Unity and Tolerance

Unity and Tolerance - Khutbah of Imam Atif Chaudary

Imam Atif Choudhry – ISGC

May 13, 2016

 Unity and Tolerance - Imam Atif Chaudhry

Assalamu alaikum,

Brothers and sisters. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has given us this opportunity that again we gather as a community as brothers and sisters in obedience of Allah (SWT), and in fulfillment of our duty of praying Salaatul Jumuah together as a community. This is a blessing from Allah (SWT) and one of the wisdoms of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wassallam) to have this prayer in the week which brings people together in a way normally during the week we do not come together, so this is community. This is brotherhood. This is unity, and the fact that when we follow Islam, when we follow the teachings of Rasulullah (SAWS) then one of the goals is to bring us together. This is why Jumaat together in the masjid is so important in the deen, it brings people together. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with your brother regardless of what his background is, regardless of whether he’s rich or poor, regardless of whether he’s black or white, regardless of anything as long as he says, “Laa ilaha illallah Muhammadur rasulullah” then he’s your brother, and it’s that communication that happens without words. You don’t have have to say it, but it’s there when you stand next to each other. The person to your right, and the person to your left, you know that within the fold of Islam what place he has, and that is a brotherhood of unity, of community.

These are things that are important, and this is why Allah (SWT) in the verse that I recited

Allah (SWT) in Surah Al Imran is telling the people that, “Hold on tightly to the rope of Allah (SWT) all of you together.”  (Surah – 03:103)

This is not something that has been given any conditions that no, some of you where the scholars have to do it, or no only the men have to do it. No, everyone. All of you are part of this community. Every single one of you has to hold on to that rope if you want salvation, if you want protection from the Hell Fire, but not only do you do that, Allah (SWT) tells you not only do you hold on to that rope, but do not divide yourselves. Do not fall into disunity. Do not fall into grouping where you think that your group is better than other groups, even though all of you say, “Laa ilaha illallah Muhammadur rasulullah.” This is the point that inshaaAllah in today’s khutbah I’m going to make, I’m going to try.

May Allah (SWT) give us the taufiq to have that heart, to have that faith, to have that spirit that accepts other people regardless of our differences because we do have differences. There are different schools of thought. There are different interpretations, and this is something that has come to us from the Sahabah, from the Companions of Rasulullah (SAWS) because people throw the slogan out there that we have one Allah, we have one Prophet, we have one deen, so why are there differences? They think that this is something that is accurate. No, this is deceiving because what you are saying that there’s no unity in Islam, but there needs to be uniformity. There’s a difference, there’s a distinction between unity and uniformity. Unity means everyone is together, everyone respects each other, everyone tolerates each other. Why? For the sake of Allah (SWT) even though you have differences, even though you may not agree on the same things on certain matters of fiqh, on certain things where there can be different interpretations, where there is flexibility, where there is a margin of error that the people understand.

We’re not talking about the Qur’an. We’re not talking about the Prophet. We’re not talking about the Shari’ah because the Sharia’ah is from Allah (SWT). We have to accept it how it is, but fiqh is something that’s different, something that is according to the understanding. There might be interpretations. There might be differences. Based on that, do we reject each other? That you don’t pray how I pray, therefore you are not a better Muslim that I am. You do not follow the rulings of the scholar that I follow, therefore you are not a good Muslim. You do not listen to what I have to say, and the proof and evidences that I have, therefore I do not consider a real Muslim. Is that the teachings of Rasulullah (SAWS)? Is this the legacy or the heritage of the scholarship that we’ve had for more than 1400 years? No, no.

When we talk about unity, there’s a room for having differences. There’s a room, there’s a margin of having this variety in our understanding the way that Muslims have variety in their cultures, in their backgrounds, in their intellect, in their wealth. There’s Muslims all over the world. If you were to take a Muslim from Indonesia and compare him to a Muslim in Saudi Arabia or Bangladesh or other parts of the world, there will be differences. There will be these variations but the foundation will be the same. It is that foundation that gives us solid grounding within this religion. We all say there’s only one God. We all say that we believe in Rasulullah (SAWS). We all say we believe in the Qur’an, and the Qur’an is the truth from Allah (SWT). It’s revelation, it’s the Word of Allah (SWT). We all believe in heaven and hell. We believe in angels. We believe in the books and the prophets. There’s no difference when it comes to this, but you’ll see that some of the scholars in Indonesia, they will say that seafood or certain types of fish is halal, and then you have some Hanafi scholars in India or in Pakistan, they’ll say, “No, no, this is not allowed. You can’t eat lobster.” Then you have other scholars, they’ll say, “No, no,” and one of these things is based upon. It’s not their own opinion. It’s not something that they made up. It’s their interpretation of the Hadith of Rasulullah (SAWS) or the understanding of the verses of the Qur’an. What they use is for proof and evidence is the Qur’an, and the Hadith.

The same criteria that the scholars in Indonesia use, so there will be differences. Why? Because we can translate something in a completely different way. If there’s context, and a person does not know the context of a certain ruling, it can change the whole ruling. If a person does not understand Arabic language, and he does not understand that certain words have certain depth, has certain meanings, and various meanings depending on how it’s used; if a person does not understand the Arabic language, there will be differences in rulings. There’s many factors that explains why we have differences, but regardless of those differences, are we better Muslims than other people? Can we say that I’m on the haqq, and you, you’re batil. Is this what it means to include people into the religion? Is this what it means that we are brothers? Is this what it means for the Prophet (SAWS) to tell us that we are one nation? If we are one nation then why are we always trying to kick someone else out? If we are one nation then why do we always think that, “No, I know what I’m talking about, and you are wrong, and you are no longer in the fold of Islam.” Are we Allah (SWT) Nauzubillah that we decide whether a person has iman and kufr? Have we ripped people’s chests and looked inside their hearts to see whether this person is truly a Muslim or is he kaffir? Is he a person of bid’ah? Is he a person of fitnah? Do we really know what’s inside a person’s heart? How do we know what makam that person has in the Eyes of Allah (SWT)? Did Allah reveal anything to us? No, he did not. In yet it is so easy for some people to say, “This person, he’s a man of bid’ah. This person, he’s a man of kufr. This man, he’s doing haram. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Nauzubillah, may Allah protect us from this divisiveness. May Allah protect us from this group. May Allah (SWT) save us from this sectarianism that people have in their hearts. This is our problem in the fitnah. This is not something that is a surprise or shocking, or something that was never going to happen, or something that is not one of the Signs of the Day of Judgement, it is. Rasul (SAWS) had mentioned that this group, the Jews had split into 71, the Muslims will split into 73. Rasulullah had mentioned that there will be different sects, there will be different groups, but as a believer, is it your responsibility to decide whether a Muslim will go to Paradise or not especially when you don’t have knowledge? If you have no ‘ilm, and I’m not talking about the general public, when people discuss issues that they have no background, and they have no business discussing, and they take matters that are very grave and serious, and they make it into something small and petty. Based on that, and personal emotional differences, and politics, and other reasons, and their egos, they want to dismiss another person and his value. Value comes in terms of iman. Value comes in terms of taqwa, that’s where a person’s real value is, but the problem is, you don’t know what that value is. Only Allah (SWT) knows what a person’s true value is, so it’s not your responsibility.

The scholars, when they discuss with each other, when they talk about the differences, it’s a completely different way. It’s a completely different way of doing it. How do they do it? I mentioned earlier, differences have been coming from the Sahabah, the people that have benefited directly from Rasulullah (SAWS) and it happened even in the time of the Prophet (SAWS). A group of people were told that they had to go and pray Asr salah in Bani Qurayzah, and that they should pray Asr over there. Now on the way to Bani Qurayza, to that tribe, the time of Asr was ending, so one group decided, “We’re going to pray Al Asr because the time for Asr is coming to an end.” The other group said, “No. We will not pray Asr because Rasulullah told us to pray there.” They had a difference. One of them said, “No, we’re going to follow the literal command of the Prophet (SAWS), and we’re going to pray Asr over there.” One of them said, “No, that’s not what the Prophet meant. He meant hurry, he meant to go fast. This is why he said to pray over there, but this is fard, this is Asr, we cannot just let it go out of time, let it become qadha.”

One group prayed Asr, and the other went and they prayed Asr when they reached after the time had ended. Both of them brought their issue to Rasulullah (SAWS), and what did the Prophet (SAWS) say? Did he say, no you are right, and you are wrong? Or did he say that both of you are wrong? No. The Prophet (SAWS) accepted both of them. Why?Because both of them were following the command of Rasulullah (SAWS) based on their own interpretation, based on their own understanding. They were not doing it to divide people. It was not meant as a fitnah. It was meant, in their own sincerity to the best of their ability, to follow Rasulullah (SAWS), that was the intention. Their intention was to follow Rasulullah (SAWS), and ultimately, eventually to follow the command of Allah (SWT). Did the Prophet chastise them? Not at all.

If we look at Hazrat Uthman (RA) when he was the Khalifah, he went for hajj, and when you go there, the capital was Madinah Munawarrah, when you go for hajj, the distance is more that now you have to pray the salah of Qasr that you will reduce the prayer. Now the Prophet (SAWS) when he would go do hajj, he would not pray four raka’ats of Dhuhr or Asr, he would pray two. Hazrat Abu Bakr, he would pray two. Hazrat Umar, he would pray two, but Uthman (RA) when he went, he’d pray four. Uthman, he’d pray four. Now who was one of the greatest scholars of that time? Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RA). He was a giant amongst the scholars when it came to knowledge. When it came to knowledge, he was the person that even the Sahabah would go to him to get their fatwas. Not just other people but even the Companions of Rasulullah would get their fatwa from Abdullah ibn Mas’ud. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud said, “Uthman is not correct,” even though he was the Khalifah. He said, “Uthman (RA) is not correct in this issue. Why? Because the Prophet prayed two. Abu Bakr prayed two. Umar prayed two. Uthman is praying four.” But what did he do after that? Abdullah ibn Mas’ud prayed with Uthman (RA) behind him and he prayed four. He prayed four. He went and he prayed with Uthman the way that Uthman (RA) was praying.

The people asked him, “Wait a minute. You said he was wrong. If he was wrong, why did you pray four?” And his answer was, “Disunity is evil. I have my differences. I voiced my differences, but he is the Khalifah. He is the Imam. He is the leader. If he’s leading the salah, and he’s praying four then I will pray four. Why? Because if I had separated myself, if I had caused fitnah, if I had caused people to disunite then that’s even worse than on this small issue of fiqh and understanding.” Uthman (RA), he was not someone who did not have knowledge. Remember he was one of the people that had written the Qur’an with his own hand. He was one of the people the khatibs of the Qur’an. He was one of the writers of the Qur’an, the people who had taken from Rasulullah and had written it down. He had honored and this is to show respect to differences of opinion. You can have a difference of opinion, that’s natural, that’s something that’s understandable, that’s something that has happened historically within this religion. But because of that, to cause disunity, that is fitnah, and that is something that our scholars had warned against.

If you look at Imam Malik, one of the greatest scholars of this Deen, of this religion, if you look at him and his experience, and one of the examples is that he had two teachers, and his teachers had a difference of opinion on an issue. One teacher said, “No, this is the ruling,” and the other teacher said, “No, this is the ruling.” They asked Imam Malik (RA), the Imam of Madinah, they asked him, “What do you think?” Imam Malik’s answer, he said, “Look, you are my teachers. I do not feel comfortable answering this question, and I don’t feel like I have a right to answer when you are present, you are more knowledgeable than I am.” This is his humility. At that time, he was the Imam. He was well known for his knowledge, but in front of his teachers, he did even want to voice a difference of opinion. But his teachers said, “No, no, we want your answer.” So he sided with one teacher, and that was the end of it. No teacher said, “Now go away. You’re no longer my teacher.” He did not ridicule his student, no. They had respect for each other. Having differences did not mean having to now consider each other that now you are my enemy. You are no longer my brother. I don’t consider you Muslim. I don’t want to even pray behind you. This is not what the scholars had taught. This was not the teachings of our illustrious scholars of this religion.

Imam Shafi’i had a difference of opinion with his student. He noticed that his student was getting angry. His student was becoming red because the student didn’t have like the answer to, obviously if you’re debating with Imam Shafi’i, you need to be careful. Imam Shafi’i was one of the smartest and sharpest people out there. One of the greatest imams that we have. These are huge people that I’m mentioning, just to give you an understanding that this is what it means to follow scholars. When we say that we follow the aslaf, we follow the great-great-great early scholars, the people that had benefited the Deen, the most, this is what it means. To learn from their example because it was not just knowledge, it was also taqwa. It wasn’t just their mind, but it was also their qalb, it was also their spirit, and their ruh, the way that they follow the sunnah of Rasulullah (SAWS) that we have to follow. When Imam Shafi’i noticed that his student is getting upset, is getting angry, Imam Shafi’i reached out and grabbed his hand, and he shook his hand, and he said, “Just because we have a difference of opinion does not mean that we’re not brothers.” We can have differences, but we’re still brothers. You are not a non-Muslim. I am not a non-Muslim. Just because we have differences doesn’t mean that now we have to part ourselves. Now you go your way, I go my way. This is not what this religion teaches.

