What does the Quran say about sectarian violence?

Islam, Peace, Islam
"Islam, Peace, Islam" reads this sign at an anti-terrorism demonstration in Madrid, 2015. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Question

What does the Quran say about sectarian violence?

Answer

Modern-day violence among sects of Islam often spring primarily from political, not religious, motives. The Quran is very clear in its guidance to Muslims that it is wrong to divide into sects and fight one another.

"As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you have no part of them in the least. Their affair is with Allah; He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did." (6:159)

"Surely, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher. Therefore serve me and no other. But they broke their religion into sects among them; yet they will all return to Us." (21:92-93)

"And surely this brotherhood of your is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher. Therefore fear Me and no other. But people have broken their religion into sects, each group rejoicing in that which is with them. But leave them in their confused ignorance for a time." (23:52-54)

"Turn back in repentance to Him, and fear Him. Establish regular prayers, and be not among those who ascribe partners to God -- those who split up their religion, and become mere sects, each party rejoicing in that which is with itself!" (30:31-32)

"The believers are but a single Brotherhood. So make peace and reconciliation between your two contending brothers, and observe your duty to God, that you may receive mercy." (49:10-11)

The Quran is clear in its condemnation of sectarian violence, and also speaks against terrorism and the harming of innocent people. In addition to the guidance of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad also warned his followers about breaking into groups and fighting one another.

On one occasion, the Prophet drew a line in the sand and told his Companions that this line is the Straight Path.

He then drew additional lines, coming off the main line like branches springing from a tree. He told them that each diverted path had a shaytan along it, calling people to misguidance.

In another narration, it is said that the Prophet told his followers, "Beware! The People of the Book were split up into seventy-two sects, and this community will be split into seventy-three. Seventy-two of them will go to Hell, and one of them will go to Paradise, the majority group."

One of the paths to unbelief is to go around calling other Muslims "kafir" (unbeliever), something that people unfortunately do when they divide into sects. The Prophet Muhammad said that anyone who calls another brother an unbeliever, is either telling the truth or is himself an unbeliever for making the accusation. Since we don't know which Muslims are actually on the Straight Path, that is only for Allah to judge, we must not put such divisions amongst ourselves.