Respecting our differences
Waste no time debating what a good Muslim should be. Be one!
by Muhammad Alshareef
Imam Malik one day entered the Masjid after Asr. Towards the front of Masjid An-Nabawee he drew closer and sat down. Rasul Allah had commanded that anyone who enters the Masjid should not sit until he first prays 2 rakas as a salutation of the Masjid. Imam Malik was of the opinion however that Rasul Allah’s forbiddance of praying after Asr took precedence and so he would teach his students to not pray the tahiyyatul Masjid if they entered between the Asr and Maghrib time.
At that moment that Imam Malik sat down, a young boy had seen him sit without first praying the 2 raka’s of Tahiyyatul Masjid. The young boy scorned him, “Get up and pray 2 rakas!”
Imam Malik dutifully stood up once again and began praying the 2 rakas. The students sat stunned: What was going on? Had Imam Malik’s opinion changed?
After he had completed the salah, the students swarmed around and questioned his actions. Imam Malik said, “My opinion has not changed, nor have I gone back on what I taught you earlier. I merely feared that had I not prayed the 2 rakas as the young boy commanded, Allah may include me in the Ayah…
“And when it is said to them, ‘Bow (in prayer)’, they do not bow.” – al mursalat 77/48.
Imam Ahmad held the opinion that eating camel meat nullifies ones Wudhu, an opinion that the majority of scholars differed from. Some students asked him, “If you find an Imam eating camel meat in front of you and – without first making Wudu – then leads the Salah, would you pray behind him?” Imam Ahmad replied, “Do you think I would not pray behind the likes of Imam Malik and Sa’eed ibn Al-Musayyab?”
Allah created humans with differences. It is the law of creation. Different tongues, different colors, different cultures…all that on the outside. On the inside, humans were created with many degrees of knowledge, intellect, and comprehension of concepts. This is all a sign of Allah’s all encompassing power to do whatever He wills:
“And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are signs for those who know.” [30:22]
Humans shall differ, that is not the issue. The issue is: How as a Muslim should one confront these differences of opinions and what should be our relationship with someone of a different opinion.
Allah ta’ala commanded us to call and advise people in this Deen of Al-Islam. Many Muslims set off on this mission blindfolded, not realizing that the map was there in the Qur’an also. In fact, in the very same verse where Allah commanded us to call and advise people in this Deen, Allah taught us how to do it. Read the following verse carefully:
“Invite (fi’l Amr – Allah is commanding) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction and argue with them in a way that is best! ” – Surah An-Nahl 16/125.
There is no need to philosophize. No need to talk in the flower gardens. It is right there, plain and simple for anyone who would take heed.
There in that Ayah are the three ingredients to apply when we disagree with someone. The same Allah that taught us to debate the truth, taught us how to do it:
1 – With Hikmah (wisdom)
2 – With good instruction, and
3 – To argue in a way that is best.
What does it mean to have Hikmah when differing with someone? The grandsons of Rasul Allah(saw) once set one of the most beautiful examples of Hikmah in advising others. Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn – in their young age – once saw a senior man performing Wudu incorrectly. Together they arranged a plan to teach the man without insulting him, advising him in a manner befitting of his age.
Together they went to the senior and announced, “My brother and I have differed over who amongst us performs Wudu the best. Would you mind being the judge to determine which one of us indeed performs Wudu more correctly.”
The man watched intently as the two grandsons of Rasul Allah performed Wudu in an explicit manner. After they had completed, he thanked them and said, “By Allah, I did not know how to perform Wudu before this. You have both taught me how to do it correctly.”
We must understand that there are two dimensions to Hikmah. Firstly, there is the Hikmah of knowledge – Hikmah Ilmiyyah. And secondly, there is the Hikmah of Action – Hikmah Amaliyyah.
Some people may have Hikmah of knowledge. But we see that when they try correcting others, advising them, they lack the Hikmah of Action. This causes many a common folk to reject the Hikmah of knowledge.
