Causes of Differences
A survey of Islamic thought and history and an exploration of the causes of conflicts shows that they centered on the following points: 1- Scientific differences and the multip-licity of the Methods of Ijtihad, Comprehension and Istinbat:
It is a scientific conflict, like the differences of whether a given tradition truly came from the Prophet (s.a.w.) or not, or the differences on the meaning of a particular Qur'anic verse, or the rules derived from it, or the abrogation of it by a another verse or not, or accepting a particular historical event or rejecting it, or the differences on whether to accept certain terminologies, such as, `Qiyas' (analogy) and `Istihsan' (approval) or not, or to accept the companions school of thought `madhab al-Sahabi' as a compulsory verdict or not, which continues even to the present day.
Just as these issues and realities have a direct bearing on one's understanding of Islamic legislation and ideology, the level of knowledge of the scholar practicing `Istinbad', and his ability, also affect the understanding.
Scientific conflicts take a great share in indoctrinating the academic mentality and promoting the by and opinions through conducting provocations, criticisms, dialogues and methodology in order to defend the accepted theory.
2- Bigotry and Selfish Desire: This is where the greatest problem lies, because bigotry, corrup-tion and selfish desire negate all objectivity, scientific thinking and the methodology of dialogue. Instead it brings about mental impedi-ments, deepens the conflicts, sows hatred and vengence on the opposite view. In this case, the scientific dialogue gives way to protecting selfish interests and personal accomplish-ments rather than depending on the truth, principles and scientific reality.
3- Political and Worldly Interests: The beginning of the conflicts which occured on the day of the Prophet's (s.a.w.) demise, was political in nature, as there are differences on the understanding of the Qur'an and the Sunna (the Prophet's Traditions) and their applications. These facts became conspicuous during the time of the companions, especially under the rule of Uthman bin Affan, the third caliph, when he mainly depended on the Umayyads in his administration. The revolt against Uthman and his assassination, the outbreak of armed conflicts between the constituted authority of Imam Ali (a.s.) and the seccesionist Mu'awiyya bin Abi Sufyan are all proofs of political differences.
As a result, two governments existed in the Islamic community, the cause of which was political differences, as well as, the differences in understanding and applying of the Book and the Sunna. One of these two governments represented the Omayyads, which was considered, by the companions, as having submitt-ed to Islam by force (after oppressing and subsequently fighting it). The second government consisted of Imam Ali (a.s.) and the Prophet's companions `sahaba' both the immegrants `Muhajirin' and the helpers `Ansar' who made up the vanguards for building Islam under the leadership of Imam Ali (a.s.), and saw his superiority in the field of leadership and legislation.
When the two governments became distinct from one another, the Omayyad government consolidated its power by adopting the ideological conflicts and tyrannizing the scholars and men of political and jurisprudential thought who subscribed to the school of Ali and his household `Ahlul-Bait' . This action was meant to exclude them from the political struggle thereby eliminating any political opposition. A war of propaganda and slander was waged against the followers of Ah-lul-Bait (a.s.) and their ideology.
Then came the Abbasids dynasty which proved more oppressive and terroristic to the Ahl-ul-Bait (household) of the Holy Prophet (a.s.). It is noteworthy that the tyranny of these dynasties did not stop at the Imams of the Ahl-ul-Bait (a.s.), and the scholars of their school, but affected the founders of other Islamic schools, as well.
Those people with political interests, the sycophants and beneficiaries had their day, sowing those differences between the Muslims, applying it in order to conselidate their power and posing as defenders of this school or that, to gain followers and protectors. Islamic history is replete with bloody wars between the rulers who exploited that destructive weapon.
4- Historical Differences: History is nothing but a register of events and occurances which took place in the past according to the social laws. The Muslims paid great attention in writing the life history of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and Islamic history throughout the ages. Nevertheless, historical records are afflicted by a great problem which shows itself as the absence of fairness and objectivity and the existence of forgery, or skipping a good deal of facts in order to please political figures, or because of enmity towards other ideological or jurisprudential schools, or because of blind bigotry. These attitudes had distorted the reality and other historical facts and records.
After the spreading of knowledge and aware-ness and the later generations becoming enlighten-ed, the rise of Islamic reform movements, the clamour for proximity of the Muslims, their consciousness of the danger of contemporary `Jahiliyya' and the political, ideological and the civilizational challenges, caused the Muslims to turn to ideological dialogue and scientific investi-gation. The first step they took was to start from the postulates and facts accepted by all, so that these axioms would be the foundation of understanding and dialogue in establishing the truths.
It is pertinent, here, to mention the steps to be taken in the dialogue between Muslims. Scientific experience has proved that these steps can contribute immensely in bringing about the mutual understanding and removal of the mental and ideological obstacles in the way of proximity. We hope that these steps can make the foundation of ideological and political unity among the Muslims.
Those concerned with this difficult task should also be able to differentiate one sect from another and employ the appropriate methods in discussing with each other. The Islamic postulates accepted by all Muslims and on which any dialogue between members of different sects or schools of thought should be based are centered on the following points:
1- That every person who testifies to the two testimonies (that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad (s.a.w.) is His Messeng-er) is a Muslim. He enjoys the rights other Muslims enjoy and is charged with responsibilities similar to theirs.
2- That disunity, disputes and enmity between the Muslims are forbidden in Islam. All the Muslims accept this fact and their duty is to act as one community with the same objectives.
3- The Muslims share the view that to exercise Itihad is allowed and that Islamic rules are of two categories; those that occur in clear texts and those that are the result of `Ijtihad'. That there shall be no Ijtihad where a clear text exists. That the result of `Ijtihad' is, at most, speculative and therefore liable to criticism and abrogation where the mistake of the scholar exercising Ijtihad is established. On these bases, the scientific dialogue concerning the disputed issues takes off.
4- The Book and the Sunna are the basic proofs accepted by all Muslims and the yardstick for all other disputed proofs. The discussion must start from this fact, then proofs are adduced for the soundness or otherwise of other sources of Islamic jurisprudence, such as analogy `qiyas' and approval `istihisan'. Similarly, the proofs for the controversial secondary rules `ahkam al-far`iyya' are tested.
5-The experts on hadith and other great learned scholars from different Islamic schools and sects have compiled the hadith from different chains of narrators producing their compendiums of hadith. Each one of these scholars had his narrators by whom he related the hadith and ascribed it to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.).
The books compiled by these scholars contain conflicting narrations coming from those narrators and the scholars from different schools of thought never approved the soundness of whatever is recorded in those compendiums. Each scholar, therefore, holds his view and criticizes that of others.
The method of scientific dialogue which is followed by the true believers in establishing unity and mutual understanding between the Islamic schools of thought, makes it incumbent on the Muslims to consent to the facts accepted by the scholars. They should examine the chains of narrators of controversial narrations to know the extent to which they conform to the Book of Allah and the unanimously confirmed hadiths of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.). This will help them to know the sound hadith and free them from ideological enmity which the enemies of Islam, who reap benefits from our disunity, try to perpetuate.
It will also make them realize that the weak narrations found in the hadith books, are regarded as a pretext for attacking one another, being denounced as renegades or sinners or villifying others. Definitely, scientific investigation, methoological intellect, sincere and true approach in searching for facts, is the only healthy way for conducting dialogue among Islamic schools. This same method must be employed when studying books on history and biography in order to establish historical facts, correcting historical distor-tions and cleansing it of falsehood and interpolations.
Procedures of Missionary Work
The methods and means of delivering Islam to the audience and missionary work in general, is among the critical issues which contribute to either success of missionary activities or its failure. This is so because the objectives which the Islamic message is trying to achieve and contribute in bringing into existence are fundamental issues. These are:
1- The Islamic principles, values and thoughts, themselves, in their capacity of being suitable and in conformity with the intellect, science and unimpaired human taste and their natural ability of solving the problems of mankind and building a growing civiliza-tion.
2 - The level to which Islamic mujtahids `jurist capable of exercising `Ijtihad', thinkers and theoretic-ians understand those Islamic principles, thoughts and values which they address to others and their power of theorizing and formulating their `ijtihad'.
3- The means, procedures and institutions to be employed in delivering the Islamic Message.
4- The level of personality and extent of commit-ment of the Islamic missionary, his awareness, ability in social interaction, understanding others and examp-lification of Islamic principles and values in his behaviour and actions that can influence others.
5- The level of experience in applying the Islamic system, the adequacy of machinery of the Islamic government representing the religion of Islam and its capability of examplifying the Islamic principles in forming the state and society and in individual behaviour.
All these fundamentals have a great impact in the success of missionary work or its failure. Therefore, the Holy Qur'an has treated the issue of means and procedures of propagation, imparted awareness and activism to the propagators, stressed on the importance of presenting a living example for practising Islam and proper unders-tanding and awareness and the method of interact-ing with the audience in these words:
"And call you unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and kindly exhortation and dispute with them in the manner which is the best; verily you Lord knows better of him who has gone astray from His path; and He knows best of those guided aright." Holy Qur'an (Nahil 16: 125)
The importance the Qur'an attached to means and procedures of propagation was as great as that which it attached to its aims, objectives and the results towards which the whole effort is made.
Because of the importance of the procedures and the personality of the propagators of the Islamic Message, the Qur'an commands that the mission is to be prepared both ideologically and socially and be equipped with means and procedures that will ensure their success. In a similar way it stressed that this important task be assigned to a group and enjoined their proper religious education:
"And that there should be among you a group who call (mankind) unto virtue and enjoin what is good and forbid wrong; and these are they who shall be successful." Holy Qur'an (Al-e-Imran 3: 103)
And He said:
"…; why should not then a company from every party of them go forth that they may acquire (proper) unders-tanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they return unto them…" Holy Qur'an (Tawba 9: 122)
A wrong procedure will definitely damage the reputation of the Message and those who convey it. Not only that, it will distort the pure and crystal clear picture and the attractiveness of the Islamic principles, values and goals. Thus, the procedures and means of conveying the Islamic Message have a mental, ideological and practical influence in the success and or failure of mission-ary work.
There is an important legislative issue here: The procedure and method of propagation is one of man's actions, each of which is controlled by one of the following rules: Obligation `wujub', forbidden `hurmah' or allowed `ibahah'. The laws of Islam do not disassociate the purity of procedure and means from the ends and results at which it aims. The great Prophet (s.a.w.) alludes to this fact:
"Obedience to Allah cannot be achieved through sinful ways".
This shows that Islamic principles do not approve the achievement of aims by all means, because, contrary to Michiviellian politics, the ends do not justify the means. It is, therefore, incumbent on those undertaking missionary work to choose only legal means and methods that conform to Islamic rules through which Islamic aims can be achieved.
The fundamental issues that must be considered here are:
1- The procedure and way of invitation to Islam and the level of thought and social realities. "We, the company of Prophets, have been ordered to address the people according to the level of their intellect". What to note also is the particular situation of every invitee so that we can address him based on Islamic concepts.
Every individual is at a particular level of thinking and mental disposition, consequently, there are certain inlets through which his intellect and heart can be reached so that the Islamic thoughts would not face any internal resistance. This is why it is necessary to study persons and groups and reach a scientific understanding of their natures before addressing them. And objectives of Islam.
2- The real mental, economic, political, social, ideological, etc., needs of an individual or group must be considered. Contemporary man, is indeed, suffering from anxiety and psychological alienation, economic and political problems, social injustice and a host of other encumbrances, just as the society is weighted down by these problems. It is, therefore, foremost to address both the individual and the society on how to solve their problems. This will definitely open up responses from the depths of the heart and the Islamic message will readily be accepted when it becomes clear that it is the only alternative that can bring relief.
3- The invitation must be a gradual process and the Islamic concepts presented in stages so that it will easily be recieved, comprehended and practised.
4- It is worthwhile to arrange a programme which is cultural, informative and practical in nature. This will make propagation a clearly thoughtout affair and not an off handed one. The propagator should start with the fundamentals and the first principles to end up with the intended objectives and results.
5- The propagator should start by addressing his audience from the postulates accepted by both parties; the believer and the audience so that what is agreed on will form the foundation from which we work towards wider horizons and firmer belief in the principles "Say; O people of the Book, come you to a Word common between us and you,…" Holy Qur'an (Al-e-Imran 3:64)
6- To respect the personality of the person and or the party addressed. Let there, in his mind be a correct picture of human dignity and responsibility and his ability to participate in reforming the way of life and building the society.
7- Strengthening the relationship between the present world and the next and making the invitee perceive it so that what motivates him in taking action and undertaking reform will be his turning towards Allah, the Almighty and developing the means of establishing a relationship with Him. This is, indeed, a spiritual and ideological force that gives man an endless stimulaation.
8- There must be a strong interaction of feelings between the caller and those he is addressing, and whose conditions of thought, ethics and worship he is struggling to change, so that they will have a real perception of his concern for their guidance and for improving their condition. This can be done by sharing their sorrows and joys, giving his donation in meeting their needs and feelings on their personal and social distress.
9- Removing the individual or group, which is under invitation, from a corrupt environment that can influence their thoughts, spirits and behaviours and procuring alternative ways of fulfilling their needs for activities and relationship. Such alternatives may include the libraries, a society, a social foundation and religious friends.
10- Mankind has been suffering from injustice and the tyranny of oppressive rulers throughout history. It is, therefore, a fundamental political issue to present Islam as an alternative system which delivers, supports and leads man. This will no doubt wipe out all non-Islamic theories, structures and thoughts and pave the way for man's interaction with Islamic principles and values through active conviction.
11- Sometimes Islamic thoughts and concepts are presented directly by means of dialogue, or giving a presentation of the thought, stand and view of Islam or a comparison between Islam and other systems.
This often has a defined impact. Some other times it proves difficult to introduce Islamic thought directly. In this case, the believer who undertakes missionary work, whether he is a writer or debater or artist, should employ the recreational method that is symbolic and rather unrelated to Islam. This method is usually employed in stories, novels, the theatre, poetry, films, portraits, etc. and has the effect of convincing the other party.
12- To start dialogue on a neutral and objective beginning. If a dialogue starts by cornering the other party and defining the expected result and tenaciously stressing one's view, it will make the other party experience the urge to resist and express his bigotry. Therefore, it is better to start from a position of neutrality and gradually search for the truth, jointly. This will positively affect the codiscussant by having a real feeling that both parties are meerly searching for facts and exploring for the truth in their dialogue. They can, thus, conduct their debate in a receptive and open minded atmosphere with defensive measures and mental obstacles removed.
The Almighty, Allah directed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) to take up this method by saying:
"Say: `Who provides you with sustenance from the heavens and the earth?' Say: `(It is) Allah, and verily (either) we or you are guided aright, or in manifest error?'" Holy Qur'an (Saba' 34: 24)