Bismillah irRahman irRaheem
Walhamdulillah Was Salaatu Was Salaam ‘ala Rasulillah
In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Kind
& Praise be to Allah & Blessings and Peace be upon the Messenger of Allah
How Do We Deal With Differences of Opinions?
Difference of opinion between people is natural and inherent due to their characters, ways of thinking and understanding. These affect people’s perception and judgment of things. Certain types of differences may be acceptable, especially if they revolve around issues of individual judgment (Ijtihaad) which are not explicitly explained by the revealed texts. There is no harm in such differences and disagreements if the individual endeavours to make the truth his paramount objective, for he will be rewarded for his efforts even if he errs. It is these types of differences, which were prevalent between the companions, radiya Allaahu ‘anhum and which is extensively mentioned in Fiqh (jurisprudence) books.
However, differences of opinion on the fundamentals of religion, such as the issues of Al-Uloohiyya (Tawheed of worship), Ar-Ruboobiyya (Tawheed of Lordship), Allaah’s Names and Attributes, and the Qur’aan, should not be tolerated. Disagreement and non-conformity on these issues harm the religion, promote untruth and support the innovators (Ahl-ul Bid’ah). Our stance towards whosoever has opposed something clearly determined in our Deen (religion) must be clear and unambiguous because co-operation and unity should not be at the expense of our Deen, Al-Islam. The group, which we should aim to unify, is that which complies with the truth, even though that group may consist of a small number.
‘Amru Ibn Maymoon Al-Awdee said: “I was Mu’aaz’s companion in Yemen and I did not separate from him until I had buried him in Ash-Shaam. Afterwards, I became the companion of one of the most learned people, Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood, radiya Allaahu ‘anhu, whom I heard saying: ‘Stick to the group (Jamaa’ah), for Allaah’s, subhanahu wata’aala, Hands are with the group.’
One day, I heard him saying: ‘There will come a time when leaders will govern you and will not observe prayers on time, so observe the prescribed prayers on time individually and observe the supererogatory prayers and count it as voluntary.’ I said to him: ‘O, Muhammad’s companions, I do not know what you are talking about.’ He asked me: ‘What is it?’ and I replied: ‘You told me to stick with the group and now you are asking me to observe the prescribed prayers individually and observe the supergatory prayers and count them as voluntary.’ He said: ‘O ‘Amru Ibn Maymoon! I thought you are one of the most learned men in this village. Do you know what the group (Jamaa’ah) means?’ I said no and he proceeded: ‘the majority of the group are those who dissented from the group. The group is that which complies with the truth even if you were on your own.’ [Igaathat-ul lahfaan, by Ibn-ul Qayyim (1/69)]
The Ummah (nation of Islam) is at present, in dire need of unity. The person making Da’wah (calling to Allaah) should bear in mind that he is making a call to a unity of people’s hearts and discourse for the word of truth and condemning separatism.
“And verily! This your religion (of Islamic Monotheism) is one religion and I am your Lord, so keep your duty to Me.” [Al-Mu’minoon: 52]
Take for example Haaroon, ‘alayhe as-salaam, when the Children of Israa’eel worshipped the calf. He forbade them and warned them against it. When Moosa, ‘alayhe as-salaam, returned, he reproached Haaroon who responded:
“O son of my mother! Seize (me) not by my beard, nor by my head! Verily, I feared lest you should say: ‘You have caused a division among the Children of Israa’eel and you have not respected my word!” [Taa’ Haa’: 94]
Differences and division are amongst the most serious factors which keep devouring the body of the Ummah until they turn it into a piece of wood dropped by the most gentle breeze and removed by the lightest storm. Differences cause hostility, hatred, partisanship and struggle and that is why several Qur’aanic verses and Ahaadeeth forbid them. Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, says:
“(And remain always) turning in repentance to Him (only) and be afraid and dutiful to Him; and offer prayers perfectly and be not of Al- Mushrikeen (the polytheists, idolators). Of those who split up their religion and become sects, each sect rejoicing in that which is with it.” [Ar-Room: 31-32]
“He (Allaah) has ordained for you the same religion (Islam) which He ordained for Nooh, and that which We have inspired in you (O Muhammad) and that which We ordained for Ibraaheem, Moosa and ‘Eesa saying you should establish religion and make no divisions in it^Å.” [Ash-Shoora: 13]
The Prophet, salaa Allaahu ‘alayhe wasallam, once said, three times:
‘O people! Stick to Al-Jamaa’ah (the group) and do not be divided.’ [Ahmad (5/370)]
He also said in another Hadeeth:
‘Do not disagree[amongst yourselves], for people before you disagreed and were destroyed[because of that].’ [Saheeh Aj-Jaami’, # 7255]
Despite this warning, we find that Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, has informed us that differences exist in this Ummah and it is divinely preordained and inevitable. Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, said:
“And if your Lord had so willed, He could surely have made mankind one Ummah but they will not cease to disagree, except him on whom your Lord has bestowed His mercy and for that did He create them. ” [Hood: 118-119]
The above statement indicates that differences will exist within the Ummah, nevertheless, the Ummah is commanded to forbid them. This is because not all of the Ummah will fall into this, since Allaah has protected the Ummah of Muhammad from going astray. Therefore, there will always exist a group, which follows the truth and will remain steadfast on it until the Day of Judgement.
