I am not happy with referring to not believing in sects as a sect, and I believe the need to do this for the sole purposes of differentiation and recognition through categorization is a weakness in human logic and understanding that cannot be helped. Our brains were made to function this way, and this is stated throughout religious texts. The Qur’an repeats that we are only given capabilities which are due to us, and there are hadith that communicate concepts to us in limiting vocabulary simply so that we can understand them as human beings: in a hadith, the Prophet is narrated to have said that by Judgment Day there will be 77 sects, and only one of them will be correct.* It’s interpreted from what the Qur’an has dictated that this one sect is the sect of no sect. …But, even in the language of the hadith, it’s still a sect.
The contradiction doesn’t bother me as much as it annoys me, because I understand that it is not a true contradiction, only one that exists through how little we comprehend and how inadequately we define concepts as human beings. I do not believe that this is a definite thing that is impossible to change, but it has resulted in the way we have structured society.
And that brings me to something I will be casually brewing in my mind the next couple of days: is our need to make things sectarian a result of the constructions of organized religion? Is Islam meant to be an organized religion if there are supposed to be no sects? Sects arise, time and time again, when the religion becomes involved in power and politics. Are the laws of Islam truly meant to be political like so many men have claimed?
I don’t believe that organized religion is inherently bad (obviously, as I belong to one.) There can be positive outcomes (feelings of belonging to a community, having people to turn to, organized charities, peaceable promotions of understanding, etc.) as well as negative outcomes (hostile indifference to humanity among members and toward outsiders, becoming a corrupt political force, etc.) and when patriarchy is involved those with male privilege destroy everything within the religion that is “feminine”–sympathy, kindness, understanding, coexistence–pushing it aside as weakness that prevents them from obtaining full control over civilization, and ultimately they attempt to redefine the religion as something it never was, or as just a fragment of the whole, in order to keep women from rising against them because over centuries these women now believe that this is the original message.
There is no doubt that Islam is to be somewhat political–the Qur’an dictates legal practices. But many of the details in the Qur’an that would make the practices more just are deliberately and conveniently left out in actual practice. For example, in the case of adultery, the Qur’an clearly states:
But punishment shall be averted from her (the accused) if she calls God four times as witness that he (the accuser) is indeed telling a lie. (Qur’an 24:8)
This does a number of things: (1) It allows a woman to be like, “Yeah, [even if I might be lying] I’m going to choose not to pay for that sin here on Earth and take it up with God instead.” (2) It does this all while still warning that lying and adultery are not sins taken lightly, but as long as the consequences do not hurt anyone other than the ones who practice them, the punishments are not to be enforced by the community. (3) It thereby reinforces that those who do not agree to your beliefs should not have to live under a legal system constructed by them, especially since the Qur’an says that adulterers have sinned so greatly that they can just keep marrying other adulterers, which is a bitter way of saying do what you want in your communities because if your beliefs are different you are not bound by the social contract set up in someone else’s interpretation of Islam. It is the mentality of the all-competing, all-conquering, freedom-consuming patriarchy that extend these laws to those unwilling to live by them, and assumes that Islam by default must be patriarchal even despite the dictations of the Qur’an.
And yet these dictations of tolerance and forgiveness and mind-your-own-business are overlooked and actively ignored when a religion comes into contact with power–at least in a patriarchy. Hadith like this are never referred to:
Narrated Abu Dhar: The Prophet said, “Someone came to me from my Lord and gave me the news (or good tidings) that if any of my followers dies worshipping none (in any way) along with God, he will enter Paradise.” I asked, “Even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse (adultery) and theft?” He replied, “Even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse (adultery) and theft.” [Bukhari, Volume 2 Book 23 Number 329]
Instead people look at (false) hadith to invent an Islam that is too political, or they make it political the wrong way, as I was discussing with the gracefully thoughtful Metis, who said the following about the punishment on adultery when I referred to verse 24:8 encouraging dismissal of the punishment for adulterers in the circumstance that at their own discretion of what actually took place they simply say I didn’t do it. :
Nahida, I suddenly had a brainwave :) I think sharia is sometimes unfriendly to women because those implementing it and indeed even those who create it look more at hadith than Quran. This could be because Quran gives rules whereas hadith shows how those rules were used in various situations. I was going through research on hadd punishment in Pakistan and it seems like there are at least two ahadith (definitely in Malik’s muwatta) which show that a woman’s witness for herself are to be rejected if there is no other evidence that she is teling the truth! I was shocked that it’s even in a reputable sahih because it looks obviously odd. Again one can argue that Quran only lays down laws but they were indeed implemented in various ways and there could have been situations where a woman’s witness was rejected. WaAllahu Alam.
this hadith she is referring to is a clear violation of the Qur’an and yet is actually taken seriously, because it’s a perfect way of dismissing a “feminine” aspect of the religion–forgiveness and the live-and-let-live mentality–and instead implementing the laws of men, for a patriarchy that hungers after political power. And that–using false hadith and making things up in the name of religion for the purpose of making it more politically organized–results in sects. This isn’t a new concept: it’s basically the same one on which the the premises of this blog have been based. But the (possibly imagined) relationship between sectarianism and organized religion is something I plan to quietly analyze. It seems that in order for there to be sects, there must be other sects with which these sects disagree, and throughout history this nearly always happened for political reasons as the religion became more and more of an organized religion.
As of now, I do believe that Islam is supposed to somewhat of an organized religion–much less of one than it is in many “Islamic” countries. It sounds strange to suggest that there are degrees of organization, but Islam has never been quite as organized as, say, Catholicism. The dangerous thing about this might be that we may not know how organized a religion is unless we have another for comparison because the very way we’ve structured our societies is based on the way we often think in opposites rather than negations.
*I don’t take this hadith as seriously as most people; there’s no need when the Qur’an (6:159) already covers the idea, and I am especially skeptical because its exact language is “only one (sect) will go to Heaven” which kind of violates my personal guidelines to hadith authenticity and which can potentially be used by judgmental asshats to put down others.