither has an overriding influence on our earthly lives nor on our salvation in the Hereafter, as it would be very much against the concept of a Just and the Most Merciful God. He has said in the above quoted verses from chapter 99 that He will take the totality of our actions in judging us and the final verdict will be rendered based on our scales:

Then, as for him whose scales are heavy, he will have a pleasant life. But as for him whose scales are light, hell will be his nursing mother. (Al Quran 101:6-9/7-10)

Even the belief in the holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, is not absolutely necessary for salvation, in all circumstances, according to the holy Quran. So, we can stop quibbling and debating about our pet ideas and beliefs and live a more tolerant and brotherly life among the Muslims. Salvation cannot be monopolized as the Quran states:

Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 2:62/63)


Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:69/70)


As to those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians, and the Magians and the idolaters, verily, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection; surely Allah is Witness over all things. (Al Quran 22:17/18)

If we allow religious leaders or writers to act as argumentative lawyers, then any good lawyer, using legalistic jargon, can construct a myopic and narrow exclusive reality, to the exclusion of other sects or groups. We should be wise enough to look through such intolerant and myopic leaders.

If the following poetic parable about Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt is conveying a very important truth, the emphasis on sectarianism in many if not most Muslim societies cannot be true:

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

I conclude my presentation to my Muslim brethren and sisters, with a heartfelt appeal, to create a more inclusive faith and vision and live a more blessed and loving life and suggest three additional articles to achieve such a goal: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran, ‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin May Enhance Feelings Of Spirituality and Forty Hadiths or Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about Compassionate Living.

5 thoughts on “Non-Sectarian Islam: The Proportionate Faith

  • Yes, it is important that the True Muslim dismiss the indoctrination of religion and wholly submit to God’s Divine System – way of life (Deen) which means to comprehend the Holy Quran ALONE


  • The rise and spread of ISIS, Wahhabism, Boko Haram, and other supremacist religious creeds is rooted in their evil design and the use of Islamic vocabulary with falsified definition. So, Muslims must rediscover the original meaning of Islamic vocabulary as defined in the Qur’an to discredit these evil outfits. This study shows Islam is a non-sectarian.

    Traditionally, the term al-Islam stands for the religion of those who are commonly known as Muslims, the followers of Prophet Muhammad (s). In this traditional understanding, the term al-Eman has been used to also describe the ‘faith’ of these Muslims, the adherents of al-Islam. By the linking of al-Eman to al-Islam, the followers of Muhammad (s) were thought to be both the Muslims (الْمُسْلِمِينَ) and the believers (الْمُؤْمِنِينَ).

    This linking is derived from Hadith collections. These collections defined al-Islam and al-Eman as follows: The al-Islam is commonly perceived to be based on the following five pillars: 1. The Shahada; 2. Salah: 3. Charity 4. Fasting: 5. Hajj The common description of al-Eman is based on the following six tenets of belief in: 1. Allah; 2. His angels; 3. His books; 4. His messengers; 5. The Hereafter; 6. Allah’s divine predestination and His power over good and evil.

    A review of the Qur’an shows that the linking of two words is inherently flawed. In the books of the Hadiths scholars have also been treated both terms as more or less synonymous (see al-Bukhari; Muslim, on al-man.) even though, according to Syrian scholar Muhammad Shahrur, there is a big difference between al-Islam and al-Eman. The assumption of synonymy in the Quran has been a fundamental flaw in traditional scholarship. There is a distinct Quranic nature of the term al-Musliman (those who assent to God), which can be generically applied to all believers in this world, and this in contradistinction to the term al-Muhminan (those who believe), which, because it describes a more particular type of religious belief, must be used only for the followers of Prophet Muhammad (s).

    All people who currently claim to be Muslims agree that Allah’s revelation is free from error and (human) interpolation. So, we must agree that we must identify the meaning of the terms al-Islam and al-Eman by locating them in the context in which they appear in the Quran. It will then immediately become clear that the traditional definitions of al-Islam and al-Eman from Hadith collection do not make sense.

