Worth of a Mosquito

Syed Sharfuddin

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَنْ يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بهذا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ

“Allah does not mind giving an example of a [small insect such as a] female mosquito or anything that is bigger than that [such as a bee, spider, dog or camel]. As for those who believe, they know that it is the Truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this example?” He leads astray many thereby, and He guides many thereby; but He misleads only the evil doers.”[2:26].

There is a great lesson for the believers in this verse in which Allah mentions the female mosquito as an example to understand His divine message and supreme power. Mosquitos have been inhabiting human habitat for many centuries and will continue to do so because their growth is directly linked with the life of humans. The life span of a mosquito is 6 weeks. A female mosquito needs human blood to obtain nutrients, lipids, and proteins which are necessary for production of their eggs. In some species of mosquitos, human blood also enables female to produce more eggs. Mosquitos can smell humans from more than 30 feet through their ability to process exhaled carbon dioxide.

Man has battled long and hard to eradicate this small insect with pesticides, larvicides, pyrethroids. Scientists in etymological labs have experimented with biological and genetic tools to stop the growth of female mosquitos, and block the disease spread by their bites which produce malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. These diseases are deadly for humans, and their pathogens have an extraordinary ability to mutate and come back to kill humans in thousands. Malaria has killed more people in human history than any other disease. In some countries, its spread dropped but Malaria has never been fully controlled. Its elimination is not on the horizon yet. Different malaria species have adapted to local conditions to survive. Where people used nets, repellents, plastic films, sprays, scents and smokes in night-time, mosquitoes changed their habits and started biting humans and cattle in their carriages, pens and during the day.

The non-believers who wondered at the wisdom of Allah choosing the example of a mosquito to illustrate His divine power, manifested in the devastating killer ability of a small creature of the wild, today realise their helplessness in controlling this small insignificant insect, despite the advances made in pathology and genetic engineering. According to statistics there were 575,000 malaria deaths in 2019, which rose significantly to 620,000 in 2021. The This year, Latin America recorded 3 million cases of outbreak of dengue. Bangladesh had 120,000 cases. Several other water-borne and mosquito spread diseases such as chikungunya also registered an increase in many regions of the world.

Allah has given several examples in the Quran to make believers distinguish right from wrong and make an informed choice. In the story of Cane and Able, Allah gives the example of a crow to show how ignorant and helpless man can become when he rejects good advice and insists on pursuing his desire only to regret it afterwards (5:31). In the example of a fly (22:73), Allah has challenged man to create a fly which has, to start with, eyes that are made up of thousands of individual lenses which make it extremely hard to catch it. In the example of dog, Allah shows the two sides of man, loyalty, and obedience to the master such as the dog of the companions of the cave (18:18), as well as greed and avarice, such as the simile of a dog that pants with a lolling tongue whether you drive it away or leave it alone (7:176).    

Nothing in the divine scheme of things is irrelevant or insignificant as man foolishly thinks he knows everything after learning a fraction of the knowledge of how this universe works. Allah says in the Quran: “the disbelievers who deny being accountable to Allah and whose efforts in this world are misguided, think that they are doing good work, but their deeds will be nullified, and Allah will give them no weight”. Only those who are rightly guided by Allah are blessed to attain everlasting success and truly appreciate His signs and examples.

A survey of ancient and contemporary schools, sects, movements and cults within and outside Islam.  

Syed Sharfuddin

“The Jews split into 71 sects all of which are [to go] to Hellfire except one. The Christians split into 72 sects all of which are [to go] to Hellfire except one. My Ummah will split into 73 sects all of which are [to go] to Hellfire except one…Those who follow my Sunnah (tradition) and the Sunnah of my Companions will be saved”. [Sahih hadith quoted in Abu Daud 4:197-198, Tirmidhi 171, 5:25-27 & 2640-2644, Ibn Majah 2:1321-1322, and Nasai].

The existence of various religious schools and denominations is not unique to Islam but is also present in other Abrahamic religions. Indeed, the greater the acceptability of a religion by the people, the more difference of opinion it is likely to have among its followers. It is also natural that an older religion will have more organised tradition in comparison with a new sect or movement. In Islam, the differences in most sects are not about the fundamental tenets of Islam but concern the interpretation of the divine texts and reported tradition of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, against the background of the growth and evolution of pluralistic Islamic community underpinned by the context of social conditions, ethnic makeup, cultural practices and tribal orders of the followers.

This essay is a tip of an iceberg in exploring the old and new sects and groups in Islam. It is limited in its coverage of only religious practices and theological beliefs of Muslims. It does not cover militant, supremacist, social, political and other reform movements in Islam. The essay is divided into six parts. Part 1 deals with Sunni Islam and its main sects and sub-sects, including those that once existed but later became extinct or transformed into groups currently in existence under different names. Part 2 deals with Shia Islam and its main sects and sub-sects which have a large following, including those sects that are historically extinct. Part 3 deals with Ibadi Islam which represents a middle position between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam and has no sects or sub-sects at present. Part 4 is a brief survey of Sufi Islam, its various orders and its place in Turkiye which is the home of Sufism. Part 5 deals with Non-Conformist Islam. It looks at groups and movements which started with their roots in Islam but transgressed and became Ghulat. Part 6 is Conclusion and recommended readings.

In the description of each group or sect an attempt has been made to examine its origin against the religious and political background of its time, its major practices and the place it occupies in the tapestry of Islamic faith globally. The use of various terminologies in this essay such as sects, sub sects and movements are purely for descriptive purpose and do not imply any derogatory meaning or carry an order of precedence.

There has always been a healthy competition between theology and philosophy. The theologians of Islam confronted their contemporary philosophers and tried to find a scientific basis for the divine order for their faith. These explanations were sometimes enforced on the people with the patronage of the political authority of the time or allowed to be democratically rejected resulting in the birth of new sects in every era. All major Muslims sects had the support of at least one ruler, or his ruling clan at one point or another, and their popularity often coincided with the peak of the political power that sponsored them. Where differences arose, these encouraged the reformers to form break away sects to travel to distant places where political power was either weak or unwilling to challenge their non-conformist ideas.

New sects often made their point of reference the beliefs and traditions of the parent group they left. The Ismailiya sect retained most of the features of Shia Islam but added its own interpretation that made them distinct from Shia Islam. The Bohra sect emerged from the Ismailiya sect but added their own interpretation that made them different from the Ismailiya sect. Sunni Islam not only split in four Madhabs, each following a different Sunni Imam, but also resulted in many religious reform movements in the 18th and 19th century CE after Western colonialism replaced Islamic rulers, creating a big void in the continuation of centuries’ old Islamic tradition gone unchallenged from the outside powers.

Sometime new sects were born out the compulsions of the outer environment their followers faced politically and culturally. When Islam spread out of the Arabian Peninsula and was introduced to people deeply entrenched in Greek, Roman, Iranian, and Byzantine civilisations and cultural practices, it acquired philosophical and mystical thoughts which were absent in the early years of Islam and resulted in opening the religious space to accommodate both tradition and mystical ideas.

Most sects have roots in the three main schools of Islam, namely Sunni Islam, Shia Islam and Sufi Islam. Sunni school believed in religious and political authority resting with the leader of the Islamic State, the Caliph, who is chosen by the consensus of the people. In the early days of the Islamic State this consensus was achieved through tribal allegiance or the majority choice of the elders of the Ummah. Shia school vested this authority in the hereditary Imam of the time who was a representative of God and belonged through bloodline to the family of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The Imam followed the Islamic laws of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet. The Sufi school separated politics and religion and placed the individual in the centre of the universe to discover God and connect with the divine powers spiritually.


Part I: Sunni Islam  

Ahl sunnah-wal-jamaat is a general term applied to various Sunni schools of theology that trace back their origin to the thinking of earlier Ahlul Hadith and Ashari scholars. They follow the authorities of the four Hanafi imams with slight differences in practice and jurisprudence but without any disagreement on the fundamental tenets of Islam. This group, combining the four Imams, makes up the majority of Muslims globally. They accept the division of authority in political, religious, and spiritual fields. Political authority rests with the Caliph, who is the head of Islamic State, and has the authority to collect Zakat and raise an army for carrying out Jihad. Muftis and scholars have religious authority, but they can only advise the Caliph. They do not have the power to enforce their opinions on the people. Spiritual authority is vested in the Sufis whose elaborate network of Awlias, Sheikhs and Abdals brings people closer to God.

Sunni school traces its evolution to the time of the Prophet when Islam was a simple religion to follow without any difference of opinion as the Prophet was physically present to clarify any doubts of the followers or decide on matters that needed elaboration. But in the second century of the Hijrah (AH) when the principles of Islam were discussed and written down, opinion was divided and resulted in the division of Sunni Islam in four schools of jurisprudence, namely, Hanafi, Shaafii, Maaleki and Hambali, each named after their Imam. In the beginning, Sunni Muslims could take guidance from any of the four schools but over time this was crystalised into specific followers of each school who chose to follow the jurisprudence of one school instead of choosing from the opinions of four schools according to their convenience. In addition to the four schools there was also another group that did not bind itself to the doctrines of any of the four Imams but went directly to Quran and Hadith. This group later became known as Ahl-e-Hadith or Salafis.

In Sunni Islam there is no hereditary Imam or a hierarchy of clergy. Sunnis do not participate in the condolence meetings organised by Shias in the first ten days of Muharram to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussain. They also do not participate in the 10 Muharram processions and acts of self-flagellation to honour the martyrs of Karbala. However, they take out processions in the month of Rabiul-Awal to celebrate the birthday of prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. They also commemorate the days of the companions of the Prophet, especially of the first four Caliphs.

The major writers of the Quranic exegesis (Tafseer) in the Sunni school are: Ibn Kathir, Al-Bagawi, Al-Maawardi, Al -Tabari, Al-Shuyuti, Ibn-al-Jawzi, Jalalain, Al-Nisai, Al-Firozabadi, Al-Shanqiti, Al-Tantawi, Al-Qurtubi, Al-Baidawi, Al-Shokani, Al-Sabuni, Daryabadi, As-Saadi, Al-Moududi, Thanwi, Shafi, Mubarakpuri.

This sect was founded by Mabad Ibn Khaled al-Juhaine in 66 AH. Al-Qadariya believed that Allah has given free will to man to exercise his choice regarding his actions, which are not forced by destiny. They also believed that Allah has knowledge of the deeds of men in advance, but Allah does not cause these actions to happen until man himself decides to take steps toward them. They also believed that a believer remains a Muslim even if he commits major sins and that the divine attributes of Allah such as his power to see, hear and know are to be taken figuratively and not literally.

Al-Jahmiya sect started as a reaction to the Al-Qadariyah sect. It was founded by Jahm ibn Safwan in 127 AH and lasted until the end of the Abbasid caliphate. Al-Jahmiya believed that the actions of man were determined by divine power irrespective of whether these actions were good or bad. Al-Jahmiya were fascinated by Greek philosophy and applied it to interpret Islam rationally. They gained prominence in the 3rdcentury AH with the philosophical interpretation of Quran by Bishr al Mareesee. He claimed that Quran was a set of meanings Allah created for humans to understand. Al-Jahmiya received patronage of Abbasid caliph Mamoon Rashid who accepted their belief that Quran was the creation of Allah. They also took a rationalist approach to existence. They withdrew to an intermediate position on lesser sins, and on the question of the hardship of the grave for the dead. They also opposed the view that Quran was eternal, as all created things will come to perish one day. They rejected the names and attributes of Allah and took the position that attributes that apply to humans cannot be ascribed to Allah as this would compromise His uniqueness and authority. They said that attributes such as Kalaamallah (speech of Allah) Yad-ul-lah (hand of Allah), or Arsh-ul-lah (throne of Allah) are allegorical and not something befitting the majesty of Allah. They believed that the punishment of hell was not eternal.

Al-Jahmiya later got divided into many factions that accepted some of its interpretations but did not adopt its philosophy completely. The principal faction among the Al-Jahmiya was Al-Mutazilah. Other groups included Al-Muatala, Al-Mirisiya, Al-Mutazaqa, Al-Waridiya, Al-Zanadiqiya, Al-Harqiya, Al-Makhlooqiya, Al-Faaniya, Al-Iriya, Al-Waqifiya, Al-Qabariya, Al-Lafziya, Al-Najjariya, Al-Ashairya, and Ad-Dirrariya. Their differences were, however, minor and they all belonged to the Al-Jahmiya sect. The various beliefs in these groups centred around the philosophical views that anything to which human attributes can be applied was creature and therefore it could not be claimed that Allah could be seen because what is seen is created. They said most of Allah’s attributes were created and therefore could not be applied to Him. They believed that Allah was mighty and majestic and was everywhere, not just present on His throne. They believed that whoever knew His Lord will never enter hellfire and whoever entered hellfire would never leave it. Some of them said it was impossible to confirm that Allah existed because such confirmation could only take place through the five senses; and that which may not be sensed is not a god, and that what may not be sensed could not be confirmed. Some of them held the view that a disbeliever will feel pain only once after entering hellfire and would continue to burn but without feeling any more pain. Some Al-Jahmiya believed that heaven and hell would eventually vanish. Others claimed that both heaven and hell were not yet created or completed.

A group among them denied prophecy and claimed that prophets were only wise men. Another group among them denied that there was turmoil of grave; some denied intercession (shafaah), and some said it was not the Quran but the pronunciation of Quran that was created. They claimed that Allah’s speech could not be limited to sound, letters or words; therefore, when the Quran is recited by humans it is created. Finally, there were Al-Jahmiya who believed that Quran is recited and memorised, but wat is written in the Mushaf is not the real Quran in the heaven (Loh-e-Mahfooz), but its representation on earth.


The Mutazila sect was founded by Wassil Ibn Ata soon after Al-Jahmiya. The Mutazila doctrine was based on five principles. These were: monotheism; justice, heaven and hell as reward and punishment; barzakh as the intermediate place until salvation or condemnation; and enjoining the good and prohibiting the evil. The Mutazila agreed with Al-Jahmiya in negating the attributes of Allah, but they did not negate Allah’s names. Al-Mutazila believed that a Muslim who commits a major sin is neither a believer nor a disbeliever but suspended between the two states. They also believed that the attributes of Allah should be understood figuratively and rationally. They also said that Quran as the word of Allah was not eternal but created. They believed Allah does not speak but He creates His speech. They differed from the Al-Jahmiya on the concept of pre-destination. According to them, man was responsible for his actions and was not compelled by the divine Will.

Al-Mutazila were active during the time of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hambal. They weakened during the time of Abbasid caliph Mutawakil. During this time the Asharites who had moved away from the Mutazila but retained their methodology of deduction and reasoning to explain theology came closer to Sunni Islam.

Toward the end of the third and start of the 4th century AH a celebrated Mutazila scholar Abul Hasan ibn Ismail al Ashari defected to the Ashari school and drew on his experience of logic and reasoning to establish a Sunni school of thought based on deduction and scholastic theology. He also sanctioned the use of critical examination of the fundamental beliefs of Muslims with a view to providing their philosophical justification. His works resulted in weakening the Mu’tazila ideas on the one hand, and on the other hand causing a split within the Sunni school between the traditionalists and rationalists. His influence continued even after his death. There were Sunni thinkers such as Imam Juwaini and Imam Fakhruddin Razi who supported his philosophical approach to theology in Sunni Islam. There were also traditionalist scholars such as Imam Hanbal who rejected the involvement of deduction in Kalaam and declared it unlawful. There were also scholars who took the middle path of neither rejecting nor fully accepting the Ashari approach of brining the science of Kalaam to theology.

Al-Ashari thrived under Turkic Seljuks in Iran and Turkiye. Two centuries later, the writings of Imam Ghazali downgraded the Ashari school to one of Irfan and Tasawwuf. Like Ghazali, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi also watered down the Ashari thought to Sufism. After about two centuries since its rise, the Ashari sect became removed from its original moorings and became like Al-Mutazila ideology.

After the decline of the Asharites, Sunni Islam lost the rational methodology which once characterised its rise. However, had this been otherwise, there could have been more divisions in Sunni Islam than at present, as is seen in the various sub-sects of Shia Islam and the Ismailiya groups, which are not averse to the application of logic and reasoning in theology.



Al-Murjiah believed that Imaan is a fixed state of faith which neither increases not decreases. It is established on the declaration of faith by tongue and belief in heart. For the Murjiahs, Imaan does not get invalidated by the evil actions of the believer but can be perfected by virtuous deeds.

Founded by Dawood ibn Al Zahiri and Abu Muhammad ibn Mazam in 9th century AH, the Zahiri sect emphasised on following the literal meaning of the commands and prohibitions in the Quran and Prophetic traditions without going into the basis and reasons behind those rulings. The word Zahiri refers to the apparent (literalist) as against allegorist (Taweel). The Zahiris denied the validity of logic as an independent source of Islamic law. Although the Zahiri sect originated in Kufa, its followers relocated to Baghdad, Damascus, Bokhara, Iran and Spain.
The Zahiri sect was popular during the Muslim rule in Spain and after half a century, it merged with the Hambali school of Sunni Islam.

Ahle Hadith
Ahle Hadith and their predecessors, Ahlul Hadith, emerged in response to Al-Jahmiya and Mutazila claim that Quran was created. They stressed the importance of accepting the sayings and tradition of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as conveyed by the accepted narrators instead of vetting it against logic and philosophy. They considered conjecture and syllogism as Tahreef, meaning subverting the true sense of the divine revelation. Ahlul Hadith believed that Imaan has progressive degrees and is divisible. To distinguish them from other Sunnis, Ahlul Hadith adopted the Sunnah of Rafa Yadain, the raising of both hands up to shoulders and dropping them down before going to Ruku and Sajda from the Qiyam position in the five-time obligatory prayers. Ahlul Hadith stressed on going back to the roots to find true Islam which had been corrupted after the reign of the four caliphs. Another reason for their retreat to early Islamic tradition was that by 4th Century AH, Greek philosophy had influenced the religious discourse in Islam to the extent that Ilm-ul-Kalaam (theology) and Ilm-ul-Hadith (tradition), along with Ilm-ul-Fiqh (jurisprudence) had become distinct specialisations in Islam. Ahlul Hadith used literalism as their preferred method of interpreting the Quran and Sunnah.

The founder of Salafiya group is Ibn Taimiyya who in 7th century AH rejected all the sects and closed the door of independent reasoning (Ijtihad) that had led to Al-Jahmiya thoughts. Ibn Taimiyya was so resolute in opposing Mutazila ideology that he once stepped down from the pulpit of his mosque in Damascus saying that the way he was physically descending from one step to another, the establishment of Allah over His throne is that real. According to Ibn Batuta who claims to have witnessed this event, Ibn Taymiyya was attacked the angry worshippers and stopped from leading the Friday prayers. Ibn Taimiyya forbade imploring holy men, including Prophet Muhammad, in second person Ya after their demise, and likened it to corrupting the concept of Allah who has no partners. After Ibn Taimiyya’s death, his followers called themselves Al-Salafiya, meaning followers of the ancestors. The Salafi follow the life and authentic sayings of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, the companions of the Prophet, the disciples of the companions and few traditional thinkers of the 1st, 2nd and 3r century AH. They do not emphasise on rituals and fanfare in religion, avoid commentaries on the earlier prophets from the Jewish sources and are strict in their adherence to the prophetic tradition.

Popularly known as Wahabis and sometimes described as Salafis, the Al-Wahabiya group started in the 12th century AH under the leadership of Saudi reformer Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab. He was not a political leader. He was a conservative scholar who accepted the rule of the House of Saud in return for their non-interference in his religious teachings. The Wahabis are in total agreement with the beliefs of Al- Salafiya in religion and support the teachings of Ibn Taimiyya. They consider veneration of graves as heresy, touching or kissing the Prophet’s Rawda in the Prophet’s Mosque and seeking Prophet’s intercession in supplications as innovation (Bidaa) and corrupting the faith. They also believe that promoting virtue and preventing evil is an obligation on every Muslim, and that seeking forgiveness of Allah directly from Him is the only way forward for salvation.

Deobandis are a sub-sect of Sunni Islam. The Deobandi movement was one of the several social and religious movements that were established in the former territories of the Ottoman Empire, Moghul Empire and in other parts in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Arab peninsula where political power had slipped from local elites to foreign colonial rule. These movements were not coordinated, nor followed a set pattern. Each movement was locally based and aimed at finding a response to the changed circumstances with the dual objective of preserving their beliefs and traditions and building resistance to foreign power and influence. Among these, the Deobandi movement focused on disseminating the teachings of the Quran and hadith to the Muslims of India following the jurisprudence of Imam Abu Hanifa, the founder of Hanafi school in Sunni Islam. The founders of the Deobandi movement were Mohammad Nanautavi and Rashid Ahmad Gangohi. They started the movement in 1866 CE at the Islamic Studies Centre in Saharanpur, UP, India. A year later, the first school to impart religious education to children was built in Deoband. The school introduced an organised religious syllabus of studies and hired permanent staff to teach the subjects. The success of the school led to many mosques joining the initiative and adopting the Deobandi syllabus to prepare Qaris, Huffaz, Imams, Alims and Muftis. Initially, the Deobandi movement was opposed to the Aligarh movement which promoted teaching of English as a second language to Muslims instead of primarily focusing on Arabic to directly reach out to the original texts of Islam.

Deobandis believe that Islam has two focuses. The first is the Sharia law given by Quran and supplemented by Hadith. The second is analogical reasoning (qiyas) and consensus of the Ummah (ijma) as long as the fundamental tenets of Islam are not compromised. They make the scholars of Islam responsible for interpreting the law based on their understanding and experience of dealing in religious matters. Deobandis are puritan orthodox Muslims, but they are different from the Salafis and Wahabis as they are more open to interpreting Islam in the light of their four principles of applying the law. They are also tolerant of Sufi interpretations.
There are many religious organisations, Darul Uloom, mosques, madrassas and institutions that work to promote Deobandi theology quietly without making news. However, some organisations have also chosen to become political parties, such as Jamaat Islami, Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam, Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party, Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan. These organisations follow the Deobandi school in religious matters.

