Q. Please explain briefly, the difference in: Sunni, Shia and Ahmadiya Muslims with regards to us here in Trinidad.
A. The word Sunni is a name used for a person who is an adherent to the creed of ‘Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah’. This group is the one which is rightly guided and upon the true teachings of Islam as revealed by Allah. The name ‘Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah’ is derived from the teachings of the Prophet (SAS) which he gave, regarding those who will always be upon the right path. In this regard, the tradition which tells about this issue is the following which has been authenticated by the scholars of Hadith:-
The Prophet (SAS) is reported to have said:-
The Israelites became divided into seventy two groups and my nation (the Muslims) will be divided into seventy three. All but one will enter the fire of Hell. (that is, only one group from among them will enter paradise). Upon this, the companions of the Prophet (SAS) asked, ‘which one will enter paradise’. The Prophet (SAS) said, ‘Those who are upon my Sunnah (teachings) and the teachings of my companions’. (Tirmizi).
From the above hadith, two points are established. The first is that there will be dissension among the Muslims and people will form themselves into different groups, and the second is that the sign of those who will be upon the truth which will lead them to paradise is that they will be those who will uphold the teachings of the Prophet (SAS) (Sunnah) and that of the blessed companions (the Sahabahs).
Alhamdulillah, during the blessed life of the Prophet (SAS), the Muslims were upon one path. They followed the teachings of the Holy Quran in the way it was explained by the Prophet (SAS), and they adhered strictly to the teachings of the Prophet(SAS).
Unfortunately, as soon as the Prophet (SAS) left this world and returned to Allah, differences started to grow among some people. At this time, those who were deemed as hypocrites during the time of the Prophet (SAS) started to create dissension among the Muslims by making-up statements and spreading them among the Muslims.
Political controversies began among the people, but was soon put to an end when the khalifa was appointed. A sort of peace and unity then came about and the Muslims remained as one body. However, as Islam continued to spread far and wide, new people were coming into it who had different religious backgrounds. Owing to this, some of those who entered Islam, continued to hold some of their old philosophical ideas and notions, even though they entered into Islam. They tried to interpret the belief system in Islam based on that understanding of their former religions. This resulted in a great amount of differences which emerged into ‘theological controversies’. Groups then came about who accepted ‘imposters’ to be true prophets, thus denying the finality of the Prophet Muhammad (SAS). Others came about who denied the ‘Qadr’ decree of Allah. Others came about, who said that ‘man’ is forced to do whatever he does. There were those who started to deny chapters of the Holy Quran, even though they declared themselves to be Muslims. In this way, many groups with new ideologies and thoughts which were far away from the teachings of Islam emerged. All of them coined a different name for themselves. While this took place over a period of time , the majority of Muslims remain firm on the unadulterated teachings of the Holy Quran and fully accepted and implemented the sunnah of the Prophet (SAS), as it was preached, practiced and shown by the illustrious companions. They were those who were upon the path of the Sunnah and hence, became known as ‘People of the sunnah, and of the Jamaat (group ) of the Sahabahs.
From, among those who deviated from the original and orthodox teaching of Islam, was the group known as the ‘Qadianis’. This group started with claims being made by its founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, that he was a prophet of Allah. In a few years time, he had a following who believed he was a prophet. Later after his death, due to controversies among the members of the group, they became divided into two factions. One sect maintained that Mirza Ghulam was indeed a prophet as he said, and the other group believed that he was only a reformer, not a prophet. It is in this regard, you will hear the words ‘Ahmadiyya Muslims’ and the ‘Lahori group’. Both are off shoots of the same Qadiani movement, which the scholars of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jammah (Sunni Muslims) of the whole world have declared to be Non-Muslims.
The rightly guided Muslims are those who adhere to the creed of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah, since it is in this creed one will find the authentic, orthodox and pure teachings of Allah and His messenger (SAS). All others have deviated in one way or another and are not upon the path of the teachings, of the Prophet (SAS). Salvation and truth therefore, are only in this group.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan