Do not be divided
Allah Almighty says in the Quran:
وَمَا كَانَ النَّاسُ إِلَّا أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَاخْتَلَفُوا ۚ وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّبِّكَ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ فِيمَا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ
‘Mankind was a single community; then they differed. Were it not for a prior decree from your Lord, the matters over which they had disputed would have been settled.’ [10:19]
In this ayah, Allah is addressing the issue of differences in the Ummah. In the commentary of Ibn ‘Abbas’ (may Allah be pleased with him) on this ayah, he pointed out that there were 10 centuries between Adam and Nuh. People were initially following the way of monotheism and tawheed, but then they started to differ, and that’s when Allah sent messengers – starting with Prophet Nuh.
So much of the guidance in the Quran is about unity of the Ummah and the community. Similarly in the sunnah, we see Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) nurturing his companions to be united. A famous ayah which is widely quoted is:
وَٱعْتَصِمُوا۟ بِحَبْلِ ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًۭا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا۟ ۚ
‘Hold fast to the rope of Allah and do not be divided’ [3:103]
It’s okay to have complementary disagreements
This is a prohibition from Allah against disunity. There is nothing wrong with having different opinions if they complement each other. This is a matter of ease for the Ummah. We can look at the example of Abdullah ibn Masud, who narrated that:
عَنِ ابْنِ مَسْعُودٍ رضى الله عنه قَالَ
سَمِعْتُ رَجُلاً، قَرَأَ، وَسَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقْرَأُ خِلاَفَهَا فَجِئْتُ بِهِ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَأَخْبَرْتُهُ فَعَرَفْتُ فِي وَجْهِهِ الْكَرَاهِيَةَ وَقَالَ كِلاَكُمَا مُحْسِنٌ، وَلاَ تَخْتَلِفُوا، فَإِنَّ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمُ اخْتَلَفُوا فَهَلَكُوا. (البخاري). والرجل المذكور في الحديث هنا هو أُبَيّ بن كعب كما في مسند أحمد.
I heard a person reciting a (Qur’anic) verse in a certain way, and I had heard the Prophet (peace be on him) reciting the same verse in a different way. So I took him to the Prophet (peace be on him) and informed him of that but I noticed the sign of disapproval on his face, and then he said, “Both of you are correct, so don’t differ, for the nations before you differed, so they were destroyed.” [Bukhari]. And the person that has been mentioned in this Hadith is Ubayy bin Ka’b as in Musnad Ahmad.
This was a complementary disagreement. That’s fine. It is contradictory disagreement that is haram. That is what leads the Ummah to fight and kill each other, as we are currently seeing in Sudan – and as we’ve seen many times before, and surely will see many times in the future. These are not complementary differences, but contradictory ones that lead to bloodshed and weakening the Ummah. This is prohibited disagreement.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) emphasised unity
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) always emphasised unity of Ummah – even in something as basic as rows of salah. Abu Mas’ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported in another hadith:
عن أبي مسعود رضي الله عنه قال:
كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يمسح مناكبنا في الصلاة، ويقول: استووا ولا تختلفوا فتختلف قلوبكم. (رواه مسلم).
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) used to gently pat our shoulders when we were standing in rows at the time of Salat and say, “Keep (the rows) straight; and do not differ among yourselves, or else your hearts will differ due to disaccord.” [Muslim]
How Surat al-Fatiha teaches us unity
Even in our own salah, we can see this principle. When we recite Surat al-Fatihah, Allah is teaching us how to be united. The surah starts with praise of Allah, which is an individual conversation between you and Him. But in the middle it shifts from singular to plural: ‘guide US’; ‘you alone WE worship.’ It’s not a single person anymore, it’s the Ummah together. Through our salah, Allah is teaching us how to be united.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) talked about this on many occasions. Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
وعن أنس رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال
لا تباغضوا، ولا تحاسدوا ولا تدابروا، ولا تقاطعوا، وكونوا عباد الله إخوانًا، ولا يحل لمسلم أن يهجر أخاه فوق ثلاث. (متفق عليه)
“Do not harbour grudge against one another, nor jealousy, nor enmity; and do not show your backs to one another; and become as fellow brothers and servants of Allah. It is not lawful for a Muslim to avoid speaking with his brother beyond three days.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) used to make dua for unity
So many of his commands were intended to bring Ummah together. One of the famous Tabi’i, Abi Salama, the son of Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Awf (may Allah be pleased with him) once asked Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) what dua the Prophet (peace be on him) used to start his night prayers with. She said:
عنْ أَبي سَلَمَةَ بنِ عبدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بنِ عَوْفٍ، قالَ:
سَأَلْتُ عَائِشَةَ أُمَّ المُؤْمِنِينَ: بأَيِّ شَيءٍ كانَ نَبِيُّ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عليه وسلَّمَ يَفْتَتِحُ صَلَاتَهُ إذَا قَامَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ؟
قالَتْ: كانَ إذَا قَامَ مِنَ اللَّيْلِ افْتَتَحَ صَلَاتَهُ:
اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ جِبْرَائِيلَ، وَمِيكَائِيلَ، وإسْرَافِيلَ، فَاطِرَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأرْضِ، عَالِمَ الغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ، أَنْتَ تَحْكُمُ بيْنَ عِبَادِكَ فِيما كَانُوا فيه يَخْتَلِفُونَ، اهْدِنِي لِما اخْتُلِفَ فيه مِنَ الحَقِّ بإذْنِكَ؛ إنَّكَ تَهْدِي مَن تَشَاءُ إلى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ (مسلم)
When the Prophet ( peace be upon him) got up at night he began his prayer by saying,
“O Allah, Lord of Jibraīl, Mīkaīl and Israfīl,
Creator of the heavens and the Earth,
Knower of the Unseen and the Seen.
You judge between Your servants in that which they have disputed.
Guide me to the truth by Your leave, in that which they have differed, for verily You guide whom You will to a straight path.” [Muslim]
This was the dua that he made every night. The last part of it is an ayah from the Quran, ayah 46 from Surat az-Zumar.
قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ فَاطِرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ عَالِمَ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ أَنتَ تَحْكُمُ بَيْنَ عِبَادِكَ فِي مَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ
Say, “Our Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the unseen and seen. You will judge between your servants regarding what they had differed about.”
وَقَالَ سَعِيدُ بْنُ جُبَيْرٍ (التابعي الجليل): إِنِّي لَأَعْرِفُ آيَةً مَا قَرَأَهَا أَحَدٌ قَطُّ فَسَأَلَ اللَّهُ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَعْطَاهُ إِيَّاهُ، قَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى: ﴿قُلِ اللَّهُمَّ فاطِرَ السَّماواتِ وَالْأَرْضِ عالِمَ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهادَةِ أَنْتَ تَحْكُمُ بَيْنَ عِبادِكَ فِي مَا كانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ﴾. تفسير القرطبي.
Saeed bin Jubair (the great Tabi’i) commented on the Aya and said: I know a verse that no one has ever read and asked Allah for something that He would not give it to him. Tafseer Al-Qurtubi.
وكان أبو العالية الرياحي (من كبار التابعين) يقول : في هذه الآية المخرج من الشبهات والضلالات والفتن . ابن كثير.
Another great Tabi’i, Abu Al ‘Aliyah Ar-Riyahi (may Allah be pleased with him) used to say: In this verse, there is a way out of doubts, delusions and Fitan temptations. Ibn Kathir.
We ask Allah to bring the hearts of the Ummah together enable us to be united again.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim 5th May 2023
Transcribed by Hana Khan
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