July 25, 2007

And be not divided among yourselves...

And hold fast, all of you together to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves (3:103)

A rather unhealthy discussion took off recently on a Muslim blog that I visit. I've mentioned before how much I dislike on-line discussion forums, because most of them degenerate into pages upon pages of ad hominem attacks and mindless nonsense; it is much worse when the parties involved are Muslim. Earlier, a similar argument took place among some friends, who had forfeited their mutual friendship over some rather petty disagreements on the issues of the day. It was rather sad how two individuals who had been together for so long became enemies so quickly, as anger and pride robbed them of rational thought and reason.

I had read and heard a great deal from scholars about the merits of reconciling disputes between Muslims, but I have never been much of a mediator. Without access to the friends and mentors whose advice I'd normally seek in such cases, I went straight into my collection of hadith and found some beautiful words that are worth sharing here. It also serves as a fitting follow-up to my earlier post on anger.

On Anger:
Abdullah ibne 'Umar radhiAllahu'anh narrates that Rasulullah salallaho'alayhi wa salam said, "No gulp swallowed by a slave of Allah is dearer to Allah, the Almighty and Majestic, than a gulp of anger which he swallows, seeking nothing other than the pleasure of Allah." (Musnad Ahmad)

Ibne 'Abbas radhiAllahu'anh narrates that Rasulullah salallaho'alayhi wa salam said, "Teach people, and give them glad tidings, and don't make things difficult for them, and when anyone of you gets angry, he should remain silent." (Musnad Ahmad)

Silence. Whether it is holding our tongues or holding our keyboards, a little silence can go a long way in maintaining cordial relations.

The second hadith quoted here also speaks of remaining optimistic, and being easy on people. Unfortunately, many Muslims get scared away from Islamic discourse, whether it be in the masjid or on a message board, because we fill these discussions with prohibitions and punishments. Such discourse would be more fruitful and inviting if we were to maintain a pleasant demeanour, and focus on the positive.

On Reconciliation
Abu Darda radhiAllahu'anh narrates that Rasulullah salallaho'alayhi wa salam said, "Shall I not inform you about something more virtuous than fasting, prayers, and charity?" The Companions replied, "Certainly, do tell us!" The Prophet answered, "Harmony and unity between you is the most virtuous act, whereas discord amongst you wipes clean the Deen, just as the razor cleanly shaves the head. Similarly, fighting and hostility amongst you perishes the Deen." (Tirmidhi)

I recall a virus of rumours that had infected my circle of friends in the MSA. It started off as a personal matter between two people, but quickly escalated to one that threatened the very organization. I recall my own judgement being clouded by the thoughts that had entered my heart about the brothers in our circle; lines had been drawn, and it quickly became an "us versus them" matter. Of course, I believed at the time that I had done nothing wrong, that if only "they" would apologize, everything would be fine. We placed the burden of responsibility on the "others", while they placed it on us.

Fortunately, may Allah bless him, one brother saw through this mess and brought it forward, bluntly and honestly. It became apparent that none of us were guiltless; we all contributed to fostering this hostility. While some of us may not have actually said or done anything to perpetuate the rumours, we actively participated in them simply by harbouring them in our hearts. We let the hatred live. We gave it a home, provided it fuel and shelter, and thus we were equally guilty in sowing disunity as those who initiated the rumours.

We talk about "unity" as a slogan frequently, and we also talk about shedding labels amongst Muslims; but in practicality, we're still criticizing one another, and allowing hostility to fester amongst ourselves. The problem is not that we, as a Muslim ummah, don't seek unity today; I sincerely think we do. The problem is that we all think that unity means that others have to conform to our way, our philosophy. It's a function of pride; why should I be the one to compromise, after all? We're all for unity, so long as we don't need to change our own lives in the process.

There is no panacea that will cause every Muslim to agree with one another. Unity must mean respecting one another in spite of our differences. Mere tolerance is not enough; we must honour one another, as Allah has honoured all of us by virtue of the belief in our hearts.

When our own episode of hatred was brought to light, I could not help but think of the rewards that brother must be receiving for his role in bringing us back together. Our little group went on to accomplish some great things, none of which could have been achieved had we let a little pride and anger conquer our brotherhood. Years later, and our group remains tight, though we are now considerably divided geographically.

Sometimes, it just takes a little kick of hatred to find true friendship.

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