Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Over the past several weeks, while being blessed with working on a very valuable Islamic project and meeting amazing Muslim scholars and community leaders from different walks of life, this writer had to constantly take into account the Devil’s ultimate tool in 1438 AH, sectarianism.
We all hear about the tragic effects of sectarianism from the Muslim world on a daily basis through the media but this phenomenon has infected the Muslim mind even in other parts of the world. Fortunately, I did not have to deal with sectarianism on the same level as people in Iraq or Syria have had to contend with; my interaction with this devilish phenomenon has been more mundane, but also very practical.
Before every meeting I had to make sure that the documents I referenced did not appear to be overly inclined to any school of Islamic jurisprudence. Even my greetings had to be slightly adjusted in order to “blend in.” Once into conversation, I would establish the juristic leanings of the person I am conversing with, I would make sure to be alert in order not to come across as being from the “opposite” camp. In 1438 AH, it is no longer enough to have basic manners, perform the daily prayers facing the Qibla and acknowledge the Qur’an as an existential reference point. One’s beard style and the position of one’s hands in Salah have, unfortunately, become more important for many Muslims and affect their conduct with fellow Muslims.
However, the so-called opposite side, no longer means Sunni vs Shia as we hear on the news channels, the corporate media and their masters tirelessly make sure that within Sunni and Shia schools of law one has to also tread within a particular narrative. I have seen first-hand semi-negative reactions of Sunnis and Shias when one would mention a persona or a concept with which people were not fully on the same page.
Dealing with the phenomenon of sectarianism did not simply have an intellectual/theoretical effect on me. Sometimes I would have to reproduce different types of documents for different audiences at a significant material cost in order not to make my interlocutors feel outside of their comfort zone. Sometimes, I would even have to excuse myself right before the prayer time in order not to perform the prayers slightly differently. This could have been my own prejudice, but I just could not risk the future of our joint project and take it for granted that my Salah will not “spoil” the relationship with a fellow Muslim.
I would simply drive to another mosque, waste gas and increase my carbon foot print in order not to jeopardize the future of our strategic project which will benefit everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Insh’Allah (God willing).
All of the above nonsense must end and it must end soon if Muslims want to achieve tangible strategic results in this world and salvation in the next.
I would like to reference Dr. Jonathan Brown’s must read book titled Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. Dr. Brown points out that a staunch Shi‘i scholar, Ibn Uqba (died 332AH/944CE), who was one of the most important Shi‘i hadith collectors and scholars, “was praised by the most prominent Sunni critics of his day, like al-Daraqutni and Ibn ‘Adi, and later scholar al-Subki (died 771AH/1370CE) called him… one of the hadith masters of the Shariah; this, even though he was such a staunch Shiite that he occasionally disparaged Abu Bakr and Umar… Not only did Sunnis appreciate Ibn Uqba’s command of hadith transmissions, they also valued his opinions on evaluating transmitter criticism. In fact, the earliest evaluation of al-Bukhari’s and Muslim’s famous Sahihayn comes from Ibn Uqba (p. 142).
The above fact should make Muslims realize that in early Islamic history, Sunnis and Shi‘is adhered strictly to the principle of agree to disagree in a very respectful manner. Today can Muslims imagine a scholar of any of the main schools of Islamic thought being openly critical of the fundamentals of other schools, and at the same time be highly regarded and praised by the scholars of those schools? Almost impossible to imagine, thanks mainly to external cultivation of sectarianism. For the major part of Islamic history scholarly disagreements were seen as something normal and rarely served as catalysts for conflict or violence.
I would like to end with a genuine wish for the entire world. The tribe which has ignited the flames of sectarianism and their external benefactors soon taste the sharp flavor of their own political and economic decline.