Unity Among Western Muslim Communities
By Dr. Ja`far Sheikh Idris
I think I better start by giving you the characteristics of the ideal Muslim community, as far as unity is concerned. And the ideal Muslim community is, of course, that of the Companions of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam. So if we aspire to be united we should have that ideal in our mind. We might never attain to that high level, but we should at least keep it as a goal, and as a criterion by which we judge how far towards the unity we have gone. The community of the Companions of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam was united.
The characteristics of that community are:
First, `aqeedah. And I don't need to go in the details of that, you are experts in this, being the Salafis. You have one of the Shaikhs of the Salafis here, so...And I like, in fact, when speaking about Muslims, I like to use the word eemaan instead of `aqeedah, because this is the word that is used in the Qur'aan and in the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam. The word `aqeedah was introduced later on when the Muslims felt that they need to study beliefs of others, of non-Muslims, and compare these beliefs with those of the Muslims. So they looked for a word which is more general than eemaan. They confined the word eemaan to the Muslims. So, we can say the first characteristic is that of eemaan, eemaan that is according to the Qur'aan and the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam, no deviation at all.
This eemaan had as its natural result brotherhood. Because, as Allaah subhaanahu wa ta`aalaa told the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam, "Lau anfaqta maa fil arDi jamee`an maa allafat bayna quloobihim wa laakinna-llaaha allafa baynahum" [8:63]. Had you spent all the wealth on the earth, you would not have been able to bring their hearts together, to make them brothers, but it was Allaah who made them brothers and Allaah made them brothers by showing them how to believe in Him as the Creator and how to worship Him. Once this belief enters the heart, then those people in whose heart faith has entered, they become brothers. They don't have to make any effort to become brothers. This is not something that you do by lectures or by organizations, this is something that comes naturally as a result of eemaan entering your heart.
Secondly, `ibaadah. Their `ibaadah was also according to what the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam told them, what they found in the Qur'aan. No bid`ah, they didn't add or deduct anything from what the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam said. And `ibaadah is important for eemaan, it nourishes eemaan. Eemaan is not something you can have once, and say, if I am a mu'min today, I will be a mu'min forever. You can't say that. You can't be sure. You might be a mu'min today and become a kaafir tomorrow. One way of preserving your eemaan is `ibaadah and especially salaah. "Wa la-dhikrullaahi akbar" [29:45].
Third is akhlaaq, moral behavior, and this is the fruit of eemaan and `ibaadah. That is why the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam said, "akmalul mu'mineena eemaanan ahsanuhum khuluqan" [at-Tirmidhee.] The best of the mu'mins in eemaan is the best of them in moral behavior. In Arabic, akhlaaq is confined to the way of treating people. Some brothers disputed with me on that issue, but that will not make them non-Salafis, eh [laughs]? Neither it will make me non-Salafi if I'm proven to be wrong. I think that the word khuluq is not equivalent to morality. Because akhlaaq is confined only to the way of treating people. Morality is more general than this. So, "akmalul mu'mineena eemaanan ahsanuhum khuluqan." The best of the mu'mins in eemaan is the best of them in treating people". And the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam also said, "Khayrukum, khayrukum li ahlih" [at-Tirmidhee, ad-Daarimee], and the best of you are the best to their wives. This again is how to treat people. So this is one main fruit of eemaan and `ibaadah. And the Prophet, in fact, made it the sign, the proof. You say in English the tree is by its fruit, so this is the fruit. If you don't see a person in treating people, and especially his wife, treating them in a good way, that means there is something wrong with this eemaan and with his `ibaadah.
The fourth point is jihaad, and by jihaad here I mean two things. First, jihaad of how to bring about an Islamic society. The Muslims were with the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam in Makkah. When they were there, they were in a minority, they were weak. At that stage they were told to restrain their hands, not to fight, and then they were ordered to make hijraa, and then they were ordered to fight. That is, they were given permission to fight, then they were ordered to fight. And they continued doing jihaad in the two senses, jihaad by the word of mouth and jihaad by the sword.
The last point is that of political unity. The Muslims are supposed to be very distinct from other communities, even in their political organization. And that is why our `ulamaa used to say that jamaa`ah, jamaa`at ul-muslimeen, one of the characteristics, one of the conditions of having a real jamaa`ah, is that it must be ruled by a ruler who follows the Sharee`ah, and it must have `ulamaa who know the Qur`aan and the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam. Allaah subhaanahu wa ta`aalaa said: "Wa atee`oo llaaha wa atee`oor rasoola wa ulil-amri minkum" [4:59]. "Obey Allaah, obey His Prophet and those who are in authority." And those who are in authority are, as they say in Arabic, al umaraa' wal `ulamaa', the rulers and the learned people.
