Differences between Ibadhi Islam and Sunni Islam


Subject Ibadhi Teachings Sunnite Teachings
Unseen Matters The Ibadhis follow a method of allegorical interpretation of anthropomorphistic expressions in the Qu'ran. The Sunnites say a Muslim must believe in all that is reported in the Qur'an and the prophetic traditions concerning the unseen matters. He should not contradict it by his worldly experience, because the affairs of the hereafter cannot be measured by the affairs of this life. The difference between them is very great.

The Sunnites hold that denying what Allah confirms or changing its meaning is speaking about Allaah without knowledge, one of the greatest sins.

Belief in Allah: Where is Allah? Belief that Allah's "sitting on the throne" should not be taking with a literal meaning because its true meaning is His rule over the Universe. "There is no place in the high heavens and the lowest earths vacated by Him...He is sitting on the throne, is witness over everything and encompasses everything without formation, limitation, resemblance, anthropomorphism or imagination." (Rabii ibn Habib) Belief that Allah is well above His creatures in His Person and His Attributes. Allah "created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, then He settled Himself on the throne; He manages everything." (10:3) His "settling on the throne" means that He is sitting in person on His throne in a way that is becoming to His majesty and greatness. Nobody except He knows exactly how He is sitting.
Describing Allah The general source in the Ibadhi ideology is the complete elimination of anthropomorphic elements from the conception of deity and all that may suppose comparison among the Quranic revelations or prophetic traditions should be interpreted to suit the position and should lead to comparison.

No creature resembles Him and He does not resemble any creature; and what has come in the Quran or Sunnah prejudicing comparison is interpreted to benefit the meaning and does not lead to comparison. And they strictly avoid explaining Allah in what may prejudice comparison and they confirm to Him the 99 names and high qualities as He himself has confirmed for Himself.

Belief in all that Allah affirmed or negated concerning Himself or what His Messenger described Him with, of names and attributes. Belief that this is a statement He made about Himself, and He knows Himself best, avoiding discussion about what He or His Messenger did not mention about Himself.

Belief that it is obligatory to take the texts of the Qur'an and the prophetic traditions conceding Allah's attributes at their face value, rejecting the practice of those who twist the meanings of these texts or make them devoid of their meanings as conveyed by Allah and His Messenger. Also rejecting the approach of those who give them a physical interpretation that makes Allah similar to some of His creatures. "There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him. He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing." (42:11)

Belief in what Allah revealed in the Qur'an without distorting or denying and without asking how (takyif) or resembling or shaping (tamthil).

