The learning of Islam without becoming sectarian in some way or form is difficult today. Anyone who starts ‘behaving’ religiously or claims to be learning Islam turns out to be under the influence of some or the other Muslim organisation or a sect. Although there is much effort being exerted by some of the most brilliant ulama and speakers worldwide to reduce sectarianism from the Muslim community, we painfully have to conclude that the journey is a little longer.
It is also important to remember that many students of Islam do try to break away from sectarianism ‘intellectually’ but find it almost impossible to do it ‘practically’. What I mean by intellectual sectarianism is the brainwashing that is done in muslim organisations and groups against the ‘other’ organisations and groups based on certain ideological or philosophical premises the source of which is their own interpretation of Islam. But overcoming this intellectual sectarianism leads to nowhere because the student is still not able to create a path that sets him/her free in all aspects from its negative effects. S/he experiences a dissonance between thinking and acting in a non-partisan way.
But as I said in my earlier takeaway, this essay is also about the opposite of this!
Many have heard the hadith of the Prophet sallahu alaihi wa sallam in which, after the battle of Al-khandaq, he asks the companions to pursue the enemy and ‘ not pray the Asr prayer except at Bani Quraiza (the enemy tribe).’ The hadith is recorded by Imaam al Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) and describes a dilemma that the companions got into later on.
The companions could not reach Bani Quraiza at Asr time and some of them expressed their concern to pray Asr before the time expires. But as some other companions understood the Prophet’s statement as a command, therefore, they were very clear about praying Asr ‘only’ after reaching Bani Quraiza. The Scholars of our tradition have written tomes about the benefits they derive from this hadith because the Prophet, when informed of this dilemma, approved of both the groups’ understanding of the Prophet’s statement.
After sharing it till here our teacher asked, ‘What else do you understand from this hadith?’ We started repeating what he had already stated (annoying him obviously) and added what was again obvious, that is, the possibility of interpreting a hadith metaphorically or literally (which to us was very appealing as it sounded like some kind of postmodern liberal project at that time!).
But we all became stunned the moment he said, ‘And those companions waited for each other to pray!’
It never occurred to our minds that despite their intellectual difference at that moment, the companions practically demonstrated brotherhood by waiting for the group that prayed Asr before reaching Bani Quraiza and then waiting for the companions that prayed Asr at Bani Quraiza. And it is worth noting that they behaved with such honor, dignity and love for each other even before discussing it with the Prophet to know which group was correct.
Through that class I learnt one of the most powerful lessons in my life as a member of the Muslim ummah. We might be intellectually inclined toward a particular organisation or group but practically, that is, when it comes to Amal, ‘we should wait for others to pray’, and then move along together.
We make dua that at imaancentral we internalise this core value of staying together as an ummah despite all our differences and also pray the same for all Muslim organisations and groups, Ameen.