To illustrate this hikmah of knowledge without Hikmah of action, a brother once completed the Salah in a local Masjid and then proceeded to shake hands with the people on his right and left. The brother to his immediate right slapped his hand and snapped, “That is not part of the Sunnah!” The man replied most correctly, “Oh, is disrespect and insult part of the Sunnah?”
To show Hikmah when we differ requires the following:
One: If we differ, our intentions should be that we are differing in the sincere hope of coming away with the truth. Our intentions should be sincere to Allah.
We should not differ just to release some hate or envy in our heart. We should not differ to embarrass someone like we may have been embarrassed.
Rasul Allah said, “Whoever learns knowledge – knowledge from that which should be sought for the sake of Allah – only to receive a commodity of the material world, he shall not find the fragrance of jannah on the day of resurrection.” – An authentic hadith narrated by Abu Dawood in Kitab Al-Ilm.
Kindness and Gentleness
Two: To have Hikmah when differing means we should rarely depart from an atmosphere of kindness and gentleness, we should seldom allow ourselves to become angry and raise our voices.
Fir’own (Pharaoh) was one of the evilest people that lived. Musa was one of the noblest. Look at how Allah told Musa to advise Fir’own…
“Go, both of you, to Fir’own. Indeed, he has transgressed. And speak to him with gentle speech, perhaps he may remember or fear (Allah).”
A man once entered upon the Khalifah and chastised him for some policies he had taken. The Khalifah replied, “By Allah, Fir’own was more eviler than me. And by Allah, Musa was more pious than you. Yet, Allah commanded him…’And speak to him with gentle speech, perhaps he may remember or fear (Allah).'”
Take Your Time and Clarify
Three: To have Hikmah when dealing with others is to be patient and clarify things before snapping to conclusions.
Imam Ahmad narrates with his chain of narrators leading to Ibn Abbas who said, “A man from Bani Saleem passed by a group of the Prophet’s companions. (At that time of war) The man said ‘as salamu alaykum’ to them. The companions concluded that he only said ‘as salamu alaykum’ to them as a deception to save himself from being caught. They surrounded him and Malham ibn Juthaamah killed him. From that event Allah revealed the verse…
“O you who have believed, when you go forth (to fight) in the cause of Allah, investigate, and do not say to one who gives you (a greeting of peace), “You are not a believer,” Aspiring for the goods of worldly life; for with Allah are many acquisitions. You (yourselves) were like that before; then Allah conferred His favor (i.e. guidance) upon you, so investigate. Indeed, Allah is ever with what you do, acquainted.” – Surah AnNisa, 4/94. From Tafseer Ibn Katheer.
Fourthly, never trade in kind words for harshness, especially when dealing with other Muslims.
Look at the power of a sincere and polite word: Mus’ab ibn Umayr was the first of ambassador of Rasul Allah in Madinah. Before Rasul Allah had arrived in Madinah, Mus’ab taught ahl al-Madinah about Islam and they began to enter the Deen.
This enraged Sa’d ibn ‘Ubaadah, one of the chieftains of Madinah. He sheathed his sword and set off for the head of Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr. When he confronted Mus’ab he threatened, “Stop this nonsense you speak or you shall find yourself dead!”
Mus’ab replied in the way that should be a lesson for us all. This man before him did not stop at rudeness and ignorance, he wanted to slit his throat.
Mus’ab said, “Shall you not sit and listen for a few moments. If you agree with what I say then take it, and if not, we shall desist from this talk.” Sa’d sat down.
Mus’ab spoke about Allah and His messenger until the face of Sa’d ibn Ubaadah’s face shone like a full moon and he said, “What should a person do who wishes to enter into this Deen?” After Mus’ab had told him he said, “There is a man, if he accepts this Deen, there shall be no home in Madinah that will not become Muslim. Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh.”
When Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh heard what was happening, he was infuriated. He left his home to go and kill this man called Mus’ab ibn Umayr for the dissention he had caused. He entered upon Mus’ab and announced, “You shall desist of this religion you speak of or you shall find yourself dead!”
Mus’ab replied, “Shall you not sit and listen for a few moments. If you agree with what I say then take it, and if not, I shall desist from this talk.” Sa’d sat.
Mus’ab spoke about Allah and His messenger until the face of Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh’s face shone like a full moon and he said, “What should a person do who wishes to enter into this Deen?”
Look at what a kind word did. Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh went home to his Madinan tribe that night and announced to them all, “Everything of yours is Haram upon me until you all enter into Islam.”
That night, every home in Madinah went to bed with Laa ilaaha illa Allah…all because of a kind word.
Part II: Who wins?
Mu’aawiyah ibn al-Hakam al-Salami. When he came to Madeenah from the desert, he did not know that it was forbidden to speak during the salaah. He relates: “Whilst I was praying behind the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), a man sneezed, so I said ‘Yarhamuk Allaah (may Allaah have mercy on you).’ The people glared at me, so I said, ‘May my mother lose me! What is wrong with you that you are looking at me?’ They began to slap their thighs with their hands, and when I saw that they were indicating that I should be quiet, I stopped talking (i.e., I nearly wanted to answer them back, but I controlled myself and kept quiet).
When the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had finished praying – may my father and mother be sacrificed for him, I have never seen a better teacher than him before or since – he did not scold me or hit me or put me to shame. He just said, ‘This prayer should contain nothing of the speech of men; it is only tasbeeh and takbeer and recitation of the Qur’aan.'” (Saheeh Muslim, ‘Abd al-Baaqi edn., no. 537).
Islam showed us how to differ with one another. Some people think that we should never differ at all and all disagreements should be avoided. Nay, this is an incorrect assumption, for the Qur’an and Sunnah show clearly that when a mistake is made it should be corrected. Indeed helping others do what is right is a requirement of the Deen, sincere Naseeha.
We see when Rasul Allah turned away from AbdAllah ibn Umm Maktoom, the blind man, Allah corrected him in the Qur’an…
“(The Prophet) frowned and turned away, Because there came to him the blind man But what could tell you that perchance he might become pure (from sins)? Or that he might receive admonition, and that the admonition might profit him?” – surah Abasa, 1-4
When Haatib ibn Abi Balta’ah (may Allaah be pleased with him) made the mistake of writing to the kuffaar of Quraysh and informing them of the direction in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was headed on a military campaign against them, Allaah revealed the words: “O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies as friends…” – Surah Mumtahinah/1
And so on. Thus we learn that when a mistake happens it should be corrected. However, the method of correction is what needs our attention.
Whenever Muslims argue, it is as if each party carries a banner of: ‘I must win and you must lose!’ Careful study of the Sunnah however shows us that this is not always the case with the way Rasul Allah acted. Consider the following examples:
“I lose and you win!”
A Bedouin came to Rasul Allah and told him, “Give me from what Allah gave you, not from the wealth of your mother nor from the wealth of your father.” The Sahaabah were furious at the man and step forward to discipline him for what he said. Rasul Allah commanded everyone to leave him.
Then by the hand, Rasul Allah took him home, opened his door and said, “Take what you wish and leave what you wish.” The man did so and after he completed, Rasul Allah asked him, “Have I honored you?” “Yes, by Allah,” said the Bedouin. “Ash hadu an laa ilaaha illa Allah, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar Rasul Allah.” (Meaning he embraced Islam)
When the Sahabah heard of how the man changed, Rasul Allah taught them. “Verily the example of myself, you and this Bedouin is that of a man who had his camel run away. The townspeople tried capturing the camel for him by running and shouting after the camel, only driving it further away. The man would shout, ‘Leave me and my camel, I know my camel better.’ Then he took some grass in his hand, ruffled it in front of the camel, until it came willingly.
