We've heard it referenced since Malcolm left the Nation of Islam. Orthodox Islam is repeatedly referenced as True Islam, but how did Orthodox or Sunni Islam come about? What is it true to? Does it differ from what Muhammad taught? Is Orthodox Islam really 'true Islam?'
In order to understand how we ended up with something called Orthodox or Sunni Islam we have to first look at a very important series of events surrounding the prophet Muhammad's death. As we know, 7th Century Arabian society had a deep kinship and tribal structure. Muhammad was able to transcend the deep tribal rivalries based on his message of the Oneness of the nature of the Creator and the oneness of people in particular. When he was nearing death he made clear who was to succeed him, explain the Qur'an and give spiritual guidance to the community. Mainstream historians and Orthodox Muslims claim that Muhammad didn't name or leave a successor but they can only make this claim by ignoring or obscuring overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Most histories currently negotiate the succession of the prophet by noting on one side by what Sunnis say and on the other what the what Shia believe. But that's an odd way to discuss an historical event. Why not simply discuss what happened and draw conclusions from the evidence available? Especially considering there were no Sunni or Shia Muslims until over 100 years after this incident took place. Why would their views dominate the narrative. Much of the information that exposes and rebuts the current Sunni view is right in Sunni sources but is ignored or explained away with weak illogical arguments.
Through out his life, as prophet, Muhammad had a son, a brother, a son in law, a cousin, a defender, a right hand man, a student and a protege at his side. His name was Ali Ibn Abu Talib. Muhammad also had a daughter whom he cherished from his longtime beloved wife Khadijah. Muhammad made it clear how he viewed her. He is related to have said:"Fatima is the head of the women of Paradise."1 "Fatima is part of me. Whatever harms her, harms me and whatever is against her is against me." 2 Of course, many men asked for her hand in marriage when she came of age but Muhammad would give her away to no one, except Ali. The Prophet said, "Verily Allah married Ali to Fatimah."
Ali was married to Fatimah the beloved daughter of the prophet and they had two sons Hasan and Husayn. This family is regarded as Ahl Bayt (the Family of the House). They were closest to Muhammad in terms of blood as well as spirit. From the beginning of his mission Throughout his career Muhammad made it clear who his successor was.
Throughout his life Muhammad referred to Ali as his successor and finally after returning from Mecca during a pilgrimage he stopped over 20,000 of his followers near a pond called Ghadir Khumm, held up Ali's hand and said "Allah Sunni Muslims either ignore this event or they try to trivialize it by interpreting 'mawla' as meaning 'friend'.
1. Sahih Al-Bukhari, v. 3, Kitab Al-Fadha'il, Chapter on the Virtues of Fatima, p. 1374.
2. Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, v. 3, Chapter on the Virtues of Fatima, p. 240.
2. Raising the Hadith to the level of Qur'an.
3. The Rise and Power of the Scholars
4. The Extinguishing of thought.
5. The Surge of the Wahhabi