What Islamic schism? Wahhabism does not have divine monopoly

SHAFAQNA – For well over a millennium now intellectuals, and even clerics have argued a corps et a cris that Islam’s inner struggle stems from the theological fracture which the faith suffered upon the death of its prophet – the Prophet Muhammad.

The argument stands that Islam’s infamous schism came to be through the rebellion of a minority against the will of the majority. Sunni Islam as it is expressed today has claimed religious legitimacy and religious righteousness on the basis that its followers have remained loyal to the Sunna of the prophet: his traditions, while Shia Muslims strayed.

Before I move any further in my argumentation, I would like to assert one very simple, and yet I believe essential truth. My intent here is not to measure or assert righteousness over other people’s beliefs. I only wish to investigate, and present to readers those truths I hold for myself, and which others share with me.

Islam I continue to believe is One, yet its Truth remains plural. We all experience the world according to our own subjectivity, and as such the world each of us experience is inherently different from that which other people experience. One person’s subjectivity does not preclude the universality, and reality of our differences.

If we can accept that we are all entitled to our subjectivity – how we look onto the world, then we ought to recognise that people will feel and react differently from us without automatically assuming “worth”. By that I mean that no one can ever absolutism of opinions. Our freedom I’d like to think exist in the space we offer others to think and believe differently from us.

But back to the subject at hands: Islam.

A lot of the fury surrounding Islam today comes from factions’ attempt to proclaim ownership of the Scriptures, forgetting in the process that Islam stands not a property to be claimed, but a Truth to be experienced and lived through faith.

Islam came as a mercy – a last reminder and a confirmation of the Message God imparted to man through his many prophets. God’s Religion as it were, was never meant as a label to be slapped onto communities. Rather its call was that of unity, justice and solidarity.

From Moses’ cries for Freedom, to Jesus’ admonitions to the Pharisees and Muhammad’s calls for Justice, it is God’s Word which has echoed unbroken and One. It is men who chose to differentiate, weigh and measure so that their truths would tower in arrogance against the infamous “other”.

Clerics today argue that Islam suffers from a theological fracture – a rebellion from within which ought to be stamped out, to never rise again … But who claims such feat of discernment? Who are those today who feel themselves wise enough to speak where God has not?

If the Prophet Muhammad was sent as God’s last messenger, a final reminder of God’s Words onto His creation, Muslims have since worked very hard at dividing which was meant to stand united. From the moment Prophet Muhammad was commanded to speak those first words of knowledge: “Read! In the Name of your Lord who created man, out of a clot (of congealed blood). Read (Proclaim), and your Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the Pen, taught man that which he knew not,” men have ambitioned to stifle the very light Islam was sent to shine forth. And since none could stood in the way of Islam, then it is Muslims who became designated target.

If you care to look back at history you will note that as long as the Prophet Muhammad led the way, none ever dared challenge his authority … and with good reasons. Who could stand and deny Muhammad’s prophethood when it had been divinely ordained? Who indeed …

But what of Prophet Muhammad’s wishes? What about the wishes he imparted onto his community? Were they not too divinely ordained? Can we in all honesty look onto the prophet’s life and not recognize that every breath he took had a purpose which echoed of God, and in God?

Prophet Muhammad lived a pure life, a life of absolute devotion. In many ways his very life, the walk he walked, and the words he spoke were Islam. Our prophet was perfected and purified by God, so that we, his community, could look up to him and find guidance knowing his heart bore not a fleck of darkness.

I realise that many now will sneer at my words and argue the Prophet to be a fraud … such has been the weight of tyranny onto the righteous. Libel I recall has always been the weapon of the hypocrites. For those of you who still choose to see darkness in Islam I would invite you to read the work of a scholar whose integrity suffers no challenge: Dr John Andrew Morrow, the author of “The Covenants Of The Prophet Muhammad With The Christians Of The World.” There you will find answered the lies which bigotry spread to not lose its grip onto society.

The last of God’s prophet, Prophet Muhammad was a reflection of God’s will. Here I would like to strongly emphasise that Islam’s prophet was never meant as a challenger to Jesus son of Mary. Islam’s message does not deny Christianity – if anything it asserts the Truth it carries within by reinforcing the concept of Salvation.

