The sects in Islam

The religion Islam, like the other religions, is not free from different sects. There are a total of 73 sects in Islam. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), the split of the Muslim Ummah (community) began.

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
"Benu Israel split into 72 groups, and my Ummah will split into 73 groups. They are all in the fire except one." He (Abdullah bin 'Amr) asked, "And who is that O Messenger of Allah?" He (ﷺ) said: "Whoever follows me and my companions."
Sunan Tirmidhi 2641

Beginning of the split

The split started with Sunnis and Shism, among others. That split started with the election of the first Khaleefah (successor of the Prophet).

Those who supported the election of the Prophet's beloved friend are the Sunnis. Shism did not agree with the election of Abu Bakr. They felt that 'Ali has more right to it. This caused a dispute and split between the two groups.

Continuation of the split

Many followed their own interpretation over that of the Companions. Leaders were followed and the differences abounded.

One of the first sects besides Shim is the Qadariyyah and Khawarij. These sects were mainly active during the lifetime of the Companions (first generation of Islam). The Companions and their students began to speak out about those two groups.

As time progressed, new groups emerged, including the Murjiah. That sect is seen as the last category of the main sects.

Main sects of the Ummah:
  1. Shia
  2. Qadariyyah
  3. Khawarij
  4. Murjiah
Groups outside the Ummah

There are also groups that claim to be from the Islamic sects. This includes the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazila and Ahmadiyyah.

These sects were not seen as Muslims by the first three generations of Islam. This is because of their deviant creed that includes matters of unbelief.

  1. Shia
  2. Qadariyyah
  3. Khawarij
  4. Murjiah
  5. Jahmiyyah
  6. Mu'tazilah

The Shia

The first ones among the Shia believed that 'Ali (the nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet (ﷺ)) should have been elected as caliph. They believe that 'Ali had a right over the other Companions.

In addition, unlike the other sects within Shia, they did not believe that Abu Bakr and Umar were disbelievers. They used to let go of such accusations.

Those original Shiites are seen as members of the Ummah. Sunnis do not see them as infidels, but as Muslims who have innovated in the religion. These Shia have become outnumbered and faded away with time.

The Shia sect consists of several inner movements. Similarly, there are Shia who believe that the caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar are disbelievers and great sinners.

They base those beliefs on interpretations and traditions from their books. The Sunnis do not regard these Shias as Muslims because of their claims about the Companions.

The Qadariyyah

Followers of the Qadarism sect are called Qadari. They believe that the concept of Al-Qadr (Destiny) has nothing to do with the actions of people. For example, a group under Qadarism believe that Allah has no knowledge of a person's deeds until it actually happens.

Another group among the Qadariyyah believe that Allah has the Knowledge of the deeds, but that they do not happen because Allah allows it.

The Sunnis believe that the original followers of Qadarism are part of the Muslim Ummah. So those are who believe that Allah does have Knowledge of a person's deeds before it happens.

The Khawarij

Within the sects of Khawarij there are different movements. The sects started with a person called Guwaysarah who rebelled against the Prophet (ﷺ). The Kharijites are said to have been especially active during the caliph Uthman and caliph 'Ali.

After the Khawarij killed the Uthman, a great Fitnah arose. That Fitnah would be the starting point between the dispute between the Companions 'Ali and Mu'awiyyah.

The two companions set up a moderator to resolve the dispute. The Khawarij disagreed with that move, believing it to be against the Laws of Allah. Because of that, they saw 'Ali as a disbeliever, so they were opposed.

Characteristics of the Khawarij:
  1. Revolt against the Islamic leader
  2. Excommunicate (Takfir) Muslims on major sins
  3. Believing that the concept of Eman cannot decrease

The Murjiah

This sect of Islam believes that the concept of Eman cannot descrease nor increase. They believe it is established on the basis of pronunciation and faith in the heart. Sunnis believe that Eman increase and can decreases, and that actions are (also) part of Eman.

Among the Murjiah there are those who believe that committing disbelief in deeds is not valid. They believe that that person can just call himself a Muslim. Sunnis do not perceive this type among the Murjiah as members of the Ummah.

Does a Murji (follower of Murijah) believe that committing disbelief in deeds is valid, and that a person becomes a disbeliever? Then it is they that the Sunnis believe are part of the Ummah.

Thus, these types of Murjis believe that Eman consists of: belief in the heart, utterance on the tongue, and that deeds perfect the Eman.

The Jahmiyyah

The name comes from the founder named Jahm ibn Safwan. He was fanatical about Greek philosophy and used it to interpret Islamic concepts. And so, Jahm ibn Safwan misinterpreted the Attributes of Allah.

Jahm ibn Safwan assumed those Attributes of Allah to be understood in the figuritive way. He interpreted them and thereby increased to take His Attributes literally as it is described.

The followers of Jahmiyyah have renamed themselves over time. For example, you have the Mu'tazila and Asha'irah, both of which figuratively interpret and understand the Attributes of Allah.

The Sunnis are unanimous that the Jahmiyyah and its movements do not belong to the Muslim Ummah.

The Mu'tazilah

Like the Jahmiyyah, this movement also ascribes itself to Islam. It is a movement very similar to the Jahmiyyah. Mu'tazilites also believe that the Attributes of Allah should be understood figuratively. They are followers of the founder: Wassil Ibn Ata.

The sects is known for its focus on reasoning when it comes to the Attributes of Allah. In addition, the Mu'tazilah are also known for the belief that the Quran was created. And that the Word of Allah is a created concept. They believe that Allah does not Speak, but that He creates His Speech. This movement was especially active during the time of Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

Sunnis believe that the Mu'tazilah is a branch of the Jahmiyyah. And that they do not belong to the Muslim Ummah.

Abu Athari writes about basic principles within Islam. He uses his critical and well-researched way to spread knowledge of the first three Muslim generations.

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