Sunni Muslim, is that who I am?

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One Mr. Farrukh wrote, “This is a warning to all Muslims in this forum that Mike Ghouse’s religion is not Islam; he is Ismaili, and he is a misguided person. If anyone needs more info about his religion, please let me know.”  

There are a few out there who are not even inclined to verify any information but pass it on as their authoritative information.  I wish he had written, “Mike Ghouse is a Muslim, and I am not sure which denomination he belongs to as I have not verified it, but it appears that he fits in with everyone from Shia, Sunni, Bohra, Ahmadiyya, Ismaili, Sufi, Alawite and other traditions.” And, “If anyone wants/needs more information about his religion, visit the following sites.”

  1. –
    4.  and a whole lot more sites
    6. Youtube;  

Let’s begin with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); he knew only one group of people: Muslims! Prefixes like Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Sufi, WD Muhammad, Alawite, Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-e-Hadith, Ahl-e-bait, etc., were not in his vocabulary, nor anyone can ascribe these words to him – he did not use them as they did not exist.  

Secondly,  all the Madhabs or denominations are natural outcomes of the society. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) understood human nature and rightfully predicted the singular faith he taught would split, re-split, and continue to split, and he chose the metaphorical number 72 to denote an infinite number. I accept and respect every which way one worships the creator.

He gave us that narrative so we can learn to live with each other with our differences; we have to race in doing good things but not claim to be self-righteous and denigrate others, as that amounts to arrogance, and God does not like those who are arrogant.  Only God knows who would be ranked #1, #2, and #3 and who would score A, B, C, or D grades. Even if you are a sinner, God may forgive you if you do one simple act of kindness towards other living beings, like giving water to a thirsty dog. Only God knows the full impact of our actions on his creation to bestow his grace.

I understand you have to be a good human who cares for his fellow beings and the environment (God has created). Would you sing songs of your guests in your home if they meticulously take care of your property and keep it clean?  Or your employees who ensure your business is intact and cared for?  Do you worry if the employee is Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or whoever, as long as he or she cares for your business? God does not worry how you worship him or what your religion is; he appreciates it if you contribute towards preserving his creation, and it comes through justness, fairness, and kindness.

God’s wisdom in the Quran is not for him but for us to live in peace, harmony, and security.

Let me throw John McCain’s gauntlet to address the comment by Farooq that I was an Ismaili Muslim. So, what if I am an Ismaili Muslim? Does it make me less of a Muslim? A few years back I asked a Muslim organization about the material for teaching a class for Muslim speakers, I was denied it because the person thought I was Ismaili.  Shame on all those Muslims who think they are superior. That is arrogance, and Allah does not like that. The very essence of Islam is equality of humankind, and superiority is very very, very anti-Islamic.

God does not discriminate one from the other; his criteria or question to us is, “Are you good to your fellow beings (humans and animals)? Did you take care of your environment?”

[2:136] Say, “We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone, we worship.”

[4:152] As for those who believe in GOD and His messengers and make no distinction among them, He will grant them their recompense. GOD is the Forgiver, Most Merciful.

God loves us all; after all, we are his creation, and because he cares about us, he offers guidance, and he sends a peacemaker (call a messenger, prophet, Avatar, or any other word) to each community and each group to show them how-to live-in peace and harmony. Bhagavad Gita phrases it in another fashion: every time there is chaos in the society, someone from among you will emerge to restore righteousness. It could be a Shaman in the remote jungles of the Amazon, a Prophet like Abraham, or an Avatar like Krishna. Make no distinction, says the Quran; they serve God by preserving harmony, peace, and justice in their community.

Islam has always emphasized serving fellow beings; God assures everyone, yes, everyone, not to worry about the future; as long as you take care of his creation comprising life and matter, he will take care of you.

[2:62] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts, anyone who (1) believes in GOD, (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.

[22:17] Those who believe, those who are Jewish, the converts, the Christians, the Zoroastrians, and the idol worshipers, GOD is the One who will judge among them on the Day of Resurrection. GOD witnesses all things.