    “Surely the men who submit (الْمُسْلِمِينَ) and the women who submit (الْمُسْلِمَاتِ ), and the believing men (الْمُؤْمِنِينَ) and the believing women (الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ), and the obeying men and the obeying women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women and the humble men and the humble women, and the almsgiving men and the almsgiving women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember– Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward.” (Quran 33:35)

    Based on 33:35, ‘men and women who submit to Allah (لْمُسْلِمِينَ and لْمُسْلِمَاتِ) are both terminologically and conceptually separated from ‘men and women who believe’ (الْمُؤْمِنِينَ and الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ). God’s speech is never redundant or arbitrary. So, these two words are not synonymous and have different meaning.

    The Qur’an 49:14 helps us to define the word, Muhminan (الْمُؤْمِنِينَ).

    “The Bedouins say, ‘We believe.’ Say: ‘You do not believe; rather say, “We surrender”; for belief has not yet entered your hearts. If you obey God and His Messenger, He will not diminish you anything of your works. God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.’”

    The section of above verse, “The Bedouins say, ‘We believe.’ Say: ‘You do not believe; rather say, “We surrender”; for belief has not yet entered your hearts” indicates thatal-Islam precedes al-Eman—chronologically (in terms of its appearance in human history) as well as biographically (in terms of the individual’s spiritual progress and transition from al-Islam to al-Eman). The next section of the verse, “If you obey God and His Messenger, He will not diminish you anything of your works” indicates al-Eman means the faith in Muhammed (s) as messenger who spoke the Divine message, the Qur’an, and Muhminan (الْمُؤْمِنِينَ) means the person who sincerely believes in such a faith (al-Eman).

    In Quranic context, the term, Muslims, is not limited to the followers of Prophet Muhammad (S)! Instead, the Jinns, Abraham, Jacob, the tribes of the Israelites, Joseph, the magicians of the Pharaoh, the disciples of Jesus, Noah and Lot—they are Muslims; and when the Pharaoh saw the splitting of the sea he also became a Muslim:

    (A) Muslims among the Jinns, Inhabitants of Unseen World

    Quran 72:14: And among us are Muslims (الْمُسْلِمُونَ) and among us are the unjust. And whoever has become Muslim – those have sought out the right course.”);

    (b) Abraham: A Muslim

    Quran 3:67: “No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a true Muslim [حَنِيفًا مُسْلِمًا] and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters”),

    Qur’an: 22:78: “Strive steadfastly for the Cause of God. He has chosen you but has not imposed on you hardship in your religion (الدِّينِ), the noble religion of your father, Abraham (مِلَّةَ أَبِيكُمْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ). God named you Muslims (الْمُسْلِمِينَ) before and in this Book, so that the Messenger will witness (your actions) and will be the witness over mankind. Be steadfast in your prayer, pay the religious tax, and seek protection from God; He is your Guardian, a gracious Guardian and Helper.”

    (C) Jacob, the Tribes of the Israelites, And Joseph: Muslims

    Quran 2:131-133: “When his Lord said to him, Be a Muslim (أَسْلِمْ), he said: I submit myself (أَسْلَمْتُ) to the Lord of the worlds. And the same did Ibrahim enjoin on his sons and (so did) Jacob. O my sons! Surely Allah has chosen for you (this) faith (الدِّينَ), therefore die not unless you are Muslims (مُسْلِمُونَ),Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, “What will you worship after me?” They said, “We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac – one God. And we are Muslims [in submission] to Him (مُسْلِمُونَ).”

    Quran 12:101: [Yusef said] “My Lord! Thou hast given me of the kingdom and taught me of the interpretation of sayings: Originator of the heavens and the earth! Thou art my guardian in this world and the hereafter; make me die a Muslim (تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا) and join me with the good.”

