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Non-denominational Muslim

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Title: Non-denominational Muslim  
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Non-denominational Muslim

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.


  • Terminology 1
  • Overview 2
    • History of sectarianism 2.1
    • Development and thought 2.2
    • Academia 2.3
    • Dispersions 2.4
  • Demographics 3
  • Commentary 4
  • Organizations 5
  • Notable individuals 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


The corresponding term in Arabic is مسلمون بلا طائفة which would transliterate as muslimūn billa ṭā'ifah. 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 and 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]


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]


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. 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:

The people who began to trade on the names of the prophets cut off that unity and made sects; and each sect rejoices in its own narrow doctrine, instead of taking the universal teaching of unity from Allah. But this sectarian confusion is of man's making. It will last for a time, but the rays of truth and unity will finally dissipate it. Worldly wealth, power and influence may be but trials. Let not their possessors think that they are in themselves things that will necessarily bring them happiness.[35]


  • Tolu-e-Islam; inspired by the principles of Its goal is to spread the principles of the Quran, with an aim to bring about a Resurgence of Islam. [36]
  • The People's Mosque; an online nondenominational Muslim movement that seeks to distinguish itself by contrasting its own principles with ultra-conservative political Muslims.[37][38]

Notable individuals

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Intra-Societal Tension and National Integration, p 119, A. Jamil Qadri - 1988
  4. ^ a b
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  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Section 2: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Pew Research Center
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  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 Meaning of the Holy Quran, New Edition with Revised Translation and Commentary, Published by Amana Corporation, page 853
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
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