Deobandi sect was also helped by other scholars who were not part of the Deobandi movement but their writings and talks contributed to the Deobandi beliefs and practice. A renowned scholar who shared their theology was Abul Ala Moududi. He founded the Jamaat Islami in Lahore in 1941 and also helped with the establishment of the Islamic University of Madinah. After his death, Jamaat Islami abandoned its religious mission and became an Islamic political party. Other scholars included, among many, Ehtishamul Haq Thanvi, Mufi Muhammad Shafi, Mohammad Taqi Usmani, Muhammad Ishaq Madani, Dr Israr Ahmad, Ahmed Deedat, Zakir Naik, Yasir Qadi and Ismail Ibn Musa Menk.  

Another religious movement that took roots in British India where other movements also flourished in the late 1800s was the Barelvi movement founded by Ahmad Raza Khan in 1867. He established a school of Islamic studies in 1904 in Barelli, in Northern India. The success of his initiative led him to establish another religious school in Pilibhit, India. After the Partition, many Barelvi Muslims migrated to Pakistan. They also relocated to Madina in Saudi Arabia.
Like Deobandis, the Barelvis are also a major sub-sect of Sunni Islam, but they are closer to the Sufi philosophy, as well as the Shia school in their reverence of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, and his family (Ahlul Beit). Barelvis believe that the messenger of Allah and all Godly men have special connection with God and are spiritually alive in their graves after death, even though they cannot return to the earth in their human form. They listen to the greetings of those who visit their graves and ask them to intercede with God on their behalf.

Barelvis have an elaborate network of saints, religious teachers and elders (Pirs) who guide their followers and bless them with their Duas. Barelvi Muslims strongly believe in the intercession of Prophet Muhammad on the Day of Judgment which is comparable to the belief of Christians about salvation. They believe that Prophet Mohammad’s spirit is present at any gathering on earth where Durood and Salam are recited loudly. For this reason, Barelvis stand up in reverence when offering Durood and Salam in second person singular to address the Prophet directly. In Barelvi mosques this Durood is collectively recited either every day in the month of Rabi-ul-Awal, the month of Prophet’s birthday, and weekly after Friday prayers. They also believe in offering blessed food to the poor in Nazar, Niaz and Fateha and also on the death of a relative to seek forgiveness for him.

Barelvi Muslims consider themselves to be the representatives of the first Muslim community comprising the companions and followers of the Prophet. Their core beliefs include personal devotion to the Prophet as a guide and intercessor between Allah and the individual through a hierarchy of hereditary religious leaders (Pirs) whom they hold in high esteem while they are living, as well as after their death, and take vows to follow their guidance. They also visit and offer Dua at the shrines of Sufi saints such as Sheikh Abdul Qadar Jilani in Lahore and Khawaja Moeenuddin Chisthi in Ajmer, India. The landscape of Pakistan and India is dotted with the shrines of big and small Sufi saints which attract millions of devotees annually. The Barelvi sect is regarded as the tolerant face of Sunni Islam compared to their puritan Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith counterparts.

Dawat-e-Islami is a Barelvi organisation founded by Muhammad Ilyas Qadri in Karachi, Pakistan in 1981 for the global propagation of Quran and Sunnah and prepare future scholars though Q&A sessions and Naat competitions. Another organisation of the Barelvi sect is the Sunni Tehreek. It was founded by Muhammad Saleem Qardi in Karachi, Pakistan in 1990 to prevent the takeover of Barelvi mosques from the Deobandis and Ahl-e-Hadith. It acts as the defender of Barelvis from rival sects. Saleem Qardi was killed in 1998 and was succeeded by Sarwat Ejaz Qadri. In 2012 the Sunni Tehreek became a political party.

Another organisation with strong roots in Barelvi school is Minhajul Quran. It was founded by Muhammad Tahirul Qadri in Lahore, Pakistan in 1980. It claims to be a non-sectarian, non-political organisation that works in the areas of religious education, spiritual awareness, human rights, women empowerment and interfaith harmony. The organisation has global membership comprising Barelvi diaspora.

Aligarh Movement
Although the Aligarh Movement was known as a reform movement focused on educating the Muslims of North India in modern sciences in the language of the colonial masters of British India, it was also a religious movement which never took off due to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s non-seminary career and the presence of many other contemporary Muslim religious movements which were already active in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. The movement’s founder, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, wrote an incomplete Tafseer of Quran (16 Juz and 13 Surahs) which was published in several parts in the 1880s. His ideas were seen by the traditionalist Sunni scholars as bordering apostasy. He denied the miracles of the prophets and said these were allegorical references. He claimed that Jesus did not die on the cross but was rescued by his companions after which he died a natural death. Sir Syed also claimed that prayers had no impact on the outcome of an event. While many Muslims benefited from his educational initiative of integrating western sciences with Islamic values through the establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University, his ideas for making Quran and Islam more rational and less traditionalist were not accepted by them. These radical ideas were rejected by all schools of Sunni and Shia Islam, even though there are many convent-educated Muslims who think like Sir Syed to apply an inquisitive and intellectual approach to understanding Islam.

Tabligi Jamaat
The Tabligi Jamaat was founded in 1926 in Mewat, India, by Molana Muhammad Ilyas Kandhalvi with the sole purpose of teaching the ideology and traditions of Islam to the local Muslim community. It took him six years to plan and consolidate his work. In 1932 two Dawa missions were organised to visit Kandhla and Saharanpur to meet Muslims in local mosques and inform them about the fundamental concepts and practices of Islam. Since then, the Tabligi Jammat has grown to become one of the largest Sunni Dawa movements in Islam. It has retained its methodology of organising small Dawa mission to various places where Muslim communities live. Its recruitment method is simple. There is no formal membership nor any induction ceremony nor an oath of allegiance. Muslims who attend obligatory prayers in mosques and who agree to attend Tablighi Jamaat’s talks later become the participants of the Jamaat’s forthcoming Dawa missions and are given administrative responsibilities for the duration of the Dawa mission which lasts from a few hours to 3 days, a week, one month and finally four months. During their missionary tours, members of the Tabligi Jamaat focus on 6 points. These are: declaration of faith (Kalimah); Prayers (Salat); knowledge and remembrance of Allah (Ilm and Dhikr)’ respecting other Muslims (Ikram ul Muslimeen); sincerity for the pleasure of Allah (Ikhlas); and inviting others to the faith and propagation of Islam (Dawa and Tablig). The Tabligi Jamaat is primarily a Sunni movement and focuses only on prayers and other practices instead of engaging in any theological or jurisprudential discourse. It concentrates on Deobandi and Hanafi mosques for its missionary work but is open to all Sunni denominations.

Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded by an Egyptian scholar and thinker Hassan Al Banna in Egypt in the 1920s. In the beginning it was conceived as a religious revivalist movement that sought to return Egyptian society to the fundamentals of Islam that had been corrupted with the rapidly advancing western values under colonial administration. Muslim Brotherhood became a force in the 1970s and 1980s before it was reduced to an opposition political movement struggling against the anti-democratic rulers of Egypt. Its religious message never translated from the academic level to that of the masses.

Nahdatul Ulama
The movement has roots in Indonesia’s struggle against colonialism which started in 1816 among the boarding school community of Indonesian Muslims. It was founded in 1926 by a consensus of Indonesian Muslims who subscribed to the Ahle Sunnah wal Jamaa sect in Sunni Islam. The organisation’s objectives are to become a trusted source of Islamic information that encourages religious attitudes that are just, moderate and respect diversity. Nadhatul Ulama has published two guidebooks, Qanun Asasi, meaning fundamental law, and Al-Itikad, meaning the belief. Its 90 million members follow these guidebooks in their religious thinking and acting in social, religious and political fields. In 2015, Nahdatul Ulama launched the Nusantara Movement in Indonesia to uphold the essence of local culture in Islam as distinct from other countries. The Nusantara Movement is about inclusivity and promoting tolerance among Indonesians.

Gulen Movement
The Gulen Movement, also known in Turkiye as Hizmet, meaning Service, was founded by a self-taught preacher, Mohammed Fethullah Gulen, who was born in Erzurum, Turkiye in 1938 during the era of Mustafa Kemal’s religious reforms. In 1966 when Fethullah Gulen was head of Kestanepazari Quran School in Izmir, he developed his idea for establishing a network of secular schools (not Madressas) to educate the youth and promote religious and social justice and interfaith peace. His idea took off and over a hundred schools were established in Turkiye. Thereafter his movement grew globally in the Turkish diaspora and more schools were opened outside Turkiye in Central Asia, China, Pakistan and the US.

The Gulen movement has roots in Turkish Islam which has always been tolerant to non-Muslim lifestyles. The Gulenists are liberal Sunni Muslims. They see Islam as a secular and tolerant religion that reject obscurantism and compartmentalising Islam to a fixed set of rules and traditions. Gulen does not support official Islam. In his view Islam’s experience in each Muslim country is different, therefore as long Turkish nationalist ideology retains its Islamic identity, he does not see the need to Islamise Turkiye based on the experience of other Islamic countries. In 1999 Gulen moved to Pennsylvania in the US and has been living there since. This was the time when Gulen was under investigation by Turkiye’s then secular government and Erdogan had not become Prime Minister. After the failed 2016 coup in Turkiye, Gulen was blamed by Erdogan for masterminding the coup and his organisation FETO was proscribed in Turkiye as a terrorist outfit.

The movement’s name in Turkish means Letters of Light. It was founded by a prominent Turkish religious scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi who was born in 1877 in eastern Turkiye. His writings include a commentary on the Quran and its relevance to the natural world. He wrote a Treatise on Resurrection and 32 other pieces which are published as Words. Another collection of 33 letters written to his students is published as Letters. Two other works are titled: Flashes and Rays. Together, these collections constitute Said Nuri’s interpretation of Islam in the modern world from the point of view of education. Said Nuri was committed to the idea of Turkiye establishing a single education system in which religious knowledge was integrated with western secular sciences. Toward this goal, he wrote a complete school curriculum, and in 1917 tried to establish a school called Mardassatul Zahra which did not materialise due to Turkiye’ involvement in the first world war.

Said Nuri argued that there was no clash of civilisations between the East and West and that there was no contradiction between religion and modernism. He believed that instead of monarchy, republicanism was closer to Islam’s consultative process. Said Nuri received criticism from traditionalists, as well as secularists. While one the one hand he was criticised for introducing elements of Turkish nationalism in Islam, he was seen arguing for overthrowing the secular order and replacing it with Sharia. Said Nursi passed away in 1960 leaving a small number of followers who have kept his ideas alive through electronic resources.

Hizbut Tahrir
Hizbut Tahrir is a political Sunni religious movement which started from Jerusalem in the middle of last century. Under the leadership of its founder Taqiuddin Al Nabhani, Hizbut Tahrir gained popularity globally and succeeded in establishing branches of the organisation in many countries. Taqiuddin encouraged his members to travel extensively in Muslim territories to propagate his political ideology of revival of a world Islamic government and the return of the Caliphate. Hizbut Tahrir members are practicing Muslims who follow the Quranic commandment to invite others to the good, ask for what is right and forbid what is evil. Hizbut Tahrir members use Dawa through word of mouth, audio recordings, corner meetings, distribution of pamphlets and mosque congregations to prepare Muslims for the time when they will live in a world Islamic government which implements Sharia law and regulates matters between halal and haram. Hizbut Tahrir believes in the appointment of the Caliph through consultation and taking an oath of allegiance to listen and obey in return for the leader fulfilling the promise of governing according to the Quran and Sunnah and enforcing Dawa and Jihad as the means of promoting and protecting the Islamic State.

Hizbut Tahrir was the largest Islamic political movement until the rise of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Levant. Its world government ideology made many Muslim countries uncomfortable, as well as shocked liberal Muslims who saw it as a fanciful hardline extremist organisation. In many countries it was banned and declared a terrorist entity. In the last decade, Hizbut Tahrir lost many of its supporters and its future is uncertain.

Pervezi Islam
Pervezi Islam refers to the radical ideas of Ghulam Ahmad Pervez who belonged to the educated sections of the 20th century Asian Muslims who were eager to embrace liberal ideas introduced by colonialism without abandoning Islam. Ghulam Ahmad Pervez studied Islam’s esoteric sects such as Sufism and was influenced by it. He concluded that Islam needed reformation to bring unity among different schools. He proposed achieving this by focusing on the interpretations of Quranic commandments but without relying on the Hadith because it was not the word of God and therefore subject to differences among various schools. Ghulam Ahmad himself was from the Hanafi subsect of Sunni school and had been an Imam Khateeb of his city Batala’s Jamia Masjid in 1921.

Pervezism initially captured the imagination of the educated class of Muslims in Pakistan after partition, as he himself was a member of its civil service. He elaborated his ideas in a magazine called Tulu-e-Islam but as he went into the details, he began to contradict established traditional Sunni beliefs to the extent that he lost even those Muslims who were initially attracted to his reform ideas. His suggestion to follow the Ataturk example of replacing Arabic with Urdu in obligatory five times prayers was initially welcomed by the then ruling class but not taken up after he was strongly criticised and rejected by the clerics. He maintained that anything that was practiced or believed by Muslims outside the holy Quran was a fabrication and not Islam. His rejection of the Hadith tradition earned him the wrath of scholars who put this down to his inability to interpret the Arabic texts. In retaliation Pervez asserted that Mullahs had hijacked the faith. In 1970 Pervez’s books were banned in the Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Ghulam Ahmad Pervez gradually began to lose steam, as well as those who found his ideas practical. With his death in 1985, his reform movement also ended, although there is a small number of Muslims who keep reviving his ideas in religious debates from time to time.


Part II: Shia Islam  

The followers of Shia Islam are called Shias or Ahle-Tashee. They believe that during the period of the first three caliphs after the demise of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, scant regard was paid to the Prophet’s Hadith and sunnah. A hierarchical society was formed in which Arab Muslims enjoyed rank and respect over the non-Arab Muslims. Tribal loyalties returned and Muhajirs secured a higher status over the Ansaars. The Quraish began to assert their ascendency over the family members of the Prophet. These differences led to the assassination of the third Caliph, Uthman and the battle of Jamal in 36 AH in which on one side was Ayesha, the spouse of the Prophet, and on the other side was Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet. A year later in 37 AH the battle of Siffeen again brought the first-generation Muslims fighting against each other. Both battles resulted in 70,000 casualties. When Ali succeeded Othman as the fourth Caliph, he reversed the policies of his predecessors, introduced egalitarianism and brought equality between the Mohajirs and Ansars, as well as between the ordinary people and people with titles and family status. He also equalled the pensions and state subsidy of all recipients, irrespective of status.

These differences eventually led to the foundation of Shia Islam which places great emphasis on the sanctity of the House of the Prophet and its members and draws its religious interpretation from those Ahadith which it regards authentic and supplementing the Quran. The martyrdom of Ali’s second son and Prophet’s grandson Hussain in the battle of Karbala in 61 AH at the hands of Yazid’s soldiers who was the son of the 5th Caliph Muawiya and the leader of the opposite side in the battle of Siffeen when he was still Governor, sealed the division between the Ahl Sunnah wal Jamaat and the Ahle Tashee which continues to this day.

There were also rifts in Shia Islam in the 1st and 2nd century AH. It got divided into three main schools, Jafriya school (also known as Asna Ashari or Twelvers), Zaydiya school and Ismailiya school, and several other sub sects that resulted from the differences on the continuation of Imams after Imam Jafar al Sadiq. The Kaysaniya believed in the Imamate of Muhammad al-Hanafiya. The Nawusiya believed in the occultation of Imam Jafar al Sadiq and in his being the Mahdi. The Fathiya believed in the Imamate of Abd Allah ibn Aftah, son of Imam Jafar al Sadiq. The Samtiya believed in the Imamate of Muhammad Dibaj, another son of Imam Jafar al Sadiq. The Tafiya believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq entrusted the Imamate to Musa ibn Taffi. The Aqmasiya believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq entrusted the Imamate to Musa ibn Umran al-Aqmas. The Yarmaiya believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq entrusted the Imamate to Yarma ibn Musa. The Tamimiya believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq entrusted the Imamate to ‘Abd Allah ibn Sad at-Tamimi. The Judiya believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq entrusted the Imamate to a person named Abu Judah. The Yaqubiya rejected the Imamate of Musa ibn Jafar, saying that Imamate could be entrusted to persons other than the sons of Imam Jafar al Sadiq. Their leading person was named Abu Yaqub. The Mamtura suspended their judgment concerning Imam Musa al-Kazim because they were not sure if the Imam had really passed away. The Waqifiya believed that Imam Musa al-Kazim did not die and that he shall remain alive till the Day of Resurrection.

Apart from the major difference on Caliphate and Imamete, there are slight differences between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam on other aspects of religion. The Shia school follows the jurisprudence of Imam Jafar al Sadiq. The Sunni school follows the jurisprudence of four Sunni Imams. In the Shia school, short term permanent marriages are permissible for their followers who have to travel away from their households on religious expeditions or work for longer periods. This is called Muta. It is performed in the same way as Nikah but it differs from regular marriage due to its specific conditions, as well as an agreed fixed term. This facility is not available in Sunni Islam. In Shia Islam the obligatory five times prayers are performed as a set of three daily prayers; the pre-dawn prayer, the two day-time prayers (Zuhrain), and two night-time prayers (Maghrebain). The Shia fasting period is also about 20 minutes longer than the Sunni period. Shia calculation of Zakat also differs from the Sunni method. The Shia and Sunni calendars of key religious dates and festivals, obligatory and non-obligatory prayers and religious meetings, marriage and funeral rituals and charitable activities are both similar, as well as different.

The major writers of the Quranic exegesis (Tafseer) in the Shia school are: Al-Tabrisi, Ibrahim Qumi, Al-Tusi, Abdur Rahman Tabatabai, Tantawi Juhairi, Sayyid Qutb, Faiz Al-Kashani, Ibn Ashur, Shahabuddin Al-Alusi, Al-Zamakshari, Maturidi, Ibn Atiya Andalusi, Hussaini Al-Bahrani, Firat Al-Kufi, Zaid bin Ali, Al-Aaqam, Al-Qumi Nishapuri, Al-Abidi, Najmuddin Asadi, Mutaleheen Sheerazi and Al-Raazi, Said Hawaai, Muhammad Shirawi.

Followers of this group believed that the right successor to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, should have been Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph. They denied the caliphate of the first three Caliphs, Abubakar, Umar and Uthman and made accusations against many companions of the Prophet, including Ayesha, the spouse of the Prophet and daughter of Abubakar for opposing Ali’s succession to the Prophet. They are an offshoot of Al-Khawarij but are short of being expelled from Islam because they have not accused Ali of compromising his faith, who supported the caliphate of his three predecessors.

The Twelvers
The Twelver Shias do not believe in the system of caliphate. Instead, they believe that Allah has appointed the Imams, and that the Prophet propagated this matter to the people on divine command. They claim that in the early years of the Imamete after the demise of the Prophet, the family of the Prophet and their supporters did not oppose the early Caliphs in order to maintain the unity of the Ummah, but after Imam Jafar al Sadiq, their policy of Taqiya was suspended and they openly began to assert that Imamete was a divine method of selection of Muslim leadership which was confirmed by the Prophet. Their first Imam is Ali, the cousin and husband of Prophet’s daughter Fatima.

The Twelvers believe that there are twelve Imams. The 12th Imam, whose name is Mahdi has gone into occultation, but he is living in the world and will appear at the time of Dajjal. The Twelvers are the majority group in the Shia school. They take their sources from the Quran, its Tafaseer, Prophet’s Sunnah and the narration of his truthful companions, other Islamic sciences explained by the Prophet and twelve Imams as recorded in books.

The Twelvers are the majority group in the Shia School. In their theology, religious hierarchy flows down from the first Imam to the 12th Imam. Until his return, their adherents are expected to take guidance from a Marje, meaning a person who could be consulted on religious matters. The Twelvers commemorate the martyrdom of Hussain with symbols of the battlefield of Karbala and perform self-flagellation on 10 Muharram, like the Catholics commemorating the mass of the Christ on Good Friday to personally feel the pain of the epic tragedy.

The Twelvers derive their political and religious authority from the designated Imams, who are direct descendants of the Prophet, with the sole exception of Ali who was from the Prophets’ family but was not his direct descendent. The position of the Imam is a divine order which was confirmed by the Prophet. The 1st Imam of the Twelvers is Imam Ali. The 6th Imam is Imam Musa Kazim. The 12th Imam is Imam Mohammad ibn Ismail Al Mahdi who went into occultation in 874 AH. He will make himself known to the Ummah at the same time of the appearance of Dajjal close to the end of time. During his absence, the religious authority is exercised by a clergy which follows an organised hierarchical structure of scholars professionally qualified and trained to lead the community. The major seminaries of Shiite theology are in Qum, Isfahan and Mashad in Iran and in Najaf and Karbala in Iraq.

The Fivers
Known as the Zaidiya school, it is a branch of Alh-e-Tashee. After the death of the 4th Imam Ali ibn Hussain in 713 AH, the Zaidi Shias considered Zayd ibn Ali as their 5th Imam rather than the older brother Mohammad Al-Baqir. The Zaidiya were also divided into three sub-sects on the question of succession. The Jarudiya believed that after the Prophet, Ali was the one worthy of the caliphate, but the Prophet introduced him to the people for the caliphate only by descriptions and not by name and that due to this ambiguity, the people chose Abu Bakr as the first Caliph and by doing so, they became infidels. The Sulaymaniya believed that Imamete is determined through consultation and that choosing an Imam (mafdhul) while a more deserving person for this office is present (afdhal) is permissible. They justified the legitimacy of the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar but said that that the Ummah erred by not choosing Ali who was the most deserving person for the Imamete. However, by making this choice they did not commit transgression (fisq). The Sulaymaniya declared Uthman as an infidel (kafir). The other sub-sect Batriya differed with the Sulaymaniya by suspending their judgment concerning Uthman.