Descent of Allah Belief that the coming of Allah with the angels on the day of resurrection (89:22) is not literal but rather explained as the coming of His order. Belief that Allah descends to the near sky before the last third of every night and says: "Who prays to Me and I will answer his prayers? Who asks Me and I will give him? Who asks My forgiveness and I will forgive him?" (Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah's Hands and Face Belief that the "face" of Allah means Allah Himself. His "hands" and "handful" are explained as His power and rule or rizq and sustenance. Belief that Allah has a glorious and dignified face: "There will remain the face of your Lord, majestic and splendid." (55:27) Allah has two generous hands: "No, both His hands are wide open; He spends how He pleases." (5:64) "They do not esteem Allah with the esteem that is due to Him. The whole Earth will be His handful on the Day of Resurrection, and the Heavens will be rolled up in His right hand. Glory be to Him and exalted is He above that which they associate with Him." (39:67)
Allah's Eyes His "eye" means His knowledge and protection. "And build the ark under Our Eyes as We reveal" (11:37) and "...And I endued you with love from Me, inorder that you may be brought up under My Eye." (20:39) Belief that Allah possesses two real eyes. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "His veil is light. Had He removed it, the sublimity of His countenance would have burnt all that His sight reached." (Muslim and Ibn Majah) The Sunnites unanimously have agreed that He has two eyes. This is supported by the Prophet's saying about the Dajjal (the anti-Christ) that "he is one-eyed and your Lord is not one-eyed." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Seeing Allah The Ibadhis maintain that Allah is not to be seen either in this World or in the World to Come. As for the Quranic verses which give the impression that Allah shall be seen, the "gazing" was explained as waiting the permission from thier Lord to enter Paradise. This question is fully addressed in Musnad ar-Rabii ibn Habib. The Sunnites maintain that the believers will see their Lord on the Day of Resurrection: "Upon that day some faces shall be radiant, gazing upon their Lord." (75:22-3) And the saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him: "You will see your Lord as you see the full moon; Nothing will impair your view of Him; And if you are able to keep the dawn prayers and the mid afternoon prayers, do it." (Agreed upon it by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Belief in the Holy Quran Most Ibadhis held that the Quran is God's created word revealed in succession to the Prophet, peace be upon him. It is not a quality of Allah either of essense or of action. Belief that the Qur'an is Allah's word, revealed and not created. He literally spoke it to Gabriel, who conveyed it to the Prophet, peace be upon him.
The Rightly Guided Caliphs The Ibadhis recognized Abu Bakr as Siddiq and 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab as rightly guided caliphs, as well as 'Uthman Ibn Affan during the first six years of his rule. The Ibadhis considered their movement a continuations of the opposition which overthrew 'Uthman and caused his death, their opposition to him being a purely Islamic rejection of the innovations which he introduced.  The Ibadhis approved of Ali Ibn Talib's caliphate, but later they disapproved of Ali's acceptanceof arbitration in his wars against Mu'awiyah, and regarded those who rejected arbitration as the true Muslims. Belief that the best among the successors and the most entitled to the caliphate was Abu Bakr as Siddiq, then 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab, then 'Uthman Ibn Affan and then 'All Ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with them all. Thus their succession to the caliphate was according to their virtues.
The Prophet's Companions With regard to the companions, Ibadhis subjected some of them to criticism (al-Jarh): All the companions are just except those the Quran has made sinful. All their narration's are accepted except in those connected with sedition among those who plunged into sedition. The Ibadhis aim was to keep to the example set by the Prophet, peace be upon him, his two successors (Abu Bakr and 'Umar) and the upright Companions, and to re-establish the Muslim society on the same lines as the first Muslim community.

Al-Saalmy, an Ibadhi scholar, wrote in "Talaat Al-Shams":

"As for the companion... He is just till sedition. Thereafter, like another, he will be tried."

Belief that the disputes that took place among the Prophet's Companions were the result of sincere interpretations that they worked hard to reach. Whoever was right among them will be rewarded twice, and whoever was wrong among them will be rewarded once and his mistake will be forgiven.

Belief that the Muslims should stop talking about their mistakes and mention what they deserve of beautiful praise, purifying their hearts from hatred and malice against any of them, because Allah said about them: "They are not equal: those among you who spent and who fought before the conquest of Makkah. Those are higher in rank than those who spent and fought afterwards. But to all Allah has promised a great reward." (57:10)

Belief in the saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him: "Do not revile my companions. By (Allah) in Whose Hand my soul is!, if any one of you spends gold (piled up) like (mount) 'Uhud it will not equal a pint of any one of them, nor its half." (al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu-Dawud, at-Tirmidhi Ibn Majah, Ibn Hanbal)

"That they are the best of all generations," (al-Bukhari and Muslim) and: "That the pint of charity any one of them might have given is better than a pile of gold the size of Mount 'Uhud if it is given by anyone who comes after them." (al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Scale Belief that the scale is not sensory but the just segregator of the activities of creation. Belief that scale of deeds will be set up on the Day of Judgment, and that no soul shall be wronged: "Those whose scales are heavy, they are the successful; but those whose scales are light, they are the ones who have lost their souls in Hell dwelling forever." (23: 102-3)
The Bridge (Sirat al-Mustaqeem) Belief that the path is no sensory way on top of Hell, it is the Islamic way and God's religion which He has sanctioned for his servants. He has described it that it is sharper than the sword and more accurate than a hair (if correct). Meaning difficulty of adhering to Islam and following its straight path in the heart of waves of unruly temptations, and craving desires and slapping charms in the ocean of life. Belief in the straight path (sirat) set up over hell. People pass over it according to their deeds: the first of them as fast as lighting, then as fast as wind, then as fast as birds, and then as fast as a running man. The Prophet will be standing on the path, saying: "Lord, Save! Save!," as some people's deeds will fall short. Some of them will come crawling. At both sides of the path there are hooks designed to take whom Allah wills: some are saved but bruised; others are thrown into hell. (Bukhari and Muslim).
The Prophet's Intercession (Al-Shifa'ah) The Prophet's mediation is proven, and it is in two parts - the big mediation on the Day of Judgement for beginning the reckoning and entering of the believers in paradise, which is the blessed place for which Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has been authorised, the small mediation which is only for the believers provided with additional grades. Intercession is not for sinners who had not repented before death. Belief in the special intercession of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. He will plead with Allah, after His permission, concerning some believers who were to be taken out from the fire. This mediation is granted to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and to others among the prophets, the believers, and the angels.
Committing the Big Offences

