On differences and disagreements among the scholars of the Muslim world


QUESTION: What is your view of the great differences and disagreements among the scholars of the Muslim world?

ANSWER: I view the world of Islam as a parliament or consultative assembly which has fallen out of order. The Shari‘a pronounces that the opinion of the majority is acceptable and judgment is based on it. Other opinions can be left to the choice of different individual capacities, provided they are not altogether devoid of truth or an acceptable  essence, as befits their education. However, the following two points are worthy of note:

The first is that although an opinion which has only a certain degree of truth in it and is unacceptable to the majority should remain restricted and particular to the capacity which adopts it, its owner leaves it to roam free. Others who adopt and generalize it, and its imitators, hold fast to it so fanatically that in order to preserve it they try to refute and destroy its opponents. This gives rise to such competition, mutual refutation, and condemnation that the dust rising from under the feet, the smoke coming out of the mouths, and the thunderstorm breaking out on the tongues make up a dark cloud before the sun of Islam. Not only can this cloud not hold or yield merciful rain, it also blocks out the light of the sun.

The second point is that if the truth contained in an opinion that is adopted by only a few cannot overcome the personal disposition, desires, and fancies of those who prefer it, it becomes dangerous. For while the capacities adopting it should assume its color and act according to its imperative, they in fact adapt it to suit their own personal disposition and fancies, and subjugate it to themselves. This leads guidance to be transformed into fancy and whim and the way is nourished by personal disposition. An insect drinks a fluid and produces honey, while a snake drinks water and produces poison.

However, it is my certain hope that on this ecstatically revolving earth a high assembly of Muslim scholars will constitute a sacred parliament of knowledge. The predecessors (those who came earlier) and the successors (those to come later) will look at each other over centuries and between them give rise to a consultative assembly.

Secondly, as another cause of harmful disagreement, the statements: “Only this is the truth” instead of “This is true,” and “Only this is beautiful” instead of “This is beautiful” have been adopted. “Hatred for God’s sake” has been substituted for “loving for God’s sake.” Instead of loving one’s way, hatred for other ways has directed manners and behaviors. Self centeredness has replaced the love of truth. Means, vehicles, and arguments have been taken for the goals, destinations, and ends.

However, it may sometimes occur that a wrong, false means or argument may help to reach a true goal or a true result. When the purpose and goal are true, defect and corruption in the means and arguments should not cause discord or division of hearts.

Thirdly, demagogy, which is oppressive, is another cause of disagreement among religious scholars. Demagogy or loquaciousness, which arises from criticism and pessimism, is always wrongful and oppressive.

QUESTION: What do you mean by demagogy or loquaciousness?

ANSWER: Seeing only the faults and defects in varied, vast affairs is demagogy; it is both deceived and deceiving. The essence of demagogy is exaggerating an evil to the extent that it veils good.

The entire universe is weeping in great sorrow at the sight of a mother who feels excessive grief over the death of her child. Do wisdom and usefulness in existence agree with such an impression, one that weighs down the delight in human life with grief?

A tired traveler enters a very beautiful, well-laid out garden for an hour’s rest, and then notices – according to the principle that only the gardens of Paradise can be free of all filth and defect and that there is defect in every perfection in this world of formation and deformation – some filthy things in different corners of the garden. On account of his own evil disposition, he sees only those things, perceiving the garden as if it were entirely full of filth, and this negative impression may be so enlarged by his imagination as to convince him that the entire garden is a filthy and foul place. As a result, his stomach becomes upset, he vomits, and flees from the garden in utter disgust.

One who sees the good side of everything thinks good. One who thinks of good enjoys life.

QUESTION: How can the differences and disagreements in the Muslim world be eliminated?

ANSWER: First of all, we should concentrate on the basic points of agreement. Our God is one, our Prophet is one, our Qur’an is one, and we are all agreed on the essentials of the Religion. Disagreement on the secondary matters and detail cannot and must not shake this unity. Secondly, if “loving for God’s sake” is adopted as a principle and love of truth directs our attitudes and behavior – time and conditions help us greatly with these matters – our differences and disagreement can be directed into accurate, straight channels.

Regrettably, if the main objective is forgotten or neglected, the minds turn to individual egos and revolve around them.

The various parts of an institution should be in harmony with one another. Personal merits and capabilities should not give way to disagreement and discord. Individual egos should be torn apart and “we” should emerge.


(From Tulu‘at [“Flashes of Thoughts Rising in the Heart”])


Bediuzzaman Said Nursi