The Etiquette of Disagreement (2-2)



Get Priorities Straight


One of the things that we have to do if we’re going to have this Islamic Civics, this Etiquette of Disagreement, is that we are going to have to get our priorities straight. We are going to have to understand that there are some things in Islam that are not subject to any compromise. I’m reminding you in this regard that the Prophet (s) in the 9th year of the Hijra (Makkah was conquered in the 8th year) went back to Madina and in that year a whole bunch of tribes came to Madina to pledge their allegiance to the Prophet, to accept Islam. There was one tribe by the name of Bani Thaqeef from Taif, and they came to Prophet (s) and said that they did not want to make salah. The Prophet (s) said to them there is no good in any religion that does not have salah.

They then said that they wanted to keep our idols. The Prophet (s) told them: “No, you are going to get rid of those idols now.” They said that if they were to destroy the idols their people would go bizirk. The Prophet (s) said that he would send somebody to break the idols for them. And then they said they did not want to fight any jihad. The Prophet (s) said okay. Then they said that they like women and wine. The Prophet (s) said that these things are forbidden. Then they said that they didn’t want to pay any zakat. The Prophet (s) said you’ll pay. What is the point here? When they said “we want to keep our idols” what did the Prophet (s) say? “You are going to get rid of those idols now” — cause this is a violation of Tawhid and this is something we cannot compromise on but when they said “we don’t want to fight any jihad” what did the Prophet (s) say? He (s) is reported to have said: “We’ll work with/on that”. Did he (s) give everything the same priority? No he (s) didn’t.

Allah (swt) doesn’t give everything the same priority. “Do you make giving the pilgrims water and taking care of the Ka’ba like somebody who believes in Allah and the Last Day and fights in the path of Allah”, these things are not equal. Wallahi (By Allah) sometimes we take a brother who says laa ilaaha illallah Muhammadu rasullallah and then he doesn’t have a beard and we treat him like he is a kaafir, subhanallah! What priority does this have? We know the hadith of rasullallah (s), he said on the Day of Judgement there’s one man who took a card written on it Laa illaha illallah, on one side of the scale, put all his other bad deeds on the other side of the scale and what happened? This card outweighed all the other deeds. This is not my words, this is the word of the Prophet (s), whether we like it or not, this is the deen that the Prophet (s) taught us. And he taught us that for a reason. This is the last chance that humanity has for salvation. There are over one billion Muslims in the world today, and they come from all different kinds of backgrounds, with all different kinds of histories, with all different kinds of problems. We are very aware of what’s going on in Palestine and we see the carnage and it disgusts us. It hurts us and makes us angry at ourselves that we are so weak that we can’t do anything. But let me tell you something brothers and sisters, there are Muslims in this world who are starving and whose situation is so bad, that they don’t have a television to watch what’s going on in Palestine. We have people who have all kinds of different realities confronting them, and they have different timetables. If we are going to remain one ummah we going to have to learn how to accommodate each other. That means getting the essentials straight and agreeing to continue to work on those things that are non-essentials.

There is a hadith of the Prophet (s) in Sahih Muslim, Shaikh ul Islam Ibn Taymiya talks about this hadith in some detail. A man at the time of the Prophet (s) used to drink wine and would get caught and was whipped. He would drink again and be whipped again.

One day they caught him drunk again and brought him before the Prophet (s) and after punishing began to curse him. Do you know what the Prophet (s) said to them? He (s) said: “Do not curse him because he loves Allah and the Prophet.” There are weak Believers and strong Believers and not all Believers are strong. This does not mean that they are not Believers. And this is what the Prophet (s) has taught us. If we continue to act in the way that the Prophet (s) taught us to act toward our brothers and our sisters may be next year, five years or ten years from now they will evolve into a much better Muslim. And the Prophet (s) said, “Gentleness and kindness was never a part of anything except that it made it beautiful, and harshness was never a part of anything except that it made it ugly.” This is our model, our teacher, our uswah hasanah and this is what we are going to have to learn if we are going to get rid of this ‘adaawa wal baghdaa that is among us as an ummah and we have to know this is a curse. When Allah (swt) talks about al ‘adaawa wal baghdaa in the Quran who does He talk about? He talks about ahlul kitab for things that they did that contravened the revelation as a punishment for them. So let us not look at our division and blame somebody else. This is a problem of this ummah as a whole. And we must get back to an etiquette of disagreement if we are to overcome this.