[43:17] He also said he made us into many tribes, races, nations, and by extension, religions and communities, and the best ones among us are those who learn about each other, and when we do that, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

The division

Quran remains God’s word; however, different people have understood what God meant differently. No one, including the great Imams of the past, can ever claim that his or her understanding is right.  Remember, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not assign anyone to be the sole interpreter of the Quran; he said, I am leaving this book to you, for you to understand. Please note that the Shia tradition differs on this issue, and we must respect their understanding. If God is kind, just, merciful, and fair, and the Prophet is merciful to mankind, then everything we see in the Quran would be nothing but common sense for common goodness; it is non-stop universalism. You are welcome to differ; Islam is too big of a religion (Aalameen) to exclude any one of us.  

Initially, there was one singular interpretation for Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and other faiths, but a lot of cultural dust was thrown on each religion. The Islam Prophet (SaS) delivered remains pristine, but what we see in Muslim practices in different places is loaded with cultural additions with a lot of restrictions, as opposed to freedom, that Islam stands on.

In the 16th century, Christianity split into Protestant and many variations; each faith followed the same natural path of amoeba, divided itself, and kept multiplying. It is because free thinking and free speech are gifts from God.

In the case of Islam, Prophet Muhammad knew only one thing: what he preached: One Islam. He did not even know that there was a Sunni or Shia Islam. I would say the same about all other prophets.

Then we reluctantly accepted the split of Shia and Sunni traditions, and then came the 6 six schools of thought, we accepted that diversity as well, and now Islam has many traditions within, and we have accepted them with humility. Pluralism is an attitude of respecting the otherness of others. 

Allahu Akbar! (Check out Huffington Post – ) it means humility; we are small. Hence, all of us small ones are on par.  A few among us are arrogant about our traditions and denigrate others.  What a shame they assign themselves to be a deputy of God or a decider for him and pass judgments about others. That is shirk (diluting the dominion of God), and it creates a problem hence declared as the ugliest of all sins. That is, we cannot judge other’s faith.

I have chosen to remain denomination-less, but if you want to know how I pray and sound like, it is reflective of Sunni tradition; it is because I was raised with those values, and it doesn’t mean it is superior or inferior, it is just my conditioning in my childhood.  If my parents had programmed me to be a Shia, Ismaili, Ahmadiyya, Bohra, or Ahmadiyya, I would have followed that path. We need to learn to respect each path; each one means dearly to the believer; as they say, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and faith is in the believer’s heart.  My mother is dear to me as your mother is dear to you, and the Quran says, to you is your faith, and to me is my faith (109.6 – that is not a radio station, but the Verse from the Quran).

Heavens, I am comfortable with every tradition a Muslim prays, and I have been to every Mosque of almost all denominations, including the three most revered ones in Mecca, Madinah, and Jerusalem. (Check out  I long to go to Karbala and Hazrat Imam’s grave to pay my respects.

Ironically, it would have been a bidda, an invention, if someone had called himself or herself a Shia or a Sunni during the life of the Prophet.  So, why should I call myself a Sunni?  I fully respect other people’s choices to belong to sub-groups, and all are welcome. I am a Muslim, period! I have no walls between me and another Muslim and no wall between me and another human. 

Indeed, the World Muslim Congress was formed to create space for every Muslim, and  was created for all humanity.  In the search box, you can plug in the name of any denomination, and you will find the articles; you can plug in the name of any commemoration or festival and find the information. It took me a lot of time and effort to make that happen, and that is my commitment to creating a world where all humanity can get along by knowing each other. 

The role of Muslims is to contribute towards the well-being of humanity and to be conflict mitigators and goodwill nurturers. We aim to build a secure world for every human; our Jewish friends can understand that, as they believe in Tikkun Olam. Please read the mission statement–

This group is about Muslims and their civic responsibilities in creating a dignified religious, social and civic space for themselves in the community of faiths. We do not distinguish between a Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya, WD Muhammad, Ismaili, Bohra, or the subsets of each group; all believe in God, the Prophet, and the accountability of their actions, and whoever calls himself or herself a Muslim is a Muslim to us. Currently, we are blessed to have our Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Baha’i, Sikh, and Buddhist friends among us to learn and share their perspectives. This is our world and our God collectively.

The has 1700 members from around the world, and it is denomination-less; it is for all Muslims with full and equal respect to all denominations. Our focus is not the tiny differences but on the larger commonality.

World Muslim Congress is a think tank; all are welcome to participate in the discussions, and our scope is limited and defined in our mission statement. Currently, we have 1700 Members worldwide with no membership fee.

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, newsmaker, and an Interfaith Wedding officiant; he is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. Visit him (63 links) at for his exclusive writings.

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