Repentance is the foundation of forgiveness. God does not forgive grave sins, unless the sinner repents before death. As for the small mistakes, they are forgiven by avoiding the big crimes; and by doing the good things. (The good things blot out the bad ones). He who is happy in the hereafter never becomes miserable, and who is miserable never becomes happy; and happiness and misery never meet in one person. With regard to the perpetrator of big crimes the Ibadhis do not charge him with polytheism, as it is said about the Khawarij. They say such a person is a hypocrite, and it is not possible for him in the state of his disobedience and his insistence on crimes, to enter the Paradise if he does not repent.

Some gave the definition of grave sin as committing what is forbidden in the Qur'an and the definition of minor sin as committing what is forbidden by the Sunnah.

Belief that Allah will save from hell some of the believers who have sinned without the intercession of any one, but by His grace and mercy.

Those of the Ummah of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who have committed grave sins will be in the Fire, but not forever, provided they die and meet Allah as believers affirming His unity even if they have not repented. They are subject to His will and judgement. If He wants, He will forgive them and pardon them out of His generosity, as is mentionied in the Qur'an: "And He forgives anything less than that (shirk) to whoever He wills." (al-Nisa' 4: 116) and if He wants, He will punish them in the Fire out of His justice and then bring them out of the Fire through His mercy, and for the intercession of those who were obedient to Him, and send them to the Garden. This is because Allah is the Protector of those who recognize Him and will not treat them in the Next World in the same way as He treats those who deny Him and who are bereft of His guidance and have failed to obtain His protection.

The Sunnites do not say that any of them will categorically go to either the Garden or the Fire and do not accuse any of them of kufr (disbelief), shirk (associating partners with Allah), or nifaq (hypocrisy), as long as they have not openly demonstrated any of those things.

The Trial/Punishment of the Grave They affirm the torment of the grave and the questioning by the two angels according to many traditions confirming the issue. Belief in the Trial/Punishment of the Grave, which involves questioning the deceased person in his grave about his Lord, his religion, and his prophet. Belief in the comfort of the grave for the believers and belief in the punishment of the grave for the transgressing unbelievers.
Fighting Belief that it is not lawful to fight the righteous Imam. Fighting the unjust Imam is not an obligation; neither is it forbidden. The unjust ruler will first be requested to practice justice, if he does not respond, he will be told to leave the Muslim affairs; if he does not respond, it is permitted to fight him and remove him by force even if that will result in his death.  It is preferred to remain under the tyrannical rule if it is feared that fighting will not succeed or feared that it may affect the Muslims or weaken their power over their enemies in any place in the Muslim countries. The Sunnites do not recognize rebellion against the Imam or those in charge of affairs even if they are unjust, nor do they withdraw from following them. They hold that obedience to them is part of obedience to Allah, and therefore obligatory as long as they do not order to commit sins. They pray for them right guidance and pardon from their wrongs.

Concerning fighting the ruler who commits open disbelief, the basic principle of is that it is not permitted to remove an evil by means of a greater evil. If the Muslims can overcome the ruler who commits open disbelief and can bring in a righteous leader without that leading to a greater evil than the evil of this ruler, then that is permissible. But if rebellion would result in greater trouble, lead to chaos, oppression the assassination of people who do not deserve to be assassinated, and other forms of major evil, then that is not permitted.