‘By Allah, had I left you to this Bedouin, you would have hit him, hurt him, he would have left without Islam and eventually have entered hellfire.”
“I win and you lose!”
A Muslim should not have an apologetic stance to everything he is confronted with. There are times when the truth must be said, when there is no room for flattery.
When the Makhzoomi women – a women from an affluent family – stole, people approached Rasul Allah to have her punishment canceled. Rasul Allah became very angry and stood on the pulpit and announced, “By Allah, had Fatima the daughter of Muhammad stole I would have cut her hand off.”
No room for flattery, the truth must be stood up for. It is here that the etiquette of disagreement that we talked earlier about should shine.
“I win and you win!”
There doesn’t always have to be a loser. We see in many cases that Rasul Allah gave a way out for the people he differed with.
When he sent the letter to Caesar, he said in it, “Become Muslim and you shall be safe, Allah shall give you your reward double!”
He did not say surrender or die! Nothing of the sort. Become Muslim and you shall win, rather your victory shall be double.
I shall end with this shining example of how to act with other Muslims from our role model, Abu Bakr:
Abu Bakr once disputed with another companion about a tree. During the dispute Abu Bakr said something that he rather would not have said. He did not curse, he did not attack someone’s honor, he did not poke a fault in anyone, all he said was something that may have hurt the other companion’s feelings.
Immediately, Abu Bakr – understanding the mistake – ordered him, “Say it back to me!” The companion said, “I shall not say it back.” “Say it back to me,” said Abu Bakr, “Or I shall complain to the Messenger of Allah.” The companion refused to say it back and went on his way.
Abu Bakr went to Rasul Allah and related what had happened and what he said. Rasul Allah called that companion and asked him, “Did Abu Bakr say so and so to you?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “What did you reply.” He said, “I did not reply it back to him.” Rasul Allah said, “Good, do not reply it back to him (do not hurt Abu Bakr). Rather say, ‘May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakr!'”
The Companion turned to Abu Bakr and said, “May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakr! May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakr!” Abu Bakr turned and cried as he walked away.
Let us leave today with a resolve to revive this air Rasul Allah and his companions breathed, an air of mercy and love and brotherhood.
Ikhtilaf – (differences) among the Madhhabs in Islam
Differences of Opinion are a Mercy
By Dr. G. Fouad Haddad
1. Al-Hafiz al-Bayhaqi in his book “al-Madkhal” and al-Zarkashi in his “Tadhkirah fi al-ahadith al-mushtaharah” relate: Imam al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al-Siddiq said: “The differences among the Companions of Muhammad (s) are a mercy for Allah’s servants. Al-Hafiz al-`Iraqi the teacher of Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani said: “This is a saying of al-Qasim ibn Muhammad who said: ‘The difference of opinion among the Companions of Muhammad (s) is a mercy.
2. Al-Hafiz Ibn al-Athir in the introduction to his “Jami` al-usul fi ahadith al-rasul” relates the above saying from Imam Malik according to al-Hafiz Ibn al-Mulaqqin in his “Tuhfat al-muhtaj ila adillat al-Minhaj” and Ibn al-Subki in his “Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya.”
3. Bayhaqi and Zarkashi also said: Qutada said: “‘Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz used to say: ‘It would not please me more if the Companions of Muhammad (s) did not differ among them, because had they not differed there would be no leeway (for us).'”
4. Bayhaqi also relates in “al-Madkhal” and Zarkashi in the “Tadhkira”: Al-Layth ibn Sa`d said on the authority of Yahya ibn Sa`id: “the people of knowledge are the people of flexibility (tawsi`a). Those who give fatwas never cease to differ, and so this one permits something while that one forbids it, without one finding fault with the other when he knows of his position.”
