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The Voice of Unity - Part III: Roots of Division

Oct 14, 2011, 3:22 PM

The prerequisite for success in achieving this grand concepts-i-e., in unifying the Ummah, in holding fast to Allah’s cord, in attaining piety, and in submitting to Allah-is that a group of people bid towards the good and forbid the wrong. Immediately after inviting people to that which is right, the Quran mentions the issue of bidding what is right and forbidding what is wrong. Without a group of spiritual reformists amongst the Muslims who bid towards the good and forbid the wrong, people will naturally tend towards diving into sects and parties; they will undoubtedly lose their piety.           

Therefore, one of the conditions of moving towards piety and unity is that a group of individuals take the responsibility to ensure that Muslims do not leave the boundaries of righteousness and move towards evil. They must be attentive to where the division into sects is taking place and where unity is dissolving. They must warn the Muslims of its dangers.  Such a congregation must exist among the Muslims. If they do exist, then “It is they who are the felicitous.” It is when we take their heed in navigating through the intricate path of Islam and Islamic unity that we too can become felicitous. 

The next two verses return to the discussion of dividing into sects.


Do not be like those who became divided [into sects] and differed after manifest signs had come to them. For such here will be a great punishment, on the day when [some] faces will turn white and [some] faces will turn black. As for those whose faces turn black [it will be said to them], ‘Did you disbeliever after your faith? So taste the punishment because of what you used to disbelieve. (3:105-106)


What does Allah say to those whose faces turned dark? He asks them; “Did you disbelieve after you faith? Did you divided after you unified? Did you turn to the path of evil after you treaded the path of righteousness? Division after unity, in reality, is disbelief after faith. Then He continue 


But as for those whose faces become white, they shall dwell in Allah’s mercy, and they will remain in it [forever]. (3:107)


Pay attention here for it is understood from the sequence of verses that the supporters of unity will have bright faces in this world and will be felicitous in the next. The supporters of division are the opposite-they will be punished in this world and the next; their faces will be dark.            

Islamic unity and brotherhood are blessings of Allah in this world and will cause comfort in the next. On the other hand, division in this world causes punishment in the hereafter. Having a bright face in this world causes the possession of a dark face in the hereafter. The Quran portrays the conditions of fortunate and unfortunate people by these two material terms: bright faces and dark faces.

It is interesting that after discussing this subject-that of unity and division-the Quran returns to the issue of bidding the right and forbidding the wrong. Therefore, first the discussion was about unity and division. Then the issue of bidding the right and forbidding the wrong was raised. The discussion then returned back to unity and division, only to be followed once again by the concept of bidding the right and forbidding the wrong. 


You are the best nation [ever] brought forth for mankind: you bid what is right and forbid what is wrong. (3:110)


As explained, “Right” (ma’ruf) in the context of this verse means unity and brotherhood; “wrong” (munkar) means division into sects and parties, causing differences, and moving towards disbelief from faith. Therefore, the issue of unity and division is completely connected to the issue of bidding the good and forbidding the wrong.

At the end of this set of verses, the People of the Scripture are made as example for us to take admonition from. The verse states:


Abasement has been stamped upon them wherever they are confronted…. (3112)


The conclusion is clear: if Muslims disregard unity and divide up into sects and parties, they will have the same destiny. Looking at the situation today, one can ask the following: Why are Muslims more abased and subjugated than others? Why have others progressed and taken control of Muslims? Before, there were two super-powers in the world; now there is one; in the future, who knows how many super-powers there will be? The point is that all of them are one non-Muslim and wield considerable authority over Muslims. Why? The reason is that Muslims have traversed the path of division-the necessary outcome of dividing into sects and parties is abasement.  


III: Verses which Prohibit Heated Debates, becoming Weak in Religion, Worshiping the World, the Decree if Obedience, and the Decree of Patience


And obey Allah and His Apostle, and do not dispute, or you will lose heart and your power will be gone. And be patient; indeed Allah is with the patient. (8:46)

The obedience of Allah and His Apostle is holding fast to Allah’s cord and piety, which, as was previously stated, are the source of unity and the source of goodness. Here dispute means fighting one another; differences must not present themselves in the form of dispute. What would happen if the differences do reach a state of dispute? You will lose heart. The Arabic term fashal (the verbal noun for tafshalu in the verse) means to lose courage. The Ummah will become a defective and weak ummah which can quickly become abased. Then it states: “And be patient; indeed Allah is with the patient.” If you want to prevent these disputes and fashal you must be patient. Patience has a close relationship with piety because piety cannot occur without patience. It man desires a thing and a satanic thought crosses his mind, he has to be patient and control himself.

There are many types of patience, one of which is patience in the face of sin, and this is the patience implied here. If the source of division is rooted in carnal desire or a spiritual sickness then one must learn to be patient. For example, if two Muslims have different opinions about an intellectual issue (and Islam does not necessarily look down upon this), then one must not let one’s ego take a path that leads towards the division into parties and sects, or separation. If they have a differences opinion they must accept each other and tolerate the differences. They must bear the opposing view-i.e., they must be patient. Therefore, the method of keeping disputes from causing separation and the division into sects is piety and patience.   


Allah certainly fulfilled His promise to you when you were slaying them with His leave, until you lost courage, disputed about the matter, and disobeyed after He showed you what you loved. Some of you desire this world, and some of you desire the Hereafter. Then He turned you away from them so that He might test you. Certainly He has excused you, for Allah is gracious to the faithful. (3:152)

In this verse, Allah sates his support for the Muslims up until “you lost courage, dispute about the matter…..”-i.e., until their unified and strong society became weak and they fell into dispute with one another. They fell into sin after victory was granted to them. Here, Allah does nots promise to continue supporting them. His promise of assistance is only as long as they protect their brotherhood and help Him. “If you help Allah, He will help you.” (47:7)


To be continued