Does this mean that there was no difference at all among these Companions of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam? There were differences, but - and this is a big but, as they say - the differences were individual differences. They were not group differences, this happened later on. Aboo Bakr said something, another person disagrees with him, he says no, then the other person tells him that the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam said so and so, Aboo Bakr says, "OK, I 'm mistaken." He agrees. `Umar says something, Aboo Bakr differs with him. `Uthmaan says something, `Alee differs with him. And they might make ijtihaad also and they differ in their ijtihaad. But today I am with him on one point, tomorrow I differ with him, then the next day, we both agree and we differ with another brother and so on. So, differences are on the individual level, there were no group differences. This is the ideal thing.
What can we do in our situation? I think it is very important for Muslims living in the West - let us just confine ourselves to the United States - it is very important for Muslims living in the West to be united, because, as I said, I think yesterday, whether we like it or not, we are all considered as Muslims. There is only one label, and sometimes even fundamentalist Muslims. And even those who don't go to the mosque, since they are Muslims they will be called fundamentalists. And someone said all Muslims are by definition fundamentalists. So there is no way of running away from this, we are all Muslims, we are all fundamentalists, according to some people, and we will be treated as such, so it is better for us to be united. The ideal thing is for all the Muslims, all over the United States, to have one organization, one leadership. And that organization will include all Muslims, whether they are Salafis, or people who have some deviation from the Sunnah, because the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam said that this Ummah will be divided - you know the hadeeth of the Prophet - that they will be divided, but all those divisions are divisions of Muslims. They are Muslims. They are divided, but they are Muslims.
One group, one of them, the best one, it's called al firqatun naajiyah, the one that is saved, that will go to Paradise, in shaa' Allaah, follows the way of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam and the way of the Companions of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam.
The others have deviations, even in matters of `aqeedah, but the deviations are not so great as to take them out of the fold of Islaam. They will still be Muslims. And if there is an Islamic government, they will give allegiance to that government and they will be treated as Muslims, they will not be prevented from going and making jihaad with the Muslims, they will not be excused from giving zakaah, they will not be asked to give jizyah. They will be treated as Muslims. And the same applies to Muslims who might be Sunni and Salafi, but who drink wine. You might wonder how can a person be Salafi and drink wine. Yes, he might do this because he might be Salafi in his `aqeedah, he has no deviations in his `aqeedah, but he is weak, sometimes he drinks wine, sometimes he might be tempted, or she might be tempted and commit zinaa or so, but still they are Muslims. They will not be expelled from the Muslim community.
So, the ideal thing, and I don't know whether there is a chance for it to be implemented in reality, is for all the Muslims to have this organization. Now, if we cannot have that ideal, then the second best, there should be coordination among us. If you have, say, 20-30 organizations, we should have one umbrella organization where representatives of people belonging to all these different groups come and discuss things and agree on certain policies which they deem to be necessary for all of us. For example, it should not be left to just one group to decide whether to take part in politics or not. Because if it is only one group, then it will not have a great effect on the political situation in this country, but if Muslims have this group that coordinates all of them, they can give their vote to this or that person and they can have an effect on the policy of this country.
If we cannot have even this, then there is something which we can do, at least we who are here. All people who follow the way of the Prophet and who are sometimes called Salafis, even if they have different organizations, hey should cooperate. At least these people. They should treat each other as brothers, they should not exaggerate the differences among them because the differences might be just organizational, or differences in certain political issues, or differences among leaders and so on. These are very minor differences, so we as people who follow the way of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam should do our best to act according to these principles that I have just explained.
We should treat other people as Muslims, even if they have deviations, whether deviations in `aqeedah or deviations in conduct. And we should treat them as Muslims, we should cooperate with them in matters in which there is an agreement, we should not alienate them, especially in a country like this. We should do our best to unite the Muslim and this is something that we can do as a group. We can do [that], in shaa' Allaah.
And here I would like to mention that there are different kinds of organizations and this applies to Muslims and non Muslims. There are people who believe in certain principles, you can call them "principle people", but they are so rigid that they cannot cooperate with anyone who does not believe in all their principles. Usually these people do not have much influence on the society, they will just be pleased with themselves. They meet, they say nice words to each other, and they feel that they are the best people, but they do not have any effect on the society, because they are so rigid. They cannot cooperate with others. Now, there is the other extreme, people who have no principles at all and whose main objective is, say, to gain power or so. These people unfortunately can have great influence on the society, but one day they are with this group, another day they are with another group, one day they say something, another day they say something different, depending on experience. Whatever furthers worldly objectives, they will follow that.
