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A White Islam


Although the title may suggest otherwise, this has nothing to do with the colour of many people in the UK who, despite the unyielding negative media stereotyping, still amaze us by becoming Muslim. It has more to do with the coloured cards on my niece’s wall, that when combined are supposed to form white light – as in ROYGBIV. Many years ago, we too may have spun around bits of colourful card at the end of a stick and if spun fast enough, the disc miraculously turns white. However, if the colours blue or red were to be taken away, the disc would spin white no more. Instead, it becomes some other shade you wouldn’t necessarily have known the name of at such an age.

The Muslims today present a kaleidoscope of persuasions – the spiritual, political, evangelical, as well as the none of the aforementioned. All the ‘colours’ of this peculiar kaleidoscope carry a bit more of one thing, a bit less of something else. They form a collage of congregations and groupings, each with their own merits and their own idiosyncrasies. And you don’t have to read any written pieces by Muslims for too long before you detect the subtle shades of persuasion.
But of course, it didn’t start like that. The Prophet’s, sallah Allah ‘alahi wa sallam, words were not ambiguous when he stated,

I have left you on what is pure white, its night is (as clear) as its day; none would veer from it save a person doomed1

The description of Islam as being white denotes a way that is pure, with an unmistakable clarity. {quotes}It is a religion that is balanced and leaves nothing out which is of benefit to man in this life or the next, perfectly incorporating all colours of the spectrum. {/quotes}

Why then has it become a characteristic of groups, organizations, and societies to be more obsessed with some aspects of Islam at the expense of other aspects? The proponents of Islam as a political ideology have little to say about the spiritual aspects of Islam, and the Quran is at most times depicted as being akin to a political constitution. For others, the Quran seems to read primarily as a battle manual. You have those who are Sufi (or inclined to Sufism) who often come across as politically and otherwise passive, their emphasis being more on inner spirituality than anything else. Some others take it further to claim that the Islam that they believe in is purely and exclusively spiritual and personal, and in being so, is completely secular with nothing to say about governance or laws – all spirit and no letter. This leaves us very short of colours indeed. This, in all senses, is the dark room and contravenes what is required of us as Muslims, as Allah has said in the Quran:

“O you who believe, enter into Islam perfectly and do not follow the footsteps of shaytaan, verily he is to you a clear enemy.”2

One of the finest explanations of this verse, especially given its relevance to the contemporary situation of the Muslims, was stated by the late scholar of Islam, Shaikh Abdul Azeez bin Baz who further explained the application of this verse:

“…It is necessary to call the people to this particular way of life only and not towards a particular school of religion or to the thought or opinion of a particular person. It is to call towards the True Religion sent by Allaah – the straight path with which the Messenger and Beloved of Allaah, Muhammad had been sent into this world and for which the Qur’aan and the Sunnah stand testimony…It is necessary for you to accept Islaam completely; do not act upon one thing, and leave the other. Guard against only accepting the belief and neglecting the deeds and morals; nor may you only adopt deeds and morals neglecting the belief. In short, we must adopt Islaam in its entirety, that is in belief, action, worship… politics and economics, in other words a perfect Muslim, as has been enjoined by Almighty Allaah, ‘O you who believe ! Enter perfectly into Islaam and follow not the footsteps of Satan. Verily! he is to you a plain enemy’…It means that the devil calls you to disobedience and transgression, and urges you to leave the teachings of Islaam completely… So it is essential for a Muslim to adopt Islaam completely and hold fast to the rope of Allaah, avoid sectarianism and formation of groups. You should follow the commandments of Allaah in your prayers, in matters of marriage, divorce, and maintenance of dependants, dealing with friends and enemies, in peace and war – in short, Allaah’s commandments should be adopted in every walk of life.”3

What has become one of the most negative features of the sectarianism that has arisen from a disproportionate understanding and application of Islam is the disparagement (and at most times denunciation) of those aspects of Islam which are outside the remit or scope of an organization or tariqa. The Prophet was the perfect example of the embodiment of all of Islam – the inner and the outer; in his night prayer and on the battlefield; in his executing punishments and in his magnanimity. It was therefore apt that Aisha when asked about his character said, “His etiquette was the Quran”4, for he neglected nothing of it. He epitomised human mercy while also being a mercy to mankind. He was the flag-bearer of truth and struggled for it, and his conduct at Hudaibiyyah did not diminish his steadfastness on the truth in the least. In the same way, it was also not a characteristic of his companions to be defined by certain acts of worship to the exclusion of others, even if some excelled in some fields over others such as knowledge or military skills etc. [quotes]For them Islam was holistic and they carried out with diligence what was entrusted to them and what Allah made easy for them.[/quotes]

