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 Respecting our differences
Imam Malik one day entered the Masjid after Asr. Towards the front of Masjid An-Nabawee he drew closer and sat down. Rasul Allah had commanded that anyone who enters the Masjid should not sit until he first prays 2 rakas as a salutation of the Masjid. Imam Malik was of the opinion however that Rasul Allah`s forbiddance of praying after Asr took precedence and so he would teach his students to not pray the tahiyyatul Masjid if they entered between the Asr and Maghrib time.

At that moment that Imam Malik sat down, a young boy had seen him sit without first praying the 2 raka`s of Tahiyyatul Masjid. The young boy scorned him, "Get up and pray 2 rakas!"

Imam Malik dutifully stood up once again and began praying the 2 rakas. The students sat stunned: What was going on? Had Imam Malik`s opinion changed?

After he had completed the salah, the students swarmed around 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 rakas 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 Wudhu, 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 - then leads the 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. It is the law of creation. Different tongues, different colors, different cultures...all that on the outside. 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 variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are signs for those who know." [30:22]

Humans shall differ, that is not the issue. The issue is: How as a Muslim should one 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 was there in the Qur`an also. In fact, in the very same verse where Allah commanded us to call and advise people in this Deen, Allah 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! " - Surah An-Nahl 16/125.

There is no need to philosophize. No need to talk in the flower gardens. It is right there, plain and simple for anyone who would take heed.

There in that Ayah are the three ingredients to apply when we disagree with someone. The same Allah that taught us to debate the truth, taught us how to do it:

1 - With Hikmah (wisdom)
2 - With good instruction, and
3 - To argue in a way that is best.

What does it mean to have Hikmah when differing with someone? The grandsons of Rasul Allah(saw) once set one of the most beautiful examples of Hikmah in advising others. Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn - in their young age - once saw a senior 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.

Together they went to the senior and announced, "My brother and I have differed 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 Rasul Allah performed Wudu in an explicit manner. After they had completed, he thanked them 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. Firstly, there is the Hikmah of knowledge - Hikmah Ilmiyyah. And secondly, there is the Hikmah of Action - Hikmah Amaliyyah.

Some people may have Hikmah of knowledge. But we see that when they try correcting others, advising them, they lack the Hikmah of Action. This causes many a common folk to reject the Hikmah of knowledge.

To illustrate this hikmah of knowledge without Hikmah of action, a brother once completed the Salah in a local Masjid and 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 most correctly, "Oh, is disrespect and insult part of the Sunnah?"

To show Hikmah when we differ requires the following:

Sincerity

One: 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 sincere to Allah.

We should not differ just to release some hate or envy in our heart. We should not differ to embarrass someone like we may have been embarrassed.

Rasul Allah 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." - An authentic hadith narrated by Abu Dawood in Kitab Al-Ilm.

Kindness and Gentleness

Two: 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 (Pharaoh) was one of the evilest people that lived. Musa was one of the noblest. Look at how Allah told Musa 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 eviler than me. And by Allah, Musa was more pious than you. Yet, Allah commanded him...`And speak to him with gentle speech, perhaps he may remember or fear (Allah).`"(by Muhammad Alshareef )