In the name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful
Jum’a Khutba 8/3/2019:
Adaab al-Ikhtilaaf: The etiquettes of dealing with difference of opinion Part 1
Our first Friday series looked at ‘effective listening’ and the second at ‘Where and where not to gain knowledge from’. In this series we will look at how to navigate differences of opinion. This is because increasingly there is a trend that when differences arise, be they in the family unit, political issues of the jamaa’at or between scholars, people sometimes resort to sending out communications to defame one another, often with little knowledge of the facts.
This of course is intolerable, especially as the Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “I was raised to bring morality to its peak.” How then can we as a community learn to deal with differences of opinion maturely?
Our series will focus on three things: 1) What the Qur’an & Ahl al-Bayt (a) have said about differences of opinion 2) What the scholars themselves have said about differences of opinion and 3) What examples they give us about navigating differences of opinion.
1) The Qur’an introduces where differences of opinion came from:
“Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves.” (2:213)
This explains that differences existed and then Prophets and Revelation was sent to judge between said differences. However, because jealousy and animosity lay within some people, they weaponised this knowledge and used it fuel discord. This is why Allah swt told the Prophet (s) to purify people first and then teach them, for without removing their ill natures, knowledge would just add to differences, stating “reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book” (62:2)
2) Scholastic differences of Ijtihadat demonstrate the depth of that matter and emanate from from various knowledges and experiences. Sheikh Ahmad Zarrooq stated
الاختلاف في الحقيقة الواحدة، إن كًًَثر، دلّ على بعد إدراك جملتها، ثمّ هو إن رجع لأصل واحد، يتضمن جملة ما قيل فيها كانت العبارة عنه بحسب ما فهم منه، وجملة الأقوال واقعة على تفاصيله. واعتبار كلّ واحد له على حسب مثاله منه علماً، أو عملاً، أو حالاً، أو ذوقاً، أو غير ذلك”
The difference of opinion about one reality, when those differences multiply, indicate toward the depths of understanding the totality of that thing (meaning it is so deep, it is hard to grasp it in any one articulation). If you go back to one source that contains a summation of what has been stated about it, that articulation is based on what was understood by that thing. And its expression by each individual is on account of his knowledge, experience, state, taste and other matters.”
3) The scholars themselves allowed for differences of opinion but ensured their Akhlaaq in dealing with those differences. These included keeping their debates in house as much as possible. Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi narrates,
“One day ‘Allamah Tabataba’i called for me and said, “I would like Al-Mizan to be translated and I believe you should do this”. I accepted the offer and translated the first volume which was in Arabic – and contained very precise and condensed information – into two volumes [of Farsi]. One day I visited him and said, “Agha! You are a learned scholar but I am someone who cannot resort to others (taqlid) in certain matters. Therefore as I translate your discussions, do I have your permission to write any difference of opinion I might have in the footnotes?” He replied with one meaningful sentence, “Let us discuss and criticize between ourselves first, and not among the public.”