The Zaidiya did not believe in the divine appointment of Imams. They believed that after Imam Ali whoever from the progeny of Ali and Fatima revolted with the sword seeking the truth could become the Imam of Muslims. In jurisprudence, the Zaidiya followed Imam Abu Hanifa and in that sense, they were a step closer to the Ahle Sunnah, like the Barelvis who, despite belonging to the Sunni school, are a step closer to Ahl Tashee in their reverence of the holy men and their belief in the intercession of the Prophet for salvation.

The Seveners
The Seveners are popularly known as Ismailiya. They followed the line of succession in Shia Islam up to the 6th Imam, Jafar al Sadiq, but after his death they separated from Shia Islam and took his elder son Ismail as their 7th Imam instead of following the Twelvers who accepted Imam Jafar al Sadiq’s younger son Musa Kazim as their 7th Imam. Yet there were differences among the Ismailiya on the Imamete after Jafar al Sadiq. One group believed the Imam after Imam Jafar al Sadiq was Ismail. He did not die and is alive in occultation and is the promised Mahdi. The second group called Sabaiya or the seveners, believed that Ismail died, and the Imamate transferred to his son, Muhammad ibn Ismail, who was the 7th and last Ismailiya Imam who went into occultation and shall appear toward the end of time to restore justice and equity. The third group, like the second group believed in the Imamate of Muhammad ibn Ismail with the difference that it said Muhammad ibn Ismail died and the Imamete passed on to his offspring. It is this group that became popular and continued with the tradition of Hazir Imams in every era until the coming of Qiyama.

After the death of the 18th Imam, Muhammad Mustansir Billah who was also the 8th Fatmid ruler in 1094 AH, the Ismailiya sect was divided into two major branches: Nizari Ismailiya and Bohras. The Nizari Ismailiya are popularly known as Aga Khanis after the family name of their present Imam. They followed Mustansir Billah’s son Nizar Al-Mustafa as their 19th Imam and have continued to have a Hazir Imam to this day.

Under the Fatimid rulers of Egypt from 10 to 12 centuries AH, the Ismailiya rose to become the largest community in Shia Islam after the Twelvers. The Ismailiya believe in the finality of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and in the religious authority of their Imams. According to their belief, the Quran has two meanings, a literal meaning (Zahir) and a deeper esoteric meaning (Batin), and their Hazir Imam has the authority to interpret the Quran according to the requirement of his time but without any departure from the fundamental tenets of Ismailiya theology.

Numbers have religious significance in Ismailiya thought. Number seven is an important number; such as seven tents of Islam (salat, fasting, haj, zakat, jihad, tahara and shahada), seven heavens, seven imams, seven days of the week etc.

The word Qiyama has a specific meaning in Ismailiya theology. It represents the final stage of the six periods, each of which are interspersed by seven Imams who preach the Sharia to their respective communities. But at the end of the sixth period and the emergence of Qiyama, the 7th Imam would abrogate the laws of the previous periods and introduce the original religion of Adam as practiced by him and the angels in the heaven. This state of religion is the glorification of Allah and recognising His unity.

After the death of Imam Mohammad bin Ismail in the 8th century AH, the Ismailiya sect concentrated on the deeper esoteric meaning of Islam. This required following the outward revelation and rituals of Islam or Deen (the Zahir) to understand the inner revelation of Imaan or Tawhid (the Batin) both of which are a continuum and inseparable. The teachings of their Hazir Imam of the time supplement but not supersede the Sharia of Prophet Muhammad.
The Ismailiya use the method of Taweel to allegorically interpret the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him. An example of Taweel method is the interpretation of Surah Al-Hadeed verse 13 which translates as: “On that Day hypocrite men and women will beg the believers, “Wait for us so that we may have some of your light.” It will be said ˹mockingly˺, “Go back ˹to the world˺ and seek a light ˹there˺!” Then a ˹separating˺ wall with a gate will be erected between them. On the inside will be grace and, on the outside, will be torment. (57:13). In the Taweel method the gate in the verse means Ali, and the separating wall means Sharia. The inside of the wall through the gate is Imam or Tawhid. The outside the Sharia is torment or absence of salvation. This Taweel is also supported by a Hadith of the prophet in which he said: “I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate”. This Hadith is considered authentic by the Shia school but week by the Sunni school. The Sunni school interprets the “separating wall” as Al-Araaf (the barrier) which is mentioned in Surah Al-Aaraaf verses 46-49.

Having gone through a long history of opposition to their Taweel method which introduced changes in their understanding of the Quran and worship rituals, the Ismailiya do not discuss their theology publicly. Their departure from the Shia school came nine centuries ago with the advent of Qiyama when one of their Imams freed his followers from the burden of observing the rules of Sharia and asked them to rise to spiritual immortality. This led Ismailiya to fundamentally change the way they observe the five tents of Islam in performing obligatory prayers, keeping the Ramadan fasts and performing pilgrimage to Makkah. Their fundamental belief in Tahara (purity) and Shahada (being witness to the omnipresence of God and the prophethood of Muhammad) exempts them from calling the Azan and making ablution before offering prayers. They also call their payer Dua which is performed in a seated position which includes Sajda but not Ruku or Qiyam. The Ismailiya adhere to the Jafari school and other schools of close affinity but on all matters of religion they take guidance from the Hazir Imam of the time. They also accept the principle of Tasawwuf for personal search and balance between the Zahir and the Batin, which preoccupies their theology. They have their own esoteric interpretation of the Quran through Taweel and an organised system of clergy, alms giving and worship.

The Ismailiya call themselves Ismaili Shias, but the Shia school does not accept them as a sect within the Shia theology because of their denial of occultation of Imam Mahdi.

The Bohris, or Tayyibis as they were earlier known, are an off shoot of the Ismailiya sect. They follow the line of Ismailiya imams until the 18th Imam Mustansir Billah, but they differ from the Ismailiya on the 19th Imam. Instead of following Nizar Al-Mustafa, the elder son as their Imam, they follow the younger son Mustaa’li, as their 19th Imam. The 21st Imam of the Bohris was Abdullah ibn Aamir who went into occultation in 1230 AH. After their 21st Imam, the Bohri community was led by a Daa’i al Mutlaq meaning absolute missionary of his time. The Daa’i represents the concealed Imam. Over a period, the Bohri sect got divided into several branches each of which placed their allegiance to a different Daa’i of his time. The Daudi Bohras constitute the largest community of the Bohris. Other brances are Sulaymani Bohras, Alavi Bohras, Hebtiah Bohras, Atbai Malik Bohras and Progressive Bohras. Collectively, they are all Bohri Shias.

Bohris are usually a closed group who do not openly preach their Tariqa but they welcome Ismailiya to their fold if they are prepared to take allegiance to their 19th Imam Mustaa’li.



Part III: Sufi Islam  

Sufi Islam began form the philosophical interpretations of Muslim thinkers during the Abbasid period, as well as following the expansion of Islam in Greek and Byzantine territories. Instead of indulging in reinterpreting Islam through logic and philosophy, Sufism sought a closer personal relationship of the individual with God in simplest terms by focusing on the inner self and engaging in the glorification of God though mind and body. Remembering God through Dhikr included reciting the Quran, chanting the various names of Allah and performing Sema, physical movements of the body to connect to the celestial movements in the universe. The outcome of such activity placed a person in a state of ecstatic abandonment and lifted him to discover the mysteries of the unknown.

In Sufi Islam, the central focus is on Vilaya or friendship with God, who is omniscient and omnipotent, the creator of all that exists whether seen or unseen. A person who attains the status of Vali becomes a saint. Even after a Vali’s death, his grave becomes a symbol of connecting the mortal physical world with the eternal spiritual world. As Sufism grew, the tombs of the Valis became shrines and devotees developed a series of rituals around the Vali’s tomb, including holding annual Urs (festivals) and narrating the extraordinary events of the Vali’s life and his closeness to the spiritual world. For the devotees, visiting a Vali’s tomb not only fulfilled their human need to have a sense of belonging to the wider community of like-minded folks and networking with them, but it also became a point of establishing a connection between their inner self and God.

Due to its strong public appeal Sufism grew from a minority school in the beginning to become one of the widespread traditions in Islam inviting new recruits and supporters along the way, as well as picking up the wrath of traditionalists who denounced it as a departure from the established Sunni and Shia schools. The descendants of the Awlia (plural of Valis) used their ancestor’s reputation and spiritual capital to increase their economic and social power and ensure continuity of the mystical tradition. All along the Muslim lands from Arabia to Central Asia and the current and former Ottoman territories, groups were formed along tribal and ethnic lines to establish Sufi orders in different regions to promote the teachings of popular Sufi orders.

Each Sufi order developed a different devotional way which was led by a religious scholar who was learned in the Quran and Hadith to ensure that the order remained rooted in Islam. The Sufis have many streams (Silsilas or Tareeqas) which are named after various teachers. In Turkiye the most well know Sufi traditions are those of Ibn Al Arabi and Mevlana Rum. In other Turkic regions and former Ottoman territories in Central Asia and the Middle east, as well as in Southwest Asia, the Sufi tradition is extraordinarily strong. The various Sufi orders comprise, among others, Suharwardiya, Tijani, Chistiya which originated in Herat, Afghanistan, Qadiriya which originated in Baghdad, Qadiriya-Budshishiyya which originated in Morocco, Khatmiya, Khaniqahi, Idrissiya which originated in Hadramawt, Yemen, Naqshbandiya which originated in Central Asia, Subud which originated in Indoenesia, Nimatullahi which originated in Iran, and Rene Guenon Sufi movement which originated in France.

The Sufis place great emphasis on the glorification of Allah by tongue and by heart (Zikr) which is a means to linking the earthy self to the divine being and seeking spiritual nourishment. Sufis use parables from the lives of saints (Hikayaat) to highlight the frailty of human nature but at the same time its capacity to perform miracles and reach spiritual heights through piety and submission to God. They also illustrate the oneness of nature and the place of human consciousness in the universe. Sufis do not always practice the etiquettes of worship ostensibly and instead concentrate more on the discipline of the inner self. For this reason, Salafis call them deviants.

Sufi Islam follows the interpretation of Sunni jurisprudence, but it is also open to all sects of Islam. Modern Sufism with an international network of Sufis, masters and devotees is stronger today compared to the past where it was confined to geographical boundaries of different Tareeqas and Dervish’s Inns. Their annual gatherings with their traditional ways of approaching religious doctrines have resulted in large scale conversions to Islam. The Sufi school provides an Islamic religious landscape and key for obtaining an accurate picture of the diversity of Islam comprising different trends, sects and organisations.

The major writers of the Quranic exegesis (Tafseer) in the Sufi school are: Al-Sulami, Al-Qashir, Ibn Arabi, Ismail Haqi, Ibn Ajaiba, Al-Jeelani, Ahmad bin Umar, Makki bin Abu Talib.

The Alawi sect was founded by Imam Mohammad ibn Nusayr al Bakri al Numeiri in Iraq in the 9th century whom the Twelvers considered an imposter. Followers of the Alawi faith are found in Syria and Lebanon. It combines many features of Abrahamic religions, as well as some elements of Zoroastrian faith. They do not believe in halal or haram or laws of Islamic inheritance. Due to their philosophical approach to theology, they resemble the Sufis. In addition to belief in the Quran and the five pillars of Islam, the Alawis believe in the trinity of Allah, Mohammad, and Ali. To the Alawis Ali as the human form of God on earth. The divinity of Ali means he is the perfect example of a human and a gate to divine knowledge. The Alawis pray in private houses, but they do not pray five-times a day. They also do not perform Haj. Alawis fast in Ramadan and observe the fast on speech. The Alawis of Syria are divided in two groups, Khassa meaning the initiated ones and Aamma meaning the laity. Alawis observe the Eid Al Ghadeer on 18 Dul Haj, the day when the Prophet approved Ali as his successor.

The Alawis include Khizr, Socrates and Plato in their prophets. They also believe in the cycle of transmigration of souls from human to animal (for bad souls) and to perfect humans (for good souls). Due to their historic persecution, they have developed the principle of Taqiya to prevent their genocide. Imam Ibn Teymiyah called the Alawis non-Muslims, as did orthodox Shias, but the Twelvers do not consider them outside Islam.

The annual festival of Hidirellez marking the arrival of spring is observed in Turkiye on 6 May every year. It is believed that on this day prophets Khizr and Ilyas met on earth. People gather in different parts of the country to celebrate the day with a bonfire, feasting on lamb meat and dancing. They also write down their wishes on a piece of paper and tie it to a rose branch in the belief that these will come true. The event has pagan roots and is also celebrated in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Bulgaria, Crimea and the Balkans and has lost its religious significance.

The Alevis are the Turkic branch of Arab Alawis but they slightly differ from them in religious beliefs and practices. Alevis are concentrated in the Southeast regions of Turkiye and are not Arabs. They do not believe in the transmigration of souls. They are divided into two groups, the Ocaks and Talips. The Ocaks are on a higher spiritual level than the Talips. Alevis do not pray five times a day nor perform Haj, nor observe fasting during the month of Ramadan but they fast during the ten days of Muharram. They call their prayer halls Cem Evi. Their prayers are open to both men and women and are presided over by a religious elder called Dede. At the end of the congregation, the devotees perform a dance which is called Semah, accompanied by a traditional instrument called the Saz. The Alevis do not believe in Zakat, but they have a system of voluntary collections to help the poor. Alevism allows the consumption of pork and alcohol.

At the centre of their worship is the troika of Allah, Mohammad and Ali. They also believe in the twelve Imams and Pirs who trace their lineage to the prophet. They observe the nights of mourning in Muharram and accept the doctrine of Taveel and Tabarra espoused in the Shia school. The Alevis follow the custom of the brotherhood of the affiliate (Musahip) and are loyal to their traditions and customs. They use a square house for their religious ceremonies. Alevism is based on lineage. Those whose ancestors are not Alevi cannot become Alevis.

Bektashi Order
The Bektashi order takes its name from the Sufi scholar Haji Bektash Veli who was born in Khorasan, Iran but moved to Anatolia where he studied Sufism and lived in the 13th century. Although they started as a Sufi Sunni order, they adopted the theology of the Shia school, including veneration to Ali and the twelve Imams. Haji Bektash introduced his teachings to the people living in the Christian areas of the Balkans during the reign of Ottoman Sultans. When Bektashi order was banned in Turkiye in 1826 it became a secret sect. When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned all sects in 1925, Bektashis joined Alevis. They also moved from Turkiye and set up their headquarter in Tirana, Albania in 1929. However, their religious freedoms were not fully restored in East Europe until 1990.

The Bektashi order permits the use of alcohol and does not force its followers to observe segregation between men and women, nor does it require Bektashi women to wear hijab. Their worship places are called Tekke. These worship places have domes but not minarets. The Bektash bury their religious elders (Babas) in the graveyard attached to the Tekke. The spiritual head of the Order is given the title of Dedebaba. The Bektashis do not have a sacred text to follow but rely on the writings of Haji Bektash, in particular his Velayetnaame, which contains the rituals and traditions of Bektashism. The Order emphasises on peace, love and tolerance.
Due to its liberal approach, the Bektashi order was embraced by the Jannissary corps of the Ottoman empire and by the local population in Albania and other parts of Turkiye where Islam had replaced Christianity and people were confused as to which religion they should follow.
It is easy to become a Bektashi by applying to the Derwish Lodge and confess at the induction ceremony. Bektashis recognise only Haji Bektash as their Pir. Although their beliefs and traditions are similar to the Alevis, they cannot convert into Alevi sect.

The Kizilbash meaning ‘red head people’ made up a militant group of seven tribes from Anatolia, Iranian Azerbaijan, Crimea, Syria and the caucuses who were instrumental in the establishment of Safavid dynasty in the 15th CE. They were initially Sunnis but they became followers of Shaykh Hayder of the Safavid Order and converted to Twelvers. The Kizilbash followed a political and religious ideology which included beliefs form Mutazila and Ismailiya theology, including belief in the Batiniya, the inner meaning. They subsequently joined the Alevi and Bektashi orders. The Shia school called them Ghulat, meaning transgressors.

The issue of whether Alevism, Bektashism and Kizilbash Bektashi-Alevism are religions independent from Islam or they are Sufi sects connected to Islam has been debatable among scholars. Turkish society accepts them as Sufi sects which preserve Turkish identity and nationalism and reflect the diversity of Turkiye in the beliefs, traditions and customs of people. They have seen that the bans of 1826 and 1925 only pushed these sects into becoming secret orders, even though their popularity receded into small pockets. Turkiye does not want these sects to close their doors to mainstream Islam and engage with it.

In Turkiye Sufism has found a permanent home after Islam was introduced to the Turkoman people in Anatolia many centuries ago. It was reinforced by the Mamluk, Safavid and the Ottomans. In the early years, Islam was spread by Dervish sheikhs who also fulfilled many social, economic and cultural roles in addition to teaching religion to the people. The Ottoman rulers found these Dervish useful and gave them endowments to support their livelihood. But it also resulted in many diverse religious beliefs establishing their stronghold with the local populations. While the central lands of Islam benefited from the Arab and Iranian religious traditions, the nomadic tradition and lack of government access to far-flung areas allowed other esoteric ideas and practices to grow and consolidate in distinct Sufi sects. This resulted in Sufi Islam generally following Sunni and Shia traditions but also introducing pantheist beliefs, condemned practices and a refusal to obey some religious orders. Today, Sunni Hanafi school occupies a major place in Turkiye’s Sufi Islam and the ideas of Ibn Arabi, Mevlana Rum and Yunus Emre have contributed to its strong ideological foundation.


Part IV: Ibadi Islam  


Ibadi Islam has its origin in the civil disorders (fitan) that took place in the Islamic state that succeeded the Prophet. The first fitna was a civil war that followed the murder of the third Caliph Utman by Egyptian rebels which resulted in the battle of Jamal in 36 AH in Basra, Iraq, between the forces of the fourth Caliph Ali against those of Prophet’s wife Aisha, and Talha and Zubair. The rebels were subdued but they maintained the position that Ali should have given priority to apprehending the murderers of Uthman and brought them to justice. The second fitna was the battle of Siffeen in 37 AH which was fought between the forces of Ali and the Governor of Syria, Muawiya who had refused to acknowledge the caliphate of Ali until such time Uthman’s murderers had been caught and punished. These battles divided the Quraish into two groups, namely supporters of Banu Hashim and Ali on the one hand, and supporters of Banu Umayyah and Muawiya on the other hand. Thes fitn had deeper ramifications for the later generations of Muslims.

The Ibadis first started as an offshoot of Al Khawarij who were unhappy with Ali’s agreement to arbitration on the third Calip’s assassination and considered it a departure from Islamic law. But in the two battles that followed they took a position of Braa meaning disassociation or withholding friendship rather than outright hostility with either side. Their position on the fitna was “no judgement but God’s”. The unfolding crisis led to Ibadis leaving Kufa and Basra and going to Iraq, Oman, Yemen, North Africa, Zanzibar and Swahili speaking belt in East Africa. Ibadism gradually became a separate sect in Islam, with emphasis on a just ruler.

The first theologian of Ibadism was Abd Allah bin Ibad al Murra al Tamimi. The main founder of Ibadism was, however, his successor Jabir bin Zayd al Azdi. Ibadi teachings embrace both Sunni and Shia traditions and accommodate various Muslim groups. They are also tolerant toward Christians and Jews. Ibadis believe that it is not necessary for the ruler of Muslims to belong to the Quraish tribe of Arabia or belong to the family of the Prophet. They believe it is desirable nut not necessary for the Muslim Ummah to have one single ruler. If such a leader is not available on merit, the Muslim community should rule themselves. Ibadis believe that the first four Caliphs after the Prophet were just rulers.

On theology Ibadis adopt the position of the Mutaliza with clear exceptions. They believe that Quran is a creation of God and not an attribute of His manifestation. They reject literal interpretation of all anthropomorphic descriptions of God. They deny the possibility of any human seeing God in this life and in the hereafter. They also reject the existence of external attributes of God that are distinct from His essence. Ibadis reject the intercession of the Prophet on behalf of grave sinners for rescue from hellfire which is eternal. Ibadis do not take an intermediate position between Imaan and Kufr but have a position on two types of Kufr, one for the monotheists who commit grave sins and are ungrateful to God, and another position for the polytheists who associate partners with God. Ibadis share the philosophy of pre-destination with the Al-Ashaari, that God is the creator of all human acts and is omniscient and omnipotent.
Ibadis believe that only Ibadi Muslims will enter paradise. A person who is not Ibadi Muslim will enter hellfire where he will stay forever, no matter how kind, pious and good person he is. However, contemporary Ibadi scholars downplay this belief and assert that it is a matter for God to decide on the day of Judgement. They treat non Ibadi Muslims with courtesy and honour and call them Ahlul Qibla and allow them to offer congregational prayers in their mosques. This moderation may be the result of their exposure to several Islamic movements and in particular Shaafi faith to which they were exposed in Zanzibar and other parts of Africa.

Ibadis place great emphasis on justice and a just Muslim ruler. The believe that Sharia rule is the only way for government legitimacy. For several centuries Ibadis did not pray Friday prayers because they considered that the Islamic ruler of the time for whom a special Dua was made a part of the Friday sermon, was not a just ruler. In Ibadi madhab, hostile action is reserved only for an unjust ruler who fails to mend his corrupt ways or refuses to relinquish power. Ibadis also make a distinction between Kufr-e-Ne’ma and Kufr-e-Shirk. The first type of Kufr is associated with a Muslim who commits a major sin and does not repent. Unlike the Al-Khawarij, they do not consider such a Kafir an apostate and deserving of death penalty. For them, such Kafir are ungrateful monotheists who are in denial of the Ne’ma or kindness and blessings of God, who merits worship without associating any partners with Him. On the other hand, non-Muslims are regarded as Kafir who commit Kufr-e-Shirk by associating partners with God. Ibadi laws allow certain dealings with a non-Ibadi Muslim which it does not allow with a polytheist, such as contracting marriage, eating their slaughtered animals, exchanging greetings, accepting witness statements, offering the obligatory five times prayers and attending funeral prayers,
In prayers, Ibadis pray like Shias and Malikees with dropping their hands down on sides when standing in Qiyam. However, in general Ibadism is closer to Sunni rituals and traditions. They do not say Ameen loudly after Fateha in the loudly recited prayers. They also do not recite the Qunut in the pre-dawn prayer. They believe that Friday prayers should be held in large congregations in cities where justice prevails. In the Ibadi school, the ruler is choses by the elders of the community, but he can also be deposed if he is a tyrannical leader.

