Moon sightings vs. astronomical calculations; differing fiqh opinions; multiple madhabs; sects galore. We, as Muslims, seem to cling to reasons to separate.
But if we put all our differences and opinions aside and really look at Islam, we can find a million more reasons to unite. In fact, Islam doesn’t only give us cause to unite, it lays out the framework in how to do so.
I have often thought to myself all this division isn’t right and wished I could do something about it. Then I decided it was a problem bigger than me. However, this was defeatist thinking — because the problem isn’t bigger than me.
Each of us has the power to build peace in our own community. It is not just a matter for leaders. If we don’t start from the ground up, by dismissing the belief obtaining peace is impossible and bigger than us, any measure towards peace our respective leaders take will not be effective. Peace-building starts on the individual level.
Difference isn’t the End of the World
The first thing we must remember is everyone we meet will have a different opinion than us. Everyone approaches Islam with their own perspective, understanding, and experiences. And all this will result in different opinions.
Does this mean you cannot be a good brother or sister to a fellow Muslim who thinks differently?
Does difference mean the death of cooperation?
Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah says, “We must navigate our differences without arrogance or abusive language, with an open mind and the intention of discovering truth rather than winning an argument.”
In his Framework Speech for the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Shaykh Bin Bayyah suggests 12 Islamic Values of Peacebuilding.
He cites these values, saying we must apply them to our lives to allow us to build communities and overcome differences and disagreement.
Once we know the principles Shaykh Bin Bayyah speaks about, thinking of ways to apply them in our lives isn’t hard. We just have to be willing to make the effort.
Principles and Application
Cooperation and Solidarity
Working toward a common goal can do a lot to bring people together. We can, in our communities, organize initiatives to make dawah, help the homeless, support and educate the youth in Islamic knowledge, or sponsor any number of outreach programs.
If we busy ourselves, working together in righteousness and keeping the big picture in mind, it is easier to repel evil and disunity.
Maintaining Good Relations
Say “salam” to Muslims you meet, even if you are upset with them. The memory of an argument will fade, but feeling snubbed only adds insult to injury and stays in their memory. An added bonus of saying “salam” is that it increases love between brothers.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
You will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not tell you about something which, if you do it, you will love one another? Spread salam amongst yourselves. (Muslim)
Brotherhood and Mutual Understanding
Remember that when the Prophet and his companions made hijrah, they became brothers and sisters to one another. We, as Muslims, should still be making hijrah together; yet, not to Madinah, but to Allah.
Understand that this journey makes us brothers and sisters. Even though we are on the same path, we are all experiencing different tests and making different sacrifices, and a little understanding of this can go a long way to bring us together, insha Allah.
Even knowledge can be used as a weapon to hurt or divide people.
Knowing the correct way to apply knowledge is wisdom. Tarek Ghanem, AboutIslam.net consultant, says:
“The scholars of Islam mention that the best classical definition of hikmah [wisdom] is to put things in their due place and portions. This definition is of tremendous importance, since, if fully applied, no thought or action can ever be dealt with wisely without incorporating the complete layers of existence, physical and metaphysical, of the here-now and the hereafter, intrinsic and relational that surround.”
We can do everything in our power to bring people together, but these attempts could fail. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. Allah rewards righteous deeds, whether they are successful or not. Remember to do righteousness with the reward of Allah in mind.
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. (Quran 4:135)
Sometimes we must witness against ourselves if we have done wrong.
Being stubborn and not admitting fault where fault is due has destroyed many families, communities, and even societies. Being just and witnessing to the truth whatever it may be, can go a long way to keeping unity.
Mercy: Islam itself is a mercy to mankind. Allah Himself is the Most Merciful. The Prophet Muhammad said:
Allah is only merciful with those who show mercy to others. (Al-Bukhari)
If we can’t show each other mercy, if we can’t have empathy for others’ feelings, if we can’t have compassion, we will never be successful in the eyes of Allah Almighty.
The easiest way to have mercy for your Muslim brother or sister is to put yourself in their place. Think about how you would like to be treated, and then act accordingly.
If you have ever been stuck in traffic you will know that sometimes dealing with people just takes patience. A lot of patience. And sometimes there is nothing else you can do but be patient. So like Nike says: Just do it! Be patient with a beautiful patience.
In Islam there are some things that are fixed. Salah, for example, is five times a day at set times. But there are also things that have wide parameters. For example, fasting while traveling in Ramadan; you can either continue to fast or break your fast while traveling.
If we do not ascribe to the same set of parameters as our fellow Muslims, we shouldn’t become intolerant of them. We need to understand that judging others by the standards we set for ourselves is intolerant at best and arrogant at worst.
If we love Allah, how can we not love each other?
Love Allah first, and through that love we will become better brothers and sisters, better participants in our communities. We will become a better ummah.
Opening your mind up to understanding someone else’s perspective, experience, and opinion goes a long way. When others see you are trying to find common grounds and creating open dialogue, they will often reciprocate.
This principle is a prevention. Take the middle path of Islam in all matters. Be a well-balanced person who does not go to extremes and does not urge others to go to extremes.
If we each arm ourselves with these 12 Islamic values, peace building in every Muslim community around the world will start from the ground up.
We can’t afford to wait for our leaders to start the process, though many already have. We must take matters into our own hands. And now is the time. Remember:
Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (13:11)
(From Reading Islam archives.)