The first sect which came into being was of Kharijis. Among other issues, Kharijis did not like the authority of Khalifa-e-Islam and grouped themselves away from the mainstream Islam.
Similarly, Shias did not like the sequence of Khilafah from Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddique (ru), to Hazrat Omer (ru), to Hazrat Othman (ru). They claimed that since Hazrat Ali was the cousin of Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) and was married to Hazrata Fatima (RA), the daughter of Prophet Mohammad (SAWS), he should have been made first Khalifa. When it did not happen, they made their separate group.
Orthodox Muslims (Sunnis) or Ahle Sunnat wal Jama’at have been the mainstream of Islamic nation throughout the history of Islam. However, they been divided into many sub groups like, Deo Bandis, Tablighi Jama’t, Jama’t-e-Islami, etc.
Deo Bandis, Tablighis and Jama’t Islami, etc., who are closer to Wahhabi beliefs, are aggressive in propagation of their respective faiths. Taliban who are basically Deo Bandis, are famous for their militancy.
Barelvis are closer to Sufi Shaikhs / Awliya Allah traditions which is the straight path of Islam.
There is a great divide between various sects of Shias, Wahabis and Sunnis. Often they get involved in fatal conflicts and many people die on each side. Their mosques have become battle grounds where people are killed in suicide bombings and retaliatory attacks.
Muslims seem to be in a disintegrated pathetic situation around the world and it looks there is no respite in their down gradation. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.
Prominent Shaik’s of Ihsan who spent their lives tirelessly in cleansing people’s heart (tazkia nafs) throughout the history of Islam, were generally very famous. Many people visited them to get answers to their religious and other problems. Those who visited, gave a lot of respect not only to the Shaikhs, but to their children, family members and close associates.
Shaikh’s close associates failed to understand why they were respected in society. Apparently, they were unaware of the fact that all people are equal in the eyes of Allah (SWT) and His Apostle Mohammad (SAWS). The standard of respect in Islam is Taqwa, religious virtue, abstinence from worldly desires. Looking at the respect they received from the people, they started thinking that they were important and sacred because of their close connection (Nisbet) with the Shaikh. They thought their connection with Shaikh was sufficient for them to get salvation.
In spite of Shaikhs’ sincere efforts, they did not pay attention to the training, Shaikhs were giving to the people. As the crowd of visitors swelled, Sheikhs got busier and found less time to pay active attention towards their families. In such a scenario, many people from outside benefited from Shaikh’s personal attention and training, but the close circle became captivated in ritual side of Islam and lost sight of the important aspect of Ihsan, (purification of their hearts).
What happened after the deaths of these Shaikhs? Their children got involved in unnecessary rituals and fell prey to worldly desires.
The situation became more pathetic in successive generations. Great grand children of the Shaikhs of Ihsan, did not know what is Taqwa, what is Islamic training. They even lost interest in Quran and Hadith education and fell prey to worldly pursuits. Often they exploited people who came to them for religious and family problems. They proudly celebrated annual “Urs” of their Shaikhs and thought that Shaikh’s connection (nisbet) will take them into heaven without good faith and honest deeds. Since they did not heed to the training of Ihsan when Shaikhs were alive, they were unable to provide answers to people as to why they were doing certain things, like Sama, “Urs”, etc.
The above situation continued for centuries. When people could not get satisfying answers from the successors of prominent Shaikhs of Ihsan (who served Islamic nation tirelessly during their life times), they started thinking in different directions. Some scrupulous selfish people took advantage of this situation and started founding new sects.
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There are many reasons for people’s deviation from the straight path of Islam. Some people hated the successors of prominent Shaikhs who were involved in all kinds of wrong doings in the name of religion.
Everywhere, in every era, we find some people indulging in excesses in society in the name of religion, community, group, region, etc. Rather than searching for truthful Shaikhs of Ihsan and get trained, some people alienated themselves from this important aspect of Islam and formed new groups.
In their attempt to remove a wrong from society, they committed a bigger blunder. They should have corrected the ills of society without altering Islamic beliefs.
It is in Quran – ‘Hold on firmly to the rope of Allah and do not allow differences to occur among yourself ’. (Aale-Imran – 103).