Hadeeth Literature Musnad Ar-Rabii ibn Habib (SAHIH), written in the second century A.H., is the most reliable reference for Ibadhis in the Sunnah, (the sayings of the Prophet) and it ranks higher than the volumes (SAHIH) of Al-Bukhari and Muslim. Bukhari and Muslim's collections of Saheeh hadeeth (authentic sayings of the Prophet) are recognized to be the two most authentic collections of the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, though other authentic hadeeth are in other collections. The Sunnites do not recognize the recordings of Ar-Rabii ibn Habib as authentic.
Determining the Sunnah The actions associated with the Prophet, peace be upon him, in some worships for reasons of demonstration or which he did once but never repeated, or those not established that he continued with, are not considered to be Sunnah by the Ibadhis; but they consider them as happenings which may occur due to a reason in certain conditions only. In following the example of the Prophet, therefore, they do not consider the following as Sunnah:

Qunuut in prayers; Raising hands when uttering Takbeer; Moving the finger during Tashahud; Saying Ameen after reciting AI-Fatiha during prayers; Adding "Salaat Khayrun mina alnoum" in the morning call for prayers.

Allah, the Exalted said: "Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow..." [33:21]

The Sunnites believe it is obligatory to act upon whatever is authentically attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him. The Prophet was not sent merely to deliver the word of Allah, but also to explain the divine Book, to interpret it, to expound it, and to demonstrate the ways of its application. A strong indicator of the obligation to follow his example is the verse: "...And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it)..." [59:7]

Migration (Hijra) There is no migration after the opening (of Mecca) and it is not permitted to leave the house of the opponents for the house of friends in the belief of migration. Hijrah means to move from the land of the disbelief to the land of the Muslims or moving from one land of disbelief to another land of disbelief where evil is less prevalent and there is less danger to the Muslims, for the sake of one's religion. Hijrah, with this meaning is obligatory upon the Muslim until the sun rises from the west before the establishment of Judgement Day. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said that he is free from the Muslim who lives among pagans. If a Muslim can move from the lands of the disbelief, then Allah forbids him to stay in those lands. He may stay if he gives da'wah and propagates Islam, and shows his deen openly. Allah said what translated means, "When angels take the souls of those who die while they haved wronged their souls, they say, 'In what state were you?' They reply: 'We were weak and oppressed in the earth.' The angels say: 'Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away from evil?'" (4:97)
Wiping the Socks (Al-Mas'h ala al-khuffain) Ibadhi authorities maintain that the hadeeth for wiping the socks was repealed by the Quranic verse on ablutions (Wudu): "O believers, when you stand up to pray wash...your feet up to the ankles." [Quran 5:6] The Sunnis allow wiping over leather socks (in ablutions- Wudu) whether on a journey or otherwise, as reported by confirmed ahadith.
Prayers 1) The Ibadhis hold that there is no raising of the hands in the opening Takbeer or at any other time in the prayer.

2) The Ibadhis hold that only the opening chapter of the Quran (Al-Fatihah) is to be recited in the Dhuhr and Asr prayers.

3) The Ibadhi scholars reject Qunut and hold that those prayers said with the Imam who performs Qunut are futile and should be offered again.

4) The Ibadhi do not say "Ameen" after reciting Al-Fatiha during prayers.

1) The Sunnites hold that the hands should be raised with the opening Takbeer and at other times in the prayer such as before and after the bowing (ruku).

2) The Sunnites hold that other verses from the Quran should follow the recitation of Al-Fatihah during the first two raka' of the Dhuhr and Asr prayers.

3) The Sunnites acknowledge the validity of Qunut (supplication) during the ritual prayers.

4) The Sunnites say "Ameen" after reciting Al-Fatihah during prayers.

Fasting 1) The Ibadhis hold that major ritual purity is necessary for fasting as it is for prayer. The one fasting must be in major ritual purity before the time for fasting begins.

2) The Ibadhis hold that all grave sins cause breaking of the fast.

3) The Ibadhi hold that compensatory fasting days to discharge those not fasted in Ramadhan should be fasted successively.

1) The Sunnites hold that starting a fasting day without major ritual purity does not affect the fast, but it is necessary for prayers. The fasting person must be in major ritual purity by the time of the dawn (Fajr) prayer.

2) The Sunnis hold that one may continue with his fast even if he has sinned.

3) The Sunnis hold that compensatory fasting days to discharge those not fasted in Ramadhan do not need to be fasted successively.

All information concering Ibadhi beliefs was quoted from Ibadhi sources. All information concerning Sunnite beliefs was quoted from Sunnite sources.


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