Interdivisions in Islam

Divisions within Islam

Because of Islam’s great growth geographically in the first two centuries of its inception, there needed to be a larger set of Islamic laws capable of handling the different needs of Muslims throughout the Empire.  The Qur’an and the Hadith were not detailed enough to provide all the answers.  Therefore, in the 8th century A.D., there arose a school of legal experts who interpreted and applied Islamic principles to different situations throughout the Empire.  However, different scholars disagreed with these experts in various areas.  This led to a variety of legal schools of thought within Islam.
These different schools became different sects within Islam.  The largest of the sects is the Sunni which comprises about 90% of all Muslims.  The next two largest are the Shi’i and Sufi. 

Sunni Muslims

     Sunni Muslims  These are followers of the Hanifa, Shafi, Hanibal and Malik schools. They constitute a 90% majority of the believers, and are considered to be main stream traditionalists. Because they are comfortable pursuing their faith within secular societies, they have been able to adapt to a variety of national cultures, while following their three sources of law: the Qur’an, Hadith and consensus of Muslims.
The Sunni emphasize the power and sovereignty of Allah and his right to do whatever he wants with his creation.  Strict determinism is taught.  Its rulership is through the Caliphate, the office of Muslim ruler who is considered the successor to Muhammad.  This successor is not through hereditary lineage.

Sufi Muslims

     The Sufi are a mystical tradition where the followers seek inner mystical knowledge of God.  The Sufi mystic must follow a path of deprivation and meditation.  There are various forms of abstinence and poverty.  Worldly things are renounced and a complete trust in God’s will is taught.  The goal is to attain to a higher knowledge and experience of Allah.  The mystical focus meant that the Qur’an could be interpreted in different ways and so Sufism taught that the Qur’an had mystical meanings hidden within its pages.  Out of this mysticism a type of pantheism developed among some Sufi believers.  Pantheism is the teaching that God and the universe are one.  Of course, the orthodox Muslims, called the Sunni, reject this idea since they claim that Allah is the creator of the universe and distinct from it.
In part, Sufism arose as a reaction to the growing Islamic materialism that had developed in the Empire at that time.  Islam had achieved great power and geographical scope and with it, the material gain was great.   


     As you can see, Islam is not the united religious system it claims to be.  There are divisions among its ranks and even those divisions have divisions.  But what is interesting is that the Qur’an tells the Muslims to have no such divisions.

“The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the [sic] which we have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which we enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus:  namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion and make no divisions therein:  to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them…” (42:13)

     If this is the case, then the Muslim must admit that the divisions within Islam are sinful.  But, such is the nature of humanity, to divide and set ourselves against one another.

1.Glasse, Cyril, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, 1989, page 368.


~ by badkow on October 6, 2006.

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