Graphic symbols of different religions on white

People of similar beliefs are often said to be a branch of the same religion especially if they had a common origin. This is now often applied to Islam. For example it is said that Shias are a branch of Islam and Sunnis are also a branch of Islam. In reality this is not true. Although originating from the same source, they are now both totally different religions from each other and it is impossible to reconcile the two. While professing belief in the Quran, the doctrines of both these religions are also in severe conflict with many Quranic fundamental decrees.


Primarily  religion and Deen-Islam are two parallels that can never meet, so Sunnism, a religion, cannot be a branch of Islam and neither can Shiaism. To understand this you first have to understand the comparative difference between religion and Deen.


Deen is a word with no English equivalent but in the Quranic context can be translated as the living social order: the System of God. Religion is a subjective experience shaped by the susceptibilities and prejudices of individuals, while Deen is an objective reality concerned with the progress and welfare of not only individuals but mankind as a whole.


Science, like social systems, can have branches such as astronomy, geology and mathematics etc. All science disciplines are distinct yet connected and one does not contradict the other. The facts of chemistry are true, as are the facts of physics, and without being in conflict with each other, one helps us to understand the other. Is this true of religions or any of their respective sects? To be a devotee of one religion you have to deny all others. For example, the Protestant faith and Catholicism are in conflict with each other because of their doctrines, as are Shiaism and Sunnism. None can be reconciled with each other or with any other religion, and they will always be in conflict with each other.


While Sunnism and Shiaism are traditionally considered the two main ‘branches’ of Islam, Sunnism rejects the core doctrines of Shiaism as Shiaism rejects the core doctrines of Sunnism, though both say they accept the Quran as word of God, neither applies it in practice. Similarly, each of their sub-sects rejects the doctrines of each other, and on occasions rejects even the canon of the main sect to which they subscribe to, and neither do any of the sects share a common interpretation of the ‘hadith and sunna’, the traditions they erroneously attribute to Muhammad, and on which their sharia and hudud laws are based.


The more extreme adherents of these sects are constantly at loggerheads and frequently attack and kill each other. If they consider one another as belonging to Islam, then why do they do this? Is this not a contradiction of the Quran that says:


‘No believer kills another believer, except by mistake …” [Verse 4.92].


Since killing each other is something they do often, they are either making many mistakes or they are not believers.


The real reason that they are at war with each other is because both are the products of political and nationalistic struggles and all have created religions, loosely based on Islam, to match their own agendas. They have diverged from a dynamic social system and created religions that are a means to political ends.


Their attachment to Islam is by name only and by this threadbare link they mistakenly conclude that they are branches of this dynamic Deen.


Islam is a Deen, a social system wholly contained in the Quran. As a social system it can be compared to other systems such as Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy, Monarchy etc.  – but not with religions.


Islam is a Deen that encompasses all aspects of life, and it is the Quran that gives key values covering family, adoption, marriage, divorce, science, food, conservation, social etiquette, social welfare, governance, financial contracts, crime and punishment among many other central aspects for a life of peace and security for all people and all nations.  It is the framework for  a social order for all mankind. The whole process of Islam is the universal harmonisation of mankind. There are many facets of Islam but there can be NO branches or sects.


Every individual can remove fear and turmoil to harmonise life. This can only be fully and properly done by implementing the Absolute Laws and Permanent Values that are found in the Quran and the Quran alone. Anything else is not Deen-Islam.


Islam is an Arabic word, but to be Islamic you do not have to label it Islamic. Permanent Values and Absolute Laws create peace and security whatever you call them. The deed is far greater than the word.


Therefore, people can belong to different countries and each can be part of the Islamic society, culturally different, but their principal values remaining true to the Quran. Groups of people with conflicting aims and ideologies cannot belong to the same social system and cannot be called a society, even if they live in the same area, speak the same language, eat the same food but have goals and values that are in conflict with each others’.


God’s ordinance excludes from protection anyone who rejects the Quranic values: “Anyone who seeks to follow other than Deen-Islam as a way of life, will never be accepted by Him, and in the life yet to come he will be among the losers.” [Verse 3:85].


The Quran also states: “Those who separate themselves from this Deen-Islam and form conflicting sects do not belong with you. Their judgment rests with God then He will inform them of everything they had done.” [Verse 6:159].


When societies split into sects, there can be nothing but disharmony: “We sent to Thamoud their brother Saleh, saying, “You shall serve God.” But they turned into two feuding sects. He said, “O my people, why do you hasten to commit evil instead of good works? If only you implore God for protection from wrongdoing, you may attain mercy.” [Verse 27:45-46].


Furthermore the Quran says: “Ironically, they broke up into sects only after the knowledge had come to them, due to jealousy and resentment among themselves. If it were not for a decision from your Sustainer to respite them according to His ordinance, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, the later generations who inherit this guidance are also full of doubts.” [Verse 42:14].


God gives clear and explicit instructions: “Do not be like those who divide this Deen-Islam into sects: each party rejoicing with what they have.” Verse 30:32. So those who separate into sects of one kind or another are clearly going against Quranic injunctions not to divide into differing parties. Religions, sects and their splinter sects are nothing but detrimental to the welfare and progress of society.


God commands that:

“You shall hold fast in unity to this guidance from God, all of you and do not be divided. Recall God’s blessings upon you, you used to be enemies and He reconciled your hearts. By His grace you became as brothers. You were at the brink of catastrophe and He saved you from this. God thus explains His revelations for you that you may be guided. Let there be a community of you who invite to what is good, advocate righteousness and forbid all that is evil. These are the ones who prosper. Do not be like those who became divided and disputed, despite clear proofs that were given to them. For these have incurred a terrible retribution. [Verses 3:103-105].


The Quran is the criterion for judging and reconciling disputes. Any belief or system that conflicts with the Quran is not Islam.  As clearly set out in verse 3:85 anything other than Deen-Islam is not acceptable to God. All the conflicting sects and splinter groups are not different branches of Deen-Islam, they are to all effects and purposes different religions that conflict with Deen-illah, God’s System. Therefore all such religions are not different versions of Islam, and by implication all religions are not different paths to God, they are different versions of wrong.[1]


[1]The story of ‘the Blind Men and the Elephant’  as told by John Godfrey Saxe is an excellent poem that shows that religions based on subjective experiences which while true in some aspects, are not absolutely so. In the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side, the leg or the tail. When they compare their experiences they learn that they are in complete disagreement. Similarly, religions and religious experiences are based on the susceptibilities of men and cannot be flawless. Through time disagreements cause religions to change with innovations and diverge further into sects and subsets. With Deen-Islam, people may move away, but the source, the Quran, is always there to check and reinstate the Absolute Laws and the Permanent Values.