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WITH their permission and thanks.
Recently Shaykh (Mufti) Rafi Usmani (HA) from Pakistan visited London and gave an hour lecture to Scholars at Ebrahim College (London) entitled "The Role of Ulema in Realising Unity". Although it's difficult to accurately translate and convey his message in English, we thought that it may be wise to convey the theme of his lectures in English.
Shaykh (HA) stated that he is disturbed about the rise of Sectarianism in UK and the labels which Muslims are attaching to themselves and their institutes e.g.:
Shaykh (HA) jokingly asks, "Are there any Muslims around? And where are their Masjids?"
From here on, we indeed to expand upon the idea of the noble Shaykh (HA).
Our sincere brothers and sisters attach these labels to themselves and their institutes in order to make a distinct identity and to separate themselves from the rest. However, the reality of the matter is that these labels which Western Muslims attach to themselves are no longer sufficient and even need further subdivision and with time it appears that these divisions will only increase and may Allah (SWT) save us from it.
It isn't our intention to lecture our noble and sincere brothers and sisters and to "refute" the label which they have chosen for themselves as we are sure that they have evidence from the Qur'aan & Sunnah for their label and ample justification on why they chosen it. Our intention is only to show that Allah (SWT), His Rasul (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) & the companions (RA) also had an identity and a label which was "Islam" and "Muslim" respectively.
The identity of "Islam":The religion chosen by Allah (SWT) for mankind is "Islam" and it is unambiguously conveyed in the Qur'aan:
إِنَّ ٱلدِّينَ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلۡإِسۡلَـٰمُۗ وَمَا ٱخۡتَلَفَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ إِلَّا مِنۢ بَعۡدِ مَا جَآءَهُمُ ٱلۡعِلۡمُ بَغۡيَۢا بَيۡنَهُمۡۗ وَمَن يَكۡفُرۡ بِـَٔايَـٰتِ ٱللَّهِ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ سَرِيعُ ٱلۡحِسَابِ
[3:19] Truly, the (recognized) religion in the sight of Allah is Islam . Those who have been given the Book did not differ (among themselves) until after the knowledge had come to them, (and all this) due to envy against each other. Whoever denies the verses of Allah, then, Allah is swift at reckoning.
The label of "Muslim":Similarly the label chosen by Allah (SWT) for us is "Muslim", in fact its a name given to us by Allah (SWT).
[22:78] Struggle for (seeking the pleasure of) Allah, a struggle that is owed to Him. He has chosen you and did not impose any hardship on you in the religion, the faith of your father Ibrahim. He (Allah) named you as Muslims earlier and also in this (Qur‗an), so that the Messenger becomes a witness to you, and you become witnesses to (other) people. So establish Salah, pay Zakah and hold fast to Allah. He is your patron. So, how excellent He is as a patron, and how excellent as a supporter!
وَجَـٰهِدُواْ فِى ٱللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِۦۚ هُوَ ٱجۡتَبَٮٰكُمۡ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ فِى ٱلدِّينِ مِنۡ حَرَجٍ۬ۚ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمۡ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَۚ هُوَ سَمَّٮٰكُمُ ٱلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ مِن قَبۡلُ وَفِى هَـٰذَا لِيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَتَكُونُواْ شُہَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِۚ فَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتُواْ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱعۡتَصِمُواْ بِٱللَّهِ هُوَ مَوۡلَٮٰكُمۡۖ فَنِعۡمَ ٱلۡمَوۡلَىٰ وَنِعۡمَ ٱلنَّصِيرُ
The label of "Muslim" was known and used by the companions to distinguish and differentiate themselves from others and to distance themselves from their past. We will suffice in only giving two extreme examples where the mere ascription to the label of "Muslim" was sufficient as an identity and a distinguishing factor.
Sayyidina Ikrimah Ibn Abu Jah'l (RA) from avowed enemy to "Muslim":
The story of Sayyidina Ikrimah Ibn Abu Jah'l (RA) is well known to Muslims. He was the son of Abu Jah'l one of the foremost enemies of Islam and remained on the path of his story until Amnesty was granted to him by Sayydina Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) himself. On the occasion of his conversion the following exchange took place:
...The Prophet (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) then instructed him to say, "I call on God and those present here to witness that I am a Muslim who is a Mujahid and a Muhajir". This Ikrimah repeated and then said: "I ask you to ask God for forgiveness for me for all the hostility I directed against you and for whatever insults I expressed in your presence or absence." The Prophet replied with the prayer: "O Lord, forgive him for all the hostility he directed against me and from all the expeditions he mounted wishing to put out Your light. Forgive him for whatever he has said or done in my presence or absence to dishonour me." Ikrimahs face beamed with happiness.
