Are We Allowed to Call Ourselves Sunni Muslims?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


I was wondering if we are allowed to call ourselves Sunni Muslims. Because in Islam, we are not supposed to categorize each other into different kinds (Sunni and Shia, etc.).


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

Ideally, we would not have to qualify our Islam by saying “Sunni” Muslim. However, there may be times when it is important to distinguish ourselves from unorthodox sects of Islam or unorthodox ideologies.

For example, if a non-muslim asks one whether they are of the Shi’a or Sunni Muslims, one should not say I’m just a Muslim. Clarifying the orthodox Sunni mainstream is an obligation in relation to calling people to the correct practice and understanding of Islam.

If other sects purport erroneous unorthodox or heretical beliefs, we must clarify to people that the Sunni mainstream orthodox opinion upon which the majority of the Muslims of the world follow is this…

Distinction Without Contention

The above should be used to clarify the true teachings of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) as represented by the vast majority of Muslims from other minority off-shoots from the Sunni mainstream.

This should not, however, be used polemically or contentiously to stir up discord between those who believe in “La ilaha ill Allah Muhammad Rasulullah” and pray towards the same direction.

Misguided Ideologies

Even the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) himself warned against false, misguided ideologies.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Indeed, after me will come a group from my community (i.e., Muslims) who recite the Quran, and it does not go beyond their throats; they will kill the people of Islam (i.e., Muslims) and leave the pagans; they will stray from the religion as the arrow comes forth from the bow. If I were to meet them, I would eliminate them as the people of ‘Ad were.” [Bukhari; Muslim]

Here the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) is eluding to a people who, although Muslims, have strayed from the true teachings of Islam. So we see the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) making a clear distinction between them and the true teachings of Islam as a warning.

How Islam Works: What is Religion, and How It Is Preserved, Transmitted, and Interpreted. [Course]

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch teaches Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he completed four years at the Darul Uloom Seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences.

He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he studied for three years in Dar al-Mustafa under some of the most outstanding scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib.

In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.