This has been an interesting month as far as volatile emotions go. From San Bernardino to Multan, the trace has left a rather foul taste in our mouths and, once again, the Muslim community stands divided on various grounds.

That’s right. Instead of working towards unity to reclaim our religion, we manage to stay divided even after every heinous attack perpetrated in the name of Islam.

Days before Trump’s call to ban Muslims from the United States, various scholars from all over America and their followers were actually rushing to defend Al-Huda, the school that was alleged to have radicalized the female shooter of San Bernardino. Since, it was not just the western media blaming Farhat Hashmi, founder of Al-Huda, but also various Muslims who’d had unpleasant experiences at the school themselves or knew somebody who did, the defending scholars took the much tried and tested road of making all criticism irrelevant by dubbing it as sectarianism.

Dr. Yasir Qadhi, an American Muslim scholar, writer of Pakistani descent, and Dean of Academic Affairs at the Al-Maghrib Institute, was one of them. In his Facebook post, he endorsed Abu Eesa’s defense for Al-Huda, saying that he had ‘delivered many lectures’ there and the smear campaign against the school was ‘perhaps out of sectarian bias’. The post was widely shared and lauded, of course, and I was one of the three people who asked him to not use sectarian bias as a cover under which to sweep all legit and personal experiences with Al-Huda.

However, I was happy to note that at least he realized there was such a thing as ‘sectarianism’ even if it was to discredit what Muslims belonging to other sects believed or said.

To put it simply, if you ask any of his followers or followers of Salafi Islam, they will tell you they are Muslims and then, they go on to define the Wahhabi ideology as though it is not merely just another school of thought but the entire Islam itself. They don’t seem to exhibit any knowledge, any idea that Salafi Islam is not the only form of Islam. That it is, in fact, only an interpretation that relies much on Ibn Taymiyya’s interpretation and then on Abdul Wahab’s interpretations from the 17th century, and that there will always be people who disagree with it since they too have centuries of works done by their scholars, and that it is OK to live with all these differences.

This sheer lack of understanding with regards to other sects in Islam, this utter disregard of respecting other interpretations of Islam that have been mainstream for centuries producing great Imams and scholars and Sufis, is either due to vulgar ignorance or hostile extremism that demands complete annihilation of pluralistic thought in Islam. It is this ideology of exclusion, the ideology of ‘my way is the only way and if you don’t do it this way, you’re not doing it the Islamic way’ that forms the basis of takfiri ideology. It is this takfiri ideology that feeds into radicalism that furthers the cause of terrorists like Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and similar that use Islam as a motivating factor. And that is why we, the non-Salafis, stand against this dimension of this school of thought.

Dr. Qadhi seems to be realizing this as well recently.

It so happened that Rabi-ul-Awal started, and so did the debate on Mawlid. The third month of the Islamic calendar also happens to be the birth month of Prophet Muhammad. Every year, the advent of Rabi-ul-Awal is celebrated with much oomph by Sunnis (the non-Salafis) and those celebrations are much frowned upon by Sunnis (the Salafis). The bone of contention is the technicality of adopting and/or shunning bid’ah (an innovation in religion), the actual birth date of Prophet Muhammad and a few other things in between. Social media gets the drift as well when posts from overzealous Salafis start circulating declaring all those who celebrate Mawlid as people engaging in bid’ah and such, the punishment for which is hellfire.

It is the same every year. However, this year, Dr. Qadhi took a bold stance and called for peace, unity and tolerance.

Of course, that did not sit well with the masses who follow him. Considering the response he received, you’d think the guy had renounced religion or something. It felt like a sudden fall from grace! All that support and love that Dr. Qadhi had been getting when he rushed to defend Al-Huda just vanished and most comments on his post either were shaming him or expressing regret at his outrageous views (I mean how dare he be tolerant of other sects!) or they were outright insulting. He was called a YouTube Imam, a self-proclaimed scholar (which he isn’t as he has a valid college degree), and as someone who condones bad innovations and sinners. The overall sentiment of the people on that post may be summed up by this one comment:

“It is very sad to hear that Dr. Yasir Qadhi not being against the people who celebrate the Mawlid of our prophet (SAW). This is innovation and innovations can lead to hell fire. As Muslims we should also avoid imitating the kufars, Jews and Christians. Celebrating the birthday of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) is like the Islamic version of celebrating Christmas. Both have the same goal just different prophets, different date and different religion.”

Christmas, of course, is the celebration of the birth of Christ and we revere Christ as one of our prophets so I don’t really see what the point of contention there is. Anyway, keeping aside that debate for another time, I just have one question for people who think as the above comment signifies: Don’t you ever stop? Don’t you ever tire of being so negative and hateful?

It was all fine and truthful as long as your scholar was talking about sectarian divides and biases but the moment he tried to instill some common sense in you, awaken some humanity that perchance you may love your own brethren in faith as your brethren in faith and not demonize them for loving the same religion in a different way, a way dignified and deliberated upon by mighty scholars over centuries before Wahhabism was ever born, you turn around and spit on his face too? If it isn’t the issue of Mawlid with you, it is Ashur. If it isn’t Ashur, it is the Sufi saints and their shrines. If it isn’t that, it is wishing another their happy religious day or celebrating a cultural holiday. If it isn’t that, it is women who take up their husband’s name after marriage. If it isn’t that, it is the matter of religious poetry – the tradition of qawalis, the nasheeds, the salaams. The list of issues that offend you is endless!

It is a gross generalization to paint an entire sect with the same brush, hence, to say that all Salafis are hardliners and would love to see other Muslims who do not conform to their beliefs burn in hellfire would be unfair. However, will it be too much to ask them to see the seeds of extremism in what they preach? When you are excluding others and rejecting their scholars as ‘un-Islamic,’ doubting them of apostasy and then tipping them recklessly off that edge simply because you do not agree with their interpretation, you are contributing to radicalism.

In this day and age, when many scholars are working towards integration, events like Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS convention) where high caliber educators like Hamza Yusuf talk about eradicating differences, it is always shocking to hear a segment of Muslims bash another for being lesser than them. And Salafis aren’t the only ones guilty of this, by the way. Other sects dwell upon differences too, although, an outright takfir isn’t the road they take even while criticizing.

Speaking of Milad (Mawlid), to those who are for it, is it too much to ask to be original when you write down tunes for the amazing naat you’ll be singing? Don’t get me wrong, I love a melodious nasheed. It’s just that I don’t want to be thinking of a Bollywood song while trying to sing praises of my Prophet. If we so love our Prophet that we want to give him a gift of song, could we step away from Indian movies, thank you kindly? And what’s with those deafening drums and chants? You are not going to war. You are going to celebrate the coming of the noblest being on earth who didn’t have a taste for loud anything. In case you’d forgotten, here’s something from the Quran:

“O you who believe! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor address him in the manner that you address one another, lest your deeds come to naught, while you are unaware.” – 49:2

Be moderate and modest. We need to stop being extreme in whatever we hold dear.

We truly need to get our heads out of the sand and stop being so awfully rigid that it becomes difficult for us to breathe the same air, which it increasingly is. Because if we don’t, we won’t need a Donald Trump to squish us. We’ll do it for him, and with all the glory and pleasure there is in dying in vain too.

We really just need to stop being stupid. Seriously.