The guide seeks to represent enormously complex and historically-bound events and differences in communities in a limited space. This guide does not reflect all the diversity in Islam, nor does it provide a full account of the groups profiled. Further reading is recommended but we see this guide as a beginning.
It is enormously difficult to adequately reflect the nature of the differences, and at times, the depth of feeling which communities may have about practices they have developed for the purposes of worshipping God. It is also difficult to adequately reflect why subtle but very important shifts in focus or emphasis in some traditions in Islam have led to conflict. But in the worship of God, many people feel there is a lot at stake and one must get it right. Additionally, these shifts in focus or emphasis, for some, means an undermining of Islam’s coherence because diversity ultimately leads to confusion for Muslims as to what one should be practising and how one interprets Islamic doctrine and belief. Some fear this can lead to fragmentation and perhaps even the collapse of Muslim identity and religion.
Finally, at some level this guide provides information in summary form and focuses on providing descriptions of minority communities. No information is provided on the majority Muslim community which is the Sunni Muslim community. There is already a wealth of information on what is often referred to as ‘mainstream Muslims’. This guide assumes basic awareness of Islam and Muslims in Australia.
For the sake of brevity, the guide generally refers to Sunni Muslims as a group without detailing their diversity. Sunni Muslims are also a diverse group, even though they constitute one branch of Islam. In addition to cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences, there is also diversity in levels of adherence, schools of thought and forms of emphasis on practice – either towards spiritualism, such as Sufism, or through a focus on the essentials of Islam, such as Wahabism and Salafism, amongst others.