March 3, 2001

Dealing with Differences


“Islam teaches that wudu is done this way.” The man said

“But you’re wrong,” the young man replied. “That’s totally
against the laws of Islam.”

“But it says in a hadith that.” The older man started saying.

“That’s a weak hadith!” The younger man interrupted.

“Oh Yeah! What’s your daleel (proof)? I read in a book that the blessed
prophet said to”

By this time both men were fuming. The young man screamed, “I read in a
book, too, that”

But before he could finish his sentence, the older brother pushed him and he
pushed back. A fight would ensued if some quick-thinking brothers nearby didn’t
break it up.

The two brothers eyed each other angrily and left in opposite directions.
Those who remained just shook their heads in silence. Here were two brothers
ready to fight over a difference of opinion.

The funny thing was, they both were right. They just didn’t know how to
handle a difference of opinion. The blessed prophet once remarked,
“Difference (of opinion) in my Ummah are a blessing.”

He didn’t mean that Muslims should argue about everything or be divided,
rather, he was pointing out that it was good for Muslims to think, to reason
together, to discuss things and that if they disagreed over something, that it
was all in the pursuit of knowledge. If anyone uses differences of opinion to
form competing groups, then they have done wrong and may find themselves in
trouble on the day of judgment!

Allah is very harsh against those who make divisions. He said, “And be
not like those who split up their way of life and become mere sects, each group
rejoicing in what it (claims) it has.” (Qur`an 30:31-32).

Also he said, “As for those who divide their way of life and break up
into sects, you have no part of them at all. Their affair is with Allah. He will
tell them the truth of what they did in the end.” (Qur`an 6:159).

Once the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), said that the Jews divided up into 71
sects, or groups, the Christians into 72 and that his community would eventually
divided up into 73. Then he said they would all be in the fire except one. When
the people around him asked which one was going to Paradise, he replied that it
was the one which would follow his example.

We are blessed as a community in that we have our original book and the
complete record of the life of our prophet. If anyone comes and says, “This
or that is Islam,” we can easily check and verify whether or not it’s true.
If it doesn’t come from the Qur’an or Hadith, then it can’t be Islam. So we must
use those two sources to explain what Islam really is. Sincere people seek to
learn and practice the truth and Allah guides those who seek him. Anything else
is opinion.

On many occasions Muslims have disagreed over what something means or what to
do. The key is to follow the Islamic manners of how to deal with differences. We
don’t have to agree all the time, but we don’t fight over disagreements as if we
were enemies. And if we are truly wrong and realize it, we must not stick to a
false position out of pride or fear of “losing.”

An arrogant person refuses to accept logic and a proud and vain person never
likes to listen to guidance. In contrast, the Qur’an states, “Those who,
when they hear the signs of Allah being recited, humble themselves” So be
humble where knowledge is concerned.

Before the battle of Khandaq, the Muslims had to decide what to do. Some
wanted to go out and fight while others wanted to stay in the city and defend
from there. The prophet listened to both sides and in the end, he agreed with
those who wanted to defend from the city. He didn’t barge in with his own
personal preferences nor did the Shura, or group discussion, become heated and
full of antagonism. People disagreed over an issue but united after a majority
decision was taken.

Allah, the exalted, gave us a formula for dealing with differences when he
said in the Qur`an that this book is Al Furqan, the standard to go by. And
further he instructed us to follow the example of the blessed prophet (Qur`an

If we have a disagreement, especially between the followers of one Madhab
(School of Fiqh) and another, we must respect each other’s opinions and present
our evidence. In the end, even if neither side proves a point, we must be
courteous and respectful. If we find our position is wrong, then we would be a
fool to stick with something that is not true. Simply say, “Alhumdulillah,”
and thank the brother or sister for helping you to understand Allah’s Shari’ah
better. Khalifa ‘Umar once said, “Allah bless the person who makes me a
gift of my own faults.”

I’ve seen countless showdowns between people with different opinions in which
the end-result was ill will and hurt feelings. What’s even worse is that such a
display of rude behavior on the part of people who are supposed to know Islam
makes other Muslims shy away from the Masjid and Muslim gatherings. It has an
even worse effect on new converts and potential converts. Muslims handle their
differences with proper adab, or manners.

I still remember an inter-faith dialogue meeting I sat in on several years
ago. There were about ten Muslims, ten Jews, and fifteen Christians. Over the
course of several hours, it became obvious to all that the Jews present were
completely disunited, to the point that secular Jew were arguing with the
orthodox who were in turn calling the reform Jew fakes.

The Christians, who represented at least ten different sects, fared no
better. They disagreed on just about everything when topics in their religion
came up. Two Christians even got into an intellectual duel which lasted almost
fifteen minutes. The moderator, who was a Lutheran preacher, saw that his forum
was descending into chaos. So he tried to get the Muslims to go at each other’s
throats also to deflect from the obvious disunity among the Jews and Christians

He brought up the old Sunni-Shi’a issues and tried to make disunity among
Muslims, the primary topic of the gathering. None of us Muslims, about seven men
and three women, had ever met before. We came from different regions of the
metropolitan area. Three had identified themselves as Shi’a on the names list we
all had. I wondered what would happen.

To my great relief, no matter which Muslim spoke, male or female, Sunni or
Shi’a, we were all talking with one voice. We agreed on practically everything
and felt a tremendous feeling of victory in our hearts. Despite the preacher’s
repeated accusations, insinuations, biting remarks and finally, obvious attempts
to divide us, we united as one and handled any differences respectfully and
wisely. We had no shouting matches, no glaring differences or understandings.
Indeed, after the meeting we knew we were all brothers and sisters while the
Christians and Jews kept their distance from each other. They were pairing up
with us to talk in the social time.

When we have differences, we must not forget that it does not take away from
our primary bonds of Iman. On one occasion, Khalid ibn Walid and Saad ibn Waqqas
were having a heated argument. After Khalid left, a friend of Saad’s started
saying bad things about Khalid. Saad immediately stopped the man and told him,
“The disagreement between us does not affect the bond of our Iman.”
(From: God-Oriented Life)

Once ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, who was the Khalifa, or political leader, went up
to a person he disliked and told him to his face, “I don’t like you.”
The person merely answered back, “Are you going to take away my
rights?” Umar replied, “I don’t like you, but I will respect your
rights.” Clearly, that is the best example for us to follow with regards to
dealing with the differences among us.

(courtesy of

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