Posted by: Dawud Israel | February 29, 2008

Salafis/Sufis as Obstacles to Islamic Work

For the vast majority of my posts I have ignored the classically annoying discussions of so-called Salafi groups and Sufi groups and this is for good reason. I may later on indulge in a discussion regarding the amazing historical significance of these movements and how current movements are different from what their “founders” envisioned. But that is another topic and I will not dabble in the refined Muslim art of “Judging others.” (I’m not going to deal with Tableeghis since they are even more difficult–unless they are more young–with these groups there is at least potential)

What I am going to discuss is when the concept of the Muslim “other” becomes an obstacle to Dawah and Islamic work. Being a person who has not taken a definite ‘stance’ on these matters I find myself in a precarious position–I don’t assign myself to either group but understand the value of both, yet I am keenly aware that others don’t.

Here is the scenario: You need to make a website for a shaykh regarding an area that desperately requires attention and is not influenced by Islamic ideology but rather is a basic of Islam that all Muslims agree on. However, the shaykh has some opinions you do not agree with–in fact, you are very passionate regarding these issues. Will you or will you not help him? Most would logically say, “Yes, if its regarding something in the interest of all Muslims and for the sake of Allah,” but when it comes to actually working with a different group–they back out.

They will cite their reason:

‘What if someone becomes “misguided” by this?’
‘My shaykh doesn’t agree with this’
‘Those people are Sufis!’
Or in other cases they will not even cite a reason just merely disappear or avoid the topic.

In the end it becomes an issue and you have no choice but to find someone else to complete the task. So what can be done?

It is difficult to provide a solution to this but I will try and sum up approaches to this:

1) We should understand that people do not want to near things that make them feel uncomfortable or they may still be learning or still confused and we should make 70 excuses for them. In time they may become more open-minded but forcing them will merely make things more difficult for them.

2) Realize that this is ONE UMMAH and Islam is on a decline on the world stage. Do we have time to waste arguing over issues that will be of little benefit to the masses? In other words, when the innocents are being besieged by Shaytaan and the war has already started–is there any need to sit down and contemplate strategy as the enemy lunges at you? Muslims don’t realize that we do not have the comfort of arguing anymore–we did at one point but if you look at the Muslim world today, religious life has been so ignored that at times one would hope that at least a few Jinns are still practicing Islam!

3) Listen to what the Shaykhs in the West have said: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani mentioned in a talk that helping to fund raise for a masjid that follows a different ideology is not a bad thing–they are still worshiping Allah! Shaykh Yasir Qadhi has said that he would not hesitate to work with other Muslims and has indeed been glad that these other groups have been around to help.

4) To understand that you cannot force a person on certain aspect of their worship of Allah (i.e. fiqhy issues or of aqeedah) and to not focus on these differences but rather the Islamic work that you do fisabilillah as a common ground. Furthermore, catering to the key advantages and qualities that their personality or unique understanding of Islam gives them and then using that for Islamic work would be a smart idea.

5) To realize that some risks may need to be taken at times that will require some courage and resolve. In the interest of Islam and the Ummah you may face scenarios that you will not feel comfortable with. The average Muslim faces these uncomfortable scenarios as well when slaughtering an animal on Eid or preparing a dead body for it’s funeral and they require a high level of maturity. Similarly, when a Muslim has to work in a sensitive area they will have to think hard and ‘man up!’

6) The person who is uncomfortable will explain why they believe in their viewpoint and by doing so this may become an issue to your own beliefs as it may be something new. In essence, they are making their problem–your problem, even if they do not intend it. The way I look at it is that, although you may potentially be doing something that may be sinful or become sinful by others, your intention is to do good. It may be that you recite a nasheed and someone rather than listening to it–starts dancing to it–are you then responsible for their sin? Or what if you quote a certain scholar (who to the best of your understand may be outside of Islam) who said something wise–will people become misguided if they than take this scholar as a source of authority in their practicing Islam?

It comes down to 3 vital points:




In closing it needs to be understood that many of the issues that Muslims face have been understood in the light of the Fiqh principle of weighing the pros and the cons–the benefits and the losses that certain projects hold. It is in this light that things need to be considered and properly understood if this Ummah is to move on. The AlMaghrib brothers of Quran have no problem in opening up the website to other Muslim groups and we are in the process of that. Another brother who I am working with on a ‘behind-the-scenes’ project has no problem working with Salafi material. And these are the types of Muslims that the Ummah needs–who are mature, open-minded and cooperative and I pray that Allah will bring about more brothers and sisters of this calibre.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.


  1. I see you’ve been thinking about our little conversation…

  2. Cool post!, man

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