In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful
Adab al-Ikhtilaaf: The etiquette of dealing with differences of opinion part 3 [Video here]
In our first two parts we discussed the following points:
1) The Qur’an mentions people were one. When divine knowledge came to guide them, they used this as a means of misguidance against each other..
2) Differences in any one issue show the depth of that matter and how much knowledge it may contain
3) Scholars advise to keep their differences of opinion private before going public
4) Differences emanate from two places: i) Ignorance and ego ii) Newscasters; news-hounds; and news consumers
5) The Maraji’ welcome challenges (within reason, obviously)
In this weeks discussion we will look at the question of our attitudes toward people who have differences with us.
Karen Armstrong has written one of the most important books of our generation: ‘Muhammed: Prophet for our time’. At the onset of the book she says it was disturbing to her to see the Prophet (s) denigrated as a militant Prophet, when this is a man who spent his entire life trying to solve the problem of human conflict. He was born into a society of perpetual cycles of violence. An example of this is the famous 40 year war over a horse race called ‘Harb al-Dahis was Ghafra’, referring the names of the horses between the tribes of Abs and Dibyan. The man who started the war became a monk because he could not bear to look at the faces of those whom he’d been the cause of injury or death to.
We can see how the Qur’an addresses the attitude of believers to be amongst themselves
(48:29) Muhammad is God’s Apostle; and those who are [truly] with him are firm and unyielding towards all deniers of the truth, [yet] full of mercy towards one another.”مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاء عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاء بَيْنَهُمْ
This is why the Prophet (s) had to warn, “Do not turn back after me as ingrates striking at the neck of one another” لا ترجعوا بعدي كفاراً يضرب بعضكم رقاب بعضٍ
The Qur’an is critical of those who use their extremism in personal beliefs to be a means of dividing the community. This is mentioned twice in the Qur’an:
فَتَقَطَّعُوا أَمْرَهُم بَيْنَهُمْ زُبُرًا كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ(23:53) “But they (who claim to follow you) have torn their unity wide asunder, piece by piece, each group delighting in [but] what they themselves possess.”
مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ(30:32) “Among those who have broken the unity of their faith and have become sects, each group delighting in but what they themselves hold.”
What is the attitude of our Maraji’ toward differences between them? I was present in the lesson of Grand Ayatollah Syed Mohammed Taqi al-Modarresi when he categorically stated, ‘Whichever Marja’ you follow you are guided’. He also said, “Syed as-Seestani is my friend. Syed Khamenei is my friend” when talking about how people wanted to create differences between them.
In a famous lesson, during the intellectual battle between the Akhbaris and Usulis, when the groups had vast differences, the leaders of of those periods kept their unity. When Sheikh Wahid Behbehani, head of the Usuli movement, died, he willed that Syed Yusuf al-Bahrani, head of the opposition Akhbari movement, should lead his funeral prayers. This shows the differences are academic but the responsibility of protecting the community was tantamount. And these are the examples set for us.
In our last part next week we will ask how do we respond when emails and video clips are circulated within the community.