Shirk, Sectarianism and Education in the Ummah

Ishaq Zahid


Shirk in The Ummah


Shirk is the only unforgiveable sin in Islam. Yet, it has spread in various shapes and forms in the Ummah including certain rituals at shrines and different forms of use of magic. In Pakistan itself, there are 150 shrines which are registered according to (PCP, 2016) and visited daily by the thousands. However, there may be countless shrines in Muslim countries. Many times, these domed shrines may only have an empty wooden box with colorful copies of the Quran and other items like candles, oils and water for blessings (Boissevain, 2017, p. 4). Visitors may recite Al-Fatehah, kiss the fence, rub hands or clothes for blessings, do counterclockwise Tawaf around the tomb. These rituals in a way resemble the rituals of Hajj and in some places even believed to be equating to Hajj if done seven times (Boissevain, 2017, p. 4). People may pray to the dead saint and offer money or other gifts to intercede for needs like children, health and prosperity. 

Unity of Ummah cannot begin unless Tawheed has taken a strong hold in a community. There is a dire need of an inspiring, educational religious leadership which can take the masses out of shirk and bring them back to Tawheed.




Religious leadership is divided into many sects and factions by Aqeeda, Fiqh or religious methodologies. Some may unknowingly be engaged in an aspect of Shirk inherited from local culture and customs, or from the founders of their sect or Madhab. Two possible remedial solutions to marginalize sectarianism may be: 

1. The coming of a strong dominant religious organization.

2. A joint resolve of a good number of religious and other NGOs.

In either case, what is needed is a redirection of primary focus towards Tawheed along with an action plan and implementation of top priorities that go beyond rituals and their Fiqh to move towards what Islam really is – Al-Deen. Such top priorities must include a movement to eliminate corruption, social injustices such as un-Islamic demands of ‘dowry’ requirements from the bride and her family or strongly and affirmatively demanding and then supporting the government to work for full payment of any foreign Riba-based loans as well as not to take up any new one. These priorities may also include work to have a minimum required number of religious scholars in every city, who have the critical knowledge in areas like Islamic finance, social justice. There should be an action plan to remain vigilant and guard against any failure in these areas regardless of if it is caused by police, a judge, a politician or a government office. Religious organizations themselves should not engage in politics as they work in the reformation of the society. This separation should not be viewed in the context of absolute separation of religion and state, but rather as a strategic formative methodology, where exceptions can be taken when appropriate. There should also be a resolve to bring internal change in the Madrassahs to eliminate child abuse and beatings. What is the worth of a Hafidh of a Quran who learned it by daily beatings, knows nothing what the Quran actually teaches and is there in the Masjid to lead Tarawih for his survival and thus may have no heart into what he does!


Islam – Reducing Al-Deen to Just Worship


When Yazid ibn Muawiya was selected as the next caliph of the Islamic state, the great political shift from righteous caliphate to kingship occurred even though apparent title of caliphate remained by name. That vertically downward turn initiated the separation of Al-Deen from politics. While the worst era in Christianity was when the Church and the sate were together, the best era of Islam was when they were together in the era of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAW) and the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs. Religious leadership thus reduced to more of scholarship, rituals, Fiqh and mostly verbal advice to the government. With the decline and later coming of Taqleed, religious leaders became nothing more than teachers of worship. Islam in practice was reduced from Al-Deen, a complete way of life to mostly spiritual life with a few exceptions. As alluded earlier, unless the religious leadership takes leads not just in theory but also act on other aspects of life including finance and social justice, Islam will remain an illusion in their own homeland.


Education – All Secular or All Non-Secular?



As hinted earlier, religious schools have been primarily confined to ritualistic aspect of Islam in a world dominated by secularism in all spheres of life. Islam, as a complete way of life is an all-encompassing with Allah T’ala as the source of all knowledge. All of theory and practice must be subservient to the revealed knowledge of The Quran and Sunnah. The core axioms of every theory and discipline must include the core axioms of The Quran and Sunnah. Without that inclusion, while it is possible to achieve some temporal benefit and success, it will remain a cause of greater harm. With the inclusion of revelation, the human-error based harm will be marginalized and benefit will be maximized. Every discipline should thus incorporate the core axioms of The Quran and Sunnah. Muslims scholars should work to develop texts in all branches based on these principles. For example, there should be a well-defined dominant Islamic Theory of International Relations and all other theories should then be evaluated using the Islamic Theory instead of doing its opposite. There should be courses on the revealed texts, the Seerah, Islamic Finance, Morals and Manners, Social Justice, Islamic History, Political Theory of Islam, Trade and Business Ethics and Regulations, Human Rights and so forth taught as part of each discipline at various levels as separate or in abridged forms. To convince the enslaved secular mind of educators and the public, it is recommended that the Shuratic Process of (Choudhury. 2016) should be mapped by modeling on the Khartoum Conference.  Periodic conferences should be held in every institution with participation of lead scholars of all disciplines from the secular and religious sectors. An alternative approach was suggested by (IIIT, 1987) on how knowledge can be ‘Islamized’ and had proposed a work plan. By doing so, the air waves may encompass with a promise of a better world, with the help of Allah T’ala, to clean the secular knowledge under revealed texts in every institution from madrassahs to universities. 


NOTE: Contents taken from another paper by the author. 


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