Winning the Unity in Islam
Delivered by Dr. Tallal Alie Turfe, author of "Patience" Unity" and "Energy"
June 29, 2013
One of the greatest gifts that Allah has bestowed upon us is the affection in our hearts:
“And (moreover) He has put affection between their hearts: not if you had spent all that is in the Earth, could you have produced that affection, but Allah has done it: for He is Exalted in Might, Wise.” (Qur’an, Anfal, 8:63)
The remembrance of Allah and sabr (patience) will guide our hearts to be humble and open for knowledge to enter and solidify our faith. Although it is one’s right to believe that his madhhab (school of thought) is the best one, it is not the right to ridicule and humiliate the followers of another madhhab. Here we should not put a barrier between the followers of different madhhabs. However, we should guard against fragmenting Islam:
“As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you have no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did.” (Qur’an, An’am, 6:159)
As fragmenting Islam is forbidden, then how can Sunnis and Shi’as maintain their own views without sacrificing their desire for unity? Some may say that their insistence on truth is a prerequisite for unity, and that they cannot and will not compromise the truth. To become united will necessitate the humility to rethink some things that have been very important to us.
Our challenge is to sustain and intensify the unity in light of the complexity of issues causing problems in the Muslim world. In unity there is strength. While we need to address the issues we face from non-Muslims, we also need to address our own social problems, such as divorce, unwed mothers, crime, alcoholism, drugs, and suicide.
If it is vital for all Muslims to unite in the spirit of brotherhood, then why is it not a reality? There are many reasons, and some of these are the result of hatred, suspicion, intolerance, and deficiencies in control and collaboration. The underlying root cause of these deficiencies is jahilmurakkab (closed-minded ignorance) that impedes learning and understanding. The danger is that those afflicted with this ignorance will render views and analyses, even though they lack the knowledge to do so.
By seeking knowledge we are enlightened. Knowledge is the lamp that illuminates the soul and brings about happiness. Winning the struggle against ignorance will require leaders with knowledge and wisdom who understand the dilemma we face. The issues we face in America are far more difficult and complex than they have ever been. Yet, to participate requires that we understand the relevant issues before us.
Unity is not something we invent; it is Allah’s Gift. Let us exhaust every possibility and leave no stone unturned in the quest for unity. Let our efforts be the result of an earnest desire to succeed, as we celebrate our differences as windows of opportunities. Our pledge to unity must begin within ourselves, within our families, within our communities, and with each other. As we engage in dialogue, let us seek to understand before we seek to be understood.In winning the unity, we must overcome our prejudice in order to rebel against the ignorance of intolerance and fanaticism.
It is not sufficient to simply make our intention to unify and then forget about it. Bringing discipline into our intention requires a shift in our awareness. We have intention not just of the mind but also of the heart. Rather than searching for our intention, we simply become that intention. Our intention to engage in effective dialogue must adhere to the following:
Atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.
Free expression of ideas and thoughts.
Promoting open-mindedness and regard for different points of view.
Deciding on an outcome after carefully considering alternatives.
However, at the center of many dialogues are obstacles such as:
Preconception and narrow-mindedness.
Opposition and antagonism.
Absence of constructive criticism.
Disrespect for others.
Conflict resolution can help overcome these obstacles, as it encourages us to be proactive and face conflict, not avoid it. There needs to be a transformation of the inner self in order to resolve deep-rooted conflicts. Empathy allows us to understand the needs and concerns of each other. Tolerance is the vehicle by which empathy can manifest itself.
Tolerance acknowledges self-respect and equality. It is through the spirit of detachment that we experience the meaning of tolerance to help influence change for the sake of unity. This does not mean that we should forego our differences. Instead, these differences should lead to enrichment rather than provocation.
To reconcile necessitates an understanding that all parties in a conflict are hurt, and their wounds are deep. How we heal the wounds is to have a compassionate understanding about the conflict. What goes a long way towards reconciliation is to be good listeners…to be non-critical and non-divergent in the exchange of discussion. The listener does not decide in advance who is right and who is wrong and then seeks to rectify it.
