Islam Not Muslims

by Ayman Refaat

Islam is a religion, but Muslims are the people who follow this religion. And we need to follow the religion, not the followers of the religion. So why do we need to follow Islam not Muslims? There are three reasons for that.
The first reason is that Islam, as God and his prophet transmitted it to us, is perfect. That is why the last verse that the prophet Muhammad received from God in the Quran was this verse:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion. (5:3)

And that is why Prophet Muhammad said in his last sermon “the farewell speech”
وَحَدَّثَنِي عَنْ مَالِكٍ، أَنَّهُ بَلَغَهُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ تَرَكْتُ فِيكُمْ أَمْرَيْنِ لَنْ تَضِلُّوا مَا تَمَسَّكْتُمْ بِهِمَا كِتَابَ اللَّهِ وَسُنَّةَ نَبِيِّهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏
Yahya related to me from Malik that he heard that the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said, “I have left two matters with you. As long as you hold to them, you will not go the wrong way. They are the Book of God and the traditions of His Prophet.”

But on the other hand, Muslims are not perfect, because they are a nation, like every nation, they have good people and bad people… honest and lairs… stupid and smart… leaders and followers… sincere and hypocrites … peaceful and terrorists … etc.
So, like what happens in every religion and every county, there are some Muslim scholars say an opinion just to please their political leaders, or to follow the public opinion, just to keep their positions. God described these types of people in Quran when he said:
اشْتَرَوْا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا فَصَدُّوا عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ سَاءَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
They have purchased with the verses of God a small price and averted [people] from His way. Indeed, it was evil that they were doing. (9:9)
Of course, there are very good and respected Muslim scholars who refuse to purchase with the verses of God for a small price, and they pay the price, such Imam Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal who was locked down; just because his opinion did not please the caliph. But, even such these scholars, they are still human beings like me and like you. They are not gods, or prophets, or angels. They are not perfect. They have a lot of right opinions and some mistakes. That is why they do not agree with each other sometimes.
قال الإمام مالك بن أنس : “إنما أنا بشر أخطئ وأصيب، فانظروا في رأيي، فكل ما وافق الكتاب والسنة فخذوا به، وما لم يوافق الكتاب والسنة فاتركوه.”
Imam Mālik ibn Anas said: “Surely I am only a man: I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it.”

Also, he said:
قال الإمام مالك : ” كل يؤخذ من قوله ويرد إلا صاحب هذا القبر.”
”Everyone after the Prophet will have his sayings accepted and rejected – except the Prophet .”

25 years after prophet’s death, his companions fought against each other in the Battle of the Camel. Ali ibn Abi Talib, Abd Allah ibn Abbas and ʻAmmār ibn Yāsir were in one army against the mothers of the believers ‘Ā’ishah bint Abī Bakr, Talha bin Obaidullah and Az-Zubayr ibn Al-Awam. Ali ibn Abi Talib was asked: ““Is it possible that all these companions of Prophet Muhammad have all gathered together for falsehood? How can they be wrong? Is such a thing possible?” Imam Ali gave such a powerful response. He said:
الحق لايُعرف بالرجال.. وإنما يُعرف الرجال بالحق.. فاعرف الحق تعرف أهله
“The truth is not to be known by the men, but the men are to be known by the truth. Get to know the truth, and then you would know the people of truth.”

Which mean that the truth is not to be measured by the values and personalities of men, but the values and personalities of men are to be measured by the truth.
The second reason is that Muslims now are divided into many different sects and schools of thoughts after the prophet’s death, even though God in the Quran warned them of these divisions and splits.
وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ . مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا ۖ كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ
Do not be of those who associate others with God. [Or] of those who have divided their religion and become sects, every faction rejoicing in what it has. (30:29-32)

Also, He said:
وَإِنَّ هَٰذِهِ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَا رَبُّكُمْ فَاتَّقُونِ فَتَقَطَّعُوا أَمْرَهُم بَيْنَهُمْ زُبُرًا ۖ كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ
And indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so fear Me.” But the people divided their religion among them into sects - each faction, in what it has, rejoicing. (23:51-53)

The first split was resulted in the conflict for leadership after the prophet’s death. The Muslims was divided into two sects: a sect believed that the leader for Muslim nation should be from his household (family), and another sect does not agree about that. The first sect is called “Shia”, and the other sect is called “Sunni”. This split started more political than theological, but over time theological differences have developed.
The second split started when some Muslims tried to interpret the Quran. The Muslims was divided into two schools of thoughts: The school of thoughts that refuses any interpretation of the Quran is called “Salfi” (predecessors). They understand Quran literally (outward aspects its apparent meaning), and they explain its meanings linguistically using another portion of the Quran, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, or saying of his companions. On the other hand, the school of thoughts that tried to interpret the Quran was divided into 2 different schools of thoughts: “Mu’tazila” who interprets the Quran based on reason and rational thought, and “Sufi” (Mystical) who interprets the Quran based on inner esoteric.