The glaring example of this is Ibn Abdul Wahab (1703 - 1792) who got attracted with the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah and his disciple Ibn Qayyim and considered that Sunnis and Shias of Arabian peninsula were not up to the mark. He revolted against them and founded a new sect. He convinced the monarchy about his new thinking. When this monarchy expanded their rule to the whole of Arab Peninsula, they implemented Salafi rules developed under this sect and declared this was the real Islam.
When Sunnis, who were in majority in the Arab world at that time, objected, the monarchy ruthlessly eliminated them from their territory. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the conflict which continued for decades. They did not stop at that. They destroyed all traces and everything that was kept as legacy of Islam for centuries.
When we study Islamic history, we come to know that people’s anger against each other became the primary cause of founding of new sects throughout the history of Islam.
The current situation is very volatile. New groups, new jama’ats and new theories are coming into being on weekly basis. The situation has worsened to an extent that we do not know who is real Muslim among this lot.
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Whenever a new sect is formed, the founder of the sects and his close associates make sure that they identify themselves differently from other Muslim sects. They take lot of pain in alienating themselves from the practices of other sects.
When Wahhabi movement succeeded in Arabia, they made sure that they differ with other sects, particularly, Sunnis (their main rivals) in all areas of religious practice.
Sunnis give a lot of respect to Prophet of Islam (SAWS), celebrate his Nativity (birth day), write poetry in his eulogy, arrange Sama programs, recite poetry (Na’at) in his praise in which sometimes music is used and often cry and rapture remembering Prophet Mohammad (SAWS). These practices are their show of love for Prophet (SAWS). They arrange Zikr gatherings where they recite various names of Allah (SWT) in chorus in different styles, sometimes sitting in rows, sometimes standing in a circle etc.
The above practices were adopted by Shaikhs of Ihsan to cleanse and purify people’s hearts and to turn their attention towards Allah (SWT) away from the materialistic world. Sunnis also respect Companions of the Prophet of Islam (SAWS) and well known Shaikhs of Ihsan. Whenever they cook special food, they recite certain verses of Quran before eating, and call it Fateha. They visit the graves of prominent Shaikhs and consider it to be good for their worldly and religious well being. All these practices are authentic, proved from Quran and Sunnah.
When Wahabi sect came into power, they seem to have made detailed notes of the practices of their rivals, Sunnis. They stayed away from all of these. Whatever Sunnis did was regarded as Shirk, Biddah (innovation).
They interpreted Quranic verses and Hadiths to prove their contention. Prophet’s (SAWS) nativity celebrations were banned, graves of prominent As-habe Rasulullah, Prophet Mohammed’s (SAWS) family members and close relatives were razed to the ground and all places of remembrance of Prophet of Islam (SAWS) and his companions were destroyed.
In their attempt to equate all people, they started counting Prophets as mere human beings on par with masses. Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) eulogy, reciting of na’at in his praise was regarded as associating divinity with Prophet-hood. This was their way of purifying Islam.
When we read the history of Islam it looks that all these reforms were actually the acts of vengeance against other Groups, particularly Sunnis. Soon Wahhabism spread leaps and bounds across Arabian Peninsula and Sunnis all over the world were divided into many sub groups.
Similar is the case between Shias and other sects. Whoever came to power, tried to cleanse their territory from other sects. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, etc., are great examples of this cleansing. Previously Iran consisted of a large Sunni population. Now, they are no more. Shia influence also spread leaps and bounds across Arab world and we see many countries in Central Asia dominated by this sect. In recent Shai-sunni scuffle in Iraq, Shias have taken control of Iraq and in this process, hundreds of thousands of people were killed in Iraq. Similarly, entire Afghanistan has been Talibanized at the cost of hundreds of thousands of human lives.
Salafis, Wahabis, Shias, Sunnis and you name any sect, all have been divided into multiple sub sects/groups professing different ideologies and practices throughout the world. Everyone thinks that their sect is on the right path and try to shift blame on other sects for the present state of affairs of Muslims in the world. How can this be true?
It is in Quran - ‘ These are those who ripped their religion and divided themselves into sects. Allah (SWT) has nothing to do with them. Their matter is with Allah (SWT) and then He will point out to them what (exactly) they were doing (in the World).’ (Al-Ana’am – 159).