Coping with Arguments & Discord among Muslims on the Net
| Sheikh Sa`d al-Mâjid|
A young Muslim becomes religiously motivated. He wants to learn about his faith and turns to the Internet as a source of Islamic knowledge and as a place to find a Muslim community. He visits some Islamic websites and starts following the discussion on various Muslim online forums. What he finds is a lot of sharp criticism and people incessantly taking one another to task. Even prominent scholars seem to be involved. This disheartens and discourages the young Muslim.
All of us, as Muslims, want to see these problems go away. We want to see all the Muslims together without their polarizing themselves with their schools of thought and ideologies. However, Allah created evil as well as good, unbelief as well as faith. There is much to contend with. A Muslim needs knowledge and understanding of his religion to wade through it all. Proper knowledge bequeaths us with faith and with the fear of Allah that makes us unconcerned with the rebukes and insults of those who have evil intentions.
The ill-mannered arguments and sharp criticisms that we find young Muslims involved in on the Internet cannot be taken as indicative of true differences among Muslim. On the Net, we are dealing mainly with unknown personalities. We do not know the identities of those who are participating in online discussions. They cannot be taken as being representative of the world’s Muslims. Because of this, some of the people online are simply unscrupulous, totally unconcerned about what they say or type. Others are ignorant. Still others have truly malicious motives.
Therefore, the only disagreements that we should concern ourselves with are those coming from people of recognized knowledge and probity. When we encounter differences among known scholars on reputable, reliable websites, then we need to keep in mind that the opinions of all people are open to being accepted or rejected. The only exception to this is the Prophet (peace be upon him) in what he conveyed to us of our religion, for he had been protected from error by Allah.
We should also keep in mind that sometimes the cause of a disagreement may be that someone lacks sufficient knowledge about a particular issue. The person may be unaware of a particular relevant text. There might be some disagreement about whether a certain hadîth is weak or authentic. Such is the nature of the differences that occur among scholars and students of Islamic knowledge.
As for differences found among others, they are often caused by misconceptions or personal desires. Such differences are resolved when the misconceptions are dispelled or the person puts his passions and prejudices aside and returns to the truth.
A person who does not have sufficient Islamic knowledge should steer clear of all of these disagreements that he encounters on the Internet. Following these arguments is not in any way a part of our faith. In fact, this discord likely to have a bad influence on a person’s faith and may lead him to fall into some of the false notions and misconceptions that are behind it.
I wish to offer the following advice:
1. Keep the company of people who are religious, upright, and rightly-guided.
2. Participate in study groups with reputable and knowledgeable scholars and get a firm grounding in Islamic knowledge.
3. Listen to lectures that encourage good deeds and warn against falling into sin.
4. Put some effort into memorizing the Qur’ân.
5. Offer more voluntary worship. Keep up the Sunnah prayers that are prescribed along with the five obligatory prayers. Fast on Mondays and Thursdays. Get up and pray in the middle of the night. Make sure to pray the Witr prayer. Get involved in helping the poor and needy.
6. Adopt good manners in your dealings with others. Always be honest. Keep your promises and fulfill your trusts.
7. Beseech Allah in supplication. An excellent supplication is: “O Disposer of hearts! Dispose our hearts to be obedient to You.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The hearts of Adam’s descendants are between two fingers of the Beneficent as if they were all a single heart. He turns them as he wishes.” Then he said: “O Disposer of hearts! Dispose our hearts to be obedient to You.” [Sahîh Muslim (2654)]
8. Take care not to waste time in activities that yield little or no benefit. We only have the limited time of our lives at our disposal. Why then should we squander it?
9. We should never despair of Allah’s mercy. Allah will raise His word and support His religion.
Tamîm al-Dârî relates that he heard Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) say: “This matter will reach out until to the far reaches of the day and night. Allah will not leave a mud brick house or a camelhair tent except that he will bring this religion into it – making some mighty and some wretched. The might will come by Allah strengthening him with Islam and the wretchedness will be by Allah bringing him down with unbelief.”
Tamîm al-Dârî used to say after that: “I saw this for myself in my own household. I saw goodness, honor, and strength come to those among them who embraced Islam, and I saw those who rejected Islam fall into weakness, dishonor, and disgrace. [Musnad Ahmad (16509)]
10. Read books and articles that discuss the matter of disagreements among Muslims and how to cope with those disagreements. There is, for instance, an excellent article on this site entitled Between Myself and Ibn Jibrîn. http://www.islamtoday.com/showme2.cfm?cat_id=35&sub_cat_id=740