Definition of a Sect
May 23, 2011 5 Comments
Here is my reply to a thread on FB seeing as it is too long to put on the group.
It sounds like your understanding of what the definition of a sect is, and my understanding of it is different. As a Quranist, I welcome differing understandings and am motivated to learn more, especially in terms of what the Quran’s definition of a sect is. In fact I did do some research on the different words used in the Qur’an for sect, party, faction, group etc (more on this can be found in “justifying the Quranist / Quranism terms” and on this word study which I think you might find to be of interest.
I do believe there is a difference between what a sect is defined as in English and what the “arabic word that is translated as sect” is from the Quran. I think the most important thing is to find out what the Quran says.
I will comment on your comments (not to argue, just to give my reply) 🙂
//1. A sect is a group with distinctive religious beliefs.
Quranists believe the Quran is the book of God, that it’s the perfect words and laws sent down to man. In addition to this they reject the historical recordings and doctrines that the other sects within islam follow. This is a very distinctive belief.//
What Quranists reject can be seen here: http://www.quranists.net/2011/05/11/the-term-hadith-rejector/
//2. It can refer to any organization (not necessarily religious) that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles.
– This is exactly what the quranists do.//
It’s all relative. At some point the majority were technically quranists following the Quran because the Bukhari’s Hadiths hadn’t come along yet. So the ones who “broke away” (or started using a different approach!) to start with have now become the majority. If that is used then as a definition of “breaking away” even though the intent is to go back to the original method, then it seems like an improper use of saying they are a sect. Maybe it’s just because the word “sect” has negative connotations. It’s a bit like telling the bird whose eggs were thrown out of the nest by a cuckoo that she has no right to claim her nest back because it means she will become labelled as a “sectarian” for being the one who creates a fuss to stand up for her rights. But in the case of the Quranist bird, the view is that there’s room in the nest to share peacefully. It seems that at every twist and turn and every opportunity there will be some way to justify that upholding the truth and turning away from falsehood means you are in sect.
//3. It can be described as newly formed religious groups that form to protest elements of their parent religion.
– Also, exactly what quranists do.//
Parent religion – not sure I agree with this term seeing as I converted to islam based on the Quran not based on Sunni doctrine. I don’t believe Traditional Islam to be the parent religion. It is however the more well known, and is recognised as the face of Islam. However I can see the analogy of Sunni islam being seen as the Parent Religion due to its centre stage presence. I like to think that the Grandparent religion takes precedence though!
Of course if it were not for Traditional Islam, Quranism would not exist – it would simply be called islam, as defined by the Quran. Traditional Islam has taken centre stage and that means that by calling myself a Muslim it will be understood that I am a Traditionalist who follows Quran AND extra-Quranic sources eg Hadiths and that I agree with the Man made Sharia laws whereas I am not and I do not. I am a Quranist. I could just carry on saying “I am not in any sect, I am just a muslim” and conceal my approach and end up confusing and misleading people. But I prefer honesty. A couple of articles about the “Just Muslim term” and Upfront and Honest
//4. Their motivation tends to be situated in accusations of apostasy or heresy in the parent denomination.
– This is also what many quranists do. Maybe not condemning the sunnis and shi’ites but they most certainly say they are the “wrong path” and in this manner claims they are on the “right” path.//
I agree that not all attitudes are representative of the ideology. I guess the best answer would be to not judge Quranism by quranists! 🙂 Certainly this attitude you described is discussed in this article: An Analysis of Quranic Fundamentalism
If my understanding of what the Quran says led me to believe that the Quran is not the sole source of Divine guidance, then I would agree that it would be an indication that being a Quranist is not the correct way, due to the definition of a Quranist being one who does believe that the Quran IS the sole source of divine guidance.
However it would be hypocritical of me to believe that the Quran says it is not the sole source and then still carry on using only the Scripture to judge by.
So from my own understanding, the Quran DOES lead me to believe there are no second or third sources. And that’s why I am a Quranist. Just because I believe what I believe does not make someone else’s belief any less valid or any better.
I am not saying I’m right and you are wrong or anyone else is right or wrong. I just acknowledge my beliefs and understandings may differ from others. Not just in my understanding of the Quran but in my understanding of the best way to (for example) be a parent, the best way manage one’s time, the best way to chop onions etc etc – I think these are all approaches based on thinking and reasoning and using logic. If semantics have their way and by the English dictionary definition of a sect it can be proven without a doubt that I am a sectarian because I believe the Quran is the sole source of divine guidance, then I can either accept it or refute it. To me it seems that whether I accept it or not doesn’t really make that much difference to be honest, for the following reasons:
There are enough verses in the Qur’an which justify making choices (judging) according to what the scripture says 5:45 wamanlam yahkum bima anzala Allahu faola-ikahumu alththalimoona (not quoted the full verse – please check all the refs and see the whole verse and context to verify – don’t take my word for it!) and enough verses pertaining to the groups who obey God 34:20 fareeqan mina almu/mineena and the groups who are the party of God 5:56 and 58:22 hizba Allahi and the one about Musa coming back down the mountain and his brother begging him not to seize him by his beard for not getting involved and telling the bani israel to stop worshipping the calf 20:94 khasheetu an taqoolafarraqta bayna banee isra-eela and Musa’s own “shīʿatihi” (28:15 ) Also 37:79 – 83 is referring to Nuh, in a positive way – that peace is to be upon him and the good doers are to be rewarded, – he was of the believing slaves/servants and the others were drowned and indeed from among his shīʿatihi was Ibrahim.
Negative uses of the word shiya’an :
30:32 – do not divide the deen (farraqoo deen) and become shiya’an. My understanding is that if I hold fast to the Scripture (like John was instructed to do in 19:12) then that seems a good way to not break away. (61:9 – He is the One who sent His Messenger with the Huda and the deen l-haqq… so I understand this to be that the deen is in the Message that the Messenger brought which is the Quran. So again by saying I am a Quranist who holds fast to the Quran then this is not dividing the deen. My understanding of “dividing the deen ” is to accept parts of the Quran and reject parts of it or say that a second divine source abrogates part of the Quran or adds to it. Just my understanding. I could be wrong. (Farraqoo al-deen is discussed in depth here: Farraqoo al-deen)
28:4 Firawn exalted himself in the land and made his people into shiyaʿan. So Firawn gave each people a different set of religious beliefs? I don’t see it as that given the context so the English definition of sect does not fit here. He actually divided up the people into ones who would be slaughtered and ones who would be spared/let live.
54:51 ashyāʿakum – this is addressing the ones who disbelieved and the criminals. So again a sect with a set of religious beliefs doesn’t seem (to me) to apply here for the definition of ashyāʿakum.
Just my understanding, which could be incorrect. InshaaAllah we will all be guided and increased in knowledge. Allah knows best and it is He who I fear. If Allah does not want me to be in a sect then of course I will hope that I will not be judged to have been in one. If Allah wants me to be in the Party of God, then by doing what I’m doing I hope I will be judged to have done the best I can to be in it. We are all in the same boat trying to get it right, the only way we know how. InshaaAllah (God Willing) there are enough SUBUL (paths) along the Siratal Mustaqim (Straight way) that we can all be right. I have faith in God’s Words from 2:112.