We are in this very bad habit that if there’s one small difference, right away, kick him out. I don’t want him. He’s no longer Muslim. He has no value. Nauzubillah, again, I want to reiterate what I had mentioned earlier, you don’t know what a value of a person is. You have no idea what right that person, what makam that person holds in front of Allah (SWT). You don’t even know what rank you hold in front of Allah. How can you talk about someone else whether he’s kaffir, whether he’s fasiq, whether he’s Fajir ? Yes, if he does something openly then you help him, you assist him. Why? Because he’s still your brother. He’s still your brother in Islam. He’s still your brother in faith. He’s still someone that it is your duty to help him to Paradise. Was this not the sunnah of Rasulullah (SAWS)? Did the Prophet (SAWS) not say that when you show mercy to another person that Allah will show mercy to you on the Day of Judgement? Where is the mercy when you have a difference of opinion that you kick that person out of Islam? Is that mercy? No. This was not the mercy of Rasulullah (SAWS). This was not the characteristics of the pious aslaf that we had, our predecessors. This is not from their sunnah. This is not from the sunnah of the scholars.

There is a certain adhab, there’s a certain etiquette of doing iktilaf, and this is something that we need to understand. You can have a difference of opinion but don’t let it become something personal or a matter of ego, or a matter of politics to the point we’re now, okay, if you are in my group, you’re saved, you’re a Muslim. If you’re not in my group, or if you don’t agree 100% everything that I believe is right, then you are wrong. This is fitnah. This is a problem. This is a rejection of 1400 years of scholarship, of knowledge, of different scholars that had different opinions. Do we throw a blanket statement that all of them were wrong that if you had differences that now you are no longer in Islam? No. This is not the teachings of Rasulullah (SAWS).

What is the teaching of the Prophet (SAWS), and inshaa Allah, end with this. In Bukhari Sharif, Rasulullah (SAWS) has said that, “Whosoever prays like us, he prays salah like us,” and like us means the five times a day. He doesn’t mean that who raises his hands, who does no, that’s not what’s been talked about. Who prays like us meaning he prays five times a day. If a person says, “No, no, there’s not five prayers. There’s only two prayers.” No, he’s rejected. This is kufr. This is something that is outside of Islam, but if a person prays five times a day, there might be a different understanding or in a tahayyat, if he shakes his finger. Another person takes out his finger once and he puts it down. These are small issues. These are not things that you should look at that person and think, “Haha, he’s wrong. I’m right.” This is not what it means to have mercy.

The Prophet (SAWS) said, “The person who prays like us, the person who faces the same qiblah,” we’re all facing that same qiblah, right? Yes, because we’re all Muslim, “and the third, the person who eats our slaughtered animals.” We slaughter animals according to zabihah, the halal way when you make something halal. When you do it according to the teaching and the sunnah of Rasulullah (SAWS) meaning he eats our meat because there are people in the time of the Prophet (SAWS), they did not want to eat the meat of Muslims. If he eats the meat of Muslims, he faces the qiblah, and he prays the five times prayer then you have no reason, the Prophet (SAWS) says, then that person is within the protection of Allah (SWT). The person who has these three things, he prays like us, he faces the qiblah, and he eats the slaughtered animals of the Muslims. These three things, the Prophet (SAWS) said that that person is under the protection of Allah (SWT). He’s under the protection of Allah (SWT), and not only that but the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Do not betray that person.” In Bukhari Sharif, the Prophet said, “That person who was under the protection of Allah because of these three things, do not betray him.” Why? Because if you betray him then you are against the protection of Allah (SWT). You are betraying the person who has been given protection by Allah (SWT).

Brothers and sisters, if there is a person that says, “Laa ilaha illallah Muhammadur rasulullah,” he prays with you, he prays behinds you, you pray behind him, he faces the same qiblah, he eats the meat that you eat then don’t put him outside of the fold of Islam. May Allah give us the taufiq to unite and not to be from the people that have gone astray, and have pushed others outside of the Deen, and to be from the people who have mercy in their hearts and not hatred, and bigotry, and prejudice, and politics, and ego, and other problems. May Allah help me become a better Muslim. May Allah help all the people that are here.

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