Being a Muslim, have you ever been labeled as a Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi, Sufi, or something else?

What about being accused of being a liberal, hijabi, sellout, or a hardliner?

Many of us may take it as an insult to be labeled as one but the reality is that it is how we are labeled by others – unfortunately sometimes unbeknownst to us – and that is how at times we pick our social circles.

Who is right?

Contrary to the happenings of today, the teachings of Islam lay down the foundations of a social system that purports to unite humanity in one social fabric irrespective of race, national or tribal origin and color. We know that this social system includes in itself all the checks and balances to serve the needs of the society at large and makes humans more civilized. Through endless examples, we Muslims believe that a deviation from this course results in a social disorder at all levels thus disintegrating families and communities and results in an Ummah at odds with itself.

Unfortunately, the situation today is just that…a Muslim Ummah at odds with itself at all levels…

The deviation from and poor execution of the social code of Islam demonstrates nothing but a lack of proper “understanding” of that system by Muslims themselves. That, coupled with the many religious interpretations has divided Muslims in groups of hardliners, liberals, Sunnis, Shias, Hijabis, Tablighis, and hundreds of other groups. Allah revealed and the Prophet propagated ONE Islam and ONE set of teachings. Yet, though all these groups claim to be Muslims and desire to be called as “one”, a large chasm separates all these groups.

Islam is not about extremism, fundamentalism, liberalism, or any other –ism that lurks in the media circles out there – rather it’s about being on the “straight path” as defined by Quran and the Prophet, the deviation from which puts us on “separate” paths. As we traverse the minefields of the present day societies, we see ourselves engaged in endless and senseless debates of trying to make haram as halal and halal as haram. We are pulled in discussions that benefit the general media more than enlightening us to return to and stay the course. Today’s society that feeds on the craze of fashion, figure, and fun is driving us to build fancy houses more than better homes and families. Our priorities obviously have become lopsided.

So, why not follow the “straight” path when it holds so much promise? The reasons are many and have been debated for centuries. One small post clearly can not do justice to the topic, but starting the process will bring us closer to addressing these issues.


One of the reasons is failure to mature in our understanding of the religion. When we fail in such a pursuit, we operate at reduced levels of wisdom and as a result we disintegrate in divided families, communities and nations. This “understanding” can not and should not be mixed with “knowledge”. The truth is that while many of us may have the “knowledge” but we do not really “understand” our religion. The message simply doesn’t “click”. It is only when we start connecting the dots after getting the knowledge that we can begin to see the “light”. Understanding therefore is a process that takes time and requires energy. A teenager may “know” that smoking is bad for health while a chain smoker who just lost a lung to lung cancer may fully “understand” that smoking is bad for health. “Understanding therefore is the awareness of the connectedness of this information. It is understanding which allows knowledge to be put to use. Understanding represents a higher level than simple knowledge.”

……… And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord." And none receive admonition except men of understanding. (Quran: Aal-e-Imran:7) [(Tafsir At-Tabaree)]

The reality is that we can not achieve higher levels of understanding, when we rely on half-baked knowledge. By prematurely indoctrinating ourselves with Islamic philosophies based on insufficient and inaccurate knowledge, we run the risk of devoiding ourselves from higher levels of “understanding” that in turn can provide us with the wisdom to follow Islam the way our Creator wants it to be followed. We therefore need to be cognizant of the dangers of this half-baked knowledge. Just as we wouldn’t trust our health with doctors who possess little knowledge and our life with airplane pilots who have scarce knowledge of flying, why would we seek to build our destinies by having half-baked knowledge of our religion?

When we take Quranic verses out of context, we deny our sisters the education they need. When we confuse crooked cultural norms with Islamic teachings we start mistreating our families and when we overvalue the worldly rewards, we yearn for more power and money – all symptoms of the problem of lack of understanding. 


We must therefore strive to increase our levels of knowledge to a point where we can begin to truly “understand”. But that does require freeing up time as well as space in our minds by pushing out what keeps us preoccupied with the craze of fashion, figure, and fun.

We can not begin to achieve mature levels of religious understanding unless we take our religion seriously – It amazes us to see that many who philosophize others about Islam are usually the ones who do not take religion seriously. A little soul searching can tell us how seriously we take our religion. For example, does the promise of earning “Hasanat” (points for being on the right path) truly excites us to the core and encourages us to do more of good deeds or do we simply feel indifferent? Do those feelings in anyway para
llel those of potential worldly rewards such as earning real money in this world? Does the prospect of getting a million Hasanat excite us more than earning a million dollars? Do the warnings mentioned in the Quran and Hadith for engaging ourselves in certain behaviors indeed make our hearts fearful the way Allah wants us to fear?

Once we start truly valuing the rewards mentioned in our religious teachings more than the worldly rewards and start fearing the warnings mentioned in the Quran and Ahadeeth, we can begin to take our religion seriously. Deeper reflection and more time will bring us closer to being serious.

Allah says in the Quran: "O ye who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam." (Quran, 3:102)

Differences in Religious Interpretations – Although there is almost no disagreement on the authenticity of Quran, it is clear that differing interpretations of Quran in general remain one of the primary dividers of Muslims in general. As hadith is one of the sources of such interpretations, we need to exercise extra due diligence in understanding the true source of hadith. Although the purpose of this post is not to get in the art and science of hadith, a general explanation will help understand the issue.

Scholars strive to establish whether a hadeeth is Sahih (sound or authentic), Hasan (good), Da`if (weak) or Maudu` (fabricated, forged). In general, for a hadith to be saheeh (authentic) it has to meet conditions such as that it has to be from a continuous chain of narrators, the narrators have to be of outstanding character and possess outstanding memory and the hadith must be absent from subtle and obvious defects. There are many other conditions that require an indepth study of Hadith and its sciences. More details can be found in a separate post on this site.

The necessity of narrating and following correct hadith therefore can not be overemphasized, lest we base our religion on fabricated information. Obviously, Muslims who base their religion on fabricated Ahadith are going to form differing opinions than those who take the extra effort to identify such and not use it to base their religion.

To conclude, it is clear that as Muslims, we need to start at the grass root levels within our homes and our communities. More knowledge will help us raise the levels of our understanding. Taking religious teachings more seriously will enable us to get closer to where we agree more and disagree less. Even when we disagree, we will do it in a more civilized way without compromising our fundamentals. When we unite within our families and communities, the positive peaceful vibrations will spread outward and have more of a global impact.

And finally, when we reach that stage, we will have less to complain about unity and everyone else.

==> What do you think? What else is dividing us and what can unite us better? Your thoughtful ideas are always welcome !

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