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Heresy in Islam

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Heresy in Islam concerns the relationship that larger Islamic bodies have with smaller or newer Muslim sects that dissent from a previous religious or social orthodoxy.

Sunni- Shi'a relations

Many in the two main bodies of IslamSunnis and the Shi'as—have regarded the other as heretical.


Shi'as have been considered amongst the oldest sects to be considered as heretical they are mostly criticized for their giving divine attributes to the family of Ali and his Lineage which places them above the prophets of god . This has manifested itself in shia prayers to saints and imams which is forbidden in Islam. It has been argued that they have turned Islam into cult that insults the prophet's closest companions and faith into an everlasting struggle for power and corruption.Scholars have since called them "Rafitha" which means those who refuse the truth and many no longer believe that shia should be considered Muslims any more.


Many scholars from both sides also consider the Wahhabi extremists to be the newest and most potent danger as they control the holy places and have gained the support of the Saudi and other Arab gulf heads of state. The movement first started as a heretical nationalist movement whose sole propose was to drive out the Ottoman Caliphate and grant the Saudi family regime a rise to power. Wahabies preach in a similar fashion as televangelists. Criticism includes:Considering all other Islamic sects as blasphemous except themselves, The frequent use of weak hadithes over strong ones, The full power they have on other people, this can lead to corruption and abuse of others. They hold a strong AntiWest grudge against anything to do with the west,abuse of non Arabs Support of Arab governments and antidemocracy. They are considered as sexists who attack women and consider that no part of a woman should be visible and that they have no propose in life but the bearing of children. They consider that women should wear a full abbaya and the notorious niqab, although there is no proof of it in any religious document .

Smaller Islamic sects

Groups like the Ismailis, the Hurufiya, the Alawis, the Bektashi and even the Sufis, have also been regarded as heretical by some, such as the ultra-conservative Wahhabis. Although Sufism is often accepted as valid by Shi'a and many Sunnis, the relatively recent movement of Wahhabism view it as heretical.

Faiths like Druz and Bahá'í although now separate religions, have their roots in Islam and were considered by some Muslims to be heresies when they first appeared since they emerged as alternative currents in Islamic culture, and were founded by people who were considered to be Muslims, much as Christianty is viewed by some to be a Jewish heresy, or Islam a Christian heresy.

Ahmadiyya and Nation of Islam

Both the Ahmadiyya and the Nation of Islam are regarded by many Muslim Ulema as being apostate, but in the case of the Ahmadiyya movement, attitudes towards designating the sect apostatical, heretical or Islamic differ depending on region or Islamic schools of thought. In Pakistan, where most Ahmadis live, the state considers the group to be apostatical; whereas in the neighbouring state of Iran, the same group is considered to fall within the bounds of Islamic belief.

Another example concerning the Ahmadiyya movement is the Al-Azhar Islamic University in Egypt, which accepts a certain Ahmadi belief concerning the nature of prophethood in Islam, considered by other schools as being heretical, to fall within Islamic jurisdiction.

Bid'ah in religious matters

In Islam, bid‘ah (Arabic: بدعة) or innovation in religion is forbidden. As the Islamic prophet Muhammad stated in a hadith:

“Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours [i.e., Islam] that is not a part of it, will have it rejected.” (Sahih al-Bukhari Vol 3, Book 49, 861 [1]; Sahih Muslim Book 18, 4266 [2]) In addition, the Qur'an (which Muslims believe is the word of Allah) states:

" ..This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion."[3] (Qur'an 5; 3)

The late Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen wrote: "And there is no such thing in Islaam as bid’ah hasanah (good innovation)." [4]

Muslims do not all agree on what constitutes bid`ah—or a new way of worshipping Allah—or whether innovation includes details of clothing, eating, drinking, speech, etc., or only more narrow religious matters. When a religious innovation is committed, it is generally felt that the innovator is assuming that the Sunnah is not good enough, that he must resort to something "better." There are some innovations that imply unbelief or shirk, and there are some that are rejected (even when committed in all sincerity) without casting doubt upon that person's status as a Muslim believer.

Categories of believers and unbelievers

Some categories of believers and unbelievers in Islam are:

  • Mu'min: A muslim believer.
  • Fajir: A muslim who is wicked or an evil doer, a sinner (by action).
  • Fasiq: A muslim who openly violates Islamic law.
  • Munafiq: A hypocrite, one who does not believe in Islam, but declares as a muslim (mainly used in non religious context).
  • Kafir: An unbeliever, an apostate from Islam, a person who hides, denies, or covers the truth.
  • Murtad: Apostate , A previous muslim who no longer accepts Islam.
  • Ahl al-Kitâb: "People of the Book", members of the monotheistic religions whose holy books share the Qur'an's origins, i.e. Jews and Christians
  • Sharqui: "Idolater" or "Oriental", people perceived by Muslims to practice idolatry, ie Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and the Indian religions in general, as well as Taoists, Shintoists and other far-eastern religions.


  1. Sahih al-Bukhari
  2. Sahih Muslim
  3. Qur'an (Online Quran Project)
  4. Al-Nuttaqoon

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