Of course, each split started very shallow, and then went deeper, because each sect and school of thought goes farther and extreme in their opinions.
Schools of Islamic theology
They refuses any interpretation of Quran
They tried to interpret the Quran
They understand Quran literally (outward aspects its apparent meaning), and they explain its meanings of linguistically using another portion of the Quran, or sayings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, or saying of the Companions.
based on reason and rational thought
based on inner esoteric

The third reason is that the Muslims civilization’s stage now is in very low and down level… the aging level; because it is frozen for 8 centuries now. But Islam is a religion whose dogmas can be proven by reasoning. That is why the Quran reproved the slavish imitation of tradition, and encourage us to think; because the reason is the way for the faith in Islam.
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمُ اتَّبِعُوا مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ قَالُوا بَلْ نَتَّبِعُ مَا أَلْفَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ آبَاءَنَا ۗ أَوَلَوْ كَانَ آبَاؤُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ . وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لَا يَسْمَعُ إِلَّا دُعَاءً وَنِدَاءً ۚ صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ
And when it is said to them, “Follow what God has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers did not have any sense, nor were they guided? The example of those who disbelieve is like that of one who shouts at what hears nothing but calls and cries cattle or sheep - deaf, dumb and blind, so they have no sense. (2:170-171)

Also, the God asked Muslims in the Quran to think about his creations (the human body, the nature …etc) to find the laws that God set up for them. This law is what we called “science”.
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَالْفُلْكِ الَّتِي تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِمَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ وَمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مِن مَّاءٍ فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَابَّةٍ وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ وَالسَّحَابِ الْمُسَخَّرِ بَيْنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what God has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason. (2:164)

We see different Muslims sects called each other disbelievers, kill each other, and bomb each other’s mosques, even though the prophet Muhammad said:
وعن أبي بكرة نفيع بن الحارث الثقفى رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال‏:‏ ‏”‏إذ التقى المسلمان بسيفيهما فالقاتل والمقتول في النار‏”‏ قلت يارسول الله، هذا القاتل فما بال المقتول‏؟‏ قال‏:‏ ‏”‏إنه كان حريصاً على قتل صاحبه‏”‏.‏
Abu Bakrah Ath-Thaqafi (May God be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet said: “If two Muslims meet each other with their swords then (both) the killer and the killed one are in the (Hell) Fire.” I said, “O Allah’s Messenger! it is alright for the killer, but what about the killed one?” He said, “The killed one was eager to kill his opponent.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 83, Hadith 14)

We see a Muslim group kill people because they refused to convert to Islam, even though the Quran said:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. (2:256)

Islam has 1500 years history, and there was no one Islamic terrorist before Osama bin Laden changed the Jihad to be terrorism.
Based on all these behaviors, we can tell that Muslims changed now, and they do not behave in the Islamic manners. It is very sad, but true, to say that we –Muslims– are a big reason behind Islamophobia. Our bad behavior makes people hate Islam. When people see our bad behaviors they think these are the behaviors of Islam. That is why some of western converters said: “I praised God; because I convert to Islam before I met Muslims.” Also, Imam Muhammad Abduh said in the last century: “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.”
The problem is that each Muslim looks at Islam through a very small window. This window could be his personality, his sect, his school of thought, his era, or the stage of his civilization. That is why we need to judge Muslims by Islam, not to judge Islam by Muslims. We need to follow Islam not Muslims. But what if we cannot understand the Quran or the prophet’s traditions? Cannot we depend on the scholars’ explanations? Of course we need their opinions to understand our religion. But we do not accept any opinion of any scholar without a proof from the Quran or the prophet’s traditions. But we need to be careful, because some people they says their opinion, and then say a Quranic verse as a proof to their opinion. But when you think, to find the connection between this opinion and this verse, you find this verse does actually not prove this opinion.

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