Even faith, Eeman, as the Prophet, salla Allah ‘alahi wa sallam, said, “is seventy odd – or sixty odd- branches. The best of it is the statement of Laa ilaha illa Allah (There is no True God but Allah), and the lowest of it is to remove what is harmful from the path. And modesty is a branch of faith.”5 This led one of the scholars of Islam, Al-Bayhaqi (4th Century Hijri), to compile a treatise entitled Shu’ab Al-Eeman in which he tried to enumerate these branches of faith. It ought to be the aspiration of every Muslim to try to complete his faith, and to follow in the example of the likes of Abu Bakr, who on the Day of Judgment will be called from all gates of paradise for his complete application of the bright white light that is this faith.

The various parties and groups of Muslims are in need of introspection with regards to the need for a holistic application of Islam, bearing in mind that this may potentially lead to a convergence of paths and help some way towards healing the fractures within the Muslim body. They should aspire to fill in the shades that they lack so as to attain that purity of Islam, doing so in order to please only Allah. Individually and collectively, it is vital for us to take a step back and examine where we fall short. Through learning and mutual advice, with generous helpings of humility, we should seek those aspects of Islam that we may be neglecting and be wary of following the footsteps of the devil, as stated by the aforementioned verse. It is vital for Muslims of all persuasions who may choose to identify themselves by one description or another to reflect on the possibility that what to them may define their merit may also be what defines their failing if it involves neglecting aspects of this great faith. It is simply not sufficient to be complacent with a label or affiliation to any one of many groups or cults, for that will not secure for us a seat in paradise. That reward requires a pure heart, and our adorning our lives with all of the colours of Islam and its teachings, so that our movement through this life – like that wonderful spinning disc – radiates the pure whiteness of Islam our beloved Messenger left us with.




1. Narrated by Ibn Majah and Ahmed.
2. Surah Al-Baqara (2:208)
3. Ibn Baaz, “Ad-Da’wah illa Allahi wa Akhlaq ad-Da’ia”
4. Muslim (746)
5. Bukhari (1/51) and Muslim (35).

About Dr Osman Ahmed


  1. Abrahamic Father

    I totally agree with Mad Hatter!
    I totally agree with Mad Hatter!

  2. to mad hatter
    The article doesn’t just single out sufis…it also points to HT’s preoccupation with politics and jihadees, etc. But yeah the salafi problem is a neglect of aspects of spirituality and ‘tasawwuf’ and ettiquettes and an obsession among a section of them to brand others as deviant if that don’t agree with them in every thing. But there does seem to be some change in the salafis now- compared to the ‘super-salafis many of whom have just turned against each other, Lord of the flies style…

  3. Why singling one community?
    Im keen to know why the article has singled out the Sufi community and yet does not mention the Salafi, HT, Bralvi, deobandi etc – the list is potentially endless. This article seems to be ripe with prejudice and by doing so has contradicted itself. If we are talking about an Islam without a group, then we are talking about an Islam which is without prejudice towards one/two groups, because Islam falls into NONE of those groups whilst those groups have taken bits and pieces of Islam for themselves. In some ways, therefore, Islam is whole, complete and absolute.
    Also, whilst theoretically, yes there should be no groups, practically this is whole different ball game. There is a group EVERYWHERE, so much so that you couldnt avoid them even if you wanted to. Here in the UK we have Salafi, Sufi, Deobandi, Brelvi and ironically there is no ‘no group’ in the UK. My point is that Islam in theory is not always Islam in practice, even though ideally it should be.

  4. Groups and parties
    I don’t understand the opposition to groups and parties that some Muslims have. Joining a group is not cutting yourself off from the Ummah, it is collaborating with some of your brothers to fulfill some function that is mandated in Islam. So if I live in Canada, and dawah is an obligation, I will join a group that will teach me how to do dawah, and help me do it effectively. This group will have its methods, procedures and internal structure that I will have to abide by, as long as it is within Islam, to fulfill my obligation properly.The groups may have disagreements with other dawah groups as well, but as long as both are sincere in their efforts to please Allah, we are all still part of the Ummah and should respect eachother. This is not disunity, its collective action in a realistic way. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something.

  5. Are we disunited?
    JazakAllah khair for your article. May Allah (SWT) grant an immense reward to the doers of good at a time when doing good swims against the tide.

    We always have to remember that, in the UK for sure, the advent of Islam in a practical sense is a relatively new phenomenon. I, myself, was always aware of my faith, but never grew up practising it. If we ask most Muslims in the UK, they may have a similar experience. What contributed to a resurgence is not really important, what is important is that any initial surge is likely to be accompanied with excitement, zeal and novelty. When you combine that with all the disagreeable traits we have acquired as Muslims living here, is likely to cause all sorts of issues.