Now, there is something in between and these are the people who can make a good influence on the society, in shaa' Allaah. I hope you will be among them, people who believe in the truth, who follow the Qur'aan and Sunnah of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam, but who are also flexible. They say this is the truth, this is the ideal thing, we abide by this, but this group, judging by this criterion is the nearest one to us, so we cooperate with them. That group is the second nearest to us and so on. And they will be ready to cooperate even with non Muslims, on issues which, judging by our Islamic criteria, are good things. We cooperate with them. There is a statement by Ibn ul Qayyim in Zaad ul Ma`aad - I wish I could have it with me - he says that anyone who asks to be helped - something like this - anyone who asks to be helped on something which we deem to be good and with which Allaah will be pleased, if a person asks to be helped, on an issue like this, then he should be helped, irrespective of whether he is kaafir, or faasiq, or mubtadi` or whatever. And I liken this to a person who is making a building and someone comes and says I will help you, I will provide you with some bricks. You will not say, "you are a kaafir, I don't accept your bricks," because I want to build and he is helping me to build the house. I am building the house of Islaam, so whoever likes to cooperate in this can.If some people want to wage a kind of war against drugs and they ask me to cooperate with them, and it is in my capacity to help, then I do that. And all the vices that are in the society, because the further the people go from these vices, the more likely they are to accept the truth of Islaam.
The person who is always drunk, the person who indulges in zinaa all the time, is further from the truth than the one who is sober, who is morally upright,even if he is a kaafir. He is nearer to fitra, nearer to his true human nature and therefore he is more likely to accept Islaam than a person who indulges in these vices.
Also, one thing we should avoid, and I'm telling you here from experience, and I heard brother Zarabozo saying this, I came only in the last fifteen minutes... Don't be partisan. There is a difference between working in a group and making a political party. Especially in your situation, especially at this stage, especially in this country, don't change your Islamic organizations into political parties. In fact one of the complaints that I had against our Islamic organizations in the Muslim world was that they were changed into political parties and in fact the worst of the political parties. Not the parties in the democratic countries, but the parties in the communist countries. Perhaps many of you might not know, but in a communist party if the leaders agree on something... there is what they call the central democracy... 20 or 30 people would come to discuss - they are free to discuss - then they vote and whatever opinion is accepted by the party by counting votes, say by 12 to 8, then that becomes part of the ideology of the communist party. If you oppose the decision of this committee, then you will be opposing communism and therefore you will not be tolerated. If you are fortunate you will be expelled, otherwise something else will happen to you.
Many Islamic organizations adopted the same thing, the leaders would come and discuss and make a standpoint, issue a statement on a certain political issue. All members who belong to that Islamic organization will be bound by that statement and they would be expected to defend whatever is written in that statement irrespective of whether they agree or not.
I told many leaders whom I met that this is not Islamic. In Islaam you should not defend something in which you don't believe. And I used to tell my brothers in the Sudan that the most I can do is just to keep silent, but I cannot go and say "I believe in so and so", and my heart tells me "you are a liar, you are a liar, you are a liar." I cannot do this, because this religion is based on honesty, you cannot tell me to be Islamic and dishonest at the same time. So you should avoid this. And it is because of this that differences instead of becoming individual differences became group differences.
Suppose that there are two Islamic political parties. This is a party and this is a party and there is an issue they want to do discuss. The leaders of this group meet and they say our decision is X. And suppose that they allowed all the people to vote and the voting was, say, 60 to 40. So you adopt this position X. These other people adopted the other position, again by 60 to 40, position Y. Now, this whole group will be against this group, but if you left it to the individuals, then the 40 here would be with the 60 here and the 40 here would be with the 60 here and the difference would not be one group against another group, but some individuals against other individuals. So you should avoid this. And that does not apply to political matters only, even in matters of ijtihaad, minor matters of `ibaadah - and when I say minor I don't want to say unimportant or, as some people say, trivial. No, there is nothing trivial in the religion, Allaah does not send his Prophet to busy himself with trivial things. Even the cutting of nails is not a trivial thing. But, of course, it is minor, compared with salaah, or siyaam or other matters. So we should not, especially in matters of ijtihaad, we should not quarrel, we should give room to brothers to express their opinions, to differ. We agree only on the main principles.
If we know a brother always violates these principles, he always goes against something which he knows to be in the Sunnah of the Prophet and this has been explained to him very clearly several times and he goes against this and on another occasion he goes against another hadeeth, then we say you are not one of us, you do not belong to our group, because you have now violated a principle. But if he makes a mistake and he follows an `aalim in his wrong ijtihaad in any matter, we don't expel him from our community, we do not say, "you are not Salafi". We should have as an ideal, as I said, the community of the Companions of the Prophet sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam.