As one of my dear brothers and fellow students of knowledge told me, “The problem with the Muslims in the West is not knowledge. The problem is they lack the skills to interact with it.” Here is an important article that touches on this subject. learning is one thing. But learning how to carry it is another. I encourage everyone to visit this site and benefit.
Etiquettes of dialogue
November 2, 2007
Etiquettes of Dialogue
The Intellect and understanding are God’s gifts to his servants. The Wisdom of Allah has decreed that the intellectual capabilities and understanding of individuals should differ and vary, just as he has decreed that his blessings and gifts to his servants should differ and vary. Allah says: “that is a blessing and a preference of Allah, he gives it to whoever he wishes and Allah is the blessed exalted’’ [Surah: Jum’a]. Differences occur due to the different levels of understandings, intellectual capacity and ability amongst individual including Du’aat, scholars, organizations, societies and indeed countries.
Discord or khilaf can be a very dangerous matter; it can be more severe than the worship of Idols. Realize that differences will occur; we must understand that differences on the fundamental issues is not permissible. Scholars are agreed that difference is allowed only in the subsidiary established matters of Islam where dialogue is essential for us to come to an understanding and appreciation of the reasons for the difference in question. It is possible that historically the Ummah has not witnessed the vast scale of difference as it is doing now, it is as if everyone has his or her own interpretation regarding matters of Islamic law, even if the person in question is lacking in the requisite knowledge of Islam. This article is aimed at the Islamic workers who have sound understanding of Islam and to the student of knowledge in particular who wish to established the unity of the Muslims.
There are two ways of tackling difference:
2- Scholarly dialogue and discourses. The second method is our subject matter.
Dialogue is said to be more powerful and more effective then Kalashnikov or any other weapon because it relies on internal channels. Perhaps dialogue succeeds where war has failed. You will see this clearly when reading in the history of Islam, that war and force was not the prime option for eradicating disputes. There are many incidents in history; I will cite one that has engraved a mark in the Islamic civilisation.
Imam Baqallani, Suyuti, Shatibi and others have mentioned that at the time of Fitna of the Khawarij, Ali sent ibn Abbas to speak with the rebels. At first he hesitated and said that he fears for ibn Abbas’s life. Ibn Abbas assured him that he would not be harmed because he knows amongst the m that he would not hurt any one. So Ali allowed Ibn Abbas to go and speak with the rebels.
Ibn ‘Abbas relates ‘when I greeted them they replied, ‘Welcome Ibn ‘Abbas, what has brought you here?’ I replied, ‘I have come form the Muhajir the Ansar and the prophet’s Son In Law among whom the Qur’an was revealed. They know its interpretation better than you do. Some of them refused to debate with me because I was from the tribe of Quraish saying that Allah the most Merciful and Great, said: “Nay, but they are a quarrelsome people” (43:58). However, two or three of them suggested that I should speak with them, so I said; Tell me what you have against the son in law of Allah’s Messenger, the Muhajir, and the Ansar among whom the Qur’an was revealed? There is not a single one among you and they know the Qur’an [and it’s] interpretation better than you” they replied with three points, which they had against Ali. When asked what they were, they replied: “Firstly, Ali made men judges in Allah’s affair even though Allah, Most Gracious, has said ‘Judgement belongs only to Allah (An’am.57). So what value are men and their decisions after Allah’s statement?” I said, “that is one point what else?” They replied, “As for the second point, it is that he fought and killed his enemies, yet did not take captives or spoils of war. If it was because the enemy were disbelievers, why was it permissible for us to fight and kill them and not make them captive?” I said, “What is the third point?” They replied, “He erased the title Amir al-Mu’minin from himself. If he is not Amir al-Mu’minin then surely he must be Amir al-Kafirin.” I asked them if they had anything else beside these points, and they replied that these were sufficient. I then said to them, “As for your statement concerning men’s judgement in Allah’s affair. I will recite to you from Allah’s book something which will refute your statement. But if I do so, will you retract your position?” When they replied they would, I said “Verily, Allah has relegated to men an area of his judgement whose value is a mere four dirham, the price of a rabbit, in the verse. “O Believers do not kill game in a state of ihram, if any of you does so intentionally; the compensation is the sacrifice of a domestic animal similar to it near the Ka’ba according to the judgement of two men from among you”, (5:95)
Also, he relegated to men an area of his judgement concerning women and her husband in the verse: “If you fear discord between them, appoint a judge from his family and one from hers to arbitrate. If they wish reconciliation, Allah will make it happen between them. For Allah is All-Knowing, whose expertise knows no bounds”. (4:35)
I implore you, By Allah! Is man’s judgement to reconcile what is between themselves, and prevent the spilling of blood more excellent than man’s judgement over a rabbit and women’s (family obligation and rights) or not? Which of them is more important?” When they replied arbitration I said, “As for your statement concerning Ali’s fighting without taking captives or spoils of war. Does it mean that you would have taken your mother Aisha, May Allah is pleased with her, as a captive? By Allah, if you say that she is not your mother, you have disbelieved and, by Allah, if you say that you would have made her a captive and made permissible what is permissible in the case of others, you have also disbelieved. You are caught between two grave errors, for Allah the most Great and Glorious has said: “The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, his wives are their mothers” (33:6)
I then asked them if they would retract their objection to ‘Ali’s refusal to take his defeated Muslim opponents as captives and they agreed.
Then I said, “As for your statement concerning his erasing the title “Amir Al-Mu’minin”, I will give you a similar example concerning someone with whom you are pleased. On the day of Hudaybiyya the Prophet made a treaty with the pagans represented by Abu Sufyan Ibn Harb and Amr. He told Ali to put in writing for them, so Ali wrote: These are the terms of peace agreed upon by Muhammad, messenger of Allah. However, the pagans objected saying, “By Allah, we do not know you to be a messenger of Allah, for if we did know you to be so, we would have not fought you” The prophet then said, “O Allah, you know that I am a messenger of Allah. Erase it, O Ali, and write: these are the terms of peace agreed upon by Muhammad Ibn Abdillah. By Allah, surely Allah’s messenger is better then Ali and he erased a title from himself”
Nearly two thousand Khawarij retracted their position and left, only because of the scholarly stance which Ibn ‘Abbas made.
Dialogue is the yardstick of man’s intellectual capacity; by it the sincere researcher arrives at the truth when one abides by the principles and the etiquettes. The most important manners of dialogue are:
The discussants should leave the desire to beat or overcome the other person, because that expels sincerity in searching for the truth, and creates hate, enmity and rancour which lead the other person to become haughty and stubborn. Imam as-Shafi’e used to say. “No one has debated with me, except that I wished that the truth will appear on his tongue over mine.”
The discussants should leave publicising themselves and their opinions or the opinions of those who support them, and should leave derogation, vilification and belittling the opinions of their opponents.
They should be cautious that the discussion does not turn into a heated argument or wrangle because that will not bring any good and will not help in arriving at the truth.
The Prophet was reported to have said: “A people did not go astray after they were in guidance except that they were given argumentation”. (Tirmidhi who said it was Hasan)
They should be aware of raising their voices and using inappropriate language. They should beware that the discussion does not change into accusation on intentions and defamation of individuals and groups.
UNDEED THE ADORNMENT OF THE PEOPLE OF KNOWLEDGE AND VIRTUE ARE: CALMNESS, DECENCY, RESPECTABILITY AND DISTANCING FROM VOID CHITCHAT.
The discussants should give adequate chance to the other side to express his or her opinion and also give them opportunity to prove and verify their opinion. They should be very attentive. He should not cut his speech and should wait to speak when the other side completes their sentence. He should make an effort to understand the person’s viewpoint and should know their proofs or any obscurity the other person in depending on during his comment.
They should not invite mockery and making fun of people because that displeases Allah and the people. Also it plugs the ears of people form listening to the truth their hearts from accepting it.
They should keep within the content and subject in criticising opinions and viewpoints; they should keep away from sentimentality and emotional passivity. They should separate between the opinion and the arbitrator of an opinion since most of the people restrict their position and opinions in accordance with the one who is carrying and calling with.
”For how many a true saying is abandoned, because the teller is inglorious amongst the people!
And how many false saying is accepted, because the teller is of high ranks and honour”!
Ali was reported to have said: “Know the men by the truth but do not know the truth by the men”
In a narration from Umar: “Know the truth and you will know its people”.