Learning How to be Reconciled to Disagree
  • Thu, 02/11/2010
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I deliberately chose to discuss the topic of "reconciliation" rather than the topic of "compromise", since I do not want to speak about a process of mitigating disagreement. There are cases – both in religious matters and worldly affairs – where the continued existence of disagreement is unavoidable, or even something healthy and essential.

In a number of situations, if disagreements did not exist, people would lose out on a lot of things that are good and beneficial. Allah, in His wisdom, gave us our various languages, colors, and so many other differences.

Reconciliation means to capitalize on our differences in a positive way instead of allowing those differences to develop into disputes and conflicts. It means to unite the people's hearts rather than their minds.

Reconciliation has a moral impetus and a comprehensive outlook. It is not limited to simply increasing the knowledge of the people who disagree. There are many issues where differences of opinions, attitudes, interests, and outlook are not removed simply by knowing the "facts" or understanding other people's points of view. However, the various conclusions that we reach should not harden our hearts towards one another.

Reconciliation means to put greater focus on the areas wherein we agree and to cooperate in humanitarian efforts wherein we all share an interest. There are enormous opportunities for positive engagement with others in such matters. The same thing can be said within the religious sphere.

These cooperative efforts are entitled to warrant our time and attention. The Qur'ân and Sunnah call us to conduct ourselves in this way. Past experience – both good and bad – show that working with others in a spirit of goodwill and reconciliation is for the best. It sows that we should work together on the basis of share principles, common beliefs, and the public good.

We should not forget our differences, whether they be substantial or minor, however we should not be so sensitive to these differences that they dominate our thoughts and dictate our affections. We need to strengthen our relationships with each other so that our differences will not cause those relationships to fall victim to dissention, scheming, and falseness.

Life is not a battle. Reconciliation means to disagree politely and to agree with commitment. It is a moral stance and an informed one. It is what distinguishes between the legitimate rights of the intellect and the deceptive passions of the ego.

Reconciliation is a victory in the perennial conflict – the conflict each of us must wage with our own base desires and ulterior motives which sometimes masquerade themselves in the guise of "noble commitment" or "faith" so their true natures are hard to discern.

Allah says: "Indeed, the human being transgresses all bounds, in that he sees himself as self-sufficient." [Sûrah al-`Alaq: 6-7]

Glory be to Allah who knows the intricacies, compulsions, ad subtleties of human nature: "(Allah) knows of (the tricks) that deceive with the eyes, and all that the hearts conceal." [Sûrah Ghâfir: 19]

Purity of heart is essential to start with. Then reconciliation with others requires us to be humble before our Lord, to honor the rights of others, and a willingness to pardon offense even when the offence is directed against you.

We must keep in mind that words are easier than deeds, and if we are to make progress as individuals, communities, societies, and nations, we need to raise ourselves above petty self interest and strive for honesty and integrity in all of our efforts.

We all should invoke the following supplication from the Qur'ân: "Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancor (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, most merciful." [Sûrah al-Hashr: 104]