Friday, August 08, 2003

Adab al-ikhtilaf

The enemies of Islam, despite their own internal differences, never wanted to give a free scope to this blessed awakening. How many are the arms and resources which they have used to combat us! Some within the Muslim ranks are also part of this armory and have been used as the agents to sabotage the movement for reconstructing the Ummah in the true light of Islam. One of the most devastating methods used by the enemy was the strategy of "divide and rule." This was facilitated by the existence of rampant discord (ikhtilaf) in the Muslim Ummah. The Islamic awakening soon found itself facing the grievous challenge of disagreements (ikhtilaf) over and above the many other challenges which consumed the energies of the sincere workers for Islam. Energies were further dissipated on the perilous rock of discord. Some among the youth identified themselves with the early righteous forbears (the salafiyyah) and others with the upholders of hadith (ahl al hadith); one group identified itself with a particular school of thought (madhhab) while others did not see the necessity for this. Among these groups, various accusations of unbelief, blasphemy, harmful innovation, trachery, spying, and so on are bandied about. All of these accusations ought not to be exchanged between fellow Muslim alone publicized through all the available media in total disregard of the fact that the malicious attempts to extinguish the light of Islam are more dangerous to the survival of the ummah than these differences.

In retrospect, we can see that the leading scholars of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence had reasons to justify their differences of opinion and lessen their impact. The master perpetrators of disagreement in our times, however, do not have a single plausible basis for justifying differences. They are not mujtahidun or person capable of independent reasoning or analytical thought. They are, rather, unthinking followers (muqallidun) of those among them who raise their voices to proclaim that they are not in fact 'followers' nor do they believe in the 'duty to follow.' They claime that they derive their rulings and opinions directly from the Quran and the Sunnah of the prophet, peace be upon him. In reality, they cling to some books of hadith and follow in the footsteps of their authors in all matters pertaining to the authenticity of a hadith and the trustworthiness and reliability of its narrators. Some of them claim knowledge of science which studies the biographies of hadith reporters and the extent of their reliability. On the basis of studying a single book on this vast subject, a person cannot justifiably elevate himself to the position of a mujtahid.

It is only appropriate that someone who has acquired some real knowledge should not behave like an ignorant person and hurl accusations and insults agains others. He should realize the grave dangers facing the Islamic faith and seek to ward off these dangers. He should be keenly concerned to bring together the hearts and minds of people even while they follow different school of thought. At least they should stick scrupulously to the ethics and norms (adabs) of proper behaviour when differences do arise, as did the noble scholars of the past.

(Source: Taha Jabir al-Alwani, The Ethics of Disagreement In Islam (Adab al ikhtilaf fi al Islam), The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1417/1999.)

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