Orthodox and Heterodox Muslims: Definitions

YOU'VE HEARD the terms "radicalized Muslims" and "fundamentalist Muslims." We use those terms to make sure everyone knows we're not talking about "normal" or "moderate" Muslims. There is a good reason to try to make this distinction.

The main reason is because if you say "Muslim," you might mean
all Muslims, and clearly all Muslims are not behaving the same.

The only piece of information missing from most peoples' understanding is that the "radicalized" Muslims are not really radical. They are
orthodox. They are simply doing what it says in their scriptures they are supposed to do. They're not "hijacking" their religion or misinterpreting it. Most non-Muslims are unaware of this.

The first definition for "orthodox" in Answers.com is:
Adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion. That's perfect. And it is easily understood by most Westerners. It's a term we're already familiar with.

And in Answers.com, heterodox means:
Not in agreement with accepted beliefs, especially in church doctrine or dogma. You can delete the word "church" and that's a great definition for what has been termed "moderate" Muslims. It's accurate and makes the distinction very clear.

So I'll be using the term "orthodox" to describe someone who strictly follows the teachings in the Quran and the Hadith, and who tries — as a good Muslim is supposed to do according to the doctrines — to follow Mohammad's example.

To learn more about some of these basic teachings and what kind of example Mohammad set, refer to the article, What Makes Islam So Successful?


  1. Congratulations on using the correct term "orthodox" to describe those Muslims who follow the actual demands of Allah and Mohammad. The radicals are those like Irshad Manji, who are trying to modernize a barbaric ideology. I wish there were more Muslim "radicals".

  2. All praise be to Allah, I am so thankful that someone had sense enough to properly define what we are as Muslims, and what our true mission is. My the blessings of Allah fall fresh on you!

  3. isn't it a bit 'christian wannabe' that we use words such as orthodox and heterodox?are ortodox mslims sunni or shia?

  4. No, these are not exclusively Christian terms. It is common to refer to "orthodox Jews" also, and the term could apply to any religion.

    Orthodox Muslims can be either Shia or Sunni.

  5. Just catching up thanks for posting this information for those of us who want to protect freedom, and sanity.

  6. thank you for defining orthodoxy so clearly now i an answer to all who considers me an orthodox just because i dress according to islamic norms in hindu university.

  7. Allahu akbar. May 12, 2012..... before year's ending, a new phrasing will be on everyone's tongue. the Reform Orthodox Islam. Wahhabism isn't correct orthodoxy. Correct interpretation, of Qu'ran, has beeen ongoing,in these N.E. united states of shaytaan. 2012

  8. Abdullah, will the intolerance against non-Muslims be removed from the Koran in this reformed Islam?

    1. Well as u said that that there is intolerance and hatred against non muslims in Islam, well that's also a BIG misconception. There is no hatred against non Muslims and specially there is no hatred in Qur'an against Jews and Christians. In Quran it's mentioned to never ever make fun of any religion and its practices. Islam teaches to respect others' religions. How can u even say that Quran doesn't tolerate non Muslims without a proof. My brother first check it out then come to a conclusion!
      Anix Bilal

    2. You need no further proof than the Koran. Here are 527 passages from the Koran that are intolerant and hateful against non-Muslims:

      Intolerance in the Koran

      My brother, first check it out before coming to a conclusion.

  9. Heterodox - I haven't heard that terms before. Good term.

    Also I like the term orthodox Muslim versus the commonly used radical or fundamentalist. The latter sound somehow like a fringe element - but orthodox, very clear and understandable term that does not define someone as outside what is accepted in a religion.

  10. Elsa, terminology matters a lot. And we've spent some considerable time trying to name the legitimate and important difference between two kinds of Muslims, but we wanted a word that did not carry a value judgment but was also accurate. We once had an online discussion where our readers helped us work out the terminology and when a woman suggested "orthodox," we knew that was it.

    Here's more on terminology:

    “Radical” is a Misleading Term

    Are All Fundamentalists Dangerous?

  11. Heres some more terminology :

    "Islam in its entirety, with its evils and injustices, hatred of non muslims,paedophillia, murdering and stink, should be completely irradicated from our shores".... Alahu Akbar, upya jumpa. fk u too

  12. Radical Orthodoxy Islamists!

  13. Citizen Warrior, you have lost all semblance of credibility by posting this deceptive piece of dawah and ought to be ashamed of yourself. The reality is that the only difference between what you refer to as "orthodox" and "moderate" Muslims is in degree of their adherence to Islam. There is no guarantee that an alleged "moderate" nominal Muslim will always remain in that mode. As you surely know, he/she can become attracted to the fire of zealotry and manifest into a terrorist overnight. All it takes for so-called "moderate" Muslims to become terrorists, is that they face a crisis and, if they are young, there's a chance that they become "orthodox" extremists and even terrorists. As long as Muslims look at Islam as the ultimate source of guidance, there is a high risk that every one of them becomes a terrorist in a heartbeat.

  14. This is merely a distinction between two kinds of people who call themselves Muslim. I agree with what you're saying. You're referring to Islam's "rule of numbers," which means when Muslims are a small minority, they keep their heads down and work to increase their numbers, and when the numbers get high enough, they become more aggressive, just as Muhammad did. Here's more about that:

    Islam's Rule of Numbers

  15. Muslims are not the problem, ISLAM is the problem. There is NO such thing as a MODERATE Muslim. Only INFIDELS and Confused wanna be Christian Muslims.