5. Al-Hafiz al-Sakhawi said in his “Maqasid al-hasana” p. 49 #39 after quoting the above: “I have read the following written in my shaykh’s (al-Hafiz ibn Hajar) handwriting: ‘The hadith of Layth is a reference to a very famous hadith of the Prophet (s), cited by Ibn al-Hajib in the “Mukhtasar” in the section on qiyas (analogy), which says: “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy for people” (ikhtilafu ummati rahmatun li al-nas). There is a lot of questioning about its authenticity, and many of the imams of learning have claimed that it has no basis (la asla lahu). However, al-Khattabi mentions it in the context of a digression in “Gharib al-hadith” . . . and what he says concerning the tracing of the hadith is not free from imperfection, but he makes it known that it does have a basis in his opinion.'”
6. Al-`Iraqi mentions all of the above (1-5) in his “Mughni `an haml al-asfar” and says: “What is meant by “the Community” in this saying is those competent for practicing legal reasoning (al-mujtahidun) in the branches of the law, wherein reasoning is permissible.”
NOTE: What `Iraqi meant by saying “the branches wherein reasoning is permissible” is that difference is not allowed in matters of doctrine, since there is agreement that there is only one truth in the essentials of belief and anyone, whether a mujtahid or otherwise, who takes a different view automatically renounces Islam. (Shawkani, “Irshad al-Fuhul” p. 259 as quoted in Kamali, “Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence” p. 383.) Al-Albani in his attack on the hadith “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy” ignores this distinction and even adduces the verse: “If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein much discrepancy” (4:82) in order to prove that differences can never be a mercy in any case but are always a curse. Al-Albani’s point is directed entirely against those who are content to follow a madhhab. The only scholar he quotes in support of his position is Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri, whose mistake he adopts without mentioning it was denounced by Nawawi. (“Silsila da`ifa” 1:76 #57)
7. Ibn Hazm said in “al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam” (5:64): “The saying “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy” is the most perverse saying possible, because if difference were mercy, agreement would be anger, and it is impossible for a Muslim to say this, because there can only be either agreement, or difference, and there can only be either mercy, or anger.” However, Imam Nawawi said in his Commentary on “Sahih Muslim”: “If something (i.e. agreement) is a mercy it is not necessary for its opposite to be the opposite of mercy. No-one makes this binding, and no-one even says this except an ignoramus or one who affects ignorance. Allah the Exalted said: “And of His mercy He has made night for you so that you would rest in it,” and He has named night a mercy: it does not necessarily ensue from this that the day is a punishment.”
8. Al-Khattabi said in “Gharib al-hadith”: “Difference of opinion in religion is of three kinds: – In affirming the Creator and His Oneness: to deny it is kufr (disbelief); – In His attributes and will: to deny them is innovation; – In the different rulings of the branches of the law (ahkam al-furu`): Allah has made them mercy and generosity for the scholars, and that is the meaning of the hadith: “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy.” Al-Jarrahi cited it in “Kashf al-khafa” 1:64 #153.
9. Al-Hafiz al-Suyuti says in his short treatise “Jazil al-mawahib fi ikhtilaf al-madhahib” (The Abundant Grants Concerning the Differences Among the Schools): “The hadith “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy for people” has many benefits among which are the fact that the Prophet (s) foretold of the differences that would arise after his time among the madhahib in the branches of the law, and this is one of his miracles because it is a foretelling of things unseen. Another benefit is his approval of these differences and his confirmation of them because he characterizes them as a mercy. Another benefit is that the legally responsible person can choose to follow whichever he likes among them.” After citing the saying of `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz already quoted (#3 above), Suyuti says: “This indicates that what is meant is their differences in the rulings in the branches of the law.”
