Sectarianism in Islam: Can’t we all just get along?

It may be fair to say that the sectarian divide between Muslims around the world has been highlighted in the news one too many times. The split between different sects in Islam, particularly Sunni and Shia, has been going on for centuries and has only intensified over time. But can we, as Muslims, blame anyone but ourselves? When we compare the teachings of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.), the Holy Imams (A.S.) and the Holy Qur’an to how Muslims of different sects treat each other in reality, it is evident that the two pictures do not match up.

It is often difficult to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. For if we could look at ourselves from a larger perspective, it would be clear that we are doing nothing but spreading hatred and neglecting the teachings of Islam. It is time we come to terms with our behaviour towards other sects in Islam and make peace between Muslim brothers and sisters of different sects.

In Surah Al-Hujurat, Verse 10, in the Qur’an, Allah (S.W.T.) says that,

“Without doubt the believers are brothers of one another so then make peace and harmony between your brothers and have consciousness of Allah so that maybe He will show you mercy.”

Brotherhood in Islam can be seen as an obligation within our communities, judging by how much importance it is given in the Holy Qur’an. Unfortunately, with all of the hatred between Muslims, a great tension is created between different sects. This blatant divide amongst the Ummah corrodes the concept of brotherhood. Moreover, we do not realize how much hatred we spread between different sects in Islam in our daily lives. What we believe to be the smallest acts of hatred, such as backbiting, ridiculing each other’s beliefs and rejecting Muslims of different sects, these acts are great violations of the words of Allah (SWT).

Another powerful verse of the Qur’an signifying the importance of brotherhood is in Surah 49, Verse 10: “Humanity is but a single brotherhood. So make peace with your brethren.” This verse speaks of all of humanity, including the Christians, the Jews and Atheists. It is a shame that although Allah (SWT) has asked humanity to make peace amongst all races and religions of people, we struggle with making peace amongst our brothers and sisters in Islam. This concept is also demonstrated by George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote that, “Islam is the best religion, with the worst followers.”[1]

Furthermore, Imam Ali (A.S.) spent his entire life teaching the Ummah to love one another. A saying by Imam Ali (A.S.) on brotherhood is, “be merciful towards your brother even if he violated you, and visit him even if he abandoned you.” This influential quote teaches us that not only should we be united in general but that even if one is wronged by a Muslim brother, one must still act with kindness and acceptance towards him. It is unfortunate that we are not even able to take ourselves to the first step of brotherhood which is to accept one another as one unified Ummah.

Another aspect of the matter is the second level of hatred between various sects in Islam. Terrorist groups go to extreme measures to spread hatred between the different sects of Islam. A popular example of this is the recent ISIS terrorist group whose mission is to execute anyone who does not agree with or follow their ideologies and extreme practices of ‘Islam’. Ironically, the Qur’an is very clear when it states that, “whoever killed a person, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind” (5:33). Extremist groups like this and similar ones that are highlighted over and over again on the media create a divide within our very communities, causing smaller scale hatred between the different sects of Islam. It is essential that we do not let the media and the actions of extremists affect how we treat each other in day to day life.

After all is said and done, brotherhood between different sects of Islam cannot be initiated by anyone but ourselves. It is up to us to decide if we wish to live in a world of hatred, or if we want to spread love and brotherhood amongst ourselves. The calls to end hatred between Muslims are only for our own benefit, after all, we are more alike than we are different. Only time will tell when we will finally heed the calls to brotherhood and unite Muslims of all sects to truly be one Ummah.


[1] Shaw, G. B. (n.d.). In George Bernard Shaw Quotes. Retrieved October 2, 2014, from http://refspace.com/quotes/George_Bernard_Shaw


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