اشهد ان لا اله الا الله وحده لا شريك له
واشهد ان محمدا عبده ورسوله
Our time is witnessing divisions within the Muslims being exacerbated. While I do not advocate the false gospel of unity for the sake of unity, it is nevertheless quite alarming that our people have developed a sectarian mindset which prevents them from not only considering the views of others with an open mind and with the intention of seeking the truth, but even showing due regard and courtesy to those of different persuasions. In the world of religion, there are two basic levels of distinction: 1. religious tradition or community and 2. sect or denomination. The first level of difference deals with fundamental differences in the Articles of Faith. Simply put, belief in the Oneness of Allah, the Prophesy of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Afterlife are what set apart our religious tradition and community from others. Anyone who rejects one of these matters or deviates so completely in them that it becomes unrecognizable from the original belief cannot be considered a part of our religious tradition and community, namely Islam. But apart from these fundamental Articles of Faith, Islam has numerous other doctrines where Muslims themselves have differed, in some instances, considerably so. These are divisions in the branches of belief which led to the emergence of denominations and sects. During the early period of Islam, including during the latter period of the Sahaba (Allah be pleased with them), the main deviations that took hold were deviations from the Prophet’s Sunna. That is why the Muslims in that era who held on to the correct doctrine and way distinguished themselves from the host of deviated sects within Islam with the name Ahl as-Sunna or Ahl as-Sunna wal-Jama’a (people of the Sunna and the Congregation). In this designation, the term Sunna refers to the Sunna of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his rightly-guided Caliphs or Successors, and the term Jama’a refers to the collective way of the Prophet’s Companions. In distinguishing themselves from the heterodox Khawarij, Shi’a, Qadariyya, Murji’a, Mu’tazila and the like of early deviated groups, this was certainly the correct approach. However, we are living in an altogether different era with radically different circumstances. The main faultlines within the Muslims we see today are in fact much more serious than before. In particular, the deviations of tomb veneration, amulets and false doctrines such as the deceased being able to hear and the Prophets and martyrs being alive in their graves (these two doctrines are the ideological foundation for the widespread deviation in the Muslim world of calling upon the deceased). These are in fact deviations from the true and original conception of Tawhid which the Prophets of old came with and which is emphasized in the holy Scriptures. Therefore, the Muslims of our time who cling to the truth and the original teachings of Islam should distinguish themselves as people of Tawhid just as the earlier generations of Muslims distinguished themselves as people of Sunna. Of course, by Tawhid I mean the Tawhid of worship, i.e., Tawhid al-Uluhiya or Tawhid al-Ibada, and not the so-called Tawhid of the Mu’tazila. The Prophets of Allah came with the Tawhid of worship against the idolatry of their peoples, the age-old idolatry that persists today. The so-called Tawhid of the Mu’tazila has nothing to do with the Tawhid of the Prophets; rather, it is their baseless misconception that the Oneness of Allah means He does not possess any attributes. Likewise, the false “tawhid” of the Jabariyya ‘La Fa’il illa Allah’ (there is no doer except Allah), the false “tawhid” of the monist, pseudo-Sufi heretics ‘La Wujud illa Allah’ (there is no existent except Allah), and the false “tawhid” of the political fikr of hakamiyya advanced by the likes of Mawdudi that the true meaning of ‘La ilaha illa Allah’ is ‘La Hakim illa Allah’ (there is no ruler except Allah). On the contrary, the Tawhid of the Prophets is La ilaha illa Allah’ (there is none worthy of worship except Allah). Now it is certainly true that many great Muslim scholars who lived at times when they were beginning to see the deviations of calling upon other than Allah surface wrote in refutation of such a phenomenon. However, the individuals who launched full scale movements and dedicated the essence of their da’wa to Tawhid of worship and fighting idolatry were shaikh Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab in Arabia and Sayyid Ahmad of Barailly and Shah Isma’il of Delhi in India. Now this is the pure stream of Islam which is often termed Wahhabism with derision. Of course, I see nothing wrong with the people of Tawhid taking ownership of the term ‘Wahhabi’ and using it casually for the sake of convenience. After all, al-Wahhab (the Bestower) is one of the holy names of Allah, and so literally a Wahhabi is one who is ascribed to al-Wahhab, meaning God Himself. Therefore, I reiterate it is not so important for the Muslims who are upon the truth and the right way to identify themselves with the term Sunna as it is to identify with the term Tawhid. Indeed, the deviated groups of today call themselves people of Sunna or Sunni. For example, the grave-worshipping Barelwis and the Deobandis who believe the Prophets are alive in their graves and that the deceased can hear, and validate the unholy trade in amulets and talismans proudly claim to be Ahl us-Sunnati wal-Jama’a. In reality, they have hijacked that label and do not deserve to be given such a lofty ascription. But for the sake of convenience and for the reason I have already mentioned, let the Muslims