    (D) The Magicians of the Pharaoh: Become Muslims

    Quran 7:125-126: “The magicians said, “We will certainly return to Our Lord. You only take revenge on us because we believed in the Lord when we saw His miracles. Lord, grant us patience and let us die Muslims (submitted to God) (مُسْلِمِينَ)

    (E) Jesus and His Disciples: Muslims

    (Quran 3:52: “When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?” Said the disciples: “We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims (مُسْلِمُونَ).

    (F) Even When the Pharaoh Saw the Splitting Of the Sea and He Himself Drowning He Also Accepted Islam and Claimed To Be Muslim

    (Quran 10:90: “And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him, he said, “I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims (الْمُسْلِمِينَ)”

    Historically speaking based on the above verses, none of pre-Muhammed (s) people and Jinns could follow the Prophet Muhammad (s). Instead, they followed other messengers: for example, the disciples followed Jesus (s) and the magicians of the Pharaoh followed Moses.

    If we keep postulating Shahada (“There

    Is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) as the first pillar and ultimate criterion for adherence to al-Islam, we would deny:

    (a) Presence Muslims among Jinns;

    (b) Adherence to al-Islam by Abraham, Moses, and Jacob, the tribes of the Israelites, and Joseph, and Jesus was al-Islam and were Muslims;

    (c) Adherence to Al-Islam by disciples of Jesus and other prophets

    (d) Magicians of Pharaoh had converted to al-Islam by following Moses.

    We would negate their adherence to al-Islam on the grounds that they did not follow Prophet Muhammad (s). Other so-called pre-Islamic prophets, their families, and tribes could not yet have known Muhammad (s) would also be excluded from being attached to al-Islam. But their solid adherence to al-Islam is well-attested in the Quran. Surely, our honourable scholars do not want us to believe that these known prophets and many more unlisted prophets came to every part of the world were not Muslims only because they never fasted during the month of Ramadan and never did the pilgrimage to Mecca as we do today!

    The Qur’an defines that everyone who believed in the existence of God and Hereafter was a Muslim, regardless of the Divine Book and individual messenger that he/she followed, and regardless of the name of religious community to which he/she belonged. Al-Islam is the more general type of faith. It is universal, human religion of any human who “believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness.”(Qur’an 2:62). That is the reason why it is called ‘Islamic religion (al-din al-Islam), not ‘religion of faith (al-din al-Eman).

    The Quran 33:35, quoted above defines al-Muhminan (الْمُؤْمِنِينَ) as anyone who follows and “obey God and His Messenger,” Muhammed (s). The term ‘commander of faithful’ (‘Amir Al-Mu’minin’) was first used during the reign of Ummer al- Khattab, not ‘commander of the Muslims (‘Amir Al-Muslimin’). Also, the wives of Prophet Muhammed (s) were called were called ‘mothers of believers’ (‘Ummahat al-Mu’minun,’ not ‘mothers of Muslims’.

    These definitions are complimented by the following verses:

    “We sent down the Torah which contains guidance and light…Later, in the train of Prophets We send Jesus, son of Mary, confirming the Torah which has been send down before him, and gave him the Gospel containing guidance and light. …Unto to you [O Muhammad] this writ (Koran) and a way and a pattern of life, confirming what were revealed before…Unto every one of you have We appointed a different law and way of life. And if God had so willed He could surely have you all made one single community professing one faith. But He wished to try you and test you. So try to excel in good deeds” (Qur’an: 5:44-48).

    “Those who believe in the Qur’an and those who follow the Jewish Scriptures, and the Christians and Sabians, and any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Qur’an 2:62).

    “It is neither dependent on your (Muslim’s) whims nor the whims of the People of the Books (Jews and Christians), but whosever does misdeeds shall be punished for it, and will find no protector or friend apart from God; whoever, whether man or woman, does righteous deeds and is a believer of God will surely enter Paradise. None shall be deprived even an iota of his/her reward.” (Qur’an 4:123-124).


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