Diversity in Islam

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Does Qur’an condemn forming Sects in Islam

Diversity in nature is given, indeed, Islam acknowledges diversity of humanity. Had God willed, all of us would have been produced with exact same specifications in a mass production factory, but God willed for us to be unique beings, accountable for our in individual actions in keeping his creation in balance and harmony or messing it up.

Every religion including Islam is about guiding us to keep God’s creation in harmony and intact. We are all different pieces of the universe that fit together to keep the world in equilibrium. God willed us to be different, and we have learn to live with each other. That is the core mission of every prophet, messenger or a peace maker.

For nearly 1400 years there was only one way, the way Quraan was translated or interpreted by the people in the past. No one questioned it.  Not any more. 

Today, we have more than 25 English translations of Quraan, and thanks to some of the translators for correcting the misguided translations that have lasted for centuries to the point a few Muslims believe that the translation is also the word of God. To put it bluntly, we have been given the translations that were not entirely true to the word of God. Indeed, it is obligatory on our part to continue to find the truth in the light of all the dominant qualities we ascribe to God; Kind, merciful, and beneficent as listed on top of 113 of the 114 Chapters in Quraan. 

We have found that there were many wrongful translations of Qur’anic verses by the Christian Kings  in the 11th Century and Muslims themselves in the 20th century to serve their political interests or misogynic attitudes.
A member of the forum at WorldMuslimCongress@yahoogroups.com   posted verses (below) from Sura Anam and Rome with the note that Quraan condemns forming sects in Deen.  I have found that it is the arrogance that is condemned; if you found other wise, please share your findings, so we can learn the truth together.
It is not only Quraan, but every social, business; political or civic group resists the division. Getting it down to family level, no family wants division either. Likewise, no religious group wants division. But it happens, when people disagree for lack of trust or legitimate difference in understanding the situation. God has endowed us all with free will and we must appreciate that without reserve. 
I am glad to quote Muhammad Asad in his explanation of the verse 6:159, “expresses a condemnation of all sectarianism arising out of people’s intolerant, mutually-exclusive claims to being “the only true exponents” of the Qur’anic teachings.”
Indeed, what is condemned in the Quraan is the arrogance of self-righteousness, in this instance to believe that Shia and other traditions are wrong and only Sunni is right or Sunni and other traditions are wrong and only Shia is right.  Shame on all of us to stoop so low to denigrate the other denominations as if Allah has signed a deal with us behind other’s back, Allah does not do that, he is just and has given us the freewill to be righteous in our own ways.
 Let’s hope and pray that Ulema have the humility to come together and agree that  declaring any tradition within the fold of Islam to be less amounts to Shirk, only Allah knows what is in one’s heart. We can always condemn acts that are destructive to the humanity (all of God’s creation). but we cannot condemn one’s faith in God. Only God knows what is in one’s heart. Jesus said, condemn the sin and not the sinner. We keep forgetting that God alone is the decider, and none can be partners or assistant or mangers of God in judging other’s faith.  

Prophet Muhammad knew the division is caused by human fitra (nature) and prophesized that his followers will form into many groups – and he advised them all to compete in doing good instead of being arrogant.  Sura Hujurat lays out that about division – it’s all God’s design, and adds that we have to learn about each other and know each other, so that we may accept our differences and live in harmony.
49:13 (Asad) O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.  Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.
Here are a few verses on arrogance:
2:34 (Asad) And when We told the angels, “Prostrate yourselves before Adam!” [25] -they all prostrated themselves, save Iblis, who refused and gloried in his arrogance:  and thus he became one of those who deny the truth. [26] 
4:172 (Asad) Never did the Christ feel too proud to be God’s servant, nor do the angels who are near unto Him. And those who feel too proud to serve Him and glory in their arrogance [should know that on Judgment Day] He will gather them all unto Himself: 

4:173 (Asad) whereupon unto those who attained to faith and did good deeds He will grant their just rewards, and give them yet more out of His bounty; whereas those who felt too proud and gloried in their arrogance.  He will chastise with grievous suffering: and they shall find none to protect them from God, and none to bring them succour. 

Qur’an condemns forming Sects in Deen.
The following verse was posted  at the World Muslim Congress forum,
 “Surah Anam 6:159. As for those who divide their Religion and break up into sects, Thou hast no part In them In the least: their affair is with Allah. He will In the end Tell them the truth of all that They did.”
Here is Asad’s translation in response to the above.
6:159 (Asad) VERILY, as for those who have broken the unity of their faith and have become sects – thou hast nothing to do with them. [161]Behold, their case rests with God: and in time He will make them understand what they were doing
A reference primarily, to the Jews and the Christians, who have departed from the fundamental religious principles which they had originally shared in their entirety, and have gone different ways in respect of doctrine and ethics (cf. 3:105). Beyond }this “primary” reference, however, the above verse connects logically with verse 153 above, “this is the way leading straight unto Me: follow if, then, and follow not other ways, lest they cause you to deviate from His way” -and thus relates prophetically to the followers of the Qur’an as well: in other words, it expresses a condemnation of all sectarianism arising out of people’s intolerant, mutually-exclusive claims to being “the only true exponents” of the Qur’anic teachings. Thus, when asked about the implications of this verse, the Prophet’s Companion Abu Hurayrah is reported to have answered, “It has been revealed with reference to this [our] community” (Tabari).(Quran Ref: 6:159 )
A few more verses were posted on the topic
“Surah Room 30:31-33 31. turn ye back In repentance to him, and fear him: establish regular prayers, and be not ye among those who join gods with Allah,32. those who split up their religion, and formed Sects,- Each party rejoicing In that which is with itself! 33. when trouble touches men, They cry to their Lord, turning back to Him In repentance: but when He gives them a taste of Mercy As from Himself, Behold, some of them pay part-worship to other god’s besides their Lord,”

And as a habit, I usually check Muhammad Asad’s translation, if not satisfied, I check a few more, and here it is:
30:31 (Asad) [Turn, then, away from all that is false,] turn­ing unto Him [alone]; and remain conscious of Him, and be constant in prayer, and be not among those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, 

30:32 (Asad) [or] among those who have broken the unity of their faith and have become sects, each group delighting in but what they themselves hold [by way of tenets]. [29]

30:33 (Asad) NOW [thus it is:] when affliction befalls men, they cry out unto their Sustainer, turning unto Him [for help]; but as soon as He lets them taste of His grace, lo! some of them [begin to] ascribe to other powers a share in their Sustainer’s divinity, [30] 

May Allah guide us to know each other, and learn about each other instead of denigrating the other, which leads to conflicts and counter conflicts. Islam is about peace and living in harmony.  As Muslims we have to prove that to ourselves first.

To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill, that was the underlying theme of the Prophet in just about everything he did,  a beautiful practice that needs to be highlighted in our daily discourse.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. Please check outwww.WorldMuslimCongress.org and related sites listed at the blog.  

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