Non-denominational Muslim

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Non-denominational Muslims[1] are Muslims who do not belong to a specific Islamic denomination, but accept Islam as a religion generally.[2] Non-denominational Muslims may defend this stance by pointing to the Quran such as Al Imran verse 103, which asks Muslims to stay united and not to become divided.[3] In surveys asking for individuals to specify their religious denomination, these Muslims commonly self-identify as "just a Muslim".[4][5] Such Muslims may choose to interpret the Islamic scripture, including the Quran and Hadith, themselves or consider the opinions of as many schools of Islamic thought as possible before reaching a particular interpretation. [no citations needed here]


The corresponding term in Arabic is Template:Lang which would transliterate as Template:Transl.[no citations needed here] Another term for Muslims with this school of thought is just Muslim.[6][7][8][9][10]


History of sectarianism

While it is generally accepted that when Muhammad was alive the Quran's commands against sectarianism were followed; however, after the death of Muhammad, "complicated political feuding" resulted in the first sects arising in the form of the Kharijites and the Shia.[11] The Sunni denomination arose as a response to this sectarianism which was "only just beginning".[12] One common mistake is to assume that Sunnis represent Islam as it existed before the divisions, and should be considered as normative, or the standard.[13] This perception is partly due to the reliance on highly ideological sources that have been accepted as reliable historical works, and also because the vast majority of the population is Sunni and this narrative suits their denomination, even though it is far from accurate. Both Sunnism and Shiasm are the end products of several centuries of competition between ideologies. Both sects used each other to further cement their own identities and divisions.[14] Sectarianism continued into the present, being used and exploited for its political benefits. An example of this was the Zia regime in Pakistan, who used sectarian divisions between the Sunni and Shia to counter the growing geopolitical influence of Iran, as well as to distract from the domestic political problems.[15] Post-Zia governments in Pakistan continued to "cynically manipulate sectarian conflicts for short term political gain." These policies have begun to change, with recent crackdowns on sectarianism by countries such as Pakistan.[16]

Development of non-denominational thought

Islam originally brought a radical egalitarianism to a fiercely tribal society, within which a person's status was based on his tribal membership.[17] The Quran set all individuals as equals, erasing the importance of tribal status. The primary identity of "Muslims" became simply "Muslim", rather than as a member of a tribe, ethnicity or gender. The Quranic concept of "ummah" depends on this unified concept of an Islamic community, and it was appealed to again in the 19th century, as a response to colonialism by European powers.[18] One Muslim scholar leading the emphasis on Muslim unity was Muhammad Iqbal, who's views have been referred to as "ummatic".[19] Iqbal emphatically referred to sectarianism as an "idol" that needed to be "smashed forever".[20] He's quoted as having stated "I condemn this accursed religious and social sectarianism, there are no Wahhabis, Shias, Mirza's or Sunnis. Fight not for interpretations of the truth when the truth itself is in danger." In his later life, Iqbal began to transcend the narrow domain of nationalist causes and began to speak to the Muslims spread all over the globe, encouraging them to unify as one community.[21] Iqbal's influence on Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, is also well documented. Jinnah was also non-denominational in his beliefs, his standard answer to questions asking him to define his sect yielded the stock answer: was Muhammad the Prophet a Shia or a Sunni?[22] Other intellectuals who spoke against sectarianism during this era were Altaf Hussain Hali who blamed sectarianism for the decline of Muslims, Aga Khan III who cited it as a hindrance to progress and Muhammad Akram Khan who said sectarianism drained the intellectual capacities of Muslim scholars.[20]

In academia

There are faith schools and graduation programs with curriculums that have been described as being oriented towards non-denominational Islam.[23] Non-denominational Muslims have been adopted by some theocratic governments into their fold of pan-Islamism as a means to tackle unreasoning partisanship.[24] Some academic press publishing companies have assigned a proper noun-like title to Muslims without a specific sectarian affiliation by capitalizing the designation as Just a Muslim. However, the customs and rituals practised by non-denominational Muslims are probably Sunni-inclined.[25]

Dispersion within immigrant populations

Western-born Muslims are more likely to be non-affiliated than immigrant Muslims,[26] and when pressed may suggest they try to follow Islamic religious texts "as closely as possible".[27] Although Pew has given comprehensive figures on sectarian affiliation, earlier research from 2006 has also come from CAIR.[28] Some publishers and authors have categorized such non-specified Muslims as being within the liberal or progressive stream of the faith.[29] Sahelian non-denominational Muslims have demonstrated an aversion to austere religious measures.[30] Although some non-denominational Muslims came to their position influenced by their parents, others have come to this position irrespective and in spite of their parents.[31]


