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It is not immediately clear whether there is one Islam or many Islams. If it is singular then the task is to identify which of the many competing claims to adopt as true Islam.

By singularity of Islam I do not mean singularirty of interpretation. Of course there can be room for differences within Islam. But my questions is, is or are there fundamental elements of Islam that are not up for interpretation or where a difference of opinion simply cannot occur without rendering Islam a plural religion. By plural Islam I mean that any Muslim can define Islam as they see fit.

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Islam is a religion

Islam is ONE! There are no other forms of Islam but there are sects in Islam.

A Muslim believes in

There is no other Islam but the one and only Islam that is to believe in

  1. Tauheed: Allah is One and he is the creator of everything and is the only being to be worshipped!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tawhid

  2. Holy Prophet PBUH is the last messenger of Allah!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad

Types of Islam or sects of Islam? What you're talking about?

Well, I will assume that you are saying or talking about

Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Wahabi (Ahl-e-Hadees) Muslims. But they are just sects of Islam, not other form of Islam! You cannot say that they have started their own Islam or a new religion, its just their own way of think, their belief, their own thinking of how to serve Allah and his creation in a better way.

Which of them is true Islam?

Well, the one that follows the teachings of Quran and Hadith! Simple as that! Don't fall for anything that is not included in Quran and Hadith.

You can read about the teachings in Quran, and how to perform them, that is taught by Hadith and Sunnah. These two things are the real Islam! Adopt them, and you will get to know about the real Islam!

  • You forgot to read the part were I specifically stated that One Islam does not necessarily mean lack of diversity or no sects. Rather the question was about who decides who constitutes to be a Muslim. Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims cannot both be Muslims, their interpretation of what Islam is are conflicting. – Elton Jan 25 '14 at 18:51
  • @Elton "Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims cannot both be Muslims" is self-contradictory. "their interpretation of what Islam is are conflicting" isn't true, their interpretation on the rules and laws of Islam are different in some aspects. – Bleeding Fingers Jan 25 '14 at 21:16
  • @BleedingFingers The reason I used the term Muslims for both is because it is what they consider themselves. As for their interpretation on the rules being different...yes I mentioned difference of opinion can happen...but is there a limit? Can Ahmediyaa adherents still claim to be Muslim and say they interpret differently. So by one Islam I mean, an Islam that allows for difference but at the same time doesn't allow UNLIMITED differences. – Elton Jan 26 '14 at 0:47
  • @Elton, I would like to answer your Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims cannot both be Muslim in just one line! Your religion is what you think you are! Not what others think you are. If they are calling themselves Sunni Muslims, they are Sunni Muslims! Islam teaches us not to force someone to accept or change his point of view. So please, don't try calling them cannot both be Muslims – Afzaal Ahmad Zeeshan Jan 26 '14 at 9:13
  • @AfzaalAhmadZeeshan then your answer is that there are many Islams any Muslim can interpret Islam how they want. – Elton Jan 26 '14 at 11:01
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Let me give a different kind of answer.

What is important is what God will accept, not the names that people give to things. The minimum requirements of what God accepts is stated in verse 2:62: believe in God, believe in the hereafter, and do good deeds.

Islam means complete submission to the will of God. If we know that something is God's will we have to follow it to the best of our knowledge and understanding. A Muslim in God's eye is not one who is a member of this group or that group, a Muslim is a person has submitted completely to the will of God as Ibrahim (PBUH) did (verse 2:131). If we don't know something is God's will we don't need to follow it, contrary to that we are strictly forbidden from following what we don't know even if it is right (not following/saying what one doesn't know is emphasized strongly in Quran, e.g. see verse 17:36).

God does not expect us to know the right answer to all issues. As far as I understand, what God expects from us is knowing the right answer to a few main issues like those that are stated in verse 2:62, plus complete submission to what we know is his will, plus not following/saying/taking sides in what we don't know. He will judge us by our deeds, not whether we knew the right answer to some secondary issues. God will judge everyone according to their capabilities (verse 2:286), if our knowledge is greater our responsibility is greater, and seeking to know without doing good deed using them is similar to what is described in verse 62:5.

Of course there are many issues that Muslims disagree about and for each issue only one side can be right (and keep in mind that sometimes none of the arguing sides is right) and God will tell us about what we disagree about in the hereafter. But whoever believes in God and in the hereafter and does good deeds and submits to God's will is inside God's mercy and God has promised to guide them (e.g. verses 4:175 and 2:257). Seeking the right side can be good but spending most of our time seeking to find the right side in every small detail is not a good thing. We should seek knowledge which is useful to do good, not useless knowledge or even worst harmful knowledge (verses 2:102 and 5:101).

Keep in mind that Quran tells the prophet (PBUH) to argue with the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) only in the best manner (verses 16:125 and 29:46) and to tell to them that if we disagree on issues and can't reach agreement then let's come towards what is common between us (verse 3:64). In verse 5:47 God tells that if he wanted he could have made us all one group but he wants to test all of us in what is given to us and to see which of us is better in doing good deeds in what is given to us. If we are given more of knowledge it doesn't mean we are in a better position (verses 30:32, 23:53, and 13:36), it means we have a larger responsibility.

I think it is better to try to hasten towards doing good in place of trying to arguing which side is right in every secondary issue and possibly causing strife between brothers and even judging others who might be much better than us in God's eyes (see verses 7:49, 49:11, 49:13, and 6:52).

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