Dividing Muslims into sub-sects
Fatwa No: 343348

Question

Please do not cite any other fatwa. In order to understand, I need you to clarify my issue and send it directly to me! Thank you for your time and effort. It would be really appreciated by me! Dear Scholar, would you tell me: are Islamic sub-sects like Sunnis and Shias innovation (Bid'a) given that this divides the Muslims based on their own views? Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his succeeding Caliphs Companions never used or mentioned any specific sects before to portray their creed identity; they merely followed the religion according to the Sunnah of the Prophet without being involved in any sects. Therefore, using or mentioning sects does serve any benefit because there must not be any place for sects in Islam. We [Muslims] do not have to follow any specific creed; rather, we must follow Islam. Is this view of mine correct?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

Ahlus-Sunnah (Sunnis) are not a sect like the other sects who {have divided their religion and became sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has}. Rather, it is a title for all the Muslims who sincerely follow the example of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and his Companions and adhere to their methodology. Allah, The Exalted, says (what means): {And the first forerunners (in the faith) among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct - Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.} [Quran 9:100]

Hence, Ahlus-Sunnah are all the Muslims who adhere to the straight path that Allah, The Exalted, has enjoined us to follow, and other sects have deviated from the correct path. Ahlus-Sunnah are not the ones to be criticized; rather, the other sects are the ones who should be criticized for their deviation. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood, may Allah be pleased with him, reported, "The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, drew for us a line (in the sand), then he drew lines to its right and left. Then he pointed at the middle line and said, 'This is the path of Allah.' Then he recited the verse: {And this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow (other) ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous.} [Quran 6:153]" [Ahmad]

Shaykh Saalih Aal Ash-Shaykh  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said in a detailed commentary on this topic, "All Muslims who followed the example of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and the rightly-guided Caliphs were distinguished with this name (Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa‘ah); they are the true adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim community. It is not accurate to describe them simply as 'Muslims' because other deviates are still called Muslims. This special description (Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa‘ah) is, in principle, synonymous to the term 'Muslim' in essence..."

He  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him had underlined earlier that even though the rest of the sects are not declared to be out of the fold of Islam and are still called Muslims, they are classified as followers of sinful desires and religious innovations who are not worthy of being described as 'Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa‘ah'.

Allah knows best.

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