We have already seen in my article “Sectarianism and Religious School of Thoughts” that sectarianism is something different from grouping e.g. ‘schools of thoughts’ in Islam. Merely division of Muslim society into various segments/groups or religious Schools of Thoughts may not be labeled as sectarianism, as long as such segments or religious Schools of Thoughts hold Different views/ beliefs on the basis of Quran and such views are not Contradictory to each other. There is difference between different views and contradictory views. Two views are different views, if any one of the two may be adopted without negating or accepting the other. Two views are contradictory views, if any one of the two may NOT be adopted without negating the other. For instance, A says Z is dead; and B says Z is alive; these two views are contradictory because a person may not adopt any one of the two without negating the other view. Similarly, suppose, A says Z is sick; B says Z is on leave; these two views are different views because a person may adopt any one of the two views without negating or accepting the other one. Quran is Allah's Words; as such Quran has multi-layered meanings. Therefore different meanings of Quran may be exacted, and all such different meanings may be adopted, if such meanings are not contradictory to each other. To hold different views based on Quran is called Grouping which is permissible in Islam; but to have contradictory views is called sectarianism which is not allowed in Islam.
Quran states the concept of sects/sectarianism as follow:
“And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and do not separate” (al-imran-103).
It is consensus among Islamic scholars that word ‘ rope’ used in this verse means Qur'an. There is also a saying of our Nabi (saw) in which Quran has been described as a link between ‘arsh’ and the earth. This Qur'anic verse is advising all Muslims to hold fast to Qur'an and not to be separated (tafarraqu); in other words, if any segment of Muslims separate themselves from Qur'an, such an act is called by Qur'an as ‘tafarka’/sectarianism. Any grouping based on religious views, functions to be performed, race and culture among the Muslims is not forbidden in Islam, if such grouping is not contradictory to Qur'an, and if such grouping is NOT based on certain verses of the Qur'an, ignoring the other verses. Sectarianism is essentially associated with such a grouping which is based on certain verses of the Quran, ignoring the other verses, and which is based on such ideas/practices and beliefs which are contradictory to the Quran. The Quran says: "Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects - you, [ Muhammad (s.a.w)], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah ; then He will inform them about what they used to do" (al-anam-159).
There is another connotation of verse (ale-imran-103). This verse is advising the Muslims two things. The first advice is to hold fast to the Qur'an; in other words to act according to the Qur'an. The second advice is not to be separated; in other words, not to damage the unity of the ‘Muslim Millat’. These two advices are, in words, exclusive of each other. It means whether or not the Muslims are acting upon the Qur'an, they are to keep united; similarly whether or not the Muslims are united, they are to act upon the Quran. But actually these two advices are, in spirit, related to each other. Actually acting upon one advice leads to acting upon the other advice; when the Muslims would be acting upon the Qur'an, they would be gradually united; similarly when the Muslims would be getting united, they would be gradually acting upon the Qur'an.
All ‘awamer’ / commanded things-whether related to beliefs or actions- and all ‘nawahi’/ forbidden things –whether related to beliefs or actions- in Islam lead to establishment of unity among the ‘Muslim Millat’. It means when the Muslims would be acting upon the Quran, they would be actually getting united; when the Muslims would be getting united, they would be acting upon the Quran. In short, UNITY among the ‘Muslim Millat’ is the ultimate and desire-able worldly objective of the Quran- though ultimate and desire-able spiritual objective is Allah.
The unity of ‘Muslim Millat’ has been given such a high importance that no segment of ‘Muslim Millat’ is allowed to damage that unity, even if such segment is right in all their actions and beliefs. The two advices contained in above mentioned verse (ale-Imran-103) are to act upon the Quran and not to be separated. As stated already, these advices are, in words, exclusive of each other; it means even if a segment of ‘Muslim Millat’ is acting upon the first advice i.e. acting upon the Quran, such segment is not allowed to violate the second advice by getting itself separated from the other segments of the ‘Millat’, through developing contradictory worldly interests. Muslim Millat is not like other nations/ ‘ummah’ in its structure; Muslim Millat is unique in its formation. All segments of this ‘Muslim Millat’ are connected with one another through ‘Tauheed’; this link of ‘Tauheed’ obliges all Muslims to become and remain one as far as their worldly interests are concerned.
The meaning of ‘separation’ mentioned in verse ale-Imran 103 does not mean adoption of different ideas/practices/ and beliefs. As already stated, various ideas/practices and beliefs (in short, various Schools of Thoughts e.g. Malki, Shafi, Hanbli, Hanfi and Jafri) are allowed in Islam provided such ideas/practices and beliefs are based on the Quran; such a grouping is not forbidden in Islam. The forbidden ‘separation’ mentioned in ale-Imran 103 is not related to different ideas/practices (based on the Quran); this forbidden ‘separation’ is relating to contradictory views/interests/ ‘mufadaat’. In other words, if views/interests of various segments of ‘Muslim Millat’ are CONTRADICTORY to one another, such various segments would be labeled as sects. The various segments of ‘Muslim Millat’ may have different views/interests but they are not allowed to have contradictory views/interests.
We may conclude that sectarianism is such a grouping which is based on mutually contradictory views/ interests among various groups. Sectarianism is such grouping which is based on certain verses of the Qur'an, ignoring the other verses. The grouping which is merely based on various ideas/practices/beliefs based on the Quran is allowed in Islam; whereas sectarianism is forbidden in Islam. To include all segments of Muslims is to constitute Muslim Millat; to separate any segment of Muslims by having contradictory views is to make sect. The Muslim Millat may entertain different ideas and practices based on the Qur'an but are not allowed to be separated by developing contradictory views/ interests among themselves due to such different ideas and practices. Sectarianism may be crushed by eliminating all such activities and factors which help in maintaining and promoting contradictory interests/veiws among the 'Muslim Millat'. Obviously when two segments have contradictory views, each of them claims itself to be right. A mechanism may be developed to decide and make consensus between two opposing Muslim segments as to what view is right or wrong. it needs not be emphasized that such a consensus can only be made on the basis of Quran and Sunnah. Luckily almost all points of disagreements/conflicts are relating to Different views, not relating to Contradictory views which are only a few. It means all disagreements/conflicts among various Muslim segments may be diluted by accepting right of all segments to adopt Different views relating to any issue. The Contradictory views, which are a few, may also be diluted by intellectuals through intellectual exercises undertaken for the purpose. I believe that many views which are considered as contradictory are actually not contradictory; rather such seemingly contradictory views are actually Different views.
It may plz be appreciated that the concepts of sectarianism, grouping and unity described in this article are relating to the 'Muslim Millat'; these concepts are not related to any groups like Qadyani which have got out of the 'Muslim Millat' due to their deviation from the basic beliefs in Islam.