I beg to differ with those who insinuate that there exists a big difference between Sunni and Wahabi, pointing to the rituals and beliefs as the major issue.
Let me first of all try to throw some light to you, my esteemed reader, on the unity of Muslims. There is nothing that differentiates the two as far as monotheism (Oneness of God) is concerned. It is wrong for someone to define the Sunnis separately, while categorizing Wahabism as a school of thought fighting Sunnis.
There are the fundamentals of Islam which every Muslim ought to study. Every scholar who pursues Islamic studies learns the history of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) including his birthday. The principle of monotheism was taught by the prophet in celebrating his birthday, which is embedded in all the rituals and everything that Muslims do.
For example, now as we are heading to the Maulid day next weekend many madrassas have started preparations for the special Nashiids (religious praises in form of songs) that praise the birth of the prophet. Some come up with poems that reflect his prophethood as humble and modest leader who remains to be exemplary in this world, emulated by both Arabs and non Arabs who embraced Islam.
Not much is known about his early childhood, but according to the historians, Mohammad (PBUH) was born in Mecca in 570, which will be celebrated next month. The year which the prophet was born is known as the year of the Elephant, in which Mecca was miraculously saved from a fleet of elephants who were going to attack it.
He was a Quraysh from the clan of Hashim. Many stories surround his childhood and birth as well as his legacies. Given that the Sunnis are in majority and almost 90 per cent of Muslims around the world belong to Sunni sect. It is inclusive of both those who support the Maulid and those who oppose it. There are many differences present in their rituals of praying, marriage ceremonies, dresses etc. But why is Wahabism reflected in the world today?
Members of the Wahab movement in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world believe their role as a restorer or reformer to free Islam from negative deviances, heresies, innovations, superstitions and idolatries. These are Muslims who followed Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahab in the 18th century in Arabia, and his movement came up against a lot of opposition from others around the world.
For example those who are in favour of celebrating Maulid day like many Muslims in Tanzania base their argument on commemorating the excellent conduct of the prophet which was praised by Almighty God in the Holy Quran. Given that no Muslim will dispute the high integrity of the prophet, it is expected that no one will be reluctant to learn from the best practices or legacies of the prophet. There are several media of relaying this message to the faithful.
It is as early mentioned above that Madrassas are involved in disseminating this legacy to the children who are taught to hold in high esteem the prophet who was sent to mankind to teach them the doctrine of monotheism. In the celebrations one of the most important issues in discussion during the celebrations is how the Muslims can translate the fundamental principle of Islam based on Monotheism or Oneness of Allah in their day-to-day life.
When I talk to people who subscribe to the Wahabi school of thought, there is no dispute about the Oneness of Allah. The basic principles of Islam and Iman (fundamentals of faith) are upheld by every Muslim regardless of their schools of thought. According to prominent Muslim scholars in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe as well as America where I have been blessed to visit, it is crystal clear that there are a few main and major as well as many secondary differences between the Sunni and Wahabi Muslims.
But this does not give room for these sects to be cut off from each other and emerge independently on the issue of monotheism. For example, these sects still share mosques, graveyards, have intermarriages and participate in development issues such as national economy, military and other many areas. In many countries they celebrate Islamic festivities together. The major difference between them is the mode of celebrations.
It is well understood that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) should be praised only as a human being. It cannot go beyond that in fear that some faithful might go beyond the praise and elevate him to the position of God, which is in negation to the doctrine of monotheism.
Muslims celebrate the birthday of the Holy Prophet and arrange Maulid. Maulid is a form of gathering in which the Muslims get together and praise the Holy Prophet, sharing knowledge and virtues that were promoted by the prophet in his mission in spreading Islam. In some extreme cases the birthdays of Sufi saints are also celebrated with much dedication and enthusiasm. The day of their deaths are commemorated in the form of poems and songs.
Some people want to create the rift between the Muslims by magnifying these issues that stand in between the schools of thought. Concocting that Wahabi Muslims do not believe in celebrating and practising all these virtues that are raised in the Maulid celebrations is something which opponents of Islam do not want to put in its context. One thing above the reforms that were brought by the Wahabi school of thought is to fight mysticism and also belief in the sainthood.
For example, there is no harm in celebrating Maulid day or paying visits to the tombs except that there should not be any element of associating Allah with his creatures. The consensus among Muslim scholars is that in Islam the prayers are made directly to Allah, and that is the way to exalt Him.