Respecting The Differences

“Waste No Time Debating What A Good Believer Should Be. Be One!”


It was narrated that one day Imam Malik went to the Masjid An-Nabawi after ‘Asar.  Rasul Allah SAW had commanded that no one who enters the Masjid should only sit until he first prays two rakaats of Solah At-Tahiyatul Masjid as a salutation of the Masjid. But Imam Malik was of the opinion that Rasul Allah’s forbiddance of praying after ‘Asar took precedence and so he would teach his students to not pray the tahiyatul masjid if they entered between the ‘Asar and Maghrib.


However, the moment Imam Malik sat down a boy who was a student had notice he sat without first praying the two raka’ats of Tahiyatul Masjid. The young boy reminded him to: “Get up, and pray the two rakaats of tahiyatul masjid!” Imam Malik dutifully stood up once again and began praying the two rakaats. The students were surprised what was going on with Imam Malik’s.


After he had completed the solah, the students swarmed around and questioned about his actions. Imam Malik said, “My opinion has not changed, nor have I gone back on what I taught you earlier. I merely feared that had I not prayed the two rakaats as the young boy commanded, Allah might include me in the ayat which stated:


“And when it is said to them, ‘Bow (in prayer)’, they do not bow.” [Al-Mursalat, 77:48].


Imam Ahmad held the opinion that eating camel meat nullifies ones Wudhu’, an opinion that the majority of scholars differed. Some students asked him, “If you find an Imam eating camel meat in front of you and – without first making Wudhu’ – then leads the Solah, would you pray behind him?” Imam Ahmad replied, “Do you think I would not pray behind the likes of Imam Malik and Sa’id ibn Al-Musaiyib?”


The situation simply reflects that Allah created humans with variation. It is the law of creation that men are blessed with different tongues, different colours, and different cultures, all that occurs externally. However, internally, humans were created with many degrees of knowledge, intellect, and comprehension of concepts. This is all a sign of Allah’s all encompassing power to create and do whatever He wills:


“And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are signs for those who know.” [Ar-Rum, 30:22]


Humans shall differ, but in fact that should not be an issue. The issue is that how do we confront the differences of opinions and what should be our approach and relationship with someone with   a different opinion.




Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commanded us to call and advise people towards the path of the Deen of Al-Islam. It is prudent that we pursue our objective rightly, realizing that the laid in the Qur’an. In fact, in the very same verse (ayat) where Allah commanded us to call and advise people accordance to the Deen, Allah taught us how to do it, as stated in the verse:


“Invite (fi’l amr – Allah is commanding) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction and argue with them in a way that is best!” [An-Nahl, 16:125].


There is no need to philosophise about it because it is simply right there, plain and simple for anyone who would take heed. The Ayat provides three very important ingredients to be applied when we are in disagreement with someone. Allah that taught us to debate the truth and taught us how to advice the others in three ways:


1. To Do It with Hikmah (Wisdom)

2. To Do It with the Best Possible Manner of Instruction, And

3. To argue in the Best Possible Way.


What does it mean to have Hikmah when we disagreement with someone?


The grandsons of Rasul Allah SAW once set one of the most beautiful examples of Hikmah in advising others. Al-Hasan and Al-Husain, in their young age, once saw a senior man performing Wudhu’ incorrectly. Together they arranged a plan to teach the man without insulting him, advising him in a manner befitting of his age.


Together they went to the senior and said, “My brother and I have differed over who amongst us performs the best Wudhu’, would you mind being the judge to determine which one of us indeed performs Wudhu’ more correctly?”


The man watched intently as the two grandsons of Rasul Allah SAW performed Wudhu, in an explicit manner. After they had completed, he thanked them and said, “By Allah, I did not know how to perform Wudhu before this. You have both taught me how to do it correctly.”


We must understand that there are two dimensions to Hikmah. Firstly, there is the Hikmah of knowledge, Hikmah Ilmiyyah. Secondly, there is the Hikmah of Action, Hikmah Amaliyyah.


Some people may have Hikmah of knowledge. However, we see that when they try correcting the others, advising them, they lack the Hikmah of Action. This causes many of common folk to reject the Hikmah of knowledge.


To illustrate this hikmah of knowledge without Hikmah of action, a brother once completed the Solah in a local Masjid and then proceeded to shake hands with the people on his right and left. The brother to his immediate right slapped his hand and snapped, “That is not part of the Sunnah!” The man replied most correctly, “Oh it is disrespect and insult part of the Sunnah?”


In order to enable one to display the Hikmah when we differ requires the following criterion:


1. Sincerity and Honesty 


If we differ, our intentions should be that we are differing in the sincere hope of coming away with the truth. Our intentions should be sincere to Allah.