Among the principles that help remove the causes of differences between us are as follows:
Holding to the Qur’aan and Sunnah:
The rules of Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala and His Messenger, salaa Allaahu ‘alayhe wasallam, came to unite people’s hearts. Therefore, referring to the Qur’aan and Sunnah during a dispute is the most effective cure from the disease of disagreements. Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, says in this respect:
“O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. If you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allaah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allaah and the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [An-Nisaa’: 59]
In order to understand the revealed texts, we should follow in the footsteps of As-Salaf As-Saalih’s (our righteous predecessors) so that we would not be led astray and enslaved by our desires. We do not want opinions to overshadow the pure revelation and the misinterpretation of the Qur’aanic texts in order to suit fantasies. ‘Umar, radiya Allaahu ‘anhu, described such people as: ‘The people of opinion are the enemies of the Sunnah, which is tiresome for them to memorize, evasive for them to understand and they were embarrassed to say when asked ‘we do not know.’
[Jaami’u Bayanul’ilmi Wafadaa’ilehe (2/1042)]
Awareness and understanding of the controversial issues:
Generally speaking, controversies are ignited due to unawareness of certain issues. If one of the parties to a controversy understands the issue well, then there will be an opportunity to deal with it.
Ibn Taymiyyah, rahimahu Allaah, said: “Disputes are often over a small aspect of the issue rather than its overall aspects.” [Iqtidaa’us-siraat (1/149)]
The Prophet, salaa Allaahu ‘alayhe wasallam, said: ‘Allah will not deprive you of knowledge after he has given it to you, but it will be taken away through the death of the religious learned men with their knowledge. Then there will remain ignorant people, who, when consulted, will issue Fataawa according to their opinions whereby they will mislead others and go astray.’ [ Saheeh-ul Jaami’ As-Sageer, #1854]
Degree of Certainty
Most people judge others on the basis of what they have heard about them without going to the trouble of cross-examining and investigating what they have heard to seek the truth. What they hear may be the outcome of those fueling divisions within the Islamic circle.
Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, reproached Daawood, ‘alayhe as-salaam, for the judgment he passed on the two disputing parties before he had even heard and verified the other party’s evidence. Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, also said:
“O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.” [Al-Hujuraat: 6]
Among the fundamentals of examining information is to question the informant’s honesty and credibility, verify his information and investigate from which source he had received it.
Debate on a controversial issue:
Presenting an issue for a peaceful debate and steering it away from slandering the other’s opinion is bound to create an exchange of views and give the other party the opportunity to voice its opinion. This will bring a kind of rapprochement between the different views. What is really pitiful is that most conflicting parties do not meet and discuss what is between them and even if they did, they do not conduct a debate properly and do not know how to table their issues. Therefore, each party rigidly adheres to its point of view even if the truth states otherwise.
If views are to be accepted, then the debate should be conducted with kindness. Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, has ordered us to talk to ‘the People of the Scriptures’ with kindness, our brothers in belief are more worthy of this kindness than ‘the People of Scriptures’.
Giving others the benefit of the doubt:
Suspicion and castigation of others’ intentions is sufficient to deepen the chasm existing between two disputing parties and make it difficult for them to meet. May Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, bless Al-Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee who said: ‘My view is correct and may be erroneous and someone else’s view [on the same issue] is erroneous and may be correct.’
Sincerity in the quest for truth:
Self-triumph and insistence on one’s views leads to the rejection of the truth and contradicting the correct opinion. If one’s prime aim is to secure triumph for himself regardless, then he will not agree with others on their views even if it seems to him that they are right. There is no doubt that this contradicts the methods of the pious: for instance Al-Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee said: ‘By Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, I am not too concerned whether the truth comes out from myself or from my adversary.’
Impartiality towards the truth and sincer loyalty to Allaah, subhanahu wata’aala, removes the hurdles of differences. However, the issue entails a struggle with one’s self and forcing it to submit humbly to the truth.
This is a translated article from ‘Al-Bayan’, a monthly magazine (in Arabic) published by:
Al Muntada Al Islami
Al Muntada Al Islami Trust, 7 Bridges Place, London, SW6 4HW, UK
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