Labels: Help or Hinderence to Islamic Unity?

Anytime a discussion about Islam arises, I am always accused of somehow disuniting the Muslims because of my use of labels. “There are no Hanafis, Shafi’s, Asharis, etc., we’re all Muslims and these labels only hinder Islamic unity” people constantly tell me. I reflected upon this for some time and I came to the conclusion that the contrary is true: labels help Islamic unity. Islamic tradition, beginning with the time of the Prophet pbuh.gif, has been full of differences of opinion. For those of you who doubt me and believe that Islamic is a Manichean entity where everything is black and white, I challenge you to listen to The Etiquettes of Disagreement by Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. In order to accommodate these differences of opinion, labels are necessary. Otherwise, describing each opinion intrinsically (i.e. saying “the opinion where you can combine and shorten prayers”) becomes cumbersome upon the scholars and assigning a label to that opinion (Shafi’) becomes much more expedient. Furthermore, using these labels is an acknowledgment that the differing opinion is correct. For example, if I say something like “opinion x is the Shafi’ opinion and opinion y is the Maliki opinion,” I am acknowledging that both opinion are within the fold of Islam because both the Shafis and Malikis are Muslim. This idea is not limited to Shafis and Malikis. The upshot is that we need these labels to keep unity (unless you overuse pronouns) because there must be some method to hold together all of these opinions and regard them as valid with some form of expediency otherwise there would be no intellectual infrastructure to accommodate the differences of opinions that has traditionally been in Islam as was started by our Beloved Messenger pbuh.gif.

Granted sometimes labels can be devisive. Once I heard two brothers saying something about “A Salafi Masjid.” Masjids are for all Muslims. I think it mostly depends on the intention. If someone wants to describe “A Salafi Masjid” to keep all the “devient Sufis out,” or vise versa, then that must be done away with. When one uses labels, one must not intend to be divisive and alienate Muslims who take a different opinion.

Conclusion: use labels only when they are not intended to divide and do not let them be a dividing factor. We are all brothers and sister so let’s act like it (without the fighting). I’m going to end this with a link to an Imam Suhaib Webb speech where he spoke about unity.


7 responses to “Labels: Help or Hinderence to Islamic Unity?

  1. anxoiusly waiting on EZ reflection

  2. I was going to be I thought this to be more important. Give me time.

  3. Salamualaykum,

    When talking about the madhabs and differences of opinions, I often get “I don’t care what you are, hanafi, sufi, salafi, you’re a muslim that’s it” reply; but it is said as if being a hanafi or a shafi’ etc is a problem and causes division. And its not uncommon to hear Imams and other people looked to for religious guidance to say that “we should do away with all these labels and unite”.

    Khayr. The talks you posted are brilliant.

  4. Pingback: Labels: Help or Hinderence to Islamic Unity? at Ijtema

  5. Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah
    I pray that you are in the best of health & imaan.
    This is a short message to notify you that this entry has been selected for publishing on I J T E M A; a venture to highlight the best of the Muslim blogosphere.
    To find out more about I J T E M A, and how you can further contribute, please click here.
    May Allah bless you for your noble efforts.

  6. as-salamu’alaikum

    Excellent.. I wrote about this a long time ago:

    What I generally find are people who insist on not using labels really want to “own” the label “Muslim” for their own beliefs and practices.

    Hence the ones who are eager to remove labels are also the ones who want to forbid a Mawlid or some loud Zikr.

  7. Ya, I got similar concepts in my post about Salafis and Sufis. As Sh. Hamza says “unity is not uniformity!” When keep insisting there is only one way to do things and if you are not doing that one thing, you are out, that is what causes disunity. Agreeing to disagree allows us to unite.

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