Through the Prophet Muhammad Muslims believe God spoke man his last Message – one last reminder, one last call to follow and through Him find peace.

So far I imagine that all Muslims will stand in agreement!

For as long as the Prophet Muhammad had still a breath in him, the Muslim ummah (community) lived as one united body. In the prophet, men and women had found a Guidance and a Light they could rely on, trust and follow wholeheartedly. The prophet’s death however would come to shatter this sense of social and religious cohesion.

The very second his heart stopped, many reverted to their pettiness and arrogance – free once more to hide their ambition behind a mask of self-righteousness,

I will not bore readers with the details of Islam’s grand religious dispute … we all know how the story goes. Or at least we all know what we have chosen to believe of the story.

Regardless of how one chooses to remember, there are facts still that we cannot deny or argue over. History it needs to be said, is immovable in that it stands testimony of our past deeds – it holds a mirror to our actions, and more often than not betrays our real ambitions.

Islam so called schism is no different! Islam’ schism was NOT as we were told, a religious spat in between warring, or even competing factions. Islam’ schism never was because Islam can never be divided.

This drawn-out argument over Imam Ali, AhlulBayt and the real source of Islamic legitimacy is but a political debate posing as a religious crusade. I would personally argue that there was never any doubt as to whose leadership was worthier, and more legitimate – denying Imam Ali’s position in Islam equates to denying Islam itself, since the Prophet Muhammad commanded upon the faithful to recognise in him his heir, their custodian.

Men chose what they chose in full knowledge of their rebellion. They chose for in that moment they chose themselves, and their pride over that of God’s command. They chose power, believing that they could rise themselves up to the level of Islam’s First Imam – their betrayal was really against themselves. Note that Imam Ali did not speak any reprimand against anyone. Note that while Ali’s custodianship over the Muslim nation was denied several times, his religious status as guardian of tradition was never challenged – therefore Islam remained whole.

Amid such turmoil, Imam Ali stood as he always did – a light against all darkness. Just as he guarded the last prophet of God with his life, Imam Ali acted a guardian over Islam, and all Muslims. His legitimacy never needed men’s approval … What better station but that of Ali? There on the prophet’s shoulders he stood, and from the prophet’s shoulders he destroyed the idols.

What man can claim to have stood so close to the Heavens? Whose man did the prophet call together his brother, his son and his lieutenant?

And still Muslims argue his true title, and his true station.

The world has now learned of Islam division – a division which started over legitimacy.

Let us now speak of legitimacy.

The first question you need to ask yourself is whose legitimacy? Ultimately this divide in between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam comes down to one simple question: Did the prophet appoint an heir? Or rather did God provision for His Religion, His Book, His Tradition, His Message to be entrusted in the care of a custodian?

Remember this word: custodian!

While many so called religious authorities would have us believe that God left us to our own devise after offering us absolute guidance, History tells us differently.

The prophet did appoint an heir. He actually did much more … He linked Muslims’ very declaration of faith to AhlulBayt (the house of the prophet).

“It is probable that I will be called soon, and I will respond. So I leave behind me two weighty (very worthy and important) things, the Book of Allah (the Qur’an), which is a string stretched from the heaven to the earth; and my progeny, my AhlulBayt. Verily Allah, the Merciful, the Aware, has informed me that these two will never be separated from each other until they meet me at the Fountain of Abundance (the Hawdh of Kawthar, a spring in heaven). Therefore, be careful of how you treat these two in my absence, said the Messenger of Allah.”[1]

This hadith was declared on, at least five occasions—the first being the farewell speech during the last hajj, the second at Ghadeer Khum, the third after the Prophet left the city of Taif near Mecca, the fourth at the pulpit in Madina, and the fifth—just before he died—in his room which was full of his companions.

If we agree that the prophet only spoke God’s will, then we can agree that Imam Ali’s appointment was ordained by God!

After completing his last pilgrimage, the Prophet was leaving Mecca toward Medina, where he, and a crowd of people reached to a place called Ghadeer Khum (which is close to today’s Juhfah). It was a place where people from different provinces would converge before returning home.


In this place, the following verse was revealed:

“O Apostle! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; and if you don’t do it, you have not delivered His message (at all); and Allah will protect you from the people …” (Quran 5:67).

