We Muslims have a lot of -isms. Just amongst the Sunnis, we have the Salafis, the Sufis, the non-mabhabis, wahhabis (whatever that is, usually an uncreative catch-all),and of course the four madhabis. These are just the ones I know. I’m sure there are a few more. Amongst the Shi’a, there are Ismailis, Qadyaanis, Aga Khanis (they might be all the same, just different names, I don’t know), and I’m sure quite a few more. But, do we let the existence of the -isms come in the way of understanding the other’s -isms? For examples, do Salafis really understand the Sufis? Do Sufis appreciate the core principles of the Salafis? If so, great, end of post. But it’s not so. Salafis pronounce takfir on Sufis every now and then. Sufis warily eye Salafis from the other corner of the room, thinking there is something wrong with “those people.” Madhabis are constantly defending the correctness of their madhabs. Non-madhabis are usually getting in the faces of madhabis to provoke a reaction of some sort. Some madhabis are so confused, they mix non-madhabi principles into their practices and then insist it makes sense even when it clearly doesn’t. Some people call others Wahhabis just because they can’t really figure out what they are (I’m talking about Muslim abuse of this weird term) when in fact they are into the Tableegh movement. This is basically a chicken soup of -isms, and while chicken soup may be good for the soul, it really isn’t when the soup has endured beyond it’s shelf-life. The chicken soup needs to be tossed out. We need to cook up a new batch, oh people of the Ummah.
What caused these yawning divides between you and me? You is not you the reader. You is referring to the Muslim Ummah in general. Me just might be me specifically. Me is definitely the Muslim with the ism on his or her shoulder. Because, sometimes, it feels like it’s me against the world. No, not just the world, but the Muslim world. Me, personally, I am a Sunni Muslim. I see the beauty of Sufism…and I see the beauty of it’s flip side, Salafism. I can’t really say I see the beauty of the other -isms, because I either a) don’t, or b) know nothing about those other -isms. But I do know just enough about those who subscribe to traditional methods of tasawwuf and those who subscribe to ideas of traditional Salafism to know that there need not be a chasm between us. Those on the path of salafism like to say that they are on the manhaj, the true path, and I have no doubt that they are. Salafi sheikhs have a way of crystallizing points of tawheed to the finest grain, and I have no doubt that they all transmit the importance of tawheed accurately and beautifully. I have no doubt, of course, because I went beyond my prejudice finally and actually read them. Those who are on the path of Sufism like to demonstrate their belief in the oneness of Allah and the beauty and grace of his Nabi sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam in more poetic and analogical ways. Perhaps, this differing style of communication is the cause of misunderstanding between the two ideologies. I don’t know…I am not smart enough to figure it out. There are extreme Salafis and extreme Sufis who really have nothing to do with either path, yet they are there murking up the chicken soup. Perhaps, one day, we’ll be smart enough to figure out that the murkier ones are not the ones we need to be paying attention to. Yes, this might be a pipe-dream.
So what caused this? Has it always been this way? Are the gaps ever going to close? Is it going to get a lot worse before it gets better? Allah knows best. All I know is that it’s oftentimes easier for us to go along and get along with non-Muslims than with each other. I have no problem with getting along with non-Muslims; some of the nicest people I’ve known are not Muslims. I’ve learned some amazing things about how to be a better person from non-Muslims. I’ve even found it easier to be friends with some non-Muslims. So, that is clearly not my issue, but it is a problem when we value the other, despite the differences between us, more than we value each other, despite the similarities among us. That is just sad. And that is not a problem that you or I can solve by ourselves. It is a problem that we have to face collectively.