Dealing with Differences


"Islam teaches that wudu is done this way." The man said confidently.

"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 be 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 33:21)

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 Jews were arguing with the orthodox who were in turn calling the reform Jews 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 present.

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.

Yahiya Emerick was a former vice principal at an Islamic school, President of the Islamic Foundation of North America and a Muslim author and has written many articles that have been published in local as well as national magazines, both in North America and abroad. He was born into an American Protestant Christian family and converted to Islam in 1989. Amirah Publishing was founded by Yahiya Emerick in 1992 in order to further his ideal of publishing American-oriented literature on Islam. Emerick's juvenile fiction books are amongst the very first examples of the Islamic Fiction genre.http://islamicfictionbooks.com/ifbauthors.html In addition to being an author he is also a lecturer and educator with national recognition. One of Emerick's books has been adopted into the curriculum of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the world's oldest college and the foremost in Islam.


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  21 Comments   Comment

  1. Sylvia Horton from Canada

    Salam Alaikum,

    I think that I have read an article like this before. Anyhow, I did enjoy reading this. It sickens me to see the news, or read something in the newspaper that refers to Muslims killing eachother. It really saddens my heart. Everyone has differences, but our Prophet (pbuh) taught us how to deal with them. I wish some of our so called Muslim leaders would study the Quran and Hadith, maybe there wouldn't be so much killing amongst one another if they did. Thanks for using Quran and Hadith to strengthen your case. This is a good article to read.

    May Allah reward you and your efforts.

  2. S.M. Risham from Sri Lanka

    Of course, there can be no deviation from the Quran and the Hadith. But, we must make all muslims understand that any tendency to disagree with the two and have one's own opinion and the advice of quack scholars would be very dangerous. Differences are inevitable but Islam is one.

  3. muslimmah from Slovakia

    assalamu alaykum,

    good article but I don't like when there is not the source of a hadith mentioned. straight the first hadith in the article is a weak hadith and is not mentioned in any of the 6 books of hadith and its Isnad is not known. it's good when the author is careful about such information. however, I like the content of the article.

  4. maruf from nigeria

    this is good and articulate article, please keep it up

  5. Taher from INDIA

    As salaam alie kum!

    Please give reference for the paragraph as below) u wrote in the article :

    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 be 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.

  6. dhikirulah abd' salam from nigeria

    May Allah continue to preserve you for Islam.Your article is incisive,apt,straight to the point.It really touches my heart.How I wish all muslims had access to this article.I will appreciate it if you could be sending your articles to my mail box.salam

  7. Humble individual from Singapore

    'Variety is the spice of life'. I believe there's ultimate Good in all situations (even in situations where at 1st seem bad or sad). i'm grateful to Allah to help me to remain patient, respectful & more tolerant with all humans globally. Also be aware of different viewpoints /perspective and know what is really true.

  8. Abubakar Yusuf Ahmad from Nigeria

    Akhramakallah, yes if a muslim should understand this it will surely lead him to be among the one's to go to paradise (quran & hadith )no sect name attached. And will make him understand every muslim's view, for with this is the only way not to go out of the way.May ALLAh help us to understand what he want us to do, BARAKALLAH.

  9. AEJEAZ from india

    Alhamdullilah it's an excellent article, we desperately need more articles like this to unite muslim ummah.

  10. nasir mansur from nigeria

    masha Allah Yahya this is wonderfull article .may Allah reward you ,

  11. SANUSI UMAR from NIGERIA

    May ALLAH bless you for this article, we need more of it to unite our muslims ummah

  12. Hassan Abdur-Raheem from USA

    I was going to make a comment, but what can anyone say that is better or more significant than the following verse from Quran.

    Quran 16:125

    Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful exhortation; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.

  13. Tanweer Ahmad from Kashmir J&K

    Assalamu Alaikum, I personally congratulate and appreciate Mr. Yahya Emerick for this extra ordinary article, Insha Allah I will try my best to spread it to as many Muslim Brothers as I can and also it will be shortly published on our website plz vist us: http://www.soqte.org especially it will be available for free download in our Islamic Mega Downloads at http://www.soqte.org/megadownload.html in which we have uploaded almost 20GB of Islamic Collections. Insha Allah. May Allah make your way easy towards Jannatul Firdous and fill your heart with Imaan, Noor and Taqwaa. Ameen Yours in Islam Wassalam

  14. LeilaMohamed from USA

    I am grateful that Brother Emerick illuminates the teaching in Islam where tolerance towards all positions is the example of the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh); however, the examples of the Jewish and Christian participants in the dialogue he describes, should help us to extend the tolerance, peace and brother-, sister-liness to all religions, to all peoples, rather than becoming prideful that being Muslim is to discern and be the best example of all humanity. When we truly follow the Prophet's example, we are open-hearted and open-minded, patient and curious to learn what the people in our lives at each moment have to teach us, regardless of religion. Still, I am grateful for the peace and openness in Islam that Brother Emerick speaks up and references in Hadith and the Quran. This message is where we, all humanity, come together.

    Alhamdullilah,

    Shukran,

    LeilaMohamed

  15. ANAS ZUBAIR from United Kingdom

    Masha Allah we need more article like these to unite our Ummah. May Almighty Allah bless you all more strength and long life! Jazakallah!

  16. J Hassan from Canada

    This is a superb article. It may be worth noting that a hadith quoted in it, "The blessed prophet once remarked, "Difference (of opinion) in my Ummah are a blessing," itself is considered weak!

    Wassalam.

  17. Amin Osman from Mauritius

    Thank you for this excellent article which I am forwarding to relatives and friends throughout the world.

  18. said liban from Canada

    It is an excellent article. I totally agree with the author. I recently began not to go back to any conference once I notice that the speakers talk against other muslim more than they address to the real enemies of Islam. God bless you.

  19. Br. from USA

    Agreed.

    Alhamdulillah on the inter-faith conference 🙂

    Salaam.

  20. Fatimah Muhammad from Canada

    Mashallah! Excellent article. Yes, there are definitely people trying to destroy us for within. Yes, there are people who use racism, nationalism, sectism, and all kinds of isms to destroy this Umah. During the beginning of the Iraqi war, I used to cry whenever I would see the Sunnis killing the Shias, and vice versa. I could never phantom killing another Muslim. It really was beyond my comprehension. Americans have really done a good job about dividing the Muslims in the Middle East, and in Afghanastain.

    Now, in the West, the thing is, are you a Moderate or Extremist, or Militant. Folks have tried to divide us in that way as well. Trying to labe us. I refuse to let anyone lable me.

    I am happy to say that my husband and I are of a different sect, and we have been married now for 8 years, Mashallah. Neither one pays attention to the fact that we are of a different sect. We consider one another as Muslims and Believers. I did not marry a Shia, nor did he marry a Sunni. We are just married Muslims.

    Salam Alaikum,

  21. nizam from india

    I think, little learning is dangerous. Problem is the blind followers of any religion or madhab. If someone becomes a blind follower of any religion or opinion, he/she is bound to make mistake and not learn from the mistakes. Therefore, islam is a religion of moderation. Indeed, we are all brothers and sisters, bonded by our Iman. Therefore, any other differences in opinion should be sorted out by discussion and open mindedness. One who refuse to accept truth after it has been clear to him/her, according to our beloved Prophet, he/she is proud. We all know Allah does not like proud and arrogant people. So we should try our best to educate ourselves before argueing over something. Thats where we are not good, unfortunately!!! May Allah guide this ummah.