I've been reading about Salafism and Wahabism, the two allegedly fundamental Islamic school of thoughts. And although I have the need to mention now I feel more ignorant than before I began reading about it, I did find some interesting things.
Firstly, according to several sources, the term 'Wahabi', which is now popularly used derogatorily to refer to Islamist militant groups, came from the 'West' due to a Puritan-Islamic movement entering India which had generated from Pakistan. Al Wahab, the figure, was an 18th century reformist who criticised the phenomenon of Sunni Islam in Arab who became comfortable with a status quo. He had thought that they were leaving behind the Sunnah (what is recommended by the Prophet). Since he stirred the pot, he accepted protection from the Saud family, who, in exchange, received religious legitimacy (pragmatic, no?).
Secondly, I read about the three types of Muslims. The first is the Muqallid, those who follow Islamic scholarship without direct comprehension over textual evidence (Quran and Hadist). The second is Muttabi, those following the main texts (Quran and Hadist). And the third is Mujtahid, those who analytically deduce from textual evidence (ijtihad), comparing between school of thoughts (mazhab), historical context, and choose what is closest to the Quran. As I was Googling, there was a Q & A section that incuded the following:
Question: What should those who do not wish to conduct an ijtihad, do?
Answer: To choose an imam (leader) and follow the imam's mazhab.
Question: What is the law of those following a mazhab without changing (note: perhaps this refers to 'evaluating' or 'reading between the lines').
Answer: Haram (unlawful). Because he takes the Imam's truth as Allah's truth.
A human truth as a divine truth. Particular, absolute.
It got me thinking. That we are all accountable for our individual and conscious choice.
I began thinking about ideological difference within social science, my own field of expertise. How critical theory differs from positivistic approaches, as well as their fundamental assumptions. But all theories attempt to understand social phenomenon with the 'tools' they deem 'right'. I can even use two ideologically conflicting tools, modernism and critical theory, to explain the same social phenomenon.
And at the end, I think, ideology, mazhab, who our 'imam' is - are all decisions which we took consciously, even our choice to 'follow' instead of 'lead'. And the logic is also applicable to the notion of those who were accused of religious indoctrination (traditional santris) - they are just trying to live life, find their faith, the best way they know how. Just as true as the notion that liberal Islamic thinkers are accused of heresy. They too, are trying to implement their faith the best way they know how.
The point is to coexist, without feeling we know better than the other - because personal choice cannot be imposed on another human being. The point is, in a modern nation-state context, to apprehend those who use ideological religion to justify violence (e.g. FPI)* without condemning their fundamental ideas.
It become less relevant then to speak of factions, of ideological and/or mazhab differences because it is the responsibility of each Muslims to seek, choose, and accept them.
Just as every human being in the world are looking for ethical and moral guidance to interpret, lead and live their lives.
None the wiser.
* As far as I've read, in the context of Islamic thought, the Prophet taught values of peace, compassion, and thoughtfulness. These characters of the Prophet are largely accepted by those who claim themselves Muslims. From the hardliners to the liberals.