Modern Salafism & Its Effect On Muslim Disunity [*]
by Sh. Saʿid ʿAbd Al - Latif Foudah
There is no doubt that the science of theology [knowledge of Allah; His message; ʿilm] is the most appropriate science for researching the disputes between the various Islamic sects and attempting to know which of them is correct and incorrect, or which of them is more correct than the others. It is legally encouraged for the Muslims to argue about the affairs of their religion, contrary to those who believe that it is unlawful. This is because disagreements do in fact exist, and working to either remove or diminish differences is obligatory as much as humanly possible. It is impossible to remove these disagreements or even attempt to remove them without recourse to theology and arguing in a way that is best. There is no doubt that speaking about matters related to the fundamentals of the religion – what is conventionally known as creed – is sought after and desired.
Neglecting disagreements and attempting to forget them or sweep them under the rug will never be a viable alternative to attempting to reach what is closest and reach the truth and what is correct. The fact that it is impossible to reach an agreement that is inclusive of all of the Muslims cannot justify sweeping disagreements under the rug. The fundamentals of theological rhetoric indicate that differences do in fact exist. It is also established in the upright religion that it is obligatory for Muslims to work together. So here we have two basic premises:
A. Disagreements exist and will continue
B. Cooperation between the Muslims is obligatory
So, if we say that it is impossible for us to work together as Muslims until we are all in complete agreement in doctrine – both in its fundamentals and subsidiary branch issues – then this implies that cooperation is impossible, which is a false conclusion.
If we say that cooperation is obligatory and that it is conditional upon agreement, that means we must forget our disagreements and sweep them under the rug. Now of course this is also incorrect because it entails neglecting that which is real and ignoring that which cannot be ignored. Every sect claims that it is correct and on the truth; how then can each sect be commanded to ignore that in which they claim they are right?
The sound view based upon the fundamentals of theological rhetoric calls for everyone – with a certain degree of investigation – to gather between the two premises. The first premise is taken from the sensory world and sense perception, and it is regarding the means of knowledge. The second premise is taken from the unequivocal texts of the religion. It is incorrect to neglect or ignore either of them.
The logical conclusion is that it is obligatory to work together while maintaining one's disagreement with the other, and that it is obligatory to adopt practical measures in which these two premises and realities are kept. In sum, it is obligatory to work together with others while taking note of disagreements. In this circumstance, one must either base cooperation on that in which there is disagreement or that in which there is agreement, and obviously constructive work can only be based on that in which there is agreement.
Obligatory actions that must be carried out need to be based on the points in which there is agreement between the Muslims, while at the same time not neglecting the unique features of each Islamic sect and making sure to continue arguing in a way that is best.
Some people look to the disagreements among the Muslims as impending threats and dangers that must be eradicated, and that they are harms that lead the Umma to its own destruction. We hold a dissenting viewpoint and say that even though the existence of well-considered disagreements between the major sects results in some harms, it results in greater benefits overall. The most important of these benefits is constant investigation and continual research into these fundamentals. This in turn results in competition in refuting the obfuscations of the external opponents who do not belong to the religion – as Imam al-Ghazali said when he argued with the philosophers:
This is the last chapter and conlusion from a paper about:
MODERN SALAFISM & ITS EFFECT ON MUSLIM DISUNITY
PAPER SUBMITTED TO THE CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL
ISLAMIC UNIVERSITY OF MALAYSIA
Shaykh Sa'id ʿAbd al-Latif Foudah