Is Islam a cult or religion?

A lot of people who are ignorant about Islam or just have a lot of hate and an axe to grind about this beautiful religion of Islam often accuse Islam of being a “cult”. The intention is to disparage Islam and at the same time instill “Islamophobia” in the listener and decrease interest in Islam as a world religion. It also aims to denigrate and reduce Islam’s status as a world religion of 2 billion followers to that of a mere “fad”. This may be something that may cause it to be not tenable as a reasonable choice of faith for those who are considering Islam as their religion. Here, we aim to show how this accusation is very much false and it simply reflects the ignorance of the accuser concerning what is Islam and what Islam stands for.

The following is the definition of “cult” according to Google Dictionary:

This is hardly descriptive of Islam or its tenets at all, which sees itself as deen, or a way of life and beyond the pale of religious experience or a mere “cult”. Based on this definition above, we can say that a typical cult involves a charismatic leader, radical teachings that tend to alienate adherents from their friends and families, and therefore a high degree of tension between the group and the surrounding environment. Furthermore, we would like to appeal to Max Weber’s “Sociology of Religion”, whereby a cult is defined as “a religiously specialized subgroup within a society, a ‘sect’ or a church.” (Max Weber, “Sociology of Religion”, p. xxxvii). This definition in itself refutes the allegations of those who reduce the status of Islam to merely a “cult”. In fact, the answer to such accusations is that the Prophet (SAWS) himself warned his followers from exaggerating or elevating his position to that of a cult-like status:

Narrated ‘Umar (RA): I heard the Prophet (SAWS) saying, “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, no. 654)

It is also stated in “The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English” that the word religion is defined as “belief in the existence of a supernatural ruling power, the creator and controller of the universe, who has given to man a spiritual nature which continues to exist after the death of the body.” (“The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English” (2nd Edition, Oxford, 1968), p. 828). This clearly befits Islam’s doctrines and eschatology which upholds the doctrine of al-tawhid (Islamic Monotheism) as its main principle.

Moreover, the word “Islam” itself comes from an active verb in Arabic, which means “to submit” [to God in worship]. This is in contrast to the names of other religions of the world, such as Buddhism (“the religion of Buddha”) and Christianity (“the religion of [Jesus] Christ”), which are named after their founders. By the definition of what is a cult, the allegation of cultism best fits the followers of Buddhism and Christianity, since both involves a charismatic leader and taught philosophies that were radically altering to the communities of their times. So why are Buddhists and Christians not slapped with allegations of being “cultists” in a “cult”, and why Muslims are being unfairly labelled as such?

In conclusion, the accusation that Islam is a “cult” does nothing more than seeks to delegitimise the religion of Islam and whip up hatred of Muslims, the followers of Islam. As shown previously, Islam is seen as being more than just a religion, and hence being called a “cult” is a misnomer that only reflects the ignorance of the accuser. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) clearly and emphatically discouraged any reverence or over-exaltation of himself over the other Prophets in Islam. There are ample evidences that Islam forbids the concept of idolising and idol-worship ofan individual, even if that individual is the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) himself. These, and many other factors which are testament to the foolishness of accusing Islam as a “cult”, prove that Islam is not cultic at all, but a religion and a way of life for those who accept that there is no deity of worship except God and that Muhammad (SAWS) is His Prophet.

And only God knows best!

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