Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Muslim Cults

The word "cult" is used by theologians and psychologists in completely different ways. Theologians mainly consider doctrines while psychologists and sociologists mainly consider practices. So, theologians consider that cults are heretical religious groups. Psychologists and sociologists consider that cults are mind-controlling, authoritarian, abusive, and deceptive groups.

From the point of view of Christian theologians, Islam is a heretical group, and thus they tend to consider Islam to be a cult. For example, Walter Martin in his book The Kingdom of Cults includes Islam into his list of cults.

From the point of view of the majority of Muslim theologians, such groups as Ahmadiyya and Baha'i are considered heretical. I am not sure if Muslims use the word "cult", they usually use different terminology. However, in principle, Ahmadiyya and Baha'i are cults from the point of view of most Muslim theologians.

From the point of view of psychologists and sociologists, some groups, including some religious groups are cults no matter of their doctrines. They divide religious cults into Bible-based (both abusive churches and cults of Christianity), eastern (Buddhist, Hinduist), new age. However, I have never seen them considering Muslim cults or including them into their classification.

Probably, hearing about Muslim cults, most Western people think about Islamic terrorists and extremists in Palestine, Afghanistan, and other Muslim regions. However, there are millions of Muslims who live in Western countries. Some of them are emigrants, but some of them are typical Western people who were converted into Islam.

Muslim cults not necessary should be terrorist or political. They may not attract much attention to themselves. However, who knows how many Muslim cults are in the world and in the Western countries? Who knows how many people are involved there? Somehow, this problem is neglected by the anti-cult community.

Probably, many people tend to think that Muslim cults are Wahhabi groups. However, there are also Sufi cults and probably other Muslim cults. Actually, there are some traits in Sufism that can be used by cultic leaders. For example, Sufis are supposed to submit to their shaiks (religious leaders) and respect them. This is considered to be very important for their spiritual progress. There are Sufi cults, but this problem is completely neglected.

I will just give one example. Some time ago, I read a book Sufism & Psychology: A comparative study of Western Psychology and Sufi Psychology written by Lynn Wilcox. She has Ph.D. in counseling psychology and is professor of California State University. She is also a practicing Sufi. In this book, she makes a comparison between the western psychology and Sufi psychology and makes a conclusion that Sufi psychology is better.

However, there are some things in that book that bother me. She presents her Sufi group as the only true Sufi group. She also presents their leader as the only good Sufi shaikh. She quotes only her leader and his father and no other Sufi shaikhs. There are many branches and groups in Sufism. However, in Sufism, a person can chose a shaikh. Sufi branches are considered as more or less equal. In addition, there are many famous Sufi shaikhs who are respected by most Sufis. So, Wilcox's Sufi group is different from the traditional Sufism. In addition, this group is Shia while most Sufis are Sunni.

"Elite thinking" is one of the signs of cults. So, I suspect that this group may be a cult, though I am not sure in that. Ironically, it is possible that Lynn Wilcox knew Margaret Singer and worked together with her because Dr. Margaret Singer also was a psychologist and professor of California State University.

Well, I am not sure if that group is a cult or not. However, I know some Western people who report that they left Sufi cults. I think the problem of Muslim cults is underestimated in the anti-cult community. There is practically no information about Muslim cults in Internet.