Sayyidina Furat Ibn Hayyan (RA) pardoned for being a "Muslim":Sayyidina Furat Ibn Hayyan (RA) was awarded the death penatly and here is his testimony which resulted in his pardon.
Narrated Sayyidina Furat ibn Hayyan (RA) The Apostle of Allah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) commanded to kill him: he was a spy of AbuSufyan and an ally of a man of the Ansar. He passed a circle of the Ansar and said: I am a Muslim. A man from the Ansar said, Apostle of Allah, he is saying that he is a Muslim. The Apostle of Allah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said: There are people among you in whose faith we trust. Furat ibn Hayyan is one of them. [Abu Dawud]
Whom should I follow?
Since the intention behind using a label other then "Muslim" is indeed noble and sincere, the question then arises what and how should a Muslim live their life? The path for a Muslim is very clearly laid out in the Qur'aan and Sunnah but before elaborating it must be made clear that salvation in Islam is in actions and not in labels. Merely labelling oneself to part of this group or that group is neither sufficient nor a guarantee of success. The pathway to a Muslim is as follows:
1 Obey Allah (SWT)
2 Obey Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam)
3 Traverse the path of the first three generations of Islam which includes the companions of Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam), the generation which followed them and the generation which followed them.The explicit commands given in the Qur'aan & Sunnah are pretty clear:
[4:59] O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. Then, if you quarrel about something, revert it back to Allah and the Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is good, and the best at the end.
[4:64] We did not send any Messenger but to be obeyed by the leave of Allah.
[3:31] Say (O Prophet): .If you really love Allah, then follow me, and Allah shall love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.
[33:21] There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah - for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah profusely.
[33:36] It is not open for a believing man or a believing woman, once Allah and His messenger have decided a thing, that they should have a choice about their matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His messenger, he indeed gets off the track, falling into an open error.
[59:7]... And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you from, abstain (from it). And fear Allah. Indeed Allah is severe in punishment.
[9:100] As for the first and foremost of the Emigrants (Muhajirin) and the Supporters (Ansar) and those who followed them in goodness, Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Allah, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, where they will live for ever. That is the supreme achievement.
[48:29] Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are hard on the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves; you will see them bowing down in Ruku, prostrating themselves in Sajdah, seeking grace from Allah, and (His) good pleasure; their distinguishing feature is on their faces from the effect of Sajdah (prostration). This is their description in Torah; and their description in Injil is: like a sown crop that brings forth its shoot, then makes it strong, then it grows thick and stands straight on its stem, looking good to the farmers, so that He may enrage the disbelievers through them. Allah has promised forgiveness and a huge reward to those of them who believe and do good deeds.
Rasul Allah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said: “Those evils which befell the Bani Israil shall befall my Ummah, so much so that if there were one amongst them that openly committed fornication with his mother there would be one among my Ummah who would do that too! And the Bani Israil split into seventy-two sects and my Ummah shall split into seventy-three sects. All of them will be in the Fire, except one group.” They (the Sahabah) said: “Which one is that O Rasul Allah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam)?” Whereupon he said: “It is the one to which I and my Companions belong.” [Tirmidhi]
Narrated Sayyidina 'Abdullah (RA): The Prophet (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said, "The best people are those of my generation, and then those who will come after them (the next generation), and then those who will come after them (i.e. the next generation), and then after them, there will come people whose witness will precede their oaths, and whose oaths will precede their witness." [Bukhari]
Our Final Message?We invite people towards "Islam" and becoming "Muslims" and living their life according to the commands of Allah (SWT) and Sunnah of Sayyidina Rasul-ullah:
[12:108] Say, This is my way. I call (people) to Allah with full perception, both I and my followers. Pure is Allah; and I am not among those who associate partners with Allah.
Final Disclaimer:It was stated previously but we would like to repeat again that it is not our intention to refute our fellow brothers and sisters or to judge between them or to doubt their sincerity or to call towards this group or that group.
This is a short message for those who wish to ponder on the matter of sectarianism plaguing the Ummah and may Allah (SWT) give us life and give us death on Islam (Ameen).