Schism is a formal within division or separation from a religious body on account of some differences of opinion with regard to matters of faith or discipline. It is a deadly disease, against which Muslims have been warned.

Allah. in the Qur'an says:

"Verily those who divided their religion and break up into sects (all kinds of religious sects), you (O Muhammad) have no concern for them in he least, Their affairs is only with Allah, who then will tell them what they used to do." (Q6:159)

the above verse shows that Islam is against schism.

Schism began in Islam as a result of three different factors - political, theo- logical and ideological. The political factor is related to the succession dispute among the early Muslims after the demise of the Prophet (PBUH) and the resultant violent conflicts. The theological and the ideological factors began when the Muslims went into polemics about the nature of iman (faith), the status of grevious sinners and other inconsequential matters in faith. Others however developed out of outright misguidance. Here are some of the sects that emerged in Islam:



When Ali (RA) was elected as Khalifah after the assassination of Uthman members of Uthman's clan (Umayyad) asked Ali to punish the assassins. Ali could not do this because insurrections were breaking out in many regions of the ummah. Hence, Muawiyyah and Amr (leaders of the Umayyad clan) joined forces and- declared their independence of Ali's government. This led to the battle of Siffin - where they clashed with Ali's army. Seeing Ali 's army gaining upper hand, the - opposition resorted to a ruse and offered to accept arbitration. A group of Ali 's camp saw through their plan and were opposed to any arbitration. They broke away from Ali's camp and since then they were known as al-Khawarij. Theologi- cally, they held that a sinner is a Kafir, an outlaw or apostate, whom it is legitimate and religiously imperative to fight and kill. They evolved in 35AH/668CE.


 They believe that leadership should be hereditary. They claimed the only legimate successor to the Prophet (PBUH) was Ali (RA). Hence, those who held the post before him i.e. Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman (RA) were illegitimate usurpers of the throne of Khi 'lafah. Within Shi 'ah there are other groups. The most popular is the ithna Ashariyyah (the twelvers). They believe in the twelve Imams. They are

predominantly found in Iran. The call to form the party of 'Ali began after the death of Husayn Ibn Ali (61AH/680 CE). 


Founded by Ma'bad ibn Khalid al-Juhani (66AH1699CE), this school took its name from the view that man is capable of action (qadar or qudrah) and hence is responsible for his deeds - whether good or evil. They equally believed that a grave sinner is indeed a Muslim despite his sins and that divine attributes pertaining to Allah such as hand, sight and hearing were to be taken figuratively.


It was founded by Jahm ibn Safwan (127AH l745CE) of Tirmidh in opposition to al-Qadariyyah school. The school believed that man is determined in all actions by divine power, including the acts of faith and virtue or faithlessness, and vice. It

opposed the belief that the blessed shall see Allah in the Paradise. They also denied eternity of Paradise and Hell (i.e. both will only exist for an appointed period of time) because they presumed Allah alone to be eternal.


Founded by Wasil ibn 'Ata, who died in Basrah in 131AH1748CE. The sect's doctrine was founded on five axioms: al-tawhid, (uniqueness of Allah). Their claim of tawhid had an altogether different purport. They demanded that the divine attributes be "neutralised". The second doctrine was that of al- 'adl (Justice). Here they sought to establish the universalism, nationalism, humanism and moral freedom of Islam. The third and the fourth doctrines al-wa 'd wa aiwa 'id (the promise of reward and threat of punishment) and ai manzila bayna al manzilatayn (the intermediate station between salvation and damnation) were subsidiary to the principle of justice. The fifth axiom was al amr bi ai ma'ruf wa al nahy 'an al munkar (the enjoying of good and prohibition of evil.) These five axioms were cardinal to the Mu’tazilah.