Trying to make Mustahab Waajib

Another reason that sometimes we fall into needless fights and schisms is that we dispute about things that are either mustahab or makruh and we try to make the mustahab wajib. Or we try to make the makruh haram. And then we go on fighting about these things. In Islam the ulama, not Abdulhakim Jackson’s Islam from America, agree there are five rulings in Islam. These are haram, makruh, mubah, mustahab, wajib, and most of our disagreements come in these two areas of makruh and mustahab. What does wajib mean? It means that if you do it Allah will reward you, if you don’t do it He will punish you. Haram means that if you do it Allah will punish and you if you don’t do it He will reward you. Mustahab means that if you do it Allah will reward you and if you don’t do He won’t do anything to you. Makruh means that if you do it Allah will not punish you but if you don’t He will reward you.

The two rak’aat before Fajr is mustahab. A brother just accepted Islam or a sister married to a Muslim man all her life but just came back to Islam recently and they come to the masjid for Fajr and do not pray the two rak’aat of Fajr.

What do I say to them?

Do I start accusing/abusing them? Why should I since the two rak’aat are mustahab! Give that person time to evolve and develop.

What did the Prophet (s) say to Bani Thaqeef about jihad, he (s) said we’ll work on this jihad — Omar (ra) went bizirk, he could not understand the Prophet’s (s) response. The Prophet (s) said to Omar (ra) they will come around — they will accept it eventually. After the Prophet’s (s) death a number of tribes in Arabia left Islam; one of the tribes who did not leave Islam was Bani Thaqeef. Those same people who just a few years earlier who said they did not want to fight any jihad. Do you see the wisdom of the Prophet (s). And he said: “I know that there will come out of these people some who will defend Islam and who will take it to the horizons.”

A Matter of Education

Why are we going to get into a fight over how to position the hands during salaah and forget the fact that I am praying despite having my hands on my chest or by my sides. Which is more important, the fact that I’m praying or the fact that I’m not praying the way you’re used to? This is part of our problem and a big part of the problem is a matter of education. And this is why in our Islamic schools we must get back to our Islamic Civics because if we don’t we will be repeating the same old song over and over again. If we teach our children this now, then by the time they are young men and women they will know better. If we can put aside all these kind of minor arguments then we have time and energy and love to put into our real issues — building a future for our youth, making our society a place in which our veiled women can walk with a sense of pride. Getting into society and taking it back from the people who want to direct people toward the path to hell. That’s what we could do, but not if we’re sitting around arguing over things that we don’t need to argue over, and this is a matter of education. This is even more important in a place like Australia than it is in Lebanon or Syria or Pakistan. This is so because in Australia you’ll have Muslims from all over the world and all these people saw one Islam all their lives. Now they come to Australia and they see other Muslims doing things differently, so now they’re going to have to show who is the “right Muslim”. I respect all ulamaa, whether I agree with them or not; and the only person who doesn’t respect an ‘alim is a jahil — he doesn’t know what knowledge is all about. Ibn Taymiya said that part of our problem is that many of our ulamaa don’t teach the people that there is more than one way of doing things. Instead they leave the people to think that there is only one way of doing things and therefore whenever they see someone doing something different they think the person is involved in the biggest bid’ah (innovation) that entered planet earth. And this is a problem.

Ibn Taymiya (r) said, (from kitab Risalat al ulfah baina al Muslimeen) not only should the ulamaa teach their people that there is more than one way of doing things they should even model that from time to time.

The prophet (s) said that his ummah will not agree on an error. He (s) did not say that you will never make a mistake, or that I will never make a mistake, we make mistakes all the time, he said the whole ummah is not going to make a mistake. This is something that we need to remember. We need to come back to the sunnah of the Prophet (s) in Islamic Civics — how to live together. In Spain they used to say, man aslama faqad tahadara, meaning whoever becomes a Muslim acquires hadaarah (civilisation), the ability to live with each other. To know that in this room nobody is ma’sum (infallible) and in the absence of the Prophet (s), who was ma‘sum, we have no choice but to continue to talk about these differences.

Issues that are Clear

Let’s get something straight. The Prophet (s) has spoken and in some areas he has spoken very clearly. If he (s) has spoken clearly then the ummah will know that. The ummah will not disagree on it. This is why we don’t find any ‘aalim who says that you don’t have to pray for example on a Tuesday afternoon. Any ‘aalim who says riba (usury) is halal is wrong, it is haram! Stealing is haram, zakat is fard — there is no disagreement on these issues.