The major writers of the Quranic exegesis (Tafseer) in the Ibadi school are: Jabir bin Zayd, Abd Al-Raman bin Rustam, Yusuf Atfayish, Al-Khalili, Abdu Wahhab, Houd bin Muhakkam, Abu Awari, Abu Yakub Yusuf, Ibrahim Bahman, Said bin Ahmad Al-Kindi, Muhammad bin Sulayman Adrisu.

Part V: Non Conformist Islam  

This sect was active around 40 AH. They initially supported Ali ibn Abi Talib but became an extremist group following the murder of the third Caliph Uthman which resulted in the division of the Muslim community into two camps. Al-Khawarij claimed that Ali should not have agreed to arbitration between himself and Muawiyah who was the leader of the Banu Umayyah clan of Makkah in the battle of Siffeen. They also believed on the excommunication of Muslims on major sins and called them infidels and polytheists, deserving the death penalty. Al-Khawarij accused Ali and his followers of disregarding the injunctions of Islamic justice and becoming apostates. They also denounced all those involved in the arbitration in Siffeen as unbelievers. They were expelled from Islam because of their extreme views and violent ideology.

The sect was named after its founder Hassan Sabbah who was one of the most influential Dai’s (missionaries) of the Ismailiya sect. His success resulted in Hassan Sabbah raising a force of Hashasheen and spreading terror in areas where Ismailiya faith was not observed. He took over the citadel of Alamut from its Christian king and turned Alamut into an outpost of Fatmid rule within the Abbasid empire. He devised a way to murder and plunder non-Ismailiya scholars and personalities through the ruthless Hashasheen. After the imprisonment of the 19th Ismailiya Imam Nizar by his younger brother Mustaali, Hassan Sabbah gave refuge to his son Ali Al Hadi. When Imam Hassan II became the Sabbai Imam, he announced the Qiyama, starting a new era, in which the spiritual meaning of the religion could be practiced openly without following the Sharia. He prayed with his back to Makkah and ordered his followers to break their Ramadan fast with a feast at noon. Alamut was destroyed in 1256 AH. After the fall of the Fatimid Empire, the Sabbais dispersed, and their sect became extinct.

The Gharabiyah were extremist Rafidahs who believed that Allah sent arch angel Jibraeel to Ali with the divine revelation, but Jibraeel made an error of judgement and instead gave the revelation to Muhammad who resembled Ali in physical features. The Gharabiyah were denounced by the Shias as non-Muslims.

The Qarmata emerged toward the end of 3rd century AH when the Islamic Ummah suffered division and fragmentation. They were an offshoot of Ismailiya sect. Their supporters came from social groups that grew up in the desert, practiced a Bedouin lifestyle, and were unhappy with the political leaders whom they considered corrupt and deviants. The Qarmata initially started from Kufa but for two centuries they were able to expand their influence over Syria, Khorasan, Multan, Sindh and Bahrain. Their founder, Hamdan Ashasb Qaramat combined theology with politics and claimed that the central government should be elected from the opposition and from the family of the Prophet. They rejected the customs of the society and demanded strict adherence to their own revolutionary norms by their followers. Although the sect was religiously motivated to bring justice and truth and eliminate the privileged classes, it was characterised by conservatism, cultural backwardness, bigotry, intolerance, scant regard for fundamental freedoms of individuals and exclusivity. In 312 AH the Qarmata gathered around Abul Fadl at Isfahan and claimed him as their Mahdi and rampaged across the Middle East which culminated with a violent attack on the Kaaba and taking away the sacred black stone (Hajr-e-Aswad) to Bahrain under their leader Abu Tahir Sulaiman ibn Hasan Jannabi. Later, they changed their Qibla from the Kaaba in Makkah to fire, which is a Zoroastrian symbol of God. The sacred stone was returned by the Qarmatians 23 years later. The Qarmata were eventually defeated by the Abbasids. They were denounced by the Shia school as non-Muslims.

Followers of the Druze sect are concentrated in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. The Druse are an extreme off shoot of Ismailiya sect. They broke up in the early 11th century under the leadership of Hamza Ibn Ali ibn Ahmad. The Druze were patronised and actively supported in Egypt by the 6th Fatimid Caliph, Abu Ali Al Mansoor, better known by his title as Hakim bi Amr Allah. Hakim was also the 16th Ismailiya Imam. It is said that Hamza exploited the weakness of the Fatmid Caliph to be recognised as the awaited Mahdi. Hamza preached that he was not only divine but the Lord Himself on earth. The Druze believed that Hamza had no father and no son and neither ate nor drank because of his divine character.

The Druze also considered Imam Ismail bin Jafar as a prophet. In 1035 AH Hakim died in mysterious circumstances at the age of 36. However, the Druze claimed that he had disappeared and his disappearance was a punishment from God for the sins of those who disobeyed his command and refused to join Din Al Towheed. The religious beliefs of the Druze gradually began to turn away from Islam. They stopped observing obligatory prayers, fasting in Ramdan or performing the annual pilgrimage to Makkah. In addition to the Quran, the Druze also believe in the Old and New Testaments and made use of Taweel for allegorical interpretation of biblical parables and texts. According to Druze teachings, anyone who did not believe in the manifestation of the spirit of God in the body of Hadi (Towheed) whether Muslim or non-Muslim should pay Jazya, or the Dhimmi tax.

The Druze believe that on death, the sole of the departed Druze person is reincarnated in a living Druze corpus, and this will continue till the end of time when all souls will be reunited with the spirit of God. They believe in five cosmic virtues represented by a five-point coloured star. In this cosmic symbol, the green colour represents intelligence or reason, the red colour represents the soul, the yellow colour represents the world, the blue colour represents a binding precedent in law, and the white colour represents immanence of God as knowable, perceivable and someone who could be experienced.

According to the Druze belief, these five virtues took the shape of five spirits which were reincarnated on earth in different eras as prophets and philosophers. The Druze belief in good and evil is illustrated by these five virtues. Together with their opposites these take the shape of good and bad people to guide humanity to the true path to God or lead them away to the path of darkness.

The Druze do not allow conversion. They say the door of Tawhid was closed in 434 AH at the time of their Imam Baha al Din who wanted to protect Druze law and its followers from deviation. The Druze support this concept with the theory of reincarnation within the Druze community, as all souls had the opportunity to accept Tawhid when it was announced. Due to their belief in reincarnation and departure from the fundamentals of Islam, the Druze are not considered Muslims.

The Mahdi
Mahdism was founded in 1881 in Sudan by Muhammad Ahmad ibn As Sayyid Abdallah who proclaimed himself to be the awaited Mahdi, a messenger of God and representative of the Prophet. He claimed that he was sent to pave the way for the second coming of Jesus. He urged his followers to follow a simple puritanical lifestyle to return to the true spirit of Islam. Mahdism was also a reaction to the Sufi orders which had taken roots in Sudan’s Sunni majority. Sayyid Abdallah succeeded in raising an army from among his supporters and defeated the British who were administering Sudan through a Turko-Egyptian government. After the capture of Khartoum in 1885 from the British, Sayyid Abdallah established a Madhi state in Sudan.

Although he lived for only six months after his victory, his successor Mohammad Abdullahi ruled Sudan for the next twelve years. In 1898 the British recaptured Sudan and placed it under a joint British-Egyptian rule. Sayyid Abdallah’s supporters and members of his family continued to lead popular resistance against the British from the mountains. They had political ambitions which took precedence over Abdallah’s religious mission. In 1926, Sayyid Abdallah’s son Abd Al Rahman Al Mahdi was instructed by the British to withdraw his agents from the mountainous areas of Darfur, Kordovan and Nuba, and stop collecting Zakat. Gradually, the Mahdi influence waned in Sudan and the movement dried up in the 1970s. Sayyid Abdallah failed to secure the support of the rest of the Muslim world to his claim of being the promised Mahdi.

Ansaaru Allah Community of Brooklyn
Influenced by Mahdism in Sudan, an African-American, Dr Dwight York, claimed that he was a direct descendent (grandson) of the Nubian Mahdi in New York. In 1973 he established an organisation by the name of Ansaaru Allah Community in Brooklyn and started to give away pamphlets and small books about his interpretation of Islam. His followers used the themes of black nationalism, quest for true Islam and need for moral reform to recruit new members. However, he preached at a time when two other Muslim black civil rights organisations, the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple of America were also active in the Afro-American religious community. Appealing to the Afro-American Muslims of the US, he said that Prophet Muhammad was black. He predicted the apocalypse in 2000. He devised ways to popularise his message by appealing to a wider section of the Afro-American population. He welcomed the Caribbean blacks to his community with playing steel drums. He took the Hebrew title of Lion of Judah for himself to attract the Rastafarians. He also appealed to women by asking them to throw away their veil and modest clothing. He permitted them to wear shorts and preach in mosques. When the Sunni Muslim scholar Bilal Phillips confronted his heretic ideas, he became critical of orthodox Sunni Muslims. Suspecting that he might be killed by his opponents, he denounced all Muslims in 1992. A year later he moved with his small community to a farm in Georgia and adopted the tribal title of Maku, meaning Chief Black Eagle. None of the Muslim groups in America accepted his claims and his strange packaging of Islam.

Nation of Islam
The Nation of Islam (NOI) was born in the black ghettos of Michigan in the US as an expression of defiance of the poor and illiterate black Americans against their former white masters. In many ways the NOI resonated the American civil rights movement. Its founder, Wallace D Fard, was a travelling salesman whose silk trade took him to Makkah. On return to Detroit in 1930 he became the preacher of a weird theory of creation. He claimed that in the beginning there was nothing but darkness, and the one supreme God was black who chose the form of a man. He claimed that the world was run by 24 black scientists but one of them, Yakub, rebelled against God, and created blue eyed white men who were devils. God gave the devils a limited time to rule on earth and by the turn of the century black Americans would unite as Muslims under the NOI, which was their original religion in Africa before they were taken as slaves. He also claimed that he was God incarnate on earth.

After Fard’s mysterious disappearance in 1934, his protégé Elijah Mohammad took over the leadership of NOI. He was a fire brand orator of black emancipation and claimed himself to be a prophet of God who was sent to the black Americans just as Prophet Muhammad was sent to the Arabs. Under Elijah Mohammad, the NOI became popular among the black Americans. Elijah Mohammad also brought Malcolm X, boxer Mohamad Ali and musician Louis (Abdul Haleem) Farkhan to join the NOI. The members of the movement called themselves Muslims, took Shahada and adopted a Muslim name. They were forbidden from clubbing, adultery, gambling, smoking, eating pork and drinking alcohol. But they called their places of worship Temples and did not believe in angels, the day of resurrection and the finality of Prophet Muhammad.

Following the death of Elijah Mohammad in 1975, his son Warith Deen Mohammad took over the leadership of the movement. He repudiated the founding beliefs of the NOI and asked his followers to practice the fundamental tenets of Sunni Islam. In 1976, Warith Deen Mohammad changed the name of NOI to World Community of Al-Islam in the West. In 1981 it was renamed as American Muslim Mission and in 1984 as American Society of Muslims. This resulted in a split resulting in a minority group sticking with the movement’s original black supremacist philosophy under the leadership of Louis Farkhan. In 1977 Farkhan claimed back the name of Nation of Islam for his splinter group together with its original ideology. Farkhan became popular in the US because of his association with black politicians and other Muslim African leaders. After 25 years, in 2000, Farkhan moved his NOI closer to the American Society of Muslims and reconciled with Warith Deen Mohammad. The two leaders recognised each other as fellow Muslims. The former NOI members now observe Muslim traditions in performing the obligatory prayers, fasting in Ramadhan, performing Haj and giving Zakat. A small hardcore faction of NOI which believes in black supremacist ideology is fast depleting. Its members are increasingly joining the mainstream Sunni Islam in the US, the land where NOI was born.

Moorish Science Temple of America
The Moorish Science Temple was a peculiar sect of Islam which was proclaimed in Chicago by an American African Timothy Drew Ali in 1928. He claimed that he was a reincarnation of Jesus and all other prophets. He also claimed that according to the holy Quran of the Moorish Science Temple of America which he called circle 7, there is no negro or black or coloured race and all men are born equal. Being black has nothing to do with race but status. Other Muslims from Arab, Turkic and Asian lands were brothers prepared for a life on this earth by Allah, Jesus and Mohammad. The white people invented Christianity in the hope of salvation. He claimed that African Americans were undeclared Moroccans who were descendants of the Muslim Moors. He told his followers that in order to free themselves from abuse and mistreatment and get accepted by the mainstream Americans and whites, they would need to take an oath of Moorish American identity which would give them equal rights according to an existing Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed between Morocco and the US in 1786. The Moorish Science Temple issued its members with an ID passport bearing the words: Allah and Islam and the symbols of crescent and Circle 7. The cards also read: “I am a citizen of the USA. Noble Drew Ali, the ‘Prophet’.

Members of the Moorish Science Temple carried the title Brother and their names ended with the suffix Bey. At their annual convention in Chicago most of them wear the Moroccan red cap, Fez, and the Moroccan five-point star. They abstain from pork and alcohol and observe Ramadan in the month of October. Their women wear ahead gear like African women and dress modestly.

The Moorish temple went through several phases after Drew Ali’s death and was dormant for many years during the rise of Nation of Islam. However, it has resurfaced again claiming that the Moorish Temple Quran is no different from the Muslim Quran. However due to their belief that Drew Ali was a prophet, the Moorish Temple has struggled to be recognised as a legitimate Muslim sect, and is seen as a black American civil rights movement.

The Ahmadiyya Movement originated in Qadiyan, British India, in the last decade of the 1800s. The founder of the Ahmadiyya religion, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad started his career as an articulate Sunni orthodox preacher and writer. In 1890 CE, he started claiming that he was receiving constant communication from God in the form of dreams, Ilham and Wahi. In late 1890 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad disagreed with the traditional Muslim doctrine of ascension of Jesus to the heavens and his return to earth closer to the end of time. He also denied the physical nature of angels. A few years later, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed that he was the promised Messiah, and that his coming had fulfilled the prophesy about the second coming of Jesus toward the end of time.

The Ahmadiyya make a distinction between the messenger of Allah Mohammad, peace be upon him, and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who was not given a separate divine book or law by Allah but was sent to reform Islam of its corrupt practices and reinterpret the Quran and the Islamic Sharia law as revealed to Prophet Mohammad. For them, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is a Nabi like Prophet Isa, who was sent many years after Prophet Musa to reinterpret the Torah and reaffirm the Judo-Christian divine law. The Ahmadiyya believe in the holy Quran’s monotheistic dogma, but they say that the obligation of Jihad in the Quran stands abolished, and that anyone who does not accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet of Allah is a kafir (non-believer). Some Ahmadiyya rank their leader higher than Prophet Muhammad. The Ahmadiyya are divided into two groups: the London-based Qadiani group and Pakistan-based Lahori group who differ on the criteria of choosing their caliphs after Ghulam Ahmad’s death. They also have differences on the role of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a reformer and a prophet.

Because of their rejection of the fundamental Muslim belief that Prophet Muhammad is the last and final prophet of Allah, and there will be no messenger or Nabi after him till the end of time, all the remaining Muslim schools consider Ahmadiyya as non-Muslims. On their part, the Ahmadiyya believe that only they are true Muslims, and anyone who does not believe in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is not a real Muslim. They also do not participate in the funeral prayers of non-Ahmadiyya Muslims and do not give their daughters in marriage to non-Ahmadiyya men. The Ahmadiyya strongly propagate their religion through their global missionary offices and have increased their followership in the US, Europe and Africa.
The Ahmadiyya have also established a global auxiliary organisation by the name of Ansarullah which is for men of 40 years and over to become helpers in the cause of Allah.

Al-Baab Movement
The Al-Baab or Shaykhi Movement began in Iran in 1257 AH. Its founder Sayed Ali Muhammad Shirazi took the title of Al-Baab in 1844 CE and declared himself to be a divine prophet. He was executed by the Iranian authorities in 1850 CE for his heretic ideas. His followers came to be known as Al-Babis who later joined the Bhai faith.

The Bahai faith originated in 1863 CE tracing its validity to the claim of Sayed Ali Muhammad who took the title of Al-Baab and foretold the coming of a messenger after him who will prepare humanity for the new age and will be greater than himself. One of Al-Baab’s disciples Mirza Husayn Ali became famous in Tehran for propagating Baabist ideas and was exiled for 40 years first to Baghdad and then to Turkiye and Israel under the Ottomans. Mirza Husayn Ali proclaimed to be the manifestation of God sent to inaugurate the age of peace and enlightenment as promised in all the world’s religions. During his long exile Mirza Husayn Ali gave himself the title of Bahaullah and wrote around 100 books and pamphlets in which he described the nature of God and the purpose of human existence, gave new laws and outlined his vision for creating a peaceful and purposeful global society. After his death in 1892, Bahauallah was succeeded by his son and after his death in 1921, by his grandson. After his grandson’s death in 1957 the hereditary line of Bahai succession ended. The shrines of Bahaullah and Al-Baab are in Haifa, Israel.

Although the Bahais never claimed to be Muslims, Bahaullah applied the theology of Ismailiya school to expound on his religion’s message of unity of all faiths. The Bahais and their predecessor Al-Babis introduced Western ideas in a Muslim society and used the symbols of faith such as calling themselves messengers of God to challenge and replace the tenets of Islamic Sharia law practiced by the Muslim community. The Bahais declared Tahiri, a venerated poet and proponent of women’s rights in Iran as a martyr after she was charged for removing her veil in defiance of Islam at a Bahai conference in 1848 in Badesht and was sentenced to death for her heretic beliefs. Bahais call their House of Worship Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, which means “a dawning place for the mention of God.”

Yazidis are not Muslims, but their religion has many features common to Islam. Yazidism combines Christian, Islamic and Zoroastrian traditions. Its followers live in Northern Iraq, Northern Syria, Southeastern Turkiye, Armenia and Georgia. Yazidis are strictly endogamous and monotheist. They dress like traditional Arabs. Yazidi founder was a an Ummayad Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir in 5th century AH, who lived in Basra, Iraq. Yazidis believe in a caste system which supports their belief in reincarnation. Their three castes are Murids, Sheikhs and Pirs. Every Yazidi is expected to make a pilgrimage to Lalish at least once in his lifetime where their religious leader Adi ibn Musafir is buried. Yazidis believe that God created the universe seven thousand years ago and assigned seven angels to look after its affairs. These angels were Melek Taus, Gabrail, Mikhail, Rafail, Dadrail, Azrafil and Shemnail. Their leader was Melek Taus. Each angel was assigned a different function but Melek Taus disobeyed God at some point and was punished. Melek Taus repented so much for his sin that his tears extinguished the hellfire. God forgave Taus and sent him to earth as His representative. Unlike the Christians and Muslims who have their own version of the fall of Iblis, the Yezidis have both the fall and redemption of Iblis in the form of Melek Taus and worship him as the restored angel and representative of God on earth.

Yezidis offer organised prayers on Wednesdays and Sundays. They pray to Melek Taus five times a day before a fire or sun which are symbols of light as a manifestation of God. Alcohol is not forbidden in Yezidi religion, but they do not eat pork. Yezidi children are baptised like Christians and their male children are circumcised like Muslims. The elements of fire, water, air and earth are sacred for the Yezidis. As in other enclosed faiths, it is not possible to convert to Yezidism. A Yezidi is only born into his caste from his Yezidi parents. Marriage outside the community is prohibited. Yezidis believe that the punishment of death penalty can restore the lost honour. Due to their mixed religious traditions from Abrahamic and Zoroastrian faiths, the Yezidis are often identified as a separate religion.

The origin of Shabak or Shabale is unknown as is their ethnic origin and mother tongue. It appears that they were the remnants of the militant Kizilbash who dispersed after the fall of the Safavids and to avoid persecution joined the Alevis and Bektashis in the Ottoman Empire. They moved to Northen Iraq and the area around Mosul in 1890s to avoid the Hanafi madhab. The Shabak believe in the trinity of Allah, Mohmmad and Ali. Their holy book is called Kitab Al-Manakib. They are guided by a spiritual leader called the Pir, who is assisted by a Rehbar to carry out all worship services. The Pir also acts as an intermediary between the divine power and ordinary Shabak. The Head of the Pirs is called Baba. The Shabak observe three holy occasions: Christmas and New Year, Ashura and the Night of Pardon. In the Night of Pardon, they make confessions for their sins. They also consume alcohol and make pilgrimage to the shrines of saints. For their peculiar beliefs and religious practices, they are regarded as another Ghulat group in Shia Islam.

Other esoteric cults
There are many mystery religions or other esoteric groups that fall outside the definition of Islam despite their similarity to some Sufi orders and their followers living in Islamic countries. These are notably Mandaeans, Ishikis, Yarsanis and animists.


Part VI: Conclusion 


The area comprising the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Central Asia, Turkiye and the Balkan region has been home to many ethnic and religious groups and cultural civilisations with variations in demography, languages and historical backgrounds. With such a rich variety it is natural to have multiple religious practices and interpretations of Islam, as well as other faiths. Indeed, to expect the opposite is to undermine human ingenuity and intellect.

In Islam sectarianism has roots in its history concerning issues of rightful religious authority and eligible political leadership combining both the divine order and popular consultation. While the Sunnis have found a way of reconciling with the status quo, and Sufis and Ibadis have abstained from taking a clear position, the Shias have struggled to assert Ali’s rightful role that was denied to him for 25 years from the demise of the Prophet in 11 AH until his becoming the leader of the Muslim Ummah in 36 AH. After the death of the 5th Caliph, a further denial of the right of the family of the Prophet to provide the next ruler occurred when leadership was retained in the House of Umayyah following the martyrdom of Hussain in the battle of Karbala in 61 AH.