Apart from sects, there are some orders which emanated from Tasawwuf' (Sufism or Mysticism). The sufis, or adherents of tasawwuf. devised for themselves an order and institutionalised for it an ideology, an organisation, a programme of initiation and adoration rites. First the sufis started, their programmes in themosque, In order no't 10disturb the' non-sufis. zawiyah was born as an institution separate, from the mosque. There, the sufis spent their days and most of their nights in prayer, invocation and dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Sufi order was open to anyone but certain conditions for membership had to be met. These include: the decision to join should be absolutely deliberate and personal; all materialism must be given up; absolute obedience to the elder or shaykh; the superiority of the tariqah or mystical way; and a probationary period was prescribed for each novice, after which the Candidate was initiated into membership.

Once admitted, the member has to pass through a number of stages: murid, (an applicant under training), salik, (fellow traveller), majdhub, (attracted to the sufi way) and finally mutadarak (one saved from evils and temptations of the world). The members of the tariqah classified themselves as follows: .Al- Mubtadi (the beginner), al Mutadarrij (the successful practitioner): as - Shaykh ( the teacher. elder or head of the Zawiyyahv: and al-Qutb (the pole. the highest authority of the tariqah).

The earliest Sufi orders founded which gained worldwide constituency include; Qadariyyah founded by Abdul Qadir al Jilani (560AH/1175CE). Rifa. 'iyyah by Ahmad Rifa'i (570AH/1175CE).Al-Shadhaliyyah founded by Ali al-Shadhili (655AHI 1253CE). Mawlawiyyah by Jalal al Din al Rumi (670AHI1273CE) and al Shishtiyyah by Mu'inud.din shishti (633AH/1236CE). Some other fraternities were also founded in every region. These include: Bektashiyyab in Turkey and the Tijaniyyah' ill Morocco. The Tijaniyyah order is predominant in Nigerian and other West African sub-regions.

Tasawwuf has its pluses and minuses, It was responsible for the conversion of millions to Islam. as well as a number of militant states and socio political movements. It was equally responsible for the eclipse of Muslim power, for the Muslims exchange of rational for intuitive, and critical for superstitious knowledge: for their forsaking tins world and its concern for the other.


AHMADIYYAH (QADIANI): This sect was founded  by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He claimed to be the expected Mahdi; the promised Messiah and a full-fledged Prophet. He claimed to have received revelations which. is of the standard of the Qur'an, the Tawrah and Jnjil. This group translated the Qur'an with deliberate distortions of the meanings of its words and falsely interpreted its verses through strange commentaries that accord with their false-beliefs. Muslims who disbelieve in the prophethood of Ghulam Ahmad are regarded as kuffar. They do not pray behind other Muslims and do not allow their daughters to inter-marry. This group later divided into two: Ahmadiyyah Mission. which uphold the prophet hood of their founder and Ahmadiyyah Movement, which regards Ghulam Ahmad as a reformer and not a prophet. The world Muslim league met at Makkah on the 3rd of October - 1970 to consider issues relating to Ahmadiyvah. After thorough consideration they found out that Ghulam Ahmad was an impostor and his claim to prophet hood, a clear denial of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the Seal and the Last in the chain of Prophet hood (Q33:40). Hence, a fatwa was passed declaring Ghulam Ahmad and his followers as Kuffar (unbelievers).



The coming of sects and orders have been predicted by the Prophet (PBUH):

"The Jews and Christians were divided into seventy - one or seventy -two religious sects and this ummah will divide itself into seventy - three religious sects - all in Hell, except one, and that is; the one of which I and my companions are today (i.e following the Qur'an and sunnah)" (Tirmidhi).

Most of the above highlighted sects no longer in existence, particularly the Qadariyyah, Jabariyyah, Sifatiyyah, Khawarij and Mu'tazilah. - But their ideologies and thoughts.arc still influencing some Muslim thoughts till today. The only way out of the menace of these sects and orders is to stick and- hold fast to-the Qur'an and sunnah which arc the only reliable sources of information for Muslims on any are aspect of their lives.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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