by John Andrew Morrow (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 47, No. 5, Shawwal, 1439)
In our continuing discussion with Dr. John Andrew Morrow, we conclude by asking him about practical steps on how to achieve unity among Muslims. He is best known for his Covenants’ Initiative for Muslims and Christians.
CI: What practical steps can be taken to develop unity among Muslims of different schools of thought in Islam?
We should commence by being human beings, God’s creation, the children of Adam and Eve (a). We should appreciate human unity within diversity. We need to respect one another. As Imam ‘Ali said, “People are of two kinds. They are either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity.” Respect is one of the Seven Grandfather teachings of the indigenous nations from the Eastern Woodlands of North America. We must honour all of creation. This is why racism and sexism are unacceptable in Islam. Tawhid literally means to make as one, to unify, and to bring together. Tawhid, unity or oneness, is theological, social, economic, and political. As Muslims, we seek to unite and not to divide. Just like we need to be exposed to people of different colors and cultures when we are young, we need to be exposed to people of other creeds, denominations, and schools of jurisprudence, theology, and spirituality. This is why comparative jurisprudence is so important. Muslim children should learn that there is more than one way of doing things and that jurisprudence is not the goal: it is the means to the goal, namely, conformity to the One God. It is not how you pray that is important, namely, whether your arms are crossed or are left hanging, the important thing is to pray. While Muslims should follow one way of doing things, otherwise it results in confusion and chaos, they should recognize that the other ways are perfectly valid as well. Muslims need to be taught critical thinking, from an early age, as opposed to blind following. Masjids should be open to Muslims of all schools of jurisprudence and thought. They should be open to all genders. They should also be open to non-Muslims who wish to listen and learn without necessarily participating in prayers. It has become à la mode for open-minded Muslims to engage in interfaith dialogue. While this is important, it is imperative that we have intra-faith dialogue. I know one gentleman who is very active in Christian-Muslim dialogue. He is also of the opinion that Shi‘is are kafirs whose blood is permissible to shed. In his words, “Shi‘is are worse than Jews and Christians.” How tolerant is that? Let us put our cultural baggage, preconceptions, prejudices, stereotypes, misconceptions, and slanderous allegations aside and learn from one another. As Almighty Allah (swt) says in the glorious Qur’an, He made us different so that we would get to know one another; not so that we may despise one another (49:13). So, let us reach out to our neighbours; let us make acquaintances, and let us make new friends.