who have the correct belief in Tawhid and who hate the idolatry of grave veneration and other un-Islamic superstitions refer to themselves as people of Tawhid or Muwahhidin and distinguish themselves from the so-called deviant “Sunni” groups. As for the term ‘Salafi’, while the so-called Salafis share our conception of the Tawhid of worship, the term Salafi should be avoided for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are different types of Salafism including the worst one which is modernist Salafism that can be traced back to Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida. Even some of those who push the false narrative of Hakamiyya and the political fikr, and engage in acts of terrorism, making takfir of other Muslims, have branded themselves ‘Salafi’. Then there is the modern Ahl al-Hadith movement which really originates in India during the 19th century with such figures as Siddiq Hasan Khan of Bhopal and Nadhir Hussain of Delhi. They are another variant of Salafism which prioritise the science of Hadith over the principles of Tawhid. This to the extent that some of them believe the deceased can hear while others validate the unholy trade in amulets. Therefore, stick to the call and mission of the great reformers of our era like Sayyid Ahmad of Barailly and Shah Isma’il of Delhi (may Allah have mercy on them both and accept their martyrdoms). Consider the fact that these individuals did not advocate the false political fikr of Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb. Nor were they modernists like Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Abduh, Rashid Rida and the party of Ulama which came to dominate al-Azhar University in Egypt. Nor were they Takfiri extremists. In fact, it has reached me that these two individuals were moderate Hanafis who respected the school of Imam Abi Hanifa (rahimahullah) unlike the non-conformist “Ahl al-Hadith”. They acknowledged the validity of the Sufi path of mysticism, while condemning the innovations and superstitions that had taken hold among the pseudo-Sufis of our time. Therefore, the maslak of Tawhid need not be in conflict with the way of the Sufis or with the legal school of Imam Abi Hanifa. In fact, the latter is more strict than the school of Imam ash-Shafi’i in condemning innovations and grave veneration. The Salafism of the Arabs today is severely lacking because of its opposition to the Sufi path. A major factor in that opposition is the huge influence of modernism on Salafism today. That influence is primarily in lifestyle and approach to Religion, which may be described as ‘Protestant’. It is certainly right to compare the textualist Salafis to the Christian Protestants. Their approach to religion is minimalist, essentialist, in other words, dry and narrow. It lacks both intellectualism and mystic passion. The various sects and groups in Islam each have taken something that is apparently from the Religion and emphasized it to the point that it has become deeply connected to its identity. For example, the Barelwis call to the love and devotion to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Shi’a call to the following of his family and progeny (peace be upon them). The Deobandis call to the Prophet’s Companions (Allah be pleased with them), and its missionary wing, Jama’at at-Tabligh, call to going out in the path of Allah to preach the virtues of good deeds and the lifestyle of the Companions. The Salafis call to following the Sunna and the way of the Salaf and opposing the innovations that have taken people away from the Sunna. The various Sufi orders call people to seek nearness to Allah by attachment to a guide who has inherited the legacy of the saints through an unbroken chain, and through frequent remembrance of Allah and purification of the heart. The political groups call to establishing an Islamic state or the imposition of Islamic law. The Ulama tend to call people toward acquiring religious knowledge by studying at their feet. The Jihadists call people to fight the infidel forces and defend the Muslim lands from the invaders, occupiers and colonial powers. All of these groups have taken something from Islam and emphasized it as the most critical mission. But they are all wrong. The most critical mission of Islam is to call people to worship Allah alone and to fight against idolatry in its various manifestations. This was undoubtedly the mission and work of the Prophets, therefore, how can any other effort or ministry be superior to it?
Now one of the doubts raised by the opponents of our maslak and silsila of Tawhid in this time by the propagandists of the deviated sects, especially those who identify as ahl as-Sunna, is that we are on falsehood because we do not possess an unbroken chain that includes the great saints, sages and scholars of this community and which terminates back to the time of the Prophet and his Companions. This is basically the argument of the traditionalists. It is an argument for their authenticity via inheritance of legacy. It is true that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that a group upon the truth shall never cease to exist within his community. But this doesn’t necessitate that such a group will always be present in the same land or locality. Nor does it mean they will exist as an unbroken silsila. On the contrary, the institution of the Mujaddid proves otherwise. The Mujaddidin of every century appeared in disparate places and often had no familial or scholastic connection to each other. They were simply pious Muslims who Allah raised up for the reformation of the community and to revive an aspect of the Religion that had been altered or neglected.