    However, as we all mature, practice more, increase our knowledge of Islam, we realise our shortcomings, failings and weaknesses, with a view to addressing them, in our path to draw nearer to Allah (SWT). Importantly groups, whether they like it or not, will, and are realising that they are not exclusive in delivering the truth.

    As an Ummah we will always differ, disagree and bring daleel and evidences to purport our own view (famous scholars do this too!). The important point is that we do not view this as disunity. As an Ummah we are united, and our creed is one. For sure, there are no mechanisms currently, that allow that unity to be expressed, which is a real shame, and a cause for concern. We can see this unity when, for example, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is attacked. While many Muslims will disagree with the knee-jerk reactions of some of our Ummah, it is important to recognise that such reactions are inevitable where no authority to respond exists.

    To summarise, I think it is important to realise that even here in the UK, the existence of Muslim groups, in itself is not a problem, but rather our view of each other should be mature enough to appreciate the differences in views, and as we continue to grow, intellectually, we will increasingly appreciate each others contribution, and those individuals set on creating fitna will become clear for all to see.

    Your Brother in faith

  6. The Pharmacist

    Mashallah your article was a really good and uplifting read. It was much like the subject it discussed- inclusive and all encompassing.

    May Allah reward you abundantly

  7. siratal-mustaqeem
    Mahsa-Allah a very nice artcle…I truly believe that if a person seeks the truth for the truth that Allah will guide them to it. You made a very important point that Muslims should be calling to Islam full stop. When I first learnt about Islam I allways used to go to all the talks by all the different groups and there was much good in them and of course time and through my own personal journey to Allah I realised what made more sense. May Allah guide all the Muslims and enable us to find the straight path. Ameen

  8. I would suggest Tafsir Ibn Kathir. I can only quote (translated) some of what I have read –
    The scholar As-Sa’di said: “And included in the (meaning of )such a party are the people of knowledge and teaching; those who are involved in giving khutbahs and preach to people, generally and specifically; the people of Hisbah who enjoin the people to pray, and give zakat, and fulfilling the prescripts of religion, and forbid what is evil. So whosoever invites people to good either generally , or specifically, or gives sincere advice either generally or specifically , then he is included in this verse.”
    Another scholar Ash-Shawkani said in Fath Al Qadeer: ” …that enjoining good and forbidding evil is of the fard kifaayat specifically for the scholars who know that what they are enjoining is is ma’roof (good) and what they are forbidding is (in fact) evil…” and “…it is one of the greatest waajibat of the of the pure sharee’ah”

    The verse after this Allah says in its meaning: “And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment.”
    Also refer to verse 110 of the surah.
    I hope that is helpful. I would suggest getting in touch with a scholar or someone knowledgeable if you have further queries. Wasalam alaikum wa RahmatUllah

  9. Hizb-ut-Tahrir
    Salam, jazakallah khair for the answer. Concerning the final question, maybe you can comment on this inshallah:
    “Let there arise from you a group inviting to good,
    enjoining good and forbidding evil, and they are the successful (3:104)
    I agree with you 100% that we are one ummah, one body, however to my knowledge we are encouraged to join a group that enjoins in good and forbid the evil. Would you be able to help me with the tafsir on this plz..Jazakallah khair

  10. Hizb – ut- Tahrir
    If you are asking me of my opinion, I think you will find the answer in the article. As for the fard of working for the khilafah and an analysis of the party then – as always – I suggest you discuss these issues with someone knowledgeable.
    Hizb Ut Tahrir, like any Muslim organisation, will say and do things that are right , and they will have errors, and I would repeat that we as individuals and groups should always try to improve ourselves and correct our errors. And we should all prioritise our responsbilities as laid out for us.
    And, besides why does anyone need to join a group when we are all part of one big group that is over a billion strong, all brothers and sisters with each other!

  11. holistic islam
    I came across a group named Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Many of the things mentioned in this article were also conveyed to me, they spoke of Islam being a way of life and mentioned that Allah (swt) had given us a system to live by which encompasses all of the aspects mentioned i.e. Economic system etc. At first I felt they were too caught up in politics, but later came to realise that they are a political party whos aim is to re-establish the Khilafah (Islamic state) and resume the Islamic way of life. They also urged me to focus on my spiritual etc aspects in Islam because we cannot neglect any of our obligations. I wanted to ask 2 questions, firstly do you agree that working for the khilafah is a fard upon us? and secondly what your analysis of this party is; and may i please emphasise, what is your analysis on the party, thier method and ideas, not experiences you have had with brothers associated with the party inshallah.
    jazakallah khair.

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