We must be cautious about the pessimists and cynics who will say that reconciliation is not possible. These skeptics believe that reconciliation is dreadfully culture bound, unattainable, and unrealistic.Reconciliation does not mean giving up one’s individuality or sacrificing one’s principles, but it does mean engaging in diversity to normalize relationships.
Diversity is the awareness that divergent issues do exist, and that these issues are fomented by distinctly different views. We have been marked more by dissention than by empathy…by intolerance than by understanding…by doubt than by trust.Moreover, we do not take the time to comprehend the issues, but are simply satisfied to pass along unnecessary insults in the place of frank and insightful reflection. It is not that disparities between us do not or should not matter. The issue is whether these disparities should be allowed to restrain us from dealing with a greater common enemy: disunity.
To respect diversity we must be willing to listen to the views of others. To value diversity requires a sense of well being that is based on ethics and ideals. To manage diversity necessitates that we be strategically driven and synergistic.Unity in diversity requires leadership. As leaders, we must demonstrate a genuine passion by embracing the religious and cultural values of others.
By winning the unity,we must cooperate with each other and be willing to recognize the following:
Diversity is the mechanism by which we can understand each other.
Intellectual development and cross-fertilization of ideas can be the vehicle by which to better understand the perspectives of each other.
Divergent issues and contemporary issues should be approached collaboratively.
Brotherhood and solidarity must be preserved.
While seeking avenues of uniting together, are we up to the task? Are we clear about where we want to go and how to get there? Do we understand our responsibilities? We need a positive vision about what we are trying to do. We need to guard ourselves against complacency.
We need to manage our own anger and hostility…to express feelings without hurting others…to communicate in ways that deescalate conflict…to establish limits and comprehend what is negotiable. Can we create a future in which we live peacefully and in harmony with each other? We need to understand from where our own unresolved feelings of frustration and despair arise, and to resolve them.
For unity to emerge, children of the future must be the leaders and advocates of that vision. As we spend time with children, we will find that they have something to teach us…their innocence…their trust. Children come into the world carrying the light of unity within them. They can show us how to be unified…how to be absorbed in the present. While children can help us rediscover unity, they need to see us working for unity.
Today, there is great demand for eyes that see, ears that hear, minds that think, and hearts that feel. We can no longer be too content in our own respectability nor too complex and too difficult to please because of our own self-importance. As disunity has been unfolded in our presence, we must open our eyes to its disease, open our ears to the call for brotherhood, broaden our minds by being tolerant, and soften our hearts by self-restraint. We must live the life that is compassionate and self-denying.
We must have the will and courage to stand against the multitude, to follow our own light, and to take the ridicule visited upon us. We must take an active part in the quest for tolerance and cooperation not just to get something out of it but, more importantly, to put something into it. We need to unify with all our power, so that peace and brotherhood shall no longer be the rhetoric of the platform but dominant, sovereign facts of life.
Here is an optimism that can be attained by all. It is founded not so much on thought as on action. We must be nurtured in the ideals of true brotherhood. Real love for Islam, not fragmentation; universal knowledge, not ignorance; respect for man, not envy – these are the virtues of truth. These are the true standards of equality and justice. These spell the end of jealousy. These bring in the day of promise. These usher in the brotherhood of man. In the progress of unity, the dream of yesterday becomes the confident hope of today and the realized fact of tomorrow.
Each of us owes an obligation to winning the unity. It is not going to be won without great sacrifice. If we have good sense, if we have courage, if we have integrity, we will succeed in our quest for unity. The challenge for us is to join together – hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart, in unity. Let us begin – right now!
Let it be our prayer that our generation will see the dawn and sunrise of permanent unity. Today is a sunrise of hope, a unique and wonderful opportunity for us to work together in unity.
“And hold fast, all together, by the Rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves….” (Qur’an, Al-i-‘Imran, 3:103)