Many sects have arisen that ascribe themselves to Islam, though they are as far as possible from the methodology of Islam and its teachings. They are, in fact, at odds with what Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) and his noble companions were all about.
Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) spoke truly when he told us of unseen things revealed to him by Allah (Glorious & Exalted). He (Peace be upon him) told us that this nation would be split into sects as the Jews and Christians were before us. All of these different sects (either due to a corrupt nature and belief or blindly following vain desires and trivial passions) are misguided, except those who use the methodology of Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) and his companions, and who walk along his (Peace be upon him) path.
Heretical sects like these do not represent Islam. Islam is innocent of their corrupt beliefs and erroneous interpretations and the lies they tell about the religion, in terms of rites of worship and rules for which Allah Almighty has given them no authority. It is no wonder what we are told about them when we consider that we know that:
One of these misguided sects was founded by a Jew who claimed to be a Muslim—Abdullah ibn Saba', the Jew, who hypocritically claimed to be a Muslim, but secretly disbelieved. He founded the Shiite sect, otherwise known as the Rawafid—the Rejecters—one of these misguided, rebellious sects, based on corrupt beliefs about Allah (Mighty & Majestic), on insulting and defaming the pure wives of His prophet (Peace be upon him), on cursing the noble companions of Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him), on slandering the "Keeper of the Sky," the Angel Gabriel (Peace be upon him), on blaspheming about the Holy Qur’an, on corrupting Islamic law and rules according to their desires and passions, on making up stories about hidden imams, and on lying and deceiving, may Allah's Curse be upon them.
The scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah—those who live by the guidance and example of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)—realized the danger of these misguided and misguiding sects, so they opposed them and refuted their fabrications with authentic scriptural evidence and straightforward logic, since authentic scripture does not contradict straightforward logic.
It is worth clarifying the meaning of the Sunnah and of Ahlus-Sunnah (the people of the Sunnah) in order to see those beyond it—those who invent things and call it Islam, the people of misguided innovation.
The Sunnah is: that which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his companions did, in terms of belief, statements, deeds, and conditions.
"Ahlus-Sunnah," as a technical term, has two meanings: general and particular.
As for the general usage: what is meant is what is compared to the Shiites, which would include all groups that associate themselves with Islam—except for the Shiites—in the meaning of Ahlus-Sunnah.
As for the particular usage: what is meant is what is compared to the innovators (Ahlul-Bid`ah) and purveyors of invention in religion, such as the Shiites, the Khawarij, the Murji'ah, the Jahmiya, the Mu`atazila, the Sufis, and other innovators like them. These would be included in the meaning of Ahlus-Sunnah.
The scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah stood up to the innovators. They refuted those who made false philosophical speculations about the Being of Allah (Mighty & Majestic) and His Attributes. They refuted the Jahmiya, the Mu`atazila, and others. If they had not, atheism and denial of the Existence of God would have found its way into the Islamic World as it found its way into the Western World.
The doctrine of Ahlus-Sunnah concerning the Names of Allah (Mighty & Majestic) and His Attributes is: confirmation of that which Allah Almighty confirmed for Himself and what His messenger (Peace be upon him) confirmed, without assimilation, qualification, or anthropomorphization, and negation of that which Allah (Mighty & Majestic) negated for Himself and what His messenger (Peace be upon him) negated for Him, negation without deviation or denial, in accordance with the Saying of Allah Most High, “There is none like unto Him”[Surah Al-Shura, 42: 11]
As for the methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah:
Ahlus-Sunnah possesses a distinguished methodology, relying on the Book of Allah (Mighty & Majestic), the Sunnah of His prophet, Muhammad (Peace be upon him), and the consensus of the Ummah (the Muslim community). They also draw conclusions based on straightforward logic and pure, uncorrupted human nature.
Ahlus-Sunnah restrict themselves to the scripture in matters in which there is no room for interpretation, such as matters of the Unseen in which there is no place for personal opinion, nor do they take it upon themselves to interpret ambiguous expressions or indulge in far-fetched explanations.
This sound methodology, congruent with authentic scripture and straightforward logic, is what made it possible for Ahlus-Sunnah to stop the tongues of those resistant to Islam and its people, from among the disbelievers, atheists, hypocrites, and innovators, and not let anyone gain control over them and force them to do heretical things, or put them in compromising situations, as the innovators did with each other, and as some of them did with the atheists and disbelievers.
Ahlus-Sunnah set certain rules in this methodology that they have adopted, such as:
A. Holding fast to the Arabic language
Because the Holy Qur’an was revealed in the language of the Arabs, it is not fitting for us to give any word or expression a meaning unknown to the Arabs, otherwise it would be an explanation outside its language, and it would not be fitting to rely on individual taste or personal inclination in interpreting the words of the Holy Qur’an.
B. Interpreting the Qur’an by the Qur’an
The Holy Qur’an is from Allah (Mighty & Majestic). There are no differences or contradictions in it, as we have mentioned previously. Thus, it is not appropriate to interpret the Qur’an in a way that some verses contradict other verses.
C. Interpreting the Holy Qur’an by the Prophetic Sunnah
Everything the Messenger (Peace be upon him) said and did represents an explanation and clarification of the Holy Qur’an.
Thus, denying the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be upon him)—as is done by some misguided sects who claim that the Qur’an is sufficient without the Sunnh—is in all actuality, denying the Holy Qur’an.
D. Interpreting the Holy Qur’an by the statements of the Companions
The Companions were the best of all generations by virtue of witnessing Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him), and their superiority includes knowledge. The Companions were the ones in whose language the Qur’an was revealed. They used to witness the occasions and incidents during which the revelation came and in which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) used to say what he said.
As such, the saved sect is Ahlus-Sunnah, since we find that, among its most prominent characteristics is adherence to that which the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) came with in terms of doctrine, rites of worship, and standards of behavior and interpersonal interaction.
To clarify, if any of these misguided, innovative sects (such as the extreme Sufis or any others) claim methods and acts of worship other than what the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his companions used to do, they are to be rejected. There is no benefit in them and they are not acceptable before Allah (Mighty & Majestic), in accordance with the saying of the Prophet (Peace be upon him), "Whoever does a deed that we are not upon, it will be rejected of him." [Sahih Muslim]
Indeed, it would be as though these misguided, innovative sects are disbelieving in the Holy Qur’an and attributing imperfection to it with their false claims about deeds and false, misguided acts of worship.
As the Most High has said, “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”[Surah Al-Ma'idah, 5:3]
So where did the Sufis and other misguided sects get these acts and made-up rituals after the religion of Allah (Mighty & Majestic) was perfected and its favor completed, when they are on a path other than what the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his noble companions were on?
Indeed, it is as though these misguided sects accuse their prophet (Peace be upon him) of falling short in conveying the law and the message with what they claim and invent.
Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) did not leave any path to goodness or any path that would lead to Allah's good pleasure (Blessed and Exalted is He), except that he commanded it and urged the people to do it, and he did not leave any path to wickedness, except that he prohibited it and warned against it.
That is why the only path to pleasing our Lord (Blessed & Exalted) is that which the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his noble companions were upon.
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