Religion Is Never Meant To Instil Divisive Attitudes
Human affairs are as diverse as times and countries, which give rise to challenges impacting social cohesion. Islam unifies its adherents through identical worldview, faith, spirituality, ethics and legal code.
The four legal schools of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali have a consensus in an estimated 75 per cent of their legal conclusions, reflecting them as a single family of the Sunni, Islamic Law. The remaining 25 per cent variances are basically due to different jurisprudential methodology among the most brilliant of legal experts (mujtahids) ever known to mankind.
However, the variances in detail and rulings ought not to disturb the unity of the people. There is instead a unity of thought, in the principle that the mujtahids validly differ in such specific issues. It concerns branches (far‘iyyat) of the same legal, genealogical tree rooted upon the Qur’an and authentic prophetic way of life.
This ultimately reflects the wisdom of the one God, who governs the diversified affairs of people, generations, times, and regions.
Such legitimate diversity of legal schools has existed for thousands of years, throughout the Islamic world. On the whole, they co-exist in a disciplined and amicable manner, where learned jurists “agree to disagree” or “agree to differ” as long as it is based upon knowledge.
All groups need to realise that hostile attitudes in such specific legal differences are not from Islam. Instead, its worldview promotes universal brotherhood, social goodwill, and scholarly exchanges among the learned.
In the words of Imam al-Ghazali (d. 1111): “The learned ones, in their scholarly encounters, should be mutually supportive and feel delightful with each other’s presence.” Earlier renowned scholars were, on historical record, laden with their intense fraternity, rendering mutual assistance, and sharing each other’s good as well as bad days.
Imam al-Shafi‘i (d. 820) once made the following proclaimation: “Knowledge of the distinguished and highly intelligent luminaries consists of their tenacious affinity (al-‘Ilm bayna ahl al-fadl wa al-‘aql rahimun muttasilun).”
Knowledge and sciences should not be transformed to a hostile tool, destructive of sociable relationship. As Hasan al-Basri (d. 728) said, “The Jurist (Faqih) does not behoove to mocking and enmity.”
Even the Qur’an itself is replete with such a reminder: “He has commanded you about Religion…that you should remain steadfast in It, and do not break up your unity therein” (al-Shura, 42:13). Clearly, from the earliest times, Religion is never meant to instil divisive attitudes.
Indeed, Islam has already been succesful in unifying diverse nations through identical conception of life, belief and faith, spirituality and moral codes.
All schools of Islamic Law are united in believing in the One God, upholding His commands and prohibitions, and devoting themselves to Him, including in establishing a just social order. There is absolutely no disagreement in such fundamental principles.
Unfortunately, allegations of reprehensible innovations (bid‘ah) and misguidance related to variant details of Islamic rulings have continued to disunite the Muslim community. Name calling, verbal harassment and ridicules have led to hostility amongst fellow Muslims.
On the contrary, the unity of Muslims in one shari‘ah is deemed remarkable by Western researchers—like Timothy Winter—who study history and compare it with the fate of the Christian sects that contradict each other.
Western reasearchers’ admiration heightened as unity of the shari‘ah was obtained while at the same time many political upheavals happened throughout Muslim history, such as the rebellion against Caliph Uthman, a war between Caliph Ali and Talhah and Mu‘awiyah, an onslaught by the Khawarij sects, the Mongol conquest, and the Western colonisation.
Without adab (right manners) towards various legitimate schools of thought, more and more disunity and discord will happen. The study of Abdal Hakim Murad notes how al-Tuwayjiri, who originally comes from the same so-called Salafi sect with al-Albani, has issued reproach and allegations against al-Albani merely due to different understanding in the issue of hijab (face veil for women).
Indeed, with no adab in handling different viewpoints, comes oppression of scholarly rights of others, reflecting totalitarian, arrogant, vindictive, and envious attitudes, contradicting adab that is inherent in the Prohetic model, of whom God says, “And We have not send you except as a benevolence extended to all the horizons (rahmatan lil-‘alamin)” (al-Anbiya’, 21:107).