From Issue: 689 [Read full issue]
How to Differ
'The problem with Muslims is that they cannot agree on anything.' We have heard this statement countless times in communities across the Muslim world. This is untrue. Our dilemma is that we do not know how to disagree.
There is a certain spirit of mercy and tolerance that must prevail when Muslims differ. That can only happen when a person begins to understand that the Shariah, which touches all of human activity, is miraculously flexible.
Yet the message that Islam is a comprehensive way of life will be empty if we fail to agree on the mentality that one must come to the Shariah with, and to recognise that understanding is a human quality which can naturally result in varied opinions and conclusions.
We need to have a new attitude and fresh way of thinking about the world of differing. In this direction, it is hoped that we can agree on the following 'heart-set':
1. Whosoever accepts true Tawhid, Allah's Oneness, expressed in the Quran and the Sunnah, is a brother or a sister to every Muslim and must be loved and accorded loyalty and support based on the integrity of that commitment.
2. The principal Muslim references are the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His messenger. Their interpretation must be based on the principles of the Arabic Language, without contriving meanings.
3. Blind or absolute loyalty to one person or a particular juristic School is not befitting of any Muslim. The Shariah recognises the wisdom of following juristic authorities; learn the basis of their judgements and approach them with an open mind for guidance or correction - even if they differ with one's own bias or juristic affiliation.
4. All that has been reported to us from preceding generations (in harmony with the Book and Sunnah of the Prophet) is accepted with awareness of the context involved. Insult, accusation, and innuendo regarding people of the past are beneath the dignity of a Muslim. (See Quran 2: 134)
Let our position towards fiqhi differences regarding the details of the Shariah go only this far: 'Our opinion is correct, but liable to misjudgements; differing opinions are misjudgements, but plausibly correct.'
Islam: The Way of Revival,"Understanding Juristic Differences" -Ahmad Zaki Hammad, pp. 209-218