Another factor that contributed to the rise of various sects and movements in Islam was the notion of Asabiyah (nationalism) and Qawmiyah (tribalism). Instead of following the Quranic commandment to hold fast to the rope of Allah and become one, the Ummah got divided along linguistic, ethnic, and tribal affiliations. Some of the sects in Shia Islam came into being not on the application of jurisprudence but on the line of succession of their Imams and occultation.

Just as Islam’s challenge in the early years of its expansion came from Greek and Roman philosophy and Persian and Byzantine civilisations, which was repeated in colonial times when western values threatened Islamic traditions and resulted in many indigenous but uncoordinated revivalist movements offering different options and interpretations, including several claims of the return of the Madhi, the current challenge to Islam is from the erosion of moral and ethical values and fundamental beliefs and traditions in modern times. Many sects emerged in an attempt to reconcile Islam with rationalism or reject their fusion in order to keep the original Islam intact. Similarly, many new sects and movements may still emerge to answer the difficult questions of our contemporary times. The era of sects and movements has not ended yet.

An even bigger challenge to Islam is from within rather than from the outside. Extremism and secessionist trends caused much damage to the unity of the Ummah. Militant Islam did not serve Islam and even hurt those movements which were peaceful and persuasive in their approach to Dawa and promotion of Islam. On the other hand, there are several examples of sects and schools which were persecuted by the state or by the majority of one school, but these did not disappear. They only dispersed and closed the door for engagement. It is therefore important to celebrate the diversity of the Muslim Ummah instead of contrasting one sect with another and attempt to judge them. Afterall, the Hadith of the Prophet regarding the 73 sects tells us that the truth will be revealed by Allah on the Day of Judgement.

Many bells resonate in Islam’s history of sects and groups which are an outcome of their historical circumstances, but before we endeavour to become critical of those bells, we should also remember that those bells can also toll for us by our coming generations.


Suggested Reading  

Sedgwick, Mark (2000) Sects in the Islamic World, https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1599411/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Abdulmajeed, Adib (2022) Islam and Sectarianism: Major splits and its manifestations https://www.academia.edu/83558947/Islam_and_Sectarianism_The_Major_Split_and_Its_Manifestations
Salahudeen, T. O. and Majeed Musolihu (2016) Examination of sects and sectarianism in Islam https://www.academia.edu/40206021/AN_EXAMINATION_OF_SECTS_AND_SECTARIAN_IN_ISLAMLeezenberg, Michiel (2014) Shabak in Post Saddam Era https://pure.uva.nl/ws/files/2406748/157082_Leezenberg_The_End_of_Heterodoxy.pdf
Ibn Taymiyyah on the Hadith of the 73Sects, by Ssekamanya Abdallah. https://ejournal.um.edu.my.php/afkar/article/download/13232/8358/26044
Ismailiya Beliefs, History and Branches http://www.shiastudy.ir/en/shiite-sects/ismailia/isma-ilism,-beliefs,-history,-branches
The Reign of Hakim bi Amr Allah: A Political Study, PhD Thesis, SOAS, May 1971, https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/28754/1/10672922.pdf
Handbook of Islamic Sects and Movements edited by Afzal Upal and Carole M Cusack, published by Brille, Boston USA https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1599411/FULLTEXT01.pdf
The Experiences of Nations, Volume V by Miskawajhi.
A Brief History of Bahai Faith, Bahai World News Service https://news.bahai.org/media-information/brief-history/
Ghulam Husayn Muharrami, Rifts Within Shiaism https://www.al-islam.org/history-shiism-advent-islam-end-minor-occultation-ghulam-husayn-muharrami/lesson-22-rifts-within
Ibrahim, H. A. (1977). The Development of Economic and political neo Mahdism in the Sudan 1926-1935. Sudan Notes and Records, 58, 44–64. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44947355
Nadhatul Ulama Online, Indonesia https://islam.nu.or.id/
The Fethullah Gulen Movement https://ciaotest.cc.columbia.edu/olj/meria/meria00_arb01.html (DOC) Effective educational philosophy for spreading Islamic education: The Risala-i-Noor perspective. | imam hosain – Academia.edu Risala Noor Collection https://archive.org/details/RisalaNur/TheRays/
Aqilzad, Farhan Raza (2021). Safvid/Qazilbash Empire https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/safvidqazilbash-empire-dowlat-e-qizilbash-her-middle-farhan
Palmer, Susan J. The Ansaaru Allah Community https://brill.com/display/book/9789004435544/BP000044.xml\
Azar, Birol. An evaluation of Alevi Bektashi beliefs in terms of similarities and differences. https://isamveri.org/pdfdrg/D02364/2005_2/2005_2_AZARB.pdf
Yildrim, Riza (2001) Dervishes in early Ottoman Society and Politics. https://repository.bilkent.edu.tr/server/api/core/bitstreams/a3adabe6-3f5b-4ec2-9128-d4115748a93a/content

Similarities between Prophet Musa and Prophet Mohammad

Syed Sharfuddin

We have sent a messenger to you to be your witness, just as We sent a messenger to Pharaoh” [Al-Quran: Surah Al-Muzammil 73:15]

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren like thee (Moses), and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them what I command him.” [Torah, Old Testament, Chapter V, Deuteronomy 18:18].

In comparative religions there has been renewed interest in finding similarities and differences between Prophets Musa, may Allah exalt his mention, and Prophet Muhammad, may Allah shower His blessings and peace upon him. This is due to the commonalities in each prophet’s origin and life, and the fact that their ancestry traces back to Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, from whose progeny originate the three most popular religions in the world. Out of the two dozen prophets mentioned in the Quran, Prophet Musa is mentioned the most (136 times).

In studying the lives of great personalities, including divine prophets, it is natural to draw parallels between their qualities and achievements. For this reason, when Jewish and Christian scholars write about the founders of Abrahamic faiths, they tend to be partial in placing their own prophet on a higher intellectual pedestal in comparison with other prophets. Some Judeo-Christian scholars go the other extreme of denying the divine prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and rejecting Islam as an Abrahamic religion on the grounds that Mohammad’s lineage does not come from the progeny of Ibrahim’s younger son Ishaq and his son Yaqub. They pick out references from the Quran to claim that Muhammad’s God made mistakes and rectified these by cancelling certain verses of the holy Quran and replaced these with newer verses. They say Musa was a learned man, whereas Muhammad was unlettered, or that Musa spoke to God and Muhammad only spoke to Gabriel. They even interpret the prophesy of a later prophet coming after Musa in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:18) as a reference to the coming of Isa, and not Muhammad. They deny the fact that despite being unlettered, Mohammad’s divine message was so eloquent, so convincing and so comprehensive that it was beyond any human’s capacity to talk without God putting these words in his mouth. Mohammad came from the line of Ismail, the elder brother of Ishaq, and therefore was like a brother to Musa. On the other hand, Isa’s lineage cannot be traced to Ishaq because of his holy fatherless birth. Prophet Isa was also not given a Sharia law by Allah as was given to Musa and Muhammad.

It is a double blessing that while the criticism of Muhammad by the deniers of Islam itself falls to ground in its detail, Muslims are forbidden by Allah to find fault with any of the prophets of Allah or draw any comparisons between them or assign them an order of merit. It is one of the fundamental articles of Muslim faith to believe that all prophets of Allah are equal in rank and there is no difference among them. Allah assigned all His messengers a clear mission and sent them to their assigned nations to guide them to the right path. Prophet Musa was sent to challenge the pagan beliefs of the people of Egypt and invite them to worship one God, and free the children of Yakub (Israel) from the bondage of the Pharaoh. Prophet Muhammad was sent to free the people of Arab Peninsula of their pagan practices and liberate them from their inhuman practices and decadent traditions. He succeeded in his mission by shaping a society that later ruled the world and brought enlightenment to the dark ages of human history. However, as Muhammad is the last and final prophet of Allah, his Sharia law is for all humanity till the end of time.

The similarities pointed out between Prophets Musa and Mohammad in this essay are by no means an attempt to establish a ranking of the two great prophets of Islam. It is aimed primarily to show how close these two messengers of Allah are in their mission and message, and how they are described in the Quran.

Both Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them, came from the line of Ibrahim. Musa came from the line of prophets from Ibrahim’s younger son Ishaq and Mohammad came from the line of Ibrahim’s elder son Ismail.

Both Prophets were raised in noble households. While Musa grew up in the Egyptian palace of the Pharaoh, Muhammad grew up in the socially established family of Banu Hashim of Arabia, whose head was the well-respected chief, Abdul Muttalib, and after his death, his son Abu Talib. As children, both Prophets were raised by people who were not their birth parents. Both Prophets lived ordinary lives and for a short time worked as shepherds in their younger years. They got married like ordinary people, had children, were threatened with death for spreading their anti-establishment ideas but prevailed and died natural deaths. Both were forced to flee from their places of birth due to the actions of their community and migrated to new places where they established residence.

Both Prophets received prophethood from God after they had married and socially earned their reputation as honest and trustworthy people. It is noteworthy that the divine revelation came to each of them on a mountain. Musa went to the burning bush on Mount Sinai where he was spoken to by God, and Muhammad went to Mount Hira where he met Gabriel in a cave. Both were sent to ungrateful and unruly nations who disobeyed them after receiving guidance. Musa’s followers broke the rule of Sabbath and took to calf worship in his absence and were condemned to go into exile for 40 years. Muhammad’s followers embraced the very things they were warned against, such as greed for material life, tribal loyalties and taking infidels and polytheists as their friends and well-wishers. Despite being in impressively large numbers they remain ineffective and divided into sects and sub-sects.

In their latter years, both Prophets became religious and political heads of their communities. They were not kings like Prophets Dawood and Suleyman, but they were great political and social reformers. They established a new legal order for their communities and gave them a divine sharia law to follow. They established authority and participated in holy wars against the infidels. Both Prophets were very concerned about their Ummah and prayed to God to forgive their mistakes. It is believed that both Prophets will intercede with God on the day of judgement on behalf of their respective Ummah to forgive them and grant them paradise. 

Both Prophets have the unique distinction of being succeeded by the same Prophet, Isa, son of Maryam. Prophets Musa was followed by Prophet Isa in his first coming from his immaculate birth to the time he was raised to the heaven, and Prophet Muhammad will be followed by the second coming of Prophet Isa closer to the end of time when he will descend from the heaven on a dome of the Grand Mosque of Damascus to kill Dajjal. Both Prophets have been followed by false claimants of prophethood after their demise.

Both Prophets went through a journey of understanding the divine wisdom and appreciating that no divine messenger can claim to have all knowledge except what Allah reveals to him. This is illustrated in Surah Al-Kahaf (Chapter 18) wherein Prophet Muhammad is advised not to undertake to provide an answer to the ‘People of the Book’ on his own when asked about the details of the companions of the cave without invoking the help of Allah and saying Ayn Yasha Allah (18:23-24). Also in the same Surah, Prophet Musa learns that there are things in Allah’s kingdom the answers to which are known only to few selected persons but not him, and he requests Khizr to explain his three actions which Musa could not understood until he was told what they meant. (18:78).

Both Prophets were blamed by their enemies of having some deformity. Prophet Musa was a shy person and used to keep himself fully covered in clothes. Some disbelievers spread the rumor that Musa had some skin disease or hernia. Allah silenced them by causing Musa to be seen naked in perfect condition while he was searching for his clothes after taking a bath. Allah mentions this in the Quran as: “Be not like those who annoyed Musa, but Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, and he was honourable in Allah’s sight (69:1). In another Surah Allah says: “O believers, be not like those who abused Musa; then Allah cleared him of what they say, and he in the sight of Allah was distinguished.” (33:69). The infidels in Makkah also used to level accusations against Prophet Muhammad. They alleged that as a child Muhammad had a spiritual experience which was manifested as epilepsy and that he was possessed by a demon. Allah says in the holy Quran: “The disbelievers almost strike you down with their looks; when they hear the Quran they say, ‘he must be mad’ (68:51). In another place Allah says: “By the grace of your Lord, (O prophet) you are neither an oracle nor a madman” (52:29).

Both Prophets were addressed by Allah differently to help them convey the divine message to their pagan nations. Allah spoke to Musa on the mountain by the burning bush and gave him ten commandments, but He did not reveal Himself to Musa. Allah did not speak to Muhammad directly and sent the holy spirit archangel Gabriel to to convey His divine message to him, but Allah called Muhammad to witness the eternal heavens on a night journey that was faster than the speed of light ((17:1). It is said in the Hadith that in that journey when Prophet Muhammad met Prophet Musa, he was advised by Musa to get the number of daily obligatory prayers reduced by Allah from fifty to five, as Musa was aware that his Ummah had failed to perform the obligatory prayers commanded to them by Allah. Prophet Muhammad was able to get the obligatory prayers reduced to five for his Ummah but with their reward being equal to that of fifty, as Allah’s word never changes. (Book of Hadith Tirmidhi 213). It is no coincidence that  that the verse describing the heavenly journey of Prophet Muhammad in the holy Quran is followed by a verse about Allah giving the Book to Prophet Musa to guide the children of Israel. 

It is said that Prophet Musa performed miracles which the holy Quran confirms but it is alleged that Prophet Mohammad did not perform any miracle. The context of this comparison is incorrect. In the time of Prophet Musa, magic was popular with the Egyptians and its practitioners were patronised by the Pharaoh. Therefore Musa was given the miracles to render their magic ineffective. In Prophet Muhammad’s time, magic was not as much in fashion as was the power of compassion and kindness in contrast to the harsh and violent nature of the Arabs to win over hearts and minds. Prophet Muhammad was given these qualities and was sent as a mercy to all the people, Muslims and non-Muslims (21:107). His compassion made him so effective that infidels used to stop their tribesmen from hearing Muhammad because they feared that Muhammad will influence them and make them embrace Islam. It was therefore not less than a miracle that in a short time of ten years, the entire Arabian peninsula accepted Islam and those who raised the arms to resist it were subdued. Prophet Muhammad’s return to Makkah without shedding a single drop of blood was also not less than a miracle. This was the same city from where he had migrated to Madinah in the dark hours of one night after learning that the tribal lords of Makkah had decided to kill him. Another living miracle of the Prophet is the holy Quran which Allah revealed to Prophet Mohammad. By Allah’s decree, the Quran’s original text has remained unchanged from the time of Prophet Muhammad till today and will remain so till the end of time (15:9). It is also simultaneously read and memorised by millions of Muslims, which is another miracle.

These two Prophets also have something in common about their followers. While the followers of Prophet Musa took his brother and Nabi Aron as their grand Rabbi, the Shia Muslims also took Prophet Muhammad’s companion and first cousin Ali, as their Imam and Mola.

Finally, both Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad were humans. In his early days Musa murdered a man unintentionally. He was mindful of his stammer. Muhammad was cautioned in the Quran for not paying attention to the blind man (80-1-10). He was also told that except for blood lineage no person could be taken as son by his adopted ‘father’. None of the prophets of Allah were exempt from human needs. They ate food and walked in markets. They engaged in conversations with their followers, answered the questions of non-believers, mediated the disputes of people and dispensed justice. Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be on them, were the messengers of Allah, but they were not partners or associates of Allah as the followers of Isa, son of Maryam, claim in the trinity of the father, son, and the holy ghost. May Allah save us from Shirk which is the highest form of oppression and an unpardonable sin.

Qualities of Man: A Combination of Goodness and Evil

Syed Sharfuddin

In the holy Quran Allah has described the character of man, both good and bad with clear examples. The picture of man that emerges from this description is one that is black and white, punctuated with goodness and ungratefulness, and worthy of being a true viceroy of God on earth or a vassal of devil. In this essay we will examine how Allah describes man with qualities that make him the worst of beings and qualities that make him the best of creatures.

Man is born with the negative quality of forgetting Allah’s bounties and favours quickly and becoming unjust and ungrateful (14:34). He has been given a life by Allah and will die and then will be raised and live permanently, but he is ungrateful (22:66). He rejoices in Allah’s blessings but if some harm comes to him on account of his own deeds, he becomes ungrateful (42:48). Man associates partners to Allah from His own creation; man is truly ungrateful (43:15).

When Allah gives a taste of prosperity to him after a touch of adversity, man says my ills are gone; he becomes totally proud and boastful (11:10). When Allah grants his favours to man, he turns away and acts arrogantly, but when touched with adversity, he loses all hope (17:83). Man never tires of wishing for good but when he is touched with evil, he becomes desperate and hopeless (41:49).

Man cries to Allah for help when he is in hardship but when Allah showers His blessings on him, he says I have attained this because of my knowledge, and this is what I deserve (41:50). He does not realise that this is no more than a test for him (39:49). Man is always in need; only Allah is free from need (35:15). When man is tested by Allah with generosity and blessing, he boasts that my Lord has deservedly honoured me, but when he is tested with adversity, he protests that my Lord has undeservedly humiliated me (89:15-16).

When man is in distress, he remembers God and seeks His mercy, but when he is brought to safety, he is ever ungrateful and forgetful of his Lord (17:67). Man is stubborn and denies the Truth (80:17). Man desires evil in a manner he ought to desire good; he is ever hasty (17:11; 21:37). It is the outcome of this haste that when Allah offered the Trust (Quran) to the heavens and the earth and mountains, they all declined to bear it but man assumed it. Allah says man is truly wrongful to himself and ignorant of the consequences (33:72). Man is created impatient and anxious (70:19). Man behaves miserly. Even if he had been given all the treasures of his Lord’s bounty, he would still hold them back and not spend these on others for fear of losing his wealth. He is ever grudging and stingy (17:100). Man is more contentious and argumentative of all beings (18:54).

Man amasses wealth and is forgetful when misfortune touches him. He becomes tight fisted when good fortune comes his way. In the love of wealth man is violent (100-6-8). Man exceeds all bounds and thinks he is self-sufficient (96:6-7). He does not want to be reminded how he was born from a drop of sperm, helpless and small, and yet he is boastful (16:4; 36:77; 75:37). He forgets his insignificant and dirty origin of biological birth and ignores how his provisions were made easy for him (80:18-32). Man is born ignorant and is nurtured and taught by his Lord. He denies the Day of Judgement and mockingly asks when it will come (75:5-6). He thinks he will be left without accountability and purpose (75:36). Man forbids others to worship God. He denies the Truth and turns away from it. He does not realise that God sees all he does. Man is the worst of creatures if he is a disbeliever of God’s divinity, and associates partners with Allah (98:6). Man is deep in loss just as the declining day is destined to end (103:2).

Let us now turn to the other side of human character which is filled with good and noble qualities.

The good men are kind and mindful their duties and responsibilities toward Allah and his creation. Their hearts are attached to mosques as they love to purify themselves (9:108). There are men who constantly remember Allah and establish prayer. Neither possessions nor trade take them far from Allah’s remembrance. They help the poor and fear the day when their hearts and eyes will be overturned as in death or on the Day of Judgement (24:36-7). They stick to the divine path and observe their Covenant with Allah (33:231). They support and defend Allah’s messengers who are rightly guided (36:20-21). They are well-wishers of the believers and give them good advice when they are in a state of fear (28:20).

It is interesting that the choice of suppressing man’s violent and unbridled nature or submitting to it rests with man himself. Allah has shown the right way to man and given him the choice to become either grateful or arrogant (76:30). These attributes are not permanently ingratiated in man’s personality, nor are these pre-destined. These can be subdued or sharpened by becoming recessive or dominant in man’s personality. It depends on man which attributes he wants to develop and which he wants to mute. By exercising his free will, man can become disgruntled, contentious, miserly, anxious, fretful, hopeless, angry, ungrateful, unbelieving, disobedient, violent and tyrant, or alternately, he can become obedient to his Lord, kind to other human beings, generous, compassionate, forgiving, thankful, and peace loving.

To make man’s task easy Allah has provided guidance in the Quran about how to avoid the bad attributes from taking control of his character and instead promote good and noble characteristics. For instance, the cure of anxiety is placed in the reading of the holy Quran (13:28). Performance of obligatory five times prayer keeps a believer away from lewdness and prohibitions (29:45). Feeding the hungry makes one humble and generous (69:34; 76:09; 89:18; 107:3). Astagfar removes poverty and brings peace (11:52). Pursuit of knowledge brings wisdom (96:3-5). Fasting promotes patience and forbearance. Doing good brings goodness and discards grief and fear (55:60; 2:112). Patience and forgiveness overcome the instinct to take revenge (42:43). Seeking Allah’s mercy prevents the heart from inciting toward evil (12:53).

Man decides his own ranking whether he wants to join the party of devil (58:19) or the party of Allah (58:22). As humans, it is up to us to decide for ourselves if we want to be the inheritors of paradise with higher aims and attainment, or a creature of earth with its mundane pleasures and absence of any substance.

Dajjal, the False Messiah

Syed Sharfuddin


In Islamic eschatology Dajjal is known as the false Messiah. Christians call him the anti-Christ. The Jews believe in the appearance of an evil king of the last generation preceding salvation. The followers of the three Abrahamic faiths also believe in the coming of the final hour and prior to that some form of tribulation and victory for their faith symbolised by the return of the ancient kingdom of Yehuda and rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon for the Jews, the second coming of Jesus for Christians and return of Mahdi and Prophet Isa, son of Maryam for Muslims. It is not unrealistic to think that at the time of the appearance of Dajjal, the true followers of the three faiths will be both his target and his main opponents.

Islamic View of Dajjal

There is no mention of Dajjal in the holy Quran but there are verses which scholars believe refer to Dajjal and the rebellion of man, for instance Surah Al-Anaam Verse 158 and Surah Al-Alaq verse 6. In the former verse Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala says that “when some of the signs of your Lord have appeared, no good will it do to a person to believe then if he had not believed before”. According to a Hidith of Tirmidhi, our Prophet, peace be upon him, said that when three signs have become apparent, it will not benefit someone who accepts Islam after the appearance of Dajjal, speaking of the beast of earth and sun rising from the place where it sets. The latter verse refers to the fact that “man exceeds all bounds”. Some scholars take this as the extreme which Dajjal will reach as a rebel human being.

There are over two hundred Ahadith about the coming of Dajjal toward the end of time. His powers and physical description are also mentioned in these Ahadith. According to these accounts, Dajjal will be the thirtieth false claimer of prophethood. His claim will gradually increase from being a ruler to a Messiah to a prophet and then God himself. What a ludicrous claim that a human who is trapped by biological constraints, who is imperfect in eyesight, who is unable to enter Makkah and Madinah and who needs supporters and cheerers to establish his rule, claims to be taking the place of a perfect and ever supreme God. The irony couldn’t be greater that Allah will choose to let him taste his humiliating death at the hands of the true Messiah and his true prophet (Isa).

Different Takes on Dajjal

Within the Islamic eschatological thought there is a wide range of views about Dajjal, whether he is a human being with extra-ordinary abilities of mind and body, or he is the symbol of a decadent era at a particular stage of human advancement. The literalists believe that Dajjal is physical in body and soul as a person. The allegorists say that Dajjal is a metaphor for the highly individualised spiritual and post-materialistic society that has now dawned upon us as a sign of the end of time. Some scholars equate Dajjal to Communist and neo-secularist ideology that promotes denial of faith and disbelief in God. According to this view, rejecting Dajjal represents a close relationship between the followers of Muhammad and Isa who have joined hands in serving God to defeat such ideologies. A contrasting view is that Dajjal represents Western civilisation which has discarded religion in favour of materialism and greed, and which employs advance technology, artificial intelligence, and economic sanctions to enslave dissenting people and nations.

The Sufis take Dajjal as an embodiment of the evil Nafs which must be resisted by the ‘Mahdi’ of one’s goodness and killed by the ‘Isa’ of one’s Rüh. According to them, the light of the day would not be physically long as a year on day one, a month on day two or a week on day three but it will seem so due to the dark clouds of ignorance surrounding people. In the Sufi interpretation a blind eye stands for inner imperfection. A person can be blind to evil, deceit, desire, and anger despite having two eyes.

Some Muslims believe that Dajjal has an ontological existence and is waiting for permission from Allah to reveal himself. In the Hadith of Fatima Bint Qays Al-Fihriyya quoted by Imam Muslim, Tamim Dari informed the Prophet about his shipwreck and how he landed on an island with thirty other shipmates where they saw a man whose neck and hands were tied, and he had iron shackles on his feet and ankles. After asking Tamim Dari a few questions, this well-built curly haired man told Tamim Dari that he was Dajjal, and that he would soon be permitted to leave the island and travel in the land far and wide. The Prophet reportedly said to Tamim Dari that he liked his account as it corroborated with his own description of Dajjal to the companions.

Generally, Muslims believe that Dajjal will appear before the end of time, but he is not yet born, because since he is human, he must go through the normal cycle of birth, physical development, and death in a time span of about hundred 100 years which is now the norm for human life.

A small body of Muslims believe that the Ahadith about Dajjal are weak and are not confirmed by the Quran. While believing in the other signs of end of time mentioned in the holy Quran and Ahadith about Yajuj Majuj (Gog and Magog) and the appearance of the creature of the earth, they do not take Dajjal either literally or allegorically. They believe that the fable of Dajjal has entered Islam from Christianity and is now a part of Islamic eschatology.

Belief of Majority Muslims

The authoritative sources of the Islamic tradition state that belief in the physical appearance of Dajjal as a person in body and flesh is an integral part of the Islamic faith. Imam Abu Hanifa belongs to this group of scholars. According to him the emergence of Dajjal is true and a reality. This is also the belief of other scholars in the Ahl Sunnah and Shia Athna Ashari schools of Islamic theology. Even the Kharijites and Motazilites accepted the emergence of Dajjal as a reality. There are, however, small differences among these schools of thought about the description of Dajjal and whether it is the Mahdi or Isa who will kill Dajjal.

Dajjal’s Features

Dajjal will come from a generation of deviant Jews who would have forsaken their faith for political power and wealth. He will come from the East, somewhere between Khorasan, Damascus and Iraq. He will be a young man of medium built strong body, with a wide forehead, a large round head, and broad upper cheeks. He will have lots of hair on his corpus. His skin will be fair or reddish. The hair on his head will be thick and twisted like that of an Abyssinian. He will have a sharp nose like the beak of a bird. He will be pigeon toed in both feet and blinded in the right eye. This eye will be green like glass. The other eye will be neither bulging not sunken from its socket but will move like a floating grape.

It is interesting that in the medieval Christian literature the anti-Christ is also described in similar terms to depict his evil nature. “His knees will be unbending, he will be crippled in his eyes, with wide eyebrows, crooked fingered, with a pointed head, gracious, boastful, wise, sweet in laughter, visionary, clever, sober, gentle, mild, worker of signs, bringing close to him the souls of the corrupt, bringing forth bread from stones, making the blind to see, the lame to walk, and he will make mountains move from place to place”. [Daniel Apocalypses].

When Dajjal will sleep his eye will be closed like other creatures but his heart will remain awake. His reach will be so great that the distance between his two steps will be forty yards. He will walk the earth with a speed like a cloud driven by wind. He will appear at distant places in a very short time. He will be without an offspring.

Followers of Dajjal

In the beginning Dajjal will rise with the claim of reviving the faith and bringing reformation, but as soon as he will recruit his followers, which will include several thousand Jews, as well as Turks, Bedouins, and people from the marginal groups, including a large number of women, he will claim that he is a prophet. He wouldn’t stop at this but eventually he will claim to be God. In the Christian literature, he is named anti-Christ because by claiming to be Jesus, he will automatically claim to be God. Dajjal’s appearance will be the supreme test of the Muslims. They will be confused and divided.

Time of Dajjal’s Appearance

Dajjal will appear at a time when people will be secular and materialistic and would have forsaken religion from their lives. The weather will be hostile and there will be uncertainty and anxiety everywhere. Three years prior to the appearance of Dajjal, there will be severe drought, famine, and poverty. The hot sun will dry up rivers and will evaporate lakes resulting in shortage of fresh water and disturbance in the growth of vegetation and harvesting of crops. People will be prepared to do anything to get fresh water, greenery and vegetation they need to survive. Dajjal will exploit these conditions to his advantage.

Prosperity will return to the earth for Dajjal’s followers after his appearance. Flocks of cattle grazing in fields will come back in the evening with their humps taller, their udders fuller and flanks fatter than they have ever been. We are all too familiar with genetically modified crops of wheat, barley, maze and rice. There are bumper harvests of bigger and better fruits and industrially patented lab grown meats that have revolutionised human food chain. The portions of our poultry and meat purchases are getting bigger and better and we have no shortage of fruits, honey, eggs, milk and dairy products despite the earth’s population increasing every day. Dajjal’s followers will have access to these foods in abundance.

Dajjal will invite people to his false religion and reward them with luxuries if they follow him. He will bring misery and penury to those who reject him. It will be nearly impossible to survive by rejecting his call and remaining steadfast on the teachings of the holy Quran and the tradition of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. People will join Dajjal’s forces with such speed that a man will be a Muslim in the morning but by sunset, he would have fallen prey to the material and physical temptations of Dajjal.

Dajjal’s Powers

Dajjal’s powers will be such that have never been wielded by man, Shaitan or a Jinn before. Dajjal will also use the help of devils to advance his influence. But these powers will be based on deception. His goods will be unreal, and his promises will be false. He won’t perform prophetic miracles; instead, he will present his deceitful tricks as miracles. He will carry two rivers, one of blazing fire and the other of white water with him. His fire will be water and his water will be fire.

Dajjal will exhibit heaven and hell to people and invite them to choose between the two. Those who will be overcome by his awe and majesty will obviously choose to enter his heaven but upon entering there, they will find themselves in an inferno contrary to what was told to them. Those who reject Dajjal will be sent by him to his hell but upon entering there, they will discover that they are in a cool place just like the experience of Prophet Ibrahim when he was thrown in the fire pit by Nimrud for rejecting idol worship. It is not difficult to imagine that Dajjal will have the power to carry hell and heaven with him. Today, with the help of hologram technology and artificial intelligence (AI), an IT expert can virtually display a lush green garden on a barren mountain and if a person is asked to walk through it virtually without any moving pad under his feet, he may end up banging his head against a rock.

Dajjal will have power to gather actual rain clouds and cause the earth to be watered and produce vegetation in places where he would want the rain to fall. He will take control of agricultural stocks and streams of drinking water. He will accumulate rivers of water and mountains of bread. He will have full control on where they are expended. Any tribe or nation that challenges his claim of being God will be subjected to sanctions.

Allah Taala will give Dajjal the extraordinary power to raise the dead parents of a person from their graves and make them appear and talk to him. Dajjal will address those people who resist him and say: “If I resurrect your dead parents, will you confess in my deity?” They will answer in the affirmative. Then the devils serving Dajjal will appear in the form of their parents who will talk to them in their language. As a result, many people will abandon their faith and believe that Dajjal is God.

Dajjal will be a liar and a high-class magician, armed by modern technology of holograms, voice and face recognition technology, 5G plus videography, optical character recognition and language and translation software and live animation. Employing these technologies, it would not be impossible for him to do things we have never imagined. Dajjal will use this knowhow to convince people into accepting that he is God, but he will be a false god because Allah is perfect and Dajjal is imperfect having only one functional eye. Dajjal will carry this blemish with him as a sign to those who know his reality that he is so helpless that he cannot give himself two functional eyes. The believers know that in this life, no one can see Allah. They will therefore reject his false claim that he is God. The true believers will also be able to clearly read the inscription K F R standing for Kafir on his forehead. Non-believers will be unable to see this inscription on his forehead.

Dajjal will be given the knowledge by Allah to know where the treasures of the earth are hidden. During his reign, these minerals and treasures will burst open like bees coming out from their hives. Besides food security, much of the international politics centres around the ownership and possession of strategic minerals which are the key drivers of economic growth and domination of power in the world. These treasures comprise rare and precious materials and minerals which are essential for the supply chains of industrialised countries. The earth consists of one-third land and two-third oceans. Humans have still not mapped the entire breadth and width of land for strategic minerals and metals. They have only begun to scratch the surface of oceans to reach under-sea wealth and resources. Dajjal will be given the knowledge to identify the hidden resources buried under hostile oceans. He will have the ability to excavate and exploit these resources. How many believers will be able to resist the temptation of benefiting from Dajjal’s call and tribulation, is hard to tell. For this reason, Dajjals’ appearance will be the greatest test this Ummah will ever face in the existence of this world.

Dajjal will not have the knowledge of the unknown, but he will use reason backed by his tricks and coercive means to influence people. He will be able to travel far and wide, but he will not be able to enter Makkah and Madinah. Those who will live in Makkah and Madinah will be safe from his influence. It is also said that Dajjal will not be able to enter the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The Reign of Dajjal

Dajjal’s reign will last a total of one year, two months and a fortnight compressed in forty days. According to Ahadith, the first day of his rule will be like a year, the second day like a month, the third day like a week and the remaining 37 days like normal days. There have been many explanations for this timescale. Some scholars say these are literal days of such length; others say these are metaphorical references.

Dajjal’s Power is Challenged

The speed of Dajjal’s influence will be faster than the winds and his spell will spread far and wide like a storm. He will conquer every corner of the world with his charisma and sorcery. He will spread hatred against Islam. The deviant Jews will support Dajjal against the Muslims. After conquering the Arabian peninsula, Dajjal would want to enter Makkah, but he will not be able to do so because Allah’s angels will be guarding the holy city. Dajjal will be humiliated and will aim to enter Madina instead, but he will not be successful there also because Allah’s angels will be guarding the gates of Madina.

It is believed that when this will happen, there will be three earthquakes in Madina, which will frighten the munafiqeen (people who say they are Muslims but in reality they are non-Muslims) and fasiqeen (people who say are Muslims but they practice everything that is forbidden by Islam) to flee the city. Outside Madina, they will fall into Dajjal’s hands and join his forces.

At last a youth will challenge Dajjal and confront him for a debate, but when he would be called to meet Dajjal, his guards would want to kill him. Dajjal’s security will stop them saying that the youth could not be killed without the permission of Dajjal.

Thereafter this young person will be brought before Dajjal. The young man will say: “I have recognised that you are none other than the cursed Dajjal.” He will further say: “Our Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, informed us about your coming”. As soon as Dajjal hears this, he will order this youth to be killed. Dajjal’s guards will immediately cut the young man into two pieces.

Dajjal will say to those present on the occasion: “Now, if I bring this man back to life, will you be convinced of my divinity?” His followers will reply: “we have already come to believe in you as God. But if you bring this man back to life, it will further increase our faith in you.” This description is reminiscent of the talks Pharoah used to have in his palace and reminds us of the dialogue he had with a nobleman in his court, which is narrated in the Quran

Using his magic, Dajjal will join the two pieces of the dead body of the young man together, whereby he will come back to life. The martyred man will stand up and say: “Now I am even more convinced that you are the cursed Dajjal.” This will make Dajjal angry and he would want to kill the young man again. But now his power will be taken away. He will be embarrassed. In fury, he will throw the youth in his hell but the fire will become cool and will not burn the young man, just as the fire of Nimrud became cool and could not burn Ibrahim.

Dajjal’s Last Days

Moving on to what Dajjal will do after he consolidates his power, it is said that he will turn to Syria, but before he will reach Damascus, Imam Mahdi will have arrived there. When Imam Mahdi arrives in Damascus, he will start preparing for war, but the odds of victory will be against the Imam. Dajjal would control both political and military power and people will be on his side. But Imam Mahdi and his followers will be sure of Allah’s support and help. The Imam will call all Muslims to offer prayers at the Umayyad Mosque. In addition to organising the Muslims against Dajjal, he will make Damascus the centre of his activity. One day Imam Mahdi will go to the Umayyad Mosque to offer prayers. He will then meet Prophet Jesus, son of Maryam, who would descent from heaven on the eastern minaret of the Grand Mosque of Damascus with the Will of Allah to help Imam Mahdi defeat Dajjal.

After offering the evening prayers, people will go out to confront Dajjal. Upon seeing Prophet Isa, Dajjal will start dissolving like salt in water. Prophet Isa will catch up with Dajjal at the Gate of Ludd and will kill him. Seeing Dajjal’s humiliating death, his supporters will try to disperse behind trees and stones but they will be unsuccessful to hide and will be eliminated at the hands of Isa’s army.

Then Jesus will validate Islam, break the cross, meaning he will reaffirm that he is a prophet of Allah and not son of God; he will kill the swine, meaning he will restore the Sharia of Prophet Muhammad; and he will announce the end of war, meaning that peace will prevail and result in such an abundance of wealth that no one will be poor to accept alms. The people will become pious and there will be no evil until Jesus lives his time on earth.

Following the death of Dajjal, Yajuj and Majuj will emerge as Allah describes in the Quran, “swoop down from every mount [21:96] and consume all sweet water. A series of events will then take place in succession over a short period as described in detail in the Book of Tribulations in Sunan Ibn Majah before the last hour. These are: three solar eclipses, a great smoke bellowing, the foretold sunrise from the west, a creature of the earth speaking, a fire driving people to huddle together and the two trumpets blown one after the other to end the world.

Non-Muslim Perceptions about Dajjal

Non-Muslim scholars of Islam maintain that the belief in the coming of Dajjal has been imported into Islamic texts from the Jewish and Christian traditions. These ideas were brought by the Jewish and Christian converts in the early Islamic period and became part of Islamic eschatology. According to these non-Muslim scholars, the long time it took for the canonical books of Hadith to be compiled and agreed upon (about eight centuries) provided sufficient time for these ideas to get consolidated in Islamic thought about the signs of the last hour which is foretold in the Quran together with some other signs (Yajuj and Majuj and the speaking creature of the earth). A great deal of material about Dajjal was later excised by the later schools of puritanical Muslim scholars on the grounds that it was taken from Talmudic texts and other Jewish accounts and formed part of those Ahadith which were considered to be weak or unacceptable by the majority of scholars of Hadith.

Another view is that during the Prophet’s time, a Jewish man by the name of Al-Siyyed claimed to be a Jewish prophet. The Prophet therefore wanted his followers to beware of the false Messiah after his death.

While belief in the last hour and resurrection is a fundamental part of the Islamic faith, believing in all the signs of the last hour or interpreting these as literal texts or metaphor does not change the context in which it is discussed, namely that there will be an end of life on this earth in this world and the beginning of an everlasting life on another earth in another world. It also makes no difference if Dajjal is a Jewish or Christian thought borrowed by Islam. There are many fundamental principles and traditions in Islam, which came from other Abrahamic faiths such as prohibiting idol worship, abstaining from eating swine, fasting, giving charity, fulfilling the Covenant, establishing justice, pursuit of peace, and doing good deeds for the pleasure of Allah. There are more stories of Israeli prophets in the Quran than episodes related to the life of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him.

The coming of Dajjal will unite the true believers among the true  Jews, Christians and Muslims and expose those who are deceivers and not the followers of the same great monotheistic faith that Prophet Ibrahim and the long line of prophets from his progeny until the last and final Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, preached and practiced to guide humanity on the right path.

It is reported in the Hadith that a Muslim who recites Surah Al-Kahf (Chapter 18) on Fridays will be safe from the tricks of Dajjal if his appearance occurs in his lifetime. It is also said that the first and last ten verses of Surah Al-Kahf should be memorised by Muslims as a handy tool against Dajjal’s tribulations. Since Dajjal’s arrival is unknown, worshippers regularly seek protection from Allah from the mischief of Dajjal in their daily prayers, should he appear in their lifetime.

Several resources were used in compiling this essay. Allah knows best.

Suggested Reading:

The Legend of al Dajjal Antichrist: The Personification of Evil in the Islamic Tradition.pdf
 Dajjal and Messiah by Abukhadeejah pdf
Dajjal .pdf
Dajjal: The Greatest Calamity pdf

Dajjaal: -Knowing the false Messaiah by Abu-Az-Zubayr-Harrison.pdf
Dajjal and the Return of Jesus, Kalamullah pdf

Explaining Dajjal’s Time on Earth

Syed Sharfuddin

In the Islamic eschatology it is believed that Dajjal’s rule of extraordinary tribulations and tests for the believers which will take place as a clear sign of the end of time with last forty days before he is killed by prophet Isa with the support of the Mahdi. But these forty days will comprise a total of one year, two months and a fortnight. According to the narration of Nawas bin Sama’an mentioned in in Shahi Muslim and Abu Dawood (4321) and Shahi Jamie (4166) and commented by Al-Nawawi in Shahi Muslim (18/65-66), the first day of his rule will be like a year, the second day like a month, the third day like a week and the remaining 37 days like normal days. There have been many explanations for this time scale. Some scholars say these are literal forty days, while others say these are metaphorical references. This essay explores some of these explanations. Allah knows best.

One explanation of this account is that Dajjal means deceiver. He is not one personality but a regime of kufr and disbelief spanning four periods; the first period comprises a time span lasting a thousand earthly years (equal to one heavenly day); the second period lasting about 82 and quarter years (equal to one heavenly month); the third period lasting about nineteen and quarter years (equal to one heavenly week) and the rest of the days like the usual earthy days. During this period Dajjal would want people to copy his liberal and atheistic lifestyle. In this time span, the idea of separation of church and state would firmly take root even in Muslim societies.

Another explanation suggests that it is not really the heavenly days but the speed of time that is meant by this timeline. Globalisation and the Internet have changed they way we use time. In the not too distant past, the days it used to take to travel to another country to go for Hajj or attend a business meeting are now reduced to hours as people can simply do a virtual conference on the Internet for business consultations. Emails and online messages are now delivered globally in seconds. The speed of time will be become even faster with new technologies and devices at our disposal. However, the cognisance of the fast pace of time will be short lived due to the law of diminishing returns. We will get used to the speed of time without realising how long it took to accomplish the same task in the past. So the awareness of what could be done in one day, which used to take one year in the past would gradually diminish to a month and then a week and then a day to become the new normal. Humans first walked from one place to another which took them a year; then they learnt to ride on mules and horses which took them a month; then they built roads to travel by bus or train which took them a week to complete their journey; then they started flying planes which take only a day. Thus, travel by aeroplanes in a day became the new normal. This is how the forty days of Dajjal are explained according to this interpretation.

A third explanation is that the description of Dajjal’s rule lasting forty days with abnormal variations in the duration of the first three days is literal. According to this explanation it is possible that a major cosmic event caused by man’s interference with space and environment, (littering earth’s outer space with satellites, sending space missions to moon and other planets), or a huge heavenly body crashing against the surface of the earth, or a nuclear explosion going wrong on earth, would cause the earth to bounce on its obit resulting in its rotation to slow down from twenty-fours hours to a full year, but then settle down with two smaller bounces affecting the second day’s rotation to be as long as a month and the third day’s rotation to be as long as a week and then returning to its normal rotation speed of twenty-four hours as every other day. The impact of such changes will obviously result in reduced sunshine on one half of the earth, loss of vegetation, shortage of drinking water and changes in the weather which will severely affect the earth which are all associated with the reports of coming of Dajjal. With extraordinary powers at his disposal, Dajjal will make use of these abnormal times on earth to strengthen his rule over the nations of the world. The reference to his donkey with stretched ears, as his mode of transportation could be a supersonic airborne rocket transport, which would be capable of taking him to any place around the globe within minutes, if not seconds.

The third explanation to me seems to be more realistic because science would find a justification for such an extraordinary cosmic event when it happens. In the Ahadith (No 4075 to 4081) in the Book of Tribulations in Sunan Ibn Majah, it is said that Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, said when such a long day comes, the believers should pray their five times prayers according to the calculations of their daily time. It means that the event will be real and not allegorical.

Whatever the real meaning of the Hadith, there are two important points that need elaboration. The first point is that we live in a time when we can instantaneously see, hear and speak to someone on the other side of the world in a different time zone without leaving our homes. According to an account of Dajjal’s power, day and night shall disappear before his power as he will be able to know what is going on in all parts of the world. This means living in a post-satellite age, with 5G communications technology becoming part and parcel of our lives as is water, gas and electricity and increased reliance on automation for mode of transport and other applications. With so much already within our grasp, we are very close to the time of the appearance of Dajjal.

Was Prophet Yusuf a King or a Governor

Syed Sharfuddin

There is a verse in Surah Yusuf (Chapter 12) in the holy Quran in which prophet Yusuf Alaihey Salam (AS) recounts the blessings of Allah on him and asks to be re-joined with his forefathers who were among the righteous persons for whom Allah has promised a great reward:

۞ رَبِّ قَدۡ ءَاتَیۡتَنِی مِنَ ٱلۡمُلۡكِ وَعَلَّمۡتَنِی مِن تَأۡوِیلِ ٱلۡأَحَادِیثِۚ فَاطِرَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَ ٰ⁠تِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ أَنتَ وَلِیِّۦ فِی ٱلدُّنۡیَا وَٱلۡـَٔاخِرَةِۖ تَوَفَّنِی مُسۡلِمࣰا وَأَلۡحِقۡنِی بِٱلصَّـٰلِحِینَ﴿ ١٠١ ﴾

Translation: “My Lord! You have given me authority; You have taught me something about the interpretation of dreams; Creator of the heavens and the earth, You are my protector in this world and in the hereafter. Let me die in true devotion to You. Join me with the righteous.” [12:101].

In other English translations of this verse, the first part containing the word Mulk is also translated as: “Lord You have given me [something] of sovereignty” (Sahih International); “Lord Thou hast given me [something] of sovereignty” (Pickthall); “Lord! Thou hast indeed bestowed on me some power” (Yusuf Ali); “Lord Thou hast given me of the kingdom” (Shakir); “Lord, You have given me the kingdom” (Muhammad Sarwar); “Lord You have indeed bestowed on me of the sovereignty” (Mohsin Khan); “Lord, Thou hast given me to rule” (Arberry), “Lord, You gave me rule: (Ahsan Al Bayan); “Lord You bestowed on me authority”. (Tafheem al Quran); “Lord You have bestowed dominion upon me (Zafar Ishak Ansari); and “Lord, You gave me a kingdom” (Tayasar Al Rahman Le Bayan Al Quran).

The translations of the Arabic word “Mulk” as rule, kingdom, dominion, sovereignty, power, and authority have raised a query whether prophet Yusuf (AS) was a king or a viceroy who exercised authority in the name of the king of Egypt. Perhaps this query also considers verse 72 of Surah Yusuf in which the official responsible for the royal inventory declares that the cup of the king is missing and announces a reward for whoever finds it.

قَالُوا۟ نَفۡقِدُ صُوَاعَ ٱلۡمَلِكِ وَلِمَن جَاۤءَ بِهِۦ حِمۡلُ بَعِیرࣲ وَأَنَا۠ بِهِۦ زَعِیمࣱ﴿ ٧٢ ﴾

Translation: They replied, ‘The king’s drinking-cup is missing,’ and, ‘Whoever returns it will get a camel-load [of grain],’ and, ‘I give you my word.’ (12:72).

But as we will see in the succeeding paragraphs there is no clear evidence that Yusuf (AS) was the king of Egypt.

Answering this query does not change fact that this is only an academic point and is not fundamental to the many lessons of Surah Yusuf which are discussed elsewhere in another essay.

When we compare verse 101 with other verses in the holy Quran where the word Mulk is mentioned, we can see that in verse 12:101 the addition of the word Min before Mulk slightly changes the meaning, making it “Lord, you gave me a part of the kingdom”.

رَبِّ قَدْ آتَيْتَنِي مِنَ الْمُلْكِ

In another verse (4:53) Allah ridicules the followers of earlier scriptures who rejected Quran and went astray. Allah asks: “Do they have any share of Allah’s kingdom? If they had, they would not give away even as much as the groove of the seed of the date”. (4:53).

أَمۡ لَهُمۡ نَصِیبࣱ مِّنَ ٱلۡمُلۡكِ فَإِذࣰا لَّا یُؤۡتُونَ ٱلنَّاسَ نَقِیرًا﴿ ٥٣ ﴾

In the above verse, the addition of Min before Mulk means a part of the kingdom but not the whole kingdom. Now compare this verse to the verses where Allah has mentioned Mulk without the prefix Min.

وَقَالَ لَهُمۡ نَبِیُّهُمۡ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ قَدۡ بَعَثَ لَكُمۡ طَالُوتَ مَلِكࣰاۚ قَالُوۤا۟ أَنَّىٰ یَكُونُ لَهُ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ عَلَیۡنَا وَنَحۡنُ أَحَقُّ بِٱلۡمُلۡكِ مِنۡهُ وَلَمۡ یُؤۡتَ سَعَةࣰ مِّنَ ٱلۡمَالِۚ قَالَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱصۡطَفَىٰهُ عَلَیۡكُمۡ وَزَادَهُۥ بَسۡطَةࣰ فِی ٱلۡعِلۡمِ وَٱلۡجِسۡمِۖ وَٱللَّهُ یُؤۡتِی مُلۡكَهُۥ مَن یَشَاۤءُۚ وَٱللَّهُ وَ ٰ⁠سِعٌ عَلِیمࣱ﴿ ٢٤٧ ﴾

Translation: “Their prophet said to them, ‘Allah has now appointed Talut to be your king,’ but they said, ‘How can he be king over us when we have a greater right to rule than he? He does not even have great wealth.’ He said, ‘Allah has chosen him over you, and has given him great knowledge and stature. Allah grants His authority to whoever He pleases: Allah is magnanimous, all knowing.” (Al-Baqarah, Ayah 247)

Now see another verse:

فَهَزَمُوهُم بِإِذۡنِ ٱللَّهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُۥدُ جَالُوتَ وَءَاتَىٰهُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمُلۡكَ وَٱلۡحِكۡمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُۥ مِمَّا یَشَاۤءُۗ وَلَوۡلَا دَفۡعُ ٱللَّهِ ٱلنَّاسَ بَعۡضَهُم بِبَعۡضࣲ لَّفَسَدَتِ ٱلۡأَرۡضُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ذُو فَضۡلٍ عَلَى ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِینَ﴿ ٢٥١ ﴾

Translation: “And so with Allah’s permission they defeated them. Dawood killed Jalut and Allah gave him sovereignty and wisdom and taught him what He pleased. If Allah did not drive some {people} back by means of others, the earth would be completely corrupt, but Allah is bountiful to all.” (Al-Baqarah, Ayah 251)

This point can be understood better by going back to Talmudic accounts of prophet Yusuf (AS) as the prophet of Bani Israel. He preceded prophet Musa (AS) by about 400 years. During his time the king of Egypt belonged to the dynasty of Hyksos. It is also said that Yusuf (AS) came at the time of the 18th dynasty of Pharaohs, namely Amenophis III or Amenophis IV. According to some commentators, the king who permitted prophet Yusuf (AS) to exercise authority in his name was Rayyan.

According to another account Yusuf (AS) became a confidante of the king of Egypt after interpreting his dream and was appointed a viceroy or governor of Canaan. It is also said that because of his wisdom and integrity he became the de-facto ruler of Egypt just we see today’ Crown Prince MBS exercising authority on behalf of the king in Saudi Arabia. It is also possible that prophet Yusuf (AS) became ruler of Egypt for a short period after the death of the king when he recited this dua (12:101) asking Allah to give him a blissful death like that of his father Yakub, grandfather Ishaq and great grandfather Ibrahim after attaining the best of knowledge, height of power and perfection of character.

It is reported that prophet Yusuf (AS) died before his other older brothers. His death is also interesting because when he died, people in every province in Egypt wanted to bury him in their province for barakah. They finally agreed to bury him in the Nile so that the waters of Nile carrying his remains could bless all of Egypt. Allah preserved the sarcophagus of Yusuf (AS) for 400 years until Musa (AS) found it in the Nile and took it with him to Jerusalem at the exodus to be buried close to the grave of Ibrahim (AS).

In Surah Al-Kahaf (18) when the blessed wise man Khizr answers prophet Musa’s three questions, he says that he damaged the barge of the old woman because the king was pursuing it to acquire it for his inventory (Ayah 79). Although the word used in the verse is king, it does not mean that the king of that country was himself chasing the boat of an old subject in his kingdom; instead, it were his officials who were acting in his authority.

A strong evidence to support the interpretation that Yusuf (AS) was not king, but a governor comes from Surah Yusuf itself. When Yusuf (AS) planned to have his blood brother Benyamin stay with him, he could not do so under Egyptian law (12:76). He had to devise a plan to implicate Benyamin on some charge. Had Yusuf (AS) been king himself, he would have simply ordered the guards to detain Benyamin as in those days the word of the king was law. But the fact that Yusuf (AS) followed the law of the land shows that he did not have sovereign authority. He was not a follower of the religion of his king nor was he himself a king to change the law.

A spider’s home is the weakest of all homes

Syed Sharfuddin

Spiders belong to a species of insects who live both in the wild and with humans in their homes and workplaces. What makes them distinct from other eight-legged creepy crawlies is their silky geometrical webs which have fascinated us for generations, as something extraordinary and awe inspiring. Few insects resemble spiders in their weave and workmanship.

Spiders’ webs are by themselves a strange phenomenon. Though they look very similar, no two webs are exactly alike. There are about 130 known different types of spiders’ webs. Spiders’ webs come in different shapes and sizes. There are spiral orb webs, funnel type webs, the most popularly known cobwebs, mesh webs, sheet webs, and webs with extend thread lines to trap insects. Spiders’ webs are very strong, having a tensile strength of up to 1.75 gigapascals (GPa) or about 178 kilograms per square millimeter in cross-section. Spiders’ webs are made of secretions from their tiny silk glands located under their abdomen. Male and female spiders have different silk glands that produce about three to four different types of silky fiber.

A spider’s silk fiber is highly elastic up to 300% and is capable of withstanding massive impact from a flying object such as a honeybee. Spiders’ webs have unique engineering properties of strength and flexibility in comparison with other fibers, including Kevlar, the toughest man-made polymer. A spider’s web is five times stronger than steel of the same diameter. A strand of spider silk weighing 0.45 kilogram can be stretched to circle the entire globe without requiring a knot. A spider’s silk is rich in vitamin K and can be used as a bandage on wounds.

A spider’s web is finer than human hair. It is sticky in the central part of the web where the prey is caught but its spokes are not sticky. Spiders’ webs lose their stickiness after a couple of days due to air pollution. To save energy and proteins, a spider eats its own web before making a new one in a different or same place. That’s why most of the time spiders don’t just sit idle, they are busy weaving webs. Spiders’ webs have caught the imagination of chemists for years as they continue to discover new properties of spiders’ webs and apply it in manufacturing artificial fibers.

A spider’s web is its home. It lives inside its home building it, destroying it and rebuilding it again and again.

One might wonder with such fascinating information about a spider’s web, why Allah has called a spider’s web the weakest of homes in the holy Quan.

مَثَلُ ٱلَّذِینَ ٱتَّخَذُوا۟ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ أَوۡلِیَاۤءَ كَمَثَلِ ٱلۡعَنكَبُوتِ ٱتَّخَذَتۡ بَیۡتࣰاۖ وَإِنَّ أَوۡهَنَ ٱلۡبُیُوتِ لَبَیۡتُ ٱلۡعَنكَبُوتِۚ لَوۡ كَانُوا۟ یَعۡلَمُونَ

Translation: Those who take protectors other than Allah can be compared to spiders building themselves houses; the spider’s is the frailest of all houses- if only they could understand.” [Surah Al-Ankabut -29, Ayah 41].

Let us look at the spider’s web from another perspective. A spider spends lots of time and energy to make a home, but the final product of its hard work is a flimsy structure with no entrance, no exit, no shelter, and no depth. The spider is not at fault for building such a home, but it is at fault in taking this weak structure as its home.

As a spider is not a strong creature, its home is also not a fortress. In its home, a spider cannot protect itself from heat, cold, rain, pests, and predators. It cannot withstand a snow or wind storm. Just as the home of a spider is weak in comparison with other homes, idol worship is a weak religion in comparison with monotheism.

A spider’s home has no foundation, no walls and no roof and it cannot hold items inside it. Likewise, the infidel has no roof over him. He has no foundation or structure to stand on. He only relies on observation and delusion, not on facts and knowledge.

A spider does not have a fixed home. It keeps shifting and changing places. So is the idol worshipper who keeps wandering and changing his goalposts.

It is also an empty house in which there is nothing except design and deception. The irony cannot be greater because the spider builds its home on mountains, caves, and stone works (all symbols of strength) and yet it does not know that the home it builds with the proverbial sweat and blood is not safe. When a spider needs its home most for protection against predators, it is not sufficient to even hide it from their sight. What a beautiful example it is to show how the idol worshippers tie their barges of hope on the altars of false gods when the latter are themselves totally helpless and unable to protect themselves, let alone their followers.

A spider’s web is found mostly in corners of walls and other places. So is the path of the unbeliever and idol worshipper. Such a person relies on secrecy and hypocrisy compared to a Muslim whose religion is a transparent path and it cuts no corners.

A spider’s web represents greed, deception, and materialism. It is built with the intention to trap other insects and take their lives. The religion of an idol worshipper is also built on deception and takes him to destruction. A Muslim on the other hand builds his faith on honesty, truth, pursuit of knowledge and serving humanity.

Just as a spider’s home is unable to protect itself from cold, heat, rain, pests and calamity, an idol worshipper takes his gods who cannot benefit nor harm him and can do no good nor evil. He is simply deluding himself. An idol worshipper is like a person who is walking in a desert and imagining a mirage, but when he reaches that place, he finds no water and realises that it was a mere illusion.

Those who take guardians other than Allah are also imagining that their idols will make them successful in this world and the hereafter, but they are like a traveler who is pursuing a mirage in vain. Such a person is also as weak and helpless as a spider who obtains no benefit from his home. If the spider knew the reality of its home, it would probably not build it.

In building its home, a spider builds a prison for itself and its prey. This is likened to the condition of an idol worshipper who follows the devil in chains and shackles. Such a person is bound to go astray and remain deprived of the mercy and blessings of Allah.

The larger the web of a spider, the greater are the chances for its destruction in a storm. It is likened to the actions of an idol worshipper. The more he indulges in his polytheistic beliefs, the greater are the chances of his never returning to the correct path.

The house of a spider stands for a broken household and a decadent way of life. In many species, spiders eat their web before replacing it with a new one. Female spiders also eat their male after mating. Femle spiders are also disloyal to their male as they can have many sexual partners before fertilising themselves with the sperm of one male spider sack. In some species of spiders, a male spider mutilates the epigynum of its mating partner by self-castration to prevent her from mating with other males. This is a relationship of deceit and destruction, quite unlike a family life one expects to see inside the impressive webs spiders build for themselves.

All creatures go out of their homes to look for food, but spider is one insect that uses its home to trap other insects to eat. Home is a place for peace and safety but for the spider, its home is a trap to kill and eat its prey.

The Quraish of Makkah used to say that Muhammad’s God uses examples of small insects such as a fly or a spider and they used to laugh at it. Allah uses these examples according to His wisdom to make us understand His message. In this verse, Allah is comparing the faith of the believer with that of the idol worshipper whose ignorance is like the very insect he considers insignificant and laughable. Just as the web of the spider is unable to save it in calamity, the polytheism of the idol worshipper is unable to save him from hellfire in the hereafter. Allah has used the imagery of animals and insects such as bee, ant, fly, mosquito, cow, camel, donkey and dog in the holy Quran to elucidate His message. The spider is a part of these illustrations.

The spider is associated with the Hijrah in a positive light. It wove a web on the mouth of the cave where Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, rested with his companion Abu Bakar Siddiq on his way to Madinah while the idolators of Makkah were chasing him with the evil intention to kill him. The point to note here is that it is not the spider (and a pigeon) that made prophet Muhammad undetected by his enemies, but it was Allah who saved His prophet in the same way as he saved the companions of the cave by His will, using a dog as a medium (Surah Al-Kahf). In this instance Allah used a spider and a pigeon to protect His prophet. These animals were only a medium, they were not his saviours.

It is narrated on the authority of Ali AS who said: “purify your homes from the web of the spider, for leaving it in the homes inherits poverty”. Some commentators have said that Shaitan takes the form of spider to enter homes and therefore spiders should be killed. However, majority of commentators do not agree with this. Spiders of creatures of Allah and we should not take that extreme step to remove them like we remove other pests from our homes, but we must be aware that its’ web is a symbol of weakness and decay and should be regularly removed from inside homes.

What man calls one of the great wonders of the animal kingdom, Allah likens it to the great temples and decorated altars of the idol worshippers which are nothing but the weakest and unsuccessful links to reach Allah. Without divine knowledge, one is unaware of this reality.

Syed Sharfuddin

The words Nabi and Rasul have been used in the holy Quran interchangeably (2:213-214). In essence, they both mean the same thing, i.e., a Nabi or Rasul is a pious person chosen by Allah to receive divine guidance and commandments by Allah’s Will and convey these to his people during his lifetime. Only the style of doing so makes them either a Nabi or a Rasul; otherwise, their mission is the same and there is no difference among them. Since time is a continuum and people are born and die, and are succeeded by other people, the chain of Allah’s selected persons as Nabi and Rasul continued in different eras from the first prophet Adam to the last prophet Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam (S). The reason why this chain ended with Muhammad (S) while people have continued to be born and die and are still being succeeded by coming generations is an interesting question and that is what we will try to answer in this essay and explore what difference there is, if any, in the mission of a Nabi and a Rasul.

Nabi is translated in English as prophet and Rasul as messenger. Peyghambar is also used for Rasul in some translations. However, the two words are used to coney the same meaning. A Rasul can be an agnel or a human being (22:75), but the holy Quran makes a clear distinction between an angel Rasul(11:69) and a human Rasul (7:35). A Nabi can be a person chosen by Allah, or a person whom people call a nabi for his closeness of Allah such as saint or wali who has attained god consciousness. But this nabi cannot claim to be Nabi Allah publicly. He keeps his God consciousness only to himself. We will discuss this mystical concept later in the essay. Both Nabi Allah and Rasul Allah are people who have been tasked by Allah with the divine mission of informing people about the purpose of creation, acceptance of the one and only Creator and the dos and don’ts in the journey of man from his temporal existence to a permanent world.

In the holy Quran, there are certain characteristics that are associated with Rasul but not with Nabi, but there are also characteristics that are common to both Nabi and Rasul. There are also exceptions, and a generalisation cannot be made to distinguish a Nabi from a Rasul. This is because Allah has provided only limited information to humans about His prophets through the Quran and earlier Scriptures (40:78). The information available to Muslims from the Talmudic literature about the prophets of Bani Israel cannot be entirely relied upon because some of its accounts either conflict with or are unverifiable from the Islamic texts (Quran and Hadith).

In the holy Quran, Rasul is used for two meanings. The first meaning refers to angels, including archangel Jibril, who acted as a medium of communication between Allah and His chosen persons most of whom were prophets. For example, angels came to visit Prophets Ibrahim and Lüt and informed them about the disaster that had been prepared by Allah for the oppressors. Angels also visited human beings who were not Nabi such as Maryam, daughter of Imran and mother of Isa, who was given the news of a son without a father at the Will of Allah. After completing their mission as bearers of the divine message, the angel Rasuls returned to their abode and did not live with humans in this world to see its implementation.

The second meaning of Rasul refers to Allah’s chosen human beings who came from the fraternity of Nabis. These Rasuls were from their people. They had parents, spouses and children (13:38). Allah chose them to receive the divine book (Kitab) and command (Hukm). They were tasked to inform their people about His omniscience and omnipotence and to embrace goodness and peace. Those who accepted the divine message were named Muslims. Those who rejected their Rasuls became Kaafir (from Kufr meaning rejector or denier of the divine message).

In Surah A’le-Imran verses 79-81, Allah mentions that He took a covenant from his Nabis that they will confirm and support a Rasul who came after them with a book and command from Allah to reinforce the divine message for the guidance of idol worshippers, disbelievers and transgressors. Taking this covenant was important because Allah selected Rasuls from the college of Nabis and their support and acceptance of the Rasuls of their time was Allah’s grand design to provide guidance to as many people as were present in their times.

It is for this reason that there could be more than one Nabi or Rasul in the same time span in history. Prophet Ibrahim and prophet Lüt were contemporaries but were assigned different peoples. Prophet Musa visited Khizr who some scholars believe was also a Nabi. Prophet Musa was a Rasul and a Nabi (19:51) while his brother Haroon was only a Nabi (19:53). Prophet Ibrahim was a Nabi (19:41) and a Rasul (9:70; 87:19). His eldest son Ismail was a Rasul and a Nabi (19:54) and his younger son Ishaq was a Nabi (37:112).

Sometimes Allah sent more than one Rasul to a locality to reinforce their mission of warning the unbelievers against their corrupt and antisocial practices. In surah Yaseen there is a reference to a place believed to be ancient Anatolia where Allah sent three Rasuls but still the people rejected the divine message and were destroyed for their transgression and arrogance (36:29). The names of the Rasuls mentioned in the Quran whose nations were destroyed for repeatedly refusing the divine message are Nuh, Lüt, Hüd, Saleh, Shuaib and Musa.

According to the holy Quran four Rasuls including Prophet Muhammad (S) were given a divine book and a sharia law for their people. They were Ibrahim, Daüd, Musa and Mohammad (S). The message of all divine scriptures was the same; acceptance of the sole and supreme Creator of the universal order (that there is no god but Allah) and the importance for humans to do good deeds (aml al-saleh) in this mortal world (belief in resurrection) to be successful in the permanent life of the hereafter (Jannat Adn and hüm feeha khalidün).