At least one in five Muslims in at least 22 countries identifies as a non-denominational Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project the country with the highest proportion of nondenominational Muslims is Kazakhstan at 74%. It also reports that non-denominational Muslims make up a majority of the Muslims in eight countries (and a plurality in three others): Albania (65%), Kyrgyzstan (64%), Kosovo (58%), Indonesia (56%), Mali (55%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (54%), Uzbekistan (54%), Azerbaijan (45%), Russia (45%), and Nigeria (42%). Other countries with significant percentages are: Cameroon (40%), Tunisia (40%), Guinea Bissau (36%), Uganda (33%), Morocco (30%), Senegal (27%), Chad (23%), Ethiopia (23%), Liberia (22%), Niger (20%), and Tanzania (20%).[4] However, these figures can be misleading and should be taken with caution as most of these countries have a dominant Muslim sect i.e., Sunni Islam or Shi'a Islam (in case of Azerbaijan) and lack competing denominations.Template:Or As a result, most of the Muslims in these countries choose to identify themselves simply as Muslims rather than claiming to belong to a particular sect.} Moreover, contrary to the estimates give by Pew Research Center, various other sources give Sunni majorities for the above mentioned countries except Azerbaijan which has been traditionally a Shi'a Muslim majority country.[32]


It has been described as a phenomenon that gained momentum in the 20th century which can overlap with orthodox Sunni tenets despite adherents not adhering to any specific madhab.[33][34] In an alluding commentary on surah Al-Mu'minoon verse 53, Abdullah Yusuf Ali states: Template:Quote


  • Tolu-e-Islam; inspired by the principles of Muhammad Iqbal's philosophy, led by Ghulam Ahmed Pervez, Tolu-e-Islam is an organization based in Pakistan. It does not affiliate with any political party or religious sect.[35] Its goal is to spread the principles of the Quran, with an aim to bring about a Resurgence of Islam.
  • The People's Mosque; an online nondenominational Muslim movement that seeks to distinguish itself by contrasting its own principles with ultra-conservative political Muslims.[36][37]

