Something I’ve been thinking about lately is this question – Is there only one way to be a Muslim?
It seems sometimes like a Muslim has to look a certain way, talk a certain way, and act a certain way. There’s what I call the MSA look. You know what I’m talking about. Beard, kufi, and Islam-themed T-shirt.
Is there one way to be a Muslim? Of course, brother, the Prophet’s way! Anything other than the Sunnah is unacceptable.
Sure, that’s one way of thinking. But isn’t it too simplistic? Remember the history of diversity in our Ummah. We have four equally valid schools of thought or madhahib. Despite what some desis might claim, the Hanafi way is no more authentic than the Shafi’i way.
There are regional differences in Islam too. The way they practice Islam in Egypt is different from the way they practice in Pakistan. The manner of dress is different. The mosques look different.
Okay, but maybe you think these differences are bid’ah, i.e. corrupt innovation. If you go back to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), you will not see so many differences.
What about the Hadith, “My Sahabah are like stars, you will be rightly guided by following any one of them?” (Razeen, Jam’ul Fawaa’id) The Sahabah were quite a diverse group of people. There were wealthy merchants like Uthman bin Affan (May Allah be pleased with him, Radiallahu anhu) and poor ascetics like Abu Dhar al-Ghiffari (R). There were Ethiopians like Bilal (R) and Byzantines like Suhaib (R). Both Ali bin Abi Talib (R) and Mu’ awiya (R) were Sahabah.
Finally, by the Grace of Allah, there are over one billion Muslims living today. It is absurd to think all of them should act exactly the same way. What kind of world would that be?