Upon receiving the verse, the Prophet called for all his people to gather around him.

He then declared: “It seems the time approached when I shall be called away (by Allah) and I shall answer that call. I am leaving for you two precious things and if you adhere both of them, you will never go astray after me. They are the Book of Allah and my progeny, that is my AhlulBayt. The two shall never separate from each other until they come to me by the Pool (of Paradise).”

Then the Messenger of Allah continued: “Do I not have more right over the believers than what they have over themselves?” People cried and answered: “Yes, O’ Messenger of God.” Then the Prophet held up the hand of Ali and said: “Whoever I am his leader (Mawla), Ali is his leader (Mawla). O’ God, love those who love him, and be hostile to those who are hostile to him.”

Immediately after the Prophet finished his speech, the following verse of Quran was revealed: “Today I have perfected your religion and completed my bounty upon you, and I was satisfied that Islam be your religion.” (Quran 5:3)

Imam Ali’s appointment marked the completion of Islam – the cycle was now complete and whole.

Prophet Muhammad ensured that his legacy would be continued by the formal institution of Imam Ali at Ghadeer Khum and also by his tradition: the Sunna. He said to Ali, ‘You are from me, and I am from you.”

And: “Ali is with the Quran and the Quran is with Ali. They will not separate from each other until they return to me at the [paradisal] pool.”

This transference of the prophetic nature to Imam Ali is not only in the following of his words and deeds, the Sunna, but also of his spirituality, his inner nature, that soul connection that every Muslim aspires to, and Imam Ali became the foremost example of.

Still today Muslims argue … Still today Shia Muslims are called apostate for daring speak the very words the last prophet of god spoke. Still, Shia Muslims are being mocked; labelled out of Islam for holding on to the totality of Islam’s tradition – the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad.

But what it is that Sunni Islam reproaches Shia Islam? Do you actually know?

I will offer this by way of an answer:

Sunni Islam reproaches nothing to Shia Islam as such terminology only appeared on the back of Wahhabism. It is Wahhabism which took a sledgehammer to Islam so their house could sit where that of the Prophet’s once was.

Wahhabis have looked down on all Muslims: from all different school of thoughts and backgrounds on account they have chosen to embrace the Oath of Ghadeer and live it as their declaration of faith.

Wahhabis have mocked Shia Islam and called it an aberration and an evil. Wahhabis have rejected the authority of Imam Ali, Imam Hasan, and Imam Husayn, and YET they are quite happy to revere al-Saud Royals as the Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques – those very individuals, who, from atop their wealth have called for the genocide of Christians, Muslims and Jews for they suffer no contention to their dogma.

Today many the Judeo-Christian world embraces the House of Saud blaming the violence it promotes on those it oppresses. What an interesting deflection indeed.

Wahhabism worse still has not only denied Islam its unity by ostracising the Shias (followers of) Muhammad, it has taken an axe to the world religious heritage so that communities would lose sight of their past, and thus grow in ignorance.

How many Muslims today have suffered in their faith by the hands of Wahhabism? How many have endured persecution on the very ground which God consecrated to Islam: Mecca, for they sought to walk the walk of remembrance by visiting those shrines and those places which bear still the mark of the prophet and echo of Abraham?

Wahhabism has called and worked towards a grand cleansing of our religious patrimoine so that nations would learn of one another only mistrust and fear, anger and resentment.

Still the Quran commands on the Faithful to protect the people of the Book (Christians and Jews) before they protect themselves, for God spoke to them and guided them a right guidance.

It is the hypocrites, those who seek to destroy and do harm which the Quran calls to destroy, never those who work for peace, regardless of their faith, regardless of their station. Those verses of the Quran people continue to quote to justify their hatred and venom have been manipulated away from their context and meaning – just as the verses of the Bible and the Torah have been manipulated and played against each other.

The only schism which exists, exist in the minds of those for whom Religion remains a tool of oppression.


[1] This hadith has been narrated by more than twenty companions of the Prophet and has also been narrated by over 185 narrators mentioned in Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, 238; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 5, 181-182; Sahih Tirmidhi, Vol. 2, 220.

By Catherine Shakdam for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies. This article was also published in the Huffington Post.

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