We should not differ just to release some hate or envy in our heart. We should not differ to embarrass someone like we may have been embarrassed.


Rasul Allah SAW said, “Whoever learns knowledge, knowledge from that which should be sought for the sake of Allah, [but if only] to receive a commodity of the material world, he shall not find the fragrance of Jannah on the day of resurrection.” [Abu Dawud]


2. Kindness and Gentleness


To have Hikmah when differing means we should rarely depart from an atmosphere of kindness and gentleness, we should seldom allow ourselves to become angry and raise our voices.


Fir ‘awn (Pharaoh) was one of the evilest people that lived. Musa a.s was one of the noblest. Look at how Allah told Musa to advise Fir’aun:


“Go, both of you, to Fir ‘awn. Indeed, he has transgressed. And speak to him with gentle speech, perhaps he may remember or fear (Allah).”


A man once entered upon the Khalifah and chastised him for some policies he had taken. The Khalifah replied, “By Allah, Fir ‘awn was more evil than me. And by Allah, Musa was more pious than you. Yet, Allah commanded him…’And speaks to him with gentle speech, perhaps he may remember or fear (Allah).'”


3. Take Your Time and Clarify


To have Hikmah when dealing with others is to be patient and clarify things before snapping to conclusions.


Imam Ahmad narrates with his chain of narrators leading to Ibn Abbas who said, “A man from Bani Salim passed by a group of the Prophet’s companions. (At that time of war) The man said ‘as salamu alaikum’ to them. The companions concluded that he only said ‘as salamu alaikum’ to them as a deception to save himself from being caught. They surrounded him and Malham ibn Juthaamah killed him. From that event, Allah revealed the verse…


“O you who have believed, when you go forth (to fight) in the cause of Allah, investigate, and do not say to one who gives you (a greeting of peace), “You are not a believer,” Aspiring for the goods of worldly life; for with Allah are many acquisitions. You (yourselves) were like that before; then Allah conferred His favor (i.e. guidance) upon you, so investigate. Indeed, Allah is ever with what you doing, acquainted.” [Surah An-Nisa, 4:94.].


4. Speak Kindheartedly


Never trade in kind words for harshness, especially when dealing with other Muslims.


Look at the power of a sincere and polite word: Mus’ab ibn Umar was the first of ambassador of Rasul Allah SAW in Madinah. Before Rasul Allah SAW had arrived in Madinah, Mus’ab taught ahl al-Madinah about Islam and they began to enter the Deen.


When Sa’ad ibn Mu’adz heard what was happening, he was infuriated. He left his home to go and kill this man called Mus’ab ibn Umair for the dissention he had caused. This enraged Sa’ad ibn ‘Ubaidah, one of the chieftains of Madinah. He sheathed his sword and set off for the head of Mus’ab ibn ‘Umair. When he confronted Mus’ab he threatened, “Stop this nonsense you speak or you shall find yourself dead!”


Mus’ab replied in the way that should be a lesson for all of us. This man before him did not stop at rudeness and ignorance; he wanted to slit his throat.


Mus’ab said, “Shall you not sit and listen for a few moments. If you agree with what I say then take it, and if not, we shall desist from this talk.” Sa’ad then sat down. Mus’ab spoke about Allah and His messenger until the face of Sa’ad ibn Ubaidah face shone like a full moon and he said, “What should a person do, who wishes to enter into this Deen?” After Mus’ab had told him he said, “There is a man, if he accepts this Deen, there shall be no home in Madinah that will not become Muslim.”


Look at what a kind word did. Sa’ad ibn Mu’adz went home to his Madinan tribe that night and announced to them all, “Everything of yours is Haram upon me until you all enter into Islam.”


That night, every home in Madinah went to bed with Laa ilaaha illa Allah…all because of a kind word.


Who wins?


[When] Mu’awiyah Ibn Al-Hakam Al-Salami came to Madinah from the desert; he did not know that it was forbidden to speak during the solah.


He related that “Whilst I was praying behind the Messenger of Allah SAW, a man sneezed, so I said ‘Yarhamuk Allah (may Allah have mercy on you).’ The people glared at me, so I said, ‘May my mother lose me! What is wrong with you that you are looking at me?’ They began to slap their thighs with their hands, and when I saw that they were indicating that I should be quiet, I stopped talking (i.e., I nearly wanted to answer them back, but I controlled myself and kept quiet).


When the Messenger of Allah SAW had finished praying – may my father and mother be sacrificed for him, I have never seen a better teacher than him before or since, he did not scold me, hit me, or put me to shame. He just said, ‘This prayer should contain nothing of the speech of men; it is only tasbih and takbir and recitation of the Qur’an.'” [Sahih Muslim].


Islam showed us how to differ with one another. Some people think that we should never differ at all and all disagreements should be avoided. Nay, this is an incorrect assumption, for the Qur’an and Sunnah show clearly that when a mistake is made it should be corrected. Indeed helping others do what is right is a requirement of the Deen, a sincere Nasihah.


When Rasul Allah SAW turned away from Abdullah ibn Umm Makhtum, the blind man; Allah corrected him in the Qur’an:


“(The Prophet) frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man but what could tell you that perchance he might become pure (from sins)? Or that he might receive admonition, and that the admonition might profit him?” [‘Abasa, 1-4]


When Hatib ibn Abi Balta’ah (may Allah be pleased with him) made the mistake of writing to the kuffar of Quraish and informing them of the direction in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was headed on a military campaign against them, Allah revealed the words:


“O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies as friends…” [Mumtahanah: 1]


And so on. Thus, we learn that when a mistake happens it should be corrected. However, the method of correction is what needs our attention. Whenever Muslims argue, it is as if each party carries a banner of: ‘I must win and you must lose!’ Careful study of the Sunnah however shows us that this is not always the case with the way Rasul Allah SAW acted. Consider the following examples:


“I lose and you win!”


A Bedouin came to Rasul Allah SAW and told him, “Give me from what Allah gave you, neither from the wealth of your mother nor from the wealth of your father.” The Sahabah were furious at the man and step forward to discipline him for what he said. Rasul Allah SAW commanded everyone to leave him.


Then by the hand, Rasul Allah SAW took him home, opened his door, and said, “Take what you wish and leave what you wish.” The man did so and after he completed, Rasul Allah SAW asked him, “Have I honoured you?” “Yes, by Allah,” said the Bedouin. “Ash hadu an laa ilaaha illa Allah, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar Rasul Allah.” (Meaning he embraced Islam)


When the Sahabah heard of how the man changed, Rasul Allah SAW taught them. “Verily the example of myself, you and this Bedouin is that of a man who had his camel run away. The townspeople tried capturing the camel for him by running and shouting after the camel, only driving it further away. The man would shout, ‘Leave me and my camel, I know my camel better.’ Then he took some grass in his hand, ruffled it in front of the camel, until it came willingly.


‘By Allah, had I left you to this Bedouin, you would have hit him, hurt him, he would have left without Islam and eventually have entered hellfire.”


“I win and you lose!”


A Muslim should not have an apologetic stance to everything he is confronted with. There are times when the truth must be said, when there is no room for flattery.


When the Makhzumi women stole, people approached Rasul Allah SAW to have her punishment cancelled. Rasul Allah became very angry, stood on the pulpit, and announced, “By Allah, had Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad stole I would have cut her hand off.”


No room for flattery, the truth must be stood up. It is here that the etiquette of disagreement that we talked earlier about should shine.


“I win and you win!”


There does not always have to be a loser. We see in many cases that Rasul Allah SAW gave a way out for the people he differed. When he sent the letter to Caesar, he said in it, “Become Muslim and you shall be safe, Allah shall give you your reward double!”


He did not say surrender or die! It was nothing of the sort. He said to him to become Muslim and you shall win, rather your victory shall be double.


Another shining example of how to act with other Muslims – from our role model – Abu Bakar As-Siddiq:


Abu Bakar once had a dispute with another companion about a tree. During the dispute, Abu Bakar said something that he rather would not have said. He did not curse, he did not attack someone’s honour, he did not poke a fault in anyone, and all he said was something that may have hurt the other companion’s feelings.


Immediately, Abu Bakar, understanding the mistake, ordered him, “Say it back to me!” The companion said, “I shall not say it back.” “Say it back to me,” said Abu Bakar, “Or I shall complain to the Messenger of Allah.” The companion refused to say it back and went on his way.


Abu Bakar went to Rasul Allah and related what had happened and what he said. Rasul Allah SAW called that companion and asked him, “Did Abu Bakar say so and so to you?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “What did you reply.” He said, “I did not reply it back to him.” Rasul Allah SAW said, “Good, do not reply it back to him (do not hurt Abu Bakar). Rather say, ‘May Allah forgives you O Abu Bakar!'” The Companion turned to Abu Bakar and said, “May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakar! May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakar?” Abu Bakar turned and cried as he walked away.


Let us resolve the way of Rasul Allah SAW and his companions have established, and to have mercy and love and brotherhood.




About Md Radzi Ahmad
A retired Malaysian civil servant. Served the Malaysian government for thirty-one years. Posted to London, Rangoon, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bangkok. Born in Kampong Hutan Kandeh, Alor Star, Kedah. Educated at Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star and University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Currently resides in Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan,Malaysia.Blessed with three children, a son, two daughters, daughter in law and two grandaughters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: