When Friends Hurt Each Other
by Muhammad Alshareef
One day, Imam Malik entered Masjid An-Nabawi after Asr, and sat down towards the front of the masjid. RasulAllah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam had commanded that anyone who enters the masjid should not sit until he first prays 2 raka’ as a salutation to the masjid. However, Imam Malik was of the opinion that RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam’s forbiddance of praying after Asr took precedence over tahiyyatul masjid. Therefore, Imam Mailk would teach his students to not pray the tahiyyatul masjid if they entered the masjid between Asr and Maghrib time.
At the moment that Imam Malik sat down, a young boy had seen him sit without first praying the 2 raka’ of tahiyyatul masjid. The young boy scorned him saying, “Get up and pray 2 raka’!”
Imam Malik dutifully stood up and began praying the 2 raka’. The students were stunned; what was going on? Had Imam Malik changed his opinion?
After he had completed the salah, the students swarmed around him and questioned his actions. Imam Malik said, “My opinion has not changed, nor have I gone back on what I taught you earlier. I merely feared that had I not prayed the 2 raka’ as the young boy commanded, Allah may include me in the ayah:
And when it is said to them, ‘Bow (in prayer),’ they do not bow (Al-Mursalat 77/48).
Imam Ahmad held the opinion that eating camel meat nullifies ones wudu’; an opinion that the majority of scholars differed from. Some students asked him, “If you find an Imam eating camel meat in front of you and, without first making wudu’, he leads salah, would you pray behind him?”
Imam Ahmad replied, “Do you think I would not pray behind the likes of Imam Malik and Sa’eed ibn Al-Musayyab?”
Allah created humans with differences, and this is the law of creation. On the outside, we all have different languages, different colors, and different cultures. However on the inside, humans were created with many degrees of knowledge, intellect, and comprehension of concepts. This is all a sign of Allah’s all encompassing power to do whatever He wills:
And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge (Ar-Room 30/22).
Humans shall differ, but this is not the issue. The real issue is how a Muslim should confront these differences of opinions, and what should be our relationship with someone of a different opinion.
Allah ta’ala commanded us to call and advise people in this Deen of Al-Islam. Many Muslims set off on this mission blindfolded, not realizing that the map is already in the Qur’an. In fact, in the very same verse where Allah commanded us to call and advise people in this Deen, Allah also taught us how to do it. Read the following verse carefully:
Invite [fi’l Amr – Allah is commanding] to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction and argue with them in a way that is best (An-Nahl 16/25).
There is no need to philosophize or talk in flower gardens. It is right there, plain and simple for anyone who would take heed. There, in that aayah, are the three ingredients to apply when we disagree with someone. The same Allah that taught us to debate the truth also taught us how to do it: with hikmah, good instruction, and to argue in a way that is best.
What does it mean to have hikmah (wisdom) when differing with someone?
The nephews of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam once set one of the most beautiful examples of hikmah in advising others. In their young age, Al-Hassan wal Husayn saw an elderly man performing wudu’ incorrectly. Together they arranged a plan to teach the man without insulting him, advising him in a manner befitting of his age.
They went to the man and announced, “My brother and I have differ over who amongst us performs wudu’ the best. Would you mind being the judge to determine which one of us indeed performs wudu’ more correctly?”
The man watched intently as the two grandsons of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam performed wudu’ in an explicit manner. After they had finished, the man thanked Al Hassan wal Husayn and said, “By Allah, I did not know how to perform wudu’ before this. You have both taught me how to do it correctly.”
We must understand that there are two dimensions to hikmah. First, there is the hikmah of knowledge (hikmah ilmiyyah). And second, there is the hikmah of action (hikmah amaliyyah).
Some people may have hikmah of knowledge. However, we see that when they try correcting others, and advise them, they lack the hikmah of action. This causes many people to reject the hikmah of knowledge.
To illustrate hikmah of knowledge without hikmah of action, a brother once completed salah in a local masjid. He then proceeded to shake hands with the people on his right and left. The brother to his immediate right slapped his hand and snapped, “That is not part of the Sunnah!”
The man replied more correctly, “Oh, is disrespect and insult part of the Sunnah?”
To show hikmah when we differ requires the following:
If we differ, our intentions should be that we are differing in the sincere hope of coming away with the truth. Our intentions should be sincerely for the sake of Allah. We should not differ just to release some hate or envy in our heart. Nor, should we differ to embarrass someone like we may have been embarrassed. RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
“Whoever learns knowledge [knowledge from that which should be sought for the sake of Allah] only to receive a commodity of the material world; he shall not find the fragrance of Jannah on the Day of Resurrection” (Abu Dawood).
2. Kindness and Gentleness
To have hikmah when differing means we should rarely depart from an atmosphere of kindness and gentleness; we should seldom allow ourselves to become angry and raise our voices.
Fir‘own was one of the evilest persons that lived. On the other hand, Musa alayhis sallam was one of the noblest. Look at how Allah told Musa alayhis sallam to advise Fir’own:
Go, both of you, to Fir’own. Indeed, he has transgressed. And speak to him with gentle speech, perhaps he may remember or fear [Allah].
A man once entered upon the khalifah and chastised him for some policies he had taken. The khalifah replied, “By Allah, Fir’own was more evil than me. And by Allah, Musa alayhis sallam was more pious than you. Yet, Allah commanded him to ‘speak with gentle speech; perhaps he may remember or fear (Allah).]’”
3. Take Your Time and Clarify
To have hikmah when dealing with others is to be patient and clarify things before snapping to conclusions. Imam Ahmad narrates with his chain of narrators leading to Ibn Abbas, who said:
“A man from Banu Saleem passed by a group of the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam’s companions [during the time of war]. The man said as salaamu alaykum to them. The companions concluded that he only said as salamu alaykum as a deception to save himself from being caught. They surrounded him, and Malham ibn Juthaamah killed him. From that event Allah revealed the [following] verse:”
O you who have believed, when you go forth (to fight) in the cause of Allah, investigate, and do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of peace], “You are not a believer,” aspiring for the goods of worldly life; for with Allah are many acquisitions. You [yourselves] were like that before; then Allah conferred His favor [i.e. guidance] upon you, so investigate. Indeed, Allah is aware with what you do, acquainted (An-Nisaa’ 4/94).
4. Speak Kindly
Never trade-in kind words for harshness, especially when dealing with other Muslims. In Madinah, Mus’ab ibn Umayr was the first ambassador of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam. Before RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam had arrived in Madinah, Mus’ab taught ahlul-Madinah about Islam, and they began to enter the deen.
This enraged Sa’ad ibn ‘Ubaadah, one of the chieftains of Madinah. He sheathed his sword and set off for the head of Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr. When he confronted Mus’ab, he threatened, “Stop this nonsense you speak, or you shall find yourself dead!”
Mus’ab replied in the way that should be a lesson for us all. Sa’ad did not stop at rudeness and ignorance; he wanted to slit Mus’ab’s throat. But Mus’ab kindly said, “Shall you not sit and listen for a few moments. If you agree with what I say, then take it. And if not, we shall desist from this talk.” Sa’ad sat down.
Mus’ab spoke about Allah and His Messenger until Sa’ad ibn ‘Ubaadah’s face shone like a full moon. He said, “What should a person do who wishes to enter into this Deen?”
Mus’ab told him and then Sa’ad replied, “There is a man. If he accepts this deen there shall be no home in Madinah that will not become Muslim. This man is Sa’ad ibn Mu’aadh.”
When Sa’d ibn Mu’aadh heard what was happening, he was infuriated. He left his home to go and kill this man called Mus’ab ibn Umayr for the dissention he had caused. He entered upon Mus’ab and announced, “You shall desist of this religion you speak of or you shall find yourself dead!”
Mus’ab again kindly replied, “Shall you not sit and listen for a few moments. If you agree with what I say then take it. And if not, I shall desist from this talk.” Sa’ad sat.
Mus’ab spoke about Allah and His messenger until Sa’ad ibn Mu’aadh’s face shone like a full moon and he asked, “What should a person do who wishes to enter into this Deen?”
Look at what a kind word did. Sa’ad ibn Mu’aadh went home to his Madinan tribe that night and announced to them all, “Everything of yours is haram upon me until you all enter into Islam.”
That night, every home in Madinah went to bed with la ilaaha illAllah all because of a kind word.
PART II: Who Wins?
When Mu’aawiyah ibn al-Hakam al-Salami came to Madinah from the desert, he did not know that it was forbidden to speak during the salah. He relates:
“Whilst I was praying behind the Messenger of Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, a man sneezed. So I said, ‘Yarhamuk Allah’ (may Allah have mercy on you). The people glared at me, so I said, ‘May my mother lose me! What is wrong with you that you are looking at me?’ They began to slap their thighs with their hands, and when I saw that they were indicating that I should be quiet, I stopped talking (i.e., I nearly wanted to answer them back, but I controlled myself and kept quiet).”
“When the Messenger of Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam had finished praying – may my father and mother be sacrificed for him – he did not scold me, hit me, or put me in shame. I have never seen a better teacher than him before or since. He just said, ‘This prayer should contain nothing of the speech of men; it is only tasbeeh, takbeer and recitation of the Qur’an’” (Sahih Muslim).
Islam showed us how to differ with one another. Some people think that we should never differ at all, and all disagreements should be avoided. Nay, this is an incorrect assumption, for the Qur’an and Sunnah show clearly that when a mistake is made it should be corrected. Indeed, helping others to do what is right (sincere naseeha) is a requirement of the deen.
We see when the Rasul sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam turned away from Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom, the blind man, Allah corrected him in the Qur’an:
[The Prophet] frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man. But what could tell you that perchance he might become pure [from sins]? Or that he might receive admonition, and that the admonition might profit him (‘Abasa 80/ 1-4)?
When Haatib ibn Abi Balta’ah radi Allahu anhu made the mistake of writing to the kuffar of Quraysh and informing them of the direction in which the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam was headed on a military campaign against them, Allah ‘azza wa jall revealed the words:
O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies as friends (Al-Mumtahinah 60/ 1).
Thus, we learn that when a mistake happens it should be corrected. However, the method of correction is what needs our attention.
Whenever Muslims argue, it is as if each party carries a banner of “I must win and you must lose!” However, careful study of the Sunnah shows us that this is not always the case with the way RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam acted. Consider the following banner’s of RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam:
Banner #1: I Lose and You Win
A Bedouin came to RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam and told him, “Give me from what Allah gave you, not from the wealth of your mother nor from the wealth of your father.” The Sahaabaa were furious at the man and stepped forward to discipline him for what he said. RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam commanded everyone to leave him.
Then by the hand, RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam took the Bedouin home, opened his door and said, “Take what you wish and leave what you wish.” The man did so and after he was done, RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam asked him, “Have I honored you?”
“Yes, by Allah,” said the Bedouin. “Ash hadu an laa ilaaha illAllah, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar RasulAllah.”
When the Sahaabaa heard of how the man changed, RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam taught them:
“Verily, the example of myself, you, and this Bedouin is that of a man who had his camel run away. The townspeople tried capturing the camel for him by running and shouting after the camel, only driving it further away. The man shouted, ‘Leave me and my camel; I know my camel better.’ Then he took some grass in his hand, ruffled it in front of the camel, until it came willingly. By Allah, had I left you to this Bedouin, you would have hit him, hurt him and he would have left without Islam and eventually have entered Hellfire.”
Banner #2: I Win and You Lose
A Muslim should not have an apologetic stance to everything he is confronted with. There are times when the truth must be said, when there is no room for flattery.
When the makhzoomi woman (a woman from an affluent family) stole, people approached RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam to have her punishment canceled. RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam became very angry and stood on the pulpit and announced, “By Allah, had Fatima the daughter of Muhammad stole, I would have cut her hand off.”
There is no room for flattery because the truth must be stood up for. It is here that the etiquette of disagreement should shine.
Banner #3: I Win and You Win
There doesn’t always have to be a loser. In many cases, we see that RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam gave a way out for the people he differed with.
In the letter the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam sent to Caesar, he said, “Become Muslim and you shall be safe; Allah shall give you your reward double!”
He did not say surrender or die or anything of that nature. Rather he said become Muslim and not only shall you win but your victory shall be double.
I shall end with this shining example of how to act with other Muslims from our role model, Abu Bakr radi Allahu anhu:
Abu Bakr radi Allahu anhu once disputed with another companion about a tree. During the dispute Abu Bakr said something that he rather would not have said. He did not curse, he did not attack anyone’s honor, and he did not poke a fault in anyone. All he said was something that may have hurt the other companion’s feelings.
Immediately, Abu Bakr, understanding the mistake, ordered him, “Say it back to me!”
The companion said, “I shall not say it back.”
“Say it back to me,” said Abu Bakr, “or I shall complain to the Messenger of Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam.”
The companion refused to say it back and went on his way. Abu Bakr went to RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam and related what had happened and what he said. RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa salaam called that companion and asked him. “Did Abu Bakr say so and so to you?”
He said, “Yes.”
He asked, “What did you reply?”
He said, “I did not reply it back to him.”
RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Good, do not reply it back to him (do not hurt Abu Bakr). Rather say, ‘May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakr.’”
The Companion turned to Abu Bakr and said, “May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakr! May Allah forgive you O Abu Bakr!”
Abu Bakr cried as he walked away.
Let us develop a resolve to revive this air RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam and his companions breathed: an air of mercy, love and brotherhood.
And Allah knows best.