But there are many things that the Prophet (s) said that are subject to interpretation and we learned this from the companions. We all know the famous story of the Prophet (s) when he told the companions (ra); “There is no prayer to be offered until you reach the camp of Bani Quraizah.” Some of the companions said what he meant was to hurry up and get to Bani Quraizah because you don’t want the salat time to be missed. The other companions said no that’s not what he meant, he meant don’t make salat until you get to Bani Quraizah. So one group made salat on time while the other group prayed when they got to Bani Quraizah (after the time of Asr had elapsed). When this incident reached the Prophet (s) he did not rebuke either of them. Both groups took the Prophet’s (s) words and with complete integrity, not trying to undermine his (s) mission, not trying to get out of what they were commanded to do, but with the best of intentions trying to fulfill their duty to obey the Prophet (s) — both will get their reward. These were the companions of Rasullallah (s). Are we better than they are? Subhanallah, this is where our problem is. That is what we have to get back to Islamic Civics.

Levels of Disagreement

There is one other area that I want to touch upon because sometimes a lot of the poison in our discussion comes from the fact that we’re not even clear on what we’re differing about. There are at least three levels that we can disagree on.

1. The level of revelation: Is this ayah from the Quran or is this hadith sahih can we accept it?

2. The level of interpretation: After accepting that an ayah is from Allah or a hadith is from Rasulullah, what is our interpretation of it?

3. The level of application: Sometimes when we agree on the levels of revelation and interpretation, we might disagree on the level of application. For example, during the time of the Prophet (s) their was a group who were known as al mu’allafatul qulub — either new Muslims or even non-Muslims whom the Prophet (s) was attempting to open up some psychological space. These were people who were not opposed to Islam but were afraid that when they became Muslim their lives would change in ways that they were uncertain about. So what the Prophet (s) wanted to do was soothe their hearts by givinge them gifts, money, camels and all kinds of things. And once they got these they might consider Islam and think it not bad. After the Prophet (s) died and Umar (ra) became caliph (Abu Bakr was only caliph for 2 years) one of the tribes that the Prophet used to give money to came to Umar and requested the money that the Prophet used to give to them. Umar responded by saying that: “I’ll give you this (sword) and that’s all you’re going to get.” The companions questioned Umar saying that the Prophet (s) used to do that. Umar replied that the Prophet (s) used to do that in our time of need, “I know why he did it I was there. He (s) did it when we needed to — when we were weak and afraid of the tribes around Arabia. Now there is no longer any cause to do this, I will give them nothing but this (sword).” The question arises, did Umar accept the ayah? Yes! Did Umar accept the Prophet (s) interpretation of the ayah? Yes! Where did Umar differ? With the application of this ayah.

What are not Daleels (Proofs)

Astagfirullah,” is not a daleel. Anger is not a daleel. Yelling is not a daleel. Even takfeer (calling someone a kaafir) is not a daleel.

What do I mean by this?

Sometimes when I can’t convince you about my point of view, rather than give you daleel I yell and scream. I start out with “astaghfirallah hil atheem“, this is not daleel. What is needed is proof from Quran, sunnah, qiyas, and ijmaa’. Let us not terrorise our brothers and sisters.

Things we should not be arguing about

If we’re arguing about an issue of tauhid/shirk, or whether the Prophet (s) always spoke the truth or not, or whether there is a Day of Judgement or not — then we have a problem. We are not supposed to be arguing about these essential things — we’re supposed to be agreeing on them. But if we’re talking about something that is not fundamental, then either I can convince or I can’t and let us leave it at that.

The Ignorant and the Hypocrite

We have to get to know our people because sometimes a person may hold a view, and they may hold that view because they are ignorant. Let us try to tell the difference between someone who is arrogant, who has no regard for the truth and who doesn’t care whether you are right or not, they just want to hold on to their opinion – that’s one kind of person. Then there is another kind of person who if you convince him he may see your point of view. So we should be careful about holding everybody who makes a mistake as a person who rejects Quran and Sunnah. He might just have made a mistake.

Ibn Taymiyyah (r) said that many people who hold wrong ideas may be believing wrong minded, erring Muslims (Mumin mukhti, daal ‘an ba’di ma ja’a bihi rasullullah). Or he may be munaafiqun zindeeq, a hypocrite who wants to hide behind fancy words and doesn’t really believe in Allah and the Last Day. Therefore, we have know the differences between people in order for us to get back to Islamic Civics, inshaAllah.

Dr Abdulhakim Jackson


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