Notable individuals

See also


  1. Ngaima, Samuel (2014). Factors to the Liberian National Conflict: Views of the Liberian Expatriates. p. 17. 
  2. Benakis, Theodoros (13 January 2014). "Islamophoobia in Europe!". New Europe (Brussels). "... the non-denominational Muslims – those who are neither Shiites nor Sounites, but who accept Islam as a religion generally." 
  3. Intra-Societal Tension and National Integration, p 119, A. Jamil Qadri - 1988
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Chapter 1: Religious Affiliation". The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity. Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project. August 9, 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  5. Burns, Robert. Christianity, Islam, and the West. p. 55. "40 per cent called themselves "just a Muslim" according to the Council of American-Islamic relations" 
  6. Mustapha, Abdul (2014). Sects & Social Disorder. p. 5. "of Muslims identified themselves as Sunni, 12 per cent as Shi'a, 3 per cent as Ahmadiyya but 44 per cent as 'just Muslim' (Pew Forum, 2010)" 
  7. Muttitt, Greg (2012). Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq. p. 79. "A January 2004 survey by the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, for instance, asked people which description suited them best Sunni Muslim, Shi'a Muslim or just Muslim'." 
  8. Boulting, Ned. On the Road Bike: The Search For a Nation’s Cycling Soul. p. 155. "What is your religion, asked a UN official. Muslim. Are you Shi'a or Sunni. Just Muslim" 
  9. Tatari, Eren (2014). Muslims in British Local Government: Representing Minority Interests in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets. p. 111. "Nineteen said that they are Sunni Muslims, six said they are just Muslim without specifying a sect, two said they are Ahmadi, and two said their families are Alevi" 
  10. Lopez, Ralph (2008). Truth in the Age of Bushism. p. 65. "Many Iraqis take offense at reporters' efforts to identify them as Sunni or Shiite. A 2004 Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies poll found the largest category of Iraqis classified themselves as "just Muslim."" 
  11. Sayeed, Mohammed. Fundamental Doctrine of Islam and Its Pragmatism. pp. 293-294. 
  12. Berkey, Jonathan. The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800. p. 85. 
  13. Hughes, Aaron. Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam. p. 115. "It is a mistake to assume as is commonly done that Sunni Islam arose as normative from the chaotic period following Muhammad's death... This mistake is based in... the taking of later and often highly ideological sources as accurate historical portrayals - and in part on the fact that the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world follows now what emerged as Sunni Islam..." 
  14. Hughes, Aaron. Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam. p. 116. "Eachof these sectarian movements... used the other to define itself more clearly and in the process to articulate its doctrinal contents and rituals." 
  15. Copland, Ian. South Asia: The Spectre of Terrorism. pp. 138-139. 
  16. Miraj, Naveed (January 13, 2015). "Message loud and clear: Army chief for zero tolerance against religious terrorism". "General Raheel Sharif is absolutely clear that all the sectarian outfits have to disarm and stop activities against each other, he said." 
  17. Esposito, John. What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam: Second Edition. p. 16. 
  18. Esposito, John. What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam: Second Edition. p. 17. 
  19. Junid, Sanusi (2002). "Iqbal and Muslim Unity". Intellectual Discourse (International Islamic University Malaysia) Vol 10, No 2, 115-124: 116. "Iqbal's vision was Ummatic and hence he should be referred to as "the poet philosopher of Muslim unity."" 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Jones, Justin. Shi'a Islam in Colonial India: Religion, Community and Sectarianism. p. 25-26. 
  21. Junid, Sanusi (2002). "Iqbal and Muslim Unity". Intellectual Discourse (International Islamic University Malaysia) Vol 10, No 2, 115-124: 120. "Iqbal was no longer writing for Indian Muslims alone but for his coreligionists scattered all over the world. He had switched from Urdu to Persian to make his message available to the largest number of the adherents of Islam." 
  22. Ahmed, Khaled. "Was Jinnah a Shia or a Sunni?". The Friday Times. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  23. GSRC (2015). "Degree overview: Theology and religion". Retrieved 19 October 2015. "Most theology schools are based in a religious tradition—a specific sect or denomination of a major religion (i.e., a branch of Rabbinical Judaism, a Catholic order, or a school of Buddhism); a general foundation in a major religion (i.e., nondenominational Islam or Christianity)" 
  24. Pollack, Kenneth (2014). Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy. p. 29. "Although many Iranian hardliners are Shi'a chauvinists, Khomeini's ideology saw the revolution as pan-Islamist, and therefore embracing Sunni, Shi'a, Sufi, and other, more nondenominational Muslims" 
  25. Mustapha, Abdul Raufu (2014). Sects & Social Disorder: Muslim Identities & Conflict in Northern Nigeria. p. 54. "... the Ahmadiyya (3%), the 'something else' (2%), the 'Just a Muslim' (42%), and the 'Don't Know' (4%) (Pew 2010, 21). Most of the 'Just a Muslim' are also likely to be Sunni-inclined" 
  26. Section 2: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Pew Research Center
  27. Testerman, Janet (2014). Transforming From Christianity to Islam: Eight Women’s Journey. p. 13. "If people ask me “What are you, Sufi, Shiite or Sunni?” I say No, I'm just a Muslim. I follow the Quran as much as I can, and if I have questions I go to scholars, but I don't get myself involved in any divisions." 
  28. Roelle, Patrick (2006). Islam's Mandate- a Tribute to Jihad: The Mosque at Ground Zero. p. 374. "In a 2006 survey of 1,000 Muslim registered voters, about 12% identified themselves as Shi'a, 36% said they were Sunni, and 40% called themselves "just a Muslim," according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)." 
  29. Aamir, Omer (2013). Federalism and Pakistan. "Their dream of turning the conflict into an Arab against the Shiite's is turning into a reality. A dark twisted reality for the liberal non denominational Muslims" 
  30. Kennedy, Lisa (2015). "Film review: "Timbuktu" depicts the beautiful and the brutal". The Denver Post. Retrieved 21 October 2015. "In town, the jihadists have begun imposing Shariah laws on the locals. Many of the citizens are already devout, if non-denominational Muslims, but this pushes them." 
  31. Kirkham, Bri (2015). "Indiana Blood Center cancels 'Muslims for Life' blood drive". Retrieved 21 October 2015. "Ball State Student Sadie Sial identifies as a non-denominational Muslim, and her parents belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. She has participated in multiple blood drives through the Indiana Blood Center." 
  32. Template:Cite encyclopedia
  33. Islam in South Asia: A Short History - Page 491, Jamal Malik - 2008
  34. Defence Journal - Volume 10, Issues 9-11 - Page 35, Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal - 2007
  35. "The aim and objective of the Tolu-e-Islam". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  36. Longton, Gary Gurr (2014). "Isis Jihadist group made me wonder about non-denominational Muslims". The Sentinel. Retrieved 21 October 2015. "THE appalling and catastrophic pictures of the so-called new extremist Isis Jihadist group made me think about someone who can say I am a Muslim of a non-denominational standpoint, and to my surprise/ignorance, such people exist. Online, I found something called the people's mosque, which makes itself clear that it's 100 per cent non-denominational and most importantly, 100 per cent non-judgemental." 
  38. Cughtai, Muhammad Ikram (2005). Jamāl Al-Dīn Al-Afghāni: An Apostle of Islamic Resurgence. p. 454. "Condemning the historically prevailing trend of blindly imitating religious leaders, al- Afghani revised to identity himself with a specific sect or imam by insisting that he was just a Muslim and a scholar with his own interpretation of Islam." 

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