10. The muhaddith al-Samhudi relates al-Hafiz Ibn al-Salah’s discussion of Imam Malik’s saying concerning difference of opinion among the Companions: “Among them is the one that is wrong and the one that is right: therefore you must exercise ijtihad.” Samhudi said: “Plainly, it refers to differences in legal rulings (ahkam). Ibn al-Salah said: “This is different from what Layth said concerning the flexibility allowed for the Community, since this applies exclusively to the mujtahid as he said: “you must exercise ijtihad,” because the mujtahid’s competence makes him legally responsible (mukallaf) to exercise ijtihad and there is no flexibility allowed for him over the matter of their difference. The flexibility applies exclusively to the unqualified follower (muqallid). The people meant in the saying: “Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy for people” are those unqualified followers. As for the import of Malik’s saying “Among the Companions is the one that is wrong and the one that is right,” it is meant only as an answer to those who say that the mujtahid is able to follow the Companions. It is not meant for others.””
11. The author of “al-Fiqh al-Akbar” (attributed to Imam Abu Hanifa) said: “Difference of opinion in the Community is a token of divine mercy.”
12. Ibn Qudama al-Hanbali said in “Al-`Aqa’id”: “The difference in opinion in the Community is a mercy, and their agreement is a proof.”
The decision of `Umar whereby he gave precedence to `Ubayy ibn Ka`b’s ijtihad over the ijtihad of `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud on the validity of praying in a single garment is not a proof that `Abdullah was wrong, rather it is a proof that `Umar exercised his own ijtihad and authority as the Greater Imam in settling the question. He overruled, not invalidated, and if Ibn Mas`ud held his position from the Prophet (s) he cannot change it even after `Umar’s ruling. This is true of every true mujtahid at any time: he is obligated to follow the result of his own ijtihad even if it should differ with that of every other mujtahid of the past and present, unless he becomes convinced that he was mistaken in his previous ijtihad.
According to all the scholars it is incumbent upon the leader of the Muslims to be a mujtahid and it is his responsibility in such cases to settle the question for the sake of the people of his time, and that is the proper context of Imam Malik’s injuction: “Exercise ijtihad.” It is addressed to the mufti who must establish what is correct in clearcut fashion, not to the muqallid (follower) who is only interested in “a way to follow” (= madhhab) without having to verify its proofs and inferences. However, another mufti may reach another conclusion and be followed, and is not bound by that of the first, nor are those who take their fatwa from him, and no-one finds fault with the other, as Al-Layth ibn Sa`d stated.
A clear proof that the fatwa of the leader overrules but does not invalidate the opinion of the Companions even if it directly contradicts it, is the fact that when `Umar ibn al-Khattab proposed to have all the hadith collected and written down he consulted the Companions and they unanimously agreed to his proposal; later he disapproved of it and ordered that everyone who had written a collection burn it. Yet `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz later ordered that hadith be collected and written. Al-Hafiz al-Baghdadi relates it in his “Taqyid al-`ilm” 49, 52-53, 105-106, and Ibn Sa`d in his “Tabaqat” 3(1):206, 8:353.
Those who think they are mujtahid but in reality are unqualified, when faced by the followers of madhahib, cover up their ignorance with the flashy claim: “We follow Qur’an and Sunna, not madhahib.” When it is pointed out to them that to follow a madhhab is to follow Qur’an and Sunna through true ijtihad, they become upset: “How can the four madhhabs differ and be right at the same time? I have heard that only one may be right, and the others wrong.” The answer is that one certainly follows only the ruling that he believes is right, but he can never fanatically invalidate the following of other rulings by other madhahib, because they, also, are based on sound principles of ijtihad. At this they rebel and begin numbering the mistakes of the mujtahids: “Imam Malik was right in this, but he was wrong in that; Imam Shafi`i was right in this, but he was wrong in that . . . ” This is what they say, and what they hide in their heart is worse because it includes even the Companions. This we will never accept. But when they are rebuked for this blatant disrespect they make it known that they have been wronged and “They are arrogant in their sin” (2:206). This is nothing else than the legacy of the Wahhabi/Salafi movement.
Blessings and Peace on the Prophet, his Family, and His Companions. May Allah be well pleased with the Four Mujtahid Imams, and all the scholars who feared Allah truly.