Human beings have three quintessential weaknesses. The first is the fear of the supreme being where all power rests; the second is the desire for possession of material things; and the third is the attainment of permanence when the second desire is fulfilled. The Divine Message addressed these three concerns of people from Prophets Adam to Muhammad (S). The divine message brought to the people by their prophets informed them that the supreme being who controlled everything including life and death was no one except Allah; that the faithful would enter Paradise as a reward for their obedience to Allah and His Rasul, and for the good deeds performed in this world which meant keeping peace and serving humanity; and finally in Paradise they would live forever and would never be expelled again. These were the very fears addressed by Shaitan when he tempted Adam and Hawa to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree (7:40).

Not all Nabis were Rasuls, such as Ishaq (37:112), Yakub (19:51), Yahya (3:39), Idrees (19:56), Haroon (19:53), Yüsha or Shamweel (2:247) and Yusuf (40:34). They preached the word of Allah to their contacts by adhering to their current or predecessor Rasul’s sharia law and divine book. Nabis did not publicise their message, or went viral, to use the broadcast terminology.

From this a general principle can be derived that while a Rasul received a new sharia law and a divine book from Allah for going public, a Nabi was only assigned the task of guiding his close circle about the sharia law and the divine book of his fellow or predecessor Rasul. Two notable exceptions in this general principle are Ismail and Isa, whom Allah calls a Nabi and a Rasul in the Quran, but we are not told if Ismail who lived in Makkah away from his father Ibrahim was given a different sharia law and a divine book for his people. Allah knows best.

Another difference is that a Rasul is a Nabi before he becomes a Rasul. In the parables of prophets narrated in the many chapters of the Quran, we learn that some Nabis were appointed Rasuls at a certain time in their life. But once they became Rasul they remained so for the rest of their lives. Some Rasuls lived very long (972 years for Shees and 950 years for Nüh).

Some Rasuls lived a short life (30 years for Isa before his ascension to heaven and 40 years for Uzair). Prophet Musa completed a period of ten years as a trainee Nabi under prophet Shoaib before Allah appointed him Rasul and ordered him to go to the Pharaoh and declare that there was no god except Allah and that Musa was Allah’s Rasul (20:47). Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad (S) were also given their responsibilities as Rasul after they had completed a certain time establishing themselves as truthful and trustworthy men in their community. When Prophet Isa addressed the bewildered crowd from his cradle, he told them he was a servant of Allah and a Nabi (19:30) but later when he addressed Bani Israel, he told them he was a Rasul who was sent to verify the divine scripture given by Allah to Prophet Musa (61:6). Allah also testifies in the Quran that Isa was a Rasul (3:171).

Rasuls were given miracles from Allah to convince their people that the divine message they brought was not their creation but the word of God. These miracles sometimes changed people’s mind to accept the divine message after rejecting it initially such as the magicians in Pharaoh’s court who refused to follow the orders of the king after seeing the miracles of Musa (7:121).

But there were also people who refused to change their pagan faith and called these miracles nothing more than a trick. People who demanded miracles from their Rasuls and got them and yet did not believe in the divine message and continued oppression and disobedience were destroyed (16:113). Surah Al-Shua’ra mentions several nations that disobeyed their Rasuls and were removed(23:44). People who accepted the divine message after seeing miracles were blessed with provisions and a peaceful and contented life of the hereafter (4:69).

A Rasul or Nabi could not do anything from his own will without receiving the divine instructions. In Surah Al-Kahf we learn that Prophet Muhammad (S) had to wait for divine revelation about the details of the people of cave which the Jews of Medina had asked to test him if he was a prophet, because he had not said ‘Ay Yasha Allah’ when he undertook to answer their questions (18:23).

A Rasul or Nabi could not leave his community without Allah’s permission. In Surah Yunus and other Surahs in the Quran we learn about the repentance of Prophet Yunus who left his community in Northern Iraq fearing that they will be destroyed by Allah for rejecting the divine message but instead he was reprimanded for abandoning them. In the boat which he took to flee, he was thrown in the ocean and swallowed by a whale and would not have left its belly had he not repented and was forgiven by Allah (37:144).

A Rasul or Nabi did not have the power to save his son from a calamity or seek forgiveness for his father if Allah decided that he was not to be saved for his Kufr (Nuh’s son (11:46) and Ibrahim’s father (9:114).

The number of Nabis Allah sent in this world since Prophet Adam far exceeds the number of Rasuls appointed by Allah to guide humanity. According to Hadith, Allah sent 124 thousand Nabis in this world but the number of Rasuls sent by Allah is only 313. The Quran mentions the names of 25 Nabis, 16 among them were Rasuls. As a fundamental article of their faith, Muslims are required to believe in Allah, His angels, His divine books and His Rasuls. They are also required to believe that all Rasuls are equal and there is no difference among them (2:285).

Unlike a Rasul, a Nabi does not go out and seek his public acceptance by acclaim, nor does he seek to change the law of his nation if it is not compatible with the sharia law of the last Rasul. Prophet Yusuf was a Nabi but he did not challenge the faith of the king of Egypt who consulted him about his dreams. A Nabi guides people in low ley but he does not convey God’s exact words to them, which is a function assigned only to a Rasul, the messenger of Allah.

To further illustrate the difference between a Nabi and Rasul, it could be said that Nabuwat is by birth while Risalat is by appointment. A Nabi who was born with God consciousness could be chosen by Allah to be sent as Rasul to a specific nation and preach to them the divine message till his death. A Nabi was a soft preacher who did not actively defend himself against aggression, but a Rasul was an active preacher who had the divine permission to resist oppression and unlawful authority in self-defence. Prophet Muhammad (S) migrated from his city when there was a threat to his life, but he also participated in some battles (Ghazwa) when the enemies of Muslims attacked Medina or breached peace agreements.

When a Nabi preached to his people and they did not listen to him, he did not admonish them nor sought Allah’s punishment for them. Many unbelieving nations executed their Nabis (5:70) or forced them to go into exile because they were not prepared to give up their idol worship and corrupt living. Some of the known Nabis in this category included Nabi Isaiah, Zachariah Yahya, Zulkifl, Danial and Uzair.

Allah sent Rasuls in every community and nation with His divine message (16:36) and until such time they rejected the message and persisted with oppression and mischief, Allah did not destroy them (20:208). Nabis and Rasuls were local to their community and spoke the native language (13:4 and 14:4), but they also travelled when commanded by Allah. Prophets Ibrahim and Yakub travelled away from their native towns. Prophet Muhammad (S) migrated to Medina where he spent the rest of his life even after the conquest of Makkah.

When Allah declared Prophet Muhammad (S) as a blessing for all worlds (21:107) and confirmed that He had completed the religion of Islam (5:3), the door of prophethood whether Nabi or Rasul closed after Muhammad (S). There will be no new Rasul nor Nabi after Muhammad (S) until the end of time. This is one of the great mercies of Allah on the Muslims. Imagine if the door of Nabuwat had not been closed after Prophet Muhammad (S), Muslims would have divided into hundreds of groups with each group claiming a different Nabi as a guide in their time and abandoning the divine book and sharia law of Prophet Muhammad (S). But this would not happen because Allah has undertaken to protect the Quran (15:9)

In the late 12th century, the Andalusian sufi scholar Ibn Al Arabi claimed that it was possible for a Muslim saint (wali) to attain spiritual evolution and reach the state of prophetic consciousness. This led later sufi scholars to interpret Ibn Al Arabi’s mystical philosophy as continuation of the institution of Nabi while agreeing that the holy Quran and the sharia law given by prophet Muhammad (S) was final and that there would be no divine book or Rasul after him. These interpretations have caused a storm of controversy about the finality of prophethood. People ignore that Ibn Al Arabi’s prophetic consciousness does not refer to Rasul and Nabi as we understand from the Quran, but it refers to the state of a Muslim saint or wali who achieves prophetic consciousness though his personal spiritual development.

So even if we acknowledge that a wali can be called a nabi in Ibn Al Arabi’s mystical sense, that nabi is not at liberty to share his prophetic consciousness with others in a public manner as a Rasul would have shared the revelations of Allah with his people, nor is this nabi allowed to start a community of his own to follow his sayings and his interpretation of the holy Quran. In this mystical explanation, there is room for hundreds of spiritually advanced nabis to coexist in the world quietly at any given time, without contradicting the fact that the door of Nabuwat and Risalat is closed permanently till the end of time.

A Nabi does not assert and ask the Ummah to acknowledge his Nabuwat. He continues to glorify Allah and peach the divine message without the need to make a community of his own and bind them to follow his interpretation of the holy Quran. Anyone who makes a claim to Nabuwat after Prophet Muhammad (S) will be strongly rejected by the Ummah and fail to seek endorsement of his false claim.

On the day of Judgement Allah will call each nation by the name of its religious leader, whether a Rasool or god, whom that nation followed, such as the nation of Musa, nation of Isa, followers of Uza, followers of Nasr etc. And in each nation people will be either given a clear chit of salvation in their right hand or given a charge sheet in their left hand which will determine their final abode (17:71). On Judgement Day, may Allah call us with the Ummah of Mohammad (S) and give the parchment of our deeds in our right hand which is the ultimate success of our total being (64:9). Ameen.

Legend: The first two numbers in parenthesis ( ) refer to Surah number and the numbers that follow the colon sign : refer to Ayah number in the Quran.

By Syed Sharfuddin

The ideology of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), the largest Islamic revivalist movement of our times is best described by Sadruddin Ansari’s introduction of the six points of Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Khandahlawi, the founder of TJ as follows:

We all know that this world is mortal. Everyone who is born here is destined to die one day, and everything that flourishes here is to meet its decay sooner or later. We are therefore bound to believe that this is not our permanent and perpetual abode; we can never succeed in living here forever. No one so far could do so and no one shall ever do so. Should we take this world as an external and everlasting home we should not be more than a fool…We are here on a journey and our original and real destination is yet to come. We are born here only to decorate our eternal home. We cannot be called wise if we prefer this mortal existence to the eternal one. It is a fact and we must bear it in mind permanently that our sole duty is to strive for the betterment of our real home. [From Six Points of Tablighi by Sadruddin Ansari, 1967].

The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) is the world’s most popular Islamic dawah (preaching) movement without an international headquarter or secretariat. Since its inception in 1926 in the Haryana region of Mewat in British India, TJ has remained faithful to its motto of being a puritan religious movement staying non-political, non-denominational and non-governmental in its dawah activities. Despite an impressive coordination network at the district, provincial and national levels in many countries, mainly in countries where the South Asian Muslim population lives as a majority, or is classified as an official minority faith community, TJ has no formal office holders or subscription paying members. Its preaching tours are carried out informally through a vast network of Deobandi mosques which open their doors to worshippers who are willing to share their mobile phone numbers with each other and take time out, including outside homestays of various duration, for visiting other municipalities and towns to talk about the fundamentals of Islam and the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, encourage people to join in congregational worship, learn about the various forms of zikr other than the Sufi tradition, and develop an understanding of how to perform and multiply good deeds.

Muslims who attend regular five time prayers at mosques are familiar with the ritual of a worshipper standing up after the end of a congregational Salat and requesting his fellow worshippers to stay behind after the sunnah prayers to listen to a short talk on making Islam work better in their everyday life. This short talk, not exceeding a few minutes consists of six points of dawah. These points were devised by the founder of TJ as the best way of achieving Islamic living and a means of attaining salvation. The six points, known to every volunteer of TJ like the back of his hand, are explained below:

1. Eiman or Article of Faith.
Reciting the First Kalema, having with full conviction about the oneness of Allah and following the tradition of the Prophet and his companions. It comprises a firm belief in Allah, the Angels, Divine Scriptures, His Prophets, both who have been named or mentioned in the Holy Quran and the other Divine Scriptures, as well as those not named or mentioned in the Holy Quran and other Divine Scriptures, and the Day of Judgement.

2. Salaat or Obligatory Congregational Prayer.
The correct way of performing Salaat according to the Quran and Sunnah. Guarding the observance of Salat times and achieving regularity in prayers. Keeping the heart and mind focused on the Creator during the performance of Salat. Learning about the various types of Salat and the difference between sunnah prayers and Nafil prayers. Understanding the correct protocols of salaat and the order and sequence of reciting Suras in the Salat. Pre-requisites of Wudu or ablution. Keeping body and soul clean and pure. Awareness of other obligatory worship such as Fasting, Alms giving and Hajj.

3. Glorification of Allah and Zikr.
There are different forms of Zikr which include reciting the Third and the Fourth Kalema; sending Durood or blessings on Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him; and making Astaghfar or repentance. Zikr is done for the love of Allah. Zikr is also Ilm, the knowledge of doing what is enjoined and staying away from what is forbidden. The highest form of Zikr is reading the holy Quran with its correct pronunciation, intonations, and punctuations and understanding its meaning verse by verse, knowing the context of revelation of the verses of the Quran and reading their tafseer and annotated commentary. Zikr also includes, reciting Duas from the Quran and from the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Learning Seerah of Prophet Muhammad and his life events for broadening knowledge of Islam and observing good Islamic practice.

4. Ikram-e-Muslim (Reverence of the Faithful)
This consists of Adab or respect; Akhlaq or good manners; knowing and fulfilling the rights and obligations of one Muslim toward another Muslim; and maintaining or restoring friendly ties within and outside one’s family, tribe, community, country, and humanity. A Muslim should not bear any envy or grudge against another Muslim and should always be ready to help another Muslim in need or distress.

5. Ikhlas-e-Niyyat or sincerity of intention.
All good deeds are done to please Allah and not for any worldly recognition or material benefit. Carrying out self-audit of one’s actions and activities as a Muslim. Observing good manners and being generous and forgiving toward others. Seeking the pleasure of Allah through continuous monitoring and renewal of good intention and good deeds.

6. Tafrigh-e-Waqt for Dawat-e-Tabligh.
Taking time out from one’s busy life to invite others to follow the path of Islam both by word of mouth and by setting good example from one’s best behaviour and honest dealings in the society. Taking the word of God and knowledge of Islam to other Muslims who need this information and invitation, and to display Islam to non-Muslims who have an interest in knowing and learning about Islam.

There is also a 7th point, but it is not as much a part of the Taaleem as the other prescribed six points. This point is Tark-e-La-Maani or abandoning useless pursuits which do not benefit a Muslim in securing his salvation in the hereafter. TJ does not promote monastic or hermit living by giving up on the material side of life, but it places on emphasis on worshipping Allah and living according to the life of the Prophet.

TJ does not proselyte on converting non-Muslims to Islam but focuses on the illiterate Muslim masses who are born into Muslim households but have no knowledge of the fundamentals of Islam, nor are practicing Muslims. Because TJ works with the ordinary and mostly illiterate Muslims, it shuns reasoning, scientific enquiry, and media publicity in conveying its message to the Muslims in plain terms by using the medium of teachings of the holy Quran and Shahih Hadith and Seerah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Just as every guild has its own lexicon, the Tablighi brothers also use expressions or terms that have a specific meaning in the context of their dawah work. These are explained as follows:

Ameer. Elected leader of a dawah party.

Bayan. It is a concise and motivating short talk given by a member of the dawah party at the end of an obligatory prayer inviting the members of the congregation to join the work of TJ and gain salvation.

Chilla. Refers to 40 days cycle of dawah activity.

Gasht. A walking tour that includes a dawah party knocking at the doors of Muslims in selected neighbourhoods in a target area to invite them to say the obligatory five times Salat in the mosque and learn about Islam.

Ijtima. Periodical or annual gathering of the volunteers and participants of TJ which takes place on different dates in each country at the local and national levels.

Ikraam. Hospitality extended by the locals to a dawah party during its tour. TJ, however, makes it a point that every member of the party uses his own income for food and travel expenses.

Jamaat. A dawah party comprising at least ten persons. It also refers to a large gathering of volunteers gathered for a special event of TJ.

Karguzari. It refers to the outcome of a certain activity carried out by a dawah party.

Markaz. Is the centre of TJ in specific geographical regions where the Movement’s elders take decisions about the composition and deployment of dawah parties.

Mashwara. As is indicated by the name, it refers to consultation among the people who form a dawah party at a given time and place, usually in a TJ hosting mosque.

Mehnat. This refers to the effort made in spreading the dawah to other Nawaqif Muslims. Mehnat refers to both time and money spent by the volunteers in a dawah party to achieve their numbers target.

Nawaqif. It is a term that refers to an illiterate and non-regular or non-practicing Muslim. The focus of TJ is on these people.

Six Points. These are the essential talking points which are at the heart of TJ’s mission.

Shab-e-Jumma. A gathering of TJ volunteers every Thursday after the Maghreb prayer at a designated mosque in each city. At such gatherings about 5 to 20 percent of participants are new volunteers.

Tabligh. The act of preaching and inviting another Muslim towards reformation. TJ does not pay any honorarium or renumeration to the volunteers for their dawah work. TJ also does not fundraise nor solicits donations for its dawah activities.

Tablighi Nisab. TJ’s prescribed books and chapters that form part of the Dawa party’s readings and talks.

Taleem: It refers to the public reading of an excerpt or Fazeel from the recommended books of TJ. These books are: Fazail-e-Amaal, Fazael-e-Sadaqat, Hayat-e-Sahaba and Tablighi Nisab.

Tanzeem. The coordination mechanism in which the dawah work carried out by the local mosques is coordinated at the Markaz where certain central mosques have the responsibility of setting the goals and oversight of smaller mosques to ensure that the deployment of dawah parties is broad-based and covers all parts of the region and country.

Tashkeel. It is the process and setting up a party of people to do dawah for a certain number of days. These gatherings can be for just one evening; a 3- day tour of local mosques; a 4- month tour in different mosques outside the locality, or 3-month international dawah tour to a specific country or city.

The members of TJ are predominantly the followers of Deobandi reformist school of thought, but they do not prevent participation by anyone who claims to be a Muslim and is interested in learning about Islam. TJ volunteers are mainly males representing all age groups and professions. In the Indian Subcontinent, TJ volunteers use Urdu, Bengali or Hindi language as means of general communication but in other linguistic regions they use the services of a local translator to reach the masses. Outside the Subcontinent, TJ volunteers speak Bahasa in Indonesia, Swahili in East Africa, English in Europe, and North America and French and Arabic in other Francophone and Arabophobe countries.

TJ has a simple structure which starts from a network of small mosques to larger area mosques where TJ Markaz is located. The dawah parties formed in each small mosque chooses its own Ameer (leader), a Speaker for Taleem (more like a party spokesperson), a Guide who knows the area locally and a Chef who takes the lead in cooking the preaching party’s food for the dawah party. All these people come from within the locally constituted party and are not paid for their services.

The preaching tour of a dawah party is organised for several fixed days and is largely adhered to the following format.

Sehroza or 3-day tour conducted per month in an area outside of the Jamaat’s locality.
Chilla or 40 day per year tour which involves a longer period of withdrawal from one’s own social environment to focus on the Deen. This could involve travel to a distant location from one’s own area, and a possible deployment in other parts of the country.
• A once in a lifetime ‘grand Chilla which consists of 3 consecutive Chillas (equating to 120 days) usually in another country.
Year-long tour. It is for the most devote volunteers and usually consists of tavelling by foot, from mosque to mosque in each country calling other Muslims to join the work of the Jamaat.

The main objective of the preaching tours is not just to invite other Muslims to the path of Allah but also to develop God-consciousness in every volunteer of the Jamaat. TJ does not have an elaborate international Secretariat, but it does have a loose structure in each country which focuses on the formation and deployment of Dawah parties and coordinates with the regional and national Markaz to avoid duplication and overlap. Some of the prominent National Centres of TJ are Nizamuddin in India, Raiwind in Pakistan, Tungi in Bangladesh, and Dewsbury in the UK. TJ’s Ameer are elected by the Movement’s elders who have hitherto been descendants or close associates of the founder of the TJ.

To appeal to the understanding of the masses, TJ has deliberately kept its teaching syllabus simple. The Jamaat does not load its teachings with the study of  Ilmul Kalam, or Islamic jurisprudence, or commentary of the holy Quran (Tafseer), or research on the authority of the narrators of Hadith. At the very outset, Maulana Ilyas declared that Islam being a comprehensive religion, TJ could not do all the work itself. He decided to hold on firmly to the instruction and teaching of the Aqeeda and Salat and made these two the fundamental pillars of the teaching syllabus of the Movement. He hoped that by doing so, TJ will act as a catalyst to connect the illiterate public, after it has been made familiar with the fundamentals of the Deen, with the Ulema and reformers of Islam, who have the concern for the Deen, but who are unable to connect with the illiterate masses and disabuse them of un-Islamic practices, superstitions, and wrong notions of Islam. By keeping its message simple, TJ has been able to win more followers than any other denomination or sect in Islam. Once they have tasted the true essence of the faith, they go on to acquire the rest of the things that Islam expects them to learn by sitting in the company of learned scholars.  

TJ achieves uniformity by limiting its own references to the dawah books approved by its grand council of elders who advise the Ameer of TJ in the main Markaz at their periodic meetings. TJ books comprise selected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on all aspects of life. TJ does not engage in dissemination of printed religious material nor undertakes social media campaigns. It gives emphasis to face to face or personal contact, in keeping with the original Islamic tradition of oral teaching. While this is a reinforcing agent, it ironically prevents the followers of the TJ from benefiting from a huge and ever growing knowledge bank of ancient and modern resources on Islam in Arabic and other languages.

TJ is facing new challenge from its global growth with new ideas and mediums of communication replacing the old established ways. Its new and emerging leadership at the National Marakiz in the Indian Subcontinent and the UK may soon need to reinvent the Movement that is prepared to revise and update its Tablighi Nisab, uses formal electronic, print, and social media to propagate TJ’s main message of dawah, and accommodates logic, scientific enquiry, and technology to satisfy the curious Muslim.

Further reading:

EPRA International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research (IJMR) – Peer Reviewed Journal Volume: 7| Issue: 9| September 2021|| Journal DOI: 10.36713/epra2013 || SJIF Impact Factor 2021: 8.047 || ISI Value: 1.188.

The Contentious Politics of Socio-Political Engagement: The Transformation of the Tablighi Jamaat in London: Submitted by Zacharias Peter Pieri to the University of Exeter as a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Ethno-Political Studies, May 2012. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/12826797.pdf