What is the ruling in Islam regarding categorization of Muslims into sects like Sunni and Shia? Does Allah allow/disallow it in Quran? What did Prophet (P.B.U.H) say about it?

Would it be a sin if I label myself one of those groups as opposed to just Muslim?

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    He said (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) "you will divide into 72 or 73 sects like the Jews and Christians before you, all but one of them are in the Fire." – ashes999 Jun 19 '12 at 21:21
  • @ashes999 And every sect claims that they are that one sect who won't get into fire. That's what sect-ing is. You think you are the only true one and everyone else is wrong. But Allah says that only those who are doing according to Quran are the true ones. – hkBattousai Jun 19 '12 at 21:37
  • @hkBattousai I can only relate to you what he said, salallahu alayhi wa sallam, the nabi of Allah. My answer reflects that understanding. – ashes999 Jun 19 '12 at 21:39
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    I don't see how it would be a sin, you're just implying what you believe in and what you do not by that labeling. – Gigili Jun 19 '12 at 22:14
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    According to my sect... no. – Mateen Ulhaq Jun 24 '12 at 1:03

Yes it is. Creating and supporting sects is a great sin. Quran says Ar-Rum/32:

مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ ﴿الروم: ٣٢﴾

[be not] of those who have divided up their religion, and become sects, each several party rejoicing in what is theirs.

  • All Muslims are brothers. That means we all belong to the same family/sect. – user73 Jun 20 '12 at 8:23
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    At the same time, as Muslims, we have sects, and we are definitely warned against deviating in our religion and splitting into sects like ahlul kitab split into sects. – ashes999 Jun 20 '12 at 8:23

It depends on the intention behind the categorization. The Prophet (saws) himself categorized the Muslims of his time as Muhajirin and Ansar. BUT at the same time, when one of the Companions used a different categorization to put someone down and insult them, the Prophet (saws) was quite firm in telling them to cut it out.

Having said that, there is a well-known hadith about the ummah splitting into 73 sects: http://sunnah.com/abudawud/42#2 . So the lesson from the hadith is beware of identifying with a sect that is destined for jahannam.

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    Isn't Muhajirin and Ansar a geographic distribution of people rather than division based on faith? – Muhammad Hasan Khan Jun 19 '12 at 21:26
  • No. Muhajiroon refers to Muslims who migrated from all over the world, including Persia (Salman Al-Farasi) Bilal (Africa) and others. – ashes999 Jun 19 '12 at 21:27
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    Like I said, it depends on the intention. If you need to use the term to make something clear about your belief but are not using it to put others down or insult them, then it is just another label regardless of whether it concerns a geographical thing or a belief thing. – Ansari Jun 19 '12 at 21:30
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    I agree with @Ansari that it depends on the intention, but I fail to see the relevance between what's being ask and what is mentioned about Muhajirin and Ansar. – Gigili Jun 19 '12 at 22:16
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    Muhajirin and Ansar are also labels or categorizations, and the permissibility of using those labels is being derived from the fact that the Prophet (saws) himself used those labels to identify people. – Ansari Jun 19 '12 at 22:19

There are a couple of issues here. One is an actual sect (something that differs in theology) versus a madhhab (school of thought, codified set of rules on how they approach fiqh). I don't know which you're asking about, so I'll talk about both.

A sect differs in aqedah (belief, theology). This includes groups like the Khawarij, who existed at the time of rasulullah.

Referring to sects, rasulullah said: "You will divide into 72-73 (depends on the narration) sects like the nations before you, all of them will be in the Fire except one." (Source: Abu Dawud) The one refers to "At-Taif Al-Mansoorah," the saved sect, aka. the teachings of rasulullah and then his companions and then the scholars of Islam. In Sunni Islam, we believe that we are that one saved sect, because we are on the fitrah of Islam, and on the teachings of rasulullah (his sunnah).

As for mathab/madhab/mazhab, this refers to a scholarly division in usool-ul-fiqh. The four popular ones, as well as many others that did not survive, are all headed by scholars who approached fiqh (deriving rulings) with a certain methodology. Different madhabs used different methodologies; those are not considered sects.

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    Note: the main difference between Shia and Sunni is about accepting teachings of the prophet's companions vs. accepting the teachings of the prophet's Ahl al-Bayt, not on Quran nor the prophet's sunnah. – Kaveh Jun 20 '12 at 3:25
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    "Sunni" is a label and being a Sunni does not necessarily mean you are following Allah's messenger. As long as you are committed to a madhab, a madhab Imam will be between you and rasulullah. – user73 Jun 20 '12 at 8:39
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    Actually, you have it backward. Rasulullah said "for the mujtahid who makes ijtihad and is wrong, he gets one reward." There's no sin involved, unless you fluff yourself up and believe your are capable of ijtihaad when you aren't. Imam Ash-Shafiee details dozens of requirements for a qualified mujtahid. – ashes999 Jun 20 '12 at 13:45
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    And some Sunni believe in things that are completely incompatible with the beliefs of other Sunni and some Shia believe in things that are completely incompatible with the beliefs of other Shia. If you take the extreme opinions in each group which typically emphasize secondary issues over the primary issues it is not difficult to find such differences in opinion. – Kaveh Jun 20 '12 at 17:38
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    Don't have time to argue (at least not now) but I would suggest that you check a comprehensive book about the schools of thought in Islam (Ash'ari, Mu'tazili, Athari, etc), Henry Corbin's "History of Islamic Philosophy" can be a good start. These school have differences in aqeedah. – Kaveh Jun 20 '12 at 17:49

A Muslim is first a Muslim. Quran (verse 3:19) states that the only religion accepted by God is Islam (which means submission to him and his will).

The divisions between Muslims are mainly regarding the matters of Islamic jurisprudence. Quran seems to imply that God dislikes believers creating and emphasizing divisions between them (c.f. Sura Al-Anbiya, particularly verses 91-93, Sura Al-Mu’minoon, particularly verses 51-54).

Islamic scholars and schools have different opinions on various issues and it is fine to refer to oneself to state the school one is following. On the other hand overemphasizing the school one belongs to so much that it comes before being a Muslim seems to be against Quran. A Muslim should not emphasize the secondary issues over the primary issues that are not disputed and are clearly stated in Quran like core beliefs (e.g. belief in God, the day of judgment, and the prophets) and core duties (e.g. Salah, Zakat).

In short, it seems that from Quran's perspective Muslims are all brothers and one Ummah, and emphasizing associations to a particular groups over being Muslim seems to be something that God dislikes and should be avoided. But if the categorization is not emphasized over being a Muslim then it can be fine, the same way we categorize ourselves as being from some city and that is not problematic.

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    Down-voting without commenting is not helpful. Please let me know if there is a mistake in my answer. – Kaveh Jun 20 '12 at 6:21
  • I didn't downvote, but this doesn't seem to really answer the question. – ashes999 Jun 20 '12 at 8:24
  • @ashes999, I think it did but I will make it more clear. – Kaveh Jun 20 '12 at 17:31

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